Newly promoted Captain Sisko is ordered by Ambassador Krajensky (Lawrence Pressman) to take the Defiant to the Tzenkethi border as a show of strength. Turns out the Tzenkethi are another race of bad guys with whom the Federation had a previously unmentioned war (boo, creators) and Kranensky says some new instability within their government has Starfleet worried. On the way, O’Brien discovers sabotage, and it turns out Krajensky is actually a Changeling infiltrator. The crew must hunt out the Changeling, who could be impersonating any of them, as the ship is on course for a Tzenkethi settlement, programmed to attack and likely start a war. As O’Brien regains computer control at the last minute — preventing the attack — Odo fights with the other Changeling, who dies in the struggle. But before he dies, he tells Odo, “It’s too late. We’re everywhere,” something Odo conveys to a shocked and horrified Sisko right before the credits roll.
Why it’s important
This is the second instance in which a Changeling infiltrator attempts to destabilize the Alpha Quadrant. It doesn’t work this time, but it sets the stage for a lot of seasons four and five. It partly motivates the Klingon paranoia we see in “The Way of the Warrior”, in which a government change on Cardassia can only be justified to the Klingons as the work of Changelings.
For Odo, the events here set in motion his eventual fall from grace among the Founders and his punishment at the end of season four. Odo’s relationship with the Founders is one of the key undercurrent of the series.
What doesn’t hold up
It’s hard to believe that Starfleet and the DS9 crew in particular hadn’t put more thought into Changeling infiltrators — particularly after the events of “The Die is Cast”. Assuming Odo and Garak told Sisko what the Changeling impersonating Colonel Lovok told them, everyone should have realized a Changeling spy was a good possibility at really any time. The idea of blood screenings was a good one, but it should have been something the crew thought of before this episode.
Bigger picture, it’s really annoying that Starfleet was at war with yet another space empire in the few years before the events of second-generation Trek. Sisko was involved in the war — we learn that here and later — meaning that the conflict was within the past couple of decades. As noted during our review of “The Wounded”, this is an annoying trope of Star Trek, particularly compared with the high-sounding talk during early TNG about a mostly peaceful Federation.
Worse is the fact that the Tzenkethi are never heard from again! Here’s this big, bad space empire relatively close to DS9 — otherwise, why send the Defiant on this mission? — that is significant enough in military force that it can wage a war that the Federation really fears. And yet, when the Federation, the Klingons, the Romulans, the Dominion, the Cardassians and the Breen are involved in a major interstellar war in DS9’s final two seasons, the Tzenkethi are apparently just cool to sit back and watch. That, my friends, is especially weak sauce. The Tzenkethi aren’t even among the powers who sign non-aggression pacts with the Dominion (among the likes of the Miradorn and the Tholians).
It feels like this episode should have been about the change of government on Cardassia, which we see in “The Way of the Warrior”. That would have made a LOT more sense, as it would have explained Kira and Odo’s presence on the mission — the Bajorans would have an active interest in Cardassian turmoil — and it would have made geographic sense. Sending the Defiant to “show the flag”, as Sisko puts in, along the Cardassian border makes sense, based on everything we had seen on DS9 for three seasons. Hell, it’s hard to believe Starfleet would have been cool with Sisko taking the Defiant and the entire senior staff on the mission we see here, given everything we know, and leaving the station and Bajor undefended and understaffed.
Speaking of which, why didn’t Sisko do anything to verify Krajensky’s orders before leaving the station? Keep in mind that the entire mission was inspired by what the Changeling verbally told Sisko. Couldn’t Sisko have checked to make sure that the alleged coup was actually happening? Keep in mind that the Changeling impersonating Krajensky doesn’t tell Sisko to maintain radio silence or anything similar.
This is probably the weakest of all of DS9’s season finales. It’s not a terrible action outing, but the plot is just too goofy to make much sense — even if the Odo stuff is extremely consequential. Sometimes, episodes are good enough to look past some flimsy logic. But not here.
Beyond that, I guess what we see later indicates that the Changeling whom Odo killed was really just exaggerating. It’s true that Changelings impersonate some pretty important Alpha Quadrant people in the fourth and fifth seasons, but “everywhere” is a stretch. If they were “everywhere”, they didn’t really cause that much damage — or, they were somehow stopped from doing so in a lot of places. I do have a theory on that, but it’ll have to wait. Let’s just say it has to do with something called “Section 31”.
On the other hand, we learn later that the Founders’ hold on the Jem’Hadar is somewhat overstated. So, maybe the Dominion is just really good at fear mongering/propaganda?
Coming later this week …
A TNG character joins DS9. Can Bashir get along with the irascible Dr. Pulaski? Will Nog and Jake look up to Wesley Crusher?