Category Archives: Cardassian

“Improbable Cause” and “The Die is Cast”

“Yippee! Our amazing plan is working! There’s no way that the Dominion would actually have defenses in place for the homeward of its leaders!”

Part one: Garak’s tailor shop blows up and Odo begins looking into who did it and why. Turns out the Romulans tried to kill Garak and that several former Obsidian Order colleagues of Enabaran Tain (see “The Wire”) have been killed. Odo and Garak head to see Tain, where they’re intercepted by a Romulan warbird. Tain takes them prisoner and explains that the Obsidian Order and the Romulan Tal Shiar (a similar organization we met in TNG) are working together to eradicate the Founders. Tain tried to kill Garak to eliminate any old loose ends — the mission will mean the end of Tain’s retirement — but Garak and Tain decide to work together again, putting Garak back in the fold and making Odo a prisoner.

Part two: Garak is tasked by Tain and Romulan Colonel Lovok (Leland Orser) to interrogate Odo using a device that won’t allow him to revert to his liquid form. Meanwhile, Sisko and Co. learn of Tain’s plan (after a fleet of 20 starships head through the wormhole) and try to get Starfleet to let them intervene, mostly to save Odo. Starfleet balks, but Sisko takes the Defiant to the Gamma Quadrant anyway. Meanwhile, Garak is basically killing Odo, who only breaks when he admits he still longs to be around other Changelings, despite what he knows about them (a fact Garak doesn’t tell Tain). At the Founders’ planet, Tain’s fleet begins an attack but learns quickly that the Dominion knew they were coming — and a fleet of 150 Jem’Hadar ships emerges and starts firing. Lovok is actually a Changeling who helped orchestrate the whole thing and lets Odo and Garak escape. The Defiant shows up just in the nick of time and pulls them off a runabout that’s under attack. Garak returns to his tailorship, but with a new quasi-friendship with Odo.

“Wow, Renee. And I thought I had to spend too much time with the makeup artists … “

Why it’s important

This is the first time we see a Changeling impersonating a key Alpha Quadrant figure to destabilize the main powers there. It’s interesting that Lovok ominously tells Odo and Garak that his mission would effectively neutralize the Cardassians and the Romulans — leaving only the Klingons and the Federation as threats.

Lovok was actually wrong about the Romulans — who seem to be OK without the Tal Shiar — but he was right about the Cardassians. The loss of the Obsidian Order destabilizes the empire to the point where the civilian leaders take power by the start of season four. This leads the Klingons to think the Cardassian leaders are Changeling infiltrators, prompting the Klingon invasion of Cardassia. When the Federation opposes the invasion, the Klingons end the alliance with the Federation, leading to a brief war between the two former allies. Meanwhile, the Klingon attacks and the continuation of the Maquis threat wreaks so much havoc inside Cardassia that Gul Dukat leads the Empire in joining the Dominion in season five. And the subsequent Dominion attacks on Klingon targets within Cardassian space prompts the Klingons and the Federation to become BFFs again to fight the Dominion.

“Oh, yeah. We totally introduced you back in ‘The Search’ but haven’t seen you since. How ya been?”

What doesn’t hold up

This two-parter is one of the highlights of DS9. But like “The Search” two-parter, there are a lot of logical issues — most of which are in part two.

1) It’s hard to believe that Tain and Co. wouldn’t have thought that the Founders had SOME sort of defenses for their planet. I know that Kira and Odo didn’t note any in “The Search”, but the Founders could have added them after their homeworld was discovered, or Tain should have considered the possibility that they did. And wasn’t it possible — and wouldn’t Tain have figured — that maybe Kira and Odo simply didn’t identify the defenses at the planet?

2) Part two also shows Sisko and Co. going rogue again (which we saw in “The Search”). Sisko heads to the Gamma Quadrant chiefly to save Odo, against Starfleet’s express orders. It’s cool that he’s loyal to his officers, but he very well could have prompted further Dominion attacks by his actions.

Now, Sisko’s stated rationale could have been smarter. Maybe, he could have made an argument about Odo’s potential importance to the Federation. Years later, Odo would help end the Dominion war earlier than it would have ended otherwise. Even at this point in the series, Sisko could have argued to Starfleet that keeping a loyal Changeling in the fold had value. Hell, Sisko could have simply told Starfleet he wanted to save Odo for the above reason — even if he really wanted to do it out of loyalty.

3) And, as is custom in Star Trek, the admiral who gave Sisko the order is WAY too cool with shrugging off what happened.

4) Finally, the Lovok Changeling who allowed Odo and Garak to leave doesn’t seem too worried about them after they’re on the runabout. If the Defiant hadn’t swooped in, the Jem’Hadar would have killed Odo (and Garak). So the whole business of “no Changeling has ever harmed another” is sort of flimsy. What would the folks in the water cooler in the Great Link have said to the Lovok Changeling had the Jem’Hadar killed Odo?

5) Oh, and whatever happened to the T’Rul, the Romulan sent to DS9 to watch the cloaking device on the Defiant in “The Search”? Her introduction is a big deal in those two episodes, and then, she’s gone.

Part two was written by Ronald D. Moore. As noted in our previous review, Moore’s contribution to DS9 are similar to much of the rebooted “Battlestar Galactica”, which Moore led. In other words, this is compelling drama with good character moments that often rely on flimsy logic.

Final thoughts

I won’t say this very often, but the payoff and performances in this episode really are worth the logical goofiness. Garak and Tain have great chemistry — and this episode really cements Garak’s role as one of DS9’s most important characters. Beyond that, the episodes include some great Odo stuff AND part two has the great payoff of the best battle scenes Trek had done to that point. After this episode, the ship-to-ship battles on DS9 (and on Voyager, which had just premiered) really improved.

This two-parter is one of DS9’s absolute peaks and is incredibly noteworthy in the Trek tapestry. It’s a definite watch for DS9 fans.

Last point, I’m glad they brought back Starfleet security chief Michael Eddington (Kenneth Marshall). It was annoying that he went unseen after his big introduction in “The Search”, but he’s an important character going forward, as we’ll see.

Coming next week …

More Dominion intrigue as Starfleet shows how much they can’t handle Changeling infiltrators.

“The Wire”

So many secrets, so little time.

Garak (Andrew J. Robinson) the Cardassian-in-exile/enigma on DS9 and (sort of) friend of Bashir, starts having medical issues. He enlists Quark to get a piece of technology and sets off alarms when Bashir and Odo learn the item is classified by the notorious Obsidian Order, the “all-seeing eyes and ears” of the Cardassian Empire. Garak tells Bashir that the piece of equipment is a brain implant installed to help him get through torture in his past life as an agent of the Obsidian Order. He’s used it continuously for two years — to cope with his exile — and it’s breaking down. Bashir helps Garak through the withdrawal (and hears varying accounts of why he’s in exile) and eventually heads to see Garak’s old Obsidian Order boss Enabaran Tain (Paul Dooley). Tain helps Bashir because he wants Garak to live out his life in miserable exile on DS9. A recovered Garak, of course, casts doubts on most of what Bashir learned about him during the experience. But Garak’s shadiness is all the shadier afterward.

Why it’s important

This episode isn’t the first time we meet Garak (that was back in “Past Prologue” in the first season). But this cements him as a power player and a key recurring character on DS9. Garak is part of some of DS9’s biggest events over the years, and Robinson was one of DS9’s best actors.

The episode is also hugely important as it introduces the Obsidian Order and Tain. We see Tain again in DS9’s third season and again in the fifth, and his involvement in Alpha Quadrant dealings with the Dominion is hugely significant. More on that in future reviews.

One other small point. This is a nice episode in further establishing Odo’s credentials as someone who’s seriously plugged into events and information in the Alpha Quadrant (with a special emphasis on Cardassia).

“I’m very confident that everything I’ll attempt to do in the coming years will be quite successful.”

What doesn’t hold up

The episode suffers from trying to get some of the regular cast involved where they’re not really needed. The scenes with Sisko, Dax and Kira are just completely superfluous, and the scene with O’Brien isn’t much better. Beyond that, Bashir’s interest in Garak’s problem early in the episode isn’t handled that well. Bashir became one of DS9’s stronger characters — and the transition was starting in season two. But you can still see some of the annoying qualities that made eyes roll in the first season and half of the second.

Last point — and this is kind of minor — DS9 often tried to make foreign spy agencies/governments appear more ominous than they could have possibly been. Tain knowing so much about Bashir was just hard to swallow. The implication is that DS9 is filled with spies taking note of minor information all the time.

“Do you have any idea how much time Armin and I spend with the makeup people, Siddig?”

Final thoughts

This isn’t a great episode, but it’s a good one that puts some key things in place going forward. While we don’t learn here — and never fully learn — why Garak is in exile in the first place, we learn that he was a spy and a key operative in one of Cardassia’s most notorious organizations. That makes his “man of many talents” schtick work, to say nothing of his general cageyness.

Garak and Tain (though he shows up only a few times) were really great supporting characters on a series that would go on to be filled with great supporting characters. As mentioned in our last review, DS9 starts to get its footing in the final third of the second season because it puts so much in place for what we would see later. This episode is a huge domino.

Coming next week …

We return to the mirror universe in one of DS9’s classic episodes.

“The Maquis”

"Cal, you've come a long ways since your days with those nerds at Tri-Lamb"
“Cal, you’ve come a long way since your days with those nerds at Tri-Lamb”

The destruction of a Cardassian freighter near DS9 is learned to have been caused by Federation citizens turned terrorists, calling themselves the Maquis. The citizens opted to stay on planets given to the Cardassians in a treaty with the Federation — and they’re taking up arms in response to subsequent treatment by the Cardassians. Sisko fears that tensions stoked by the terrorists will cause another war with Cardassia, so he teams up with Gul Dukat (Marc Alaimo) to stop the Maquis. But he learns that his old friend and fellow Starfleet officer Calvin Hudson (Bernie Casey) is one of the terrorists and plans to attack a weapons depot the Cardassians have placed on one of their colonies. Sisko takes DS9’s three runabouts and stops Hudson from attacking the depot, and allows Hudson to escape. Sisko is commended for his actions in preventing a war — but wonders if he simply delayed the inevitable.

"Cal do you know how much these uniforms cost?! I could've returned it for store credit!"
“Cal, do you know how much these uniforms cost?! I could’ve returned it for store credit!”

Why it’s important

If anyone questions’s DS9’s importance in Trek lore, they should watch this two-parter. It’s the first time we see DS9 as a sort of crossroads in galactic politics. It’s the nearest Federation outpost to the Cardassian border, so Sisko and Co.  are drawn in — even though it’s unlikely their roles could have been anticipated by anyone when Starfleet set up shop at DS9 a little more than a year earlier.

The Maquis are a huge Trek domino, of course. The events here are set in motion by TNG’s “Journey’s End” and are furthered by TNG’s “Preemptive Strike”. The second season of DS9 and seventh season of TNG are interesting as they’re the most coordinated concurrent seasons in Trek history. With Voyager taking place out of the Alpha Quadrant, this kind of cross-cutting between series never happened again. But, of course, Voyager’s very premise — a Starfleet crew and and a Maquis crew forced to work together on the other side of the galaxy — was set in motion by the events of this DS9 two-parter and the two related TNG episodes.

Beyond that, the Maquis are a major force in DS9. They helped destabilize the Cardassian Empire, which becomes part of the Dominion three years later BECAUSE of its instability. And the guy who forged the Cardassian/Dominion alliance was Gul Dukat … who really comes into his own as a major DS9 player in these episodes. His scenes with Sisko really were incredibly well acted and well written.

Prior to “The Maquis”, Dukat was really a recurring character/Cardassian. His personality wasn’t fleshed out — he was just the former Cardassian prefect of Bajor who appeared on view screens here and there. But this episode established him as a major foil for Sisko and the DS9 crew. One, who for a couple seasons, was an ally. This, of course, was one of DS9’s strengths. No other Trek series was so good at embracing shades of grey. We’ll discuss another one of those shades, Garak, in our next review.

"I've got this aide, Damar, he'd love this Kanar!"
“I’ve got this aide, Damar, he’d love this Kanar!”

What doesn’t hold up

Bernie Casey isn’t great in this episode, but that’s largely forgivable. The biggest problem after that is the issue of scope — something DS9 struggled with early on.

Sisko and Co. must take on the Maquis with the station’s three runabouts. While they are successful in doing so, it’s a really close call — and only works because the Maquis have limited resources. It’s kind of goofy to think that Starfleet wouldn’t have sent a starship to deal with the Maquis. Had that happened, the ship would have pretty easily handled a couple of (well-armed) shuttles — but, then, Sisko and company would have likely been left on the sidelines.

This, of course, is addressed in season three when Sisko brings the Defiant to DS9 to address the Dominion situation. But it’s hard to swallow that Starfleet couldn’t have devoted more resources to diffuse matters with Hudson here. We know there are Federation starships in the general area (as the Enterprise spends much of the seventh season dealing with Cardassian matters).

Final thoughts

I’ve had friends ask me when they should start watching DS9, and I usually tell them that these two episodes represent the turning point. There are definitely some good episodes in the first season-plus — notably, the Bajoran political stuff from the end of season one into season two. But I understand why those episodes don’t have the mass appeal that we got starting in this two-parter.

This is also a great example of the DS9 characters getting their footing. The crew was never going to be as conflict-free as the TNG gang, nor did it need to be (nor was it designed to be). But the over-the-top writing/acting from season one is gone here. The scene in part one where the senior staff is clearly at odds — I love when O’Brien calls Odo out for security breaches — is great. No other Trek series did this kind of thing as well.

Sisko’s growing importance is shown here. He’s not just some bureaucrat tasked with getting Bajor ready for Federation membership. He’s a guy who must deal with terrorist groups and Cardassian reactions (in addition to Bajor). Later, of course, he becomes the guy to deal with the Dominion threat.

Last point. You’ll notice that many of the next several episodes make the tapestry, as DS9 enters a stretch of really consequential stories. You could argue that DS9 becoming more consequential was the key to its improved performance.

Coming later this week …

We finally learn what’s up with Garak. Sort of. Maybe.


THERE’s our favorite Cardassian monstrosity!

Commander Benjamin Sisko (Avery Brooks) takes over as head of the new Deep Space 9, a former Cardassian space station. It orbits Bajor, which had been brutally occupied by the Cardassians for decades. The station is on the edge of friendly space and the Bajorans need the Federation’s protection and help to rebuild. Sisko’s mission is to ready Bajor for Federations membership, and he is identified by Bajoran spiritual leader Kai Opaka (Camille Saviola) as the “Emissary” an important figure in the Bajoran faith destined to discover the “celestial temple” where the Bajorans believe their prophets (gods) live. Working with his science officer, Jadzia Dax (Terry Ferrell), Sisko finds a wormhole (leading 75,000 light years away, to the Gamma Quadrant) near Bajor, and non-linear aliens inside it, possibly the Bajorans’ temple and prophets. A Cardassian vessel follows and disappears, prompting more Cardassians to come to the station, demanding to know what happened to the ship. Sisko eventually convinces the wormhole aliens that he’s not an invader and they help him get past his wife’s death — which occurred during the Battle of Wolf 359 — by showing he’s been living a non-linear existence (i.e. he’s stuck in the past). Sisko convinces the aliens to allow passage through the wormhole and returns the Cardassian ship to the Alpha Quadrant, preventing an all-out attack on the station. With the wormhole’s discovery, DS9 is set to become a key outpost for the Federation.

The celestial temple — otherwise known as the reason the Federation got in a big war with the Dominion.

Why it’s important

Considering DS9’s status as the black sheep of Star Trek series, it’s really astounding how much was established in this pilot that went on to be of huge importance for the rest of the series and for Trek generally. A quick list:

— The wormhole to the Gamma Quadrant, which sets the stage for the war with the Dominion in DS9’s later seasons.

— The proximity to the Cardassian Empire, and notably Gul Dukat (Marc Alaimo) who would become DS9’s main villain.

— The Bajoran theology and Sisko’s place in it, which would be a major thread throughout the next seven years. Bajor’s political instability would be a major thread in the early seasons.

— The mysterious background of Odo (Rene Auberjonois), which would eventually tie in to the Dominion leaders, the Founders.

All of that happened in DS9’s pilot episode — one that ALSO tied in TNG’s most significant event, “The Best of Both Worlds”. Having Sisko be a survivor of that attack — and having him harbor feelings of anger against Picard, who shows up in this episode — were truly great touches.

“Yeah, I don’t like your boy Picard. Got a problem with that, Trekkers?”

What doesn’t hold up

DS9 wasn’t initially successful and was never as successful as TNG or TOS because it was so different. It was much darker — too dark, for some fans — and that was set into motion even in season one.

But I’ve always felt DS9’s initial issues — other than some boring station-bound episodes — stemmed from many of the characters being over the top in the early seasons. Kira’s too angry, Odo’s too antagonistic, Sisko’s too brooding, Bashir’s too annoying and Quark is too villainous. The Dax character — who was pretty much totally redefined in season two — is too cerebral. Really, the only character who doesn’t become more likable over the years was O’Brien — and, of course, that was probably because the character had already existed for years on TNG.

It’s almost as if the creators tried to do something SO different that they didn’t do characterization very well. That improved over time, but the characters are more like archetypes in the first season. As a result — and somewhat strangely — DS9 is the most interesting series to watch for its evolution. More than any other series, the first season is very, very different than the final season.

From a consistency/historical perspective, DS9 sort of rewrote two alien races we first saw in TNG. Bajorans initially were a bunch of refugees and not slaves on their own planet. The Trill look changed here, but backstory changed more later as the relationship between the symbiont and the host was very different in TNG. For more, see our reviews of “The Host” and “Ensign Ro”.

Final thoughts

While the series is inconsistent, I find DS9 to be as strong as TNG or TOS (which both had seasons that were pretty weak). That’s a stance many fans won’t embrace, but it’ll come through in these reviews. While TOS was the trailblazing series and TNG was the most consistent (even given the weird first and second seasons and some awfulness in season seven) DS9 was the most daring. It’s the Trek series that most closely approximates the great television of the past 15 years (“The Wire”, “Breaking Bad”, etc.). When it failed, it did so because it slid back into episodic shows when doing so didn’t make sense and/or when the consequences didn’t match the buildup. Or, it failed because it had too many Ferengi episodes. Speaking of which …

Coming next week …

The first of many Ferengi episodes. Shoot me.

“Journey’s End”

“ZOMG this place is boring, I should’ve gone to Tashi Statio… sorry wrong universe.”

Wesley returns, and he’s really whiny. Meanwhile, the Enterprise must relocate some colonists from Dorvan V, a planet that will soon be in Cardassian space as part of the new treaty with the Federation. The colonists are a group of American Indians who are unwilling to leave the planet — and Picard notes the disturbing historical connection. Wesley beams to the planet and goes on a vision quest (or something) and meets up with the Traveler (from way back in “Where No One Has Gone Before”) who tells him he’s ready to explore new plains of existence. Meanwhile, Picard works it out so the colonists can stay on the planet under Cardassian rule. Wesley resigns from Starfleet and stays on the planet to begin his journey.

As a Starfleet Admiral, it's my job to make bad decisions so the Enterprise crew can look good
“As a Starfleet admiral, it’s my job to make bad decisions so the Enterprise crew can look good.”

Why it’s important

Although they didn’t appear in Trek for a few more weeks — on “The Maquis” two-parter, on DS9, which we’ll eventually review — this episode lays the foundation for the Maquis. The situation stemming from the treaty between the Cardassians and the Federation leads to the formation of the Maquis terrorist group. In fact, Dorvan V is the home planet of Commander Chakotay, who led the Maquis ship that was swept into the Delta Quadrant in Voyager. Chakotay would become first officer of that ship.

It’s kind of cool that TNG and DS9 coordinated these storylines in TNG’s seventh season and DS9’s second. After “Journey’s End” and “The Maquis” two-parter, the second-to-last episode of TNG was “Preemptive Strike”, in which Ensign Ro (Michelle Forbes) returns and goes undercover to stop the Maquis. We won’t review that episode as it didn’t really advance the Maquis storyline — but it’s definitely worth a watch.

Of course, this episode is probably most remembered for the departure of Wesley Crusher, who hadn’t been a regular on the series since season four. Wesley was the most reviled character on TNG — aside from perhaps Dr. Pulaski — but I never really understood the hate. He was painful in the first season at times, but every character was at least once or twice in early TNG (watch Riker in “Deja Q” or Picard in “Code of Honor”). Some have argued that the series got better after Wesley left, but the series had already gotten a lot better in the third season.

“I’m off to explore other realms of being. And when that gets boring I’ll join Starfleet and cut a rug at Troi and Riker’s wedding?!”

What doesn’t hold up

I know the Wesley/Traveler thread had been around since the first season, and it certainly wasn’t a bad thing to bring the Traveler (Eric Menyuk) back in this episode. But way back in “Where No One Has Gone Before”, the Traveler saw a special sort of genius in Wesley in regards to engineering, mechanics and the Enterprise specifically. It’s never made a lot of sense that Wesley, in this episode, is written as some sort of super human, who can literally PAUSE reality. Or, that after exploring new realms of existence (or whatever) that he shows up in a Starfleet uniform for Riker and Troi’s wedding in “Star Trek: Nemesis”.

Beyond that, the Wesley storyline connected to the Dorvan V storyline is a weird combo. It’s not exactly a misfire (though it does sort of push Wesley into the “new realms” thing). The two plots overlap when Wesley tells the Native Americans that Worf is leading a security team to remove them. But Wesley’s involvement there really wasn’t necessary. And it’s not as if what he sees on Dorvan V pushes him out of Starfleet. At best, it accelerated a decision that was already pretty likely.

Finally, I’m amazed at how much the Federation bent over backwards to maintain peace with the Cardassians. And I’ve got to wonder what happened to the Native Americans on Dorvan V a few years later when Cardassia joined the Dominion. I can’t imagine it was anything good.

Final thoughts

This is an incredibly average episode. The acting is good and the characters are written appropriately (Patrick Stewart was so at home as Picard at this point in TNG that he could make almost any episode work). I honestly don’t have a ton of thoughts about it — other than the fact that it’s another instance of the Riker Marginalization that we see in the later seasons. He’s just not on screen very much.

In seasons one and two, Riker was almost a surrogate father to Wesley. Wesley told him about his hopes and dreams and got advice from him about being a leader and about women. As Wesley got older, the surrogate father became Picard — and that’s totally fine.

But it’s odd that we don’t see more interactions between Riker and Wesley in the episodes in which Wesley appears in later seasons. In “The Game”, Riker was under the influence of mind control, so I can shrug that off. But why Riker isn’t around Wesley at all in this episode or “The First Duty”? The scene at the beginning of this episode where Geordi and Data come to greet Wesley was fine, but that was an instance where Riker’s presence would have made sense. The two were very close, and Riker’s interactions with Wesley in late-series episodes are almost nonexistent.

Regular readers might think I have some sort of man crush on Riker, given how much I complain about his lesser role as the series went on. I’m actually not that big of a fan of the character — but it’s odd to me how much he moved to the sidelines. He was, initially, the co-star of TNG. But after a while, he basically takes on the role of Scotty in TOS — running the ship as Picard and Data play Kirk and Spock with all the adventures. Given that no other actors who played first officers (Nana Visitor, Robert Beltran and Jolene Blalock) were listed with the actors who played commanding officers in the opening credits, I think the creators decided that counting on the second in command to be the second big character was a mistake after TNG. Note that Beltran does appear second in the Voyager credits (after Kate Mulgrew) but only because of alphabetical order.

And, sure — Jonathan Frakes took on a bigger role behind the camera as TNG progressed. But that doesn’t explain anything within the Trek universe.

Coming next week …

TNG hits the dusty ol’ trail.