Category Archives: Section 31

“Star Trek Into Darkness”

I want Harrison found. Even if we have to build some sort of half-man, half-robot cop to bring him in... dead or alive. We'll call it a Coporobot or a Robocop...
“I want Harrison found. Even if we have to build some sort of half-man, half-robot cop to bring him in … dead or alive. We’ll call it a Coporobot …”

Kirk’s being all Kirk and violating the Prime Directive (some things are constant, despite reboots). Starfleet gets pissed and demotes him to commander and gives the Enterprise back to Pike. At about the same time, a Starfleet installation in London is bombed, thanks to a shady-looking character who seems well-suited to solving 19th-century mysteries (Benedict Cumberbatch). Turns out the bombing was a ploy (or something) to get all of Starfleet’s top dogs in one place so the shady-looking character (identified as Commander John Harrison) can attack the meeting room. Pike and others are killed, Kirk eventually thwarts the attack but Harrison escapes. Harrison apparently used Scotty’s transwarp beaming technique (seen in the previous movie) to get to the Klingon homeworld. Kirk convinces Starfleet Admiral Marcus (Peter Weller) to give him back the Enterprise to pursue Harrison, and Marcus gives Kirk some super-duper torpedoes to attack Harrison’s position on Kronos. Spock objects to the out-and-out assassination, and Kirk eventually decides to try to apprehend Harrison instead. After a short battle with some Klingons, in which Harrison kicks some major ass, he learns about the number of torpedoes the Enterprise is carrying and surrenders.

Soylent Torpedos... are people!!!
Soylent torpedoes … are people!!!

Turns out, Harrison is actually Khan Noonien Singh (shocking no one) and, after Marcus discovered him (presumably on his sleeper ship) he helped Marcus design the torpedoes and stashed his 72 genetically engineered buddies inside them. Meanwhile, the Enterprise is having engine problems and is unable to leave Klingon space. Marcus shows up in what amounts to a Starfleet warship — apparently, developed in secret by Marcus with Khan’s help — and demands Kirk turn over Khan. Kirk, realizing that Marcus is operating without authorization, refuses and sets course for Earth to put Khan on trial. Marcus attacks, pulling the Enterprise out of warp, and Kirk and Khan board Marcus’ ship (with stowaway Scotty’s help) to prevent further attacks.

Chekov told me that if you put a Tribble on the wall in the first act it must bring the captain back to life by the third act.
“Chekov told me that if you put a Tribble on the wall in the first act it must bring the captain back to life by the third act.”

They stop Marcus (Khan kills him) but Khan takes control of Marcus’ ship, demanding that Spock turn over the torpedoes. He does so, but arms them — after removing Khan’s people — and Marcus’ ship crash lands on Earth. Meanwhile, Kirk sacrifices himself to save the Enterprise from burning up in Earth’s atmosphere. An enraged Spock (hmmm) pursues Khan and eventually stops him with Uhura’s help — and McCoy uses a blood transfusion from Khan to save Kirk (hmmm, again). Khan is put into stasis with the rest of his people and Kirk and Co. embark on a 5-year mission … to explore strange new worlds.

Why it’s important

Well, Kirk and Co. stave off a Starfleet takeover by Marcus (one that stems from his paranoia following the destruction of Vulcan) and stop Khan from doing … whatever he would have done had he freed his genetically engineered posse. Of course, Kirk goes from goat to hero again — echoing a theme from the previous movie — and his heroism eventually leads to the Enterprise being sent on the first of Starfleet’s 5-year missions.

Tonight's movie... Godfather Part III
“Tonight’s movie … ‘Godfather Part III’.”

What doesn’t hold up

Get comfortable.

In our review of the previous film, we noted that its biggest flaws stemmed from bad logic and action-movie cliches. Still, the 2009 movie was a good one, in our eyes.

The opposite is true for this movie. The action-movie cliches and bad logic overwhelm the good.

The first quarter of the movie is mostly OK. The fact that a “cold fusion device” freezes a volcano in the movie’s opening scene is kinda dumb, but whatever. The stuff with Kirk and Pike — further establishing their relationship in one of the highlights of the reboot — was good. Chris Pine and Bruce Greenwood bring their A games (though Kirk is cavalier even for Kirk considering he falsified reports). The problems start around the time Kirk gets the Enterprise back to hunt for Harrison/Khan.

The first issue, and probably the film’s worst, is how the Enterprise is hanging in Klingon space for the better part of a day without any sort of response. True, the Klingons attack Kirk’s party on the planet, but the fact that the Enterprise (and, then, Marcus’ ship) are there and we see nothing from the Klingons is just, well, laughable. For all the talk of hostilities with the Klingons gearing up, this is just a ridiculous oversight. Even if the Enterprise and Marcus’ ship hid effectively — there’s no dialogue indicating that they took special measures — wouldn’t the fact that humans clearly attacked the Klingon homeworld get the Klingons to declare war?

“It’s going to take a few seconds to get the coordinates from Mr. Sulu. Going to warp isn’t like dusting crops, boy …”

There’s also the matter of how warp is different in the rebooted films. Throughout prime Star Trek, warp was something that allowed ships to move fast, but not cross vast distances in mere moments. This was sort of an issue in the previous movie, but it really seems off here, when getting from Kronos to Earth seemingly takes minutes. Of all the creative choices in the reboots, this is my least favorite. It makes Trek more like Star Wars, and it’s not a choice that strengthens the films.

There’s also the issue of Khan’s people being in the torpedoes Marcus gives Kirk to use on Khan. Simply put, this doesn’t make any sense — unless Marcus was unaware, and it seems like he knew. Why not provide the Enterprise with the heavy-duty torpedoes without Khan’s people inside them? Without their presence, Khan likely wouldn’t have (temporarily) helped Kirk and foiled Marcus’ plan.

The script writer failed the Bechdel test 3 times before he reprogrammed the simulators to get this character into her underwear... sigh.
The script writer failed the Bechdel test three times before he reprogrammed the simulators to get this character into her underwear … sigh.

There’s also the matter of Carol Marcus (Alice Eve) a Starfleet officer (breaking from the previous timeline) and the admiral’s daughter who boards the Enterprise to (I guess?) stop the use of the torpedoes before they leave Earth. But, how would she even know about them — or about what her father was doing at that particular time? And how easy is it for just anyone (even an extremely attractive anyone) to get onto Starfleet’s most advanced ship without orders? Frankly, Carol Marcus’ presence seems needless and an excuse to have a hot blond in Kirk’s orbit who is also a callback to the original movies. The underwear scene, really, was completely unnecessary.

There are also some weird lines of dialog between Kirk and McCoy about Kirk apparently having health problems. This happens right after Pike’s death, so it at first seems that McCoy is checking out how his friend is dealing with the tragedy. But McCoy says that Kirk’s “vitals are all over the place” right after they board the Enterprise. Was something cut from the film? Was that foreshadowing for the next movie?

Also, the whole matter with Spock beaming to Earth to stop Khan makes very little sense. Even putting aside Spock’s over-the-top emotions, why wouldn’t he bring a security squad along? The day is saved when Uhura beams down and helps bring Khan in … but why didn’t Spock take more people to begin with?

There’s also the ridiculous lack of security allowing Scotty to infiltrate Marcus’ ship. Even if we figure Scotty is an engineering genius, there’s just no way that a secure installation (in the Terran System) would not notice his shuttle. Hell, how did Scotty get a shuttle in the first place?

Oh, and where the hell is the rest of Starfleet as Marcus’ ship attacks the Enterprise? This is an ongoing problem in Star Trek (as we’ve discussed) but it really stands out here. Even if you figure that Marcus has fooled or is controlling Starfleet, two massive ships attacking each other couldn’t go unnoticed. Granted, this isn’t just a problem with the rebooted movies, but it’s still a problem that could have been solved if the battle occurred in a more remote location before the two ships raced to Earth.

Finally, the bit about Khan’s blood having magical healing powers was just dumb — and if the powers were the result of his genetic enhancements, why didn’t McCoy just take a transfusion from one of the 72 other genetically enhanced people on the Enterprise?

I could keep going, but you get the idea.

Well, one more thing. The first movie’s reboot takes care a lot of the inconsistencies. But Khan, who was in power about 250 years before Nero’s ship destroyed the Kelvin, was not a British dude. He was Indian and had a very different personality than what we see here. Of course, Carol Marcus has become British in the J.J. verse, too …

I haven't been, and never will be... your friend.
“I haven’t been, and never will be … your friend.”

Final thoughts

If you couldn’t tell, I didn’t care much for this movie. Looking past the logical/goofiness problems above the fan service is just too much. Spock yelling “Khaaaaan!” in a nod toward “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” is the best example, because a more subtle recreation of Spock’s death in that movie (with Kirk dying this time) could have been done well. Instead, it’s heavy-handed and dumb.

There are some overly obvious moments, too, like Kirk just happening to notice McCoy injecting Khan’s blood into a dead Tribble (as a way to set up what happens later).

And there are weird timing and editing issues. Kirk tells Chekov to “put on a red shirt” and take over for a relieved-of-duty Scotty — apparently there are no other engineers on board — and within a minute or two, Chekov is in engineering in a red shirt. There’s also an odd scene where Spock asks Kirk to accompany him to Kronos only to have Kirk TELL Spock he wants him along a few minutes later.

Granted, there’s a LOT of plot in this movie, so some things needed to be cut. Of course with all the unnecessary running by main characters — seriously, can’t someone grab a communicator instead of sprinting to the bridge? — the pacing already felt rushed. And with scenes created almost specifically to be used in video games (Kirk and Khan’s spacesuit trip to Marcus’ ship, Spock’s pursuit of Khan on floating thingys on Earth) the action-movie nature of “Into Darkness” supersedes it’s good parts.

Coming next time …

That dude from “The Wire” shows up as Trek returns to theaters.

“Affliction”/ “Divergence”

Are you sure you meant to capture me? Captain Archer is the normally the one held captive!
“Are you sure you meant to capture me? Captain Archer is normally the one held captive!”

Affliction: The Klingons kidnap Phlox after their experiment to make Klingon augments (using some embryos recovered from the Augments trilogy) creates a nasty plague on one of their colonies. As he investigates what happened, Reed is contacted by his former boss, a shadowy character named Harris (Eric Pierpoint) who dresses an awful lot like those weird Section 31 guys from DS9’s last couple seasons. Turns out Reed used to work for that “section” before joining the Enterprise and still must follow Harris’ orders — and Harris actually helped the Klingons kidnap Phlox to cure the plague and maintain a “stable Klingon Empire.” Archer finds out that Reed is interfering with Enterprise’s mission and throws him in the brig. Then, some weird, flat-foreheaded aliens board the ship and embed a computer virus. One of them is captured, and Archer learns he’s a Klingon who’s been infected with augment DNA. About this time, the computer virus starts forcing the ship to keep increasing speed or explode, and the episode ends with Enterprise accelerating the dangerous speed of warp 5.2.

Divergence: Enterprise meets up with sister ship Columbia — which just left space dock thanks to new chief engineer Trip Tucker, who requested a transfer in “The Aenar” — to try a risky plan get rid of the Klingon computer virus. It involves Tucker, on a tether(!) and in a spacesuit, going aboard Enterprise (with Reed’s help) to merge the two ship’s warp fields long enough to cold start Enterprise’s engines and purge the virus. It works, naturally, and then the two ships head to the Klingon colony where Phlox is being held. Phlox has made progress on the disease, but the Klingon leaders want their own augments, and not a cure. Phlox and Klingon Dr. Antaak (reliable voice John Schuck) work secretly to find a cure, which they eventually develop despite some battles in space with Klingon ships. The day is saved, Reed is brought back into the fold — with a final rebuke to Harris — but the next few generations of Klingons will (ahem) likely have flat foreheads. Or something.

You're telling me Section 31's been buying these same uniforms for hundreds of years?!
You’re telling me Section 31’s been buying these same uniforms for hundreds of years?!

Why it’s important

This, of course, was the creators’ way of addressing one of the biggest inconsistencies comparing TOS with the rest of Star Trek. Beginning in “Errand of Mercy”, the Klingons we see are essentially humans with facial hair, big eyebrows and (sometimes) dark face makeup. That changed in “Star Trek — The Motion Picture”, where the Klingons suddenly got facial ridges. More on this below …

Also, we see the launch of Starfleet’s second warp 5 ship, Columbia, in this two-parter. It’s the last we see of that ship or Captain Hernandez (Ada Maris), which is too bad, as Starfleet having more of a presence in deep space was interesting — and Hernandez was a strong character in the limited times we saw her (she first appeared in “Home”).

What doesn’t hold up

This is where the season of fan service went off the rails for Enterprise.

Did the creators REALLY need to address the Klingon forehead point? Sure, it probably had been the source of more fan fiction than any other inconsistency, but I’ve got to believe the creators could have used what were two of Enterprise’s final hours on something more interesting. Anyway, the explanation doesn’t even truly hold up, as it doesn’t explain why Klingons Kor, Kang and Koloth appeared in TOS without bumpy foreheads and showed up in DS9 with them. It also doesn’t explain why DS9’s Bashir — medical genius and product of genetic engineering himself — wouldn’t know about what happens in this incident (he shows that he doesn’t in “Trials and Tribble-ations”). I suppose you could say on the second point that what happened here was classified?

I’m also highly doubtful that Columbia could have caught up with Enterprise in time to make a bit of difference. Keep in mind that, in part one, Columbia hasn’t been able to leave space dock, in orbit of Earth. It goes to warp at the end of part one and, then, very suddenly, is close enough to Klingon territory to meet up with Enterprise. Sorry, but that’s ridiculous. Keep in mind that in “Broken Bow” getting to Kronos was going to take several days and the events on Columbia in part one appear to be happening concurrently with the events on Enterprise. Even if they weren’t, it’s sure lucky that Columbia just happened to set a course that made catching up with Enterprise easy.

Then there’s the business of transferring Tucker to Enterprise from Columbia while both ships are at warp. While it was a somewhat interesting concept, it wasn’t as cool as the creators hoped it would be. And I have a hard time buying that Tucker is SUCH a good engineer that no one else could have cold-started the Enterprise in a minute.

When's the episode that explains why they all got haircuts and started wearing gold sashes?
When’s the episode that explains why they all got haircuts and started wearing gold sashes?

Final thoughts

Aren’t Archer’s actions rather cavalier in this episode? After he learns that Phlox has been kidnapped by the Klingons, he has no problem violating their territory. While it’s great that Archer is loyal to his people, his actions could have started a war — something he was dead set on avoiding the last time we dealt with genetically engineered individuals. Without being too blunt, was Phlox’s life really worth it? Keep in mind that Archer sets out to save Phlox BEFORE he knows about the plague.

And, of course, there’s the whole matter of Tucker leaving Enterprise. While some of it’s handled well, I’ve always felt the creators missed an opportunity to have a better parting moment between Archer and Tucker. Keep in mind that these guys are best friends and all Archer says about Tucker’s departure is that he was “one helluva chief engineer” in a log entry. Weird.

More to come on Tucker’s rather goofy transfer …

“They are Klingons! And it is a long story!”

Coming next week …

It’s apparently green to be easy.


“When it Rains … ” and “Tacking Into the Wind”

I challenge you all to a bug-eyed look contest. I win!!
“I challenge you all to a bug-eyed look contest. I win!!”

Part one: The Breen weapon from the previous episode is stumping the Federation and its allies. Klingon ships can be adjusted to compensate — meaning the Klingon fleet must take on the brunt of the combat duties. Gowron (Robert O’Reilly) shows up, gives Martok an award and then assumes command of military operations. Meanwhile, Sisko sends Kira, Odo and Garak to help Damar’s resistance effort. While they’re en route, Bashir discovers that Odo has the disease that’s infecting the rest of the Great Link. At Damar’s base, Kira’s group encounters resistance (see what I did there?) from the Cardies, but presses on. Back on the station, Bashir discovers that some medical records for Odo he received from Starfleet were faked, making him and O’Brien theorize that our old buddies at Section 31 were behind the cover-up — and likely the disease itself. Meanwhile, Odo displays the first signs of the disease.

Part two: Gowron is taking big gambles with the Klingon fleet — apparently to bolster his own personal glory — and Sisko backs Worf’s plan (without asking for details) to fix the situation. Meanwhile, Kira and Co.  continue to help Damar, eventually stealing a Jem’Hadar ship equipped with the Breen weapon, despite internal strife among Damar’s band and a deteriorating Odo. Martok refuses to challenge Gowron at Worf’s behest. Then, during a briefing with some nameless Klingons, Worf challenges Gowron’s plan to attack a well-defended Cardassian planet. The two start fighting, and Worf kills Gowron (!) and turns over control of the empire to Martok. Meanwhile, Bashir and O’Brien devise a plan to draw Section 31 to the station, by making them think that Bashir has figured out a cure to the disease.

Is Kira gonna have to choke a b***h?!
“Is Kira gonna have to choke a b***h?!”

Why it’s important

The advancement of Damar’s resistance cell and his development as a character are huge pieces. We’ll talk more about Damar below, though, as much of what happens with him is character-based.

Now, Worf killing Gowron is one of the bolder and bigger moves in any Star Trek series. The two had been friends or enemies dating back nearly a decade and the transfer of power (as done in a way only a Klingon could love) was huge. That Sisko would tacitly endorse Worf’s plan to kill the head of state of an allied empire is pretty freaking amazing. I know the idea is that the Federation is desperate and that Sisko doesn’t really KNOW what Worf’s planning. But still. Damn, Gina.

Some other developments in these two episodes  — including the Dukat/Winn storyline from part one — are really inconsequential in the big picture, or, at most, incremental. But the Section 31 plan to commit genocide on the Founders is pretty freaking huge. There’s some goofiness with the plan and how Bashir and O’Brien figure it out, as we’ll discuss.

Now hand me my pimp hat and pimp chalice.
“Now, hand me my pimp hat and pimp chalice.”

What doesn’t hold up

Let’s talk about how Bashir learns Odo is infected. It all starts when he requests some medical records from when Odo was scanned during his trip to Earth in “Homefront”. Why wouldn’t Bashir — who’s had access to Odo for seven years — have his own scans? There have been times when Odo was really sick and Bashir was trying to help him. Wasn’t he scanning Odo while he was treating him?

Speaking of which, why would the comparison scans matter? Remember that Odo was turned into a human as a punishment by the Founders back in “Broken Link” — a time Bashir was taking a TON of scans of Odo, BTW — and was left with virtually no Changeling stuff in his body. Then, in “The Begotten”, a dying baby Changeling merges with Odo, making Odo a Changeling again. In other words, would the scans taken before Odo lost his shapeshifting abilities be at all helpful? I know there’s the whole bit about “the drop and the ocean” or whatever when it comes to Changelings and the Great Link, but it doesn’t sound like Bashir wanted to study Changelings. He wants to study Odo specifically. And, if so, the scans from “Homefront” should be of no help to him.

Last thought on this point. It’s a little convenient that Bashir and O’Brien are so accurate in guessing that Section 31 was behind the disease. Their supposition certainly makes sense, but they operate on no real proof. What if, after all their sleuthing, someone else had been behind the disease?

Meanwhile, there are a lot of weird little things in these two episodes.

— Kira’s education of Damar’s dudes seems extremely basic, considering that most of the Cardassians should have known how a resistance works based on the recent war with the Bajorans. Shouldn’t they have known how autonomous cells operate and why?

— Speaking of Damar’s resistance, does it seem strange to anyone else that he, Kira, Odo, Garak and Rosot (John Vickery) all go on the mission to steal the Jem’Hadar ship? That would be like George Washington taking his four top advisers to steal a British naval vessel. It’s more likely that some underlings would have been assigned to do it. We’ve talked about this issue before with DS9, though.

— Martok mentions, early in part one, that 1,500 Klingon ships will start raiding Dominion targets, and it’s then said that they’ll be outnumbered 20 to 1. Considering that no reinforcements have come from the Gamma Quadrant — and that the loss of 2,800 Dominion ships in “Sacrifice of Angels” was a big deal — how do the Dominion and the Breen have 30,000 ships? If the Breen, on their own are so formidable, why haven’t they done something on their own, previously? No, this is another example of DS9’s creators amping up the stakes unnecessarily. Why not simply say 10 to 1, or even 5 to 1?

— Gowron is too stupid for words in these two episodes. It’s a shame, because the end result is interesting — but making Gowron look like a total moron wasn’t necessary.

Can you tell me if it was a Section between 30 and 32 that did it?
“Can you tell me if it was a section between 30 and 32 that did it?”

Final thoughts

The Dukat/Winn stuff, in which Dukat goes blind because he reads the forbidden Bajoran texts, was just filler. The Damar/Kira story is probably the strongest of the arc at this point, even if it’s more character-centric, as Damar is making huge leaps as a character. His decision to kill Rosot (in a great scene on the captured Jem’Hadar ship) was a huge indicator of where he believes he needs to take Cardassia. Kira calling Damar out about killing innocents in an earlier scene was wonderful — and Garak telling Kira that she was right to say it was a brilliant decision by the creators. For all three characters, we see just how far they’ve come.

Coming next week …

One of the strangest episodes of DS9, as Bashir and O’Brien have their last buddy episode — INSIDE SOMEONE’S MIND?

“Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges”

It's not Section 31 protocol to watch people sleep... that's just something I like.
It’s not Section 31 protocol to watch people sleep… that’s just something I like.

Bashir readies to attend a conference on Romulus, when our buddy Sloan (William Sadler) from “Inquisition” shows up with an assignment to have Bashir gather intel. Sisko (after conferring with Admiral Ross) tells Bashir to play along to try to expose Sloan’s Section 31. What follows is a twist-heavy episode that’s rather hard to explain succinctly, but it turns out Sloan was working with Ross to protect a Starfleet operative within the Romulan ranks and get him promoted in the process. Senator Creetak (Adrienne Barbeau) whom we met (played by a different actor) back in “Image in the Sand” and is now buddy-buddy with the DS9ers (hmmmm) must be sacrificed in the process, and Ross’s willingness to work with Section 31 shows how much Starfleet has been rattled by the war. Sloan, made to look killed during the charade on Romulus, appears at the end of the episode, thanking a defeated Bashir in his quarters.

Why it’s important

Any thought that Section 31 was less than it was made out to be in “Inquisition” is pushed aside here. Sloan is able to get to one of Starfleet’s top admirals in Ross and can get himself on a delegation to Romulus. Thematically, this is another example of the DS9 creators not F-ing around.

Meanwhile, the Federation-Romulan alliance continues after this episode. Whether that was a result of Sloan’s master plan, it’s important in the eventual end to the war with the Dominion.

Major Kira, you may remember me from such showdowns as "Plasma Torpedos on Derna"
Major Kira, you may remember me from such showdowns as “Plasma Torpedos on Derna”

What doesn’t hold up

Sloan’s plan is rather crazy. I suppose it makes sense, to a point — he relied on Bashir’s goodness and lack of options to rope in Creetak, thus making Koval (John Fleck) look better in the eyes of the Romulans. But what if Creetak hadn’t agreed to commit treason? Or, what if she hadn’t been caught? Beyond that, wouldn’t Ross need to really be sure of the plan in order to participate — and given the craziness of the plan, wouldn’t he have backed out?

Oh, and as mentioned in a previous review, it’s odd that Creetak and the DS9 crew are cool in this episode — Bashir almost thinks of her as an ally — given her shenanigans earlier in the season. Considering that a different actor plays Creetak this time around, it’s too bad the creators didn’t just make her a new character. The new character could have replaced Creetak and established herself as more trustworthy. I guess Bashir didn’t read Kira’s reports from the whole blockade thing in “Shadows and Symbols”?

Now that we're all friends I imagine nothing bad will ever happen to me.
Now that we’re all friends I imagine nothing bad will ever happen to me.

Final thoughts

This is probably DS9’s most Ronald D. Moore episode, which is amazing in that it doesn’t involve the Klingons. It’s well-written … if you accept a few conceits, like the ones mentioned above about Sloan’s plan. The initial scene between Sloan and Bashir in Bashir’s quarters, in which Sloan outlines what will happen when the war ends and Bashir reacts in disgust, is priceless. Also, this episode has some great callbacks to TOS — Sloan’s use of the “UFP” abbreviation, Bashir using the term “Romulan Star Empire”, which hadn’t been used as far as I can remember in dialog since “Balance of Terror” — that are both vintage RDM.

It’s also nice that Moore gave Ross something interesting to do in a way that also keeps Sisko’s hands clean. Barry Jenner had played the role in a rather dull way for more than a year, but this episode gives him something to do for once. It’s also kinda cool that the episode is largely set on an Intrepid-class vessel (which takes the Federation delegation to Romulus) allowing us to see another ship like Voyager. I know it was likely done to save money, but it was cool. I often wondered why we never saw Intrepid-class ships (or Sovereign-class ships, like the Enterprise-E) in any battles with the Dominion.

Coming later this week …

DS9’s home stretch begins.


I'm Colonel Stuar... I mean Luther Sloa...
“I’m Colonel Stuar… I mean Luther Sloan.”

Starfleet Internal Affairs shows up on the station and appears to have Bashir in its sights. Director Sloan (William Sadler) starts asking about some questionable items in Bashir’s past and says he believes Bashir is a Dominion agent — possibly a sleeper agent. After putting the good doctor through the wringer, Bashir is beamed away by Weyoun, who says Bashir has indeed been a sleeper agent. Bashir almost buys it, but realizes it’s all an elaborate ploy by Sloan. Sloan then deactivates his holodeck and tells Bashir that he actually works for Section 31, a secret agency created to ensure the Federation’s security that has no authorization from Starfleet or the Federation Council — but that has been around for 200 years. After trying to recruit Bashir, he eventually lets him go and Bashir reports everything to Sisko. But Sisko’s inquiries about Sloan and Section 31 don’t go anywhere, and the episode ends with the idea Starfleet and the Federation are OK letting Sloan do his thing and that the Federation is not as morally pristine as we’ve been led to believe.

Why it’s important

Well, apparently, the Federation’s been propped up at least in part by a rogue organization that answers to no one for like two centuries. So, there’s that. It’s interesting that the DS9 creators pulled absolutely no punches on this one. They could have underplayed Section 31’s importance  — the episode could have ended with Sisko saying he thought Sloan’s claims were exaggerated or something — but they went for broke.

And, of course, we’ll soon learn how important Section 31 is. They play a major, major role in events that lead to the end of the Dominion War.

Weak eyes... but a fabulous talent for cooking!
“Weak eyes… but a fabulous talent for cooking!”

What doesn’t hold up

From a logic/production standpoint, this episode really doesn’t have a lot of small flaws. It’s a complex drama that works — and if you’re willing to swallow the big conceit (that a rogue organization has been part of the Federation for two centuries) then it’s great. For me, I’m torn, so even though I don’t think what I’m about to say is an indication that the episode doesn’t hold up, it makes the most sense to share my thoughts here.

This episode, in many ways, undermines a lot of what we had seen in Star Trek for the previous 30 years — particularly what had been established in the early days of TNG when humanity’s evolution was really a major emphasis. If you think back to the first couple seasons of TNG, one of the defining characteristics — other than the jumpsuits — was the talk of humanity being above a lot of things, including the kind of treachery it saw from the Ferengi and the Romulans. One wonders what Picard or Riker in, say, 2365, would have thought of Section 31. That the organization existed and had such pull for so long makes early TNG look naive and silly (not that that’s a tall order).

Of course, late TNG was starting to embrace shades of grey (not “Shades of Gray”, as that should never be embraced) with stories about the Maquis, among other topics. But DS9 ramped things up — and did so in two very consequential weeks starting with “Inquisition”. And just wait until we get to reviewing the next episode.

Don't bother looking in the Starfleet budget for these amazing leather shirts...
Don’t bother looking in the Starfleet budget for these amazing leather shirts…

Final thoughts

Interestingly, Section 31 is one of DS9’s most enduring additions to the Trek universe. It shows up on “Star Trek: Enterprise” and is even mentioned in “Star Trek Into Darkness”. That JJ Abrams would choose to bring back that element from second-generation Trek is noteworthy. It shows just how compelling Section 31 is a concept and how the Star Trek creators likely struggled to find drama in a fictional era that was supposed to be relatively conflict free among humans.

Oh, and this episode has perhaps DS9’s greatest meta moment. One of DS9’s absolute worst logical gaffes was the ridiculous idea that the Dominion would have left Worf and Garak’s runabout parked near the prison camp where Worf and Garak were sent (and where Bashir and Martok had been held) back in “In Purgatory’s Shadow and “By Inferno’s Light”. Of course, if the Dominion hadn’t done that, our heroes wouldn’t have escaped.

So, what do the DS9 creators do? They USE that gaffe as one of Sloan’s justifications for believing Bashir was working for the Dominion. Priceless.

Coming next week …

If you thought “Inquisition” rocked Trek to its core, well, hold onto your butts.