Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

"Necessary Evil"

****

Air date: 11/15/1993
Written by Peter Allan Fields
Directed by James L. Conway

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

An attempt on Quark's life sheds new light on a murder investigation from years ago that Odo had never solved, and as he looks at the new evidence (a mysterious list of names) he assembles the clues from the past and present to uncover the killer of a Bajoran chemist.

One real strength to "Necessary Evil" is its remarkably compelling flashback sequences, which are woven into the story flawlessly. James Conway's stellar direction and the standout art design and production takes us back to Terok Nor of five years earlier, creating a dark, malevolent slave mining station run by Gul Dukat. The lighting and photography is nothing short of brilliant—creating a true Trek noir—but the characterizations and story events are just as powerfully drawn.

Odo's investigating techniques highlight his intelligence, patience, and thoroughness extremely well—and his pointed commentary about justice in both the dialog and the running security log voice-overs highlights many keen observations. The flashbacks plausibly and interestingly document the way Odo met Kira, Dukat, and Quark all within the same investigation. The story's use of the murdered man's widow, Pallra (Katherine Moffat), is also nicely realized.

Kira's role in the investigation is especially intriguing, opening the door to more dark chapters of the freedom fighter's violent past. The revelation that she was actually the killer—on assignment by the Bajoran underground—is gutsy and probing, weakening a bond of trust shared between her and Odo. With a plot that is beautifully crafted, its powerful and thoughtful dialog, and a multitude of riveting character implications, "Necessary Evil" is one of the series' all-time best installments.

Previous episode: Rules of Acquisition
Next episode: Second Sight

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18 comments on this review

Paul York - Mon, May 7, 2012 - 1:40pm (USA Central)
What I liked most was Odo's commentary on blind justice -- except that in the end he realizes (or we realize) that politics affect everything. He chose not to tell Gul Dukat that Kira was a rebel; will he choose to ignore that she murdered collaborating Bejorans during the Occupation? We are left with that question. Odo's quest for justice seems compromised, but he also seems to choose the greater good -- which is respect for Bejoran independence. And this murder cannot be separated from that political goal. Odo's quest to separate justice from politics is a difficult one, in light of the fact that telling the entire truth in all circumstances could compromise justice.
Paul York - Mon, May 7, 2012 - 1:42pm (USA Central)
Jammer, I appreciate this blog. I have benefited greatly from your commentary, though I don't agree with your reviews 100%. I agree probably 95% however, and they have helped me avoid the duds of ST history and watch the gems. Thank you!
John - Fri, Jun 29, 2012 - 10:51am (USA Central)
Some of Odo's investigation feels a bit too cliche. When he's interviewing the femme fatale on the stormy night for example.

But otherwise this is an outstanding episode. Engrossing and thought provoking, it has to be among the season's best.
Peremensoe - Sun, Jul 22, 2012 - 1:39am (USA Central)
"Some of Odo's investigation feels a bit too cliche. When he's interviewing the femme fatale on the stormy night for example."

The *dark and stormy night* is the setting for Quark receiving his nefarious assignment. Later Odo, seeking truth, interviews her in bright sunlight. This is not so much "cliche" as overt genre homage--film noir, as Jammer said.

And it is masterfully done. The best episode in the series to this point.
John - Mon, Aug 6, 2012 - 3:19am (USA Central)
Fair point. Though there is often a fine line between homage and cliche and for me those scenes lacked some subtlety.

Either way I acknowledge that it's a fairly minor point in an episode that is clearly a classic.
azcats - Tue, Oct 1, 2013 - 2:45pm (USA Central)
interesting twist making Kira the murderer.
Kotas - Tue, Oct 22, 2013 - 3:38pm (USA Central)

A very good episode with some nice background and character development for Kira and Odo.

8/10
mitts - Wed, Feb 19, 2014 - 8:30am (USA Central)
I agree this was an excellent episode but I did have one problem -- why would Dukat subsequently make Odo chief of security on the station when he fails on his first assignment? Would have hardly inspired confidence.

That being said, love all episodes that flash back to the occupation, always wanted a 2-hour (i.e. 2-parter) of straight up occupation-era storyline, would have been great.
Andrew Taylor - Mon, Feb 24, 2014 - 5:39pm (USA Central)
Excellent episode. Definitely a Top 10 entry for me.

When I was younger, the revelation of Kira being the murderer totally floored me. Now I'm older, having just watched the episode again, it should perhaps be obvious that a former Bajoran terrorist murdered someone. It's still a wonderfully constructed episode though, and does so much to establish character backstory.
Dusty - Thu, Feb 27, 2014 - 8:47am (USA Central)
I always wondered how Odo became security chief on Terok Nor. Thanks to this great episode, now I know. I didn't see Kira as the murderer coming at all, and it reinforced the fact that she was a terrorist and an extremely dangerous person before the occupation ended, and there will always be some of that lurking under the beautiful exterior. But that's part of what makes her such a great character.
UnknownSample - Mon, Jun 23, 2014 - 11:58am (USA Central)
So Dukat was the reason Odo got into security. That's interesting. Dukat was the person who saw in Odo his ability to handle investigations. Can someone tell me what Odo was doing on the station before he helped dukat in this episode? He just a decided to leave bajor and live on ds9 which was basically a prison camp??

At the end Kira says she's tried to tell Odo. I call BS. She could have told him multiple times in the episode but didn't.

Rom says he would never kill quark but he just tried to throw quark out an airlock in the Nagus episode. And for some reason Odo never charged rom with attempted murder.

Other than these nitpicks this was a good episode.

Yanks - Mon, Jul 14, 2014 - 11:07am (USA Central)
Wow!! What an incredible episode!!

The Odo/Kira relationship just levitates this episode!!

My only minor knock on this one is I'm not sure I agree with Odo here:

"ODO: I haven't been for more than a year. You've had all that time to tell me the truth.
KIRA: I tried to tell you the truth a hundred times. What you think of me matters a lot. I was afraid.
ODO: That might affect our friendship? Maybe it doesn't have to.
KIRA: Will you ever be able to trust me the same way again?"

He expected her to inform him? What difference would it make?

Easy 4 stars regardless. Wonderful story telling here.
Admiral Crunch - Wed, Jul 30, 2014 - 10:38am (USA Central)
"Can someone tell me what Odo was doing on the station before he helped dukat in this episode? He just a decided to leave bajor and live on ds9 which was basically a prison camp??"

I assume he was on Bajor, and Ducat had him brought to the station for this assignment. Quark had never met him before, which wouldn't have been likely if Odo had been on the station previously.

"At the end Kira says she's tried to tell Odo. I call BS. She could have told him multiple times in the episode but didn't."

I thought she explained very well why she hadn't told him. "Tried" as in wanted to but couldn't bring herself to go through with it, not "tried" as in kept getting interrupted or something.
DLPB - Tue, Aug 12, 2014 - 7:54pm (USA Central)
So Kira is a murderer... Well, that's settled that then.

V. Good episode though.
Icarus32Soar - Tue, Mar 3, 2015 - 6:24pm (USA Central)
Better than Duet.
MsV - Tue, Apr 7, 2015 - 4:52am (USA Central)
This was one of the things that make Odo unlikeable. He is one of my favorites but , there were times when I could have slapped him. Why would he take this so personally, she was afraid for her life. Just like the time Kira and co. had the new resistance against the Dominion, Odo told Kira that they acted behind his back. He was so afraid Ducat would find out. None of the terrorist would tell on themselves. This one-dimensional attitude of his caused the death of the 3 Bajorans on Terok Nor, he did not think he could make a mistake. One other time he got on my nerves was when Ens. Aquino was killed and Obrien ask "what was Aquino doing in runabout C" and Odo said, "Getting murdered". that was not the reason Aquino was in runabout c. He thought someone was trying to steal a runabout. Ok that is my Odo rant. The character was one of my favorites, but he was not always likeable.
Nathan B. - Sun, Jul 12, 2015 - 2:12pm (USA Central)
"Necessary Evil" is a great episode, and one of my personal favourites. The portrayal of Terek Nor beats anything in the Mirror Universe episodes, and the mystery is true to life and handled fantastically by the writers and actors. I love the otherworldly sense of danger, of untamed characters that we thought we knew so well. And I love the dark humour in Odo's line "getting murdered!"
William B - Wed, Aug 12, 2015 - 12:21pm (USA Central)
A great episode and one of the series' highlights. I'm not exactly sure where to start, so I'll start at the episode's beginning: Pallra basically opens this episode by telling Quark that Odo always suspected her of her husband's murder, but she really hadn't done it. So the episode opens with the untrustworthy femme fatale telling us the absolute truth, and ends with Odo's discovery that the trustworthy freedom fighter was a killer who had lied to him all those years ago. That Pallra continues to insist, even to the episode's penultimate scene, that Odo suspected her and that he can never prove that she murdered Vaatrik suggests to me that after he released Kira from suspicion, he focused his attention on Pallra in a fruitless, dead-end effort to prove her the murderer. This answers a few questions for me: while Odo could never quite figure out *why* Pallra would kill him, he must have recognized that she neither particularly cared about him nor did she seem the most scrupulous or empathetic of people. Meanwhile, this also explains how Dukat would have come to the conclusion that he should keep Odo on even though Odo's first investigation (apparently) ended in failure. If Pallra killed Vaatrik, as Odo suspected, it would be in Dukat's interests to shield her, so as not to endanger the network of collaborators, and so it seems to me that Dukat may well have simply shut down the investigation at this stage, for reasons that Odo could never quite identify, but kept him around to continue investigating for him.*

Much of what is so appealing about this episode is the way it plays Odo against the background of the station as both Dukat-run Terok Nor and Sisko-run DS9, and the way Odo's essential Outsider nature play very differently against the two. Odo does change between his initial arrival on Terok Nor and the very end of the episode, but his methods and motivations are fundamentally similar -- he is suspicious, cynical, and sympathetic by turns, deeply observant, and focused on justice and order. However, these same traits play very differently against the two eras. In the Sisko/Odo pairing talking to Rom early in the episode, Odo is unequivocally the bad cop to Sisko's good cop, whose cynicism about motives for murder overwhelms Sisko's natural (though also somewhat played up for effect) desire to see the best in people he has social connections with. In the Odo/Dukat scenes in the flashbacks, Odo is the good cop interested in actually finding the killer to Dukat's bad cop ready to mete out punishment and swing the axe at the first head that comes nearby, and in particular in the scene with Quark, Odo threatens to give Quark over to Dukat if Quark does not agree quickly. Odo finds Cardassian rule too oppressive and Federation freedoms too lax, but he does not quite adapt to either system, more or less attempting to be the exact same person in both systems. In fact, Odo and Quark are the only people who stay more or less the same in both eras; Kira is morally the same person internally, but her external presentation swings radically from put-upon, quiet Bajoran girl to striding Major. Children run across the brightly-lit Promenade while they stare gauntly through the holes in the fence, waiting for their parents to be corralled back into the dour community living quarters.

This quality represents Odo's strength and weakness. That Odo is "incorruptible," that "no one had to teach [him] the justice trick," and that he can genuinely claim to be on no one's side, is part and parcel of his maintaining a single identity across eras. And this is what allows Bajorans to trust him even while he's working for/with the Cardassians. It is also what renders him oddly naive in spite of his close observation of humanoid nature. He believes in absolute ethics, and attributes these to the great justice provided by his people, though as we eventually see this is a rather rosy take on what is actually something of a "racial"/innate desire for order, however it comes. The reason that Odo fundamentally cannot see that Kira is the killer rather than Pallra, I think, comes down to Odo's observations of overall humanoid nature clashing with the more complex reality of the overall environment in which these humanoids exist. Despite her lies, Odo can recognize Kira's integrity and dignity (partly, I suspect, from her reaction to his come-on, partly because she eventually shares her role in the underground), and he immediately sees through Pallra's pretence of mourning. He is not ignorant of evidence, but he is drawn to theories that suggest that Pallra is a murderess and Kira is not because murder is wrong, and so it seems more likely that a selfish and immoral person would commit such a crime than a moral person. But this falls apart when the background situation is a great injustice. When the injustice of the background situation is removed, Pallra becomes the criminal. The killing of one chemist, who happened to be a collaborator, is certainly significant -- and I don't think we need believe that the episode thinks Kira did nothing wrong (more on that in a bit). But the context of the Occupation is so manifestly unjust that the particular crime cannot be separated from it; Pallra is innocent of the particular crime because as a collaborator she is benefiting (or at least, not suffering as much) from the far greater systemic crime of the Occupation, just as Kira's guilt of the local crime of killing Vaatrik comes down to her intent to address and resolve the large-scale injustice of the Occupation. Odo *acknowledges* the injustice of the Cardassian Occupation, even to Dukat's face. ("Don't push me, Changeling.") But that is far outside Odo's power, and his responsibilities are to individual crimes. And so he builds up clues on a small scale, in particular as an outgrowth from his careful *physical* observation of humanoids, encouraged by Mora (for the Cardassian neck trick) and referred to when he points out that he observes people's physical features in pointing out that Pallra has not cried.

I like how this focus on individual crime rather than systemic crime, which Kira tries to get through to Odo, is particularly underlined by Dukat entirely *dismissing* systemic deaths as irrelevant; people who die in Cardassian mines are "casualties," but we can't have Bajorans going around murdering each other! Check out, also, the casually dismissive cruelty with which Dukat indicates that he has seen Odo dealing with "petty" disputes between Bajorans over "food, blankets"; because these disputes focus on things that Dukat has access to in abundance, they become petty -- Dukat would never be caught in a dispute over food and blankets! -- never mind that these disputes are most likely life-and-death, and are *caused* by Dukat (directly or indirectly)!

I like that the reason it's so hard for Odo to recognize that he had been wrong about Kira comes down to his belief that he is able to see through people's lies. He saw that Kira was lying, but was unable to make the greater step that she was lying about her lie, in order to lead him further off the track. More than that, though, his observation of the lies that people tell themselves, his recognition of the ability of solids to hurt and kill each other, and even his general cynicism about the various races he encounters (demonstrated, for example, in his hard-boiled rant about the ridiculousness of recording everything in his first security log in the episode) convince him that he is beyond being fooled. The unraveling of the mystery in the present leads him to recognize first that Kira deceived him all those years ago, and second that perhaps his ability to stand fully outside his larger sociopolitical context and act as fully impartial judge is not so possible overall. It's a tricky kind of naivete, wherein Odo's belief that he is beyond naivete, and beyond listening to the rationalizations people create for their criminal acts, makes him somewhat unable to see reality before him.

Odo's "objectivity" is not just the result of Odo standing outside the social and political context of the Occupation (or of whatever the current situation on the station is), but also the related fact of his general alone-ness, which is emphasized throughout in different ways. His embarrassment at Kira's believing that he was propositioning her and Quark's laughing attempt to suggest ways in which Quark might be able to entertain him are the two big indications in the past about Odo's social inexperience and his related shame; so I like that the present has Odo's relationships with both Kira and Quark highlighted. Odo can acknowledge his friendship with Kira, but cannot truly recognize it with Quark; I like how Quark laughing in the past cuts to an alien laughing with a crowd of people at the bar, and Odo walking in alone to talk to Sisko and Dax, all business (even if Sisko points out that Odo looks like he's lost a friend). Ode's formation of connections represents his growth in empathy over the years -- which helps him as an investigator in recognizing the lengths otherwise good people will go to, but hurts his previous view of himself.

So in the past, Kira convinces Odo to look the other way when she tells him that she sabotaged a mining apparatus, trusting in his ability to see that her "crime," while certainly breaking Cardassian laws, is actually a necessary act to protect and help Bajoran lives. Odo equivocates in order to avoid committing fully to Kira's side, despite his instant recognition that this act, which does not actually kill anyone, is morally if not legally justified; he tells Dukat that he is certain she is innocent of Vaatrik's murder, rather than that he is certain that she is *innocent* generally. Baby steps. But in the present, he realizes that she did kill Vaatrik, and even believes that she was sent to execute him. Kira indicates that she just went to get the list of collaborators, and that she "had no choice" but to kill him, which is true and untrue; Kira is only fully innocent if you accept that she was within her rights to break into Vaatrik's shop looking for the list, which is by no means clear. And further, I think it's worth noting that I don't think Kira had any illusions that Vaatrik showing up to his own shop was impossible, and so she had to have at least considered what the plan was if he arrived. Was there truly no other way but to kill him? And I think here we get into the deep, disheartening dark: I think Kira hoped that she would not have to kill Vaatrik, organizing her entrance into his store around his probable absence, but probably knew she would kill him, anyway, if it came down to him catching her or her killing him. He was a collaborator, and he was protected by the Cardassians, and that list of names, if she found it, could do much for the Bajoran underground! And so there is a tragedy, here, in that in addition to killing a man, lying to Odo, and having her relationship with Odo blemished by the discovery that she never told him the truth, it was also all done for naught, since she never even found the list.

The episode's tragedy, then, really has to do with the way consequences of the Occupation continue to spill out over time; Kira became a killer in her intense search for anything that could weaken the Cardassian hold on Bajor, and the huge number of deaths as a result of the Occupation certainly make an attempt to find collaborators to stop them a goal that is worth taking risks for -- though whether those risks reasonably include killing said collaborators to avoid one's own death is a difficult question to answer. I don't really hold this death against Kira too strongly, particularly when I know I cannot really imagine the toll the Occupation would take -- though I think it's important that Kira recognizes that Vaatrik did not actually "deserve" to die for collaborating, which was itself a reaction to the horrors of the Occupation and the dearth of options that existed for security in life. Further, in addition to Vaatrik's losing his life and Kira losing a piece of her soul, the consequences still continue years later, with collaborators still being haunted and hounded by blackmailers and even being killed, years later -- not to mention people like Quark who have taken advantage of their neutrality for years and may still die for it. No one who is hurt or dies is completely innocent, but they also all pale in comparison to the deep horror of the Occupation which stays behind all this.

Other details: I like the idea of Dukat picking Odo out as investigator, and that Kira is the one who first calls him Constable. Something about Odo's line "I don't use chemicals" just kills me. The noir atmosphere is very well used, and it's worth remembering that film noir started in the 40's and is usually thought as a way of dealing with the anxieties associated with WW2 and its aftermath -- and so this episode somewhat makes the subtext of those films text, by highlighting the true horror lying behind the personalized cast of femme fatales and hard-boiled investigators. The use of Rom borders on annoying, and I can see some people saying that it is, but I more or less like it here, particularly as Quark's shock that Rom has these stores of hidden skills is a comic counterpoint to Odo's sad discovery of Kira's duplicity.

I am up to "The Maquis" in my rewatch, and this and "Duet" are the only episodes in its particular class ("Whispers" is a somewhat distant third), as well as two episodes which best demonstrate the types of stories that represent the best of DS9 as a distinct work from TOS or TNG (which are, of course, excellent in their own right). 4 stars.

*I learn from Memory Alpha that there was a deleted scene where it's revealed that Dukat and Pallra were having an affair, which would further support the idea that Dukat might well have spared Pallra after the fact even if Odo identified her as the killer. This would also be the first instance of the stories about Dukat and his attraction to Bajoran women and give further support to Pallra as the deadliest and "worst" of femmes fatales, and introduce Dukat as a plausible suspect. It might also have complicated the episode too much, so I'm not sure whether it being cut was a good or bad idea.

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