Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

"Defiant"

***1/2

Air date: 11/21/1994
Written by Ronald D. Moore
Directed by Cliff Bole

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"This ship was built to fight. I think it's time she got her chance." — Riker

DS9 again returns to the political intrigue territory it knows so well when William Riker (Jonathan Frakes) visits the station and steals the Defiant, then begins charging through Cardassian space with the deadly weapon and not exactly diplomatic intentions.

Not actually Will Riker, but Thomas Riker, a duplicate of the Enterprise first officer created in a transporter mishap nine years ago and discovered two years ago in TNG's episode "Second Chances." Thomas impersonates his doppelganger to gain Kira's trust and a tour of the Defiant. After stunning her with a phaser, he beams a skeleton Maquis crew aboard the warship then promptly warps away from DS9.

Having Frakes cross over to DS9 is, of course, fun, but what makes this episode work in the long run is its compellingly intricate plot and another pairing up of Sisko and Dukat.

Sisko travels to Cardassia Prime to help Dukat hunt down the renegade Defiant and prevent an interstellar incident. Meanwhile, Riker reveals his intentions to the helpless Kira: To check out whether a group of renegade Cardassians is building a secret fleet in the Orious System.

Again, the enigmatic Obsidian Order (well-utilized in "Second Skin") comes into play, this time in the form of Korinas (Tricia O'Neil), who observes the tracking process with Sisko and Dukat. Korinas has the closest thing to an evil grin that DS9 has yet dare use, and O'Neil's performance is chillingly effective. As the search draws nearer to the Orious System, she becomes uneasy, quickly stating that no ship may enter the Orious System or the Obsidian Order will destroy it—including a ship of the Central Command.

There are a number of intriguing scenes at the tracking facility as the uninformed Dukat slowly begins to suspect the Obsidian Order may be plotting behind the back of the Central Command. Like in "The Maquis," Sisko and Dukat find themselves working together, albeit under different agendas. The real payoff in "Defiant" is how the sequence of events brings both to realize where the real threat lies—not with Riker in the Defiant, but with the Order's suspected use of forbidden power, who has apparently been building illegal military equipment.

This leads Dukat to strike a deal: In exchange for the sensor logs the Defiant has obtained on the mysterious Orious System, the Cardassians will release the Defiant and its crew, less Riker who must be sentenced to death. Sisko works with Dukat to reduce the sentence to life imprisonment.

This is a fine script by Ron Moore, with the most interesting plot manipulations so far this season. Cliff Bole's direction is also nicely paced, balancing a number of character scenes between Dukat and Sisko with the suspenseful Hunt-for-Red-October-inspired plot. While both Sisko and Dukat stay perfectly in character, there's a personal respect for each other that these two begin to discover—something that surfaced in "Maquis" which also works well here. The writers also manage to work in a tad of the inner-character conflict of the duplicate Riker—a little bit of identity crisis that wasn't sufficiently addressed in "Second Chances." And best of all, this whole Obsidian Order thing just screams of future development, possibly a Cardassian revolution or worse.

Indeed, political intrigue is what DS9 knows best.

Previous episode: Meridian
Next episode: Fascination

Season Index

22 comments on this review

Gatton - Sat, Dec 27, 2008 - 10:57pm (USA Central)
I like the short scene involving O'Brien and Riker. Riker knows that O'Brien would figure him out and give him away so he just defuses it before O'Brien would even have a chance. I always wondered what Miles was thinking in that scene.
Jay - Sat, Aug 22, 2009 - 4:54pm (USA Central)
Poor Kira...she gets duped and phasered by "Riker" here, and then again a year later by Eddington in "For The Cause".
Mal - Mon, Mar 8, 2010 - 3:54pm (USA Central)
@Jay

Truly the one serious flaw in this episode is the lack of Eddington. Granted the writers may not have planned this far advance that he would be Maquis. But he still should have been in the episode.

Eddington was placed in charge of Starfleet-related station security back in The Search part I. Certainly that must include Defiant security?!? Then it was his fault that Tom Riker was able to steal the Tough Little Ship (even if we accept the DNA excuse), and he should certainly have been there (with Odo) for the debriefing with Dukat.
Jeff O'Connor - Fri, Oct 1, 2010 - 7:06pm (USA Central)
I just watched this episode last night. I write reviews for the series, myself, but for some reason I felt compelled to post something here -- I agree that this is a terrific outing and the political intrigue is marvelous. I also feel that almost every scene is above-par. What I don't like one bit is the Kira/Riker nonsense; her attraction to the man is purely physical and never addressed in any real, likeable light, and at the end of the episode when Riker kisses her before leaving, it's so hackneyed and incredulous I winced.
Nic - Tue, Feb 15, 2011 - 9:50pm (USA Central)
This episode is just about perfect. I love how character interaction is mingled with important plot developments (truly DS9's biggest strength). I love Korinas' evil grin and the softening of Dukat. And I actually don't mind the kiss at the end... If I was about to spend my life in prison, I probably wouldn't care about hurting someone else's feelings anymore, I'd just go for it.
I'd Enter her Prize - Sun, Mar 6, 2011 - 2:21am (USA Central)
A fun suspenseful episode all around. We get a space battle, some TNG love, and shifty creepy ominous Obsidian Order involvement presaging events to come.

The only thing stopping me from giving this 5 stars is the fact we didn't get to see the Defiant actually blow anything up.

And I agree with Nic, I don't think the kiss at the end wasn't the climax of a kira/Riker romance build up, it was Riker realizing he'd be in a Cardassian labor camp for the next 30 years, and wanted a pleasant memory to take with him. You know the 'real' Riker would have done the same thing, too.

4 stars
Grumpy - Sat, May 21, 2011 - 4:16pm (USA Central)
A soothing antidote to my disappointing revisit of "Civil Defense" recently. Benefited from less (TECH) dialogue, though there was still some nonsense about neutrino leaks and modulating the shield frequency to make the cloak immune to antiproton beams.

Having seen his style in more pure form in BSG, Ron Moore's storytelling approach on Trek becomes more evident in retrospect. He clearly preferred to dispense with (TECH) as hastily as possible, the better to get at juicy scenes like Kira explaining how terrorists don't get to be heroes.

As far as Long Term Plot Patrol goes, the Obsidian Order's fleet did finally appear, yes, but Dukat's knowledge of the fleet amounted to nothing. Maybe Defiant's sensor scans were worthless.
Commander Porkins - Tue, Mar 27, 2012 - 12:27am (USA Central)
You mentioned a Hunt-For-Red-October-esque vibe, but the echoes I was strongly hearing were from Dr. Strangelove. Korinas almost literally protested Sisko seeing the Big Board, and I was actually disappointed nobody on the Defiant mentioned the CRM-114 unit.
Duge Butler Jr. - Sun, Apr 1, 2012 - 5:55pm (USA Central)
Excellent episode and good follow up on TNG's "Second Chances" with Tom Riker. Looking back, I loved how it laid the groundwork for "The Die is Cast" as well. I still can't figure out what Riker was referring to in regards to his brief encounter with O'Brien- though it's entirely possible that it was simply intended to throw O'Brien off guard to prevent his cover from being blown (though if I were O'Brien, I'd be instantly suspicious about his behavior and might have said something). It was disappointing that Riker had to be imprisoned at the end as it could've opened up some more doors in terms of stories with him but it makes sense that the Cardassians could simply not allow him to walk off scot-free after what he had done. It's too bad that there was no follow up on Kira's pledge to find him and rescue him later in the series though that certainly does not, in any way, diminish the stellar quality of this episode.
Lt. Fitz - Mon, Jun 25, 2012 - 5:26am (USA Central)
I don't know. This episode didn't make any sense to me. Why couldn't the Cardassians just cripple the Defiant, take it and the logs, and punish all the Maqui aboard? Even with the revelation of hidden Cardassian ships in that sector, wouldn't they work together to deal with the Defiant? Then, I would think, that the Cardassian council or whatever would be all over the Obsidians and the hidden base. It just seemed weird that the way to deal with it would be for them to try to find out what’s going on there by reading logs off an invading ship. I mean the Cardassians are badasses. As soon as that Maqui ship was out of the way, the military should have sent all available ships to find out what the Obsidians were up to regardless of whatever would result. It just seemed weird. “Oh! We can figure out what’s going on there by examining the maqui logs!” Silly. Also, why would the rest of the Maqui crew just go along with Riker's decision to wimp out on the mission? I mean, I assume they all figured they were going to die during this mission. It's hard to imagine how they wouldn't, even of they hadn't been pursued. Then, suddenly, Riker hands the ship over to Kira and they all just go along? "OK. Let's all go back and be dealt with by Federation justice." Bull. At least some of them would still want to die destroying Cardassians, just like Kira describes good terrorists ought to do. This was another example of a sadly too typically easy and bloodless Trek solution to what could have been a glorious and complicated conflict with lots of splosions. Oh well.
Roshard Davis - Mon, Jul 23, 2012 - 12:23am (USA Central)
This is one of my favorite episodes of the third season of Star Trek DS9. It does have it's minor flaws (I agree with Grumpy about Dukat trying to get the sensor logs here may have been a waste of time since we do not hear or see from him about using those logs to stop the obsidian order in the "Improbably Cause/The Die is Cast" story line). However, most of the story line was awesome. From Thomas Riker pretending to be his twin Will Riker to steal the Defiant, from the space battles, from the interactions between Sisko and Dukat, and the female cardassian Korinas who represents the Obsidian Order. One of my favorite episodes indeed.
Ian - Sun, Jul 29, 2012 - 1:42am (USA Central)
It is the Orias sector by the way...
Pity the never followed up on whatever happened to this Riker...
Patrick Dodds - Sun, Jul 29, 2012 - 4:30pm (USA Central)
This episode is for DS9 what "Conspiracy" was to TNG: an interesting idea for a follow-up story that never came to pass.

I always wanted to think that Tom Riker was rescued by a Maquis team led by Ro Laren with he and Ro becoming lovers the way that was never possible between her and Will Riker.
Cail Corishev - Sat, Sep 15, 2012 - 9:18am (USA Central)
I loved watching Frakes get to play with the "Riker" character. He was so serious most of the time on TNG, and so whipped by Deanna that nothing romantic could happen unless it was an out-of-nowhere one-episode thing with an alien guest star. It was always implied that he was a ladies man, but rarely shown. It took amnesia to get him to make a play for the incredibly hot Ro.

So it was fun to see him show up here with a bit more of a strut and have Kira be smitten with him. (The same thing happened on Voyager, when Q brought him to the ship and Janeway practically wet herself. Chakotay, take notes; that's how it's done.) Too bad he only got one episode. Imagine how much better the earlier Maquis two-parter would have been with him as the other captain, or if he had been the foil in Eddington's place. (I like the Eddington character, but he's no Tom Riker.)

As for why the Cardies didn't blast in and grab the secrets: there's an uneasy alliance between the government and the Obsidian Order. The Order ostensibly works for the government, but everyone knows that's not always strictly true, but no one wants to challenge them on where the line is. The military wouldn't necessarily be confident that they could just shut down the Order's secret base; maybe it would precipitate a civil war. Individual generals might also fear (or know) that the Order has dirt on them. They may also have ambitions to use the Order in some way, which it couldn't do if exposed or destroyed.

Look at today: the majority of US Congressmen think the CIA lied about WMDs in Iraq to start a war. But did they charge into CIA offices and confiscate their files and computers to get to the bottom of it? No, because that would make it useless for future needs, and/or other things might come to light that they might prefer were kept in the dark. The whole point of an organization like the Order is its considerable independence; without that it's not very useful. (I'm not making a judgment here; just saying that's how it tends to work.)
Tim - Fri, Oct 26, 2012 - 10:17am (USA Central)
I think the kiss between Kira and Tom Riker at the end was very out of character for Kira. Especially since the guy just phasered and kidnapped her!
Comp625 - Tue, Jan 22, 2013 - 10:57am (USA Central)
At 9 years old, I always remembered how cool "Defiant" was for its action scenes involving Thomas Riker's sinister schemes with stealing the ship to invade Cardassian space. However, I was too young to fully understand the political tension between the Cardassian Central Command, the Obsidian Order, the Maquis and the Federation.

Now that I'm 27, I have grown to fully appreciate this episode for more than just its action scenes. It makes me very excited to continue my rewatch of the entire DS9 series, but here are some thoughts about "Defiant."

- The chemistry between Marc Alaimo (Gul Dukat) and Avery Brooks (Sisko) is always superb. The scene in the briefing room aboard DS9 where they come face-to-face, man-to-man, gave me chills. A+ writing, A+ acting.

- My jaw dropped during the interchange between Korinas and Dukat, where she questioned Dukat's competency as a military strategist. Later, we find out that the Obsidian Order has been hiding secret projects from the Cardassian military in the Orious System. It effectively builds on the strong hints of political division in Cardassia, as seen in "Second Skin" and other past episodes.

- I didn't make the connection until reading Memory-Alpha, but it was neat seeing "Kalitas" again (she was one of the Maquis featured in TNG's "Preemptive Strike"). It was a subtle, but neat element that added to the TV show crossover element.

Unlike my perspectives at 9 years old, I actually found the Thomas Riker plot to be the "weakest" element of the episode. That's a very relative use of the term, only because the aforementioned political tension is SO WELL DONE that it somewhat clouds the drama behind Thomas Riker. As Jammer mentioned, the real threat is actually the Obsidian Order (and not necessarily the Maquis and stolen Defiant). Here are a few additional thoughts:

- I was also surprised to see Thomas Riker surrender almost too easily towards the end. I appreciate his stance on finally realizing it was a no-win, suicidal scenario. However, the Maquis would prefer dying in the name of their cause rather than facing permanent imprisonment.

- Kira killing Riker would have served as a more satisfying ending, especially since he duped her. Echoing Tim's earlier comment, the kiss at the end seemed very out of character.

- It's strange to think that the DS9 writers never bothered to revisit the Thomas Riker plot. I enjoyed seeing the Cardassian judicial system in "Tribunal," and more of that with Thomas Riker flair thrown in would have been great. Jonathan Frakes even WANTED to do a follow-up episode. This was absolutely a missed opportunity, in my opinion.

- This isn't a nitpick, but it would have been neat to hear Dukat accusing Major Kira of also defecting to the Maquis (only to have Sisko defend her in the name of trust). After all, she may have "played along" with Thomas Riker about the warp core breach. Her hatred for Cardassians is no secret, and it would have been interesting to question her trust, even if momentarily.

I want to point out the importance of this episode from a TV production perspective. Having Riker aboard for an episode was a cool crossover idea that helped to further legitimize Deep Space Nine as being in the same universe as The Next Generation - a needed element to attract new fans who wanted more Trek after TNG ended. As "Generations" premiered three days prior to this episode, I'm sure the extra publicity was welcomed with open arms. I, for one, didn't really start getting super hooked into DS9 until late Season 2/early Season 3, and episodes like "Defiant" certainly helped to win me over.

All of that said, I respectfully disagree with Jammer's 3.5 out of 4 star rating. Perhaps it was the Riker/Kira ending that warranted a .5 star reduction. Nevertheless, I think this is equally as good as "Necessary Evil," "Whispers," and "Crossover" - the last 3 episodes to have received a 4 star rating.

My rating: 4 out of 4 stars
Ken - Wed, Jun 12, 2013 - 2:53pm (USA Central)
Good episode. I thought it was weird though at the end when the Cardassian cruiser Riker surrendered to did not escort the Defiant to the border. You'd think they would be a bit uneasy with letting a Federation warship mostly crewed my Maquis head back to Fed space on their own, lol.
Kotas - Tue, Oct 22, 2013 - 6:44pm (USA Central)

A cool episode that develops the Cardassian storyline.

7/10
Yanks - Thu, Jul 17, 2014 - 9:55am (USA Central)
I love episodes that reveal incompetency’s in Dukat. He's nothing more than a hack that's came to power via political back-stabbing. What a punk.

Loved it when this happened:

"KORINAS: Commander Sisko, you should be commended. I only wish we had someone with such keen tactical instincts who could have prevented this invasion of our territory."

Best part of the episode.

Now, a agree that the kiss at the end was not good writing for Kira, but it WAS for Tom. Kira was just overwhelmed by Tom's "Rikerness" - as most women were on TNG.

Another question I had. What is "Riker's" beef with Obrien? It's been years since I watched TNG. Jammer made no mention of it.

Also, I think it was smart to leave Eddington out of this episode. Why risk blowing his cover when his services were not needed?

I'm also tiring listening to Dukat S-L-O-W-L-Y pronounce his words and struggle to get sentences out. Makes me want to take an ice-pick to my eye at times. He also walks like he has a broom up his ass.

But overall I enjoyed this episode. Frakes was awesome.

3 stars for me.
NCC-1701-Z - Thu, Jul 17, 2014 - 11:56am (USA Central)
@Yanks "What is "Riker's" beef with Obrien? It's been years since I watched TNG. Jammer made no mention of it."

I think that was just Tom Riker's act in order to get O'Brien off the Defiant so he could hijack it.
William B - Thu, Jul 17, 2014 - 12:02pm (USA Central)
Further, Tom Riker never met Miles -- since "Second Chances" comes after his transfer to DS9. Pretending there was some beef with Miles was a good way to get him away from him. Like most people, Miles responded to the news that they had a feud he had hitherto been unaware of with shock, confusion, and a desire to get out of that situation to try to remember what it is he'd forgotten. Much less risky for Tom than faking a years-long friendship/acquaintanceship.
Yanks - Thu, Jul 17, 2014 - 12:16pm (USA Central)
@ NCC-1701-Z & William B

Thanks, that makes sense.

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