Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

"Things Past"


Air date: 11/18/1996
Written by Michael Taylor
Directed by LeVar Burton

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"You were special. You were the one man who stood apart from everyone else, the one man who stood for justice. Now what?"
"Now I'm just another imperfect solid."

— Kira and Odo

Nutshell: A most intriguing revisit to the Cardassian Occupation, and with compelling character implications, too.

I said I was in need of recovery after the truly awful "Let He Who Is Without Sin...", and I meant it. But I must say that "Things Past" makes a great antidote to aid in a speedy recovery. Call it therapy, if you will.

I don't want to see any more lightweight episodes of DS9 for a while. I want to see more shows like this—strong, compelling, character-driven episodes with true substance.

"Things Past" is the best episode of Trek since "Nor the Battle to the Strong." It's a story of one man's repressed guilt and his need to let it escape into the open airs of historical dialog. The underlying theme here is incorporated into a "sci-fi" type of premise, in which Sisko, Odo, Dax, and Garak, returning in a Runabout from a debate on Bajor about the Cardassian Occupation, suddenly find themselves on Terok Nor of the past, run by the menacing Gul Dukat. They are not themselves, however; they're all Bajorans—and, as Odo observes, they're Bajorans who, based on the true events of the past, are about to be wrongfully accused of Gul Dukat's attempted assassination and publicly executed.

But wait. These characters' involvement in these past events is not due to something so simple as time travel. The episode clues us in very early on that it's all due to a peculiar mental state; Sisko, Odo, Dax, and Garak arrive at DS9 unconscious, somehow trapped in a state of subconscious mental activity. Bashir hasn't a clue how or why. So what's really going on here? That's a question that remains unanswered until the final minutes of the show, in a denouement of powerful relevance and realization.

In the meantime, the episode takes an angle of "Necessary Evil" revisited, and I can't say I have any qualms whatsoever with such a notion. "Necessary Evil" was one of the highlights of DS9's second season, and, in fact, is among the best shows of the series. "Things Past" has a similar agenda—it tells its own story while also commenting on the past and showing us effects the Cardassian Occupation had on a number of people. Once again, production and lighting have a powerful effect; the promenade becomes a mining facility for slave labor and the Bajorans are packed into dark, impoverished, unsanitary caged areas.

I liked many of the little details, like the way Sisko "contacts" the Bajoran Resistance by inverting a vase at a promenade shop. And Garak's reaction to this was interesting—it seems just like the type of thing he would find silly and simple. Simple, yes, Sisko notes, but effective. The Quark of this past turns out to be a complete condescending jerk to any Bajoran who is not a paying customer and whom he can exploit. Not an appealing notion, perhaps, but very believable and a nice touch.

Meanwhile, Dax is elected to become Gul Dukat's Bajoran "talk companion." He admits to her up front—he's a lonely man whose job rarely presents him the opportunity to talk to others. A few subsequent long-winded speeches from Dukat prove enlightening. His views on the Occupation prove as fascinating as they do distasteful—here, Dukat reveals himself as a man who thinks he has too much compassion and lenience for a Bajoran planet of "children." It's interesting to note how Dukat, then a murderous, hateful dictator exploiting a race of people for their resources is now an unsung hero in his lone fight against the Klingons. While he's definitely a man of multifaceted dimensions, it's very difficult watching him stage public executions without seeing him as anything but murderer. Yet now he's on "our" side. Strange, the way things change. These are all examples of the subtleties of the Occupation—the "old school" topics of DS9 which I hope to see more of again.

Many of these scenes, while certainly intriguing, don't break a whole lot of new ground. This is where the mystery comes in to add a new element. Odo's predecessor, the head of security from nine years ago, is a Cardassian named Thrax (Kurtwood Smith). But there's a contradiction here: the events leading up to the public execution took place only seven years ago—and at that time Odo was the head of security.

The beauty of the episode is the way it plays on this implication. As history begins to play itself out and Odo, Sisko, Dax, and Garak find themselves in a cell awaiting execution for attempting to kill Dukat, Odo painfully tries to convince Thrax to follow up on his investigation and find the evidence that proves that they're innocents who were caught up in a series of events. It's obvious that Odo is really talking to himself—that he was the man who didn't investigate properly and allowed the three innocent Bajorans to die. And later Thrax turns out to be a shapeshifter—a most telling sign. Yet the teleplay wisely plays these events down and credits the audience with intelligence, allowing us to make the connection ourselves. Very nice.

Dax breaks the four of them out of the holding cell, but their escape attempts prove futile, as they turn a corner only to find themselves back in the holding cell. As the show progresses, the rules of reality continue to bend, trapping the characters into the situation with no hope of escape. LeVar Burton's direction is perhaps his best yet on the series, as he creates some interesting imagery and utilizes cinematography techniques that have jarring effectiveness.

The only escape for the characters is Odo's guilty admission of the truth, which pulls the show together into a powerful piece of work. The final scene is a wonderful mix of truly revealing dialog and compelling imagery. Odo's disclosure is poignant—there he was, one of few people in the middle of the Occupation who was neutral and interested only in justice and order, and he still blew it. He failed to protect the innocent and unintentionally represented the side of the decidedly guilty. This is really good stuff.

Odo's admission ends the flashback charade; Bashir explains that it was caused by residue of some Changeling molecules which tried to recreate the Great Link by reaching out to other shapeshifters, but instead found only Sisko, Dax, and Garak. I wonder about the plausibility of this and some of the other technobabble used to explain it, but I'd say the ends clearly justify the means.

There's also a killer, wonderfully performed final scene between Odo and Kira which parallels the ending of "Necessary Evil" exceptionally. This time, however, the roles are reversed. Whereas in "Necessary Evil" the discovery of Kira's past actions put Odo's trust in her in doubt, this time Odo's actions put her trust in him in doubt. Most intriguing indeed.

Michael Taylor, the writer who brought us the wonderful "Visitor" last year, delivers again. "Things Past" is not quite a four-star installment. (The aforementioned technobabble genesis for the problem and the obligatory and totally unnecessary need to make the flashbacks into an environment that can physically harm the characters, thus putting their lives in jeopardy, are minor but notable flaws that could've been eliminated entirely with a little bit of script tweaking.) But this is a standout episode that approaches greatness.

Previous episode: Let He Who Is Without Sin...
Next episode: The Ascent

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38 comments on this review

Fri, Oct 31, 2008, 4:58pm (UTC -5)
I rewatched this episode for the first time in years today and agree it was very good. I remember back to the first time I saw it and thought how it was a good nod to Necessary Evil, another episode I had liked. Also, being a big Odo fan, I enjoyed discovering even more layers to his already-deeply layered persona.

I agree with the end of your review - the technobabble guff stopped the episode becoming a true classic. Though thinking about it, changing those elements might have made the episode even more like Necessary Evil. Actually, would that be a bad thing?
Sat, Aug 15, 2009, 1:00am (UTC -5)
Wonderful episode. The technobabble could have been excised totally for my tastes. Kurtwood Smith proves once again why he's one of the best of Trek's frequent guests (along with James Sloyan.) Good script, tight direction and perfect pacing. One of my favorites.
Sat, Aug 20, 2011, 3:13am (UTC -5)
Honestly, I didn't like it. Some of the Star Trek writers seem to get a sadistic pleasure from character assassination, very much like in Voyager "Fury". True, this is a much better written episode, but the taste it left in my mouth is the same as in "Fury". I suppose I like to believe in intelligent beings integrity (unless of course they are the villains), that is why.
Sat, Dec 3, 2011, 5:09am (UTC -5)
Seeing Odo in the Cardassian uniform fills me with a sense of dread. I think it's his pale skin and super thin neck contrasted with the black uniform, and the fact they always show him back-lit with hazy light. Gives me shivers.
Sun, Mar 25, 2012, 3:10pm (UTC -5)
The 3.5 star rating is spot on. The technobabble plot device could have been so easily avoided by involving the mysticism of the Prophets somehow. It could have been the Orb of Time or a newly discovered Orb that causes it all. Or they could have been traveling through the wormhole and Prophets sensed a change in Odo (his new found humanity) or whatever and decide to bring him face to face with his past.

@Alessandro, but isn't it easier to identify with characters who make bad choices and decisions - even big ones that cost lives? Bajor was war-torn and Odo was the Cardassians' security chief on Terok Nor. It stands to reason that he probably made a few other choices he'd come to regret. This just happened to be the worst of them.
Tue, May 1, 2012, 4:48am (UTC -5)
3-1/2 Stars from me too. The technobabble stuff distracts a bit from an otherwise intense story.

It also addresses the fact that Odo had to do some dirty compromises when he was working for the Cardassians and it addresses the guilt he feels.
Cail Corishev
Tue, Sep 18, 2012, 11:49am (UTC -5)
This episode is reminiscent of Farscape's excellent The Way We Weren't, especially Chianna's line: "What have you guys been thinking all this time? What? She was out picking baskets of rolliss buds while all the other mean Peacekeepers did all the really nasty stuff? She was a Peacekeeper." (If you haven't seen the show (shame on you!), the Peacekeepers are basically Nazi/Commies who wear a lot of leather.)

Odo was a Cardassian security officer at a prison work camp. He may have had his own sense of justice and subverted the authorities a little when he had strong feelings about something; but over the years, he must have committed loads of what his new friends would consider egregious civil rights violations and much worse.
Thu, Nov 22, 2012, 2:38am (UTC -5)
I totally agree with Cail (about everything :P) and I'm glad that at least some of it is adressed in this episode.

Something that's always bothered me was the fact that Odo remained chief of security when Bajor won: he could not be considered a collaborator because he wasn't bajoran, but he worked for the Cardassians on a station where the word justice could not be taken seriously. Essentially, his work must have been finding terrorists or bajoran criminals on Terok Nor and he was given "carte blanche" to do so, so why is everyone so astonished ? In these conditions, he delivered people to be executed or "questionned" by cardassians - guilty or not. And when the only witnesses that count are cardassians... I'm sure many innocents died in the name of justice. And it seems very hypocritical when he said (in the episode he killed a changelling) that he never had to kill anyone since he was chief of security. At least, not by his own hands.

Don't get me wrong, I very much like Odo's character, but I wonder what he would really do if he wasn't following Federation (or bajoran ?) rules. Many times he said he could do his job better without those rules. He even disregards some of them (for example, he spies on Quark's privacy or any person he believes to be suspect).

It shows that he's a lot like his people, wanting order, with the difference that he has a bajoran education. His methods don't bother me too much because he's not a Federation officer, but a self-taught law enforcer. Nevertheless, he certainly has a darker side (from a human point a view) than most give him credit for.
Thu, Mar 21, 2013, 8:13pm (UTC -5)
Garak must've been on good behavior at the Starfleet stockade. He appears to have completed his 6 month sentence for attempting to hijack Defiant (in "Broken Link") in about 5 real-life months. (And there wasn't much of a time-skip during the summer break before "Apocalypse Rising.") Now that he's back, there seem to be no hard feelings. None mentioned, anyway.
Mon, Jul 15, 2013, 5:36pm (UTC -5)
Despite the technobabble flaws, for me this is easily a 4-star episode and one of my DS9 favorites. This is the kind of stuff that makes me understand the DS9 cult - no other Trek series offers morally complex, emotionally and intellectually challenging characterization and storytelling quite like this.
Thu, Oct 24, 2013, 9:24pm (UTC -5)

A decent episode, but the premise of the entire thing is a bit contrived (its all in Odo's head...) and nothing is particularly compelling about it.

Tue, Feb 4, 2014, 8:35am (UTC -5)
I liked it, it's right up DS9's "realistic" alley (not saying they always respect their premise, but here they do).

I ESPECIALLY loved the ending when Kira - irrationally but understandably - demands that Odo confirm this was his only lapse of judgement. And he says the truth: he doesn't know. The ending was very powerful.
Tue, Feb 4, 2014, 8:38pm (UTC -5)
A fantastic episode with a gripping, absorbing plot and no easy answers. This ain't Voyager, that's for sure. Odo is my favorite ST character, as much for his role in this series as for how Rene Auberjonois portrayed him. The only thing missing to make this a four-star outing in my mind was an aside from Garak--and how seeing the Cardassian occupation from a Bajoran perspective might have altered his opinions on the issue.
Wed, Feb 26, 2014, 1:57pm (UTC -5)
Another wonderful look back into Terok Nor's past with fantastic character insights and stand-out directing. Though not quite up to the quality of second season's "Necessary Evil", it's a great episode in its own right.

3.5 stars.
Fri, Apr 4, 2014, 7:55am (UTC -5)
I'm still not really sure what Odo is guilty of? Did he just do a very sloppy investigation, or had he given in to Cardassian pressure? I suppose he had his extraordinary sense of justice even back then, so why did this investigation go wrong? I don't think the episode elaborated on this a lot.
Sat, Apr 12, 2014, 1:30am (UTC -5)
I just started watching DS9 for the first time. I liked this episode so much I watched it twice in one night. Just an interesting observation. The character of Thrax does a perfect impersonation of ODO. Either the actor has watched a lot of ds9 or the odo actor helped him with his scenes. Look at when he's talking to quark. All his mannerisms are perfect odo. Great episode
Sun, Jul 13, 2014, 3:16am (UTC -5)
Odo should have told Kira he didn't care what she thought at the end. She says something like this better be the only time he let innocent people die. This coming from a terrorist who has killed many people and of course some innocent people who were at the wrong place at the wrong time. Ds9 tries to show the grey areas but Kira seems to think in black and white. I mean odo works for the cardassians. He was a collaborator. Kira seems to change her definition of collaborator. This is when I long for tng. Can someone explain why Odo was on the station at all before he decided to work for dukat
Thu, Jul 31, 2014, 12:25pm (UTC -5)
Did anyone else find the way Dax EFFORTLESSLY manipulates Dukat hilarious? These two characters have never had much screen time together, but she plays into his vain self-delusions perfectly.

She obviously paid attention when Kira and Sisko talked about him. :)
Mon, Sep 1, 2014, 7:02pm (UTC -5)
Odo was a collaborator. Odo wasn't just a collaborator. He was basically a founder who just happens to be obsessed with Kira. In season 7 Las links with Odo and tells him he knows the truth. The truth that he learned when linking is that if it weren't for Kira Odo would have joined the link regardless of the war. That says a lot. He would rather be with the link regardless of if all of The DS9 crew was killed in the war. The only reason he stayed is for Kira. He didn't stay because of his morals or connection with the ds9 solids. So it shouldn't come as a surprise that he sent innocent people to death. He was just concerned with order just like his people. Too bad the show ended. I would have liked to see if Odo changed at all when he joined the link. Maybe the dominion would have just built up their forces in te gamma quadrant and went back to war with Odo's knowledge
Mon, Sep 1, 2014, 10:52pm (UTC -5)
In "The Search, Pt II", the Founders have the Defiant crew hooked up to a massive virtual reality machine. Now, we find that Odo can accomplish the same thing without any hardware at all???
Sorry, that bit of technobabble really blew it for me. Blame it on the Prophets, fine -- but it's all in Odo's head?
Otherwise fine episode.
Mon, Sep 8, 2014, 9:29pm (UTC -5)

"I just started watching DS9 for the first time. I liked this episode so much I watched it twice in one night. Just an interesting observation. The character of Thrax does a perfect impersonation of ODO. Either the actor has watched a lot of ds9 or the odo actor helped him with his scenes. Look at when he's talking to quark. All his mannerisms are perfect odo."

Yeah, his Odo impression is spot-on and adds an interesting texture when re-watching this one. What's also intriguing is "Thrax's" speech about the Bajoran situation and how, if they'd just settle down and accept the Cardassian > Bajoran order, things could be so much more smooth.

I think the episode is actually a lot rougher on Odo's character than simply revealing a botched investigation. His first real interaction with humanoids outside of Mora's lab is as a Cardassian policeman - and since he's been weaned through this social order, he accepts it and just seeks to maintain it as cleanly as possible. Odo has a sense of truth and justice, but without any perspective outside of a brutal Cardassian regime his sense is limited to the letter of the law rather than social justice. Though that sense of social justice has developed in Odo, I like that the writers kept Odo's past like this. It would have been easy to create a renegade, code-of-honour cop character who is so effective the powers that be can't afford to get rid of him even though he makes them look bad, but instead Odo simply worked as best he could in the framework of the Cardassian guilty-first system - which meant, at first at least, NOT being able to grill Cardassian officers for the truth and becoming potentially complicit in farcical investigations and public "example" executions.

Question for the more knowledgeable: is this the first time a flat-out execution is depicted on DS9, or even Star Trek at all? The Bajorans on their knees getting phasered is a surprisingly brutal scene.
Tue, Nov 11, 2014, 5:43am (UTC -5)
This is hands down one of the best Star Trek episodes ever. For some reason, every series of Trek seems to do dark episodes well; DS9, Voyager and Enterprise excelled at them. While the idea is contrived, physically impossible and a bit stupid, it dumps some very strong characters into the ultimate shitty situation without any apparent relief. It's like a holodeck episode done right, without BS excuses like "shutting down the simulation will destroy the ship" - when my Xbox got the red ring, I sent it to Germany to get it fixed, it didn't put my entire family in peril of death or blow my house up.

Unfortunately, there is really no way to avoid the fact that Odo was a collaborator. He was a different person then and he's always been craggy, bad-tempered and obsessed with justice, and he was raised in a warring environment between Cardies and Bajorans, but he is also smart and determined. They could at least have raised the issue of him allowing Bajorans to die by saying "It was how I was raised - I was led to believe that terminal justice was the way to ensure peace" or something like that. If Kira had been present, I doubt she'd have been so lovey-dovey with Odo.

That said, this is a hugely interesting look at the dark side of DS9, miles more exciting than the jokey, silly DS9 mirror universe. There was a time when our universe was darker and more threatening than the mirror universe...
Sun, Mar 8, 2015, 3:08am (UTC -5)
Riveting, powerful and compelling episode that certainly raises a lot of questions. The major flaw here is that there aren't enough answers provided. Given that the opening scene was Garak stating that he'd tried to rationalise the Cardassian occupation of Bajor right before he was thrown into the past and made to experience it himself, as a Bajoran no less (talk about a history lesson and perspective), it would have been nice if the audience had been shown what this experience meant for him, and whether or not it changed his views on the Occupation and the role of the Cardassians.

Above from the aforementioned gripe, it was a very strong episode and ended on an equally strong note. There are so any sides to a story, and when people have lived through something as horrific as the Bajoran Occupation, no one can come out without losing some of their humanity. DS9 did a wonderful and haunting job of showing that there were terrible deeds done on all sides (Bajoran resistance, Cardassians and collaborators alike) and no one is truly innocent.
Tue, May 5, 2015, 2:44am (UTC -5)
Really loved this episode. I have to admit, I skipped ahead to watch this one, when I am just beginning season 4 for my re-watch. Anyway, I felt so sorry for Odo, he was a nervous wreck through the entire show. It really troubled him about the executions to the point he was almost crazy.
I didn't care very much for Kira's sanctimonious behavior in the end. Odo did not intentionally have those innocent men executed, at the time he thought he was right. He let the situation change him, he was more thorough when he investigated other incidents.

One of the best Odo stories in the entire series.
Sat, Dec 12, 2015, 12:43pm (UTC -5)
I wanted to like this one more than I did, but it feels too much like a 'flip-side' of "Necessary Evil," almost down to the Kira/Odo ending in his office. And I think NE is Top 10 material for the series.

But whereas "Necessary Evil" felt more organically framed and had an exquisitely noir-ish direction/aesthetic going on, this felt a little more forced all around (the random mini mind link, Odo's clear discomfort/guilt from the beginning that the others don't really press him on until the end).

Still a three-star outing, for me. The performances are really good, but it sits in "Necessary Evil's" shadow. I suppose that's more a commentary on that episode than this one, though.
Thu, Dec 24, 2015, 9:01pm (UTC -5)
Nice that they avoided the problem in "The Search Part II", where the writers waited until the very end to show you this was all in their heads. The first scene in sickbay kept this from feeling like a cheat.

That said: the setup does seem a bit contrived, I don't buy Garak dismissing a 'simple' signal as a way for spies to communicate, and it seems as if they started to run out of story in the second half of the episode and were stretching things out before coming to the conclusion.

Still, I wouldn't argue with a 3-star rating. I echo those who said "Thrax" was a very good Odo.
William B
Mon, Jan 4, 2016, 1:15pm (UTC -5)
One interesting detail in this episode is that it was revealed that it was not that long after the executions that similar attacks took place on Bajor, thus letting the convicted three off the hook and letting Odo know that he had made a mistake. However, Odo still played up and played along with the idea that he was justice incarnate for years afterward. In some senses, this undermines previous episodes, especially "Necessary Evil," in that Odo maybe should have already known by the time of that episode (I mean, the present day periods of that episode) that he was more fallible than he claimed. But I think the episode also provides not just the evidence that Odo was wrong about these three, but the ways he rationalized his mistake to himself over the intervening time:

THRAX: I'm listening, but I don't have much time.
ODO: You're about to make a very serious mistake.
THRAX: Because you're innocent, of course. All of you.
ODO: That's right, and I can prove it. Compare this attack to recent bombings on Bajor. You'll find a similarity to four incidents in Musilla Province, none of which we could have done.
THRAX: That proves nothing. And under Cardassian law, the accused must prove his innocence. Since the evidence in this case is sufficient to warrant conviction, the investigation is over.
ODO: Your job is to find the truth, not obtain convictions.
THRAX: Truth? You want the truth? All right. The truth is that none of you would be accused, none of you would even be here if the Bajorans weren't fighting the Cardassians. It's futile. The occupation has lasted for fifty years and it will probably last another fifty.
ODO: I wouldn't be too sure about that.
THRAX: Why not accept it? If the Bajoran people would accept their place in history, none of this would be happening.
ODO: We're talking about the attempt on Gul Dukat's life, not the socio-political ramifications of the resistance.
THRAX: It's all part of the same problem. When your people resort to terrorism and violence, they're fighting against order, against stability, against the rule of law, and this must be stopped.
ODO: There is more to life than the rule of law.
THRAX: It has been my observation that only the guilty make that kind of statement.

This is my favourite scene in the episode. First, as everyone has pointed out, Kurtwood Smith is, as ever, excellent at playing, basically, Odo, and in particular Odo as Odo himself sees his past self -- rigid, inflexible, certain of his rightness *even while admitting that he may be wrong*. "Thrax" essentially states that it is the fault of Bajorans, as a people, that these three are convicted, because even if they are not guilty of this particular crime, the Bajorans' resistance to the Occupation is responsible for the continuing difficulties. The myth of Odo is that Odo stood for justice, but what "justice" means is radically different for the oppressors and the oppressed: for the Cardassians, "justice" perfectly aligns with order, because the status quo maintains the Cardassians' iron rule over the Bajoran people. Bajorans and Cardassians die every time a Bajoran fights the Cardassian Occupation, and if it is truly futile, then it would be better, so "Thrax" argues, if the Bajorans just accepted that their lives are worse than Cardassians; it is better to live half a life than none. (Besides, according to Cardassian law, "Thrax" has done all that is required of him.) That there is some sort of greater meaning to life than "the rule of law" only really comes to Odo now that he's found himself on the other side -- that he has recognized his ability to forgive Kira for murder, that he fought against his own totalitarian people and was branded the greatest criminal in their history as a result. And it makes sense that even if Odo probably could still rationalize his decision even after it turned out he had the wrong men, that his rationalizations would break down by this point in the series. So as I see it, the most damning aspect of the reveal here is not so much that Odo made an error and let three men die, though that is itself bad, but that he continued to let others *and himself* believe the myth of Odo -- flawless representative of justice. Meanwhile, by imagining first himself and then his friends as the people who were killed, Odo personalizes it in a way he would not have been able to do at the time, since at the time he genuinely did *not* have any friends.

As a way of letting Sisko, Dax and particularly Garak what life was like as Bajorans during the Occupation, the episode has some merit, and there are some nice scenes here. Still, I echo what others have said above that it seems weird to have this set-up where Garak defends the Occupation and blurts out racist propaganda (Bajorans are much better at this servile work!) without having a learning moment that his assumptions about the Occupation were wrong. It maybe would have come across as a bit silly to have some sort of lesson in an after-school way. But, while Garak does seem to at least present as a true believer in Cardassian superiority, has Garak actually defended the Occupation and the oppression of Bajorans with this kind of enthusiasm before? Maybe in "The Wire," when he kept changing his story and in some versions was trying to impress on Bashir how deeply evil he was. Still, I think that in most episodes Garak did not actually express support for the Occupation directly, and it seems a bit weird for him to do so with such gusto here. When, in "Cardassians," Garak told the woman at the Bajoran refugee centre that the Cardassians were great record-keepers and taught many worlds how to keep records, there was a kind of blase, self-possessed internalized racism that read to me as much more believable than here; even if Garak really thought that Bajorans were better at servile work, I don't quite get why he shares it with Sisko the way he does, expecting agreement from him. It may be that Garak is just pushing buttons (it's hard to tell), and it may also be that I somewhat expect Garak to be against the Occupation wrongly for some reason -- if nothing else, any large-scale project overseen by *Dukat* should have come under big criticism. But I don't know. Somehow writing Garak as more pro-Occupation, racist toward Bajorans, then putting him through experiences as a Bajoran, with no final realization seems an odd use of the character, as if there is something incomplete in this story.

The Dax and Dukat scenes were amusing and it's nice to see Dukat's narcissism in action again; while we have heard about Dukat's penchant for comfort women, this is the first time we see it. We get confirmation that Dukat saw himself genuinely as a benefactor to Bajorans *during* the Occupation, and it's not just something he somewhat put on after the fact to rationalize what he did before Kira et al. Of course, since this is not really Dukat but, presumably, Odo's imagination, I'm not sure what that means.

The episode does seem a little bit stretched out. Also, the explanation -- an electrical storm made Odo make a telepathic mind link with remaining morphogenic changeling stuff -- is incredibly ridiculous. Basic aspects of the set-up in Trek -- transporters, warp drive, etc. -- are implausible but are necessarily part of the world, so it's not so much implausibility that bothers me as the way the show breaks its own rules; we've never seen the Link work without touching before, there has never been any evidence that Linking with solids is possible, this is the first time evidence that Odo still has some changeling stuff to Link with has happened, Links haven't caused comas in the past, etc. Really, "you encountered an anomaly which made you all go into a shared flashback/dream" would have been better. I guess in TOS they would just have some super-beings place them in this weird scenario like in "Spectre of the Gun," so the Wormhole Aliens could have done it, but I guess I'm glad they didn't go the route of invoking the Prophets in an unrelated story, further muddying their motivations when they would probably not actually care about Odo. I am mixed on whether it was necessary to have this whole thing be a weird mindwalk/dream in the first place; it is a bit of a distraction to attempt to resolve the time travel plot when none of that actually matters, but on the other hand having the main cast experience the feeling of being in the wrong place at the wrong time does in some senses get across the tragedy of the Occupation in general, and the three wrongly executed in particular; the Bajorans were just as much innocent victims in the wrong place at the wrong time as our heroes are.

It's got some set-up problems but it's pretty good. I'd say 3 stars.
William B
Mon, Jan 4, 2016, 1:19pm (UTC -5)
I should add: what this and "Necessary Evil" (among others, but those two in particular) do is help establish how difficult it really is to live in a tragic, Oppressive system. Odo actually had fairly little maneuvering room -- it is true that he could have investigated more thoroughly, but it is likely he was under tremendous pressure from Dukat to execute *someone* for the crime, and perhaps if he had not executed three people who at the time seemed to have done it, Dukat would have executed a dozen or a hundred as an example. Everyone ended with their hands dirty, and many innocent people died. And yet, Odo cannot say with certainty that there is nothing he could have done, either.
William B
Mon, Jan 4, 2016, 1:26pm (UTC -5)
OK, one more comment: the reason for giving this 3 stars rather than higher is that I think that the emotional core with Odo is very solid (no pun intended), and the impact of Odo having the myth stripped away and being seen by people who know/care about him is effective. But while there is some good, mostly comic, material involving Dukat, Sisko and Dax have fairly little to do, and the Garak Learns a Lesson arc that seemed to be a little clumsily set up doesn't go anywhere. This is in contrast to "Necessary Evil," where all the supporting players had excellent material. And the set-up is dumb. As methane points out, they seemed to be stretching out the story -- in some ways, they really only had a small amount of story rather than a whole episode's worth. Still, I'm pretty happy with the final result, which I think is consistently pretty good, with a few great moments, in contrast to the constant stream of great scenes and moments building to a great conclusion in its superior sister episode "Necessary Evil."
Diamond Dave
Tue, Jan 19, 2016, 3:17pm (UTC -5)
Honestly, I couldn't get on board with this. It seems like a massive contrivance to excuse another 'Necessary Evil', and succeeds only in stripping Odo of one of his defining characteristics - his defence of justice. Now there might have been something to this if there had been more of an examination as to why Odo might have come to that position - but just that he didn't do his job very well seems like a massive cop out. And the ending scene with Kira... haven't we been here before?

The rest of it is novel enough, the Dax/Dukat scenes play off particularly well, and it's fun seeing Garak punched out, but really this seems like a contrivance too far. 2 stars.
Thu, Mar 3, 2016, 6:25am (UTC -5)
For me the "technobabble" explanation was one of the best things about this episode. Not because of its feasibility; I agree it was a stretch. But because it encourages a whole different kind of thinking than the usual wishy washy explanation of it "just" being the prophets or some other greater magical force, that we merely accept but never truly question as a storytelling advice.

No, instead what we got was an insight, being as we are "solids", into what being inside the Great Link — at least from a mental perspective — might actually be like. A completely fluid reality where nothing is quite as it seems, nobody is quite who they appear to be, where everyone, not only Odo, is a shapeshifter, in both time and space. And now we, the audience, are privy to some small part of that; if this is just what Odo's own mind could conjure, what about the *entire* Great Link on the Founders' homeworld?

I think this fact gets glossed over a little too quickly by the events of the episode but for me it's what truly sent shivers down my spine and sent my head spiralling about the possibilities of the experience of the Trek universe from a truly alien perspective, and not one that needlessly anthropomorphises or humanises the plight of every alien race. Yes, Odo's crime is "human", but the way his own mind tries to reconcile this is far from it.

And had the cause been the prophets instead, maybe their reality could be like this too, but they have seldom been portrayed by the writers in such an enigmatic or conflicted fashion before, and nor does their reality directly relate to any of the characters from the show, and that's why I think the Link explanation (and how it emanates from Odo himself) carries that much more weight. Odo's biggest failing is a character is how much he is locked inside his solid body by the confines of budget and storytelling constraints, but here we have a glimpse of something far greater.

One of my biggest complaints about DS9 is their tendency to "tell", not "show"; too much turmoil locked away in pained expressions as a troubled character relates their backstory to us. Too much unseen exposition about how the Cardassian occupation was this, that or the other. Perhaps I'm too simple-minded to really transport myself to those places, but here the episode showed not only the "reality" of those things, but also the reality of could be like to be a shapeshifter in a world of solids. It's only a shame that this theme isn't touched upon more often, but perhaps the writers hit upon something so profound that no mere 45 minute TV episode could have done the concept any greater justice.

Thus, it's 4 stars from me and perhaps one of the all-time greatest Trek episodes.
Peter G.
Mon, Mar 21, 2016, 7:49pm (UTC -5)
@ Diamond Dave,

"Honestly, I couldn't get on board with this. It seems like a massive contrivance to excuse another 'Necessary Evil', and succeeds only in stripping Odo of one of his defining characteristics - his defence of justice. Now there might have been something to this if there had been more of an examination as to why Odo might have come to that position - but just that he didn't do his job very well seems like a massive cop out. And the ending scene with Kira... haven't we been here before?"

You should watch this episode back to back with a season 7 one where the female founder calls for mass executions and leveling cities. Changelings don't value justice; they have no sense of it as we know it. They have a need to enforce their version of order by any means necessary. Because we learned this of them over time it was always implied that Odo's sense of justice is probably just his rationalization of the fact that he's the same as his people, and this episode is the first time we're shown definitively that this is the case. As head of Terok Nor security he was more interested in order than in justice, and although frequently his sense of order compelled him to tie up loose ends (such as in Necessary Evil) at other times when the pieces seemed to fit his sense of order was satisfied and he washed his hands of it. Doing the right thing was at best a runner-up to keeping things tidy, and in this Odo had more in common with the Cardassians than he thought.

Odo's conception of himself has always been at odds with his true self. This is the case in terms of his emotions such as love, his need for company even though he denied it, and now his sense of justice. I see this episode as being about his cognitive dissonance about order versus justice as no longer being sustainable and having to be resolved. It's one more part of his false belief about himself that is unraveled, and the Founders inadvertently helped him with this by making him a solid. They failed to realize that their own adage - that by truly becoming a thing you understand it - is a necessary part of understanding. It took episodes like this one that humbled Odo to teach him the truth about himself and his people so that he could finally return to the link and teach them.

For my own part I liked the technobabble explanation and was intrigued that it might suggest complications in Odo remaining a solid forever. It also showed how much the Changeling instinct is to link with others, which makes for the ultimate irony that Odo should be the one out of them to become somewhat enlightened, being an outsider and a loner. As a meta-narrative it suggests that constantly being linked up with people who agree with you is extremely dangerous, and we can see this principle in vivid color in modern society and politics. 3.5/4 stars for me.
Mon, May 2, 2016, 12:14am (UTC -5)
As something of a spiritual successor to "Necessary Evil", "Things Past" is a very worthy episode which ultimately fails to achieve the same commanding heights. Everything in "Necessary Evil" worked together like an exceptionally well-oiled machine. However, there are a couple of elements in "Things Past" that simple throw a monkey wrench into that machine. When the episode works, it works phenomenally well. But it does stumble.

The scenes in Odo's mind dealing with the Occupation and his closely guarded secret failing are indeed every bit as good as "Necessary Evil". The lighting, the camera work, the acting and the surreal imagery at the end all add up to a very compelling story. And it offers some magnificent character development for Odo - finding out that he isn't as perfect as he likes to portray himself as is a very interesting layer for the character. The final scene, especially, being an almost exact mirror replication of the ending of "Necessary Evil" - right down to Odo bowing his head in shame like Kira had earlier done - was a very nice touch. Sadly, whenever the episode cuts back to the "present" or "real world" it completely destroys the allusion and atmosphere. The framing device of the four characters in the Infirmary with Bashir and Worf looking after them was simply unneeded. Whereas the framing story in "Necessary Evil" worked smoothly with the flashback sequences (Odo's noir-style log entries, Quark's involvement, etc.) and added a great deal to the overall picture, this framing narrative adds virtually nothing to the mix except techno-babble, padding and an unnecessary sense of mortal jeopardy. One or two scenes to set the situation going, I could get behind that. But the countless interruptions to the much more intriguing and worthy A-plot were just poison. The early parts of the show should have been full of mystery and intrigue. Instead that potential is cut to pieces by having it all explained for the audience by Bashir.

And there's a second major problem with "Things Past" - a problem that goes by the name of Garak. As awesome a character as Garak is - and Andrew Robinson continues to shine in the role here - he simply should not have been in this episode. This story takes place a mere five months after "Broken Link". Shouldn't Garak still be serving his six month sentence in a holding cell for attempting to wipe out the Founders? Given how Garak's punishment was such a big deal in the Season Four finale, this is a continuity error of astronomical proportions. Or did Sisko just decide, off-screen, to let Garak out early so he could attend a conference on Bajor? If they had aired the episode only a few weeks later in the season this wouldn't even be a problem. But as it sits, I have to dock the episode a point for such a glaring gaff.

Overall, Jammer is 100% right when he says that "Things Past" is "a standout episode that approaches greatness." It doesn't quite get there - better focus on continuity and a few script rewrites to tone down the B-plot would would have probably made it so.

Sat, Jul 30, 2016, 9:52pm (UTC -5)
This episode felt like it belonged in Season 1 or 2, when the characters were still just getting to know each other. Odo's wink-wink comment to Garak, "Why would a simple tailor know the Cardassian security codes" is just old. Garak has long since admitted that he is high-level spy.

Similarly, the conversation between Kira and Odo at the end seemed like it came years too late. Kira knows by now that Odo is fallible and that he made mistakes during the occupation. She has also come to grips with the fact that everyone, herself included, did things that they regret. Odo is by now her best friend. It's pretty obnoxious of her to demand that he promise that he made no other mistakes, as if anyone could promise that.
Fri, Sep 30, 2016, 5:18pm (UTC -5)
I'm interested in the decision the writers took not to have Kira as part of the regression group. In a way it would have made Odo even more uncomfortable and vulnerable. Maybe it was so that the last scene could play out between the two of them as a reversal to Necessary Evil in the same muted manner.
William B
Fri, Sep 30, 2016, 5:35pm (UTC -5)
There are certainly advantages to the way the episode played out, but I do think that having Odo have to deal with Kira seeing the truth (rather than her finding out about it afterward) probably would have made a kickass episode. However, I suspect that the primary reason Kira couldn't be included is pragmatic -- I think that Kira may have been excluded so as to lighten Nana Visitor's load during her pregnancy. One could say that the amount of material in The Darkness and the Light coming up suggests that they weren't really trying to do that, but I think that episode is an exception -- like they decided that if they were going to have Kira in much of an episode late in NV's pregnancy, they would make it count (and also make it a story which has to happen while Kira is pregnant).
Fri, Sep 30, 2016, 8:39pm (UTC -5)
I'm not sure why I remember it this way, and I could be wrong, but I believe Visitor had already had her baby by the time "The Darkness and the Light" was filmed, but her pregnancy was part of the plot, so they carried it through.
Peter G.
Fri, Sep 30, 2016, 11:09pm (UTC -5)
In theory it sounds cool for Kira to have been along for the ride. In practice, however, it would have made the story untenable. Not only would Odo's explanations of the realities of the station be partially superfluous (since Kira knew that already) but more importantly, she would have immediately noticed the inconsistency in timeline between Thrax and Odo. The structure of the episode rides on the fact that Odo is misleading the others about what really happened because he doesn't want to own up to what he did. Despite being in his mind, if any of them just happened to know better the game would be up and Odo wouldn't have the chance to basically force himself to admit what he did.

Additionally, and this isn't so minor, we're already had plenty of Kira in scenes showing disgust for Dukat, and having that happen again here would have been both overkill and a sidetrack. And yet she would have had made just this kind of disparaging comment since part of the plot involved one of them having to endure Dukat's BS.

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