Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

"Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges"


Air date: 3/1/1999
Written by Ronald D. Moore
Directed by David Livingston

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"Let's make a deal, doctor: I'll spare you the ends-justify-the-means speech, and you spare me the we-must-do-what's-right speech. You and I are not going to see eye-to-eye on this subject, so I suggest we stop discussing it." — Sloan

Nutshell: The plot is overly complex and too perfect at times, but the payoff polemics make it a very strong hour.

The title says it all: "In time of war, the law falls silent." The plot concocted in part by the mysterious Sloan in "Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges" is one of meticulous planning and perfect execution. Everything goes as planned. Everything. And yet we're left with a feeling of certain dread. If a perfect plan has to step on so many people, exploit so many innocents, and undermine so many principles to get where it's going, how perfect is it? If you're Sloan, you would argue that it's simply no more perfect than the world itself.

That's the central argument of "Inter Arma...", an episode with attitudes that grow out of out of last season's "Inquisition" and "In the Pale Moonlight." In a way, Sloan's plot in this episode undermines everything the Federation stands for. And in a way, it reveals an attitude that's necessary to protect the Federation so its ideals might survive desperate times.

There are some who are calling DS9's exploration of these darker aspects of the Federation a conscious dismantling of the "Gene Roddenberry idealism." Is it? I don't think so (I'm one who thinks too much is often made of the "Roddenberry vision" and that his intentions are sometimes viewed through too narrow a scope), but I do think it raises the question of the ability of such ideals to survive when humanity is faced with a real threat to its existence. True idealism must be occasionally challenged for us to see what it truly represents and how practically it can be applied. In terms of this episode, is Section 31—that unofficial, unsanctioned, and generally unknown power of the Federation—an organization that acts in the Federation's best interests? A better question: Exactly how do you define "best interests"?

The plot of "Inter Arma..." is complex. Probably too complex, in fact, in the sense that every bit of it is calculated ahead of time by Sloan (William Sadler, in a performance that follows up his role in "Inquisition," and that's magnificent in its straightforwardness). I'm not sure how plausible it is that Sloan could anticipate every action Bashir makes in the course of this story, but, then again, the whole point of the episode is that Sloan is able to manipulate Bashir by understanding how his mind works and the sense of morality from which he approaches situations.

Like in "Inquisition," Sloan takes advantage of Bashir when he is scheduled to leave the station. This time, Bashir is to go to Romulus for a conference. Sloan wants to use Bashir as an avenue for convenient reconnaissance—or so he says. One can never take what Sloan says at face value. From square one we're pretty sure there's about 100 things Sloan knows that he's not telling Bashir. But Sisko sees this as an opportunity to see what Section 31 is up to and who else might be working for them. It runs far deeper than Sloan, that's for sure.

So Bashir finds himself on a starship to Romulus. One of the best qualities of "Inter Arma..." is the way it blindsides Bashir with its steady diet of surprises. It really puts him through a mental wringer. You see, Bashir is also working with Admiral Ross (Barry Jenner) to investigate Sloan. Ross and Sisko had agreed to use Bashir's recruitment by Sloan to learn the nature of Section 31's involvement in the Romulan government. There are suspicions that the Romulan government has an operative in its midst that is working for Section 31.

One might wonder why—especially considering the Federation and Romulans are allies in the effort to defeat the Dominion—Section 31 would investigate and plot around an ally. The reason is simple: Allies are temporary. DS9's history through the last four seasons is perfect proof of that. The Federation has faced hostility from the Klingons, Romulans, and Dominion. Now the Cardassians have been absorbed by the Dominion and the Klingons, Romulans, and Federation have their own alliance. It makes perfect sense that Section 31, given their nature, would want now to plant their moles in the Romulan government—since, Sloan predicts, they're destined to become the next major threat after the Dominion is forced back to the Gamma Quadrant and the Klingons find themselves too weak to threaten anybody. (One of many brilliantly telling exchanges: Bashir: "This war isn't over, and you're already planning for the next!" Sloan: "Well put.")

This is all very insidious and neat to ponder. At the same time, it challenges the morality of Starfleet up to a point: Starfleet wouldn't dream of "approving" the actions of Section 31, yet they have absolutely no intention of trying to stop what Section 31 does, either. As Sloan says, the Federation may need someone like Section 31 to look at the bigger picture. The question is where do you stand on moral ground, and can you live with yourself? (As Sisko put it last year, "This is a huge victory for the good guys," and he "will learn to live with it.")

The details of Sloan's plot are intriguing. I won't go into endless detail (this is a story so complex that it would take forever to summarize), but I'll put it in a nutshell. Sloan wants Bashir to subtly determine if a powerful Romulan official, Senator Koval (played by John Fleck, who appeared as a Romulan years ago in TNG's "The Mind's Eye"), has an illness that can be carefully manipulated into sudden advancement, effectively causing an undetectable assassination. But the plan takes a number of twists that puts Bashir into difficult positions where he must act on his own. Ultimately, he recruits Romulan Senator Cretak (Adrienne Barbeau, painting a much more sympathetic character than was performed earlier this season by Megan Cole) into helping investigate the leads and stopping the assassination.

There are twists upon twists, including an explanation of who Sloan "really" is, which itself turns out to be completely bogus. By the time it's all over, Sloan is presumed dead, Cretak's life is destroyed, and Koval—who we learn is actually a Section 31 mole—has solidified his position in the Romulan government as one skeptical of the Federation, thus making him more powerful as a Federation operative.

The way this all plays out is perfect. Too perfect, really. But it's done with great skill and clarity thanks to Ron Moore's script and an atmospheric direction by David Livingston that evokes a sense of mystery and intimidation involving Romulan society. The scene before the Romulan senate that reveals the "plot," is impressively executed.

Meanwhile, Bashir, who is smart and resourceful, is nevertheless manipulated like a chump. (This manipulation is effective and enlightening concerning a set of various characters' motives and philosophies, unlike the manipulation within Voyager's "Course: Oblivion," which was simply infuriatingly arbitrary.)

So is Bashir naive for embracing his idealism and allowing himself to be manipulated? I say no, because the whole point of the story is that moral idealism is a choice, and Bashir is sticking by his guns in the face of those whose actions he views as appallingly wrong. This episode isn't subtle about its debate. That's part of why it's so powerful. When it's done well, I'm a big fan of the Heated Substantive Argument. Seeing the moral questions arise from the situation is interesting, but seeing the moral questions tackled directly through a one-on-one verbal argument between two characters can be equally interesting.

In this case, we learn that Ross had been working with Sloan to manipulate Bashir into going through with this whole charade in the interests of fortifying the Federation's strategic position. Bashir figures it out and privately challenges Ross. The discussion that ensues is pure polemics, and I appreciated the points from both sides of the table. Ross' situation reveals a real desperation, a weakness on the part of the Federation; it's doing what it has to in order to survive. With this war on, the ideal moral world is simply implausible to some.

People like Bashir, who maintain their moral compass even in the depths of this danger, deserve respect, and I appreciated the sincere respect Sloan reveals to Bashir, even though he puts Bashir through such a devious game to fulfill Section 31's agenda. But at the same time, who's to say that Bashir wouldn't be tempted to work with an organization like Section 31 if he were in Ross' pained position, ordering wave after wave of Starfleet soldiers to their deaths?

In that way, "Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges" is completely conscious with the Roddenberry idealism. The question posed is whether that idealism can survive a universe with such increased chaos and danger, and whether the war will permanently change the Federation's ideals.

As a final note, let me pose a frightening question: What if Sisko knew Ross was working with Section 31 from the beginning? It's speculation that could very easily be false, but given the nature of the war and Sisko's role in bringing the Romulans into it, who can say? When considering the plausible substance of Sloan's and Ross' arguments and Sisko's own involvement in the war since day one, could perhaps the moral rules have been so distorted that the rules' bending is now rationalized by DS9's own captain? It might not be the case, but I certainly think it could be.

"Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges" indeed.

Upcoming: Several reruns, followed by a dive into the big final stretch of the series.

Previous episode: Badda-Bing, Badda-Bang
Next episode: Penumbra

Season Index

40 comments on this review

Ospero - Wed, Oct 10, 2007 - 8:33pm (USA Central)
A truly terrific episode of DS9. I for one have always liked the Romulans, and this show revealing that members of the Federation can be every bit as scheming as the (supposedly) best race in the quadrant at covert action (except perhaps the Cardassians) was disquieting and felt real at the same time.

One thing springs to my mind as I read this review, though: it reads more like a three-and-a-half-star review, rather than a four-star one. Was the verdict on this one changed later?

Greets from Germany,

EP - Thu, Mar 12, 2009 - 5:15am (USA Central)
From a stand-alone point of view, yes, the episode is great. The quote is great, Sloane is great, and the convoluted plot is more complicated than Ocean's 11.

But it's a bit of a cheap thrill, since there are no consequences. One reaps what he sows, and thus, if the Federation wants to continue to allow Section 31 to exist, tacitly or not, what's the result? The Federation/Romulan/Klingon alliance wins the war in the series finale, Odo wears his tux, the Dominion is broken, Julian and Ezri get together, etc. But the tough questions posed in this episode are nowhere to be seen.

By all accounts, Section 31 is directly responsible for winning the war. They infected the Founders. Yet the Federation doesn't reject this situation, the idea of a peace forced by the pending genocide of an entire race. That's sort of like having your cake and eating it too, a criticism that both Jammer and I lob in the direction of VOY's weak 'Endgame.'
Jayrus - Tue, May 5, 2009 - 11:45pm (USA Central)
Explain to me how Section 31 "won" the war in any sense of the word? Poisoning the Founders only made them more determined to win, and even if the Founders died from the virus, the Vorta, and the Jem'Hadar would have kept fighting to the last man. Attempted Genocide didn't do donkey shit for them. It certainly didn't win the war, nor did it cause the Cardassians to revolt, or the Female Changling to surrender. Yes, she did agree to stop the war in return for Odo going home, but she would have agreed to that virus or not. She even stated Odo was more important to the Founders than the entire Alpha Quadrant. She actually would probably have been more receptive toward surrendering to a people who HADN'T tried to commit genocide against her race. Face it, all Section 31 did was make things worse.

Bligo - Sat, Jun 20, 2009 - 1:32pm (USA Central)
Right to the point Jayrus,

You cannot protect something that doest excist.
Section 31 simply doesnt have a place in the federation because the very basic of the federation is freedom before anything else.

Sacrificing freedom to save freedom is selfish and stupid.Current times and history itself are the proof of that.

Great episode never the less,but not one that brings hope to our current state of stolen freedom in the name of that same freedom.Would be such a waste that American Paranoid politics would still dominate the powers that be 400 years from now.
Aldo Johnson - Tue, Dec 8, 2009 - 11:02pm (USA Central)
If the code you live by, your morality, your democracy, can be so conveniently put aside whenever you think it's dangerous, then why live by that code anyway? Might as well just choose any moral that fits what's happening this month, this week, this day.

Or put it another way; officially the Soviets do not have a policy of state-sanctioned assassination. Yet I'm sure the GRU/ KGB "allowed" people to die.

Now replace "the Soviets" with "the Federation" and "GRU/ KGB" with "Section 31" Any Difference?

When they did it, the Soviet was an "evil Empire" What does that make the Federation?

Interesting that Bashir compared the Federation to a 24th century Rome, since some Americans are already doing that with their own country.
Destructor - Mon, Jan 11, 2010 - 5:08pm (USA Central)
Watched this last night- still excellent. Also remarkable for how prescient it was in predicting how America's principles would be compromised by war. Very good.
Matrix - Mon, May 31, 2010 - 7:25pm (USA Central)
Enjoyed this one quite a bit. Did anyone else think Ron Moore just took the plot of The Spy That Came in From the Cold and adapted it for Star Trek? Not that it's a bad thing mind you, but credit where credit's due.
Marco P. - Fri, Aug 27, 2010 - 1:07pm (USA Central)
Awesome awesome episode. And what do you know? "Written by Ronald D. Moore". Surprised?

Sloan = Cigarette Smoking Man from X-Files. Same duplicity, same "unscrupulous-do-what's-necessary" attitude.

Also interesting fact: the conference takes place aboard an Intrepid-class starship, the same model as USS Voyager. :) It was great seeing it make an appearance in DS9.
Nic - Wed, Nov 17, 2010 - 9:50pm (USA Central)
Aldo Johnson, you hit the mark. But I agree with Jammer that this episode is still true to the ideals of Star Trek (I won't say "Roddenberry's ideals" because I know a lot of other people deserve credit for making Star Trek what it is) because in the end, it does condemn Section 31's actions, which in this case were totally preposterous. There is absoloutely no indication that Cretak would have changed her opinion on the Alliance with the Federation (either before or after the war). Section 31 may very well have made things worse.

Poor Bashir. The whole episode I was thinking "Don't cooperate with him! Don't even PRETEND to cooperate with him! He'll screw you over!" but to no avail. :)
Weiss - Wed, Feb 23, 2011 - 11:19am (USA Central)
what if Section 31 was the one who pushed the idea to put the borg to sleep in best of both worlds, or infect them and disable them?

what if Picard/Data took their cues Sloan?

seems like these debates have been around for a while, Section 31 is a physical manifestation of the dark choices made by character past
gtr - Sun, Sep 25, 2011 - 5:51pm (USA Central)
FOUR stars? Hmm. Personally, I thought it was a good episode, but the whole 'morality dilemma' was a bit cliched and overplayed by this point, and could have done with being a bit more subtle and nuanced.
Rosario - Sun, Nov 27, 2011 - 1:06pm (USA Central)
Personally, the question: "Could the ideals and morals of Roddenbery's Federation as conceived survive without a discreet organization to defend them?" has been answered - in the alternate universe.

The Terran Empire, as Spock surmised, would have collapsed under its own overt oppression within 240 years. So he instituted reforms, disarmaments, etc that pretty much fully embraced the pacifistic, progressive Roddenberry ideals. This resulted in the Terran Alliance being conquered by neighboring rivals and the entire human race (among others) to become nothing more than slaves.

Section 31 is the balance between these two extremes. Progressive ideals cannot survive on their own - not in a complicated real world environment.

I applaud Bashir's morality and ideals but I am a firm realist so I know not everyone thinks like me or embraces my ideals. Not everyone sees progressive'ism as progress and some actively will fight against it with morals and ideals and convictions that in his own mind are just as strong as mine and opinions that are just as viable - to him.

One could argue that the Klingon/Cardassian Alliance was born of the Terran Empire's aggression but one could just as easily argue that it would have happened one way or the other. In the alternate universe the Terran Empire's philosophy was that aggression is the answer and a peace overture was only a ruse to lull you into letting down your defenses (thus those poor Vulcans met their fate from the barrel of a shotgun). Any other race could have embraced those ideals - the Romulans for instance - and put them into practice.

Anyway I ramble. Bottom-line, as a realist, I support Section 31. No, it does not fit in with the Roddenberry vision but as I've already said, I don't feel the Roddenberry vision could have survived in the real world without an organization willing to bend the rules to protect it.

Perhaps, that's whats wrong with the "real" world.
Justin - Sat, May 5, 2012 - 11:29pm (USA Central)
I must have watched this episode a dozen times by now and never once did it occur to me that Sisko could have been aware of Ross' involvement with Section 31. It kind of makes sense that he might have been.
Paul York - Fri, May 18, 2012 - 11:08pm (USA Central)
Planning assassinations in a wartime situation is the moral equivalent of picking up a rifle and shooting someone -- both are acts of legalized murder. In any case, no assassination was actually plotted or executed - so I am trying to understand where the moral violation occurred: interfering with another culture? The Prime Directive is foolish because it excuses moral relativism and inaction in the face of the violation of basic rights, at times. The real harm done here was that a patriotic politician was wrongly charged with treason - but she certainly should not have been foolish enough to help Bashir access a restricted database. But we know she did it because she believed his motives were pure. As for Bashir, he came off across as a rather weak character in this episode, playing along when asked, but balking the whole way. Sloan evaluated his character well: he could not resist the lure of playing along. Bashir's moralizing speech at the end seemed petty, and the Admiral's rationale for the operation seemed sensible. At the same time, that does not mean that the end always justified the means; after all, it is slippery slope from that reasoning to the kind of fascism that the Romulans personify.
Brendan - Fri, Jun 15, 2012 - 7:44pm (USA Central)
Can people NOT post spoilers in their comments? Completely ruined the ending of DS9 for me.
Matrix - Wed, Jun 20, 2012 - 9:14pm (USA Central)
@Brendan. How about you take this as a learning curve and DON'T read the comments? The shows been over for thirteen years now! I think we're entitled to some spoilers.
Jay - Sun, Jul 1, 2012 - 10:51am (USA Central)
Agree with Matrix...if you haven't yet watched a show that ended well over a decade ago, and still care about spoilers, don't read messageboards. The statute of limitations has long expired on holding back spoilers.

Two things stuck in my side on this episode...O'Brien's mention of docking bays "inside" DS9 itself to make repairs...DS9 is large but I see no part of it that looks "thick" enough to have a starship "inside" it, especially a Romulan warbird.

ALso, the Romulans are only temporary allies of convenience, so the idea that 25 Federation hospital ships were being transferred to Romulan control struck me as extremely strange...
Cindi - Wed, Aug 15, 2012 - 7:46am (USA Central)
Another Ron Moore winner, love spy thrillers, enjoyed this episode a lot.

Although the discussion about morality and neccessity of secret services is fun, it's also naive and overly intellectual. Granted, it's probably proper as far as the role of those kind of organizations in peace time is concerned - overturning foreign governments and constant meddling in other nations' affairs certainyl goes against ideals of freedom and democracy.

But if there's a war, you have only two choices - to defend yourself or die. Most people would certainly choose the former one. It's not only a question of duty, but quite frankly common sense as well. And since war involves much more than maybem at battlefields, defending yourself also involves much more than just shooting from a machine gun or driving a tank. For that reason an organization like Section 31 (or CIA for that matter) is a crucial and justified part of the war effort.
Arachnea - Mon, Dec 3, 2012 - 4:12am (USA Central)
I won't discuss the "Roddenberry vision" now; it's been done and re-done. But I wanted to add little things in response to some posts here.

How can one see Bashir's speech as petty ? It's true to his principles, his ideals, his morality and to the Federation. How can someone see the incarceration or possibly the death penalty of an innocent woman as something justifiable ?

How can one take the mirror universe as an example ? It is so twisted and unrealistic, just made to offer fans something special or comic.

As we know, the Federation never gave up its weapons: even the flagship which is intented for exploration, is heavily armed.

If, in a time of war, you forget everything you're fighting for, then why fight at all ? Here, I'm just very disappointed by Admiral Ross. He was the first admiral so far who wasn't corrupted or evil.

An interesting point Jammer raises is about Sisko. I always wondered why Sisko would want to risk Bashir to uncover section 31, because it's definitely not part of his agenda or responsibilities as captain of DS9. It makes sense that Sisko knew all along and was asked to order Bashir to accept Sloan's offer. That implies that Sisko'd be even worse than he already is, but adding that to the already long list of wrongs he did wouldn't be that much :p.
Nejer - Fri, Jan 4, 2013 - 10:46am (USA Central)

First of all, before I go into my 2 cents, I just wanted to make a note of something I noticed while watching the episode recently (interesting to note that this is probably my 3rd or 4th time watching it over my lifetime). The first scene aboard the U.S.S. Bellerophon when Bashir is enroute to Romulus, when Admiral Ross, Senator Cretak, and Bashir all drink some romulan ale, Sloan suddenly appears to answer the question of the etymology behind the phrase, "Never say die." There is an interesting visual cue that, perhaps I'm over thinking, but considering all that happens during this episode, is interesting in its ever so subtle foreshadowing. As Sloan explains the meaning to Cretak, Admiral Ross ever so slightly widens his eyes and nods his head (bear in mind everyone is looking at Sloan at this point and Admiral Ross is the farthest person from Sloan, so only Sloan can see this response. A few seconds later, still during the conversation, Sloan just finishes mentioning the "Merchant of Venice" as part of his explanation of the phrase above, and Sloan provides an acknowledgement of Admiral Ross's signal by touching the right side of his neck with his finger... In retrospect, knowing everything that happens, it is a chilling prospect to know how much Admiral Ross was involved, though as it has been said, it is also very understandable given the situation. The cliche, "Desperate times call for desperate measures," comes to mind, and certainly has its place here.

Secret Motivations, Secret Agendas:

Honestly, I wish I was older when I first watched this series. Granted, not every episode is a masterpiece, but I would have appreciated the potential of each episode at least and, when given a masterpiece like this episode was, I would have appreciated it all the more, perhaps even suspected Admiral Ross's involvement from the beginning. I do appreciate Jammer's comment regarding Sisko's potential involvement as well and I must agree that it is a possibility. If he can keep a secret like his involvement with having the Romulans enter the war, then I would certainly consider him capable of this, and for the most part we were seeing things from Bashir's perspective. Then again, the Romulans entering the war was a more extreme circumstance than this was. Conquering an important member of the UFP and potentially facing loss of the war was much more extreme that this situation. Which brings me to the idea entertainment and the presence of extremes as a theme commonly used in such mediums.

Utilization of Extremes as a Theme in and for Entertainment:

I find a great deal of the analysis and the comments for this episode most compelling. The question of morality and what to do under extreme circumstances is often questioned. Often movies and entertainment are modeled around such a theme, in one way or another (ex. soap operas around personal drama, war movies around the circumstances of the war and their impact on the individual while some focus on the government and its choices, etc.)

But then, when is it right, or at least understandable, to grant exceptions to the rule? The is a question that still exists today and will continue to exist for the foreseeable future. Look at the law for example, the law is not a collection of agreed upon precepts that set punishment for a crime, rather it is a range of potential punishments that can even be overridden by the judge, if they see fit. Each situation is unique and must by analyzed accordingly.


This may sound trite in today's society, but the nature of what the word "extreme" has come to mean has such a level of volatility, it can mean almost anything from a mother taking short cuts to make cookies for a bake sale for their child's school to fighting terrorism to saving a civilization from complete and utter annihilation.

The question of where to draw the line has become hazy at best (though I think the cookies example was a bit humorous). But the bottom line is that in a society which praises and prizes the importance of individual liberties, where does one draw the line before those liberties are curtailed? Where does society draw the line between continuing to exist and fading in the annuls of history?

Well, I'm certain the world has come close to fading into the annuls of history many times, of which we've heard of only a few (the Cuban missile crisis comes to mind). While I find the idea of innocent people (like Cretak in this story) being eliminated because of their point of view to be repulsive, I find it much more heinous an act to allow a civilization (while still having many problems is basically morally good and is trying to correct those problems) to become a forgotten society, to allow all of the potential good it can do for not just their own citizens, but for the other civilizations it can affect for the better must all be considered.

As a result, I would say the United Federation of Planets needed to do this to survive. However, the important aspect that needs to be acknowledged here is that the United Federation of Planets deserves to survive. It has it's flaws, but the good it does for its citizens, the freedoms its people enjoy and its progressive nature and willingness to accept others (at least significantly more so than other civilizations) makes it necessary to commit such acts and still be worthy of survival. The question is does that carry over into the real world? I think it does. Despite all that has happened, the USA has been more of a positive influence on the world than a negative one. Yes, it has its flaws, but it is still a relatively young country with basically good citizens that want a better world, not just for themselves, but for everyone. Furthermore, they have already overcome many obstacles in their relatively short history. Give it time, and as the USA continues to evolve, so will its efforts to make itself and the world a better place.
Nejer - Fri, Jan 4, 2013 - 1:53pm (USA Central)

I forgot to include the second scene with Admiral Ross that gave something away... A little more than half way through the episode, when Bashir is briefing Ross on Sloan's interest in killing Koval, after Ross mentioned that there could be another party involved whose duty it is to kill Koval, Bashir mentioned that it could be a Romulan. As soon as he said that, Ross shifted position and his voice suddenly changed (he seemed almost genuinely surprised and concerned). Given that Koval is the federation operative, I can understand why Ross would suddenly become concerned that maybe Bashir figured out what was really going on... Lucky for Ross, Bashir trusted Ross implicitly because he couldn't imagine Ross being part of the conspiracy on Sloan's side and, therefore, told Ross his entire thinking process, which certainly put Ross at ease after Bashir explained that another Romulan may be tasked with killing Koval.

So many layers this episode had along with twists and turns... It could easily have been turned into a movie. In fact, if more of the regular cast were involved, this probably could have been turned into a 2 part episode... Regardless, definitely among the best episodes of DS9, and that, in and of itself, is quite an achievement.
Duge - Sun, Mar 10, 2013 - 10:40pm (USA Central)
A very well-done and intriguing if somewhat convoluted episode. It was a finely crafted mystery that kept me on my toes trying to figure out what was going on every second of the episode up until the end when Ross explains everything. The one thing that I have not seen mentioned by anybody here nor by Jammer, was anybody sort of freaked out by Koval's repeated questioning of Bashir about the "Quickening" disease and his apparent desire to have it replicated? It makes me wonder if he ever got his hands on it and what exactly he'd do with it if he did? And the Federation was actually there to support HIM- and to get Senator Creetak out of the way!
Patrick - Thu, Mar 21, 2013 - 12:05pm (USA Central)
Dr. Bashir, I think, is the proxy-Roddenberrian character of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (right down to the libido!). As a matter of fact, in TNG's "Birthright, part I" he fits perfectly on the Enterprise-D. It was refreshing to hear him defend the principles of the Federation on a show that constantly puts them down without rebuttal. Sisko, Dax, O'Brien, or even Worf would nary make a peep when the constant bashing of the Federation/Starfleet was constantly made on this show. Julian's a true believer, and even when his faith is shaken some, he still behaves accordingly.
Kotas - Sat, Nov 9, 2013 - 6:32pm (USA Central)

Solid episode.

Corey - Thu, Feb 13, 2014 - 9:33am (USA Central)
"Many think it not only inevitable but entirely proper that liberty give way to security in times of national crisis that, at the extremes of military exigency, inter arma silent leges." - Anton Scalia

"Show me a crisis facing a nation, and I will show you a lie." - Vonnegut

The problem is, Section 31 broke laws (removed politicians, faked intel, commited murders and poisoned a race), and DS9's writing not only sets up strawmen to justify this (otherwise WE LOSE!), but to show this behaviour as being essential for victory. To further faciliate this kind of fascism, you then need to paint the Dominion as a big unstoppable boogeyman.

This is not deep or good writing, just scaremongering to faciliate fascism. Sloan says this himself to Bashir at the end of the episode: "Your ideals don't work in the real world. We must kill in the shadows to protect people like you."

You cannot find any example in history where this is true, or where this kind of behaviour was not exactly what caused the "problem" in the first place, the very problem it purports to solve.

Aren't we seeing the same thing in Syria now? Aren't Governments arming terrorist factions, faking war crimes and lying, all to "topple a bad guy"? Aren't they doing bad to do a greater good ("good" is subjetive; it's all about resources and greed)? But isn't this very behaviour (ie countless Western coups in Syria), precisely what set up the need for this betrayal of principles in the first place? These "deep" DS9 episodes are very superficial, and they simply promote bad philosophy and history.

Corey - Thu, Feb 13, 2014 - 9:37am (USA Central)
"Did anyone else think Ron Moore just took the plot of The Spy That Came in From the Cold and adapted it for Star Trek? Not that it's a bad thing mind you, but credit where credit's due."

Glad someone noticed this. That film is a masterpiece though, and pushes a bit further than this DS9 episode (which itself is pretty riveting, dispite its shallow ending).
DLPB - Sat, Feb 22, 2014 - 8:36pm (USA Central)

"Show me a crisis facing a nation, and I will show you a lie." - Vonnegut


yeah, tell that to France in WW2 and numerous other conflicts where a country was conquered.
Tuningan - Sun, Feb 23, 2014 - 4:19am (USA Central)
Ah, that's it, I knew at some point I would have to read some nauseating argument such as Nejer's above. I mean, comparing the heterodox portrayal of the Federation and of Starfleet in DS9, in relation to the other Trek, with the US foreign policy and war efforts.

The thing goes like this: our country/Federation of Planets is so wonderful, has so many good freedom values, such an advanced viewing about the world, and has such good intentions and feelings about the rest of the world, that it justifies some "minor" mistakes we make. Mistakes we make, of course, just for safety reasons (never to achieve more power against others, noooo). Just to protect all these good things we wanna have and even share with the rest of the world/galaxy. I am certain that people in dozens of countries where the US has financed couple d’états, supported bloody dictators, invaded with laughable excuses, plotted against politicians and even against the life of elected presidents (hello Chilean readers) will agree with this view of the Federation. They will agree that our US/Federation of Planets in the end only wants a better world.

My dear gosh, really? Really? Star Trek was supposed to be an allegory of a different future. As unlikely we may think this future can be, that was the idea. Sure, with debates about dilemmas in a different future. Not a justification for our absurdities from the present reality. If anyone has ever needed a good example of how DS9, as good a show as it is, departs from Trek and extrapolates our reality to the Trek legacy by naturalizing what is not natural or normal, these ethnocentric, non-universalist comments of Nejers are here to leave no doubt. . I love our country today. And would love to live in a Federation of Planets. But Nejer’s argument is precisely the sort of reasoning that puts us much farther away from Trek’s canonical reality. Disgusting.
Corey - Sun, Feb 23, 2014 - 7:12am (USA Central)
"yeah, tell that to France in WW2"

France reaped what it sowed and Hitler had no intention of attacking it. Heck, the very same banners at the entrace to Hitler's concentration camps ("Work Makes Freedom"), lined the entrace to Britain's Kenyan camps, in which virtually the entire population was caged. The Allies weren't "good guys" in WW2, just equally bad, or worse, Imperialists.

Needless to say, I agree fully with what Tuningan says above. The Dominion conflict really is trite and insulting.
Ric - Sun, Feb 23, 2014 - 11:40pm (USA Central)
Pretty cool episode for those like my self who like political plotting shows. Pretty hateful for those like myself who likes Roddenberry’s Star Trek.

Once again, I to like that DS9 offers the so welcomed shades of grey to ST. Nice. DS9 has been (or was) a strong and good show for quite a while. But let's face it. DS9 has fully crossed the line, probably at some point in S6, maybe the end of S5.

It fully changes Star Trek universe. One thing is to show shades of grey. Another is to change the basic premises. Section 31 is one of the examples of crossing the line. Its existence, its behavior, but above all its acceptance by Starfeet and/or high Federation leaders changes what we have known about these institutions.

You can think it is more realistic. You can claim it is dramatically interesting. But it is undeniably changing ST previous canon. If it is good or bad, it's a next step of discussion. For me it sucks. One of the reasons being the fact that extrapolating our present to the future is something already done a thousand times. It is lazy writing and looses what ST had as the most creative and innovative.

For those of you who do not care about these total departures from ST, it is a strong episode. For those like me who care, it was once again just bad and shows how DS9 was adrift at this point.

PS: I follow my friend Tuningan and also Corey. I especially dislike this extrapolation of present that naturalizes what we do today as if nothing different could have ever been possible or would ever be. In fact ST is about a different future as Tuningan says, not about a justification of our present.
Trekker - Thu, Mar 13, 2014 - 9:04pm (USA Central)
Star Trek couldn't last in this world, not because of writer decisions, but the reality that Star Trek underpinned was leading towards something darker.

Human beings aren't ever going to solve all our issues, nor the issues of other Interstellar Civilizations fully. The human spirit in the last decade has been tested by an impossible war of ideologies that are as ancient as the Preservers :P

The war on Terror is not going to end, nor is the instability in the middle east, nor the strife of nations.

TOS was looking forward to a detente between US and USSR, TNG was looking at the progressive 90's filled with hope and no war.

DS9 looked further to 2000's.

I keep reading other fans complaining about the show's writers pushing us in dark direction; they weren't pushing us, but telling us we were going there like all other Trek Series.

That hope for the future stuff ended at the turn of the 21st century, because we gave up on it.
Ric - Sun, Mar 23, 2014 - 2:57am (USA Central)
@Trekker One thing is putting Trek in a darker situation. Another thing is to change its premises.

That said, it is amazing how humanity Always think of the present as impossible to change. You yourself just did that: "The war on Terror is not going to end". But before you gave exampls of things that seemed impossible to change.... but have changed.

Besides, it does not matter if we think things are or not going to change. What matters is that premise of Trek is different from what DS9 offers at least in the last seasons. As I said, "You can think it is more realistic. You can claim it is dramatically interesting. But it is undeniably changing ST previous canon. If it is good or bad, it's a next step of discussion. For me it sucks. One of the reasons being the fact that extrapolating our present to the future is something already done a thousand times. It is lazy writing and looses what ST had as the most creative and innovative".

Trek never extrapolated the present to the future in TOS or in TNG. It does not mean that these shows were not products of their time, of course they were and it is impossible for any movie, show, poem or any form of art to not be so. But constiously extrapolating the present to the future? No and no.

Last, this argument about DS9 looking further to 2000s is completely pointless if you thnik if Voyager. It was broadcasted at same time as the second half of DS9. Why Voyager could stay much closer to the original Trek tone in what regards Federation and Starfleet portrayal and DS9 didn't? Oh and whay about Enterprise, how does it look like?
Klovis Mann - Mon, Apr 28, 2014 - 9:50am (USA Central)
Trek Meets LeCarre.....and well done....glad somebody mentioned the connection earlier.....it's certainly there....The Spy Who Came In From The Cold.....The scene at the end between Ross and Bashir when Bashir is outraged at the sacrifice of Cretak recalls the film version and Richard Burtons "who do you think spies are"....? speech......Bashir was Claire Bloom to Ross' Richard Burton....."How big does a cause have to be before you kill your friends?".....great episode, great script, great cast....top rating.....
eastwest101 - Sun, Jun 8, 2014 - 7:39pm (USA Central)
Full credit to the scriptwriters here in this engaging, complex and involving episode that asks a lot of interesting questions. After the dreadful run of holosuite episodes this season, a welcome return to form for DS9. 5 stars out of 5 for this one.
DLPB - Tue, Aug 19, 2014 - 12:16pm (USA Central)
France reaped what it sowed and Hitler had no intention of attacking it.

If you actually believe that, you are ridiculously undereducated on WWII. I suggest you read some history books. Hitler invaded Poland without provocation, and made it clear numerous times that he wanted Europe and Russia for "Living Space".
Nonya - Sun, Aug 24, 2014 - 3:36pm (USA Central)
I have to say, I don't like this episode. Mainly because it messed up poor Senator Cretak, and I really liked her.

That's probably just a personal problem, though.
Yanks - Mon, Aug 25, 2014 - 10:54am (USA Central)
Very interesting episode.

Ross played along. The reason Bashir was approached from the beginning is now apparent.

I never got the impression that Sisko was an accomplice. Probably a stretch to pin that on him although I wouldn't put it past him as we all know what he's capable of (ITPM)

It's not good to be a Romulan Senator... First Vreenak now Cretak... very expendable "for the cause".

It was fun to try and figure out what Sloan wanted done the first time I watched this.

Jon Fleck is outstanding. No wonder they chose him to play silik.

Koval as a section 31 ally... not even during Koval's little speech about Sloan's interrogation. Nicely done.

3 stars for me.
$G - Wed, Oct 29, 2014 - 1:32pm (USA Central)
Excellent hour. It slides in a notch under "In the Pale Moonlight" but only because that episode's frame narrative was so compelling. I agree with everything Jammer says (except that the plot may be too complex for its own good). I never even considered that Sisko would have been aware of the plot, but given what we already know, it's not an unsupported conclusion.

Things that are awesome:

-Every beat of the episode works and builds into a legitimately high stakes mystery. (I especially enjoyed the call-back to "The Quickening". It's not a big deal, but continuity always makes a series that much more realistic.)

-The episode is necessary in that it shows DS9 is a show that recognizes the precariousness of political alliances. It's been going on the entire series, and it takes care not to suggest everything will be resolved just because the good guys (inevitably) are victorious. This episode suggests its own future without being able to explore it, and I think that's a pretty effective device. The Wire's (excellent) finale is an example of this, too.

-I love the sobering portrayal of the Federation trying to hold itself together in a region of political upheaval, which is a legitimate question to pose when one is working with a future utopia. "Homefront" and "Paradise Lost" effectively utilized the "rogue admiral" cliche, but it's done even more effectively because, A), we already know Ross to be a reasonable man, and, B), his rationale is completely understandable given the last two seasons of war and especially episodes like "AR-558". It was a smart move to only have Ross collude with Sloan rather than be a part of Section 31 completely.

-Even though I've seen this show in its entirety, I forgot that Admiral Ross gets this much development in S7. I've made comments on other S7 episodes that this season is the year of the secondary characters. I forgot how true that continues to be. As much as I miss the routine of our main cast doing their jobs every week, it just goes to show how big and unpredictable DS9 has become. The canvas just keeps widening.

This episode has one flaw, I think, though it's pretty minor and really pretty subjective: the new actress playing Cretak. She's actually really quite good, but the new face kind of weakens the punch that this is the same (reasonable and likable) woman we know from "Shadows and Symbols". She works perfectly within the story but, y'know, that visual continuity just isn't there.

Other than that, this is not only an easy 4-star episode but it's a top 10 episode of the series. Essential. Do not skip.
Jayson Vaugh - Wed, Jan 28, 2015 - 3:55am (USA Central)
Just, no.

This episode was vile to me. I remember loving it as a teen. However, re-watched I found Cretak's fate too hideous to find acceptable. An innocent woman to be put to death - for nothing. No thank you.
MsV - Mon, Feb 16, 2015 - 10:01pm (USA Central)
Hey Jayson Vaugh, remember these are Romulans.

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