Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

"The Wire"

3.5 stars

Air date: 5/9/1994
Written by Robert Hewitt Wolfe
Directed by Kim Friedman

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"The Wire" is one of the season's most focused character shows, featuring plot elements that actually tie into the real story (rather than sabotaging the main drive of the drama as episodes like "Alternate" and "Playing God" did). It's also the long-awaited episode that strongly hints at (although doesn't fully reveal) the mysterious backstory of "plain, simple Garak."

The mystery begins to unravel when an anti-torture device implanted in Garak's brain begins to malfunction, putting his life in jeopardy. The only option is to remove the implant, which means unavoidable withdrawal symptoms because of Garak's physical dependency on the implant's effects. But this story isn't about the life-or-death struggle; it's about Garak's mysterious exile and what the exile has done to him emotionally. He's a tortured person in an environment he finds contemptible, and only the implant has allowed him to retain the calm, amiable surface. But without the implant, Garak's dark side emerges.

The premise is fundamentally simple, and that's why it works: Just confine some good actors to a room and reveal the inner truths of the characters (if Garak's lies can be called truths). Andrew Robinson's performance is a powerhouse with versatility. But nor should El Fadil's turn as the puzzled but doggedly determined Bashir be overlooked. A powerful direction by Kim Friedman, who slowly builds the dramatic intensity in gutsy crescendos, adds mood and atmosphere.

The intentionally vague backstory reveals the possibility for countless dark chapters in Garak's past; he was clearly involved with the nefarious Obsidian Order, the all-knowing "Big Brother"-type intelligence organization of Cardassia. Garak's lapses into fury and pain lead him to reveal to Bashir several reasons that "explain" why he was exiled—though he dissembles and changes his story so many times that it's impossible for Bashir (or us) to know what's a lie and what's the truth.

Eventually, Bashir goes to the retired Enabran Tain (Paul Dooley)—the former head of the Obsidian Order—for answers to Garak's condition, and finds some interesting insights about Garak in the process. There's a lot of interesting substance about Garak and the Cardassian mentality in this story, though it's hard to know exactly what to make of it. But that's the point. Some puzzles are supposed to remain unsolved, and Garak—as well as Enabran Tain in his showcase scene—is such a fascinating puzzle to watch unfold on the screen that it's enlightening whether we get all the answers or not.

Previous episode: The Maquis, Part II
Next episode: Crossover

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54 comments on this review

John
Sat, Jun 16, 2012, 3:47am (UTC -5)
This was always a favourite of mine. Plays out in a similar (though slightly less dramatic) way to Duet from Season 1. In effect, it's a script that could easily be written for the stage and allows some of Trek's Shakespearean actors to do their thing.
Moegreen
Thu, Jul 19, 2012, 8:24pm (UTC -5)
One of the best episodes, up there with Whispers, Duets etc. Deserving of a 4, in my opinion.
Elliott
Sat, Aug 11, 2012, 1:45pm (UTC -5)
This is the only episode of the season meriting 4 stars. Performance, mood, character and story are in perfect balance here, and Garak proves his worth to the cast beyond any doubt--his character is more interesting, nuanced, sophisticated and elegantly portrayed than any of the main cast except maybe Odo. Bravo, Mr Robinson.
Moegreen
Mon, Sep 10, 2012, 6:39am (UTC -5)
This has to be 4 stars.
Zane314
Mon, Dec 10, 2012, 6:27pm (UTC -5)
The Wire is a 4 star masterpiece. This episode epitomizes why Andrew J Robinson is my favorite DS9 actor. He's so intense, natural and believable telling his 3 stories in The Wire. Then the wrap up with him saying they're all true, especially the lies. Excellent writing for a pitch perfect performance.
Asian James
Fri, Jan 11, 2013, 9:25am (UTC -5)
In rewatching DS9, I am actually surprised that Garak has been underused to this point (especially since he was introduced very early in Season 1). I'm glad that Garak/Andrew J. Robinson was finally given the limelight in "The Wire," making it one of my personal favorite episodes in Season 2. Credit goes to Kim Friedman's direction with the camera angles and overall scene setup, and I also loved the equally superb dialogue that Robert Hewitt Wolfe crafted for Garak, Bashier and Tain.

Furthermore, most DS9 episodes thus far have felt at least a little "cheezy." To Jammer's recurring point, the cheezy factor sometimes stems from the B-plot of an episode ruining the drama behind the A-plot. Or the acting is a little stiff, which detracts from the watchability of the episode. Or worst off, the writing of the A-plot is poor to begin with (see: "Profit & Loss"). Like "The Maquis" before it, "The Wire" helps to change the tone of DS9; the dark side of the series is finally showing itself.

Interestingly enough, my girlfriend (who is watching DS9 for the first time) disagrees. She thought it was pointless since it didn't progress the story at all. The frustration came about when she was left with not having learned anything about Garak. I told her that she learned more than she thinks...

According to Memory-Alpha, my girlfriend is not alone in her sentiments: "Although the producers were extremely happy with how this episode turned out, they were disappointed to discover that many fans felt let down because they hadn't learned anything new about Garak."

Regardless, my personal rating: 4 out of 4 stars.
Grumpy
Fri, Jan 11, 2013, 4:01pm (UTC -5)
Contrarily, this fan was disappointed because, despite the large regular ensemble, this episode focused on a guest character. I felt my time had been wasted, simply because Robinson wasn't billed in the main credits. Shows the power of paratext to shape a viewer's expectations. (I suppose I'd view it differently now.)
Comp625
Mon, Jan 14, 2013, 12:30pm (UTC -5)
@Grumpy - I think that's why I enjoyed "The Wire" so much. In retrospectively looking at DS9, it has one of the strongest recurring character list out of all Trek's. To name a few:

- Garak
- Dukat
- Winn
- Martok
- Weyoun

To acheive greatness in developing these recurring characters, the writers took an extreme risk with this episode. This episode also strengthed the Bashier/Garak relationship that has been somewhat forgotten since Garak was only featured once in Season 1, despite having lunch with Bashier at least once a week. That's what makes "The Wire" a very successful episode, though I do see how people are divided.
K'lang
Mon, Jul 22, 2013, 11:06am (UTC -5)
Agree with the review. I would like to note one more thing here, that is, in end Garak gives a Cardassian story to Bashir about Klingon - Cardassian war set in the future. This is quite prescient of events to come later. Also interesting when Bashir asks who is going to win.
Kotas
Tue, Oct 22, 2013, 4:59pm (UTC -5)

A great episode that does a lot for Garak's character.

8/10
Blake W
Tue, Dec 17, 2013, 2:44pm (UTC -5)
This episode truly demonstrates the talent / skill of DS9's writers. Network TV nowadays would never allow something like this to air because 85%-95% of viewers wouldn't understand the story. I fell into that percentage, and it looks like everyone here (including the reviewer) fell into that percentage. But thank God for the internet, because someone who understood the story posted a comment on youtube:

"All the stories Garak tells in this episode are true...He did kill a shipload of civilians... He thought it was his duty to The Obsidian Order and Tain...but Garak has a conscience...and after this he stopped believing in the occupation...He began freeing Bajoran prisoners...He probably helped the Bajorans in some way ( the betrayal of Tain )..." - ShareTheMike

It's still crazy for me to read that comment... All the pieces were right in front of us (like Garak said at the end of the episode) and everything suddenly seems so obvious.

So, Garak slaughters a bunch of civilians, finds himself asking, "what's the point of any of this?" He becomes unstable & frees prisoners, he goes out of his way to frame himself (part of the unstable behavior). Tane interprets this behavior as betrayal (in "The Die is Cast" Garak says, "I never betrayed you... at least not in my heart"). Instead of blaming himself for how he raised Garak, he completely blames Garak (very Tywin Lannister-like). But some part of Tane knows Garak became unstable, he just doesn't believe in showing empathy.

The DS9 writers did such a fantastic job with the Tane character. As far as Tane was concerned, regardless of whether or not Garak intended to betray him, his actions resulted in what is "technically" betrayal; so he was exiled as punishment (but not put to death since he really wasn't a traitor). The entire thing is just amazing writing; even though I didn't figure it out, I'm so glad the writers never explained themselves. It just seems so fitting for a story about Garak's history: here's the information, it's up to you to figure it out.
Vylora
Wed, Feb 19, 2014, 8:49pm (UTC -5)
4 stars and a turtle! (:
Yanks
Tue, Jul 1, 2014, 7:02am (UTC -5)
My personal favorite DS9 episode!

Anything centered around Garak is going to get high marks from me. Such an outstanding character.

I think SF Debris reviews this episode best, especially the reasoning behind the last "version" Garak gave Bashir for why he was exiled.

(I tried to include a link to the vid, but I guess you can't do that)

Garak's final version of why he was exiled includes the location of the retired Enabran Tain. The only one that could save Garak. So, as Garak does so well, he got Bashir to do exactly what he wanted him to do without asking him.

Bashir's commitment to Garak is commendable.

We are introduced to the "Obsidian Order" and meet another outstanding reoccurring character in DS9 - Tain.

Then of course, this historic exchange between Bashir and Garak at the end.

"BASHIR: You gave me answers, all right, but they were all different. What I want to know is of all the stories you told me, which ones were true and which ones weren't?
GARAK: My dear Doctor, they're all true.
BASHIR: Even the lies?
GARAK: Especially the lies."

That's so "Garak".

5 out of 4 stars for me.
Dusty
Thu, Nov 13, 2014, 10:28am (UTC -5)
I love it. Well-acted, complex, engrossing and thought-provoking. Garak is a fascinating person, a maze of mysteries and contradictions hidden behind a facade of shrewd self-discipline. The writers revealed just enough information to make the episode work, using his character to maximum effect without sacrificing what makes him special.

While I always liked Garak, this was the first time I didn't DISlike Bashir's character in an episode. He is pretty much all Garak has as far as friends go on this station. Bashir understands this and does everything he can to help. That is an admirable quality.
zprime
Sun, Jan 11, 2015, 11:26am (UTC -5)
Ever since TNG I didnt like the Cardassians. They seemed very bland alien of the week bent on evil blah blah blah. Even most of the epsoides of the bajorian resistance fighting the Cardassians I always found bland. However Garrek & Tain have changed my mind on the while race. Hell even Du kut gets very interesting. If there was a series of just the politics of Cardassia id give it a shot. They really fleshed it out & the Obsidian Order came across as both brutal & gentle. If that makes sense. I think the look of race always made me think of them as clunky & chuncky. But DS9 really made me appreciate the characters. Good stuff.
Brian S
Mon, Jan 12, 2015, 5:42pm (UTC -5)
@Asian James - "Interestingly enough, my girlfriend (who is watching DS9 for the first time) disagrees. She thought it was pointless since it didn't progress the story at all. The frustration came about when she was left with not having learned anything about Garak. I told her that she learned more than she thinks..."

You're right. I don't remember how I felt when I first watched this episode in its original airing 20 years ago, but going back and watching them all now, this episode is concrete evidence to me of something that none of the other Star Trek series did particularly well.....establishing back story for use in later arcs.

Most Star Trek episodes throughout the entire franchise provide little to no foreshadowing. Sure, later episodes might draw upon earlier ones, and one early season plot might lead to a series of events later in that same season, but in general this kind of long-arching development that I loved about DS9 and am appreciating even more now. Other Trek iterations paint one picture in an episode, then later episodes would build on that picture and maybe add in some minor details. DS9 paints the details, then fills in the picture later. It just requires some patience and delayed gratification to get the rest filled in.

I know I'm responding to your post 2 years after the fact, so I can only presume the two of you finished watching the series by now (if you're still even together-LOL). But this episode was arguably one of the best at providing the outer details, while leaving the rest of the picture to be filled in later (or at least more of the picture, since you never see the whole thing). The biggest question I have is whether the writers had a set backstory for Garak that they purposefully intended to flesh out over time, or if this episode was done as a way to leave them some creative wiggle room that they could more easily play with in the future. Either way, it was brilliantly done.

The exchange between Bashir and Garak identifies this beautifully, and provides an awesome writer's wink at people like your girlfriend who feel they didn't learn anything about Garak. That exchange might as well have gone....

VIEWER: The story was pointless. We didn't learn anything truthful about Garak.
DS9 WRITERS: My dear Viewer, everything in that episode about Garak was true.
VIEWER: Even the lies?
DS9 WRITERS: *Especially* the lies!

And that is the truth. The actual truth is only a matter of perspective (a recurring theme itself throughout the series). What matters in this episode are the details, which Garak keeps imploring Bashir (and us!) to pay attention to.....

You learn that he DID work for the Obsidian Order. You see the first signs of his relationship with Tain, and Tain's with Garak. You see that he wasn't just a spy, but a very important and powerfully connected one.

And while you can't actually fully believe what Garak says, given Garak's penchant for fabricating lies out of the truth (including his explicit statement that his lies ARE the truth) and given the number of actions he takes throughout the series *against* the Cardassian Empire, and his general lack of any animosity and even some empathy for the Bajoran people, I think one can reasonably infer that his "lies" about his actions on Bajor in this episode (especially since all 3 of his own stated reasons for exile involve some variation of NOT killing Bajoran resistance fighters when he had the chance) probably bore some measure of truth to them. The specific reason for his exile is trivial. It's probably enough to assume that he simply engaged in some compassionate behavior during the Occupation in violation of a brutal directive from the Order (likely something involving either innocent civilians or children), and that his disobedient act in betrayal of his duty was enough to get him exiled. As Tain alludes to in this episode, if he *really* wanted Garak killed, it probably would have been done....which also offers a foreshadow on Tain's "fondness" for Garak.
Robrow
Sat, Feb 14, 2015, 8:45am (UTC -5)
Just watched it for the first time. And I agree, it's up there with Duet as an indisputably great episode of the series. There's more to say about Garak, but I need to think about it. But I needed to say, wow. That was wonderful drama.
MsV
Mon, Feb 16, 2015, 7:36pm (UTC -5)
I have always liked Andrew Robinson, but it took me a while to warm up to Garak, he was not a favorite of mine, like Quark. Loved the actors, but not the characters. I did warm up to Garak, but never Quark.
Eric
Mon, May 18, 2015, 11:34am (UTC -5)
There have been a lot of interesting comments posted here on this episode, always one of my very favorite for DS9. I would suggest that any of you Garak lovers out there pick up a copy of the book called "A Stitch in Time" written by Andrew Robinson, the actor who played Garak in the show. It is quite simply the very best Star Trek novel ever written and gives a fascinating perspective of Garak's entire life both before and after the events of the series.
Picard
Tue, Jun 23, 2015, 9:41am (UTC -5)
I'm surprised that out of all the comments about this episode nobody mentioned how this episode tackled drug addiction. I find that to be one of the many great aspects of the episode. Many people start doing drugs or any substance just to numb whatever pain they have. Then they continue to do more and more until they are physically addicted. They also show Garak going through withdrawals in a realistic way. I know most fans will mainly like talking about what we learn or don't learn about Garak's past but I think the drug withdrawal aspect should get more appreciation and discussion. Here are some other things I took away from the episode.

This is a story about garak and Bashir mostly but for contract reasons the writers had to give the rest of the cast things to do. But the one scene with Kira at the beginning is so stupid. She comes out of nowhere and says "what was that all about@ First of all she is too far away to hear garak and Bashir talking and Kira couldn't care less that garak and Bashir were having a spat. It was so out of chracter and cheesy.

I did like how Bashir stood up to Odo and wouldn't allow Odo to interrogate Garak. It's always nice when a doctor on Star Trek uses their authority. Everyone knows that even though they are "just" a doctor they are given the authority to order anyone including security or the commanding officers if they feel its medically necessary. And I liked how Odo acknowledged Bashirs authority over him in this matter.

As for Dax she is getting on my last nerve. She comes across as arrogant a lot and in this episode comes across as rude. She tells Bashir that he isn't really friends with Garak. I'm sorry but if you eat lunch with someone once a week talking about art and literature for two years then you are friends. Dax comes across as either mean or an android. And unfortunately she doesn't get any better throughout the series.

Great episode. Deserved 4 stars if any episode does.

Nathan B.
Sat, Jul 18, 2015, 1:25pm (UTC -5)
Great episode, great review, and many great comments! Garak is probably my favourite character, and any episode centered around him is a standout.
William B
Fri, Aug 14, 2015, 9:21am (UTC -5)
4 stars, definitely. I'll see about writing something at some point, hopefully....
MsV
Wed, Sep 16, 2015, 3:28am (UTC -5)
If I were to rate the episode I would rate the acting 4 and the story 3. I am like Jammer in this aspect: When expectant mothers go into labor,its all the same, sweating, pain, pushing, etc. It gets old fast. When one friend gets addicted to alcohol or drugs, the other friend stays and helps the other friend through it, shakes or tremors, vomiting, insults, pain. Now Garak was not on drugs in the traditional sense, but he was going through withdrawal just the same, and Bashir stuck with him like the good friend. It gets old.

I initially had a problem with Garak lying so much but after the third season this had changed.
Diamond Dave
Sun, Nov 15, 2015, 6:29am (UTC -5)
A bold episode, concentrating so much on what is essentially a bit-part character. But the strength of the writing and the strength of the performances combine to give a heady cocktail of intrigue, truth and lies that is utterly compelling.

Despite the bravura performance of Garak, it's actually almost as satisfying to note that Bashir is also becoming a character that can carry these stories too. And introducing Enabran Tain only adds to the layers - his one scene is a tour de force.

Smashed out of the park. 4 stars.

Jack
Mon, Dec 21, 2015, 5:27pm (UTC -5)
Four stars, if only for being, to my knowledge, the only time a Star Trek character has pronouced the workd either as /ee/ rather than as /eye/.
Adam
Tue, Jan 5, 2016, 12:46am (UTC -5)
Just re-watched this episode fir first time in long time and I could be wrong but I don't think Sisko even made an appearance in this episode. I hadn't realised that before and can't thin of any other episode if that also being the case. I flicked back through it but I'm sure he didn't?

Does anybody know if this was only episode? I'm quite surprised I didn't remember that or notice it before. Unless I'm completely wrong and made a quick show without me realizing.
Adam
Tue, Jan 5, 2016, 12:51am (UTC -5)
Doh!

Seconds after I posted this I remembered he made an appearance for a few seconds when Bashir was giving him a hypospray after shouting at admirals.

But it's still interesting to see an episode without main character.

I can't think of any other episodes where he didn't show or only made a very small/token appearance, or more likely my I just have shit recall memory as usual.

Can anybody enlighten me?
Robert
Tue, Jan 5, 2016, 9:36am (UTC -5)
I don't think the Captain is ever completely not present. But occasionally, especially in DS9, he is sidelined.

In TNG Picard has only one line in "Thine Own Self"... the A story is a solo Data adventure and the B story is Troi/Riker.

In DS9 there is plenty of episodes where he does very little. Off the top of my head "Who Mourns For Morn" I think he only gets 1 or 2 small scenes. He's also barely in "Little Green Men", "Honor Among Thieves" and "Par'Mach".
Luke
Sat, Mar 5, 2016, 7:48am (UTC -5)
@Adam

I'm pretty sure Avery Brooks is the only actor to appear in all episodes of "Deep Space Nine".

That being said, I don't think he's intended to be the, quote unquote, "main character." In all the other Trek series, the captain is obviously the starring role. But here on DS9, he's in more of a "first among equals" position in terms of screen time. When an episode requires the CO to be present, he'll be there. When one focuses on his character specifically, he'll be there. But when the story doesn't really involve Sisko, he won't be that prominent.

In a way, that's very in keeping with the original concept of the show. TOS was sold as a Western in space, a "Wagon Train to the Stars." In a show like that, obviously you're going to have a main character that gets most of the attention - which is how Kirk was treated. Picard, Janeway and Archer are all treated the same way. DS9, however, was intended to be a different kind of Western in space. Instead of a show focused on the cavalry exploring or patrolling the frontier, it would be the story of town set on the frontier. In a show like that, Sisko could best be described as either the town sheriff or mayor. When the story calls for the sheriff or mayor to be involved, he will be. But he's not essential to all the stories that could be told in such a setting.
Luke
Sat, Mar 5, 2016, 7:51am (UTC -5)
This is as close to perfection as we're probably ever going to get out of Trek from a pure bottle show. And that's what "The Wire" is, a bottle show. Aside from a few transporter effects, there aren't any special effects in this entire episode. The only new set-piece is Enabran Tain's house, which I assume wouldn't have cost that much to design. Usually bottle shows aren't that great, but this time they took the time to really dig in deep and explore one of the most complex characters on the show. Nicely done.

There's not really much story to the episode - Garak is dying and Bashir tries to save his life, that's pretty much all there is too it. But Andrew Robinson takes the material and really knocks it out of the park, acting wise. The scene where he's telling his second lie to Bashir about his past (the one where he says that he was exiled for letting some Bajoran prisoners escape) is amazing. For an entire act of the show it's basically just two men talking in a room (at one point it's just Robinson talking for quite a while) and yet it's riveting. And Jammer is right that Alexander Siddig shouldn't be overlooked either. "The Wire" really is a huge stepping stone for his character away from the annoying little tit he started out as and the more nuanced one he becomes. Add into the mix some nice world-building - the introduction of the Obsidian Order and Enabran Tain - and you've got a real winner.

One aspect I absolutely loved was that Garak's problem with the implant is basically an allegory for drug addiction. What made that so great was Bashir's reaction to it. There was no moralizing, no preaching, no looking down the nose at Garak for it. Bashir basically says "I'm your doctor and we'll get you through this." Bravo! If only more people would respond to people suffering from drug addiction that way.

As for Garak's lies, I like to think (though I have no evidence for this) that Garak actually did tell Bashir the truth about his past, spread out over the course of all the different stories. If I recall correctly, we never find out exactly why Garak was exiled. But we do learn that Tain somehow felt betrayed by him. The one thing that remains constant throughout the three different lies he tells here is the involvement of the Bajoran prisoners. So, it's my opinion that he did let them go in a moment of weakness and Tain felt personally betrayed by that act and so exiled him. And that would fit Garak perfectly, telling the truth but never connecting the dots for anybody.

The only thing that holds "The Wire" back from a perfect score are the scenes between Bashir and Odo where they spy on Quark. Again Odo shows some rather disturbingly fascistic tendencies. He regularly monitors all of Quark's transmissions? Kind of creepy! He has a monitoring device installed in Quark's without his knowledge or consent? Kind of creepy! He and Bashir watch Quark without his knowledge? Kind of illegal! Especially since Quark doesn't actually commit any crime here; he's just employing unofficial channels to get Garak a new implant.

9/10
BoxyP
Sat, Apr 29, 2017, 6:21pm (UTC -5)
One of my very favorite DS9 episodes, provides so much food for thought.

[Full disclosure, I'm now mid-S3, being quite late to the party, and I've not read A Stitch in Time, either, so I don't have too much trouble limiting my comment to my initial impression of the episode without later canon or fanon influencing my view of the situation]. I won't reiterate what everyone else has said above - I agree with practically all of it - but the one thing that I haven't seen anyone mention about Garak's stories is what I found the most revealing about his character, which is the fact that in all three versions he tells, 'Elim' is someone close to him who ends up being pivotal to the situation, whether by dying an thus being betrayed by Garak, or else doing it to Garak in return. This, to me, is especially significant after we learn that Elim and Garak are the same person - whatever the sequence of events that led to his exile from Cardassia and his 'betrayal' of Tain, they to me are bookended and/or even eclipsed by the fact that Garak feels he's betrayed/hurt HIMSELF through those actions. It left me thinking that the crux of the situation was rooted in him having to choose between doing what was expected of him for Cardassia/Tain and his own conscience (which I very firmly think he does have, in spite of his cold-bloodedness in most situations), and that his betrayal of his own conscience ultimately led to his betrayal of Tain and Tain's vision of Cardassia (which I don't think Garak shared anymore by the time we meet him at DS9). No doubt either or both of these situations was tied to Bajorans in some way in his custody, and therefore demonstrating the truth hidden in his lies to Bashir.
Peter G.
Sat, Apr 29, 2017, 11:50pm (UTC -5)
An excellent observation, BoxyP.
Eric
Sun, May 7, 2017, 11:32pm (UTC -5)
Read A Stitch in Time immediately if you care at all about getting to the heart of the mystery that is Elim Garak!

/SPOILER!!!!

Garak's exile didnt have anything to do with the occupation of Bajor. He was in love with a married woman and had an illicit affair with her against Tain's explicit orders (Tain of course was also his father) . He ended up killing her husband after he found out and abducted Garak. He also innadvertantly killed Dukat's father during an unofficial Obsidian Order interrogation both of which led to his exposure to the Central Command, who ultimately exiled him.
Startrekwatcher
Thu, Jul 27, 2017, 10:20pm (UTC -5)
This is one of those episodes that come along every once in a while that is more of a dry academic character study and therefore isn't all that entertaining or involving keeping the audience at bay--or at least this audience member. I prefer character truths to be revealed in a more natural way than coming across as a character in a Petri dish
Chrome
Fri, Jul 28, 2017, 11:56am (UTC -5)
@Startrekwatcher

Yeah, well it's definitely low budget and could be considered a bottle episode. The one thing I will point out is that we never really know exactly what we learned from Garak in this episode, but it nevertheless brings out a ton of interesting stories in the series (eg. "Improbable Cause"). Your enjoyment will depend heavily on your opinion of Robinson's performance, but for what it's worth I consider this a great break-out episode for the man.
grumpy_otter
Tue, Aug 15, 2017, 6:53pm (UTC -5)
Most excellent episode. I had been getting a bit tired of Garak prior to this with his little hints and murmurs, which i found tedious; this episode played it perfectly. He reveals a bit, then a bit that seems different, a bit more--and then it turns out to be all true. I immediately thought as Blake W. pointed out--that Garak had told the truth with every story and it showed his journey to exile.

I LOVED Tain--I thought Paul Dooley struck the perfect note. He is apparently quite the murderous villain (or maybe not--we aren't quite sure what the Obsidian Order did) but he is definitely one of those people who has information coming to him from everywhere. He was scary without being diabolical.

I absolutely LOVED that he didn't make Bashir beg for the cure--some sorts of villains would toy with him just for the fun of it--Tain isn't that type. Based on the credits we'll see Tain again--that makes me glad.

Stunning performances in a stunning episode.
Rahul
Thu, Apr 5, 2018, 3:32pm (UTC -5)
Wow - quite an episode with a masterful performance from Andrew Robinson. And this was the best episode for the Bashir character so far -- a character that has been slow to find his footing. Lots to love here -- the writing, the characters and really starting to flesh out Cardassia and its Obsidian Order as a totalitarian/fascist state.

But the best part is (sort of) getting more info on Garak, the most mysterious but enjoyable character on DS9 for me. Of course at the end we don't know what's true and what's not -- but that's the whole point. And Bashir makes an excellent subject to be put through the grinder trying to save Garak's life while also trying to unravel his mystery. Bashir's doggedness to his profession is admirable -- beating back Odo and doing literally everything under the sun to save Garak.

Robinson said "The Wire" was his favorite DS9 episode -- I thought it might be "In the Pale Moonlight" -- but I can see why he says this. Robinson goes through the range of emotions (suffering, outright fury, his usual self, disgust etc.) and pulls it all off brilliantly. An actor wants to play a part like this one.

Have to say Tain is a good character too -- nice of him to help save Garak's life so he could suffer more on DS9! Intriguing that Garak was part of the OO and has been exiled on DS9 and this is torture for him given what he could have been on Cardassia (not to mention the environmental conditions etc. on DS9) -- that much is compelling enough for backstory. I suppose it doesn't really matter how he got exiled. The Elim thing must mean some way in which Garak screwed himself.

There was so much good character stuff and backstory that the episode just grazed the subject of drug addiction, withdrawal symptoms as well -- the closer where Garak is back to his old self and back to confounding Bashir kind of puts an end to that.

One curious bit: The Cardassian drink kanar is a blue liquid here but it's more syrupy and brown in later DS9 seasons. Wonder why...

3.5 stars for "The Wire" -- the kind of episode only DS9 could make out of all the Trek series with one of the best recurring actors in Andrew Robinson. Really intriguing story since we all wanted to know about Garak's history. Siddig turns in a great performance for Bashir as well. The episode also brings us the OO and further casts the Cardassian society as one to fear; also as Garak tears into Bashir for his Federation ideals. Awesome stuff that gets it done without a big budget and special effects or action scenes.
Rahul
Fri, Apr 6, 2018, 12:21pm (UTC -5)
One other comment to add to my prior comment about how this episode is critical for fleshing out Cardassian society. The writers likely intended to portray Cardassia as an Orwellian society (which becomes even more clear in "Tribunal") but I find it quite prescient for back in the mid-90s as an analogy of what today's Chinese communist regime is like. China is moving toward an "eye in the sky" system.

In the opener when Garak and Bashir are going for lunch, the doctor basically says he's unimpressed with "Never-ending Sacrifice" -- the most famous Cardassian work of literature. Bashir calls it repetitive. In response Garak lashes out about Bashir's Federation dogma and the Cardassian's duty to the state.

What I take from this is that given the authoritarian state Cardassia is, it affects the quality of their art (literature, in this case) when assessed critically from an outsider's point of view (Bashir). Traditional culture and art were divinely inspired (on Earth) but a society that puts the state first would challenge that and thus create art devoid of soul or feeling. A real world example: This is seen in the types of touring dance performances put on by Chinese regime these days -- just focused on acrobatics. If that is compared with something that tries to revive traditional divinely inspired Chinese culture (like the privately produced Shen Yun) the viewer feels what the regime puts out is garbage -- and this is has overwhelmingly proven to be the case.

The Cardassians duty to the state vs. the Bajorans divine / spiritual belief in the Prophets -- The Cardassian occupation is further fuelled especially when considering the completely opposing beliefs regarding the divine and culture. The whole things is a very fitting analogy that rings true on multiple levels -- credit to the writers for doing their homework.
Peter G.
Fri, Apr 6, 2018, 12:29pm (UTC -5)
@ Rahul,

Another takeaway we can make about The Never-Ending Sacrifice is that its repetition no doubt takes on a relentless quality. Garak describes it as a work of art in how it portrays repeatedly that the state comes first and that your duty is to be ground under its wheels. I think there's some very subtle subtext here that the book is government-sponsored propaganda and that Cardassians are basically required to claim they love it regardless of their actual inner feelings. It's not so much clear to me that Garak actually enjoys the book, so much as recognizes it as being a masterpiece in Cardassian statesmanship. It serves its purpose (in cowing the populace) better than other works do, and so functionally it is a "masterpiece". This is the evaluation as coming from a member of the Obsidian Order, not an art critic.

Also I have to wonder whether the writers were deliberately riffing on The Neverending Story when they named it, which was very popular in the 80's. That story, which is about the little guy using the power of hope of positive spirit, to overcome overwhelming oppressive forces. It's pretty much the diametric opposite of what The Neverending Sacrifice sounds like, so it might be deliberate satire.
Jason R.
Fri, Apr 6, 2018, 2:49pm (UTC -5)
On the subject of the Neverending Story, the book had characters in Fantasia destroyed by a force called "the Nothing" which transformed them from works of the imagination into lies and propaganda in the real world. In essence, the antagonist of the first half of the story (which was the whole of the first movie) was nothing less than the triumph of institutions like the Cardassian state and the Obsidian Order.

I never made this connection before until Peter raised it but it's a cool reference.
Lupe
Mon, May 7, 2018, 7:32pm (UTC -5)
It's emblematic of the quality of DS9 that a supporting player like Garak (who at this stage in the series was almost unutilised) would, in Voyager, or Enterprise, have been the show's strongest character.
William B
Mon, May 7, 2018, 7:56pm (UTC -5)
Although, one can also make the case that Garak is also DS9's strongest character.
Chrome
Tue, May 8, 2018, 11:06am (UTC -5)
Is William B making that case?

I suppose the show's frontrunners in terms of strength are:

1. Sisko
2. Kira
3. Odo
4. Garak
Peter G.
Tue, May 8, 2018, 11:14am (UTC -5)
@ Chrome,

I'm surprised to see someone else put Sisko high up; the objections to him on this board seem to never cease. I thought I was the only one who respected his work. I agree with you on Kira and Odo among the regulars (they would be my # 1 & 2), and worthy mention is Quark for levity, less so for heavy dramatic scenes where he's weaker. O'Brien also never gets the recognition he deserves since his performance is so understated, but oh man does Meaney always deliver the goods.
Chrome
Tue, May 8, 2018, 11:40am (UTC -5)
@Peter G.

I didn't mean to rank them, although I must admit that as I was making the list of strong characters I went by the first characters that popped into my head to claim the title. I mean, yes I get that Brooks goes over the top sometimes, but there's a lot of passion and charisma to his performance as if he enjoys doing a role he was made to play.

Like you say, most of the supporting cast are great, especially O'Brien, Quark, and Worf. But I kind of feel like those characters are sort of statically good throughout the show whereas you see some huge character development arcs connected directly to DS9's premise for the ones I listed above.
William B
Tue, May 8, 2018, 12:42pm (UTC -5)
William B is making that case -- sort of. I guess I'd say that Garak is my favourite character and Robinson gives my favourite performance, but maybe I'd give Odo the edge in terms of character arc, both for greater screentime and for more transformations. Garak is not actually static -- he does change throughout the show, as a result of what happens with Tain -- but a lot of his story is about stripping away the layers for the audience, rather than for his own self-image (the way it is with Odo). Odo's my #1 among the regulars. I'm not sure how I'd rank the others. Kira is certainly high but I'm not sure if she'd be #2 or not.

I agree that Meaney is terrific -- and also that O'Brien is somewhat static as a character. That isn't a problem at all -- not everyone should be going through life-changing transformations all the time. I think that of the regulars, Meaney and Auberjonois are my favourite performers.

Next time I watch DS9 I might try harder to get into Sisko. I like Brooks' energy and performance some of the time, and I think I was maybe too hard on the character (both in terms of criticizing the character's actions and in terms of how he was written) when going through the series a few years ago. Something just wasn't clicking, but a lot of it might just have been something about me rather than something about Sisko. The places where I feel closest to him are probably in some of his big season six shows (Far Beyond the Stars, In the Pale Moonlight, Rocks and Shoals) and a few other places, like Paradise Lost, The Visitor and maybe The Maquis two-parter, but a lot of the time I just felt alienated from him and I'm not positive why.
Peter G.
Tue, May 8, 2018, 2:48pm (UTC -5)
@ William B,

I would argue that the reason a lot of people can't connect with Sisko is that his character story challenges the audience. He's not there to entertain you or to let you sit back and hear fancy speeches. He's a regular man (by Federation standards) going through a bad time. The first time we meet him his entire story isn't where he's going, but the fact that he's stuck in the past , a problem not yet seen on Trek. The challenge here is that the audience is being asked to identify with *his* problem, which is a personal thing to him and not some general philosophy thing or Trek optimism-ideal. For those in the audience unwilling or unable to take that leap and feel his pain they're going to but shut out of most of the purpose of the pilot and certainly the first season for him. Without that in the background what we find in Sisko is a reasonable, and to an extent regular family man - regular by Federation standards, anyhow. He's no Picard, and isn't supposed to be some kind of fancy exemplar; he's a man in a tough situation trying to bring people together, and this is also a tie-in to the oppression/oppressed angle of the show, where he (as a black man) is a stand-in among humans for the Bajoran situation and how this is meant to reflect on black people in America to a large extent and how hard it is to rebuild. This narrative isn't necessarily so appealing to people not living in that world, and certainly not if we're looking to Kirk, Picard, and later Janeway for 'exciting' Captains. Sisko isn't like that, he's way too down-to-Earth compared to them to have that kind of flair. Actually that's what I like about him; unlike the other Captains, I can actually envision knowing him and liking him as a friend in real life.

I'm not trying to imply, by the way William, that you do or don't fit into what I'm saying; my main point is that Sisko isn't as accessible because he his life choices aren't as flashy as those of other Captains. Maybe people are who fathers - or would like to be fathers - can relate to him more, because part of his characterization is about losing family and raising his son as a single parent. Or maybe it just takes being older. I remember when the show first aired I thought he was boring; I was a teenager then. Once I was in my 20's I realized how kickass a dad he is, and what a moral centre he provides without getting on a soapbox about humanity. Now that I'm even older I respect him more still, and of course there's the throw-in of Brooks also being a singer and pianist, which as an artist merits additional admiration. I can see the passion for the subject matter in his work, just like in American History X, but I do think that after Shatner and Steward there was some unsolved issue about performance style that he and the writers never quite tackled. It seems to me that they alternatively wrote him as a (1) regular family man, (2) baddass who you wouldn't want to mess with, (3) a guy with temper issues, (4) occasionally a larger-than-life guy who takes out the trash, and (5) peacemaker who prefers reasonable mediation to fancy solution.

Many of these work well together but sometimes they don't, and I can see Brooks on occasion feeling like he has to 'elevate' his performance to meet what they wrote for him, for instance in Waltz or in "For the Uniform". To that extent I think there was a bit of directoral schizophrenia going on and I suspect that he wasn't entirely sure how to present his performance sometimes; is this the Shatner hour or the American History X real lessons hour? Sometimes neither, sometimes both, so it may have been difficult to solve. Of all the performers, actually, the only ones who seemed settled into the style instantly were O'Brien, for obvious reasons since he just continued what he did on TNG, and Garak. Miraculously Garak hit a home run on his first go and was running from square one. The others needed more time but none of them was the star of the show so they didn't have the same leadership necessity that Sisko did to set a tone. Tough job!
Yanks
Tue, May 8, 2018, 8:33pm (UTC -5)
@ Peter G.
Tue, May 8, 2018, 2:48pm (UTC -5)
@ William B,

"I would argue that the reason a lot of people can't connect with Sisko is that his character story challenges the audience."

I don't believe that at all. I'd say the reason is directly tied to Abery's acting ability. I wasn't looking for Picard type speeches from Sisko. It was obvious from the start they wanted to separate the two. As they should have. Much like they did with Kirk and Picard.
William B
Wed, May 9, 2018, 12:55pm (UTC -5)
@Peter,

Maybe. I mean, I think you're right that this is the cause of some people's disconnect with Sisko. I don't quite think that's my problem -- although it's not impossible. I think that the series as a whole possibly has a tempestuous relationship with how admirable Sisko is supposed to be. On the one hand, as you say, he starts in a relatively small scale position compared to previous leads and his anger and speedy judgments about people are a clear contrast to Picard's more measured diplomatic approach. Relatedly, I suppose, the main cast largely has cordial but more distant relationships with Sisko than we see on the other shows, besides Jake, Dax and Kira. On the other, the series does eventually seem to make Sisko one of the primary decision makers for the quadrant, and so the show still does sort of re-inflate Sisko's stature, and many of his big decisions pass with very little push back (eg saving the Cardassian government in Way of the Warrior, basically starting the war in Call to Arms) in a way that would only make sense if he's meant to be a more traditionally "always right" figure. I think the general intent is to show that Sisko happened to be in a place that turned out to be very important, but the weight he receives still seems out of proportion with the "just a guy doing a job" aspects of the character. Don't get me wrong, I like Sisko in eps like Paradise Lost or In the Pale Moonlight, but something doesn't quite click for me in the way the show goes between having him be the protagonist of both a major war and also religious battle and he's still also the small scale guy who has baseball rivalries with Vulcans. A more realistic narrative would probably have Sisko necessarily have a smaller role in the Federation decision making process and a more mythic story would probably have to remove some of the everyday man elements.

Even as I write this, I think this is an incomplete answer, because I am a fan of many narratives which balance the everyday and mythic and characters who do the same -- and indeed there are many characters within DS9 where I think they balance these banal and mythic qualities in ways that work for me! But it is maybe close to what I find a bit alienating about Sisko, some sort of feeling that we are both supposed to see him as a flawed mortal and a more archetypical hero. Maybe this ties in with Sisko as father, because fathers fulfill both those functions for their children at different times -- as do messiahs who can be both flesh and divine, as in his role for the Bajorans who, at least in Kira's case, do seem to see him as both a flawed person and a sort of divine moral authority.
William B
Wed, May 9, 2018, 1:01pm (UTC -5)
I'll add: one of the reasons Far Beyond the Stars is my favorite Sisko episode is because I think it genuinely gets this duality and expresses it in a way I get, emotionally. Russell and Sisko are both a version of the same ordinary/extraordinary man, and each version is "ordinary" within his own context but with a difficult, extraordinary job, and is also extraordinary within the context of the other (Benny is author/God/creator of Sisko's universe; Sisko is an archetypal inspiration within Benny's). Nowhere else do I feel like I fully get how Sisko is both archetype hero and ordinary man. Other places I feel like I can mostly just see one at a time, and I'm not sure if this is my lack as an audience, or instability in Brooks' performance, or the writing, or what. But it does work completely for me in at least one episode, which is something.
Peter G.
Wed, May 9, 2018, 1:25pm (UTC -5)
@ Yanks,

You and many others refer to Brooks' acting ability, and yet on screen it's clear as day to me that he's present, living the situation, and replying to people with a measured quality that belies thinking things through. That's good acting in my book, however what it lacks in S1-2 is a lot of verve, or shall we say gusto. It's so measured that one might almost wonder whether this is a real person in an office rather than a fictional hero-type character. He doesn't play it like a hero, but rather like an office manager some of the time, and that goes to stylistic choices to me. I think he was going for 'regular guy' and what the show needed a bit more was 'great leader', and later in the series the pendulum probably swung too far in the other direction going at times over the top (in the writing as well). Which leads to William's comment...

@ William B,

I think you're right in a way, and this sort of refers back to my comments about style. Just who is this guy supposed to be? I think a big change came when Brooks was told he'd be the Captain of the Defiant, bringing him into a role more similar to the other Captains, and right around then there's a change in tone in how he plays the scenes - a bit more rambunctious, whimsical at times, even daring. Actually I think the turning point for him was S1's Dramatis Personae, where he got to play a zany part but where we were (I think) supposed to gather that these extreme traits were actually exaggerations of really present traits in the characters; Sisko's obsession and belief in larger things that seem weird to others, O'Brien's caution, Kira's defiance, Jadzia's tendency to buckle under and be led by stronger personalities (Curzon's, specifically). In this case I can see signs of Sisko's 'crazy alter-ego' in later episodes where small parts of that characterization seemed to become part of Sisko's personality bible. It probably didn't help that they were pushing him in that direction with the writing anyhow.

But this was all going on alongside the Babylon 5 - DS9 culture wars, and the matter you bring up of regular guy / messiah hearkens back to comparisons between him and Sinclair/Sheridan. That was *exactly* the character description of both of them (since Sheridan took over Sinclair's storyline), of a simple background and in a way folksy tone, with larger-than-life messianic roles to play and incredible influence to their worlds. From this standpoint I have to believe that Behr got wrapped up in all this and slowly shifted Sisko into Sheridan-land, to the point where we get shades of B5's "Falling Towards Apotheosis" where 'good and evil energy beings battle' in DS9's Rapture where much the same happens, substituting Vorlons for Wormhole aliens. Can we doubt also that Sisko's final fall in the fire caves is a strong echo of Sheridan falling at Za'ha'dum? So if we take these things into account I think we end up with at least a partial explanation of why Brooks seems to sometimes be portraying a regular father and sometimes a champion of the quadrant. Those aren't incompatible, but the "always right" hero isn't what they started out with and it seems like that got pushed into the mix. Actually that's why In the Pale Moonlight works so well for me; it suggests the Sisko who isn't perfect and tries to find solutions that are both moral and reasonable, and here he had to take an approach that was neither moral nor reasonable, and yet he knew it would win them the war. *That* is the story of a regular man in a crazy situation.
William B
Wed, May 9, 2018, 2:11pm (UTC -5)
@Peter,

I don't really know B5 -- it's on my list, I swear! -- but I think your general point makes sense to me. And I agree about ItPM, and partly it's because while Starfleet (somewhat improbably imo) gives Sisko's initial plan the go-ahead, it is in secret that Sisko and Garak eventually extend this into what actually happens, and we don't have to then buy that everyone around Sisko accepts what he did, the way we do for his more public decisions. It's not that I think everyone would be against his actions, so much as that they would obviously merit discussion. However, since it's in secret and we're not exactly asked to approve so much as understand (and make up our own minds), it avoids the impression that we're supposed to see him as a kind of God among men.
Peter G.
Wed, May 9, 2018, 2:25pm (UTC -5)
@ William,

It's hard to understand DS9's arc without seeing how it evolved alongside B5. And - I take a liberty saying this - I would suggest to you that you'd be wasting time to re-watch more Trek series when you haven't seen B5 yet. I say this as someone who respects your thoughts, insofar as B5 is something you need to have seen as a sci-fi fan. However I'll preface this by mentioning that while B5 spearheaded purely CGI visual effects a result of these early experiments is that S1's CGI leaves something to be desired. It looks much better in later seasons, but mitigating this issue is that fact that it was operating on a small fraction of Star Trek's budget.

I tend to prevaricate on which I prefer between DS9 and B5, and right now I lean towards B5 but that changes. Actually one of the strong points for DS9 to me is - ironically - Sisko's down-to-Earth real-life type presence, where I really get the feel that these could be real people in a strange situation. B5's characters, while awesome, have more of the mythical quality to them, which to be fair is likely a design intent.
William B
Thu, May 10, 2018, 11:13am (UTC -5)
@Peter, thanks for the recommendation. What I will say about my recent watchings of Trek over the last few years is that my now-wife (then girlfriend) started TNG a few years ago for the first time, and so I've been slowly watching them with her, for the first time since my adolescence (except for isolated episodes), and so it's largely because of her having not seen them that I've been revisiting them recently. Now one could say that not just I but *she* would get a lot more out of watching Babylon 5 than Voyager, and that's probably true :), but still I wanted to see how my take compared from all those years ago and she was interested, and there is enough worthwhile about Voyager despite its considerable flaws that we're glad we went through it. I don't really think that we're going to watch Enterprise, though, and, well, the jury's out on Discovery but we haven't really been clambering to watch it. We haven't been watching much in the way of TV shows lately actually, but I'll let you (/the board) know if/when we give B5 a shot.

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