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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99 comments on this review

John
Sat, Jun 16, 2012, 3:47am (UTC -6)
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 -6)
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 -6)
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 -6)
This has to be 4 stars.
Zane314
Mon, Dec 10, 2012, 6:27pm (UTC -6)
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 -6)
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 -6)
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 -6)
@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 -6)
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 -6)

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

8/10
Blake W
Tue, Dec 17, 2013, 2:44pm (UTC -6)
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 -6)
4 stars and a turtle! (:
Yanks
Tue, Jul 1, 2014, 7:02am (UTC -6)
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 -6)
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 -6)
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 -6)
@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 -6)
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 -6)
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 -6)
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 -6)
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 -6)
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 -6)
4 stars, definitely. I'll see about writing something at some point, hopefully....
MsV
Wed, Sep 16, 2015, 3:28am (UTC -6)
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 -6)
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 -6)
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 -6)
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 -6)
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 -6)
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 -6)
@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 -6)
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 -6)
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 -6)
An excellent observation, BoxyP.
Eric
Sun, May 7, 2017, 11:32pm (UTC -6)
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 -6)
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 -6)
@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 -6)
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 -6)
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 -6)
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 -6)
@ 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 -6)
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 -6)
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 -6)
Although, one can also make the case that Garak is also DS9's strongest character.
Chrome
Tue, May 8, 2018, 11:06am (UTC -6)
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 -6)
@ 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 -6)
@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 -6)
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 -6)
@ 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 -6)
@ 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 -6)
@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 -6)
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 -6)
@ 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 -6)
@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 -6)
@ 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 -6)
@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.
Iceman
Fri, Jul 27, 2018, 9:33pm (UTC -6)
"The Wire" is a work of structural genius (No, not the overrated TV show). Writer Robert Hewitt Wolfe lays it out for the audience in the teaser when Garak and Bashir discuss the concept of a Cardassian repetitive epic-the same story at its core, but told in different ways. That's exactly what links all three of Garak's stories in this episode. Each of them analyze Garak's thoughts, fears, and complicated feelings about the Obsidian Order, what it means to be a Cardassian, and the Occupation. One could go on for paragraphs about how intricately structured and well executed this episode is, but I'm not talented enough of a writer, and I'm sure Elliott's got me covered. I'll conclude by also complementing the exceptionally tight scripting and Andrew J. Robinson's knockout performance, both of which also add to the quality of the episode besides its head-crushing character depth and incredible thematic structure.

4 stars.
Elliott
Thu, Aug 16, 2018, 12:59pm (UTC -6)
Teaser : *** , 5%

In an unusually subdued introduction (for Star Trek), Garak and Bashir are doing us the service of continuing my long-awaited slash fic. Bashir just finished reading, on Garak's suggestion, “The Never-Ending Sacrifice,” better known by its alternative title, “Here Be the Thematic Foreshadowing.” Bashir wasn't a fan, but Garak is more concerned with the claustrophobic atmosphere available to them for their lunch date. Garak describes the novel's form as “the repetitive epic” (considered highly elegant in Cardassian culture). Bashir's distaste for the work is attributed to human prejudice and dogma by our enigmatic tailor. More on that later.

Garak is overcome with symptoms, but won't be taken to the infirmary. He leaves the doctor in a huff. And then Nana Visitor has ruin the scene with the hackneyed “What was that all about?” cue to credits.

Garak/Bashir scenes were islands of relief from the gastrointestinal distress that were many an episode in season 1, so I am already elated to see this little saga continue.

Act 1 : ***, 17%

Dax' flagellating buttplug, I mean, alien cactus, is sick. Bashir helps her keep it alive, but he's frustrated that Garak's problem doesn't come to him as quickly or easily.

BASHIR: Making me guess about his past is one thing, but when it comes to his health?

Well...one's health problems are often the product of one's past, are they not? Jadzia thinks he should probably let it go. Bashir quite unconvincingly agrees.

We never really got a resolution to the Quark/Garak dynamic from “Profit and Loss” (one of the few redeeming aspects of that story), so it definitely piques my interest to see them chatting covertly. Well, semi-covertly. Bashir is observing. Quark is promising Garak some “merchandise.” When Bashir confronts the Ferengi, he's his usual dissembling self. Quark makes a pass at him, brandy and a little late-night holosuite action, but Julian only has eyes for Garak. Speaking of which, I should have mentioned earlier that it was damned refreshing not to have Dr Hormone humping Jadzia's leg in the earlier scene. Praised be.

The next day, presumably, Sisko is leaving the infirmary having been treated for anger management or whatever. O'Brien steps in. Bashir wants his help accessing the old Cardassian medical files. Miles can't offer much, but it's moot for now, Quark calls Bashir down to his bar, urgently.

Garak is all liquored up, trying to numb himself. Bashir says they ought to drink somewhere more quiet...Garak says, “we'll go to my quarters...” Man this fanfic is getting *good*. But before things can get *too* good, Garak is overcome by his combination headache-impending hangover and collapses.

Act 2 : ***, 17%

Bashir discovers that Garak has some sort of implant in his skull, connected to his nervous system. Odo can only speculate that it's some sort of Cardassian punishment device. Bashir wants Odo to get some answers from Quark, and Odo is more than happy to try given his own Gestapo-esque needs and Quark's recent communiqués with Cardassia Prime. I'm sorry, did I say “Gestapo”? Obviously, that was too harsh. Odo is just monitoring the communications of whomever he suspects of being a threat against station security in flagrant disregard for the law. No big deal, right? Ah well, Odo invites Bashir along to his little NSA larp at Quark's after hours.

Quark is making his call to a Cardassian officer, Bohika, who remembers the Dabbo girls, and Quark, quite fondly. Quark wants the specs on a biotechnical device—obviously Garak's implant. When the requisition number triggers an alarm on Bohika's end, the man goes apeshit, terrified that his inquiry for classified technology will mean his ruin, or worse. Who classified this technology? Bohika hams for the camera a moment before revealing, “The Obsidian Order.”

Constable Exposition is good enough to explain to Bashir that the Obsidian Order is Cardassia's Orwellian spy network, ever vigilant and observant of the terrified population. Obviously, Odo is quite envious of the OO's freedom to spy on and arrest people at their whim. Odo even name-drops the “Tal Shiar” for TNG fans who might remember “Face of the Enemy” from the previous year. Bashir deduces that Garak is trying to figure out how to remove the device, still assuming it's meant to punish him. But when he goes back to the infirmary, Garak has already left.

Act 3 : ***.5, 17%

Bashir makes a housecall. He forces his way into Garak's quarters to find him taking copious amounts of some sort of narcotic (which I assume he stole from the infirmary). Bashir may be concerned about his, erm, friend, but he definitely takes just a little bit of pleasure informing him that his plan to smuggle in “the item” through Quark has fallen apart. Garak routinely makes Julian feel like an ignorant child, so there's a certain satisfaction when his cleverness doesn't pay off. Bashir thinks Garak is being prideful. Garak certainly does share this trait with other Cardassians we've seen, like Dukat and Macet, and of course, he's very proud of Cardassian literature and culture as we were reminded of in the teaser. But something else is going on here. Garak manages to laugh through the intense pain at the suggestion that the device is a punishment device. Garak is quite certain that the device can't be removed. He comes clean to Bashir: he was “entrusted with information” by the OO's leader, Tain. Tain gave Garak his device as a counter-torture device. Bashir leaps to the conclusion that since the implant is causing him pain, it must be malfunctioning. Garak seems to confirm this by explaining that the implant was not meant for continuous use. Garak has been using the device to alleviate the pain of daily existence on DS9, which he describes as torture. Something is off about his explanation, however. He claims that he gradually got himself addicted to the endorphins generated by the implant unto the point he just left it on *two years* ago. That would of course be the time when the Cardassians pulled out of Bajor. Why then, was he already using the device beforehand?

But Julian isn't here to play detective—not really. His concern for Garak's wellbeing, tested by Garak's cold dismissal of their alleged friendship, overshadows everything else. Remember, in the Garak/Bashir dynamic, Bashir wears the Roddenberry hat with aplomb.

GARAK: Oh, please, Doctor. I'm suffering enough without having to listen to your smug Federation sympathy. Do you think because we have lunch together once a week, you know me? You couldn't even begin to fathom what I'm capable of.
BASHIR: I'm a doctor. You're my patient. That's all I need to know.

Garak reveals that he used to be a Gul with an aide called Elim. During the Occupation, Garak had Elim and dozens of Cardassian civilians killed in order to capture some escaping Bajoran prisoners. One of the Cardassians was connected to an important politician who saw to it Garak was exiled. Bashir is aghast. But, Garak is his patient and Bashir gets him to give up the triggering device.

Act 4 : ****, 17%

The Cardassian computer can't account for continued degradation on account of a lack of data on Cardassian physiology. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Odo pays a Garak a lovely visit to, you know, interrogate the hell out of him before he dies. Bashir won't hear of it. While this may be a Garak episode, these little bits with Bashir are SO important for his character, which so far has not been very impressive. Essentially, the writers are grafting on traits from previous Trek CMOs; Bones (utter determination to save the patient), Crusher (empathy which overrides judgementally), and Pulaski (medical ethics superseding legal concerns). I'm not at all bothered by these additions, because in so doing, DS9 is transforming Bashir into a sort of hub for genuine Trekkian ideas. The other Federation main characters don't really possess them: Sisko's bitterness and opportunism make him more of an antihero; Dax' cosmopolitan nature divorces her in many ways from the ethics of the Federation, she's quite open to the moral codes of Klingons and Ferengi; and O'Brien doesn't engage with lofty ideas and has been known to spurn Federation ideals in times of trauma, like the Cardassian War.

After deactivating the implant, Bashir keeps vigil over Garak in a lovely little montage that gives the composer a chance to stretch his musical muscles just a bit, which is nice. Eventually, Garak awakens in extreme pain, somewhat deranged and rather crazed. In his tirade (an absolutely chilling performance), Garak retcons his backstory from the previous scene. He reveals that actually, he let some Bajoran waifs go free rather than continuing to imprison and torture them as Tain had ordered. Elim thought he was insane. He regrets this empathy which led to his exile. He pushes hard against Bashir, framing their time together as the pitiful highlights of a miserable life, exclaiming that he hates the good doctor, and finally, tackling him before having some sort of seizure. Bashir manages to stabilise him, but there is still a mysterious build-up of toxins in Garak's system. He thinks he might have a solution—one that will take time—time which can be bought by turning the implant back on. That, however, Garak will not countenance.

Garak is now demure, apologetic, grateful and sweet. He offers Bashir “the truth.” The retcon goes like this: Elim and Garak weren't master and aide, they were the best of friends, brother spies, the “sons of Tain” (he took a liking to the boys). It wasn't *Garak* who let some Bajoran prisoners escape, but someone in the OO did. Garak is very deliberate in mentioning that Tain couldn't protect Garak from the implication that he was the guilty party because he had retired to a place called Erowath (I think that's in Middle Earth somewhere). So Garak tried to frame Elim for the crime, but Elim beat him to the punch. Garak wants Bashir to forgive him for betraying Elim. Bashir is astute enough to see that Garak is still lying, but believes that on some level, Garak does want Bashir to forgive him for something before he dies. And so he does. But Bashir isn't done, he intends to find Tain himself and discover a cure.

So he travels to Erowath, and is greeted by an older Cardassian man, presumably Tain.

Act 5 : ****, 17%

Tain already knows who Bashir is and why he's come. Tain provided Bashir the means to easily enter Cardassian space, knows how he takes his tea. The man is a master spy, retired or not, and a good host.

Tain gets to it pretty quickly.

TAIN: So do I. Tell me, Doctor, how sick is Garak?
BASHIR: He's dying.
TAIN: And you're trying to save him.
BASHIR: That's right.
TAIN: Strange. I thought you were his friend.
BASHIR: I suppose I am.
TAIN: Then you should let him die. After all, for Garak, a life in exile is no life at all.

Tain, merciful and caring mentor that he is, agrees to give Julian the information he needs, to keep Garak alive, and keep him suffering in exile and misery. Before he leaves, it's revealed that this Elim person is just Garak's first name. Brilliant.

Some time later, we must assume, Garak joins Bashir for lunch, makes some idle comments about food, and reassures Bashir that he hasn't changed a bit. He gives the doctor another “Here's Some Foreshadowing” novel which takes place in the future, where Cardassia and the Klingon Empire are at war. ooooooo

Bashir wants to know how much of Garak's backstory is true and how much is false. Garak has a simple answer for him: it's all true, most especially the lies. This is a great note to end on, but let's take a closer look at these lies:

Story 1: Garak was a ruthless enforcer of Cardassian power, killing his own people and horrifying his comrades with his willingness to do whatever was necessary for Tain, the OO and Cardassia.

Story 2 : Garak has a conscience, which he regrets, and which interferes with his desire to do whatever is absolutely necessary for the cause.

Story 3 : Garak betrayed “Elim” and he wants to be forgiven for his sins.

All of these stories, while false, reveal some truths about Garak:

1. He values the mentorship of Enabran Tain extremely highly; the man, despite holding Garak in contempt for whatever crime got him exiled, is like a father to him. Dukat and Macet have revealed to us the importance of family in Cardassian society, so this relationship is important.

2. He is conflicted. By creating the alter ego of Elim in his yarns to Bashir, Garak reveals that he has compartmentalised different facets of his personality. Garak is ruthless, but part of him cringes at what this requires. Garak is compassionate, but part of him sees this as a weakness. Garak is duplicitous, but part of him regrets this nature.

3. He is loyal to Cardassia. Garak's life has indeed been a Never-ending Sacrifice™, and his tale is as repetitive as it is epic. Day after day, year after year, generation after generation spent in loyal execution of one's duty to the state. At one point, Dukat will declare that he is “the only Cardassian,” in paraphrase of Sitting Bull. But I think we can already piece together that if anyone embodies the Cardassian ideal, as presented in its art and literature, that person would be Garak. Why, after all, didn't Garak just tell Bashir upfront that Tain could provide the cure? No, Garak laid a trail of breadcrumbs for Bashir to follow so that he could “solve the mystery” himself. Remember how proud Bashir was of himself, despite himself, to throw it in Garak's face that his secret Cardassian spy powers couldn't get him the solution he needed? Bashir's character flaw is that he needs to be a hero, and Garak expertly exploits this. At no point does he ask Bashir to go to Tain, or to cure him or help him in any way, except to “forgive him.”

Episode as Functionary : ****, 10%

I'm happy to report that this episode breaks the mould of far too-many a DS9 episode to date; the drama builds slowly to a very satisfying and intriguing resolution, rather than sabotaging a good set-up with a dubious conclusion. That said, the opening acts, while good, don't ever get past a gentle simmer. The mystery is competent and the character interactions are enjoyable, but there's something missing. The episode saves just a little too much of its sizzling mastery for the second half leaving the first part slightly too dull to be considered exceptional by me.

That said, the character work is marvellous. Both Garak and Bashir become full-fledged avatars for their respective cultures, and this is achieved with a masterful network of storytelling. The acting from Siddig and especially Robinson is truly breathtaking. And yet, despite how much is revealed to us here, mystery abounds regarding Garak's past, the nature of the Obsidian Order and Cardassian society, the details of the Occupation, and more.

Never tell the truth when a lie will do.

Final Score : ***.5
Chrome
Thu, Aug 16, 2018, 1:35pm (UTC -6)
@Elliot

Excellent review, I agree that Bashir and Garak begin to make great representatives for their respective cultures, which I think makes their discussions of Federation versus Cardassian culture all the more engaging.

One thing you didn’t mention that I thought I’d add is that Garak’s implant was effectively a painkiller like Vicodin with the accompanying negative consequences of becoming highly addictive on regular use. I like this touch because it retroactively explains why Garak is so cheery despite his isolation. It’s also a pretty interesting insight into pharmapsychology, which the DS9 writers show a surprisingly adept hand at portraying in this and several later DS9 episodes.
William B
Thu, Aug 16, 2018, 2:50pm (UTC -6)
@Elliott, great take on one of my favorite episodes.
Though,

"Dax' cosmopolitan nature divorces her in many ways from the ethics of the Federation, she's quite open to the moral codes of Klingons and Ferengi; and O'Brien doesn't engage with lofty ideas"

This is sort of a recurring theme of your take versus DS9 fans'. While I think Bashir is the series' main avatar for Roddenberrian ideals, I think Dax' multiculturalism and O'Brien's simple decency (and possibly Sisko too, but, put a cap on that) are also consistent with Trek. The Federation is meant to be pluralistic in terms of individual cultural values to a greater degree than, e.g., the 1960's American establishment, and both TOS and TNG emphasize the fundamental value of people we disagree with. Similarly, O'Brien's everyday kindness is evocative of the enlightened picture of humanity where ordinary people are meant to be more selfless, non-egoistic, kind and compassionate than "the average" person today. I think that the show rather shows different aspects of the Federation and what those flaws might be: Dax is non-chauvinistic and seeks to understand others, which can slide into dangerous moral relativism; O'Brien is kind and decent, and does not always deal well with a universe which requires more specific ethics, or which is too complex and cruel for an unpretentious good man; Bashir is idealistic, but is sometimes blinded by his need to be a hero in order to match his ideals. If one sees each as a representative of a different aspect of Federation values, the characters' strengths (and, inverting, the flaws) generally, and Blood Oath, Whispers ("O'Brien" is, as in most of his eps, a decent person unprepared for the forces he's dealing with) are some of the shows that really start looking under the hood.
Peter G.
Thu, Aug 16, 2018, 3:27pm (UTC -6)
Good points, William B.

"I think Bashir is the series' main avatar for Roddenberrian ideals"

I don't really agree with this, however. I would argue that *early Bashir* is the main avatar for a sort of naive version of Federation ideals; meaning, a naive version of what they would be like. And that comes wrapped all up in sexual adventurism like what we saw in TNG S1-2. To be even more specific, I would suggest that Bashir is a throwback to Roddenberry Trek circa the late 80's, which goes a long way towards justifying his obsession with sex. What he sort of wants to be is a Kirk or Riker, or at least that's his fantasy. Later Bashir, however, seems to take a much dimmer view on the simple naivete of mouthing Federation doctrines, even though fundamentally he does still believe in the Federation despite knowing that the people in it often don't live up to its ideals.

As such, I would suggest that Bashir is almost our representative of 'Trek that was' and how that Trek would view the process of 'looking under the hood', as you put it. I agree with you that the other characters do show other shades of the Federation that were often lacking in TNG's homogenized POV. Dax's multicultural admiration is a great example, and I think where Elliott is unfair to Sisko in calling him bitter and opportunistic it would be more realistic to say that he's got a gritty toughness to him that often lacks the spit and polish TNG had taught us to expect. And this gritty toughness, too, may well be an aspect of the Federation often overlooked in TNG except in exceptional episodes like Chain of Command, where sticking to your ideals isn't just about being all high and mighty, but sometimes involves pure dogged determination and sticking with it despite it often wearing on you. That's a totally real and valid aspect to keeping up moral virtue; it's not always pretty or glamorous. And then there's Jake, who I think represents another aspect of Federation life, which is the total innocence of being taken care of while not having to mind the cares that Starfleet officers do. This can be seen in both a positive and negative light, but surely there are many people on Earth who are just decent people who don't worry all that much and aren't necessarily entrenched in galactic affairs. And what you said about O'Brien sounds very good to me.

So I think all of these people embody certain aspects of the Federation, with Julian's version of it being, if anything, the dated version. But I don't mean dated as in obsolete, more like the version we've seen already and already understand so it doesn't really have to be explained to us. If anything his antics in the earlier seasons - of trying so hard to be a hero, and wanting all kinds of action (ahem) - are a borderline satire on TOS and TNG being about trying to be perfect heroes all the time; probably more applicable to TNG than TOS. In TNG they are constantly on the soapbox about how perfect they are, and as much as I love the series it does come off as immature and insolent in a way when paired up against the real world and how hard it is to live according to certain values *even if you are certain about them*. So I see Bashir's early annoyingness (which I really enjoy, btw) as being a gentle nudge in the ribs about how people like Kira and Odo probably would have assessed Crusher, LaForge, and Data. They thought they were getting much the same with Sisko but they were wrong about him precisely because he showed them that not everyone from the Federation walks around all-too-proud thinking everything's hunky dory. That's one reason I think Sisko is awesome, but I guess others like Elliott dislike him for exactly the same reason.
Elliott
Thu, Aug 16, 2018, 3:55pm (UTC -6)
@Peter G.

I am trying to take the series in order, not using future knowledge to inform character. The discussion of Sisko and his role in series probably can’t happen until a certain infamous episode in season 6. All I will say for now is that I’m well aware that your characterisation of how the characters and the series function is probably very close to the weiters’ intentions, but I have two big problems with that. 1. WHY do the writers see the TNG ethos as naïve? I find his horribly cynical and immature. The whole notion that human beings will always be as useless and irredeemable as your typical Shakespearean king is a trapping in fiction. Star Trek has always had a unique and welcome take on the human condition. I see no pressing need to undercut this vision. That said, 2. I don’t think the writers achieved their goal particularly well. Feel free to re-read my reviews up to now. I try to give Sisko his due when it’s earned, but I find the character very problematic.
William B
Thu, Aug 16, 2018, 4:40pm (UTC -6)
@Peter, I think that's somewhat what I meant. "Roddenberrian ideals" are most prominent, for better or worse, in TNG s1-2, because that's where Roddenberry had the most freedom to show all his views. "Federation ideals," of the sort we get more generally in TOS and TNG (and beyond) are more the product of multiple (authorial) views, including the tension of other writers, producers etc. figuring out how to apply Roddenberry in a way that is recognizable to them and to the audience, and the very fact that there had to be more compromises to get his way would lead to a more pluralistic series. I'm not saying that there are no proto-Dax characters in TOS, and O'Brien and his backstory literally comes from TNG. Bashir is extremely close to both Dax and O'Brien, which says to me that those characters are mostly the closest to other things that Roddenberry contributed to those series, but to some extent Bashir is "purer," for better and for worse.
Peter G.
Thu, Aug 16, 2018, 4:41pm (UTC -6)
@ Elliott,

"I am trying to take the series in order, not using future knowledge to inform character. The discussion of Sisko and his role in series probably can’t happen until a certain infamous episode in season 6."

Honestly, my view of Sisko as presented in my last comment pretty much rides on little else other than the scene in Emissary when Kira says outright Starfleet isn't used to getting its hands dirty, and Sisko tosses a piece of metal as he glares at her. "I am not who you expect I am, so get rid of your preconceptions." Her expectation might well have been on the mark for a great many Starfleet people, but she was barking up the wrong tree with him. The textured approach to character-portrayal is set up by him and the script as of the pilot and stays consistent with that throughout. So if his temper or other faults seem un-Trek, you should note that they're deliberate. Brooks intended to portray a real human being, not an idea or an ideal; so scars, grit and all get included. Heck, the series has as its premise that he's good man who's been broken by loss. How is it un-Trek to portray real people who aren't perfect?

"the series function is probably very close to the weiters’ intentions, but I have two big problems with that. 1. WHY do the writers see the TNG ethos as naïve? I find his horribly cynical and immature. The whole notion that human beings will always be as useless and irredeemable as your typical Shakespearean king is a trapping in fiction."

I think you've missed where they (or I?) think TNG was naive. It's not naive in its vision for how humanity can progress; that comes straight from TOS and I grew up on it. Where it's naive is in how it seems to portray that progress as happening. If you take TNG"s word for it, *it's already happened* and now people are just oh so good and wholesome by nature. But in my view (and I think the DS9 writers) that is a load of baloney. Utopian technological future is one thing, but only a fool would think this happens without sacrifice every single day, struggle, and relapses. What's special about Trek is that there's a way of talking through problems in civilized ways; but the portrayal of it all being easy is the ridiculous part. DS9 cuts that right to the quick and shows how hard it really can be to get over traumas, deal with things that can't be fixed quickly, and to keep vigilant in trying circumstances.

I see no need to take a critique like this can suppose it implies that humans are "useless and irredeemable", although it *does* mean that they will never simply be 'fixed' like turning on a switch.

"Feel free to re-read my reviews up to now. I try to give Sisko his due when it’s earned, but I find the character very problematic."

We agree on that. But I see that as being the design intent. I know you mean it in a slightly different way, but maybe try seeing him as a real person rather than a fictional representation of a point of view, or a literary device. One of the biggest remarks I've had watching DS9 as an adult is that Sisko seems like such a good guy, the sort I could actually be friends with. I respect him, but not as an icon - rather, as just a man who's respectable. I don't think I'd know what to do with Picard if I was in a room with him, but Sisko seems like someone you could actually talk to. Rather than seeing him as a failure of Trek ideal, maybe consider that Brooks wanted to show a real man in the future, more advanced than current men but still with a ways to go. Advanced, but not the paragon of virtue. Just a good man trying to do right but not always being given straightforward options of how to do that.
methane
Thu, Aug 16, 2018, 10:41pm (UTC -6)
"What's special about Trek is that there's a way of talking through problems in civilized ways; but the portrayal of it all being easy is the ridiculous part. DS9 cuts that right to the quick and shows how hard it really can be to get over traumas, deal with things that can't be fixed quickly, and to keep vigilant in trying circumstances. "

Yeah...TOS & TNG asserts that everything can be solved and healed in a week...solve the problems of one planet move onto the next. The planet you left lives happily ever after & any scars you personally received along the way are gone before the next week's adventure comes around. (Voyager's magical repairs & resupplies in-between episodes would take this idea to ridiculous extremes).

Now, there are some strong episodes of TNG refute this. Picard doesn't get over the Borg attack quickly. But those are the exception to the rule.

The whole premise of DS9 is that problems don't get solved in a week. Bajor isn't ready to join the Federation at the end of the pilot. Large scale problems aren't solved overnight. But the Federation doesn't give up, it gets to work, and tries to make things better.

With the possible exception of a few episodes (and you know which ones if you've seen the series), DS9 doesn't undermine the fundamental ideals associated with Star Trek. It does repeatedly attack (and sometimes mock) the idea that real-world application of those ideals is easy and quick.
Elliott
Fri, Aug 17, 2018, 12:24am (UTC -6)
@Patrick G.

"How is it un-Trek to portray real people who aren't perfect?"

It isn't. That's a strawman argument. Sisko has reasons to be disillusioned with Starfleet, given his backstory, but we haven't seen anything that would explain why he would shirk of Federation ideals. He and his son benefits from the money-less, ambition-driven, peace-loving society they live in. You are making the same mistake as the writers did which is to conflate "realness" with "contemporaneousness." Sisko is "real" in the 1993 sense, not the 24th-century sense. Making him a relatable 1990s guy is anachronistic and essentially gives the message: "Human evolution as previously described on Trek didn't really happen. We have been more or less the same for 300 years." Even out-of-universe, that is just ridiculous. It's just as silly as having Sisko behave the way does would be if he were a character in an historical fiction set in the 1750s--it doesn't fit.

"If you take TNG"s word for it, *it's already happened* and now people are just oh so good and wholesome by nature."

I don't know where you got this idea. It's not that people are "oh so good," it's that the fundamental structure of our economy and society have shifted. Human foibles are human foibles, but we aren't competing for resources, we aren't burdened by the need for possessions (because replicators make that moot). These sci-fi realities need to affect the setting and characters. If Sisko has a replicator, warp drive, dermal regenerators, etc. he should not behave like a guy from 1993.

"I don't think I'd know what to do with Picard if I was in a room with him, but Sisko seems like someone you could actually talk to. "

Everyone is entitled to their opinion and tastes, but I would take doing just about anything with Picard over Sisko any day of the week.

@methane

"Yeah...TOS & TNG asserts that everything can be solved and healed in a week...solve the problems of one planet move onto the next. The planet you left lives happily ever after & any scars you personally received along the way are gone before the next week's adventure comes around."

Eh...I think you're conflating the limitations of episodic television with the message of the show. Yes, the idea that large-scale problems can be solved in the confines of an episode is silly, but TV was different. The message of the show wasn't "This is easy," it was "You need to deal with problems from this angle."

I really do tire of the idea that all DS9 had to do was be the Eor of space to be considered more grounded or adult or whatever. I find the whole paradigm really arrogant, frankly.

@William B.

"The Federation is meant to be pluralistic in terms of individual cultural values to a greater degree than, e.g., the 1960's American establishment, and both TOS and TNG emphasize the fundamental value of people we disagree with."

I would argue this is only true within certain parameters. That pluralism is not anarchic; there are fundamental values which the Federation is unwilling to compromise, even in the name of co-existence. I think when Dax embraces Ferengi greed or Klingon vengeance, she pushes past this line. Don't get me wrong, in her case, I understand why the character goes to that place, and narratively, I don't have a problem with it, but she definitely doesn't signal Federation values to me.
Peter G.
Fri, Aug 17, 2018, 10:11am (UTC -6)
@ William B,

Then it sounds like we were saying something similar about "Roddenberrian ideals". Good we cleared that up!

@ Elliott,

"Sisko has reasons to be disillusioned with Starfleet, given his backstory, but we haven't seen anything that would explain why he would shirk of Federation ideals."

He doesn't shirk them. There are no facts in evidence in S1-2 that would support this premise.

"Making him a relatable 1990s guy is anachronistic and essentially gives the message: "Human evolution as previously described on Trek didn't really happen."

I think rather it addresses the question of whether it's that literally all of humanity had 'advanced' and there's no more work to do, or whether it's an individual effort. If the latter, Sisko would be an example of that effort in process. Being in a culture of advanced values doesn't mean you just automatically acquire them. All virtues need to be cultivated and maintained through work, and for some people it takes more work than for others.

"These sci-fi realities need to affect the setting and characters. If Sisko has a replicator, warp drive, dermal regenerators, etc. he should not behave like a guy from 1993. "

It sounds like you view Trek as a technological utopia, but I believe that wasn't Roddenberry's intent, nor that of most Trek writers. If anything technology is usually portrayed as something that caused more ills than it solved if not in the hands of evolved people. WWIII and the eugenics wars were examples of how helpful technology is if you're stuck in a modern mindset. The basic premise of Trek is that these debacles forced the *individuals* to advance themselves morally, which then made the tech safe in their hands. And that's one reason why they don't give advanced tech to younger races; they would likely destroy themselves with it. The message of Trek isn't that "one day we'll have it easy through technology" but rather "one day we'll be be responsible enough to use it wisely". And I think this is where you get stuck in your analysis, because if you view Trek is merely a technological utopia then, yes, anyone with problems is ipso facto a failure of a person. But if it's an individual moral progress, then it will be up to each and every person to make those strides and overcome the darker impulses. TOS makes it very clear that they all still have the dark impulses, but choose to the other path. In TNG we rarely see anything of that sort, and everyone is for the most part entirely tame. Not tameD, just tame. It's really convenient when you're a mild mannered person with no problems, but what about for others for whom it isn't so easy?

"Eh...I think you're conflating the limitations of episodic television with the message of the show. Yes, the idea that large-scale problems can be solved in the confines of an episode is silly, but TV was different."

In theory you're right, but in particular on TNG they often pushed the idea that a simple conversation or hearing 'the right answer' will be enough to solve a crisis. As many people today will tell you, being told 'the right answer' is seldom the actual solution to a moral or emotional crisis.

"I think when Dax embraces Ferengi greed or Klingon vengeance, she pushes past this line."

Blood Oath isn't a good example because it's overtly clear in that episode that what she does is wrong, and she basically knows it. But regarding the Ferengi, she has said of them that "they're fun", and I think she also sees fire in their lust for acquisition. There's a truth to find there, that energetic drive is a positive trait even if it's being pushed in the wrong direction (like greed). They may not have the ideal culture, but I don't see what's un-Trek about her enjoying what there is to enjoy about them and respecting them. If she quit Starfleet to start a business you might be on to something. But playing tongo with them and calling her out for lacking Federation ideals? Come on, man, Kirk and Scotty would have been all over that.

Chrome
Fri, Aug 17, 2018, 12:15pm (UTC -6)
@Peter G.

I’m nowhere as bothered by Sisko as Elliot but I can see where he’s coming from with his critical analysis of DS9 generally. As been discussed, DS9 likes to take ideals from TOS/TNG and really test them to their breaking point. As a matter of intellectual interest that sort of deconstruction itself isn’t a bad thing, but oftentimes in DS9 we get a murky message from an episode. Sometimes it feels like DS9’s writers keep trying to say “Remember that valuable ethics lesson you learned from TNG? That’s hogwash when applied to the real world as you’ll see...”. In other words, DS9 will not only test the lessons of earlier Treks, but they’ll rip those lessons apart. It seems, to me at least, some messages don’t need to be battered around and it’s nice to have a show with some very black and white clear messages for people to learn from. That’s why I think we can learn a lot from DS9 but only if we don’t let it undermine TOS and TNG completely.
Peter G.
Fri, Aug 17, 2018, 1:04pm (UTC -6)
@ Chrome,

That's a reasonable position to take. But can you give one or more clear examples of DS9 ripping apart TNG lessons, excluding a minor few infamous episodes?
Elliott
Fri, Aug 17, 2018, 1:43pm (UTC -6)
@Peter G.

Two examples that spring to mind immediately (and please note, this has nothing to do with my assessment of the quality of these episodes):

1. "Hard Time"--O'Brien reaches the conclusion that what he had been taught about evolved humanity wasn't true, because after seeming to endure endless years of imprisonment, he found himself unable to live by human ideals. That actual conclusion one can draw from his experience is, imprisoning and torturing people fucks them up, but the writers wanted to take a dig at the Roddenberry ethic without any real justification.

2. "In the Cards"--Nog reaches the conclusion that the human ethic of not needing things isn't true, because the DS9 crew all want things that they can't have without trading for something. Instead of the obvious, "Hey, my dad would really like this thing, maybe I can wait tables at Quark's for a week so I can get him this luxury item that will bring him a little joy." It's "Obviously, currency-based economics is superior to your doe-eyed socialism, naïve little humOn."

To your other points:

"He doesn't shirk them. There are no facts in evidence in S1-2 that would support this premise."

In the first two seasons, Sisko regularly lies, obfuscates and blackmails people to get what he wants.

"Being in a culture of advanced values doesn't mean you just automatically acquire them. All virtues need to be cultivated and maintained through work, and for some people it takes more work than for others...It sounds like you view Trek as a technological utopia."

No, not a utopia, but there are tangible consequences to having certain technologies. Having repilcators doesn't make humans perfect, but it does eliminate the need for competition over resources. There is literally no way to keep up with the Joneses because all our "stuff" is free. This is a fundamental change in society. I don't have a problem with Sisko not being as virtuous as Picard, but there has to be a motivation for it. Look at "The Maquis" from the previous week; the idea of human terrorists isn't impossible in Star Trek, but there has to be a motivation! Humans aren't religious and they live post scarcity, so the usual motivators for terrorism *cannot* exist in this universe. In "Journey's End," the set-up had to do with some vague spiritual connection to the land. That is the closest thing we get to a motivation for these people. That being the case, their actions are not morally-justified. They are behaving incredibly immaturely and selfishly, yet we are meant to be "both-sides"ing it.

If DS9 was going to do this thing where they test Federation values, then they had to create a justified context for it. I think that they partially succeeded with the Dominion War in this respect. A massive war-effort is going to alter the socioeconomic conditions of a society. I don't want to get too into it now, but that kind of seismic event is necessary to tell these kinds of stories in Star Trek--just like how in "Hard Time," you had to subject Miles to extreme torture to get him to break the Roddenberry mould.
Jason R.
Fri, Aug 17, 2018, 2:12pm (UTC -6)
Can I just say that certain comments by Picard have been taken out of context and used to justify an exaggerated concept of human evolution in the future. I really don't see DS9 as being fundamentally at odds with the values espoused in TNG and certainly not in TOS.

Even Season 1 of TNG, when Rodenberry was still in charge, had a character (Tasha Yar) from a planet every bit as violent and destructive as the worst of the past. This was a human colony let me remind you.

I disagree with Elliott's claim that a post scarcity society would largely eliminate the violence that plagues our current society - and I'm not even sure that's what Rodenberry had in mind frankly.
Chrome
Fri, Aug 17, 2018, 3:05pm (UTC -6)
@Peter G.

Actually, I was going to give the example of “The Maquis” where the treaty that Picard made, which took some real soul-searching and reasoning with parties on all sides, was essentially dragged through the mud and put out back to be shot. Characters in the DS9 two-parter continually question Federation diplomacy without anyone being a voice defending the treaty. Kira calls the Federation naive and gets no rebuttal. Meanwhile Sisko lies to superiors and blames Earth (God knows why...) and we’re supposed to side with that? I mean I get that tensions were so high in the Maquis situation and that there weren’t any good answers, but that conclusion actively undermines the hopeful message from TNG that even when things look lose-lose there might still be a way forward.
Peter G.
Fri, Aug 17, 2018, 3:54pm (UTC -6)
@ Elliott,

I don't really see what Hard Time shows other than that a good man can be broken. We already know that since even Picard broke, so in a way this episode is old news and completely in keeping with TNG's vision of humanity. In the Cards is a funny case, because it literally intends to be a funny case, but more to the point, I think it rightly pokes a hole in the "everyone will be contented with replicators" theory of economics. While others on these boards argue that 'Federation socialism' is a crock (which I think is a mid-directed argument) all the same I think it's too pat to say that no one will ever want anything from other cultures that you can't replicate. The idea that a culture will never require foreign exchange with other cultures is pretty absurd. Show people something they can't have and they will look for ways to get it, every time. ITC shows the need for *some sort* of economic system even in a post-scarcity world, and I view this as an obviously true assertion. Whether Federation credits end up being accepted as foreign exchange is another question, but it's not anti-Trek to suppose that people in the future will trade with alien cultures. That being said the whole "the Federation has no money" idea has been an inconsistent notion ever since TOS and has never been rooted in a definite theory of commerce, so I'll pretty much shrug my shoulders at this point at *anything* to do with economics in the 24th century.

@ Chome,

I think the argument being made isn't that the people who made the treaty are bad, but rather that they were looking at the big picture and losing sight of the details of the parties involved. It's completely consistent with TNG that Admirals and Ambassadors can be wrong or even aggressively ignorant about the problems on the ground faced by the Enterprise. There are even cases where there is moral conflict between Starfleet members, such as when Nechayev dressed Picard down for deciding not to use Hugh as a weapon. I would imagine that even had he received explicit orders to use Hugh Picard would have stood his ground and refused. Same (for better or worse) in First Contact with the "to hell with our orders" line. Trek is rife with the Captain overruling Starfleet Command when information on the ground shows their decision to be faulty, and Picard himself says that Starfleet doesn't want unthinking drones who only follow orders.

Now, for Kira to call it naive is one thing, and although she may have a point I don't think we have to take her remark as gospel. For Sisko to sort of side with her can have many explanations. I think he believes it, but at the same time his post is contingent on him developing a rapport with the Bajorans, and I think part of this requires adopting a general policy of considering issues of compassion and 'common sense' over and above following the letter of the law all the time. The Bajorans wouldn't have responded that well to an unbending stickler like a Picard, and so I think Sisko bends many times not only because he's reasonable in an an unceremonious way, but also because he knows there are factors that matter in people's lives other than Federation rules. And I don't think that's so anti-Trek either, even aside from being a diplomatic reality for Sisko. I will grant, however, that the series in general has a major conceit that Sisko (as Kirk did) can disobey orders as much as he likes without repercussions, and even though this is mostly probably a TV trope of the cowboy Captain, it does eventually ruffle the feathers after umpteen times of orders not mattering (someone just posted a comment about The Die Is Cast to this effect). That being said, DS9 seems to want to ask "what is right" and show that this can be in conflict with "what do the rules say". Whereas Picard would formally request a change in rules, Sisko isn't like that, and that is certainly a difference between them. But I don't think the idea of calling it like it is when the rules are dumb is anti-Trek; it's more like an admission that diplomats can mean well and make mistakes. It had already been argued before in TNG that the Federation gave up too much with their treaty with the Cardassians, so that's not new either.
Elliott
Fri, Aug 17, 2018, 4:01pm (UTC -6)
@Patrick G.

You made my point for me--I agree with your conclusions about "Hard Time," and "In the Cards," so WHY do the characters take the time to piss all over the Roddenberry ideal when the episodes themselves do not actually disprove those ideals' validity? My opinion is that it is the writers being in love with their own subversion of the show they were writing for. And this is a persistent and damning feature of DS9.
Peter G.
Fri, Aug 17, 2018, 4:06pm (UTC -6)
@ Elliott,

But my question about Hard Time, again, is in what way do you think they were pissing on Roddenberry's ideals in the episode? And the same goes for ITC. How do those stories go against Trek as previously established?
Elliott
Fri, Aug 17, 2018, 4:08pm (UTC -6)
@Patrick G.

From that episode:

O'BRIEN: When we were growing up, they used to tell us humanity had evolved, that mankind had outgrown hate and rage. But when it came down to it, when I had the chance to show that no matter what anyone did to me, I was still an evolved human being, I failed. I repaid kindness with blood. I was no better than an animal.
Elliott
Fri, Aug 17, 2018, 4:09pm (UTC -6)
The fact that Miles could be traumatised into behaving like an animal doesn't mean that he isn't an evolved human, but the writers take the opportunity to essentially say that human evolution didn't happen, it's just state propaganda that elites like Picard and co. spout at alien dignitaries.
Tom Paris
Fri, Aug 17, 2018, 5:01pm (UTC -6)
"No, not a utopia, but there are tangible consequences to having certain technologies. Having repilcators doesn't make humans perfect, but it does eliminate the need for competition over resources."

Does it really? Can you replicate relationships, the love of someone you desire? What about land, and ownership of it? If want a large plot of land overlooking Golden Gate Bridge, can I replicate that? What about social status - power, fame, success, employment. You can't replicate the position of captain of the Enterprise. In one TNG episode Picard in an alternate timeline viewed himself as a "loser" because he hadn't risen to the lofty heights of captain. And you can't even replicate all material things, which is why Picard occasionally runs off with Vash to chase after archeological relics.

As far as I can tell, we only strive after material resources in order to get more intangible ones. Being able to replicate pots of gold and infinite plates of tiramisu isn't going to stop us wanting finite things, and competing over them.
Peter G.
Fri, Aug 17, 2018, 10:12pm (UTC -6)
@ Elliott,

"The fact that Miles could be traumatised into behaving like an animal doesn't mean that he isn't an evolved human, but the writers take the opportunity to essentially say that human evolution didn't happen, it's just state propaganda that elites like Picard and co. spout at alien dignitaries."

Are you sure that's what the writers were saying? It's something *Miles* was saying, after disappointing himself, just as Picard was down on himself after admitting he wasn't strong enough to resist the Borg. I see no difference between these two situations, and O'Brien admitting his weakness is no different.

What you're interpreting as DS9 crapping on the evolution of humanity reads to me as a completely different statement: that although a layer of civility can be grown and matured over the base savage, the savage is still down there, somewhere. And you know what? That is completely accurate, and nothing DS9 or any other source says will change that. I can't see it as being un-Trek to tell the truth about something. The "evolution" Trek speaks of in humanity isn't about genetic evolution; that was Khan's game. They are genetically the same as us, but are brought up differently, which means they learn better how to use reason and be civilized. It *does not* mean they are fundamentally different than us as a matter of type, and if they were then Trek would have no application to us at all.

What's different between me and Miles is that I would probably resort to rage much sooner than him and do something I'd regret, whereas he can hold out longer, and has an entire culture backing up his ethics whereas I grew up in a culture that in my view supports all sorts of degrading an heinous activities. So for me to remain moral is up to just me and my own willpower, along with maybe the smaller culture of friends I've made. For a Starfleet officer there's an entire Federation of people backing up that belief, along with a consistent upbringing of like values that are not inconsistent with each other as ours are now. This all creates a very strong package of civility, but O'Brien learns here that even that can only go so far, and that layer can be stripped away.

So why bring it up at all in an episode, you might ask? Because I strongly suspect that so many episodes in TNG made the characters appear to be placid that one might even wonder at times where they truly were placid specimens that didn't have that core of danger that we and all other humans have had. DS9 would like to remind us that, nope, it's still there are right, just buried underneath great culture and upbringing. The lesson? it's critical to keep up the environment necessary for these traits to thrive and not to take them for granted as if it's already mission accomplished. Sounds like a very Trek moral to me.

I think there's a "B" message in there too about be so far removed from your inner self that you stop thinking it exists. I'd call that scenario a danger. TOS was rather good about the characters being advanced but always giving a nod to the dark parts of them still inside that needed to be kept in check. This particular whole view of people was lost to an extent in TNG, and I think it quite appropriate that DS9 should give us a reminder that "the enemy within" never goes away.
Iceman
Sun, Aug 19, 2018, 12:33am (UTC -6)
"@Patrick G.

From that episode:

O'BRIEN: When we were growing up, they used to tell us humanity had evolved, that mankind had outgrown hate and rage. But when it came down to it, when I had the chance to show that no matter what anyone did to me, I was still an evolved human being, I failed. I repaid kindness with blood. I was no better than an animal. "

@Elliott
Yes....but then they have Bashir give a compelling counter-argument: the fact that he feels regret for what he did matters. An animal would have killed O'Brien's cellmate without remorse. Did you watch the episode? If I may make a criticism of your reviews (this isn't an attack on you, I'm sure you're a lovely person), I enjoy reading your arguments, but I'm like them a lot more if you made better ones, and stopped bearing the same dead horse about DS9 violating your vision of Star Trek. It provably didn't. William B didn't care for DS9 much at all either, but seemed much less possessive. Whereas it seems like your biggest issue with it is "This goes against what *I* think Star Trek is, and is therefore bad".

Now that we've established that DS9 doesn't disrespect Roddenberry's values, let's talk about why it wouldn't be such a big deal if they did. Why do we consider Roddenberry sacred? The seasons of TNG that he had direct control over were some of the worst in all of Trek from a storytelling perspective. Nor was he as progressive as you seem to think he was, Elliott. Remember the blatant sexism of TOS? Not to mention the fact that other people like DC Fontana and Gene L. Coon were nearly as important as Roddenberry was in defining what we know as Star Trek, and Coon's episodes were very subversive. Star Trek owes its existence to him, and he deserves respect for that-that doesn't mean every Star Trek show should be beholden to his vision when it makes for better storytelling. And the fact that "Hard Time" had a more nuanced take on humanity than early TNG made it a more compelling piece of drama (and more honest, and more realistic). If it makes more better television, why not do it? They're adding shades of grey to Roddenberry's worldview and making his universe more compelling.
Peter G.
Sun, Aug 19, 2018, 1:33am (UTC -6)
@ Iceman,

"From that episode:

O'BRIEN: When we were growing up, they used to tell us humanity had evolved, that mankind had outgrown hate and rage. But when it came down to it, when I had the chance to show that no matter what anyone did to me, I was still an evolved human being, I failed. I repaid kindness with blood. I was no better than an animal. " "

So the argument is supposed to be that Trek values suggest that mankind has 'outgrown' hate and rage, meaning those thing no longer exist and *cannot* exist any more? I don't think any reasonable person would think that's what it means. What it means is that *society* in the future has no use for these things and isn't fueled by it, and that individually these don't need to be a way of life any more. Outgrown doesn't mean they are literally non-existent, and O'Brien's speech pokes a hole in a facile vision of what evolution means. It doesn't mean man's DNA has changed, it means that culture has changed. But if the culture is stripped away what's left is what was there before. Duh.

So I don't see how this goes against Trek values, since those values say that through better society and upbringing people can be better. Trek values do not say that a 24th century man raised by wolves would be homo superior anyhow due to having outgrown hate and rage. What O'Brien is realizing here is that humanity's advancement has preconditions that must be met at all times to maintain them. It's not just mission accomplished, but rather a constant work in progress that must never be halted. O'Brien is seeing what happens when that work is taken for granted and wild conditions become the new training ground, and yeah, it's shocking and scary when the dark side within shows its face. I still don't see what in the world is anti-Trek about this.

PS - when did I become Patrick? Or perhaps That's a Stupid Question.
William B
Sun, Aug 19, 2018, 10:12am (UTC -6)
"William B didn't care for DS9 much at all either"

I wouldn't go that far. I think that I tend to rate the average DS9 ep lower than most on the board, and I did focus on he negative a bit when writing about it, but I still like the show overall and love a lot aspects of it. I'd say I'm a fan, just with caveats.
Elliott
Sun, Aug 19, 2018, 10:34am (UTC -6)
I don’t hate DS9 either. I hate the arrogance that accompanies the belief that DS9’s alleged subversiveness makes it superior to its progenitors. Honestly, if they took the acting, ethos and production from Voyager and the long-form, daring, and intrigue from DS9, *that* spin-off would have been the bests Trek to date. As they stand, I think both are inferior to TNG in most respects.
Iceman
Sun, Aug 19, 2018, 2:02pm (UTC -6)
And I hate the arrogance that accompanies the belief that because DS9 didn't live up to *my* expectations of what Star Trek is, it's crap!

I don't feel DS9 is superior to its progenitors because of its subersiveness. I appreciate that it makes the Trek universe a little more complicated. But DS9 wouldn't exist without TOS or TNG. The production team of DS9 clearly loved TOS more, though. I feel that DS9 pays those shows a greater respect by doing interesting things with their universe, instead of desperately trying to recapture the glory days like Voyager and early Enterprise.


I don't feel that DS9 is inferior to TNG in most respects. I feel it's superior overall because of its characters. I watch tv for the characters-and DS9 has, pound-for-pound, the most interesting, well developed ensemble in the entire franchise, and it's not even close. If you watch Trek for the sci-fi, TNG would come out on top. DS9 is inferior in that respect. But in terms of characterization, DS9 crushes TNG. TNG has Picard and Data, and not much else in terms of interesting characters. Rene Echevarria said it best: When writing a scene between most TNG characters, such as Riker and Geordi, he had no idea what they would say to each other. They're not developed enough for that. On DS9, he claimed that scenes practically wrote themselves. TNG can also feel a bit sterile to me, whereas DS9 had an intangible warmth to it. It depends what you look for in Trek.

But onto your other points....

Acting? Rene Auberjonois, Colm Meaney, Armin Shimerman, JG Hertzler, Jeffery Combs, Marc Alaimo, and Andrew J. Robinson can act just as well as Robert Picardo.

Production? Behind that sleek exterior, Voyager was a production nightmare. Studio interference and a writing team that was constantly at each other's throats.

Ethos? Personally, I like the shades of grey that DS9 added. But I can understand your view on this.

@Peter G.-I concur 100%.
William B
Sun, Aug 19, 2018, 3:16pm (UTC -6)
I think Worf is a great character (though it's a bit of a wash since he's on both TNG and DS9) and I think Riker is underrated. But yeah, DS9 perhaps has a better rounded cast of characters, as opposed to TNG's and especially TOS' heavy-hitters model. In terms of average episode quality, I think TOS, TNG and DS9 are similar, and DS9 probably has the edge because none of its seasons are as weak as TOS s3 or TNG s1. I tend to think DS9 is a successful show, and somewhat disagree with people who think it is leaps and bounds ahead of TNG, which I probably prefer overall, though it's hard for me to separate out my nostalgic love of TNG as my first Trek love. I also am not that satisfied with the way many of the arcs in DS9 resolve themselves, but am satisfied with many others. I'm going to stay out of the "ethos" question for this particular iteration of the debate.
Elliott
Sun, Aug 19, 2018, 7:29pm (UTC -6)
“And I hate the arrogance that accompanies the belief that because DS9 didn't live up to *my* expectations of what Star Trek is, it's crap!“

Did I not just say that I don’t think DS9 is crap?

“The production team of DS9 clearly loved TOS more, though. I feel that DS9 pays those shows a greater respect by doing interesting things with their universe...”

“But in terms of characterization, DS9 crushes TNG. TNG has Picard and Data, and not much else in terms of interesting characters.”

Characters and characterisation are not the same thing. “Interesting” is pretty subjective, but I would say that Riker, Geordi, and Pulaski had interesting arcs on TNG. Worf also had good material as William B pointed out.

“Acting? Rene Auberjonois, Colm Meaney, Armin Shimerman, JG Hertzler, Jeffery Combs, Marc Alaimo, and Andrew J. Robinson can act just as well as Robert Picardo.”

I hope you realise that half the people you mentioned are secondary cast members. I have made note that DS9’s secondary characters are one of its great strengths, but writing 15-20 stories that feature Weyoun is a hell of a lot easier than making Harry Kim interesting over seven seasons. When it comes to the series regulars, VOY beats DS9 and TNG. Mulgrew, Ryan, Picardo, Russ, Dawson and Phillips really knock it out of the park most of the time. Even. Ron Moore remarked on the uniquely gifted talent on the VOY main stage.
Iceman
Mon, Aug 20, 2018, 12:20pm (UTC -6)
"I hope you realise that half the people you mentioned are secondary cast members. I have made note that DS9’s secondary characters are one of its great strengths, but writing 15-20 stories that feature Weyoun is a hell of a lot easier than making Harry Kim interesting over seven seasons. When it comes to the series regulars, VOY beats DS9 and TNG. Mulgrew, Ryan, Picardo, Russ, Dawson and Phillips really knock it out of the park most of the time. Even. Ron Moore remarked on the uniquely gifted talent on the VOY main stage. "

I don't agree, with just about anything you said there.

-The less time you have to develop a character, the harder it is to make an impression. It's more impressive when a character becomes a breakout with less screen time.

-Acting is not the same as good character work. Acting actually doesn't matter that much if the character isn't well written. Janeway may be well acted (and she is), but the character is inconsistent. The others start out somewhat interesting, and recede into the background following the introduction of the Doctor and 7 of 9. Speaking of which, 7 of 9 is, along with the Doctor, one of the only characters that actually worked. The writers realized it too, which is why those two basically took over the show from Seasons 4-7.

-Voyager has two characters in its main cast that really work. DS9 has more than that in its main cast alone. Odo, Quark, O'Brien, Bashir (post-S3), Kira (even though Nana Visitor was far from the greatest actress in the world) . DS9 also doesn't have anyone as boring as Chakotay and Harry Kim, who could give the Enterprise cast a run for their money if they competed for the 'most boring characters in the Trek universe' award. So Voyager most certainly does not beat TNG and DS9 in the main cast.

"Characters and characterisation are not the same thing. “Interesting” is pretty subjective, but I would say that Riker, Geordi, and Pulaski had interesting arcs on TNG. Worf also had good material as William B pointed out. "

But they didn't. Riker and Geordi are the exact same in "All Good Things" as they were in "Encounter at Farpoint". That's not a character arc. And Pulaski? The character was scrapped because she wasn't working.

"Did I not just say that I don’t think DS9 is crap? "

It was an exaggeration, true, but the fact remains your main criticisms of DS9 are how it failed to live to *your* expectations for what Star Trek is. That's an arrogant position. The other point you brought up was a weird generalization about DS9 fans, and how arrogant they are, and how they think DS9 is superior for all the wrong reasons.
Peter G.
Mon, Aug 20, 2018, 12:46pm (UTC -6)
@ Iceman and & Elliott,

"Riker and Geordi are the exact same in "All Good Things" as they were in "Encounter at Farpoint". That's not a character arc. And Pulaski? The character was scrapped because she wasn't working. "

To be fair, Riker does sort of have an arc even though it's *extremely* thin and hard to follow unless you've watched the series umpteen times like me and other fans have. I can look back retrospectively and say what I think certain turning points were (Hide & Q, The Icarus Factor, Peak Performance, BOBW, etc) but these hardly constitute an arc so much as the occasion Riker episode that vaguely comments on who he is and why he's on the ship. However I certainly wouldn't call it nothing and I do consider it an arc of sorts. I do not agree that he's identical in S7 as he is in S1, and he and Deanna even have a conversation to that effect in Second Chances. That being said, I think his arc effectively ceases in S4 and from S4-7 he's a finished product, unchanging. That's still something, though.

But...Geordi?? I actually can't think of a character in all of Trek who least fits the word "arc" than he does. He's like part of the furniture, he's so dependable. His relationship with Data does evolve over time, but let's face it, it's all about Data when it comes to the two of them, as Geordi barely has any real stories at all in TNG. And what few stories he gets tend to be either bad or...controversial. I think that's a serious writing fault because Burton could easily have held his own through some well written stories. But they screwed him. That was Crosbey's complaint and why she left after S1, that the writers weren't bothering to write good stories for most of the cast, and this never really stopped. I can count the Crusher episodes on one hand out of 7 seasons, and maybe Geordi got a couple more. Data and Picard are the Doc and Seven of TNG, let's face it. That's great for them, but overall the TNG writers didn't use their cast *nearly* as well or as much as DS9's did. It's a no-brainer, really. And PS I'm a big Riker fan, but his day in the sun faded as the show went on. Wesley also got a lot to do in S1-2 but let's not chalk that up as a victory.

You can like it or leave it, but DS9 clearly made extensive use out of every single one of its main characters, each of whom was focused on time and again and never dropped off in 7 seasons, and almost all of which were in involved in major arcs, character changes, and ongoing stories. The somewhat notable exceptions would be that they seemed to find it harder to write Quark stories during the war arcs, and also that Jake got borderline phased out by S6-7. To be fair this was probably for the best but it's also a shame. VOY, by contrast, phased out half the cast unofficially. They were literally going to fire Wang if not for an incredible coincidence that (wrongly) made them change their minds, and they instead fired someone else they thought was expendable. So clearly both of them were (Kes and Kim). Beltran hated what the producers were doing for most of the run and was basically in conflict with them, and frankly he should have been fired too but they seemed to want to keep most of the original cast around. So their version of 'firing' was to not write him any episodes. They did much the same for Tuvok who, at a certain point, was effectively replaced by Seven. I'm not even saying I don't like Tuvok, but obviously the writers had no use for him any more. Which leaves the star of the show, Seven, Doc, and the occasional Paris/B'Elanna episodes, of which Paris didn't even get that much but he never became entirely irrelevant. He even did have an arc of sorts, in the form of his original character bible being neutered and losing the only thing that made him special - being a hotshot with a rebellious streak, a la Maverick. He got boring real fast after not too long, and if not for the romance arc he'd have had little to do in S4-7.

We can talk all day about which actors we like more than others (and I personally respect Brooks as an artist more than any person on VOY, but for very specific reasons), but in terms of character writing, arc, and level of interest, VOY seemed to be very aware that they had rendered most of their characters either unworkable or else uninteresting to the writers.
Chrome
Mon, Aug 20, 2018, 1:44pm (UTC -6)
I’m surprised how much flack Geordi gets, honestly. I consider him to be one of the most grounded characters in Star Trek and I think he does much to improve the technical sci-fi aspect of TNG immeasurably. His notable episodes “Booby Trap”, “The Enemy”, “Galaxy’s Child”, “The Mind’s Eye”, “Hollow Pursuits”, “The Masterpiece Society”, “Relics”, “The Next Phase” and others are very strong episodes because he has this simple way of breaking down complex problems and finding believable in-universe solutions.

Geordi has several arcs usually relating to handling command and romance, but I think we see a lot of growth in him learning not to get lost in technology and discovering the world outside of his synthetic senses. Sure you can say his arcs are not as obvious as DS9’s characters, but that’s only because TNG was created for syndication and the writers had restrictions to that end. Even so, I think the writers did amazing things in a subtle way to link Geordi’s and other’s stories together.
Peter G.
Mon, Aug 20, 2018, 2:39pm (UTC -6)
@ Chrome,

In case it sounded like I'm down on Geordi, I think Burton was one of TNG's most treasured assets and was underused by the script writers. While he was certainly a very credible voice of the tech side of Trek (more so than anyone on DS9 ever was) he tended to get relegated to being 'tech guy' and solving tech things. There was the occasional episode different from that like The Enemy, for instance. I don't see character building over the series involving him to really any degree, but I hope I didn't make it sound like I have anything against him. Contrasted with a Chakotay, for instance, I always like watching Geordi even when nothing special is done with him, whereas something special would needed to have been done with Chakotay for me to enjoy anything involving him. So that's a huge difference right there.
Elliott
Mon, Aug 20, 2018, 5:57pm (UTC -6)
I really should have declined to get into the weeds with this thread. I’m doing these episode by episode reviews in order to, 1. Take the time to reflect upon th series in real time and 2. To explain whence my thinking overall.

Here’s what I will say for now:

—Characterisation is not “arcs,” it’s the way in which character traits are conveyed in a given medium. On a TV series, this would b comprised of dialogue, visual cues and acting.

—In my opinion, when TNG started going for the soap-opera backstory bs is when it started to become rather trite. The last two seasons of that show are when it started to feel less like Star Trek and more like Space Story set on a Starship. Now that Trek has been re-imagined (twice), I suppose the argument about the franchise’s soul are moot. There are better dramas than Star Trek. There is better science fiction. Trek holds a special place in my heart at least because it had a unique point of view. Voyager may have lacked some of the competency of TNG and TOS, but it had the same spirit, and for that, I forgive it its flaws. DS9 was condescending, cynical and cruel by comparison. But, you know what, “Caretaker” isn’t far off. I’m sure there will be much more lively discussions to come.
Yanks
Tue, Aug 21, 2018, 12:23pm (UTC -6)
William B
Wed, May 9, 2018, 2:11pm (UTC -5)

"I don't really know B5 -- it's on my list, I swear! "

OMG William, you must.... you simply must! I just finished a binge watch of BAB5 and I tell ya, the emotional moments are still emotional to me.

But I'll disagree with Peter and say you don't need to have watched it to understand the "arc" in DS9... not at all.


and Peter G (from too long ago, sorry)

"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... "

That has to be the best attempt at justifying poor acting I've seen yet :-) Also, I don't equate acting to his leadship choices... many times I have applauded his actions and choices.

"But...Geordi?? I actually can't think of a character in all of Trek who least fits the word "arc" than he does. He's like part of the furniture, he's so dependable. His relationship with Data does evolve over time, but let's face it, it's all about Data when it comes to the two of them, as Geordi barely has any real stories at all in TNG. And what few stories he gets tend to be either bad or...controversial. I think that's a serious writing fault because Burton could easily have held his own through some well written stories. But they screwed him."

I'll agree here. Although he did stink up some "romantic" moments... I thought Lavar was pretty darn good, probably better than Michael Dorn if you think about it. TNG became the "Data/Picard" story. Geordi wasn't the only character to suffer....
Brad
Wed, Aug 22, 2018, 6:23am (UTC -6)
@Elliot

Long-time lurker on this site and always found your comments incredibly insightful. You've certainly expressed what I have always found problematic about DS9 and distilled my fondness for Voyager (which was previously inexplicable to me).

Just curious to quickly ask if you have ever watched LOST.
Iceman
Wed, Aug 22, 2018, 7:35pm (UTC -6)
" Trek holds a special place in my heart at least because it had a unique point of view. Voyager may have lacked some of the competency of TNG and TOS, but it had the same spirit, and for that, I forgive it its flaws. DS9 was condescending, cynical and cruel by comparison."

Jammer will probably shut this discussion down if we keep going back and forth repeating the same points over and over, but for the last time, DS9 was NOT any of those things. Unlike Discovery, it doesn't throw away what made Trek unique. It explores it in greater depth. That's not a crime. I promise I'll stop saying that, but I had to one last time.

"There is better science fiction."

Books, yes. Tv shows, I don't think so. "Person of Interest" is my favorite science fiction tv show of all time, but DS9 is right behind it. (sorry Farscape and The Twilight Zone!). TNG could make a credible argument for being the best as well. I would also argue that the best of Star Trek can truly stand up there with the best of science fiction in general.

"There are better dramas than Star Trek."

That is true. But I find that straight dramas don't offer a lot of the things that sci-fi does. My favorite 'prestige dramas' are "Justified" and "Deadwood", which have a lot of humor in them. "The Americans" may be better than Star Trek, but I find Star Trek so much more enjoyable and ultimately impacting. Trek is still something very special.
John
Mon, Sep 10, 2018, 9:21pm (UTC -6)
How long was Kira eavesdripping in the opening scene?

The moment Garak leaves, she bounds into the scene like a St. Bernard.
Springy
Thu, Dec 6, 2018, 11:24pm (UTC -6)
Robinson is great and his performance is a standout.

I like Garak as a character, and the best part was learning how much it pains him to live on DS9.

His constantly changing exile story became tiresome. It was a good ep, but I wouldn't list it with the greats.

Garak's a Nazi who did his duty, but at the very end, knowing it was over and pointless, he spared a few kids and then he self-destructed due to his guilt . . . guilt for being a good Nazi, or for not being a good enough Nazi? I'm not sure.

Bashir seems willing to give him a pass on the whole Nazi thing, though. Why?

The title of this ep . . . The Wire. Hmm. Is this a reference to the implant? The wire of events, of moments, that strings together past and present? The chicken wire and duct tape that seems to be keeping Garak from completely falling apart?

Cody B
Sat, Dec 8, 2018, 1:30am (UTC -6)
After watching this episode I have two thoughts. First, the Cardassian doctor at the end is clearly the same actor as the Paklek from TNG. I understand reusing actors but come on it’s way too much of a resemblance. I actually thought he was a paklek or even the same paklek from TNG until it is said he is Cardassian. My second takeaway from this episode is why in the world Garak such a fan favorite? The guy is a untrustworthy, sneaky, pathological liar. I steer clear of people that lie like that in real life. That’s a bad sign. I’m not talking about small lies or white lies, everyone lies to some degree from time to time. I’m talking about people like Garak who make up complete stories. My spidey sense goes off around people like that
Cody B
Sat, Dec 8, 2018, 1:34am (UTC -6)
@Springy or “The Wire” could refer to “wearing a wire” as in spying (which literally takes place with Odo and Bashir watching Quark). Untrustworthiness. Who is the bad guy? Danger. Etcetera
Peter G.
Sat, Dec 8, 2018, 11:03am (UTC -6)
@ Cody B,

"why in the world Garak such a fan favorite? The guy is a untrustworthy, sneaky, pathological liar."

Are you seriously asking why fans enjoy watching characterizations of people who are immoral? Would you ask the same question of Star Wars fans of why they enjoy watching a brutal murderer like Darth Vader?
Cody B
Sat, Dec 8, 2018, 9:21pm (UTC -6)
@peter G well I’d have to argue the guy isn’t loved as a villain. Maybe I should have been clearer but it seems people love the guy as if he is a “good guy”. I hear about how clever he is or interesting. Which is fine everyone is entitled to their opinion. Idk if death Vader is the best example. I think a better example would be if after Lando Calrissian sold out Han and everyone and then fans were like “he is so clever and interesting! Never mind that he is a sneaky backstabbing liar. I love him!”
Iceman
Tue, Dec 18, 2018, 7:20am (UTC -6)
@Cody B-

Because Andrew J. Robinson is one of the best actors in the franchise, and Garak is one of the best written characters in the whole franchise. I'm not whether people actually love him as a 'good guy', but if they do, that's not the writers' fault. They clearly portrayed as a scheming, manipulative individual who'll do anything, *anything*, to get the job done.

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