Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Air date: 6/19/1995
Written by Ira Steven Behr & Robert Hewitt Wolfe
Directed by Alexander Singer
Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
"Look, I have more important things to do than play 'Choose the Changeling.'" — O'Brien to dual Odos
More foreboding is the result of DS9's season three finale, a "quasi-cliffhanger" like "The Jem'Hadar" that's a punchy adventure story in itself while also promising that it's just one of many more to come in the Dominion saga. Here the Dominion affirms itself as a dangerous, malevolent enemy that will be knocking on the Federation's door next year, if not pounding it down. They truly hold the intimidating creepiness that the Borg had looming over TNG after "Q Who."
But first, the lighter moments.
The show begins with a long-awaited character moment as Sisko is awarded his promotion from Commander to Captain. I knew it would happen eventually, but happening in this episode proves to be one of the season's most unexpected and pleasant surprises. Finally, Sisko can say "Captain's Log." I like it.
Another character element I like is the continued back-burner development of the Sisko and Kasidy Yates relationship. Since the creation of Captain Yates' character in "Explorers," the writers have done exactly what should be done with relationship stories on Star Trek: They're taking the slow, subtle, plausible route—keeping it alive while not going overboard. In this outing, Dax presses Sisko for some information about their relationship. The results are, in a word, amiable. Indeed, the writers have worked with Sisko a lot this season, and the results have been very good.
From here, "Adversary" delves into a Defiant-based plot when Ambassador Krajensky (Lawrence Pressman, who also guest-starred in "Second Skin") orders Sisko to take the Defiant on a one-week patrol of the Tzenkethi border. The Federation had been at war with the Tzenkethi over a decade ago, and Krajensky brings news of a coup on their homeworld which could potentially be the beginning of another Federation threat.
Upon leaving the station, O'Brien and Dax discover the Defiant's command systems have been sabotaged. Radiation residue places Ambassador Krajensky at the scene of the crime, but the crew discovers Krajensky is not who he appears to be when he suddenly morphs into an air vent and escapes. Krajensky is a Changeling.
The Changeling's sabotage devices allow him to take control of the ship, which he pilots straight for Tzenkethi space with all weapons armed. He hopes to start a war between the Federation and Tzenkethi by hitting the Tzenkethi fast and hard. With the Federation busy fighting the Tzenkethi, the Dominion would presumably have little trouble coming through the wormhole and conquering the Alpha Quadrant.
Obviously, the crew must stop the Changeling at all costs. Sisko sets up teams of two, armed with phaser rifles to systematically search the ship for the Changeling. Making the task difficult, however, is the fact that the Changeling can look like anything—or anybody.
And here's where "Adversary" works best. It's the best-case scenario for a Star Trek plot along the lines of The Thing. It becomes quite an effective paranoid thriller—working the gears where Voyager's "Cathexis" failed miserably.
Unlike that outing, this episode proves genuinely intense in many places, with its healthy doses of crew paranoia and creepy Changeling masquerading. There's even a blood test Bashir performs to determine if one of the crew members is not as he appears (brrrr...). For most of the way, director Alexander Singer paces the suspense quite well through an impressive collection of Defiant sets, and he gets the helping hand from a fairly effective Chattaway score.
There are also some good character moments, such as the scene between Sisko and Lt. Commander Eddington (Kenneth Marshall) when they discuss the personal meanings of rank. Eddington also has some good scenes with Odo. One reveals the fact that throughout his years as security chief, Odo has never fired a weapon or taken a life, and he doesn't intend to start now with one of his own kind. Very interesting stuff.
Even the seemingly obligatory idea of Sisko arming the Defiant's auto-destruct sequence makes sense here. (Although, is it too much to ask why the auto-destruct program was not disabled by the Changeling's devices?) "One thing is for sure," Sisko says. "We're not going to start a war with the Tzenkethi." This gives Chief O'Brien a limited time to regain control of the ship. Meanwhile, Odo chases the other shapeshifter through the air vents.
One thing Alexander Singer severely botches is the timing on the computer's destruct sequence warnings. A glaring 2 1/2 minutes vanish into thin air when the auto-destruct countdown jumps from ten minutes to seven minutes in an interval of less than 30 seconds—way too noticeable to be ignored. (At the very least, he could've cut briefly to an external view of the ship to signify time passing.)
Something the writers severely botch, however, is Sisko's behavior after he arms the auto-destruct. As the fate of the ship lies in O'Brien's hands, Sisko displays a helplessness that borders on downright apathy. This is completely out of character and I don't like it. I know Sisko better than that!
And of course, you know the writers had to throw in the two Odos trick, presented here to O'Brien in the engine room as he attempts to disable the Changeling's ship takeover devices. Fortunately, this overused bright idea is satirized when O'Brien unleashes the season's best-delivered one-liner—"Look, I have more important things to do than play 'Choose the Changeling.'"
The final showdown plays out here between Odo and the Changeling, ending when the evil shapeshifter is fried by warp core radiation during their struggle. The sequence boasts some impressive CGI morphing effects but, more importantly, gives Odo a personal tragedy when he's forced to take a life for the first time—while also being the first to break the tradition "No Changeling has ever harmed another" by killing one of his own kind. Although this ending is a bit abrupt and Lawrence Pressman doesn't get much in terms of interesting dialogue with Odo, his death scene of reverting into a liquid and then crumbling into dust is a well-realized visual effect. The Changeling has a final message before dying. "It's too late," he whispers to Odo. "We're everywhere."
The idea of a threat from within is still fascinating—reminiscent of the never-developed TNG plotline "Conspiracy." Also, the Dominion has fully established itself in the Trek encyclopedia of villains this season, and we will surely see them again. However, "Adversary" brings up some concerns about what the intentions of this storyline are. In one year, the Founders have gone from Gamma Quadrant monitors to Alpha Quadrant spies. If Dominion operatives are "everywhere," where does DS9 as a series lie?
On one hand, it's nice to know the Defiant is available to escape the station for a fresh starship story. On the other hand, I worry that the writers may forget about Bajor's problems in favor of feeling compelled to go the TNG action/adventure route. And by having the Dominion infiltrate the Federation, they may be over their heads in internal conspiracy—something the series has no real obligation to stress considering the station is on the very edge of Federation space. Bajor has its own problems to deal with. Do we really need to have an attack on the heart of the Federation?
For that matter, is the Defiant really the ship that should be sent on a Starfleet mission like this? (Episodes like this always make me wonder who's left in charge of the station.) One Defiant issue that never really got resolved was what happened to the severe flaws the ship had. Unless Sisko has become an extreme risk-taker by ordering maximum warp of a ship which should tear itself apart at such speeds, we have to assume these flaws were fixed. Still, it would've been nice to at least have a line explaining it.
In any case, "Adversary" is a good season finale—entertaining, suspenseful, and a lure for viewers to come back next season. As for what the writers plan to do with this most extreme threat, only time will tell.
Previous episode: Facets
Next episode: The Way of the Warrior
End-of-season article: Third Season Recap
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68 comments on this post
Wed, Jun 17, 2009, 2:16am (UTC -5)
As for this one, maybe it's not in the top 3 finales, but it's still a great one anyway. Nice way to end season 3.
Fri, Sep 4, 2009, 9:07pm (UTC -5)
By the way, the "2 1/2 minute jump" during the auto-destruct sequence also happened in Voyager's "Dreadnaught." Maybe ALL Starfleet vessels are programmed with this error to confound the enemy?
Tue, May 11, 2010, 4:45pm (UTC -5)
Tue, Sep 7, 2010, 11:21pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Oct 20, 2010, 10:46pm (UTC -5)
Sat, Feb 5, 2011, 10:01am (UTC -5)
1) Like you said, who is control of the station? DS9 is a Bajoran station, and the Defiant is a Federation starship. Kira and Odo should be on the station. Granted, on a mission like this Odo should go along since he is a Changeling. There is no reason why Kira should be there. Is she representing Bajoran interests? How can she be first officer of a Federation starship? These questions were never answered....but at least they were not as glaring as they were in "Tears of the Prophets".
2) Another flaw, is nobody did their homework on the Tzenkethi? Sisko was just promoted to Captain but did no independent study or gather any information for the mission? He just took the Ambassador's word for everything and that was that? I would think if there was a coup, Sisko might look at a few reports or ask around to see what information he could gather.
3) Who are the Tzenkethi? Why do we care about them? Are they powerful? I think it would have resonated more if they were a species we had known about in the past, because otherwise how powerful could they be if we never heard of them before? Or were they just stating that any war would be destabilizing? In my opinion, it would have resonated more if they mentioned a species that people were familiar with.
4) I do have to say that the last minute of the episode was terrific. It does leave you wanting to come back to season 4.
Mon, Feb 7, 2011, 10:31am (UTC -5)
Wed, Oct 19, 2011, 4:14pm (UTC -5)
But I'm sure they will blame this spies death on Odo, because he is apparently not supposed to harm another liquid blob. I mean they don't really have a name right? Liquid CGI BLOB? Sry, Founders sounds like a club, not a species.
Sun, Jul 1, 2012, 7:03pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Jul 8, 2013, 7:03am (UTC -5)
Agreed. Cardassians would work absolutely perfectly in this episode. Ambassador Krajensky tells Sisko about the need to show the flag after the recent coup on Tzenkethi homeworld. That's exactly what happens on Cardassia the very next episode!
This episode would have set up Way of the Warrior perfectly. I am really surprised they didn't use this opportunity to their advantage.
Wed, Oct 23, 2013, 9:06am (UTC -5)
Tue, Nov 5, 2013, 12:11pm (UTC -5)
Unless the creators of these types of programs actually travel back in time to the events to "film" them.
Sat, Feb 22, 2014, 4:48pm (UTC -5)
Pretty strong finish though to a nearly consistently good season 3.
Tue, Aug 5, 2014, 9:58am (UTC -5)
Good drama hunting down the changling... good death scene, goo - then dust... interesting.
I had no problem with the Tzenkethi. Obviously a plant by the Founders...
Sisko makes Captain .... interesting... is Bajor in the Federation yet?
Thu, Aug 21, 2014, 8:00pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Mar 2, 2015, 12:56am (UTC -5)
Sun, Aug 23, 2015, 2:16pm (UTC -5)
-It strikes me as odd that an ambassador gives "orders" to a Starfleet officer, although I think it's happened before in Star Trek.
-when they described the phaser adjustments, I thought the beams would spread out in a cone and cover all the walls of the Jeffries tubes. This makes sense; the changeling could be disguised as pipe, wiring, and/or bulkhead along the ships corridor. Still, the actual special effects only showed the beams shooting in a straight line down the tubes....which would only really be effective if the changeling was invisible or on the opposite wall.
Despite that, I agree with Jammer's review that this is a good season finale. And I agree with Vylora that I was fine with a new race Tzenkethi being used here, but it would have been nice to have them come up later in the series.
As to Yanks question "is Bajor in the Federation yet". No, they're not (which is an important plot point later in the series)
Mon, Aug 24, 2015, 7:43am (UTC -5)
Mon, Aug 24, 2015, 6:25pm (UTC -5)
mathane, my point is, why should Sisko get ptomoted if he hasn't completed his mission?
Tue, Aug 25, 2015, 6:46am (UTC -5)
My 2 cents is that the mission has changed. Sisko went from the commander of a backwater space port to the commander of the wormhole. He's become the front line of defense vs the Dominion and the head of an interstellar trade hub.
Bajor is still on the agenda, but I had no problem with the promotion here. Also, while he screws the pooch is season 5 in regards to Bajor's Federation admission, in S4's Crossfire Shakaar says "I've been trying to get them to cut the timetable for Bajor's admittance into the Federation by half. But every time I think I've made them understand my reasons, they remind me that every member of the Federation has gone through the same admittance process. "
So he went from a flimsy provisional government to a stable one under Shakaar, managed to not end up with Prime Minister Winn, stopped a takeover by the xenophobic Circle, etc.
We went from a crappy situation with Bajor to one where the Prime Minister is literally BEGGING for membership. And actually Shakaar wins the election right before Sisko gets promoted. If I had to guess I'd say the continuing improvement in the Bajor situation coupled with an exponential increase in his responsibilities are responsible for his promotion.
Tue, Aug 25, 2015, 6:47am (UTC -5)
mathane, my point is, why should Sisko get ptomoted if he hasn't completed his mission? "
I know this, but we also know that some ambassadors carry rank. Spock is at least a Captain to my memory.
Tue, Aug 25, 2015, 7:24pm (UTC -5)
Good point about the Bajoran government. I guess one could consider that success.
Wed, Aug 26, 2015, 10:40pm (UTC -5)
Yanks - "The civilians are above the military. Ambassadors many times are put in positions in charge of military assets".
Ambassadors don't put themselves in charge of military assets; the civilian leader (President, Prime Minister, etc.) can assign military assets to ambassadors. This episode gives a good reason why random civilians (even those with titles like ambassadors) can't go in an just order the military assets around. They could be trying to start a war!
In a situation like this, you'd expect the Federation diplomatic corps to ask the Federation President (or whichever official runs Starfleet) to officially order Starfleet to take the ambassador out (this could be the Presidential underlings making the arrangement, with him just signing orders), and even follow the ambassador's commands to an extent. Starfleet Command would then issue their orders to Sisko (or to an Admiral who would then order Sisko), detailing the mission, which Sisko would then carry out.
Yanks - "my point is, why should Sisko get promoted if he hasn't completed his mission?"
Well, I think Federation membership is a long-term goal, not something they expected to happen in a few years. To use real world examples, the Berlin Wall fell in 1989; other than Eastern Germany, the first nations from the Communist block didn't join NATO until 1999; they didn't join the EU until 2004! Sisko can be doing his job well (worthy of promotion) even if he hasn't completed that long-term mission.
Thu, Aug 27, 2015, 8:04am (UTC -5)
Sun, Aug 30, 2015, 9:20pm (UTC -5)
The impression those revelations give is that the changeling showed up at DS9 right after kidnapping the real ambassador, gave a mission, and nobody checked with Starfleet or the Federation, as they would have quickly found out something was wrong.
The alternative, of course, was that the Changeling had spent some time at Starfleet or the higher levels of the Federation bureaucracy, impersonating multiple people to fake intelligence about a coup and set up the mission. But 1) that doesn't seem to be how the writers were presenting it and 2) that would have immediately sent up alarm bells at DS9 and in Starfleet, because they would have started searching for what else the changeling could have done while there. They would have no reason to believe the only thing the changeling did while at the Federation and/or Starfleet was set up this mission. Our DS9 characters certainly don't seem specifically concerned about this possibility.
Sun, Sep 27, 2015, 5:14pm (UTC -5)
I have little to say about the main plot elements of "The Adversary." It is reminiscent of something like the John Carpenter version of The Thing, though not as effective. It is an action story, a spooky enemy story, and at times a paranoid thriller. On the last part, the "whom to trust?" question is dealt with most frustratingly in the increasing number of times people get separated (at one point, Odo and Eddington are separated with no explanation whatsoever, after we've already had several scenes); something about the way that Bolian security ensign flips out at Kira registered as particularly fake and over-the-top. And ultimately, most of it was hard for me to get into as an action show, because I kept getting annoyed at the choices that were being made. Send teams of more than two people, so that it would not be easy for the shapeshifter in a team of two to sneak up on the other one; make use of the "nonessential" personnel (WHY ARE THERE "NONESSENTIAL" PERSONNEL ON THIS MISSION?) as well as the security people and senior staff, at least for extra eyes; have more than one guy protecting O'Brien working in Engineering, and when there are two Odos standing there, either stun both of them or at least send both of them to the brig, since one of them is definitely the changeling. This is in addition to the idea that Sisko's first action as captain is to follow the orders of an ambassador without doing any checking whatsoever on the veracity of his statements, leaving the station defenseless since he takes the entire senior staff on this trip whose purpose is to "show the flag." (On the changeling side, why does he keep Bashir alive? I don't get it.)
The compelling personal element to this story is Odo being forced to kill another changeling, and the episode sets this up pretty clearly by having Odo remind us of the "no changeling has ever harmed another" bit, as well as Odo's comment that he has gone his life without killing anyone. Given Elliott's pointing out in his review of "The Adversary" just a day or two ago that Odo is horrified at the idea that he is a monster, yes, but even more so that he is a CRIMINAL, I like how Odo's action here runs against Odo's whole code -- Odo doesn't use weapons, Odo doesn't kill, Odo is not a criminal, but here he kills and breaks the most fundamental taboo of his people. It's an especially interesting moment because of the quasi-rape of the other changeling trying to force a link on Odo, and Odo's partly instinctual, almost angry reaction leading him to push his adversary into the warp field, causing his death; Odo certainly was protecting the Defiant crew (and the Alpha Quadrant, as a result), but I think the violence also comes out in part because of the intense violation of his personal boundaries, which is made even more intense by the fact that he *wants* on some level to Link with the changeling, but has to fight against it. In some senses, we have a bit of a version of this with Dr. Mora, where Odo is made angrier with Mora's attempts to get close to him because Odo wants to on some level; but this is even stronger. The severing of Odo's connection to his people via killing also has particular impact after the way "Facets'" Odo/Curzon thing found another way to approach Odo's changeling nature and loneliness, which, more on that when I write about that episode (I'm predictable, but still, I do think the Odo[/Curzon] material in that episode was largely its strongest bits). I think the episode maybe should have focused more strongly on Odo's headspace; there are hints of the other version of this story, where everything was filtered to some extent through Odo's experiences and the crew's affections for and anxieties about Odo -- see, for instance, Eddington asking Odo where he would go if he were the changeling and Odo's defensive reaction.
Sisko's promotion to captain: well, it is certainly appropriate for Sisko to be a captain given the amount of responsibility he has, with the increased strategic importance of DS9. Still, I really do feel like the teaser would have been sufficient, rather than laying on the HE'S A CAPTAIN NOW stuff repeatedly, especially when it really is true that this does not change anything, since it does not seem as if his duties or privileges are different in any practical way. (I also tend to think the episode should have *either* done the "this is my last commander's log" thing or the "my son the writer says I should say some words etc. etc. but all I can think of is: captain's log" log entry, but not both.) And what was up with that Eddington scene, with the "I really agreed with what Chief O'Brien said, about it being a long time coming" or whatever? I really have no idea. I wonder if it's meant to be character development for the obviously underwritten Eddington, but the whole scene just felt bizarre.
"It's too late. We're everywhere" is an impressive hook for next season, particularly after having an episode devoted to why changelings' abilities make them dangerous.
I think probably 2.5 stars.
Sat, Dec 5, 2015, 11:14am (UTC -5)
But if ever an episode can live on the strength of its final line its this one. That suddenly blows the doors wide open on the bigger picture and acts as a really nice intro to Season 4. 2.5 stars.
Wed, Mar 23, 2016, 8:06pm (UTC -5)
I won't comment on the similarities the episode shares to John Carpenter's "The Thing" simply because I've never seen "The Thing". Don't hate me, horror just isn't my preferred genre. :-P The paranoid atmosphere on display, however, is marvelous. It's something of a rarity for Trek to allow the hero characters to be so scared and jumpy, especially around each other. There are other episodes where it happens, but they are rather scarce. We get some excellent character work and development, especially for Odo. Having him break the taboo of harming another Changeling was an ingenious idea, one which I'm assuming the writers intended all the way back in "The Search, Part II" when the taboo was first stated by the Female Changeling. And the red-herring of Eddington being the infiltrator was very enjoyable on a meta level. When I first introduced my parents to "Deep Space Nine" they spent the entire third season thinking that Eddington was indeed a Changeling spy, which I've heard was a common theory among fans at the time. Well done for the writers playing with that expectation! And later making Eddington a Maquis, instead of Dominion, spy was a masterstroke.
Two rather glaring problems harm "The Adversary", however. First, the fact that we never get to actually see a Tzenkethi. Come on, really?! They're going to introduce a new player onto the political stage of the Alpha Quadrant, one that even had a war with the Federation not too long ago, and not give us the money shot of seeing what they look like? I'm assuming that the Tzenkethi aren't an Alpha Quadrant super-power like the UFP or the Klingon and Romulan Empires. They're probably something more akin to a second-tier rated power like the Cardassians (important and formidable, but not quite an A-list player). But that's no excuse; let us see them! Talk about a wonderful world-building opportunity fumbled away. Second, how exactly did Changeling Krajensky manage to get the ball rolling on this attempted destabilization of the Quadrant in the first place? We're heavily led to believe that the real Krajensky never came to DS9, that when we first met the Ambassador that it's already the Changeling. Can an ambassador just show up to any Starfleet facility and start giving orders willy-nilly? He wants Sisko to show the flag along the Tzenkethi border and Sisko never once clears this with either Starfleet Command or his direct superior? An ambassador just shows up and off we go? I guess confirmation of orders isn't a thing in the 24th century.
Thu, May 26, 2016, 9:51pm (UTC -5)
Generally I owe that to the writers knowledge of military affairs having probably come almost entirely from 1) watching earlier episodes of Star Trek and 2) from watching Hollywood depictions of the military. The shame is that there are so many plentiful, relatable stories of the mundane and action varieties within military life that, along with sensible military logic, never reach the doors of the writers room.
Mon, Sep 26, 2016, 7:04am (UTC -5)
For a peace keeping organisation based on exploration and learning they sure get into a lot of wars.
At which point do the peace loving hippies think "Screw this, lets seal our borders and stay here. Too many innocents are dying because we want to boldly go..."
Be interested to see a list of everyone they've had a war with.
The Borg don't count as they're headcases.
Wed, Mar 1, 2017, 12:24am (UTC -5)
Mon, May 8, 2017, 10:56pm (UTC -5)
Thu, Jul 6, 2017, 8:28pm (UTC -5)
What "The Adversary" does achieve is set up S4 with the Dominion as a serious threat (not as well done as in "Q Who" with the Borg though). Nice, ominous way to do it with the dying Changeling whispering to Odo as he dies.
Plenty of suspense trying to find the Changeling -- through the blood test and the test for chemicals earlier. Maybe this was a bit excessive to do this twice.
Certainly the other thing is who is guarding DS9? This never occurred to Sisko when he realizes he's been on a wild goose chase.
Anyhow, I think "The Adversary" deserves 3 stars - pretty good Trek viewing although somewhat cliche: Of course O'Brien figures out how to get past the forcefields and regain control of the ship and the auto-destruct can be aborted. Good ending to an excellent season with plenty to look forward to in S4.
Fri, Jul 7, 2017, 9:04pm (UTC -5)
And just like with Whom Gods Destroy, Turnabout Intruder, nobody thinks of a simple "ask them a question that isn't in the public record that only the real person would know" solution.
Also, the whole episode was weakened by some obvious idiotic decisions. Everyone is supposed to stay in pairs and yet each pair keeps just getting separated with no good reason. And twice they have the Changeling right there and take a good 5 seconds or so to remember to use their phasers, allowing him to get away.
Still, not a bad episode, just could have been better.
Fri, Jul 28, 2017, 2:45pm (UTC -5)
DS9 never was all that good at their season finales other than Call to Arms and Tears of The Prophets. In The Hands of the Prophets was a good episode just not a good season finale and The Jem'Hadar, The a Adversary and Broken Link--barring how they set up the following seasons--were duds
Mon, Aug 28, 2017, 1:36am (UTC -5)
It never made sense that the Defiant command crew and the DS9 command crew were identical, instead of Defiant having it's own separate roster.
Tue, Oct 24, 2017, 12:40am (UTC -5)
The episode is weakened somewhat by the cliched scene with the two Odos, and the use of an alien race we've never heard of and never see. What are they like? What sort of homeworld do they live on? What is their relationship and significance to the Federation? It's like the 'Homefront/Paradise Lost' two-parter, in that they don't (or can't) show us what's really at stake, so we just have to take their word for it. However, the scene where Odo kills one of his own kind is shocking, and the consequences will have long-term significance. It's not the kind of episode I'll go back to again and again, but it gets the job done. Three stars is about right.
Sun, Aug 19, 2018, 1:41am (UTC -5)
Fri, Oct 26, 2018, 12:58pm (UTC -5)
Let's review Commander Benjamin Sisko's illustrious tenure on Outpost Deep Space Nine, shall we?
-With Dax' help, he discovered the first known stable wormhole, and helped Bajor stake a claim to it. (“Emissary”)
-He falsified a report to Starfleet regarding the discovery of a species called “Tosk” from the GQ, probably a genetic ancestor of the Jem'Hadar (“Captive Pursuit”)
-He violated orders to evacuate DS9 under the pretext of “packing” (“The Circle”).
-He lied to Starfleet about Cal Hudson's involvement with the Maquis, ultimately giving an advantage to a group which is terrorising the region (“The Maquis”).
-He acquired a new vessel that he helped design to bolster the station's defences against the Dominion, promptly saw it nearly destroyed, then later stolen (“The Search,” “Defiant”).
-He violated the PD in order to have a visit with the Mirror Universe version of his dead wife (“Through the Looking Glass”).
-He violated orders again in order to mount a rescue of Odo (and Garak) from the Dominion ambush in the GQ.
-He hosted peace talks between the space pope and Cardassia, subsequently seeing the planet he was assigned to shepherd into the Federation descend into theocratic rule (“Life Support,” Shakaar”).
-Most recently, he consented to have a serial killer take over his consciousness, nearly getting his science officer killed.
And so naturally, this episode opens with Sisko being shipped off to New Zealand to...no wait, he's been promoted. Yeah. The staff congratulate him one by one—a somewhat awkwardly-blocked scene where the non-speaking cast stare at the camera Stepford-style (also, who invited the Bajoran Vedeks?). Anyway, a Federation ambassador informs the...[sigh......]...captain that there has been a coup on Tzatziki Prime or whatever. The ambassador orders Sisko to take the Defiant near the border to “show the flag.” Uh-huh. Writers, you *do* know that you're in space right? This isn't Game of Thrones. Sending Starfleet's only warship to the space-border to shake its fist seems like, at best, a waste of time, and at worst, yet another blithe violation of Federation principles for the sake of plot contrivance. Moreover, why is an *ambassador* sending a starship to show an aggressive posture? Shouldn't, at most, a vessel be sent on a diplomatic mission to secure peaceful co-existence with whichever power takes hold on Planet Greek Yoghurt? Well, as if to demonstrate in as dramatically ironic a manner as possible how poor his judgement really is, CAPTAIN Sisko happily agrees to the mission. The ambassador is also inviting himself along. He likes to watch.
Sisko casually has the Defiant armed to full capacity for this little peace envoy. O'Brien is alone in the Engine Room and hears some odd noises because The Thing™.
Act 1 : *.5, 17%
Dax asks after Sisko's new girlfriend. Apparently, the effects of her illuminating Zhian'tara are to have her double down on the Sex and City vibe and pester him about Kasidy like they're in fucking highschool. According to Dax, the entire senior staff is on pins and needles about their Coman—ahem, Captain's sex life. What is it with Ira Behr and reprising this “Captian's Holiday” bullshit?
So. The ENTIRE senior staff, including Odo AND Eddington are aboard the Defiant for this little trip. Uh-huh. Why in the hell is Odo coming along? Well, maybe Keiko is back from Bajor and she, Jessica Rabbit and Rom can defend the station from Dominion threats, coordinate the election of the new Bajoran FM and finally kill all those voles. O'Brien is still in the ship's bowels, performing maintenance, when he hears more odd clamouring about. After a minute or so, he runs (almost literally) into Bashir who has been hooking up some new medical equipment or something. Miles decides to investigate the doctor's handiwork, and is duly impressed.
In the mess hall, Eddington is called in for a briefing from Sisko, some routine stuff about protecting the ambassador from his own stupidity. Before he leaves, Eddington feels compelled to double down on the crew wetting themselves over Sisko's promotion, lamenting that gold shirts like him don't ever get to sit in the captain's seat, at least not in this century. Yeah, you've got to switch to medical so Starfleet can assign you a giant vibrator to command (c.f. “All Good Things...”). This picks up, sort of, the threads from the brainless subplot in “The Die is Cast.” Eddington and Sisko are both characterised as military men, who wear the uniform with pride, blah blah blah.
EDDINGTON: People don't enter Starfleet to become commanders, or admirals for that matter. It's the captain's chair that everyone has their eye on.
Uh-huh. Sure. That's why Bones joined Starfleet. And Maddox. And Data. Yep, no one in Starfleet gives a shit about exploration or science or psychology or diplomacy. It's all about power, am I right? Everyone just wants to play “Call of Duty” in space. That's what Starfleet has been reduced to on this series. Well this fuckery with the soul of Star Trek aside, at least we do get a little insight into Eddington himself. He definitely wishes he were a red-shirt—well, the good kind, not the one who dies on the away mission.
Later, the Defiant receives a distress call from a Federation border colony, but it's promptly lost.
Act 2 : ***, 17%
Unable to raise the colony on subspace, Captain Reasonable deduces that now the Federation is at war with Planet Pita Bread. Uuuuuuuhhhhmmmm. What? Mr Sisko, you behave as though trigger-happy machismo were a virtue. Why is that? Sisko sets course for the colony and has Odo contact Starfleet while Dax tries to hail the nearest Starfleet ship. I do like the subtle nod in naming the other ship “Ulysses.” Like in “The Jem'Hadar,” our heroes, such as they are, are playing right into *another* Dominion trap, just like the Odyssey. Well, the effort is in vain as the communications system is out. An embarrassed O'Brien heads below decks with Dax to correct the problem. They discover that the systems have been invaded by some sort of tech parasite and their attempt to disable it gets Miles shocked by a force field.
It turns out that this parasite has hacked all the ship's major systems, and O'Brien is certain that the sabotage occurred after they left DS9. There are 47 [duh] people on the Defiant, and anyone could be the saboteur. O'Brien is forced to mention his encounter with Bashir, and Dax hits on the idea of laying the issue bare before the crew. You see, planting the device would leave trace amounts of technostuff on the saboteur's hands. So Dax scans Sisko, then Kira, then Bashir...but they're all clean. Eddington is ready with the phaser...O'Brien is relieved after their encounter the other day that his buddy is clean, but Bashir has no recollection of the event. Uh-oh. Dax scans the ambassador who shapeshifts his way out off the bridge. Yep, it's another Changeling. Odo looks devastated.
Act 3 : **, 17%
Before they know it, the Defiant has cloaked, the weapons activated...but the ship is not under their control thanks to the parasite. Eddington and Odo have been unable to find the Changeling and Odo is certain that the saboteur is still aboard. He surmises that the Founders are hoping that the Defiant's pending incursion into Planet Hummus will lead to a war, giving them the opportunity to seize control over the quadrant, as the Lovok Changeling intimated in “The Die is Cast.” And LUCKILY, Captain Moron here was too trigger-happy and gullible to check in with Starfleet HQ about his hoax mission from the ambassador, and so, here we are. In yet another contrivance, it turns out that Changelings can't be detected as such when they're mimicking other forms. So why is it that Odo can't digest food and drink if he can create a digestive tract? Or was his “messy” comment just a reference to the fact that he doesn't enjoy pooping? Well, Sisko has to make up for his stupidity somehow, so he has the crew locked down, and the search parties paired off in an attempt to limit the Changeling's options.
The senior staff and security are issued phasers (on stun) but Odo refuses, citing the precedent about Changelings never harming each other. Except, as Eddington points out, if this Changeling succeeds in his mission, Odo will probably be blown up by the Falafel People. I think that rule has an asterisk by it, *Only applies to people whose choices we agree with or when the plot requires it. Meanwhile, one of the only two people on board who can hope to destroy the parasite, Dax, has been severely concussed because O'Brien, showing uncharacteristic stupidity, left her alone for a minute to grab some piece of equipment. Good one. Well, Sisko's own idiocy has finally backed him into a corner; he's going to have to destroy the Defiant if O'Brien can't regain control by himself.
Act 4 : *.5, 17%
The only remaining option, before it comes to Operation Blow Ourselves Up, is to sweep the ship with low-level phaser fire, ferreting the Changeling out and, erm somehow getting him to relinquish control of the ship. Sisko, being very clever, has the crew divided into pairs, in case one of them is the Changeling. That way, if one of them is, there won't be any witnesses around when the non-Changeling partner is murdered. Ah, but we have to justify the not-at-all contrived “don't you trust me?” paranoia bits which follow. The story is certainly better than “Cathexis,” but this bullshit angle isn't any less hackneyed than Neelix' rant to the EMH.
Speaking of bad Voyager episodes, Eddington is getting sweaty because their sweeps are heating up the air, reminding me of “Learning Curve” and giving the ship a fever. He asks Odo if he might be able to predict the other Changeling's tactics.
ODO: I've thought about it, but the truth is I don't understand my people all that well.
Truth. Meanwhile, Captain Genius' let's move in pairs instead of threes...or, I don't know, eject the warp core, or shoot the cloaking device, or board a shuttlecraft, or flood the ship with knock-out gas, or … hey you know what would be really useful right now? Some sort of device that forces a Changeling to hold his shape! Gosh, if only some mad master Cardassian spy had had these things built and distributed to the AQ powers, just in case his own perfect plan to destroy the entire Dominion failed! Anyway, Captain Dumbass' plan ends up getting his gold-shirted partner strangled to death by tentacle hentai, I mean the Changeling. Should have put on a red shirt, buddy. More idiocy ensues with Kira and her Bolian buddy finding Sisko and engaging in a three-way Mexican standoff. Even Odo and Eddington allow themselves to be separated. Jesus, how sad is it that these two crack security officers are performing at the same level as Neelix in “Twisted,” wandering off and getting separated like fucking doofuses?
Well, Odo tries to make up for his own stupidity by noting that Sisko has started to bleed from his scuffle, and that this seems to indicate that he isn't a Changeling because The Thing™. So Bashir takes blood samples from everyone except Odo, naturally. Sisko takes the chance to cast suspicion over the paranoid Bolian. Way to inspire the troops, captain. When Bashir takes a sample from Eddington, the blood transforms into Changeling goo—so I guess they've got their man. Remember, the Changeling was able to knock the entire crew onto the floor and escape within about a second, but now he's just going to let them cart him off to confinement? Eddington even makes this point himself! God these people are DUMB. Then Bashir (the real Bashir) opens the door across the hall (of course) revealing that this other Bashir is the Changeling. He morphs away and Sisko...sigh...Sisko sends Odo right after him in goo form. So now, the GOOD shapeshifter is on his own and the two are indistinguishable from one another. God these people are DUUUMMB.
Act 5 : **.5, 17%
Well, now the Defiant is minutes away from Planet Tabouli, so Sisko authorises the auto-destruct—which is inexplicably NOT affected by the Changeling parasite. Did I say contrived? Contrived. So, the computer lets the whole ship know that they're ten minutes from blowing up, and Sisko's 47, sorry 45-man crew can cower in their bunks instead of boarding the escape pods. Such an inspiring leader. Well, O'Brien at least thinks he can shut down all of the force-fields on the ship so they can remove the parasite, but this will also remove the shielding around the warpcore. Apparently, the Defiant's impressive design will cause the entire Engineering staff to melt or get cancer if something should disrupt their force-fields. Brilliant. Odo oozes into Engineering, followed by...Odo oozing into Engineering. Odo2 immediately tries verifying his identity with Miles, but Odo1 has just as much info. O'Brien says “fuck it” and has his assistant lock his phaser on both Odos. If he can save the ship, O'Brien may be the only one to make up for his idiocy this episode. Odo2 gives himself away by panicking when O'Brien shuts down the fields and attacks the assistant and the chief before Odo can get into a goo-fight with him. He urges Odo to escape with him, but Odo fights back and manages to shove the other Changeling into the radioactive warp core. He whispers something in Odo's ear before dying and disintegrating into a pile of charcoal.
O'Brien regains control and the Defiant returns to DS9. Odo reports to the Wardroom to deliver a disturbing message—apparently, the Founders “are everywhere.” First Lovok and now Charcoal Changeling; these bad guys just can't help but give away their plans, can they?
Episode as Functionary : **.5, 10%
DS9 has done homages to the Godfather (“The Nagus”), Casablanca (“Profit and Loss”), and now The Thing. I think this one falls somewhere in the middle in terms of quality, not coming anywhere close to the success of the former, but not a total failure like the latter. The final act provides an effective teaser for the next season and gives Odo a small amount of character material to work over, which is good. The suspense is so-so, at moments being effectively conveyed, while seeming rather cheesy at others. What really hurst this story is the fact that the situation relies upon a series of really bad decision-making. Unless the goal was to make the entire command crew look retarded, the plot is very contrived. Sisko, especially, is made to look like a complete idiot, which is all the more glaring in light of his promotion. The episode continues to depict Starfleet as a clichéd space navy, meaning the story relies almost entirely upon the mechanics of the plot instead of interesting ideas.
It's good that Odo is forced to double down on his choice from “The Search,” choosing to side against his people, despite his very strong desire (both from character and from biological instinct) to re-join them, as we saw vividly in “The Die is Cast.” I think it's pretty well-known that the superior “Homefront” two-parter was supposed to end this season. The team was forced to postpone this so they could introduce the Klingon element at the top of Season 4. I debated treating the series this way in my reviews, as I am doing with Voyager, which also had it's season finale screwed over by the producers, but this would mean putting “The Way of the Warrior” after “Paradise Lost,” leaving no place for this episode at all. So, this is the finale we got, and it's pretty lame.
Final Score : **
Fri, Oct 26, 2018, 1:32pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Oct 26, 2018, 1:33pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Oct 26, 2018, 1:35pm (UTC -5)
Time to move along home...
Fri, Oct 26, 2018, 3:02pm (UTC -5)
As for series getting better from here on out - not a big fan of the Klingon stuff personally - but I do think season 4 has some gems in it all the same.
Fri, Oct 26, 2018, 9:00pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Oct 26, 2018, 9:25pm (UTC -5)
Don’t get me wrong, some of my all-time favorite DS9 episodes are in season 4. It’s just much of the Klingon stuff to me is either a) a huge disservice to Worf, Gowron, Kurn and Kor or b) pedestrian nonsense like “Worf just doesn’t get DS9” b-plots. I know I’m probably in the minority on that but luckily Season 4 gives us many other good stories.
Anyhow, I just started rewatching the season so maybe I’ll reevaluate as Elliott’s reviews continue.
Sat, Oct 27, 2018, 11:22am (UTC -5)
I really did find myself shaking my head at how stupidly everybody was behaving in this episode. Of course, without that stupidity there would be no plot. I don't think this is awful or anything, just not very impressive.
Sat, Dec 22, 2018, 9:49pm (UTC -5)
-Sisko has become a Captain.
--Tzenkethi? Have we heard of them before? Is there a stowaway on the Defiant, or is O'Brien getting jumpy on his old age? Age, experience, growth, changing roles - multiple mentions, so far.
--Something squirming around the ship. Shapeshifters? And wow, yes, and wow, those changelings are dangerous.
--OK, so, just now Odo thinks of this simple "blood test?"
--The changling was unable to take over the autodestruct?
--Uh oh, a changeling has hurt another changeling. That can't be good.
Pretty slow moving, with a lot of frills just to get us to the info at the very end: "We are everywhere."
An average offering.
Thu, Jan 17, 2019, 7:23am (UTC -5)
I think what annoyed me most is that this is, to my memory at least, the third outing where the Defiant gets sabotaged mid voyage. It's become quite a tedious trope, especially as it's only the Defiant's first season on the show.
Sun, Jan 20, 2019, 3:49pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Jan 28, 2019, 1:21am (UTC -5)
This was pretty tense and suspenseful. And the final revelation carried quite a foreboding punch
Thu, Apr 18, 2019, 1:29am (UTC -5)
By the end, the need for Odo to be present is obvious, of course — although it’s still not clear why Kira came along for the ride.
Minor niggle: does O’Brien really believe Sisko is the best captain in Starfleet? I know his interactions with Picard were limited ( often to just one word) and he is working close-quarters with Sisko, but really?
Now that I am three seasons in, never having seen DS9 before, I have to say that it’s a massive annoyance to me that the Changelings were named Changelings by the writers. In British folklore, a changeling is a fairy infant, placed in a cradle in exchange for a human child who they have stolen. A changeling child would (like a cuckoo in the nest) be raised by its human “parents” while always seeming something “other”. The Dominion shapeshifters are not changelings, but “changeable”. I would have preferred Metamorphs, with a colloquialism such as “werewater” (as in werewolf, with the prefix “were” denoting “man” in Old English) applied by the humanoid inhabitants of the Gamma Quadrant, based on their limited interactions.
Thu, Jul 11, 2019, 4:09pm (UTC -5)
I'm pretty sure it's only the second time, and the other was Eddington doing it in very different circumstances to obey orders. What was the third?
Thu, Jul 11, 2019, 5:59pm (UTC -5)
I think it may be in 'Defiant' when Major Kira blows out part of the EPS grid by sabotaging a replicator to damage the cloaking system.
Could be wrong, though!
Thu, Nov 21, 2019, 4:40pm (UTC -5)
Thu, Dec 26, 2019, 6:58am (UTC -5)
The episode opens with a curiously flat celebration of Sisco's promotion to Captain, after a deliberately misleading voiceover. As cheap tricks go, it's ... cheap.
Then, following a verbal request from an ambassador, Sisco loads the Defiant for bear and sets out to perform some gunboat diplomacy. With the entire command crew of DS9 in tow.
Where do you begin with this? The only ship attached to DS9, being sent away? A warship being sent to perform a diplomatic mission - even one which may require fighting? And doing all of this based on a verbal request without even contacting Starfleet to confirm or even request situational updates? And to a species which have never been mentioned before or since, and yet who presumably have at least some degree of technological parity with the federation.
And to take the entire command crew? Who's looking after DS9 in their absence? Why is the station chief security officer riding shotgun on a mission which has nothing to do with the Dominion or the wormhole?
Obviously, the answer is that the writers needed to set the story on a spaceship and that Odo needed to be present so that they could set up a heavily foreshadowed showdown between him and the Founder changling.
But it's all very clumsily handled, and as with many other episodes in this season, suggests that the writers were more comfortable with TNG style "travellng" episodes than the "fixed-point" stories which Babylon 5 was successfully showcasing at the time.
Moving onto the actual story, and it's mostly lifted from The Thing: a small group of people isolated from the outside world must battle an alien creature which can perfectly mimick any of them.
It's here that the episode becomes a little more ridiculous, as we find that the Changlings cant be identified via scanners, as apparently they perfectly mimick whatever form they take, all the way down to the molecular level.
This is something I find very hard to buy into, especially when you consider that the Federation has access to Odo to test detection methods. And as this very episode highlights, changlings do have physiological differences to humans - they don't eat, nor do they sweat in high temperatures and they need to turn into goop once every twelve hours.
(It's also a conceit Ronald D. Moore carried over to BSG, where the "human" cylons were repeatedly claimed to be indistinguishable from humans, despite being susceptible to radiation which doesn't harm humans, having high-bandwidth FTL transmitters installed in their brains /and/ the ability to control computers by inserting fibre optic cables into their arms...)
Still, it gives the crew of the Defiant a chance to charge around in pairs, despite the fact that Odo has shown how easily a changling can subdue a solid. And we get to see a blood-test scene directly lifted from The Thing, with an overly telegraphed bait-and-switch twist thrown in at the end.
Naturally, this leads to a showdown between Odo and the enemy changlingn once the writers have finished hammering home how "no changling has ever harmed another".
As ever, this is one of the broad generalisations Star Trek is very fond of and which doesn't really hold up well. Odo himself proves that each changling has it's own distinct personality and ethics, and the Founders have spent centuries manipulating other species, often while in disguise. And there's never been a situation where two founders have conflicted, or deliberately caused the death of another in the name of progressing a strategy? After all, Odo has been brought into the line of fire by previous Founder activities several times and has only been saved by external factors; this entire episode involves putting Odo on a starship going to war and quite possibly complete destruction.
And the other changling was more than happy to assault Odo while demanding that he return to their homeworld.
Still, the inevitable happens, and it does at least give us a final line in the final episode of the season which sets things up for the dramatic opener of the next season - and this is also when the writers finally seem to get a better handle on what DS9 should really be...
Sun, Jul 5, 2020, 8:12pm (UTC -5)
And no, I'm never going to believe that the founders have never harmed each other. Cultures have their myths that are widely accepted, despite being ludicrous.
Wed, Oct 14, 2020, 6:13am (UTC -5)
One thing nobody's mentioned is how creepy the Changeling intruder looked. It's a memorable villain: a creepy old guy in a semi-dress who rapidly morphs into wildly lashing goo.
As for this season, I'd say there were 8 bad episodes, which is not bad for a mammoth 26 episode season. I thought all the two parters were very good (The Search 1 and 2, Past Tense 1 and 2, Improbable Case and the Die is Cast), as were the episodes which forwarded politics on Bajor and with the Maquis (Defiant, Destiny and Shakaar). However I would say none of these episodes rival the greatest in season 1 and 2, and none of them quite makes 4 stars on Jammer's scale.
Every season has a standalone Dax, Odo, Miles, Bashir, Quark and Kira episode, and in this season none of the above get a great standalone. Indeed, their episodes are weaker here than in season 1, 2 and 4. What elevates the season, and creates the impression of the show "becoming better", is its strong two-parters and its fidelity to continuity. I'd say season 3 has lower highs and better lows than what came before.
One also notices the subtle changes in style with Piller moving away from the series. It's a bit more gung-ho, a bit less interested in Bajoran politics.
It's interesting comparing season 3 of DS9 to season 3 of TNG. IMO, TNG's third season was vastly better. IMO it had 4 star episodes with "Survivors", "Who Watches the Watchers", "The Best of Both Worlds", "Deja Q", "Yesterday's Enterprise", "Sins of the Father" and "The Defector". And then very strong and/or iconic episodes with "Ensigns of Command", "Evolution", "Booby Trap", "The Enemy", "The Hunted", "The High Ground", "The Offspring", "Allegiance", "Tin Man", "Hollow Pursuits" and "Sarek".
Wed, Oct 14, 2020, 7:46am (UTC -5)
Just wanted to point out there is a discussion of the seasons overall on the "recap" pages. Makes it a little less crowded on the episode pages.
Enjoying your takes!
Sat, Mar 20, 2021, 5:02am (UTC -5)
And Odo's final words provide a very ominous ending indeed.
Not nearly as good a Season 3 finale as Best of Both Worlds, but a solid 7/10
Sun, Oct 17, 2021, 9:53am (UTC -5)
And while I did enjoy the episode, it felt like it was written for TNG or Voyager, and felt off for DS9, like the writers didn't entirely know their own characters.
Mon, Dec 6, 2021, 2:46pm (UTC -5)
"In yet another contrivance, it turns out that Changelings can't be detected as such when they're mimicking other forms. So why is it that Odo can't digest food and drink if he can create a digestive tract? Or was his “messy” comment just a reference to the fact that he doesn't enjoy pooping?"
This begs other questions too. We've seen Odo masquerade as inanimate objects before (a satchel, a beverage glass, a "you are here" display on the Promenade). If a changeling literally is simply that thing when he becomes that thing, then presumably he can't see, hear, speak or think when in that form.
So...how could he, say, eavesdrop on a criminal to catch them in the act when he's a beverage glass?
Mon, Dec 6, 2021, 2:58pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Dec 6, 2021, 4:50pm (UTC -5)
Sat, Jan 1, 2022, 1:07pm (UTC -5)
I guess they weren't curious at all about a WAR possibly starting and didn't bother to look into it. I love this episode and the way it advances the Dominion plotline is super but that's my only nitpick
Sun, Mar 20, 2022, 5:26pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Mar 21, 2022, 11:38am (UTC -5)
Mon, Mar 28, 2022, 5:57pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Sep 26, 2022, 1:36pm (UTC -5)
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