Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

"The Assignment"

2.5 stars

Air date: 10/28/1996
Teleplay by David Weddle & Bradley Thompson
Story by David R. Long & Robert Lederman
Directed by Allan Kroeker

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"Well, I'd better be going. I left a patient on the operating table." — Bashir

Nutshell: Another mixed bag. A nice, claustrophobic setup, but the plot can't deliver the goods in the end.

Keiko O'Brien returns from Bajor to reveal to Miles that she is, in fact, an entity who has taken possession of Keiko's body. Threatening to kill her, the entity forces O'Brien into a position where he must help her by modifying the station's equipment in ways that even he can't understand the reasons behind.

Given the basic premise, there's a reasonable amount that can be said about "The Assignment" and some of the effects it has. The idea of an alien body snatcher is certainly nothing new, and it's quite often a premise that can come off more corny than anything else (Voyager's "Cathexis" comes to mind). The mild silliness factor evident in Keiko's "convincing" of O'Brien that she's, well, not really Keiko—her trick of "killing" Keiko very briefly and then bringing her back—had me somewhat apprehensive from the start. Fortunately, the story begins to find a solid direction once it gets going, and is fairly effective to a point.

The best thing about "The Assignment" is the way it puts its central character into the toughest of binds, leaving him virtually no option but to do exactly what the alien wants. The Keiko-alien comes right out and tells him from the start—help me or else your wife dies... period. And she has O'Brien completely figured out—she possesses all the knowledge the real Keiko has, and she has already thought of every solution that initially comes to O'Brien's mind and lists them off, telling him not to even bother trying them. If he does, Keiko will die.

This is a great situation for inducing frustration and claustrophobia. What do you do when the most valuable person in your life depends on your carrying out actions with consequences you are not at all certain of—which could very well be disastrous? That's the real hook in "The Assignment," as we follow O'Brien around the station wondering what he's going to do to get out of this mess.

The episode's opening acts successfully convey the sense that O'Brien is completely trapped and helpless. In a scene set in his quarters, O'Brien must pretend (at his own birthday party with a dozen guests, no less) that he's having a good time and things are perfectly normal, when, in fact, his wife is a very skillful alien who makes a more convincing Keiko than Keiko herself. O'Brien's tension builds and builds, yet he has to maintain a cool surface to avoid arousing suspicion. (He breaks a glass in his bare hand—a rather nice touch to display his stress.)

There are a number of nice touches here that punctuate the tension. Take for example, the scene where the Keiko-alien refuses to let Miles sleep on the couch. When Miles wakes up the next morning with his hand on Keiko's thigh, his smile quickly turns to an appropriately hateful look. And the subtle scene where the Keiko-alien calls Miles on the viewscreen while brushing Molly's hair—and pulls Molly's hair intentionally to send a message—is a rather potent little highlight. The alien displays plenty of subtle villainy through the episode, and most of it works pretty well.

And, as usual, Meaney's performance is stellar work—convincing and even-handed, projecting the right amount of emotion without going overboard.

Much of O'Brien's frustration mounts from the fact that the Keiko-alien constantly leaves him in the dark. She simply gives him an ultimatum and expects him to perform, without telling him what will happen next or explaining why he's doing what he's doing. She asks him to reconfigure some communications equipment. He does. Then she tells him it was all just a test to see if she could trust him. Hell, I'd be mad.

No, O'Brien's real task is a massive engineering feat. And after considering his options and deciding he can't risk carrying out the alien's demands, he reluctantly goes to see Sisko. But as he's walking down the promenade on his way to see the captain, the Keiko-alien promptly throws herself over the promenade's second level. Keiko's injuries are not life-threatening, but the implications are; the alien simply knows Miles too well to be fooled, and if he doesn't agree to be honest and conforming then Keiko will suffer the consequences. So the Keiko-alien gives O'Brien a 13-hour deadline to complete a 36-hour job. ("You're resourceful," she tells him. "I know you can get it done.")

An interesting dilemma seems to want to surface here—the idea of "how far would you go?" in order to protect a loved one. What if it meant putting the deaths of others on your hands? At first Miles tells the alien that he will not agree to anything that will jeopardize the lives of anyone one the station, but I'm not so sure. As the show progresses and O'Brien finds his back completely against the wall, it seems that he might be capable of anything to get this alien to surrender his wife. One interesting scene with Dax shows O'Brien trying to subtly talk himself into believing that what he's done isn't really sabotage—it's just "an unexplained variance" in the systems.

This could've been truly powerful material. O'Brien is a good, honest man, but who is to say what he could be capable of with his wife in such grave danger—or, for that matter, what any of us would be capable of? It's not an issue to be taken lightly.

Unfortunately, "The Assignment" chooses not to follow through with this issue. Instead, it decides to slant away from character and go straight for plot. That in itself isn't something I have any objections to. There's a bigger problem here, and its name is Rom.

Not only does Rom further affirm himself here as DS9's most needlessly annoying character, but his role is to provide the comic relief to a story that should not have such comic relief at such inopportune times. "The Assignment" should be a thoroughly gripping, intense story, but the writers choose to put some of the plot's most pivotal moments in the hands of such a silly character, and, as a result, the tension is sabotaged at key moments. And that's too bad.

A big part of the problem is that Rom is so pointlessly stupid. Are we supposed to believe that anyone could honestly buy the story O'Brien uses when he recruits Rom to help him complete the engineering job? ("It's a top-secret project that Sisko and the others know about but have to pretend they don't." Uh-huh.) Rom buys it in a heartbeat, either because he's the biggest chump on the station or because he's a world-class suck-up trying to score points with the boss (or both). Neither option is particularly appealing.

At one point in the story Rom asks O'Brien, "I have to stay here and play the idiot?" At this point, perhaps O'Brien should've clued Rom in that he is an idiot. Forgive my Rom-bashing, but I'm irked the way the writers have taken this character and reduced him to nothing I want to see. The fact that he's completely atypical as far as Ferengi go doesn't help him the way I would expect it to, because the comedy he's provided with instead of the usual "Ferengi are greedy so they're funny" is the "Rom is dumb so he's funny." No, thank you.

Once Dax stumbles upon the rigging of the station, Sisko begins looking for the saboteur. O'Brien suddenly finds himself involved in an investigation where he's supposed to hunt down himself (sort of like Kevin Costner in No Way Out). So in order to buy himself more time, he feeds Odo Rom, his partner in crime.

This provides O'Brien with just enough time to finish the tech work, but he still isn't sure what the results of his job will be. As Odo's interrogation of Rom proves unsuccessful, he grants Rom permission to talk with O'Brien, resulting in plot revelations that are uncovered a tad to bluntly for my tastes. In this sequence, Rom reveals to O'Brien that the modifications to the systems will cause a focused beam that when directed into the wormhole will kill the wormhole aliens. Further, it would seem that the alien holding Keiko hostage is one of several "false prophets" who were expelled from the wormhole centuries ago—and is using O'Brien to destroy its enemies so it can reclaim the wormhole for itself.

So will someone tell me when Rom suddenly grew a brain? How can he be such a dullard in one scene, yet able to figure out the entire episode's problem—which even O'Brien couldn't solve—in the next? I'm sorry, but I don't buy it. It strains the confines of my credulity. Even if I did buy it, I would still object to the way the plot and motivations are all completely explained in a single dialog-heavy scene.

The ending doesn't exactly have the finesse I could've hoped for, either. Once O'Brien finds out what he's dealing with, the anticipation of how O'Brien will outsmart and thwart this clever alien then becomes the driving force behind the episode's hopeful success. Unfortunately, the ending's plot workings are less than what they could've been. Sure, the confrontation between Odo and O'Brien once Odo figures out O'Brien is the mind behind the apparent subterfuge is adeptly written and works well enough, but the primary showdown between O'Brien and the Keiko-alien, on the other hand, is underwhelming. O'Brien merely contacts her on his communicator and tells her to meet him in a Runabout so they can finish the job, the intentions of which he has now figured out. But one thing bothers me about this: How is it that the alien only selectively knows O'Brien's intentions? I find it hard to believe she would know with such certainty that O'Brien intends to go inform Sisko earlier in the episode, yet doesn't know that he's lying when he says he "doesn't give a damn about the wormhole aliens." In retrospect, the alien seems pretty silly for trusting O'Brien to take her into such an obviously vulnerable position.

The way the plausibility level shifts by the end of the episode makes O'Brien's solution to his dilemma too easy. And, unfortunately, these plot manipulations are simply not clever enough to be very interesting or to overcome the fact that they're ultimately implausible. It's a shame to see such a potent setup reduced to such a standard conclusion. And the initial question of "how far would you go?" ultimately becomes a non-issue.

As a quick aside, let me note that "The Assignment" is a staff effort by a writers/director team with names I haven't seen in the series' credits very many times—some never before. Composer Gregory Smith (whose score was pretty good, might I add) is also unknown to me. "The Assignment" isn't a bad episode by any means. This group's work is solid, entertaining, and effective for the most part. If only they had wrapped things up better and used Rom more effectively (or not at all) then they could've had a real winner here.

Previous episode: Nor the Battle to the Strong
Next episode: Trials and Tribble-ations

◄ Season Index

74 comments on this review

Anthony2816
Fri, Apr 4, 2008, 1:50am (UTC -5)
"How can he be such a dullard in one scene, yet able to figure out the entire episode's problem--which even O'Brien couldn't solve--in the next?"

I think Rom is an idiot savant type. Clueless in many aspects, but near genius in a few...like engineering.
AeC
Sun, Jun 1, 2008, 4:05pm (UTC -5)
Honestly, the thing I liked least about this episode was Smith's score. Way too in-your-face and a little too heavy on the suspense movie clichés. Beyond that, though, I thought it worked a lot better than I'd remembered it from the last time I saw it however many years ago. Maybe not exceptional, but a strong "Put O'Brien through the wringer" show.
Aldo Johnson
Thu, Jul 30, 2009, 3:39am (UTC -5)
Maybe Rom isn't a dullard, just a coward. After all, he's been the handyman for Quark's bar, and there was that episode that displays his ingeniousness (using a spatula as a conduit or something like that). He simply doesn't want to or is too afraid to stand up to his brother.

As to believing O'Brien's story, yes, that was bad. Perhaps Max Grodenchick should've played it a bit more skeptically. But he proved that he is able to pick up on things, even on the purpose of the "modifications." So he does have brains, just not guts.
Nic
Sun, Feb 21, 2010, 10:08pm (UTC -5)
I thought the tension was built up nicely - mostly thanks to Rosalind Chao's performance - and was not really bothered by Rom's presence, but the effects in the ending were god-awful.
Larrylongballs
Sat, Mar 6, 2010, 7:43am (UTC -5)
This episode set up two major story arcs. Roms career that led to him getting a promotion, a wife and eventually the job of Negus. It also set up the Par Wraiths which led into the amazing arc of Gul Dukat in s6 and 7 as well as the later episode where KIra and Jake are possessed.

So I do think this episode deserves at least a retrosprective 3 for the story elements that it introduced in what appeared to be a stand alone episode on a first viewing.
Jeff O'Connor
Sun, Oct 17, 2010, 5:43pm (UTC -5)
Nah, I'm not a fan of 'retrospective scores'. My review thread intentionally avoids them. Episodes should be criticized based on what they offer within 43 minutes, not three seasons.
CZ
Thu, Dec 23, 2010, 2:09am (UTC -5)
I can easily believe in a character like Rom. How many engineers do you know IRL who are "clueless" in many ways (esp socially), yet gifted in the finer technicalities of their field? ;)

Yeah, it's a stereotype, but it really doesn't bother me that Rom's character is the way it is. Plus, I don't really think his character is "dumb" so much as "naive"... it even makes him charming, in my eyes. His enthusiasm for his job is quite innocent, in a way. Too bad others interpret him as an annoying dullard.
Nick M
Thu, Dec 30, 2010, 9:17am (UTC -5)
Jammer, I think you are too hard on the Rom character much of the time. You have to look at it from the view of who he has always been:

- spoiled as the baby of the family by Moogie

- loved by Quark, but in the worst way. Nothing is ever good enough, constantly called an idiot and beaten down mentally and verbally by a bully of a big brother who abuses him to make himself feel like a big shot

- a man who has a son who he loves more than anything, but it is obvious the son is humiliated by him

Rom also is that individual who is always looking to new experiences (like trying the new food for breakfast) that repulse other Ferengi, he doesn't follow his own people's traditions. He's a tecnical wizard in a culture that values the "lobes" for greed and profit. Like so many others on DS9, Rom is an outcast.

I guess I am defending Rom because I always liked the sincere naivety he has. He just wants to be part of a group that accepts him, that LIKES him. He is a good person, but yes he is (for the most part) a lemming. I think he was misunderstood by a lot of the people watching DS9 who viewed him, sadly like Quark did. An idiot.
Stubb
Mon, Jul 25, 2011, 7:39am (UTC -5)
I'll defend Rom's character too. Aside from Colm Meaney's typically strong performance, I felt Rom was the most pleasant surprise in this episode. He has engineering talent, but is also naive and easily duped. Rom offers more than we see at first glance. To me, that equals complexity. And Grodenchick's acting was fine.
Elliott
Tue, Aug 16, 2011, 10:20pm (UTC -5)
Baffling. Baffling that an episode in season 5 DS9 should actually be moving, engaging, thoughtful and uniquely executed and Jammer should give it 2.5 stars. True Rom's early stupidity warrants marking off perhaps half a star, but other than that there's almost nothing wrong with the episode, and it's quite engaging from beginning to end. The acting is stellar (save some obligatory and pointless scene-chewing from Brooks) and the music is among the very best scores I've heard on Trek since TNG season 2.

The one truly glaring issue is with the Pagh Wraiths, in that their motivation is purely cartoonish (something regarding the prophets that was at least attempted to circumvent earlier on this series). It will of course lead to the most abysmal lows of season 7, but that fact shouldn't mire too much the fact that this was a standout episode.
Snitch
Tue, May 1, 2012, 4:41am (UTC -5)
I liked this episode, the mystery at the beginning, the creepy micromanaging of O'Brien had me entertained. The end is a bit too tidy.
3 Stars from me
John
Sun, Aug 26, 2012, 11:22pm (UTC -5)
A surprisingly decent episode with some 4-star elements mixed in with general run of the mill stuff.

I would put Rosalind Chao's perfermance right up there with Meaney's. And also credit the writing staff and the director for keeping all the alien-possession cliches down to a minimum.

And strange that you would berate the use of Rom here Jammer. Not my favourite character by a long shot but his inclusion in this episode worked almost perfectly for me.
Patrick
Mon, Aug 27, 2012, 12:34am (UTC -5)
This episode missed one of the great opportunities for intra-series continuity--in this case a TNG/DS9 bit of continuity.

In TNG's "Power Play", O'Brien was possessed by an energy creature that was violent to Keiko, where in this episode the tables are turned between them via a different entity.

I know there's just a ton of story threads that the writers have to keep together to make the Star Trek universe seem realistic, but with all of DS9's constant call-backs to events from TNG (including mentioning Matt Frewer's guest character!) this would have been ripe for a mention.

It could have been after Keiko had been recovered and in sickbay and she'd mention to him, "Now we're even". O'Brien would look puzzled. "Remember when you were possessed on the Enterprise". O'Brien would say something like: "Yeah, well now you know how I felt".

It's just a Trekkie thing.
Cail Corishev
Tue, Sep 18, 2012, 11:05am (UTC -5)
It's hard to rate an episode starring one of my favorite characters and one of my least-liked. I was kinda hoping the alien would kill Keiko, and let Chief off the hook, which I'm pretty sure wasn't what the writers were going for.
Jack
Fri, Feb 1, 2013, 3:24pm (UTC -5)
It's a little strange that Odo could be knocked out by a blow to the head, since it's really just a "head". I guess the "when I'm mimicking a rock, I'm a rock" line from some other episode applies here too.
Bilbo
Fri, Mar 1, 2013, 2:40pm (UTC -5)
Jack -- no, that really is Odo's brain in his head. Remember, the Founders had changed him into a "solid" for punishment.
Chris
Fri, May 24, 2013, 4:16am (UTC -5)
Jack - That was the whole *point* of Odo being injured in that scene. He is now as vulnerable as any other humanoid.
ProgHead777
Sun, Jul 28, 2013, 12:46am (UTC -5)
I look at Rom as a genius who's been told he's an idiot for so long by his abusive brother (and probably other Ferengi, as well) that he himself sometimes forgets that he's not one.

Since it was only acknowledged once or twice in the above comments (and not at all by Jammer) I would like to also point out Rosalind Chao's fine performance in this episode.
Kotas
Thu, Oct 24, 2013, 9:17pm (UTC -5)
Rom development is the highlight here. The main story was pretty poor. Loved one controlled by alien is a tired concept and evil Keiko is very annoying.

4/10
Nissa
Wed, Jan 29, 2014, 6:06pm (UTC -5)
Jammer, buddy, I think you're letting your personal bias against Nog mess up this episode for you. Honestly, I really enjoy it, and Nog was at least plausible in this episode. He wasn't as bad as he was other times. I really loved this one, and I'll watch it again.

Though I agree with Cail Corishev above; I don't like Keiko. That makes me like the episode better, because she gets hurt. Hehe. Actually, the actress does a lot better when she's not Keiko. She's a great paghwraith.
Dusty
Tue, Feb 4, 2014, 10:58pm (UTC -5)
I wasn't expecting much out of this episode. Keiko is one of the few characters I can't bring myself to care about, but by making it mostly about O'Brien's untenable situation and Nog's loyalty to him, this one scores big on suspense. I can't help but put myself in O'Brien's shoes and think of what I would do in his situation.
Jack
Thu, Feb 13, 2014, 4:52pm (UTC -5)
@ Bilbo & Chris...

Okay...duh! Odo is a solid here.

I have to be careful watching episodes out of order and context :)
Jay
Sat, Feb 15, 2014, 1:28pm (UTC -5)
Keiko-Wraith kept saying that the beam would kill every Prophet in a split second "before they could even see it", but when O'Brien has it strike the runabout instead, it takes a good ten seconds for Keiko-Wraith to melodramatically yield to its demise.
Bravestarr
Tue, Feb 25, 2014, 1:05pm (UTC -5)
The whole episode I was putting myself in O'Brien's shoes and I could just imagine the seething rage this guy has for wraith. I would've like some more anger from Colm kind of like "I'm going to get/kill you." and the final payoff where he does "Told I'd find a way to kill you."

That would've been badass.

As for Rom being an idiot but figuring out what the wraith was doing. O'brien said it himself "I couldn't see the forest for the trees."

O'brien was looking at the details, Rom just figured it out by looking at the big picture.
Vylora
Wed, Feb 26, 2014, 2:12am (UTC -5)
I appreciate the episode for growing Rom's character and most of the scenes between Miles and Keiko. Unfortunately none of the other aspects played out as well as they could have. It also didn't help being bookended with cringe-worthy opening and closing scenes.

Irregardless of it being the introduction of the Pah-Wraiths and their future impact, this one alone just didn't do it for me. A few nicely realized moments saves this from a total loss.

2 stars.
Yanks
Thu, Aug 7, 2014, 2:41pm (UTC -5)
Keiko's best when she's not Keiko.

Rom does have engineering brilliance, if lacking common sense. How many really smart folks do you know that can't tie their own shoes? ...

"ROM: I have to stay here and play the idiot?
O'BRIEN: I'm afraid so. No matter what Odo asks you
ROM: I'm Quark's brother. I know the role."

lol

3 stars for me.
gata4
Fri, Sep 5, 2014, 4:51pm (UTC -5)
I enjoyed this episode, chiefly due to the fun Rosalind Chao was having with her role of 'bad Keiko'. And Rom is clearly some kind of idiot savant character. The thing that didn't have any immediate continuity for me was that this Pagh Wraith was supposed to have been banished from the Celestial Temple, yet seem to have no trouble at all communicating with Miles, unlike the Prophets themselves. THEY can barely string two words together, all this "It is the Sisko, it is tem-por-al" etc.
Dave in NC
Fri, Sep 5, 2014, 9:16pm (UTC -5)
@ gata4

The "Celestial Temple" (the wormhole) may exist outside of time, but the Fire Caves don't. The Pah-Wraiths seem to have snagged enough unwary souls to earn it a bad reputation . . . it's likely they had tens of thousands of years (and people) in which to learn how to communicate on a temporal level.
Dave in NC
Fri, Sep 5, 2014, 9:17pm (UTC -5)
Another thought occurred to me: why would the Prophets imprison their archenemies on Bajor when there were plenty of uninhabited moons/other planets in their solar system?
Ken
Tue, Jun 9, 2015, 9:51pm (UTC -5)
This gets 2.5 stars? I can't believe we watched the same episode.

You feel that "Let He Who is Without Sin..." insulted your intelligence. I felt the same about this trainwreck. It started with Keiko "dying" to prove she was taken over by a Pah'wraith. But it's clinched when Miles is trying to find a way to get the wraith out (everything would take too long - the wraith would kill Keiko first) and then does nothing after Keiko jumps off the Promenade balcony and is unconscious.

Those are just the most serious plot holes within the context of the story. I felt personally insulted by the whole show. Rom's character progression was the only slightly redeeming factor.
Nathan B.
Wed, Aug 5, 2015, 8:50pm (UTC -5)
CZ and others: great comments that speak to why I, too, love watching Rom. In some ways, he reminds me of me as a teen.
rom
Wed, Oct 7, 2015, 6:12pm (UTC -5)
Great episode! 3.5 stars from me.
William B
Sun, Jan 3, 2016, 11:57am (UTC -5)
I enjoyed this one. O'Brien is the family man in the cast, and it occurs to me that the generic term "torture O'Brien" only covers part of the story; while that more or less describes something like "Visionary" or "Honour Among Thieves" or arguably "Captive Pursuit," it seems like "Whispers," "Hard Time," this episode and "Time's Orphan" all show in some way or another the unit of the family under assault. Whereas "Hard Time" had Miles be the big threat, and "Whispers" began with Miles believing that everyone (including his wife) was out to get him, this episode has possessed Keiko as the big danger. And while the his explicitly a possession story, I think that much of its strength lies in the way it maps onto dysfunctional, horrifying marriages where an illusion of normalcy must be maintained to the outside world. Not!Keiko looks and acts like the woman Miles married, takes care of Miles' child, invites his friends over for dinner, and shares his bed, but she is an evil demon-woman, who holds his entire life hostage, and Keiko's as well. Keiko-critics may view this as simply an exaggeration of the pressures that Keiko places on Miles on a regular basis, but I think it maps more onto dealing with a loved one who, because of alcoholism or mental illness or perhaps an intensely mean streak, has good days and bad days, who manipulates with threats that telling the outside world about the dysfunction in the family inner sanctum will lead to retribution within the home, possibly even by threatening to hurt or kill oneself if one does not get one's own way. So part of the episode is seeing how far Miles will go to protect his family while Keiko is held hostage, and part of it is about Miles trying to figure out how to save Keiko from "not-Keiko," from the diseased mind that is possessing her. Keiko is unable to cure her own diseased mind, and Miles cannot seek help without harming her all the more. Literally, Keiko is possessed by a demon, and in the long run of the series the introduction of the Pah-Wraiths can hardly be called a good thing. But demon possession as a metaphor for mental illness or addiction is a long tradition in literature, and Miles playing the compassionate partner who needs to get out from her harmful manipulations while not hurting his loved on in the process makes a great, engaging hero.

This narrative, which plays out as a possession story, gets backup in a weird way in the Rom story. Jammer complains about Rom's portrayal, and, yes, Rom is annoying much of the time. But I think some of what we are seeing is Rom's difficult, near-impossible effort to get out from his own brother's controlling, hurtful ways, which are done nonmetaphorically. Quark does love Rom, and in the end he accepts Rom's success away from him, but he really does not like it, and does everything he can to undermine Rom, partly out of a desire to protect Rom from the pain of the rejection which Quark feels is inevitable, and partly because Quark really just does not like the idea of not having Rom constantly around to berate. Rom's good nature, engineering skill and social difficulties make him perfect for first Quark and then, as it turns out, O'Brien to exploit -- O'Brien finds someone who seems, at the moment, talented AND dumb enough to use to placate his diseased family member's big plan, and manipulates Rom (and throws him under the bus, at least temporarily) in a very minor repetition of the way he is himself manipulated. Cycles of abuse and all that. Rom's proving that he is smart enough to shake loose of O'Brien's lies, despite being kept as busy as he was, is actually part and parcel of what allows O'Brien to shake loose of the way he was being manipulated. And I suspect that Rom's ability to both follow O'Brien's orders and to think critically about them comes from years of having to sort out what Quark is really doing from what Quark tells him.

The episode reminds me a little of Hitchcock for some reason -- "Whispers" also did, especially in the scene where he wonders if his food is poisoned, which recalled "Suspicion." I am not quite sure what movie I'm thinking of, but there is a frequent sense of danger within family and romantic relationships in Hitchcock -- one's uncle might be a murderer ("Shadow of a Doubt"), intimate relationships centre on betrayal ("Vertigo," "Notorious"), it is very easy to become trapped by circumstance into playing elaborate games devised by others to protect oneself and one's loved ones (i.e. "Strangers on a Train"). Many Hitchcock movies end pretty suddenly, with a somewhat unconvincing denouement, because the specifics of the plot are resolved but the emotional dynamics are left hanging; usually, there is enough implicit irony that the movies aren't seriously hurt by it. I think there is something a little something here; for O'Brien to turn the tables on Keiko by zapping her instead of the wormhole is a decent enough ending, but it feels somehow incomplete because the big issue of how to deal with a loved one essentially holding *themselves* hostage to get their way is something which cannot so easily be resolved usually. I'm not really sure how this could have been avoided; I wonder if having Keiko have some agency in the plot, so that she can take some action against the Pah-Wraith, might have helped make the episode's ending more satisfying on both plot and character level. It could also have been silly, though. So I'm not sure. The emotional progression is saved for the subplot, where Miles recognizes Rom's work for him and promotes him, and Quark has to accept, with some reluctance, that his brother's success will continue to bring Rom away from him.

3 stars.
Diamond Dave
Mon, Jan 18, 2016, 1:37pm (UTC -5)
The latest installment in the increasingly long book of "Bad Things Happen to Chief O'Brien". This actually comes out a lot better than the "evil alien possession" story perhaps merits, largely because of a sterling performance from Rosalind Chao that is strong because it is so creepily underplayed for the most part. I also particularly enjoyed the continuing journey of Rom the savant.

That said, it does all start feeling a little samey after a while and the progression of the story is fairly slow. But O'Brien punching out Odo is also a hoot. 3 stars.
Michael Arrowood
Sat, Apr 16, 2016, 10:12pm (UTC -5)
I actually really enjoyed this one, and I thought that Rom's role was satisfying. No, he's not always the sharpest tool in the shed, but his earnestness and actually engineering ability have been documented before. It's kind of cool how he starts to get rewarded for his knowledge and ability, much to Quark's chagrin. And his answer to the "mystery"? His explanation works pretty well for me - I think he just listened to something about the Celestial Temple and Pah Wraiths, spoken by a pretty girl, and paid attention. O'Brien wouldn't care about that sort of stuff, thus would not know it.

Keiko? Well, I find her normal character so cold and unlikable, it's hard for 'evil Keiko' to be much of a stretch. For me she just hasn't ever developed enough warmth and love for Miles O'Brien to make her seem like a real partner. I thought the final scene was the strongest, when she gave Miles a little acknowledgement - a rare thing.
Luke
Thu, Apr 28, 2016, 2:37am (UTC -5)
And so we're given our introduction to the Pah-Wraiths, thereby having "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" take a massive turn away from traditional science-fiction and into the realm of fantasy (would science-fantasy be a more appropriate term?). I know a lot of people don't like this direction the show took. I've encountered people who hated the idea of the Prophets and thought that made the show too fantasy-based. I've even met people who were okay with the Prophets but absolutely despised the concept of the Pah Wraiths. As for me, I love it! Move the series into a more fantasy-oriented setting? I'm perfectly comfortable with that. Now, of course, the real meat of the Pah Wraith arc won't come until much, much later. "The Assignment" really doesn't factor into that arc other than to establish their existence and the basics of their relationship with the Prophets. Still, it needed to be noted here that I love this new direction for the series.

As for the episode itself - it's a surprisingly effective thriller with a few small problems that do harm it. First off, one of those problems is definitely not Rom! Now, I've been really hard on Rom in the past (just read my comments on "Family Business" and
"Bar Association"), but he's easily one of the best parts of this episode. I do actually like the character and I think it was this episode where I started to have that affection. Rom may be an idiot, but he's clearly an idiot-savant (a downright imbecile in some areas but a total genius in others). It's obvious that interpersonal skills are not one of his strong suits but engineering work is. He also gets some nice character development this time around - he's a guy determined to do what's right, to help out his crew-mates and to have some distinction for that. He was really good this time around. Sure, he may be the comic relief, but he's an effective comic relief for once. No, the major problem is Rosalind Chao's performance. While she is magnificently effective is many scenes (most notably the ones where she "accidentally" pulls Molly's hair too hard and when O'Brien wakes up with her looking at him), she's pretty terrible in others. The scene where she first convinces O'Brien that Keiko is possessed (when the Pah Wraith stops her heart) is woefully bad. What was Chao trying to do there? Her best attempt at playing a man passing a kidney stone? And the scene where the Pah Wraith is killed - talk about over-the-top! Another problem is that O'Brien apparently gets off completely scot-free after what he did. Not only did he sabotage the station, he also physically assaulted Odo, lied to his superior officers, disobeyed direct orders and commandeered a runabout under false pretenses. But, apparently, just saying that his wife was possessed by a Bajoran demon is enough to explain that all away (even though he doesn't have any evidence that was the case).

Still, "The Assignment" is a good thriller episode, allows Colm Meaney to deliver another wonderful performance and shows O'Brien as a truly committed husband and father (always a plus in my book). For all the talk about how he really goes to the wall for his wife, it seems a lot of people are forgetting that he really wants to protect his daughter as well. The moment when he breaks a glass in his bare hand is, after all, because the Pah Wraith is pretending to pamper Molly - something O'Brien simply cannot tolerate. And the opening of the episode (when Molly gives him and Bashir grief for killing Keiko's plants) is a wonderful little father-daughter moment. I love whenever the show takes the time to show O'Brien (or Sisko for that matter) as a loving father, something that is woefully lacking on most TV shows these days.

WTF HAIR - 32 (+1)

7/10
Quarkissnyder
Thu, Jul 14, 2016, 12:48pm (UTC -5)
I hated Miles and Keiko less in this episode than I usually do, but not by a lot.

I thought Rom's arc was great. Many people are engineering geniuses but have no common sense.
Chrome
Thu, Jul 14, 2016, 1:50pm (UTC -5)
@Quarkissnyder

Rom is the man with no common sense will lead the Ferengi. ;)
Luka
Sun, Aug 14, 2016, 8:54pm (UTC -5)
God Rosalind Chao was sexy in this episode.
dave
Mon, Sep 26, 2016, 1:43am (UTC -5)
Hah, Luka...

I watched this tonight and came here to read the old review and comments. Yeah, I was thinking the same thing. I didn't like her too much as a character back in the day, however, she did hit the right notes in this episode. Maybe it was the aggression instead of her usually fluffy character that made it sexy?

Ah these Pah Wraiths...

They never explained them very well.... I always told the story to myself that they were the same type of beings as the wormhole alients and they had some sort of war or civil war in the wormhole, lost, and got locked into something that was buried in these fire caves. They always wanted revenge and to destroy their mortal enemies.

I wish they had of explained it more than just go on and on about Bajoran religion. We know it was just a created narrative for the people, they were not gods or prophets or anything more than just beings that lived outside of time, that could be killed.
David Pirtle
Sat, Nov 19, 2016, 6:59pm (UTC -5)
Oh c'mon. This episode is one of my favorites, particularly because of Rom. He's one of my favorite supporting characters, and all his best qualities are on display here (affability, loyalty, an idiot-savant-like intelligence). And who couldn't love an episode headlined by Colm Meaney?
Dave
Tue, Dec 27, 2016, 7:02pm (UTC -5)
The scene where O'Brien visits Rom in the brig ...if O'Brien really did "disconnect Odo's eavesdropping devices", I'd have expected Odo to bolt right back into the room as soon as he noticed. Instead, Rom and O'Brien get to have a long conversation that surely must have struck Odo as suspicious.
Trek fan
Tue, Jan 10, 2017, 12:17am (UTC -5)
Loved everything about this one -- loved the tension, loved the Rom humor, loved Rosalind Chao's nuanced performance that's probably her best work in Trek ever, and loved the character interplay that didn't rely on the usual solution (brilliantly explained by the Keiko-alien from the start to keep O'Brien from using it) to solve the dilemma. Seriously, Chao has never had to hold together this big a story before, and it's great watching how subtly she shifts from sweet housewife to malevolent stranger with her husband. Brilliant.

As for Jammer, I think my main disagreement with him is that he tends to rave over humorless one-note episodes, while I prefer these shows with a greater blend of tension and humor. He asks: Why is Rom in this story? I respond: Why are the gravediggers in Hamlet? As Shakespeare knew, humor isn't antithetical to a good thriller or tragedy, despite the unfortunate modern tendency to prefer dramatic stories that take themselves too seriously. Humor arises naturally from situations in every kind of story. Personally, I like Rom's idiot savant character and am glad he had something good to do for once; I also like seeing a Trek episode that maintains a sense of humor about itself, unlike the interminably self-important "war episode" with Jake that preceded this one.
Robert
Tue, Jan 10, 2017, 8:17am (UTC -5)
"Why is Rom in this story?"

Even for those who don't find Rom humorous there is a depth to the DS9 cast that made the station feel like a home in a way that VOY never accomplished, and part of it was the 15 or so side characters that made the place there home.

Rom, Nog, Keiko, Garak, Martok, Morn, Leeta, Vic and more all imbued the station with a feeling that you were going to see a familiar face around every corner... not just a random red-shirt.
Jammer
Tue, Jan 10, 2017, 4:07pm (UTC -5)
A note about humor. I absolutely agree that humor is necessary in serious drama. It is what separates many great works from the mediocre slogs. "The Sopranos" was practically a comedy, for example, and "The Wire" also was often very funny. I think it comes down to the humor growing out of the characterization and circumstances naturally.

This is why the Ferengi rarely worked for me. With the exception of Quark and Nog, they were overplayed cartoons out of step with everything that surrounded them.

I haven't seen "The Assignment" in a very long time, but that is my recollection of how it used Rom -- indeed, how Rom was usually used.
Robert
Wed, Jan 11, 2017, 1:04pm (UTC -5)
@Jammer - In all fairness DS9 did grow the humor naturally out of the characterization of the Ferengi as a species from TNG. It's just that it was so shallow there that even adding depth to it didn't always make it worth anything :)
Lt. Yarko
Sat, Apr 1, 2017, 8:22am (UTC -5)
Bravo! A Colm Meany tour de force! What an actor that guy is, and Rosalind did a wonderful job as evil Keiko. I just wish she was better at regular Keiko. What's up with that? What a great episode! I had no problem with the humor mixed with the tension. At one point I thought to myself "Wow! Not only am I on the edge of my seat but i'm laughing nervously as well!" I also really liked Rom in this, too, but I do have a hard time with him being so brilliant all of a sudden. The ending sucked though. I would have liked a bit of explanation as to how Miles accomplished zapping the pah-wraith instead of the wormhole. Did he sneak off for a few minutes to the shuttle before calling the wraith, and how was Keiko not harmed by the zapper? Disappointing ending but great episode otherwise. 3.5 Stars
RandomThoughts
Wed, Apr 12, 2017, 3:35pm (UTC -5)
Hello Everyone!

I, along with many others, also enjoyed the performance of Rosalind Chao. But for me, I was wondering why I enjoyed it so much when Normal Keiko often leaves me with a nails-on-the-chalkboard feeling...

I'm thinking if I watched part of this with the sound off, it would be showing the Keiko I thought Miles married: warm natural smiles, knowing looks, a twinkle in the eye and an easy demeanor. The Keiko we normally see doesn't want to be on the station (even though she says she's fine through IMHO gritted teeth and plastic smiles), has a steel rod for a spine, is humorless and seems generally one-dimensional. I don't know if this was intentional or just how the character evolved, but she must be a darned good actress if she can make her so annoying to me (and others, it seems) most of the time. Or maybe it's the other way around: she so disliked how her character was written that it came through in her acting, but here she was able to be light-and-breezy and have fun with it. Either way, there are parts of Pah Keiko I would have liked to have seen within Normal Keiko.

Rom was eventually a favorite of mine. He has evolved into someone that will help a friend anytime, anywhere, and might not even ask why (a part of his endearing naïveté). And on the job, he's no-nonsense, get it done and ask for more. In return, he just wants a bit of recognition and respect (hey, don't most of us when at work?). In a way, it's a shame Miles used some of those qualities against him when he enlisted his help, but he did get an apology later and the slate was seemingly wiped clean.

After a bit of random thought, I wonder if there are more Ferengi who just aren't good at, or as interested in, gaining latinum but must keep trying because of their code. In 'Family Business' Moogie said her husband didn't have the "lobes for business", and Rom later said "He couldn't hold onto latinum if you sewed it into his pants". He just wasn't good at it. Dr. Reyga, in TNG episode 'Suspicions', seems to be more about the science than the money, "All I want is to be acknowledged. Respected as a scientist.". Nog may or may not be good at acquiring latinum, but wants more out of life than chasing it or ending up a peon as his father was at the time. Perhaps the best thing that ever happened to Rom and Nog was to be on DS9, so when they had an awakening that their lives could be different, they had an outlet for it (unlike Keldar, who had to toil and fail, not allowing Moogie to help because of the code). Just a fun thing to think about, although it made my head hurt and now I need a nap...

Have a Great Day All... RT
Vii
Wed, Apr 19, 2017, 11:10pm (UTC -5)
What RT said about Keiko. For the life of me, I can't figure out if Keiko's personality is really that unpleasant, or if Rosalind Chao's acting was off. I've seen some of Chao's other movie appearances (Freaky Friday, The Joy Luck Club), and she certainly doesn't put on that entire plastic-grin gritted-teeth facade that she does here. Her marriage with the chief is believable, considering how many people get married for the wrong reasons, but I just can't buy that they're supposed to be a happy family as ST would have us believe. Every time they interact it feels like something out of a horror movie, where the wife is going to go psycho in the next scene and kill the husband. The only time I found Keiko's portrayal to be realistic was in that episode where O'Brien had been replaced by an alien and Keiko was trying to poison his during dinner. Now that performance I bought.
Peter
Fri, Jun 16, 2017, 4:23pm (UTC -5)
As I am slowly beginning to see more and more people (Rom, e.g.) can behave in seemingly contradictory ways...
Michael Freeman
Tue, Jul 18, 2017, 5:40am (UTC -5)
"Ken Tue, Jun 9, 2015, 9:51pm (UTC -5)
... and then does nothing after Keiko jumps off the Promenade balcony and is unconscious. "

I was becoming worried that I was the only one who noticed this. There are a number of places where O'brien could have got help without giving it away to the wraith. I know he's supposed to be on the back foot and is worried that the wraith knows his reactions so well through Keiko that it might pick up on the fact that he's got help, through body language. But this was never really convincingly tied together for me. Also O'brien and many of the other characters are almost acting out of character in this episode (badly directed?). O'brien punches Odo and says nothing ! He uses Rom as the fall guy at one point. Of course I'd be afraid if my wife were possessed by an alien, but O'brien is Starfleet and is supposed to be trained to deal with such things. He's just a little too manipulated here.
Rahul
Thu, Aug 31, 2017, 4:33pm (UTC -5)
Yes, "mixed bag" is a so-so description for this episode -- I'd call it a bad mixed bag. I get that the point of this episode is to see O'Brien, an easy-going relatable guy, be put through the ringer. But the premise of how it happens is super-annoying to me.

I'm really not a fan of Keiko and that some alien has taken her over and "Fatal Attraction" style has some convoluted plan isn't a good premise for me. The less Keiko in an episode, the better for me.

Meaney delivers, as usual, a solid performance faced with a near-impossible situation. But I think getting Rom involved diffuses the tension. Rom is a weird character -- idiot savant is good way of describing him, just that you don't know when he's what.

The ending didn't do it for me at all. So O'Brien gets the beam from the station to zap the roundabout and it rids Keiko of the alien. Not sure how he surmised this would do the trick as he had previously thought of various ways of zapping the Keiko-alien and it taking too long.

1.5 stars for "The Assignment" -- case of a the ball dropped. The episode did not deliver on putting O'Brien through the ringer with a weak payoff and silly way of setting it all up. Getting Rom involved was another blunder. Shame for an O'Brien episode to come up so short as Meaney is a quality actor.
DLPB
Tue, Sep 5, 2017, 7:53pm (UTC -5)
Was Keiko really possessed? Seems like her ordinary self to me.
DLPB
Tue, Sep 5, 2017, 7:55pm (UTC -5)
I think Rom is an idiot savant type. Clueless in many aspects, but near genius in a few...like engineering.
_------------

You're making wild excuses for the poor writing. Real world savants aren't like Rom. His character was retconned.
Iceman
Thu, Dec 21, 2017, 9:16pm (UTC -5)
"The Assignment" is a decent episode-but it will always be infamous to me for introducing both David Weddle and Bradley Thompson and the pah-wraiths. The Bajoran religion aspect of DS9 has always been its weakest-but it certainly had potential. The scenes with Sisko in the wormhole in "Emissary" were tedious, but the prophets were nonetheless fascinating and complicated beings-aliens who could see the future, but with no interest in the affairs of mortals. They were a concept worthy of a quality science fiction show. Of course, the first few seasons of DS9 were let down by poor writing, but, for me at least, the Prophets remained somewhat interesting. Starting with this episode, they became more and more Westernized and pedestrian, right down to the 'devil cast out of heaven' bit. Forget two dimensions. The pah-wraiths barely have one. It was a horrible creative decision that colors many's opinion of the later seasons of DS9-which I will defend; however, the pah-wraiths are just an awful, boring concept that in the end sink the Emissary storyline, ending in a place unrecognizable from where it started.
DLPB
Sat, Dec 30, 2017, 6:21am (UTC -5)
The hilarious thing is... Keiko is no different before or after this possession hahaha.
DLPB
Sat, Dec 30, 2017, 6:22am (UTC -5)
Oh... I already wrote that. I must have been drunk in September. I don't remember writing that at all :P
Dark Kirk
Wed, Jul 25, 2018, 12:01am (UTC -5)
Rosalind Chao did menacing well. I would have liked a line where both characters acknowledge they had been possessed and even used similar language to describe it. It was a bonding experience, even if it was a negative one.
Iceman
Mon, Aug 20, 2018, 12:32pm (UTC -5)
I disagree with what I wrote previously. Though the pah-wraiths do become a big issue later on, "The Assignment" is actually a very effective story. Episodes that isolate O'Brien are compelling due to the strength of Colm Meaney's performance. It doesn't hurt that Rosalind Chao gives her best performance to date. She manages to be genuinely unsettling.

3 stars.
Cinnamon
Thu, Sep 20, 2018, 1:37pm (UTC -5)
POINTLESS!!!!!!!! A pah-wraith grabs Keiko .... so why didn't one grab Kai Winn in the last ep of series??????

It is no wonder that Keiko got grabbed, she is a hateful character and she was the same way in TNG. Rosalind plays the "bitch" very well. I always feel sorry for O'Brien because he should not married Keiko as they are not suited for each other. I guess he likes misery and being shamed in public.

Poor Rom. I cringe every time he is on because he is abused so badly. I'll never understand why those sh*t writers wrote him to be the "oh yeah, come stomp my face off" type......

I would hate to be an actress and the only job I could qualify for would be Keiko and Rom where I would be the fool of the night broadcast.

The first time I saw Max G. he was a magical character that turned into a bird and flew away in SLIDERS.
Springy
Wed, Jan 16, 2019, 7:58am (UTC -5)
I like O'Brien and the sweetness of the O'Brien marriage and home life.

This ep is OK, good performances for Miles and Keiko.

An average ep. Didn't quite hang together that well, contrivances abound. Mostly, I didn't get why Miles totally gave up on his wraith research; he'd have gotten his answer. But not good for the plot, I know.

I wonder who Nog's mother is. We never hear a word on this subject.
Startrekwatcher
Wed, Jan 30, 2019, 8:23am (UTC -5)
3 stars

Very fun and entertaining hour. Liked how Eom was featured. Rosalind Chao was great as a possessed Keiko. The episide did good job maintains suspense and curiosity as to what the modifications would end up doing. I think what the writers came up with was pretty good. And while I don’t know if this was part of the series plan but it set up some things with Peophets and wormhole in coming seasons which was nice.

I also enjoyed rom’s scenes at Quark that bookended the hour
Paul
Thu, Jun 13, 2019, 4:00am (UTC -5)
On and not one.
Too and not to.

Never seen an error before in your writings Jammer and here we have 2! A rarity!

I like Rom’s character in this, he’s pulling himself up from the bootstraps despite being shot down by Quark and others at every opportunity. He received no encouragement or welcome from the staffers on the day shift (familiar feeling for me) despite his excitement at being there.

Some funny moments ‘I don’t waste time talking to people like everyone else seems to’ and self awareness ‘Not that anyone wants to talk to me.’

I was rooting for him. And got his deserved promotion.
Bobbington Mc Bob
Fri, Jul 12, 2019, 3:28am (UTC -5)
I have a rule from my TNG days to always skip "invasion of the bodysnatchers" plots, and for a good reason: They are usually the most frustrating, by-the-numbers efforts in any ST season. Watching the first 5 minutes and reading the summary here then is enough to let me know that a) its still a good rule even in DS9 and b) I didn't miss much important. That it's Keiko, and not a more interesting or central character, is kind of the cherry on the dead bonsai tree.

The show seems to be going through an inconsistent phase lately, though I have read frequently that season 5 has some amazing dominion episodes. Hopefully I will get onto them soon, after skipping "Let he who is without sin" of course....
Vladimir Estragon
Sat, Jul 13, 2019, 6:43pm (UTC -5)
It's not my favorite episode either, but I think that Keiko was the perfect choice. Everybody already thought that she was a cranky bitch, so the personality change wasn't immediately obvious to most people. It's always been my opinion that, after the end of the series, Miles O'Brien would last about a month on Earth with her before signing on for another deep space mission.
Patrick
Sun, Aug 18, 2019, 2:27am (UTC -5)
Agree with Vladimir. Pah Wraith Keiko was hardly different than Fine I’ll Wear The Red Dress Keiko. You would think as a botanist, she would grow some choice plants that may put her in a better mood.
Mike
Sat, Oct 12, 2019, 11:40pm (UTC -5)
O’Brien went along with the alien body snatcher too easily, didn’t even ask who are you? Miles is savvier than that. Keiko should just go be a botanist somewhere.
Jamie Mann
Sun, Jan 19, 2020, 3:47pm (UTC -5)
Alas, after a couple of interesting episodes, this one fell a bit flat.

Star Trek has done the "bodysnatcher" theme a few too many times for my liking, and there isn't really much new or interesting here. Give or take the fact that Keiko takes to her new BDSM-dominatrix personality like a duck to water...

I also have to say that the flip-flopping of Rom's personality is a bit too ridiculous in this episode. From a completely gullible idiot to tech genius and then to strong and silent accomplice, it's all a bit too schizophrenic!
Elliott
Wed, Mar 18, 2020, 10:52am (UTC -5)
Teaser : ***, 5%

We begin with breakfast at Quark's, with Rom ordering a decidedly Irish meal from his brother, seemingly daring him to question his Ferengi sanity. Quark admonishes him for giving up his work at the bar.

QUARK: You like standing all night long, knee-deep in waste, fixing some broken flow regulator, when you could be here staring at half-naked Dabbo girls?
ROM: I have a good job. I'm proud of the work I do. And I know that one day Chief O'Brien will recognise my efforts and reward me with a position of respect and responsibility. And why? Because that's just the way things are in Engineering.

This isn't a gripe against the episode, but I do want to point out what's being implied about the economic situation here as compared with “Bar Association.” Rom used to earn money (not enough) in compensation for a degrading job that offered little to no health benefits, fair work rules, dignity or prospects. Now, being a space plumber may be no more prestigious in the 24th century than it is now, but as an *employee* of the Federation, he is entitled to free healthcare and tolerable working conditions...time off, education... I assume the Bajoran government pays him a wage, which is how he buys his breakfast. The point is that Rom is at the bottom of the economic rung in the Federation, and that position has improved his quality of life tremendously. He still has things to strive after—prestige, promotion, the day shift—but in that pursuit, he isn't burdened by the unnecessary social yokes created by a capitalist system. Just something worth noting in this day and age.

Meanwhile, it turns out Bashir has killed the Bonsais O'Brien was instructed to look after for Keiko. I think if DS9 were made today, the O'Briens, Bashir and Kira would be a quad and Miles and Julian could express a little of that homoeroticism without admonishment. To protect himself from his wife's wrath, Miles enlists Molly to accompany him to the airlock to welcome her back to the station, but she smartly refuses the role of buffer and runs off. It turns out to be Miles' birthday, per the clunky expository dialogue that ensues.

We transition to Keiko enjoying some chocolates the birthday boy gifted her as he apologises. The directing and blocking are very awkward, but this is intentional. Miles asks Keiko about “the fire caves.” Uh-oh.

KEIKO: Listen carefully, Miles. I have taken possession of your wife's body. I will hold it hostage until you do everything I tell you do accurately, and without question.

For a moment, Miles thinks she's just being kinky (see that quad situation...), but she—it—is being completely forthright, as demonstrated by temporarily stopping Keiko's heart. Creepy.

Act 1 : **.5, 17%

The alien being rather efficiently conveys what she wants from Miles and coldly reminds him about the consequences of not heeding them, mocking the fragility of humanoid bodies and minds.

O'BRIEN: You'll have to be patient. The communications and sensor relays are distributed throughout the entire station.
KEIKO: You know your wife well, Miles, but she knows you even better. I know you're just playing for time until you can get to your friends. Julian, Dax, Captain Sisko, I know they'll all want to help you. The Captain may even allow you to do what I'm asking. At least until someone figures out a way to catch me in some sort of stasis field or some other clever device you're already dreaming up. And you know what? It might work. You might be able to stop me. But I promise you one thing. If you do, Keiko will die.

Julian stops by to hand off a gift and the being demonstrates their ability to effectively play the Keiko role. After all, this wouldn't be much of a DS9 story if it weren't as cruel to Miles' psyche as possible.

Meanwhile, Rom has been temporarily assigned to the swing shift whose briefing he enters. This serves two purposes: to tie the a and b plots together vis-à-vis O'Brien's *assignment*, and to remind us just how insufferably annoying Rom can be. Regarding the former, O'Brien is very clear that he is to be working alone and not to be disturbed. While he works, he converses with the computer trying to devise a way to incapacitate Keiko before the being could kill her, but every method—including shooting her—would be too slow.

Act 2 : ***, 17%

We pick up at Miles' birthday where his friends inadvertently make him feel worse by singing Keiko's praises. And indeed, she hands him HALF A PINT OF NEAT WHISKEY to drink with his cake. That's the mark of a loving spouse.

JAKE: Did you see any Pah-wraiths?
KEIKO: Pah-wraiths?
JAKE: In the Fire Caves. Odo was telling me the caves were haunted by some sort of weird supernatural beings.

Oh god, oh god. No I'm NOT ready. And neither is Miles as the sight of Keiko with his daughter sends him into an Irish rage, causing a scene. In private, the being informs him that the secret work he spent his day doing for them was merely a test to see if he could be “trusted.”

Sigh...so after the party, before heading to bed with this thing in his wife's body, Miles asks the computer about the Pagh Wraiths, because this isn't just a torture-O'Brien episode, it's a torture-the-audience episode. Speaking of, the Wraith (let's not pretend anymore) keeps up the torment, mocking Miles' semi-conscious desire for morning sex with his wife and his intense fear about his daughter's safety. She then hands him a padd with his new instructions and bids him good day.

Resolved but frightened, O'Brien chooses to find Sisko and tell him what's going on but, in a chilling scene, the Wraith throws Keiko over one of the balconies on the promenade, injuring her severely.

Act 3 : ***, 17%

Odo and Sisko question O'Brien about the incident. He fudges his way through it until Bashir lets him know that “Keiko” miraculously distributed her fall just well enough to avoid permanent injury or death, that she's conscious, and that she's able to see him for a few minutes. The Wraith makes their point, insisting that his resourcefulness will allow him to complete his task in record time. They also ask for a kiss when Bashir pops his head in because, well, evil gonna evil.

So O'Brien gets to work, with a timer running on the computer. Rom pops in like a cartoon to inform him that he's completed his own assignment and is hungry for more.

O'BRIEN: How did you finish so quickly?
ROM: I just did the work. I didn't allow myself to get caught up in any of the distracting discussions the other workers engage in. Ferengi can be very focused, especially when no one bothers to talk to them.

O'Brien decides to recruit Rom and his savant syndromicity, pledging him to secrecy. Given his zeal to impress, it seems O'Brien has gained himself an accomplice. What follows is a little montage, accompanied by a remarkably effective score for this period. In the midst of this, Dax interrupts to complain about a technical problem that appears to be sabotage...O'Brien's and Rom's sabotage.

Act 4 : ***, 17%

So, Miles is forced to take a break from his assignment to brief Sisko and Odo on the odd fluctuations and glitches he's responsible for. He naturally downplays the malicious intent behind these alterations. But this is to little avail as the crew are uncharacteristically paranoid this week. He receives a call from the Wraith and Molly—a dark reminder of his running clock. With few options left, O'Brien gives Rom up as the saboteur and Odo apprehends him.

Rom proves to be surprisingly unshakable in his resolve to the chief, which ironically leads to another interruption to his assignment, as Odo needs him to help with his interrogation. O'Brien disables the security in Rom's cell using his clearance and meets with him alone and unobserved. Rom, however, has discerned the Wraith's true plan, though to what end he has no idea. It seems their modifications will result in killing the Wormhole Aliens. I'm not seeing a downside to any of this so far.

Act 5 : **, 17%

Rom is actually a fountain of useful information as he also knows of Bajoran mythology which explains who and what the Pagh Wraiths are. And what they are is...demons. The Prophets are angels and the Pagh Wraiths are demons. Neat and tidy, black and whitey. Sigh...let's get this out of the way.

ROM: According to Leeta, the Pah-wraiths used to live in the wormhole. They were part of the Celestial Temple.
O'BRIEN: They were Prophets?
ROM: False Prophets. They were cast out of the Temple, exiled to the caves where they were imprisoned in crystal fire cages and forbidden to ever return lest they face the wrath of the true Prophets.
O'BRIEN: So if these false Prophets were to return to the Celestial Temple?
ROM: I don't think they'd be welcomed.
O'BRIEN: Unless she kills all the wormhole aliens first.

I have talked about this subject many times, but this is probably the point in the series at which the untenability of the Bajoran religion within the show becomes irreversible. From my review of “Accession”:

“There are two types of deities, the natural gods (think Greek pantheon) who are in some respect separated from man and have power over him, but are subject to the same capricious 'human nature' as man himself.

Then there are the supernatural gods (like the god of Abraham) who have absolute moral authority (or anti-moral authority in the case of figures like the devil). The kinds of religions these different types of god images generate are quite distinct.

The gods of Bajor are clearly the former type, but the religion of Bajor is conceived as of the latter. That's the root problem of all the DS9 religion stories. The reason for this is that the writers wanted to play in the mythical space afforded by the pantheonic gods (one could count Q as this type), but for Western audiences, the religions of Abraham are familiar, and so those are the kinds they use to make their Bajoran pastiche religion. It doesn't work.”

The dichotomy being established between the Pagh Wraiths and the Prophets is very obviously a Miltonian allegory that supports the argument that the Bajoran faith is of the supernatural type (eg. Abrahamic). You've even got Lucifer being cast out of heaven. But again, here are these absolute beings of moral and anti-moral certitude being vulnerable to physical laws, like natural gods. Thus a human being and a Ferengi can direct technology against “the gods” in this celestial warfare. I'm going to try and not retread this ground in every episode that deals with the subject to avoid tedium, but it must be stated that this irreconcilable flaw in a key premise to the series limits the dramatic potential of every episode touched by the topic (which is going to increase as the series continues). That's the double-edged sword of continuity-heavy series. The contradictions are baked in.

So Rom agrees to “play” the idiot and stall Odo while O'Brien races against the clock. Ah but, Changeling or not, the constable is definitely not an idiot and has some follow-up questions for the chief as he confronts him in a maintenance corridor.

ODO: Enough, Chief. You didn't cover your tracks very well. Why?
O'BRIEN: I didn't have time. I still don't.

So, Miles just decks him and runs off. He contacts the Wraith and conveys his intention to help them, corroborating by claiming he DGAF about the celestial temple and all that. Here's where I do have to agree with Jammer that, given how perceptive the Wraith has been channeling Keiko's intimate knowledge of her husband, it should know better that O'Brien would never allow a large group of sentient beings to be murdered, regardless of how he feels about the religiosity of the situation.

He successfully steals a runabout for himself and the Wraith and pilots it towards the wormhole. O'Brien remote-activates the station's modified technowhatevers, but instead of targeting the Prophets, he targets the runabout which gives Keiko the Palpatine-force-lightning treatment in what amounts to an unfortunately hilarious visual sequence. She awakens, un-Wraithed I guess and they return to DS9.

There's a brief epilogue where the O'Briens reset and Rom tells Quark that his heroics have earned him a promotion. There's something akin to a joke flimsily attempted about breakfast food that I don't have the stomach for, so we'll just end.

Episode as Functionary : **, 10%

My functionary score might seem misleading. For the most part, I enjoyed watching this episode. Meaney's performance was on-point. Rom was doled out in small enough doses that I found his presence worthwhile, the music was quite good, and the character pressure on Miles justifies the hour. The plot itself is a little clunky; the Wraith's insistence that “we don't want to raise suspicions” is very transparently an excuse for the writers to keep torturing O'Brien, but I can overlook that.

The problem is that this story fails on two levels for me. First, while the machinations against Miles were enjoyable to watch, unlike previous instalments, we are afforded pretty much nothing in the way of character development. He loves his wife, you say? He's a technical magician, you say? Groundbreaking. When I think back to “Hard Time” and the psychological effect Ee-char had on O'Brien, the efforts of this dynamic with Keiko feel incredibly flaccid. There are a couple of effective moments, like Miles breaking his whiskey glass in his bare hand, what keeps getting in the way is the titular assignment, which is the biggest misstep of this story.

I already pointed out the conceptual problems with the Prophets and the Pagh Wraiths on a macro level, but what compounds the problem is the laziness with which this thread is woven into the series. Oh there are fire caves, now? Oh the Bajorans, who not only take their religion seriously, but have seen the powers of their gods physically manifest many times so far, regard the most dangerous anti-gods in their mythos as so trivial that they'll allow a botanist to casually observe some moss in the fire caves? Oh the Pagh Wraiths can just inhabit people at their will but have NEVER bothered to attempt this kind of thing for CENTURIES? Doing this Dungeons and Dragons bullshit in a Star Trek series is tricky enough, but attempting it in so haphazard a fashion really just draws attention to the untenability of the project. This is an assignment I wish they'd abandoned.

Final Score : **.5
Chrome
Wed, Mar 18, 2020, 11:43am (UTC -5)
I got a good laugh reading your review, Elliott. :-) I see your point that there isn't really character development for Miles - not that there NEEDS to be, but still it might've added another layer to "Power Play on DS9" story. Heck, "Power Play" was really very good at developing the enemy within for each character and having those characters play the Enterprise D crew's teamwork against itself. One character that does get developed here is Rom, he shows he is not only a savant, but he's extremely loyal and trusting of Miles, as set up by the breakfast scene you quoted. So, at least there's that.

"but as an *employee* of the Federation, [Rom] is entitled to free healthcare and tolerable working conditions...time off, education..."

Er, do we know Rom is actually employed by the Federation? He wears a Bajoran uniform, so his compensation might be entirely through the Bajoran government. The only thing we know is that O'Brien calls the shots in engineering, which includes the Bajoran engineers. Also, isn't it a huge leap to assume all Federation employees get Federation benefits? There's quite a few episodes of TOS/TNG where a lone scientist working on behalf of the Federation is struggling to make ends meet and needs to plea with Starfleet for funding/support.
Peter G.
Wed, Mar 18, 2020, 1:22pm (UTC -5)
@ Elliott,

I agree with Chrome in the particular issue of character development; sometimes that's the goal, sometimes not. To the extent that we like the TNG model of episodes, DS9 uses it often enough that we should be at least content with a 'reset' situation, even though ongoing continuity can be a treat when offered. DS9 offers it much more then TNG did, but only by a degree since TNG did have some. I'm not quite sure it's fair to call it a strike against an episode for having a reset; otherwise, you'd need to re-evaluate your VOY ratings!

I also agree that it's pretty clear that Rom works for Bajor, not the Federation. It's a Fed-run station, but Rom's with Bajor, which I suspect is partially why
SPOILER
he can stay behind in S6. That said, many of your points would still stand, that whatever his employment situation he seems to no longer has cares such as being destitute or mistreated. He's effectively entered the socialist paradise, one way or the other.

"The dichotomy being established between the Pagh Wraiths and the Prophets is very obviously a Miltonian allegory that supports the argument that the Bajoran faith is of the supernatural type (eg. Abrahamic). You've even got Lucifer being cast out of heaven. But again, here are these absolute beings of moral and anti-moral certitude being vulnerable to physical laws, like natural gods. Thus a human being and a Ferengi can direct technology against “the gods” in this celestial warfare. I'm going to try and not retread this ground in every episode that deals with the subject to avoid tedium, but it must be stated that this irreconcilable flaw in a key premise to the series limits the dramatic potential of every episode touched by the topic (which is going to increase as the series continues). That's the double-edged sword of continuity-heavy series. The contradictions are baked in."

On the one hand I want to agree with you. I do think DS9 did the religion thing half-baked; where I differ from others is I do like the half they managed to get in. What I would have preferred was they really invent something new, rather than tacking together obvious elements of what we're familiar with.

*However* I do think there's one thing they did well here that's subtly clever (if intended): It was an old TOS trick to take a classic story and put a sci-fi spin on it. Requiem for Methuselah is an example, where we see the unique person who lived immortally on Earth; or the the Jack the Ripper story as a vampiric alien; or Apollo as an advanced alien requiring worship to exist. Here we have an Abrahamic story, congealed more clearly in this episode than it had been before, even including the fall from heaven and all that, with the sci-fi spin: what it the 'angels' and 'demons' are conflicting sects of extra-terrestrials, and 'heaven' is a construct that sits outside of time due to use of exotic matter [tech tech etc]? In other words, retain the basic story of the fall from heaven, but make them aliens subject to physical principles, and then ask how that jives with science. Actually this is the part of S1 I feel they lost the most by ditching. I would have liked Keiko the skeptic from S1 to go on to become the foremost scientific expert on the wormhole aliens. Examining 'supernatural' beings using science would have been interesting. Maybe Q is too advanced to be put under a microscope but what about Apollo, or the Prophets? It would have been nice, but alas they kept the wormhole aliens mostly on the sidelines during the series. Rather than less of it I would have liked a lot more - for them to be a real component in the show, and treated properly as alien beings with great powers. Instead they were left mysterious, which of course means that whenever we see their powers we go "huh?" and they come across as gods or whatever. But not letting us examine them at all they took the science out of it, so that's the 'half' I'm sorry they left out.

That being said I do think it's neat to look at a human myth and see it transcribed into a physical system (a wormhole) and see how that plays out when we're dealing with starships instead of herds of sheep. In this episode we get the angels vs demons thing active, which I like because hey, why would be assume that an alien race such as them would be harmonious? VOY ended up doing the same thing to the Q. So to me this is ok, to regurgitate a human myth, if it's to sci-fi it up. My only complaint is they didn't really go all the way in sci-fying it up. I mean where was Dax in all this? We should have had ongoing plot arcs about her (and maybe Keiko) studying this stuff. It's a bit too pat for me to handwave it away as "well no one can contact them so it's moot."
Elliott
Wed, Mar 18, 2020, 2:34pm (UTC -5)
@Peter G and Chrome:

Thanks for the feedback, guys. With this social-distancing, I might actually have time to catch up on this stuff again!

Let me clarify about Rom: I mentioned that he's obviously been conscripted into the Bajoran militia's engineering corps, but since Starfleet has taken command of the station, the Bajoran officers enjoy Federation work benefits--I have to assume this is the case, otherwise...are Bashir's Bajoran nurses paying an HMO or something? I wish they had cleared this stuff up in S1. At any rate, the idiot savant thing was clearly established at least a couple of seasons ago. I'm thinking of "Little Green Men" as a good example. It doesn't bother me here like it does Jammer and some others, but it's not new information.

Similarly with O'Brien. I'm not griping about a reset button with the character. There are two kinds of character development; outright change and fleshing out. I'd be perfectly happy with a Keiko-Miles story that fleshed him or them out, but this isn't it. I didn't gain any insights into Miles' character, nor did he change as a result of his experience.

Peter G, I actually agree with you that I wish they had delved into the Prophet stuff in a way that wasn't so lazy. That's exactly what I have been complaining about. A sincere examination of the cultural/philosophical implications of this dynamic between the Prophets, the Wraiths, the Bajorans and their allies would have yielded some interesting stories to be sure. But they went with the most obvious tropes instead. And then, as I've pointed out, because they mix incongruous religious tropes together, the whole thing falls apart under any scrutiny anyway.
Peter G.
Wed, Mar 18, 2020, 2:51pm (UTC -5)
@ Elliott,

"But they went with the most obvious tropes instead. And then, as I've pointed out, because they mix incongruous religious tropes together, the whole thing falls apart under any scrutiny anyway."

Just to clarify, we do agree that they didn't go as far as they should have with their own premise (a standard to which I hold both DS9 and VOY guilty as appropriate). However to the extent that I think DS9's religious mythology was half-baked, I do still approve of the half the went in the oven and enjoy it. I don't exactly think what we got falls apart, so much as our imaginations have to do some of the work to hold it apart. It's not that they make no sense, but rather than we are only given an incomplete sense of it. And I don't mind doing head-canon legwork, but I'm mostly dissatisfied from a sci-fi perspective at an opportunity lost.
Chrome
Wed, Mar 18, 2020, 3:25pm (UTC -5)
@Elliott

"Let me clarify about Rom: I mentioned that he's obviously been conscripted into the Bajoran militia's engineering corps, but since Starfleet has taken command of the station, the Bajoran officers enjoy Federation work benefits--I have to assume this is the case, otherwise...are Bashir's Bajoran nurses paying an HMO or something?"

I agree with you the show isn't completely clear on the matter, though it's my understanding that the advantage to Bajor itself joining the Federation would be all these nice benefits you speak of. However, the series takes place in the preliminary pre-Federation stage for Bajor - where the Federation is offering aid, ships, and personnel to help the Bajorans get on their feet as a sovereign power. It's similar to what the U.S. did for ailing European countries after WWII.

I think we see this manifest itself in all the political power struggles Sisko and Kira have with the Bajoran government, which apparently retains its own say in the way resources and military personnel are allocated, regardless of Federation wishes.

If Bajorans really had Federation support to the extent you say, it seems illogical that they'd ever put themselves through the disgrace of working for someone like Quark to begin with. Wouldn't any Bajoran with half a brain just join on as Bajoran security, medical, or engineering just to get a piece of those sweet Federation perks?

Surely, there's a limit to what the Federation is providing here. It's important that we note that Rom is still very much a blue collar worker leading a modest lifestyle, whereas under Quark he might be a little better off in certain Quality of Life aspects - at the cost of working for a tyrant.

Of course, this all becomes moot because Rom likely gets Federation benefits through Nog later on and then he eventually becomes a gazillionaire, but I guess he's putting in his time here and now?

Submit a comment





◄ Season Index

▲Top of Page | Menu | Copyright © 1994-2020 Jamahl Epsicokhan. All rights reserved. Unauthorized duplication or distribution of any content is prohibited. This site is an independent publication and is not affiliated with or authorized by any entity or company referenced herein. See site policies.