Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Air date: 11/18/1996
Written by Michael Taylor
Directed by LeVar Burton
Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
"You were special. You were the one man who stood apart from everyone else, the one man who stood for justice. Now what?"
"Now I'm just another imperfect solid."
— Kira and Odo
Nutshell: A most intriguing revisit to the Cardassian Occupation, and with compelling character implications, too.
I said I was in need of recovery after the truly awful "Let He Who Is Without Sin...", and I meant it. But I must say that "Things Past" makes a great antidote to aid in a speedy recovery. Call it therapy, if you will.
I don't want to see any more lightweight episodes of DS9 for a while. I want to see more shows like this—strong, compelling, character-driven episodes with true substance.
"Things Past" is the best episode of Trek since "Nor the Battle to the Strong." It's a story of one man's repressed guilt and his need to let it escape into the open airs of historical dialog. The underlying theme here is incorporated into a "sci-fi" type of premise, in which Sisko, Odo, Dax, and Garak, returning in a Runabout from a debate on Bajor about the Cardassian Occupation, suddenly find themselves on Terok Nor of the past, run by the menacing Gul Dukat. They are not themselves, however; they're all Bajorans—and, as Odo observes, they're Bajorans who, based on the true events of the past, are about to be wrongfully accused of Gul Dukat's attempted assassination and publicly executed.
But wait. These characters' involvement in these past events is not due to something so simple as time travel. The episode clues us in very early on that it's all due to a peculiar mental state; Sisko, Odo, Dax, and Garak arrive at DS9 unconscious, somehow trapped in a state of subconscious mental activity. Bashir hasn't a clue how or why. So what's really going on here? That's a question that remains unanswered until the final minutes of the show, in a denouement of powerful relevance and realization.
In the meantime, the episode takes an angle of "Necessary Evil" revisited, and I can't say I have any qualms whatsoever with such a notion. "Necessary Evil" was one of the highlights of DS9's second season, and, in fact, is among the best shows of the series. "Things Past" has a similar agenda—it tells its own story while also commenting on the past and showing us effects the Cardassian Occupation had on a number of people. Once again, production and lighting have a powerful effect; the promenade becomes a mining facility for slave labor and the Bajorans are packed into dark, impoverished, unsanitary caged areas.
I liked many of the little details, like the way Sisko "contacts" the Bajoran Resistance by inverting a vase at a promenade shop. And Garak's reaction to this was interesting—it seems just like the type of thing he would find silly and simple. Simple, yes, Sisko notes, but effective. The Quark of this past turns out to be a complete condescending jerk to any Bajoran who is not a paying customer and whom he can exploit. Not an appealing notion, perhaps, but very believable and a nice touch.
Meanwhile, Dax is elected to become Gul Dukat's Bajoran "talk companion." He admits to her up front—he's a lonely man whose job rarely presents him the opportunity to talk to others. A few subsequent long-winded speeches from Dukat prove enlightening. His views on the Occupation prove as fascinating as they do distasteful—here, Dukat reveals himself as a man who thinks he has too much compassion and lenience for a Bajoran planet of "children." It's interesting to note how Dukat, then a murderous, hateful dictator exploiting a race of people for their resources is now an unsung hero in his lone fight against the Klingons. While he's definitely a man of multifaceted dimensions, it's very difficult watching him stage public executions without seeing him as anything but murderer. Yet now he's on "our" side. Strange, the way things change. These are all examples of the subtleties of the Occupation—the "old school" topics of DS9 which I hope to see more of again.
Many of these scenes, while certainly intriguing, don't break a whole lot of new ground. This is where the mystery comes in to add a new element. Odo's predecessor, the head of security from nine years ago, is a Cardassian named Thrax (Kurtwood Smith). But there's a contradiction here: the events leading up to the public execution took place only seven years ago—and at that time Odo was the head of security.
The beauty of the episode is the way it plays on this implication. As history begins to play itself out and Odo, Sisko, Dax, and Garak find themselves in a cell awaiting execution for attempting to kill Dukat, Odo painfully tries to convince Thrax to follow up on his investigation and find the evidence that proves that they're innocents who were caught up in a series of events. It's obvious that Odo is really talking to himself—that he was the man who didn't investigate properly and allowed the three innocent Bajorans to die. And later Thrax turns out to be a shapeshifter—a most telling sign. Yet the teleplay wisely plays these events down and credits the audience with intelligence, allowing us to make the connection ourselves. Very nice.
Dax breaks the four of them out of the holding cell, but their escape attempts prove futile, as they turn a corner only to find themselves back in the holding cell. As the show progresses, the rules of reality continue to bend, trapping the characters into the situation with no hope of escape. LeVar Burton's direction is perhaps his best yet on the series, as he creates some interesting imagery and utilizes cinematography techniques that have jarring effectiveness.
The only escape for the characters is Odo's guilty admission of the truth, which pulls the show together into a powerful piece of work. The final scene is a wonderful mix of truly revealing dialog and compelling imagery. Odo's disclosure is poignant—there he was, one of few people in the middle of the Occupation who was neutral and interested only in justice and order, and he still blew it. He failed to protect the innocent and unintentionally represented the side of the decidedly guilty. This is really good stuff.
Odo's admission ends the flashback charade; Bashir explains that it was caused by residue of some Changeling molecules which tried to recreate the Great Link by reaching out to other shapeshifters, but instead found only Sisko, Dax, and Garak. I wonder about the plausibility of this and some of the other technobabble used to explain it, but I'd say the ends clearly justify the means.
There's also a killer, wonderfully performed final scene between Odo and Kira which parallels the ending of "Necessary Evil" exceptionally. This time, however, the roles are reversed. Whereas in "Necessary Evil" the discovery of Kira's past actions put Odo's trust in her in doubt, this time Odo's actions put her trust in him in doubt. Most intriguing indeed.
Michael Taylor, the writer who brought us the wonderful "Visitor" last year, delivers again. "Things Past" is not quite a four-star installment. (The aforementioned technobabble genesis for the problem and the obligatory and totally unnecessary need to make the flashbacks into an environment that can physically harm the characters, thus putting their lives in jeopardy, are minor but notable flaws that could've been eliminated entirely with a little bit of script tweaking.) But this is a standout episode that approaches greatness.
Previous episode: Let He Who Is Without Sin...
Next episode: The Ascent
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76 comments on this post
Fri, Oct 31, 2008, 4:58pm (UTC -5)
I agree with the end of your review - the technobabble guff stopped the episode becoming a true classic. Though thinking about it, changing those elements might have made the episode even more like Necessary Evil. Actually, would that be a bad thing?
Sat, Aug 15, 2009, 1:00am (UTC -5)
Sat, Aug 20, 2011, 3:13am (UTC -5)
Sat, Dec 3, 2011, 5:09am (UTC -5)
Sun, Mar 25, 2012, 3:10pm (UTC -5)
@Alessandro, but isn't it easier to identify with characters who make bad choices and decisions - even big ones that cost lives? Bajor was war-torn and Odo was the Cardassians' security chief on Terok Nor. It stands to reason that he probably made a few other choices he'd come to regret. This just happened to be the worst of them.
Tue, May 1, 2012, 4:48am (UTC -5)
It also addresses the fact that Odo had to do some dirty compromises when he was working for the Cardassians and it addresses the guilt he feels.
Tue, Sep 18, 2012, 11:49am (UTC -5)
Odo was a Cardassian security officer at a prison work camp. He may have had his own sense of justice and subverted the authorities a little when he had strong feelings about something; but over the years, he must have committed loads of what his new friends would consider egregious civil rights violations and much worse.
Thu, Nov 22, 2012, 2:38am (UTC -5)
Something that's always bothered me was the fact that Odo remained chief of security when Bajor won: he could not be considered a collaborator because he wasn't bajoran, but he worked for the Cardassians on a station where the word justice could not be taken seriously. Essentially, his work must have been finding terrorists or bajoran criminals on Terok Nor and he was given "carte blanche" to do so, so why is everyone so astonished ? In these conditions, he delivered people to be executed or "questionned" by cardassians - guilty or not. And when the only witnesses that count are cardassians... I'm sure many innocents died in the name of justice. And it seems very hypocritical when he said (in the episode he killed a changelling) that he never had to kill anyone since he was chief of security. At least, not by his own hands.
Don't get me wrong, I very much like Odo's character, but I wonder what he would really do if he wasn't following Federation (or bajoran ?) rules. Many times he said he could do his job better without those rules. He even disregards some of them (for example, he spies on Quark's privacy or any person he believes to be suspect).
It shows that he's a lot like his people, wanting order, with the difference that he has a bajoran education. His methods don't bother me too much because he's not a Federation officer, but a self-taught law enforcer. Nevertheless, he certainly has a darker side (from a human point a view) than most give him credit for.
Thu, Mar 21, 2013, 8:13pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Jul 15, 2013, 5:36pm (UTC -5)
Thu, Oct 24, 2013, 9:24pm (UTC -5)
Tue, Feb 4, 2014, 8:35am (UTC -5)
I ESPECIALLY loved the ending when Kira - irrationally but understandably - demands that Odo confirm this was his only lapse of judgement. And he says the truth: he doesn't know. The ending was very powerful.
Tue, Feb 4, 2014, 8:38pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Feb 26, 2014, 1:57pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Apr 4, 2014, 7:55am (UTC -5)
Sat, Apr 12, 2014, 1:30am (UTC -5)
Sun, Jul 13, 2014, 3:16am (UTC -5)
Thu, Jul 31, 2014, 12:25pm (UTC -5)
She obviously paid attention when Kira and Sisko talked about him. :)
Mon, Sep 1, 2014, 7:02pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Sep 1, 2014, 10:52pm (UTC -5)
Sorry, that bit of technobabble really blew it for me. Blame it on the Prophets, fine -- but it's all in Odo's head?
Otherwise fine episode.
Mon, Sep 8, 2014, 9:29pm (UTC -5)
"I just started watching DS9 for the first time. I liked this episode so much I watched it twice in one night. Just an interesting observation. The character of Thrax does a perfect impersonation of ODO. Either the actor has watched a lot of ds9 or the odo actor helped him with his scenes. Look at when he's talking to quark. All his mannerisms are perfect odo."
Yeah, his Odo impression is spot-on and adds an interesting texture when re-watching this one. What's also intriguing is "Thrax's" speech about the Bajoran situation and how, if they'd just settle down and accept the Cardassian > Bajoran order, things could be so much more smooth.
I think the episode is actually a lot rougher on Odo's character than simply revealing a botched investigation. His first real interaction with humanoids outside of Mora's lab is as a Cardassian policeman - and since he's been weaned through this social order, he accepts it and just seeks to maintain it as cleanly as possible. Odo has a sense of truth and justice, but without any perspective outside of a brutal Cardassian regime his sense is limited to the letter of the law rather than social justice. Though that sense of social justice has developed in Odo, I like that the writers kept Odo's past like this. It would have been easy to create a renegade, code-of-honour cop character who is so effective the powers that be can't afford to get rid of him even though he makes them look bad, but instead Odo simply worked as best he could in the framework of the Cardassian guilty-first system - which meant, at first at least, NOT being able to grill Cardassian officers for the truth and becoming potentially complicit in farcical investigations and public "example" executions.
Question for the more knowledgeable: is this the first time a flat-out execution is depicted on DS9, or even Star Trek at all? The Bajorans on their knees getting phasered is a surprisingly brutal scene.
Tue, Nov 11, 2014, 5:43am (UTC -5)
Unfortunately, there is really no way to avoid the fact that Odo was a collaborator. He was a different person then and he's always been craggy, bad-tempered and obsessed with justice, and he was raised in a warring environment between Cardies and Bajorans, but he is also smart and determined. They could at least have raised the issue of him allowing Bajorans to die by saying "It was how I was raised - I was led to believe that terminal justice was the way to ensure peace" or something like that. If Kira had been present, I doubt she'd have been so lovey-dovey with Odo.
That said, this is a hugely interesting look at the dark side of DS9, miles more exciting than the jokey, silly DS9 mirror universe. There was a time when our universe was darker and more threatening than the mirror universe...
Sun, Mar 8, 2015, 3:08am (UTC -5)
Above from the aforementioned gripe, it was a very strong episode and ended on an equally strong note. There are so any sides to a story, and when people have lived through something as horrific as the Bajoran Occupation, no one can come out without losing some of their humanity. DS9 did a wonderful and haunting job of showing that there were terrible deeds done on all sides (Bajoran resistance, Cardassians and collaborators alike) and no one is truly innocent.
Tue, May 5, 2015, 2:44am (UTC -5)
I didn't care very much for Kira's sanctimonious behavior in the end. Odo did not intentionally have those innocent men executed, at the time he thought he was right. He let the situation change him, he was more thorough when he investigated other incidents.
One of the best Odo stories in the entire series.
Sat, Dec 12, 2015, 12:43pm (UTC -5)
But whereas "Necessary Evil" felt more organically framed and had an exquisitely noir-ish direction/aesthetic going on, this felt a little more forced all around (the random mini mind link, Odo's clear discomfort/guilt from the beginning that the others don't really press him on until the end).
Still a three-star outing, for me. The performances are really good, but it sits in "Necessary Evil's" shadow. I suppose that's more a commentary on that episode than this one, though.
Thu, Dec 24, 2015, 9:01pm (UTC -5)
That said: the setup does seem a bit contrived, I don't buy Garak dismissing a 'simple' signal as a way for spies to communicate, and it seems as if they started to run out of story in the second half of the episode and were stretching things out before coming to the conclusion.
Still, I wouldn't argue with a 3-star rating. I echo those who said "Thrax" was a very good Odo.
Mon, Jan 4, 2016, 1:15pm (UTC -5)
THRAX: I'm listening, but I don't have much time.
ODO: You're about to make a very serious mistake.
THRAX: Because you're innocent, of course. All of you.
ODO: That's right, and I can prove it. Compare this attack to recent bombings on Bajor. You'll find a similarity to four incidents in Musilla Province, none of which we could have done.
THRAX: That proves nothing. And under Cardassian law, the accused must prove his innocence. Since the evidence in this case is sufficient to warrant conviction, the investigation is over.
ODO: Your job is to find the truth, not obtain convictions.
THRAX: Truth? You want the truth? All right. The truth is that none of you would be accused, none of you would even be here if the Bajorans weren't fighting the Cardassians. It's futile. The occupation has lasted for fifty years and it will probably last another fifty.
ODO: I wouldn't be too sure about that.
THRAX: Why not accept it? If the Bajoran people would accept their place in history, none of this would be happening.
ODO: We're talking about the attempt on Gul Dukat's life, not the socio-political ramifications of the resistance.
THRAX: It's all part of the same problem. When your people resort to terrorism and violence, they're fighting against order, against stability, against the rule of law, and this must be stopped.
ODO: There is more to life than the rule of law.
THRAX: It has been my observation that only the guilty make that kind of statement.
This is my favourite scene in the episode. First, as everyone has pointed out, Kurtwood Smith is, as ever, excellent at playing, basically, Odo, and in particular Odo as Odo himself sees his past self -- rigid, inflexible, certain of his rightness *even while admitting that he may be wrong*. "Thrax" essentially states that it is the fault of Bajorans, as a people, that these three are convicted, because even if they are not guilty of this particular crime, the Bajorans' resistance to the Occupation is responsible for the continuing difficulties. The myth of Odo is that Odo stood for justice, but what "justice" means is radically different for the oppressors and the oppressed: for the Cardassians, "justice" perfectly aligns with order, because the status quo maintains the Cardassians' iron rule over the Bajoran people. Bajorans and Cardassians die every time a Bajoran fights the Cardassian Occupation, and if it is truly futile, then it would be better, so "Thrax" argues, if the Bajorans just accepted that their lives are worse than Cardassians; it is better to live half a life than none. (Besides, according to Cardassian law, "Thrax" has done all that is required of him.) That there is some sort of greater meaning to life than "the rule of law" only really comes to Odo now that he's found himself on the other side -- that he has recognized his ability to forgive Kira for murder, that he fought against his own totalitarian people and was branded the greatest criminal in their history as a result. And it makes sense that even if Odo probably could still rationalize his decision even after it turned out he had the wrong men, that his rationalizations would break down by this point in the series. So as I see it, the most damning aspect of the reveal here is not so much that Odo made an error and let three men die, though that is itself bad, but that he continued to let others *and himself* believe the myth of Odo -- flawless representative of justice. Meanwhile, by imagining first himself and then his friends as the people who were killed, Odo personalizes it in a way he would not have been able to do at the time, since at the time he genuinely did *not* have any friends.
As a way of letting Sisko, Dax and particularly Garak what life was like as Bajorans during the Occupation, the episode has some merit, and there are some nice scenes here. Still, I echo what others have said above that it seems weird to have this set-up where Garak defends the Occupation and blurts out racist propaganda (Bajorans are much better at this servile work!) without having a learning moment that his assumptions about the Occupation were wrong. It maybe would have come across as a bit silly to have some sort of lesson in an after-school way. But, while Garak does seem to at least present as a true believer in Cardassian superiority, has Garak actually defended the Occupation and the oppression of Bajorans with this kind of enthusiasm before? Maybe in "The Wire," when he kept changing his story and in some versions was trying to impress on Bashir how deeply evil he was. Still, I think that in most episodes Garak did not actually express support for the Occupation directly, and it seems a bit weird for him to do so with such gusto here. When, in "Cardassians," Garak told the woman at the Bajoran refugee centre that the Cardassians were great record-keepers and taught many worlds how to keep records, there was a kind of blase, self-possessed internalized racism that read to me as much more believable than here; even if Garak really thought that Bajorans were better at servile work, I don't quite get why he shares it with Sisko the way he does, expecting agreement from him. It may be that Garak is just pushing buttons (it's hard to tell), and it may also be that I somewhat expect Garak to be against the Occupation wrongly for some reason -- if nothing else, any large-scale project overseen by *Dukat* should have come under big criticism. But I don't know. Somehow writing Garak as more pro-Occupation, racist toward Bajorans, then putting him through experiences as a Bajoran, with no final realization seems an odd use of the character, as if there is something incomplete in this story.
The Dax and Dukat scenes were amusing and it's nice to see Dukat's narcissism in action again; while we have heard about Dukat's penchant for comfort women, this is the first time we see it. We get confirmation that Dukat saw himself genuinely as a benefactor to Bajorans *during* the Occupation, and it's not just something he somewhat put on after the fact to rationalize what he did before Kira et al. Of course, since this is not really Dukat but, presumably, Odo's imagination, I'm not sure what that means.
The episode does seem a little bit stretched out. Also, the explanation -- an electrical storm made Odo make a telepathic mind link with remaining morphogenic changeling stuff -- is incredibly ridiculous. Basic aspects of the set-up in Trek -- transporters, warp drive, etc. -- are implausible but are necessarily part of the world, so it's not so much implausibility that bothers me as the way the show breaks its own rules; we've never seen the Link work without touching before, there has never been any evidence that Linking with solids is possible, this is the first time evidence that Odo still has some changeling stuff to Link with has happened, Links haven't caused comas in the past, etc. Really, "you encountered an anomaly which made you all go into a shared flashback/dream" would have been better. I guess in TOS they would just have some super-beings place them in this weird scenario like in "Spectre of the Gun," so the Wormhole Aliens could have done it, but I guess I'm glad they didn't go the route of invoking the Prophets in an unrelated story, further muddying their motivations when they would probably not actually care about Odo. I am mixed on whether it was necessary to have this whole thing be a weird mindwalk/dream in the first place; it is a bit of a distraction to attempt to resolve the time travel plot when none of that actually matters, but on the other hand having the main cast experience the feeling of being in the wrong place at the wrong time does in some senses get across the tragedy of the Occupation in general, and the three wrongly executed in particular; the Bajorans were just as much innocent victims in the wrong place at the wrong time as our heroes are.
It's got some set-up problems but it's pretty good. I'd say 3 stars.
Mon, Jan 4, 2016, 1:19pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Jan 4, 2016, 1:26pm (UTC -5)
Tue, Jan 19, 2016, 3:17pm (UTC -5)
The rest of it is novel enough, the Dax/Dukat scenes play off particularly well, and it's fun seeing Garak punched out, but really this seems like a contrivance too far. 2 stars.
Thu, Mar 3, 2016, 6:25am (UTC -5)
No, instead what we got was an insight, being as we are "solids", into what being inside the Great Link — at least from a mental perspective — might actually be like. A completely fluid reality where nothing is quite as it seems, nobody is quite who they appear to be, where everyone, not only Odo, is a shapeshifter, in both time and space. And now we, the audience, are privy to some small part of that; if this is just what Odo's own mind could conjure, what about the *entire* Great Link on the Founders' homeworld?
I think this fact gets glossed over a little too quickly by the events of the episode but for me it's what truly sent shivers down my spine and sent my head spiralling about the possibilities of the experience of the Trek universe from a truly alien perspective, and not one that needlessly anthropomorphises or humanises the plight of every alien race. Yes, Odo's crime is "human", but the way his own mind tries to reconcile this is far from it.
And had the cause been the prophets instead, maybe their reality could be like this too, but they have seldom been portrayed by the writers in such an enigmatic or conflicted fashion before, and nor does their reality directly relate to any of the characters from the show, and that's why I think the Link explanation (and how it emanates from Odo himself) carries that much more weight. Odo's biggest failing is a character is how much he is locked inside his solid body by the confines of budget and storytelling constraints, but here we have a glimpse of something far greater.
One of my biggest complaints about DS9 is their tendency to "tell", not "show"; too much turmoil locked away in pained expressions as a troubled character relates their backstory to us. Too much unseen exposition about how the Cardassian occupation was this, that or the other. Perhaps I'm too simple-minded to really transport myself to those places, but here the episode showed not only the "reality" of those things, but also the reality of could be like to be a shapeshifter in a world of solids. It's only a shame that this theme isn't touched upon more often, but perhaps the writers hit upon something so profound that no mere 45 minute TV episode could have done the concept any greater justice.
Thus, it's 4 stars from me and perhaps one of the all-time greatest Trek episodes.
Mon, Mar 21, 2016, 7:49pm (UTC -5)
"Honestly, I couldn't get on board with this. It seems like a massive contrivance to excuse another 'Necessary Evil', and succeeds only in stripping Odo of one of his defining characteristics - his defence of justice. Now there might have been something to this if there had been more of an examination as to why Odo might have come to that position - but just that he didn't do his job very well seems like a massive cop out. And the ending scene with Kira... haven't we been here before?"
You should watch this episode back to back with a season 7 one where the female founder calls for mass executions and leveling cities. Changelings don't value justice; they have no sense of it as we know it. They have a need to enforce their version of order by any means necessary. Because we learned this of them over time it was always implied that Odo's sense of justice is probably just his rationalization of the fact that he's the same as his people, and this episode is the first time we're shown definitively that this is the case. As head of Terok Nor security he was more interested in order than in justice, and although frequently his sense of order compelled him to tie up loose ends (such as in Necessary Evil) at other times when the pieces seemed to fit his sense of order was satisfied and he washed his hands of it. Doing the right thing was at best a runner-up to keeping things tidy, and in this Odo had more in common with the Cardassians than he thought.
Odo's conception of himself has always been at odds with his true self. This is the case in terms of his emotions such as love, his need for company even though he denied it, and now his sense of justice. I see this episode as being about his cognitive dissonance about order versus justice as no longer being sustainable and having to be resolved. It's one more part of his false belief about himself that is unraveled, and the Founders inadvertently helped him with this by making him a solid. They failed to realize that their own adage - that by truly becoming a thing you understand it - is a necessary part of understanding. It took episodes like this one that humbled Odo to teach him the truth about himself and his people so that he could finally return to the link and teach them.
For my own part I liked the technobabble explanation and was intrigued that it might suggest complications in Odo remaining a solid forever. It also showed how much the Changeling instinct is to link with others, which makes for the ultimate irony that Odo should be the one out of them to become somewhat enlightened, being an outsider and a loner. As a meta-narrative it suggests that constantly being linked up with people who agree with you is extremely dangerous, and we can see this principle in vivid color in modern society and politics. 3.5/4 stars for me.
Mon, May 2, 2016, 12:14am (UTC -5)
The scenes in Odo's mind dealing with the Occupation and his closely guarded secret failing are indeed every bit as good as "Necessary Evil". The lighting, the camera work, the acting and the surreal imagery at the end all add up to a very compelling story. And it offers some magnificent character development for Odo - finding out that he isn't as perfect as he likes to portray himself as is a very interesting layer for the character. The final scene, especially, being an almost exact mirror replication of the ending of "Necessary Evil" - right down to Odo bowing his head in shame like Kira had earlier done - was a very nice touch. Sadly, whenever the episode cuts back to the "present" or "real world" it completely destroys the allusion and atmosphere. The framing device of the four characters in the Infirmary with Bashir and Worf looking after them was simply unneeded. Whereas the framing story in "Necessary Evil" worked smoothly with the flashback sequences (Odo's noir-style log entries, Quark's involvement, etc.) and added a great deal to the overall picture, this framing narrative adds virtually nothing to the mix except techno-babble, padding and an unnecessary sense of mortal jeopardy. One or two scenes to set the situation going, I could get behind that. But the countless interruptions to the much more intriguing and worthy A-plot were just poison. The early parts of the show should have been full of mystery and intrigue. Instead that potential is cut to pieces by having it all explained for the audience by Bashir.
And there's a second major problem with "Things Past" - a problem that goes by the name of Garak. As awesome a character as Garak is - and Andrew Robinson continues to shine in the role here - he simply should not have been in this episode. This story takes place a mere five months after "Broken Link". Shouldn't Garak still be serving his six month sentence in a holding cell for attempting to wipe out the Founders? Given how Garak's punishment was such a big deal in the Season Four finale, this is a continuity error of astronomical proportions. Or did Sisko just decide, off-screen, to let Garak out early so he could attend a conference on Bajor? If they had aired the episode only a few weeks later in the season this wouldn't even be a problem. But as it sits, I have to dock the episode a point for such a glaring gaff.
Overall, Jammer is 100% right when he says that "Things Past" is "a standout episode that approaches greatness." It doesn't quite get there - better focus on continuity and a few script rewrites to tone down the B-plot would would have probably made it so.
Sat, Jul 30, 2016, 9:52pm (UTC -5)
Similarly, the conversation between Kira and Odo at the end seemed like it came years too late. Kira knows by now that Odo is fallible and that he made mistakes during the occupation. She has also come to grips with the fact that everyone, herself included, did things that they regret. Odo is by now her best friend. It's pretty obnoxious of her to demand that he promise that he made no other mistakes, as if anyone could promise that.
Fri, Sep 30, 2016, 5:18pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Sep 30, 2016, 5:35pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Sep 30, 2016, 8:39pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Sep 30, 2016, 11:09pm (UTC -5)
Additionally, and this isn't so minor, we're already had plenty of Kira in scenes showing disgust for Dukat, and having that happen again here would have been both overkill and a sidetrack. And yet she would have had made just this kind of disparaging comment since part of the plot involved one of them having to endure Dukat's BS.
Tue, Dec 27, 2016, 6:39pm (UTC -5)
The decent parts are the opening scene on the runabout, the final scene in the nightmare where we see past-Odo overseeing the executions (which is really well directed, as noted above), and the final real-world scene with Kira. Other than that, this episode is too much of a mess for me to be able to give it more than 2.5. Necessary Evil was far superior, both stylistically and in terms of script, characterization and the big picture. We can quite imagine that Kira murdered and lied in the Resistance (it was her job, and what she needed to do to survive and try to liberate her people) and still has it on her conscience today in some cases; it fits what we know about her. Whereas with Odo, Things Past is essentially a character-assassination retcon for no real purpose. The problem is mainly in the script rather than the execution or basic idea - the performances and direction are fine, and I'm very open to the idea that Odo wasn't always able to live up to his ideals of justice during the occupation, but I'm not open to an Odo as pig-headed and righteous as the one we're shown here in the form of Thrax. Odo having to make moral compromises on Terok Nor is a great idea for an episode, but not executed thusly.
S6's Wrongs shares some of this episode's problems (unnecessary retcon, and too much focus on action/peril scenes on Terok Nor) but is a little better.
Tue, Dec 27, 2016, 7:48pm (UTC -5)
Remember that the events depicted here aren't objectively factual, but rather are Odo's recollections and even perspective on what happened. If the past version of him appears to be unreasonable I would suggest interpreting that as meaning he has a very negative view of how he behaved back then. Since his view of himself was harsh this episode is in fact the opposite of character assassination.
Tue, Dec 27, 2016, 8:00pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Mar 17, 2017, 2:39pm (UTC -5)
Yeah, neither did I, although I suppose it was necessary, and is certainly consistent with what we've seen of her character throughout the series. I've just finished watching Necessary Evil and Past Prologue and it's interesting to compare her actions here with those two episodes. I do wish I'd been able to like the Bajorans (particularly the rebel fighters) more but it seems like they're the only ones who're allowed to kill other people. Then they get all uppity and righteous about others who take lives or participate in doing so. I must say I have to agree with Elliott when he says 'I'd like to meet a Bajoran who isn't a violence-prone asshole to validate the claim that their culture is enlightened.'
Fri, Mar 17, 2017, 3:09pm (UTC -5)
Sat, Mar 18, 2017, 5:44am (UTC -5)
Fri, May 26, 2017, 12:27am (UTC -5)
Sun, Jun 18, 2017, 4:44pm (UTC -5)
Sun, Jul 9, 2017, 7:41pm (UTC -5)
Thu, Sep 7, 2017, 4:18pm (UTC -5)
Not a fan of some technobabble nonsense that is a plot device to have these historical scenes play out but the end result is pretty strong. So they just snap out of the unconscious state after Odo admits his guilt? A bit too convenient for me.
Odo admits his guilt and perhaps is changed in some way but I think he'll just be reset after the episode. Not really sure how he should act differently after coming to terms with his lack of justice.
We get to see a bit more about Dukat during the Occupation and can clearly see how complex his character is. Seems like a bit of a stretch for him to confide in some random Bajoran girl (Dax) given how many times he's almost assassinated.
A strong 2.5 stars for "Things Past" -- a good chance to see how life was like under the Occupation through some bizarre contrivance, which prevents me from giving it 3 stars. Ultimately nothing lasting beyond the episode but a quality scene between Kira and Odo at the end does turn the tables on "Necessary Evil" (which was an even better episode).
Sat, Dec 2, 2017, 8:27pm (UTC -5)
I mean we hear throughout the series about the Shakaar Resistance's "exploits" during the Occupation and especially later on in "The Darkness and the Light" (Which is an utterly brilliant episode in my view) that during one instance Kira and her terrorist buddies vaporised 12 Cardassians including Gul Pareks entire family (ergo innocents as I can't imagine his children or wife went around executing Bajorans) and crippled 23 others including Silarin Prin himself who was simply a servant who cleaned uniforms. Sure Kira defends her actions by "You didn't belong there!" but that doesn't justify her slaughter nor does it justify having the gall and the audacity to question Odo's moral stance. I know that Odo loves Kira and felt very guilty so thats likely why he didn't retort but if it were someone else they'd have likely said "You have the audacity to question my morality? You're a f**king terrorist! You blew up Cardassians for sport, innocent or otherwise yet you have the gall to moan at me? F**k off out of my office!"
Yes I got a little carried away but it's certainly even worse when you consider "Necessary Evil" where Kira lied to Odo for years and only admitted it AFTER Odo figured it out, don't throw stones in glass houses Kira.
Sat, Dec 2, 2017, 9:11pm (UTC -5)
I agree with you that Kira's attitude could come off as somewhat holier than thou, but I don't think that's what they're going for, and having just quickly watched the scene again I'm not really sure that's even what it looks like. When I read your comment my recollection agreed with your assessment, but now that I look at it again with this in mind I feel like maybe you (and I, too) read into the scene something we expected to see rather than what's really there. We see it as a mirror to the end of "Necessary Evil" but this one is different. If I had to name the feeling Kira's showing in this scene it would be sadness, rather than judgement or condescension. What she actually says is that she and others had held Odo so highly that he was practically perfect, and now she realizes he isn't and that image is shattered. If you want to read carefully into that what's really happening is the idol of him that she'd constructed is tumbling, and she's sad to be losing the memory of it; it's a growing pain for her. Odo's remark is that this leaves him as being just himself, not some perfect person. Her sadness can even be read as a kind of happiness in that she's more like him than she thought...for better or for worse. Insofar as she doesn't like certain aspects of herself now she can see some of herself in him, which of course causes her pause. Not because she condemns him, but because she realizes he shares her weaknesses and she no longer has that unreal version of him to cling to. Without giving spoilers, it's probably this scene and Odo's humbling realization (and hers) that allow what comes in future seasons to happen.
Check the scene out again, I don't think she's questioning his morality. She's realizing he's not perfect, and she's right, and is coming to terms with that. She never should have thought it in the first place - it was a childish vice of hers to try to make things so simple. Over the course of 5 seasons she's had a lot of childish notions busted, but this is the time it's finally her notions about him. Think back to Crossfire and how clueless she was to what he was going through. Back then Kira couldn't imagine Odo could ever have problems or fail at anything; she said in that episode that he was so solid, always reliable. It was like a kid talking to a parent. When kids grow up they realize parents aren't perfect, sometimes deeply flawed. Realizing that doesn't mean one condemns the parents; it's the childishness being washed away.
Sat, Dec 30, 2017, 10:30pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Jul 2, 2018, 7:43pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Aug 20, 2018, 12:41pm (UTC -5)
Sun, Nov 25, 2018, 10:28pm (UTC -5)
Disappointing payoff to an intriguing mystery. It all being a group memory of Odo’s guilt over one of his investigations during the occupation. Garak has a few fun moments and Jadzia with Dukat was involving but overall very ho hum
Thu, Jan 17, 2019, 9:15am (UTC -5)
That "Thrax was Odo," and it was all about Odo's guilt was given away early and pretty heavy handedly, so no surprise there. The mystery was what the heck was happening, which was resolved with lame and unconvincing (but thankfully brief) technobabble.
The mystery part was not engaging at all, but the character development for Odo and Dukat was good. I liked the Dukat and Jadzia scenes, as she went from being afraid of him to seeing him as "just another imperfect solid," whose weakness she could exploit.
The ep seemed to have a lot to say about image (legend) vs reality.
An imperfect, but solid ep. :)
Fri, Jul 19, 2019, 9:03am (UTC -5)
Fri, Jul 19, 2019, 9:06am (UTC -5)
Fri, Jul 19, 2019, 11:20am (UTC -5)
Mon, Sep 30, 2019, 4:26pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Jan 15, 2020, 5:48am (UTC -5)
I also appreciate that we're keeping Garak flawed. The opening (everybody palling around chatting on a runabout after their little outing, despite Garak always having had to argue his way onto runabouts or the Defiant before now) was fun, but almost a bit too comfortably buddy-buddy. I assume Garak's finished doing his time for attempted genocide at this point...! If he learnt anything about the Bajoran plight, it's probably best that it remains unsaid. Hell, even if he *did* learn anything more than jack shit, would he really swallow his pride and his disingenuity for long enough to admit it? No, he keeps up the sniping throughout, because Garak being vulnerable enough to disclose any amount of soul-searching would require the episode to be far more about him than it is.
I found myself so caught up in the setting and the atmosphere of occupation life (Terok Nor feeling like an entirely different place to DS9, just as in 'Necessary Evil') that I felt disappointed when it shifted to the more staged-looking depiction of Odo reliving the execution. But that got us the Odo guilt story instead, which is worth telling and well-executed (ha ha). I noticed and appreciated how its ending was paralleled with that of the aforementioned 'Necessary Evil', now with the situations switched. I was about to claim that the situations weren't quite equal, but then brought up the transcript to that episode and realised I'd misremembered it: Kira hadn't planned to kill Vaatrik, and had only done so when he caught her. That was a failed mission for her. And Odo made a mistake himself, cutting corners and letting people die on account of being overburdened and overworked. Two stories about people in the occupation doing the best they could, but never quite managing "perfect" -- and having to deal with the consequences for their consciences.
A less consequential thing I was considering early on: why only go as far as Bajoran clothing when our main characters are being seen as fully Bajoran? The "human with ridged nose" look is definitely less time in the makeup chair for Auberjonois and Robinson, and potentially even Farrell as well -- those spots took time to draw on. It reminds me of TNG's 'Tapestry' depicting young Picard as regular Picard, but then the obvious justification there is reaping all the benefits of Patrick Stewart's acting... as well as the emotional impact of seeing an old Picard in his old life. The "emotional impact" reasoning works here as well to an extent, with a sort of irony in seeing a Cardassian treated by Cardassians as a Bajoran, but the "it was all in Odo's head" reveal at the end gives us some further justification. This is the way Odo knows them to look, after all.
Mon, Feb 10, 2020, 1:50pm (UTC -5)
Thu, Apr 30, 2020, 3:09pm (UTC -5)
ODO: There's no room in justice for loyalty, or friendship, or love. Justice...is blind. I used to believe that. I'm not sure I can anymore.
Teaser : ****, 5%
Hey, it's Garak! And Sisko and Dax and Odo returning aboard a runabout from a trip to Bajor.
GARAK: My understanding of this conference was that it was supposed to be an examination of the occupation from a dispassionate historical perspective. Instead, everyone went out of their way to dismiss virtually everything I had to say.
Already, my interest in piqued. While wee had one story in S4 tangentially related to the Occupation, “Indiscretion,” and one in S3, “Shakaar,” we haven't had a story *about* the Occupation since S2, “The Collaborator.” As far as continuing our theme from “Necessary Evil,” Garak is possibly every bit the dispassionate, neutral observer that Odo *thought* he was/should be/could be/might be. My mind is weaving together a number of character threads here, especially the incredible Garak/Odo dynamic from “The Die is Cast.”
GARAK: What I would have liked was less posturing and more debate. It's clear to me now that the Bajorans aren't really interested in discovering historical truth as much as they are in promoting the myths and legends of the glorious Resistance.
Now this is something I've been waiting to see for a while. As we might recall from “Indiscretion,” it was Dukat who labelled Resistance heroine Kira “a Bajoran born out of the ashes of the Occupation, a Bajoran tempered with Cardassian steel.” A “dispassionate” reading of the Occupation would include Dukat's observations here, without ignoring the twisted evil that drove Bajor's subjugation in the first place. DS9 has a history now of infantilising the Bajorans. While the sympathy we do and should feel for them for the horrific oppression they underwent cannot be oversold, too often that feeling has clouded a *dispassionate* assessment of them as a people. They tend to be credulous, mercurial, and even vindictive. The few morally-upright leaders we have seen have...well they've mostly gotten into Kira's pants, but more importantly, they've been shown to be swimming upstream against the current of their people's reactionary nature. Bajor is in a very fragile position, culturally, even as its political fortunes seem relatively bright at the moment. Without some sort of accounting for what we have seen in episodes like “In the Hands of the Prophets,” “The Siege,” and “Accession,” I worry about the message with which we're going to be *ahem* left behind.
Anyway, the conversation changes focus to Odo, who was lauded at the conference for, in the Bajorans' view, mitigating the oppressive potential of the Cardassian occupiers by earning their trust as well.
DAX: What was it the Moderator said? That you may have worked for the Cardassians, but your only master was justice.
ODO: I've nothing to be proud of. I tried to bring order to a chaotic situation, that's all.
It was actually Gul Dukat who originally bestowed on Odo the title of “neutral observer” back in “Necessary Evil,” a label which helped Odo define his relationship to humanoids. The very idea of dispassionate neutrality facilitating a modicum of justice gave him a moral framework for his actions and his character. Now, in the wake of meeting his people and learning that his biological drive is towards *order* and not (necessarily) justice, he bristles at the term. I mean, Odo would bristle at just about anything, so the rest of the crew doesn't put much stock in this reaction.
Back on DS9, the runabout is cleared for docking, but Worf and co. scan only faint lifesigns and the runabout on autopilot. He and Bashir beam aboard and discover some technosomethings happening to their brains. We see that, in their comatose state, the quartet have awoken aboard Terak Nor, in the dimly-lit horror of the Occupation.
Act 1 : ***, 17%
An irate Bajoran man forces the quartet to their feet, assuming them to be vagrant druggies. He worries their behaviour will trigger another “cleansing.” Never a good sign when the enslaved, mid-genocide victims start adopting their oppressors' euphemisms.
We cut to the Infirmary to see that Bashir is investigating the medical mystery. There was a plasma storm, but that doesn't seem to explain what's going on.
Back in Dreamland, the quartet piece together where and when they are, for the audience's sake. Odo seems especially anxious about the whole affair. Stranger still, the four of them are clearly being experienced by the other people here as Bajorans, even though they appear as themselves to each other. Dax speculates aloud about a “cross-dimensional conscious mind transfer,” yeah. The dynamic they seem to be going for here—with mixed results—is a juxtaposition of that classic Starfleet curiosity in the face of a mystery against the existential horror they're experiencing. “Weird is part of the job,” as Captain Janeway would remind us, and so Dax and Sisko are trying to parse the weird. Garak, for his part is intrinsically pretty unflappable. One would think Odo would be in this boat, too, but he continues to panic.
ODO: Whatever's happened, we have to leave this place. Get off the station.
This is a little suspicious, but remember he's still adjusting to his status as a solid. Vulnerability is a pretty alien feeling for the constable. I think that's the reason the other characters don't express suspicion at this point. Garak thinks he can use his extensive knowledge of Cardassian codes to convince the authorities he isn't actually Bajoran, but Sisko agrees with Odo that the last thing they want is to confront Cardassian authorities right now. Dax spots Dukat strutting about in that way of his. They move along, but Odo has a close encounter with a walking corpse first.
Odo is able to identify the chief of security conversing with Dukat, a Cardassian called Anthrax or whatever. Based on his presence, they know they're at least nine years in the past. Dax is seized by the authorities and Garak attempts to bribe them. The lead guard seems tempted, suggesting Garak knows his people well enough, but Dukat and Anthrax are observing closely and clearly, this his own interests will have to be ignored. He punches Garak and they haul Dax off. Garak cradles his bloody nose and in the waking world, his nose bleeds, too. I don't care for this—it's very transparently a way to create “real-world” stakes for this plot, but this suggests a lack of confidence in the story's premise. Whatever is going on in their heads—the sociological, psychological and historical intrigue—is more than enough to sustain our interests. We don't need there to be a physical danger to the real quartet.
Act 2 : **.75, 17%
After confirming Bashir doesn't really know what's happening, we return to Dreamland where the remaining trio try to regroup. Garak reveals that he lifted a Cardassian PADD off his attacker which he can use to try and gather some more data.
ODO: I see I'm going to have to add the word pickpocket to your resume.
GARAK: It's only a hobby.
ODO: Interesting that a simple tailor should just happen to have a high-level security code.
GARAK: Yes, isn't it? And if my nose didn't hurt so much, I'd tell you with a fascinating story about how I came to possess it.
Wonderful. Garak is in prime mode and Odo briefly seems to forget his fear. He identifies Sisko as a Bajoran called Che Guevara or something. At this, Odo looks terrified once again. Garak is called Jumablaya or whatever. And Odo knows who he is before Garak reads the name, the full horror of realisation settling on his visage. Before Sisko can get an answer out of Odo about this amazing ass-pull, they are paid a visit by Quark.
QUARK: Congratulations, gentlemen. You get to work today. And you'll be labouring in the finest establishment on the station. My establishment. Twelve hours of work, two five minute breaks, one slip of latinum each.
Quark's patronising tone pisses Sisko off enough that he forgets about his questions for Odo. Isn't that convenient? Hold on to that thought.
Dax is brought to Dukat's quarters and informed that “she'll do.” He orders her to spin around and show off the goods, and pour them each a glass of Kanar. One thing I'm glad they didn't shy away from is that Dax is visibly terrified of being alone in a room with Dukat when he's in power. For one thing, it's important to remind the audience that Dukat is, well, a fucking Nazi analogue. He's been softened in our minds over the last couple of seasons, what with the making nice, and the fireworks, and the not murdering his own daughter. But all of this softening has happened under the shadow of Cardassia and Dukat himself being stripped of power. He seems less malicious because he's been defanged by outside forces. Nine years ago, he's the king cobra in the snake pit.
The other good thing this touch provides is a dose of realism. We know that Dax is a badass who can kill 20 Klingons by herself, but this is an exceptional quality. This meek character she's playing (calling herself “Leeta”) is not going to arouse suspicion. Dukat has chosen this “simple Bajoran girl” to share his inner thoughts with, to be a friend and sounding board for the lonely life he leads as fascist slave-master.
Speaking of fascist sentiments, Garak and Sisko are finishing up their shift at the bar.
GARAK: The Bajorans were much more suited for this sort of thing than we were. Servile work is in their nature.
William B (I miss your comments!) remarked that this bit didn't quite sit well with him, and I can understand why. In S4, Garak shifted from neutral evil to neutral good in a similar softening to Dukat's. Although I really like S4 overall, this was one aspect to the season I found problematic. Garak was flattened into more of a gimmick than the compelling character we know him to be. But much of this was due to the fact that the situations the writers put him in didn't do much to test his traits. If we think back to “The Die is Cast,” we know that Garak really is a true believer in Cardassian superiority, and somewhat eugenic attitudes about different species in general. What makes him different from your “typical” Cardassian is that he isn't sadistic. Torturing Odo broke him, whereas normal Obsidian Order activities served a greater purpose for Cardassia. So this line is obviously shitty, but it reminds us that while *someone* should be a dispassionate observer to the Occupation, Garak isn't really that someone.
Odo has another run-in with some zombies, and this seems to remind Sisko to ask him about how he knew who his identity was in this Dreamscape. We learn that these three men were accused (and convicted) of attempted murder against Dukat. Odo says that these three names stick out in his memory because, although they were innocent, they were made an example of and publicly executed. Odo's explanation is dubious, but once again the immediate issue provides a distraction as Garak and Sisko realise they're likely to assume the same fate.
Act 3 : ***, 17%
Anthrax pays a visit to Quark. It seems like the pair have a relationship very much like the Odo/Quark dynamic we know so well. Hmm.
QUARK: I guess you can never tell what some people are really like.
(It's worth mentioning here, spoiling the reveal, that Kurtwood Smith does an excellent imitation of Auberjonois' Odo, complete with that signature 'harrumph')
Ah, but Garak overhears this conversation and the mention of a particular smuggler keys him into the fact that the time they're living through couldn't be more than seven years ago, not nine, when Odo was already working for the Cardassians. Anthrax shouldn't be here at all. Odo brushes this off as a general contradiction arising from their unexplained situation. Sisko lets this pass and focuses on arranging a way to escape, by contacting the Resistance via a secret signal he once learnt from Kira.
So the trio flip over a vase and sit down for their gruel, awaiting a response from their cue. Dukat pays the cafeteria a visit with his “friend” Dax in tow, prompting some snide if accurate comments from Garak. Odo meanwhile is having another Lady McBeth moment with his blood-covered hands. Finally, a resistance member—the same man who initially woke the quartet up from their drug nap actually—sits with them and asks what they're after. Apparently, the only thing which gets you off Terak Nor is a record of having murdered a “spoonhead.” In the middle of their conversation, there's an explosion near Dukat. Sisko runs to Dax' injured body while Odo screams that they can't be in this spot, but to no avail. The trio are arrested then and there.
Act 4 : ***.5, 17%
We see that the trio have been thrown in one of the holding cells when Anthrax pays them a visit. He presents them with the circumstantial evidence of their guilt in trying to murder Dukat. At each juncture, Odo pipes up from his cowering stance to point out the problems with the conclusions being drawn. Anthrax is cold and seemingly dispassionate—look, a theme!--but we can sense a subterranean zeal in the pursuit of...order. The escalation between the two is really dynamite as Odo becomes more and more desperate for his counterpart to listen to reason while Anthrax seems to ignore his own better judgement in the face of settling this dispute tidily. The screaming Bajorans behind him, criminals of various types, keep interrupting their conversation, frustrating him with their noisy chaos. He informs them that their guilt has been confirmed and that they'll be executed soon.
We check in on Dukat and Dax who are enjoying a meal together. Dax has now allowed some of her acerbic personality to shine through her performance, making sarcastic remarks and poking fun. Dukat seems to enjoy the exchange.
DUKAT: I've wanted to increase rations in the Bajoran sector for some time now, but the resistance makes it almost impossible to show any sort of kindness to your people.
DAX: You really want to help my people, don't you?
DUKAT: Yes, of course. The Bajorans are, well, they're like my children, I suppose. And like any father, I want only what's best for them.
Again, DS9 as a series has tended to infantilise the Bajorans, so I find this exchange unintentionally ironic. Leaving that aside, Dax is well aware that Dukat was almost willing to murder his own child for the good of...his career. But he didn't. What does that mean in this context? Well while Dukat waxes on a bit about his own magnanimous generosity to his spoilt children, Dax seizes the initiative and knocks him out cold.
Awaiting their execution, Sisko asks Odo to explain a little bit about his predecessor, who strikes Sisko as unusually devoid of casual brutality for a Cardassian. Again, when the good guys engage in racial stereotyping it's fine. Sisko isn't expressing suspicion on Odo directly, because the script needs him to be stupid, but he is suggesting that Odo might know more than he realises given the contradictions present. Well, Dax arrives, burning through the cell wall, to provide yet another distraction and, it would seem, their escape. While they make a run for it, Anthrax and his team ambush them in a corridor. Dax is shot and Anthrax himself...shape-shifts his way out when Sisko punches him. Well. Isn't that something? The quartet makes it to an escape shuttle, but they find themselves inexplicably back in the cell, being informed that the execution has been scheduled in two hours.
Act 5 : ***.5, 17%
Odo's friends have lost their patience with him as it seems clear he's lying about something key to the impossibility of this whole situation. Sisko demands to know what's going on, but this time Anthrax arrives at just the right moment to save Odo from uncomfortable questions, taking him to his office to have a conversation.
Once again, Odo is replete with un-damning evidence as to their innocence but Anthrax is intransigent.
ODO: Your job is to find the truth, not obtain convictions.
THRAX: Truth? You want the truth? All right. The truth is that none of you would be accused, none of you would even be here if the Bajorans weren't fighting the Cardassians. It's futile. The occupation has lasted for fifty years and it will probably last another fifty...If the Bajoran people would accept their place in history, none of this would be happening.
ODO: We're talking about the attempt on Gul Dukat's life, not the socio-political ramifications of the resistance.
THRAX: It's all part of the same problem. When your people resort to terrorism and violence, they're fighting against order, against stability, against the rule of law, and this must be stopped.
ODO: There is more to life than the rule of law.
THRAX: It has been my observation that only the guilty make that kind of statement.
Glorious dialogue. Anthrax (who is of course Odo) is expressing a kind of resigned zeal at the watertight nature of his version of justice. Remember that in “Necessary Evil,” Odo jumped right back into the case of the mysterious murder by Kira because there were holes left in the investigation. Never mind that the entire context for the whole case had been upended by the end of the Occupation, Odo *needed* to close up those holes. The shape-shifter *needed* an airtight, solid finality to the mystery. That is the nature of his semblance. On the other hand, Anthrax (who is Odo) is observing that the real Odo is in fact very guilty of something. Guilty, in a way, of murder.
Odo finally tells Anthrax the totality of their situation, that they're really from the future and not Bajorans, etc. but Anthrax already knows all this.
ODO: You know? Then what are you going to do about it?
THRAX: What I am supposed to do, nothing more, nothing less. The question is, what are you going to do, Odo?
Odo finds himself on the Promenade with Dax, Garak and Odo lined up ready to be murdered. With the barrel of a phaser pointed at Sisko's chest, Odo finally comes clean and admits that he is supposed to be in Antrhax' place, violating the spirit of justice for the sake of order and overseeing the execution of three innocent Bajorans. And just like that, the quartet find themselves in their normal guises witnessing the execution of the historical innocents. It's a haunting little sequence. With his final admission of guilt to his friends, the dream ends and Odo awakens in the Infirmary.
Bashir later explains the technobabble behind this adventure. Traces of Changeling goop in Odo's brain were activated by the plasma storm (time travel, mirror universes, morphogenic mental displacement...there's nothing a space storm can't do). I can buy the idea that this happened (and I think introducing the notion that Odo, despite his solid status, is still biologically a Changeling makes sense), that Odo would form a telepathic link with his friends in this way to relive events that were prominent in his mind. But there's something unsatisfying in the conceit that resolving Odo's guilt would end the link.
Kira pops in to Odo's office for a Necessary Cameo.
KIRA: Maybe nothing. Maybe a lot. I believed in you. A lot of people did. You were special. You were the one man who stood apart from everyone else, the one man who stood for justice. Now what?
ODO: Now I'm just another imperfect solid.
KIRA: Okay. The Prophets know I'm not perfect. I guess the truth is that anyone who lived through the occupation had to get a little dirty. But I need to know that no other innocent people died on your watch, Odo. That this was the only time.
ODO: I'm not sure. I hope so.
So, as in NE, we are left with a lingering question that has no easy answer and a relationship clouded by difficult truths.
Episode as Functionary : ***, 10%
Let's start with the framing, which is this non-Changeling link situation. Why should Odo's emotional resolution affect this biological anomaly? We bothered to show Bashir and Worf investigating the quartet in the teaser, breaking our suspension of disbelief about the nature of this event before we got into it. That was a bit of a dramatic sacrifice, but it works for me on its own. The mystery is about Odo's guilt and Anthrax' true nature, not the technobabble explaining the plot. But since we established this framing, why couldn't Bashir simply be the one to pull them out of the link using medical science? The resolution Odo experienced didn't have to *cause* the break. It could have coincided with it in much the same way real dreams always seem to end at the point of emotional peak, regardless of how long a person is actually asleep during the dream. So that conceit was a little too much for me to fully engage with the story's climax.
I also found the twist a little overly-telegraphed. You've got Anthrax playing Odo perfectly which is a clue, but not a totally damning one. Maybe Odo picked up his behaviour from his predecessor and that's the guilt he's carrying around? Up until the point Anthrax is revealed to be a Changeling, this presents several plausible explanations that keep the mystery engaging. But this is muddled by all the Shakespearian moments with the walking corpses and the bloody soup. AND we have the framing device letting us know that this is happening in their heads anyway. All of these elements get in each other's way and prevent the character core of the story from shining as brightly as it could have.
All of that said, where we ended up with Odo was worth the rough journey getting there. In a way, this is a lot like “Distant Voices” where Odo's psyche keeps providing obstacles that prevent the quartet from escaping the damnation of history, but it also keeps providing distractions to Sisko and Garak that postpone Odo's confession to them. First Dax' capture, then Quark, then the bombing, then Dax' attempted rescue, then Anthrax' taking Odo away to his office. We are seeing the battle in Odo's conscience taking place in the micro as dialogue between himself and Anthrax, but also in the macro in how the setting keeps adjusting to the actions of the characters. Very nice.
As far as the characterisation of Quark and Dukat, we can infer that part of what we're seeing is being provided by input from the rest of the quartet. Dax, Sisko and Garak certainly have informed opinions about both these men which are consistent with what we see. It may not be literally accurate, as Odo wouldn't have specific memories aside from the direct conversations he had with them, but it fits the spirit of their characters and provides a little foreshadowing on the Dukat front. I thought the acting and production design were top-notch from all. I agree with Jammer that the inclusion of mortal peril added absolutely nothing to the story in any way. I think the final scene with Kira is very good and provides a catharsis to Odo's confession in an academic way, but it feels a little contrived not to show any followup with the actual people who experienced Odo's memory.
But the episode failed to answer to the most important question: did Dax and Dukat fuck?
Final Score : ***
Sat, May 2, 2020, 12:50pm (UTC -5)
You are, I suppose, probably right about Garak -- even as I dislike him being flattened a little in season four, I think a part of me still wants him to be The (morally) Good Cardassian, rather than The Good Cardassian (in the sense of being a true believer in Cardassian ideals). It's even possible for Garak to oppose the Occupation and subjugation of Bajor (which, SPOILER, he seems to believe at least by the series finale) while believing that Bajorans are still more suited to servile work; Sisko et al. don't want to subjugate Cardassians but still believe them to be generally brutal, for instance.
I wonder about the reason for the particular choices about who accompanies Odo on this mindscape. I think the basic idea is that it must be people Odo has some attachment to, so as to drive home that he is not so objective, so he both feels more shame at being seen as unjust by people he cares about and that it would be more difficult to see them executed than strangers. And it can't be Kira or Quark, the people most frequently paired with Odo, because it has to be people who wouldn't know about this period of his life. Otherwise I'm not sure. I guess they are all people Odo might "look up to" in some way -- Garak's special knowledge of Odo's vulnerabilities isn't really used, but he is highly intelligent and worldly, Sisko is a CO who has gone to bat for him before, and Dax is ancient. O'Brien might seem too provincial, Bashir too young and Worf too much of a rival for Odo to feel the same sting from their seeing him at his worst, possibly. Or maybe it's just a grab bag and they had to fit into other constraints (they wanted to show Dukat womanizing so needed Dax, they needed Bashir to do the medical technobabble, etc.).
Sun, May 3, 2020, 6:46pm (UTC -5)
That would have helped here, insofar as explaining the technobabble-fueled crisis of the week, and also made the mechanics of his eventual restoration a few episodes later make a lot more sense.
If Odo is, instead, truly human after his "punishment", it's hard to buy that Junior could fuse with him and restore him, unless we presume that it just as easily could have fused with, say, Julian instead and turned *him* into a Changeling.
Sun, May 3, 2020, 9:07pm (UTC -5)
Yeah, I can’t remember how I felt about the end of Garak’s arc in S7. I was too distracted by all the Pagh Wraith silliness. I’ll be keeping a close eye on his development.
Tue, May 5, 2020, 12:11pm (UTC -5)
"Let's start with the framing, which is this non-Changeling link situation. Why should Odo's emotional resolution affect this biological anomaly?"
I think the explanation of this lies in Odo's statement that there's more to life than law and order. It begs us to ask why this link happened in the first place; random brain glitch, the bio equivalent of the spacial anomaly of the week? I don't think so; I thnk Odo subconsciously *wanted* to link with them, which is to say, to purge himself of guilt and admit it. His entire fantasy is an exercise in showing them all of the context, and railroading himself into having to fess up. At any point, as you say, the fantasy could have had various technical explanations; but the clues keep piling in because Odo wants them to know on some level. That is certainly one thing he now knows is more important than law and order: the truth. And fighting for the truth doesn't just mean knowing it but it means admitting it to everyone. And I think this is why Odo's final confession ends the link - because he controlled it all along (physiologically speaking). It wasn't a random anomaly, it was his developing conscience reaching out to the others.
Regarding Garak and his attitude toward the Bajorans, I think we need to bear in mind that there are several layers of 'his beliefs' that we shouldn't muddle up with each other. We know that a part of him will proudly announce to Bashir that The Neverending Sacrifice is the pinnacle of Cardassian literature; this Garak is a patriot in the parochial sense, who will repeat the party line with enthusiasm. Now we may suspect, knowing him better, that deep down he was smiling as he said it, knowing exactly how it sounded to Bashir but trying to educate him about reality. Or we can believe that Garak has a few levels to his beliefs, some of which are in accord with classic Cardassian beliefs, and some of which are rebellious. It is entirely possible that some of his beliefs contradict each other, as he may well have saved some Bajorans as hinted at in The Wire, while also being able to say out of the other side of his mouth that they're a servile people who deserve enslavement. I suspect that part of OO training is to master cognitive dissonance and be able to believe contradictory things at once; this is certainly what everyone in Orwell's 1984 is trained to do from a young age, and I don't think it's all that hard to achieve. So In Garak's case I think we might do well to suppose that he can adopt *postures* that can appear to be either rebellious or else a Party Man, and he adopts these in order to study situations, or perhaps to amuse himself. He obviously would have knows the reaction the Bajorans would have to his statements, so we must surmise that this is exactly the response he wanted. Why he wanted it is perhaps a question. Maybe just flexing his muscles.
Finally, regarding Odo and Kira's final exchange, I personally feel that she was almost asking him to lie to her. Why ask him if it was the only time? So he can be dragged through the mud even more, and have to *doubly* admit that he's imperfect? I think she's trying to say here that she just needs to believe in him, and that in a way the truth doesn't matter to her as much as knowing she can trust him now. After all, it seems entirely unreasonable to admit you were not a good man back then, and then have your closest friend demand to know that you only ever did one bad thing. That's kind of what it means to not be a good guy; that you had a *pattern* of imperfect behavior. It doesn't really matter at that point whether it was just one bad event or many, it was a permanent character trait. The only thing that should matter is that he feels differently now and regrets it, so maybe her question is a weird way of asking him whether that part of his life is over.
Tue, May 5, 2020, 1:47pm (UTC -5)
Specifically on the Odo, what you are saying about him reaching out with his conscience and even the Kira exchange dovetails nicely with some of my comment. Of course the proximate trigger is the conference on Bajoran affairs, but I think he really wants to be seen (and either judged or forgiven) by people who only know the post-Occupation Odo, and who were not particularly invested in the myth of the Neutral Saviour. Again there are plot and casting reasons it couldn't be Kira or Quark (or Rom, or heaven forbid Dukat) who went on this mind journey with Odo, but I think that Odo would want on some level to reach out to someone who didn't know him then before facing the bigger and more terrifying judgment that facing Kira (or even Quark) would entail. (I forget how long Garak was on the station before the end of the Occupation but I don't think he and Odo particularly interacted before season 3.)
Tue, May 5, 2020, 1:58pm (UTC -5)
"I forget how long Garak was on the station before the end of the Occupation but I don't think he and Odo particularly interacted before season 3."
I actually think there's a chronology inconsistency here that the writers never bothered thinking about. Garak was supposedly exiled sometime during the Occupation, because presumably his offense somehow involved Bajorans. And he was supposedly exiled on DS9. However at the time of the Occupation Terok Nor was not exile, but was Cardassian territory. Not only that but Dukat was in command, and I very much doubt he would have left with is men until the very end. In fact we know from "Cardassians" that Dukat was still personally in command during the evacuation, when Rugel was hoisted from his family and put in an orphanage. The inconsistency is why would Tain exile Garak to a Cardassian military station? That doesn't fit any definition of exile as Garak describes it. But even more, there is just no way Garak was shipped off to Dukat's station and they just left each other alone.
My surmise is that the writers had two separate head canons that they never compared side-by-side; one is that Dukat was on Terok Nor until the bitter end, and Garak came later; and the other is that Garak was exiled to DS9 during the Occupation, and in this picture Dukat is not part of the story. I don't think they can be made to fit together.
Tue, May 5, 2020, 2:38pm (UTC -5)
Garak was exiled somewhere between 2368-2369. DS9 starts in 2369.
So the Cardassians might have been there, maybe the Bayorans had already taken over. Point being the Cardassians already knew that they had lost.
It's not like the CIA in 1975 said: What the Vietnam War is lost??!
Tue, May 5, 2020, 5:20pm (UTC -5)
Thanks as always.
"And I think this is why Odo's final confession ends the link - because he controlled it all along (physiologically speaking). It wasn't a random anomaly, it was his developing conscience reaching out to the others."
The more I think about it, the more I think you're right. When Changelings link, they are in psychological communion, not unlike a mindmeld. It would make sense that the emotional-cognitive impetus behind the connection would need to be resolved in order to break the link. I did note the similarity here to "Distant Voices," and this makes that comparison more apt. I still find it kind of cheesy and would have been more engaged had the resolution to Odo's trauma not been tied directly to the anomalous situation of the week. All the elements to this story not directly about Odo's and Dukat's characters are pretty half-assed and should have just been let go of, imo.
Thu, Sep 10, 2020, 6:35pm (UTC -5)
The teaser in the runabout is actually very relevant to the theme: Garak is discussing how he was annoyed that, at a symposium about the Cardassian occupation, his attempts to rationally analyze the occupation were irately shot down by a crown of over-emotional Bajorans--and later reveals his distaste about the Bajorans being fundamentally uncivilized for creating chaos. All in all, a wonderful examination of imperialism and how the high-minded concepts of dispassionate social analysis, including "justice" and the "rule of law," tend to be a luxury of the opressors.
Sun, Nov 1, 2020, 3:04pm (UTC -5)
The idea of having Sisko, Dax and Garak "share the dream" also annoyed me, and seemed unnecessary. Better, IMO, to play this episode straight. Simply open with Odo being praised by Bajorans for his "sense of fairness". Feeling guilty, he walks the promenade, where he reminisces about his real role during the Occupation. No gimmicks, no SF hooks.
Also annoying is the way Sisko, Dax and Dukat are constantly ten steps behind the audience. They spend the entire episode struggling to answer a question - "Why is Odo not on the station?" - which we the audience have already figured out. There's no subtlety here, everything telegraphed. Consider, for example, the scene in which Odo yells "No! I'm not going to let this happen again! Not again!", upon realizing his unconscious is forcing him to remember the death of innocent Bajorans he once had killed. It's all too heavy-handed.
Still, the "technobabble" used to "justify the dream narrative" is very clever this time around - Odo accidentally sucks everyone into a mini Great Link! - and the conceit allows us to "suck Dax into the past", which is cool. I may have an aversion to "dream logic episodes", but more Dax is always good. Here she pretends to be a docile Bajoran slave and then kicks Gul Dukat's ass, and then hilariously rescues Sisko and the gang by blowing a hole in the wall.
As with most DS9 episodes set on the station during the Cardassian Occupation, the chief pleasures here are watching the moody, smoky sets, Dukat stomping about like a feudal lord, and Odo in his creepy Evil Odo uniform, slinking about like some kind of clay-faced Nazi.
Wed, Aug 25, 2021, 4:03am (UTC -5)
Sun, Mar 20, 2022, 9:23pm (UTC -5)
. I admit its kinda subtle, even when he turns into a changling and escapes is sorta dismissed on the show quickly and not addressed as things are happening so fast. But it's obvious to me that is was saying that Odo, at that time and moment, was no better than his cardassian predacessor. It was my FAVORITE part of the entire episode and yet....this is the first time I've ever gotten to see other ppl get the meaning. God bless the internet, this is what it's really for haha. Finding other ppl obsessed with picking out meaning in obscure scenes from decades old shows lol. I'm not jhoking
Thu, Sep 8, 2022, 11:07am (UTC -5)
Within the broader D.S.9 tableau though, this made no sense. What, Dodo, even at 1/8(?) shapeshifter capacity, is able to mentally stun people?! When did he, even as a 100% changeling, have a capability to perform what is essentially a supped-up, steroid-laden version of the Vulcan mind-meld?!? Is there *anything* that guy can't do!? I bet he walks on...vacuum..., too.
But as ludicrous as that was, here we have a guy that spent seven years sauntering through the station with a self-righteous swagger with an air of moral superiority befitting a superhero. He was busting Quark's hump for putting his thumb on the scale here and there; yet, all that time he was supposedly wracked with guilt?? Seems totes.
I still think it was a great ep. but in the broader scheme of things it was nonsensical.
Wed, Jan 11, 2023, 11:05am (UTC -5)
First off: the difference in the interplay between DS9 characters is massively compelling after TNG. Roddenberry's ban on intra-crew strife was a bad idea, making it harder to relate to TNG's characters. DS9 is more relatable and more intense because of it, and the characters always find a way to pull together, so what's the problem? (VOY also had elements of conflict and I enjoyed that too.)
Second: despite said strife, the DS9 crew are far more likeable and worthy than modern TV characters. Jumping back into 90s sci-fi like Star Trek and Stargate SG1 is so refreshing after years of horrible characters in every new show.
Third: The acting in 90s Trek could be all over the place from episode to episode, especially with guest characters, with Rick Berman demanding ever more bland recital of lines. You can tell he didn't work on DS9: Things Past is a very strong showcase of acting from Sisko, Dax, Odo, Garak, Quark and Dukat. You can feel everything they go through.
Fourth: Everything I've said so far is about the characters. And that's why DS9 is the high point of the franchise for me: the writers and actors were really able to let rip and bring the staid, distant Star Trek universe to life. No longer is Starfleet a single ship in a galaxy full of foreheads of the week. This is a living, vibrant, beautiful, dangerous, sinister galaxy, living up to the way Q once described it to the Enterprise crew. You would definitely want to live in the Federation, but not in the wilds outside it. It's nowhere near as horrifying as 40K, but would you want Romulans, Cardassians, Klingon and Borg as neighbours? So from that perspective, I would argue that DS9 actually shows the Federation in the BEST light, as it's the only show which bothers to explore the darkness outisde it and present it for what it is. Arguing that Section 31 ruins the Federation is idiotic - even heaven has angels to protect it, and many angels are warriors...
Fifth and finally (SPOILER!!!): The end of the episode features a sublime reveal at the end, where one of the characters gazes across at himself. It's such an odd, creepy, shocking moment, where suddenly it all makes sense, and then it ends - except, being DS9, it DOESN'T quite end there. The character must face the consequences, putting strain on a friendship and painting them in a new light.
And that is another reason why DS9 is, for me, the best of Trek.
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