Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

"In the Pale Moonlight"

4 stars

Air date: 4/13/1998
Teleplay by Michael Taylor
Story by Peter Allan Fields
Directed by Victor Lobl

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"The road to hell is paved with good intentions." — old proverb

Nutshell: Disquieting, but a spellbinding tour de force. It's a gripping, scary, and inevitably chilling tale ... I'm calling it a DS9 masterpiece.

Given what it does to its central character, "In the Pale Moonlight" is one of the darkest chapters in the history of the Trek canon. I'd say this has a good chance to become a controversial episode. I would suspect there are going to be some out there who will see this episode and wonder if the DS9 writers are slowly dismantling everything about the Federation that Roddenberry's Star Trek idealism took for granted. The episode documents an ugly series of events, to be sure, and at the end of the episode I was left stunned, disquieted, and compelled.

But "In the Pale Moonlight" is a perfect demonstration of what the Dominion War is all about—or at least what it probably should be about if it intends to maintain tension and dramatic realism. Anyone who thinks that the perfect Roddenberry vision can thrive in a Federation that's plunged into a war of this magnitude is probably hopelessly idealistic and hopelessly naive. Personally, I think it's absurd to claim Star Trek or the Federation cannot have a dark side, especially when considering that Trek usually, for all practical purposes, still keeps its moral compass in check when delving into dark issues in an episode like this. (Besides, to loosely quote Andre Braugher's character, Frank Pembleton, from Homicide: Life on the Street, "Virtue doesn't mean anything unless it's tested alongside vice.")

A big point of the episode is to show what ugly things war can lead desperate people to do, so it strikes me as only natural (and necessary) that a chapter like "In the Pale Moonlight" would take place during a time like this. The episode is a story superbly told—the best of the season—and I think there's a lot to be said for a tale that documents the agonizing effects of the war on one man, particularly one man who can make decisions that potentially impact thousands or millions of people—namely, Captain Benjamin Sisko.

The episode is told in flashback by Sisko as he makes a personal log entry. "I can see where it all went wrong," he begins. The foreshadowing is the first of many things this episode gets very right. It lets us immediately know where it's going—essentially straight into hell. From the outset, it seems obvious that Sisko's plan, whatever it is, is destined to go very wrong. As a result, we know we're in for what's going to be a rough ride with a not-so-happy ending.

The story marks an extremely significant return to the war storyline where Federation casualties are still running very high. One day, Sisko reaches the decision that something must be done if the Federation stands a chance of survival—and soon. He wants the Romulans to join the game. As we know from "Call to Arms," the Romulans have signed a non-aggression pact with the Dominion, and they have no desire or motivation to enter a bloody war at this point.

But Sisko disagrees. His argument: When the Dominion forces are finished with the Federation, they'll go after the Romulans, no matter what the Dominion may have promised. But Sisko knows Romulans, and knows they're going to want proof that such a betrayal will take place.

Well, of course, there is no physical proof, and when Sisko seeks Garak's help to gather intelligence information from his few remaining Cardassian contacts, the result fails (that is to say, everyone Garak talks to turns up dead within a day). Garak recommends to Sisko the only sure-fire method for convincing the Romulans a threat exists: They must manufacture the "evidence" themselves.

From here is the opening of a Pandora's box unlike anything Sisko has probably encountered. As he states in his log, "The road to hell is paved with good intentions," and in making the agreement with Garak, Sisko lays the first stone.

The plot of this episode is not as primary as the wringer it puts Sisko through, but make no mistake: This is by far the most important plot development episode since "Sacrifice of Angels"—perhaps even more so (especially given that "Sacrifice" had some notable omissions). Peter Allan Fields, the man behind many good second-season stories (as well as last season's "For the Uniform") returns to garner story credit in a pivotal episode; Michael Taylor's teleplay demonstrates his knack for getting inside the characters' heads with a flashback-like device (a la "The Visitor," "Things Past"). Although, considering the story also had an uncredited rewrite by Ron Moore, it's difficult to dole out credit accurately. I'll just heap the praise onto everybody for pushing as far as they did in both the plot and the dark underlying themes. The plot pretty much works like a well-oiled machine and is constantly interesting and relevant. Meanwhile, given how much is often made of the Trek franchise and ideology, it seems to me the unpleasant themes took some guts to see through.

Sisko's involvement in Garak's plan takes turn after frightening turn. Sisko enlists a criminal named Tolar (Howard Shangraw) to fake a holographic recording of a briefing between Weyoun and Damar regarding a supposed planned attack on the Romulans. Sisko orchestrates a trade with one of Garak's sources: An authentic and rare data rod upon which to record the holo-briefing in exchange for a highly dangerous biological substance that is normally regulated directly by the Federation. Sisko bribes Quark to keep things quiet when Tolar assaults him. Sisko makes bold-faced lies to Romulan senator Vreenak (Stephen McHattie) to convince him to join the war effort. All of this, meanwhile, is conducted in secret; no one knows what's really going on except Sisko and Garak. Even Starfleet Command, who gave Sisko permission to see the daring plan through, probably doesn't know everything concerning how the plan is being conducted.

Sisko's plot quickly becomes a high-stakes game where the goal is to convince Vreenak that an out-and-out lie is actually the truth. When trying to confirm Sisko's story, will Vreenak discover that the data rod is a fraud, or will Tolar's fabrication hold up under scrutiny? The episode builds an incredible sense of suspense in its later stages, helped along by the narration of Sisko's own feelings of doubt and dread. I haven't been so viscerally wound up in the outcome of a story since "Sacrifice" earlier in the season. Sure, we knew something was going to go wrong given the narration, but seeing how it would play out had me riveted to the screen.

Watching Sisko go further and further into this plot was literally scary. Sisko is not the type of character that I normally equate with obsessions, but this time he gets in so deep that it nearly becomes one; he's willing to go to great lengths ("I'm making a new agreement!") to protect this plan.

And when Vreenak uttered those three simple words—"It's a fake!"—I seriously feared the fate of the Federation. The twist, of course, is that Sisko's plan ultimately works because Garak intervenes (outside Sisko's knowledge) by planting a bomb on Vreenak's ship, making it look like Dominion sabotage killed him. It's a startling turn of events. The last scene between Sisko and Garak is powerfully acted, and pulls the plot together to turn the Romulans against the Dominion more plausibly than I would've thought possible. (Although, I'm certainly curious what Starfleet had to say to Sisko about the bombing, or if they even knew or suspected Sisko's connection.)

Victor Lobl deserves kudos for assembling this package in a manner such that it all holds together and in the meantime grabs us by the throat and refuses to let go until it's all over (and David Bell's brooding score is effectively appropriate). The performances are wonderful. Andrew Robinson and Avery Brooks were both great; the former demonstrating his usual acerbic wit and cleverness even in the grim setting, the latter documenting a man under the great pressures of infinitely high stakes and moral crossroads.

The supporting characters were also effective. Howard Shangraw's Tolar wasn't a groundbreaker, but the character's early lack of discretion and focus (public drunkenness, attempted murder of Quark in his bar) was enough to convince me that the data rod had a good chance of failing inspection. (Even without the foreshadowing narration I would've been pretty doubtful of success.) Stephen McHattie's Vreenak, on the other hand, was a perfect Romulan—arrogant, suspicious, sarcastic, and skeptical; Sisko had his work cut out for him, and their discussion was wryly written.

And, ultimately, whether you like what "In the Pale Moonlight" does to Captain Sisko or not, you've got to admit—this is powerful character development. It left me both troubled and intrigued. It may not exemplify what I'd want to see in my ideal Starfleet hero, but that's what makes the story work so well. It's a tragedy in the most characteristically fundamental of ways: It questions the core of a man's morality by pushing him to the limits until he makes decisions that he never would've wanted to have to consider in the first place.

The fact that Starfleet sanctioned such a risky and morally questionable plan is itself a sign of very desperate times. Some have argued that Section 31 in last week's "Inquisition" was evidence of a Federation that may not be as Roddenbery-esque as it "should." I've never been one to pronounce black-and-white verdicts concerning the Roddenberry ideology, but I'd certainly say that the attitude of this show pushes far beyond what we saw of Section 31 last week. By giving Sisko "their blessing," Starfleet has essentially condoned one officer to lie, cheat, bribe, and cover up the truth. I see that as much more challenging than the idea of Section 31. It's a very interesting issue to ponder, though certainly disturbing.

Morality aside, however, I do somewhat question the strategic prudence of Starfleet approving of such a risky plan. If failure could indeed completely alienate the Romulans, it's a wonder they would be so willing to go through with it. It could very well be that Starfleet felt it had no other choice (especially given that partway through the episode news arrives that the Dominion has invaded and conquered Betazed), but it still seems like an awfully big risk to take with so much on the line. Forget such little plot anomalies; they're slight at best, and the big picture couldn't be much more involving.

But what this episode all comes down to is Sisko. Simply put, this Sisko is not the same man he was before the war began. Or maybe at his core he still is, and the whole point is that the darkness around him brought out the worst within him. To demonstrate such a point, Avery Brooks' monologs to the camera, particularly the final one, were downright riveting. When all's said and done, he shifts sideways on his couch and crosses his legs in a way that sent a chill running down my spine. (The gesture is simple enough, but it's executed so ingeniously that the image is forever burned into my mind.) He says he can live with himself. And then he repeats himself—twice. And he sounds like he means it. Yet he also sounds like he doesn't believe it. This is a troubled man, having made choices that have ripped him up inside. He's tortured but hardened, and all he can do is try to make the right call while rationalizing that the ends justify the means—which in many ways, perhaps, they do.

This last scene is a masterstroke, showing how important the effects of the story's plot is upon the character. The episode's story itself is not just a means to a plot-development end, but a fully realized character piece.

Eight years ago, when TNG's classic "Yesterday's Enterprise" aired, there was a brutal war between the Federation and the Klingons that existed in an alternate timeline. The Picard of that timeline was a strangely different man. He was a dark and somber "what if" version of the real Picard. "In the Pale Moonlight" features a dark and somber Sisko, and what's so frightening is that this isn't a "what if" situation; it's really happening for Sisko and the Federation.

Looking back at "Sacrifice of Angels," when the Prophets told Sisko that his pagh would follow another path, I cannot help but think that the events of "Moonlight" may indicate a possible direction that Benjamin Sisko may be headed in. I by no means hope that's the place he ultimately ends up, but the chilling consequences of "Moonlight" on his character are too great to be ignored, and far too compelling to be dismissed. This episode truly pushes the envelope of the Roddenberry idealism, but I think it's great that the DS9 writers have taken this step; "In the Pale Moonlight" is one of the all-time best DS9 installments. I'm very interested to see where Benjamin Sisko goes from here.

Next week: It's a 180 into lightheartedness when Odo and Kira have a holosuite date.

Previous episode: Inquisition
Next episode: His Way

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363 comments on this post

Admirable Chrichton
Wed, Nov 21, 2007, 8:18am (UTC -6)
I have noticed that many consider this to be the most subversive episode of Trek ever to be shown (well perhaps that Enterprise episode where they steal that warp core from the aliens might be a contender for the role.). Yes it probably is, and in this we have a problem. Trek has (at the time ITPM aired at least) become a sub genre of a genre, and this episode shows this. By Trek standards it is a dark and dangerous episode, but perhaps not when compared with other types of shows in our cynical nineties and noughties. Don't get me wrong I love Trek, and think this episode is one of the strongest, and I think the values Trek promotes are laudable. But the core reaction to this episode does highlight the gap between Trek optimism and the cynical dramas around at the moment.
Jakob M. Mokoru
Wed, Nov 21, 2007, 12:59pm (UTC -6)
While the episode IS certainly groundshaking in its way, i still cannot confirm your statement: "Sisko is not the type of character that I normally equate with obsessions, but this time he gets in so deep that it nearly becomes one; he's willing to go to great lengths [...] to protect this plan."

Well, Sisko isn't man capable of obsession? Well Michael Eddington would say otherwise! Given the fact, that Sisko has shown himself being capable of poisoning whole atmospheres, I cannot say that I was too stunned of this weeks deed of his!
Tue, Dec 18, 2007, 9:47pm (UTC -6)
ITPM is an example of what makes DS9 so great in that DS9 can be summed up in this "Paradise has a price and these are the people who pay that price"
Tomás Foley
Sun, Jan 6, 2008, 6:54pm (UTC -6)
Im glad I found your website and its reviews... Im a huge fan of DS9 & the first review I read was this one... it has to be a really tough review to do & reading your words I think you have done a spellbounding job of representing the Trek based controversy that inevitably sorrounds such a plot, the outstanding storyline and its 'required' place at such a time in DS9's overall development, the guts it takes to write such a piece. I think to me, the fact that Sisko was at his best in terms of his acting, the passion, the body language, the anguish and confusion and claims of self-assurance in his mission to do what had to be done in his eyes, justifies this piece of drama in itself.

Its to me the best Star Trek DS9 episode, just gripping, clever & controvesiol... I hate seeing reviews that challenge this episode and its failing of Roddenberrys dream, because all things evolve & like you quoted so well "Virtue doesn't mean anything unless it's tested alongside vice."

Thanks for a brilliant review... any chance of another star though??? Go on be brave!!!
Fri, Jan 18, 2008, 10:37am (UTC -6)
I was damn lucky to catch this one, considering all the problems holding a job and a place to live. I caught the rerun late on a friday or saturday night, and i have to agree with most everything said here.

Star Trek was once criticized for being "too cerebral", during its TOS years. This was another way of saying it required too much intelligent thought and the critic that said this was actually, whether intentional or not, calling the average viewers stupid, or at least not smart enough to follow such complex dialogue and story-lines.

Along that perspective, ITPM is one of the most cerebral, thought-provoking, serious episodes ever covered by the Trek series. It's also an inside look at one of the darkest aspects of war; the way in which it feeds the "means justified by the ends" attitude and turns too many good-hearted souls into guilty politicians with skeletons in their closets.

The snake eats its own tail, war is forced upon us, whether we want it or not. Life sucks that way, really bad!
Wed, Jan 23, 2008, 11:40am (UTC -6)
Just curious, was Gene Roddenberry around at the creation of DS9? DS9 is a great show; but, in some ways it isn't Star Trek. That DS9 was on a different path than TOS and TNG became apparent in its 1st season.

I think that Roddenberry was okay with the idea of something like the Borg challenging the Star Trek verse's existence. What measures are taken to challenge the Dominion (the creation of section 31, biowarfare against the Changelings, and, gaining an ally by the worst type of subterfuge) may not have been acceptable to the Great Bird of the Galaxy. In fact there is an apocryphal story that he put the kibosh on teh use of a cloaking device in ST productions because "the Federation doesn't sneak around."

I personally thought DS9 was some of the best Trek and made welcome, realistic developments.

Just my .02
Wed, Jan 23, 2008, 12:07pm (UTC -6)
Roddenberry was dead well before DS9 got the green light, so he had no input on it. It's an interesting question whether he would've accepted DS9's challenge of the Trekkian status quo. Quite possibly not.

The fact of the matter is that Roddenberry's "humans are perfect" idealism in TNG became so extreme as to inhibit storytelling probably more than it should've.
Thu, Jan 24, 2008, 11:03am (UTC -6)
On the the other hand, in TOS there was plenty of material where Capt. Kirk had to make very hard choices.

Start with the pilot: "Where No Man has Gone Before"-he had to sacrifice his best friend to save the Enterprise crew.

"Dagger of the Mind"-a rehabilitiation facility where experimentation is done on "criminal" minds. At the very best it shows a very lax Federation. At worst it shows a government like the Alliance on "Firefly".

The Cloud Minders-A Federation member world that enslaved most of it's population to mining of a needed resource.

A Private Little War-The Federation and arming one faction against the Klingon sponsored faction. A good follow up would be to see how this world is doing now that the Federation and the Klingons are best buds.

This might belong on one of the TOS blogs. It does show that Gene Roddenberry was willing to green light episodes that showed virtue having to grapple against vice in TOS. TNG got rid of that DS9 might have brought it back. I don't think any of the other commanders had to do the grappling of Sisko ITPM; to bring this post back to it's original episode.
Thu, Jan 24, 2008, 4:34pm (UTC -6)
Jammer, I don't know exactly how Gene Roddenberry would have received DS9 but I do think he would have approved of it because at its heart DS9 was like TOS in that it had a western feel to it. I think was in fact Michael Piller who called it The Rifleman in space.
Thu, Jan 24, 2008, 5:17pm (UTC -6)
I couldn't say how GR would've hypothetically reacted to DS9. As has been alluded to in other posts here, GR was not so rigid in the "humanity is perfect" back in the TOS days. I think he came to that premise during TNG's run; I think I read somewhere that his argument was that since it was farther in the future, the Federation was even more perfect than during TOS, and was above things like interpersonal human conflict. Which of course makes it tougher to do drama. DS9 was a step back from that. Would GR have had a problem with that? Don't know.
Jakob M. Mokoru
Fri, Jan 25, 2008, 3:59am (UTC -6)
Well, I don't think that Roddenberry opposed conflicts per se, not even in the Next Generation. I'd like to quote from the book "40 Jahre Star Trek" by Thomas Höhl/Mike Hillenbrand:

Picard is afraid of being ridiculed in the presence of children, yet he commands a ship with children on board and even lets a kid serve on the bridge - Wesley Crusher! I would call this potential for conflict!
Furthermore: Wesleys father - Jack Crusher - died serving under Picard. AND: Not only Jacks son is on the ship, no, his widow is the ship's CMO! If that's no potential for conflict, what is?
Why should Roddenberry have created such characters, if he indeed disliked conflict so much?

And had TNG really no conlfict situations? "The measure of a man": Data has to fight for his rights as an individual. "Pen Pals": The senior staff has a serious debate about the Prime directive. "The Offspring": Picard and Data stand between order and personal belief. "The Pegasus": Riker has the dilemma between following immoral orders of a dubious admiral and his loyalty to Picard. "Heart of Glory", "Sins of the Father", "Reunion", "Redemption": Worf has to fight with the disparity between his Klingon side and his Starfleet duties. (This is also a notable arc of the "series without arcs").

I hope you see what I mean: Roddenberry was not an opponent to inter- or intrapersonal conflict. But he did not want a bunch of officers that would have conflict among each other out of the blue, because of the weeks plot. He didn't want officers, that turned against the ideals of the Federation without reason either.
I suppose that Roddenberry could have approved Siskos deed in this episode because of the lifes that where at stake here.
But a Roddenberry Starfleet charakter would not poison atmospheres to capture one man! I am surprised, that "In the pale moonlight" gets more attention by "Roddenberry-wouldn't-like-this -critics" than "For the uniform".
Fri, Feb 1, 2008, 6:37pm (UTC -6)
Excellent review.

This episode this example one of how the world is indeed grey. There is no true evil or good, only degrees of grey.

Best episode of the series, IMHO. Anyway to confirm that Moore did a rewrite? This episode is up his alley.
Fri, Feb 1, 2008, 11:51pm (UTC -6)
Moore confirmed that the episode was a virtual page-one rewrite by him in an AOL posting. (On the top of my head he also did substantial rewrites to DS9's "Visionary", as well as TNG's "Sarek" and "Rascals" Also, in the episode's entry in the DS9 Compendium, Michael Taylor very frankly points out that virtually all the credit to the episode should go to Moore.

Ironically, "The Visitor", the other episode that Michael Taylor is famous for, recieved as much a significant rewrite by Rene Echevarria.
Wed, Apr 16, 2008, 1:03pm (UTC -6)
Whenever people question what Gene Roddenberry would think of this episode and that direction the series takes, for some reason the only thing I can think of is Gene in the Star Trek movie days (specifically Trek 6) where he wanted the crew to travel in time to have arguments with Einstein, kill off Sulu, and ultimately have Spock personally kill JFK, firing the grassy knoll shot, to "preserve the timeline." I know he created the series and all, but I can't help to think that he was really just a detriment to the show when TNG was starting up, which only got better as he had less influence on it. But I guess nothing is sacred to me.

PS: This episode is one of my favorite Star Trek episodes, and this review is what made me go back to rewatch DS9. The BSG reviews on this site are also what made me start watching BSG.
Wed, Apr 23, 2008, 1:51pm (UTC -6)
First off, I loved this episode.
Having said that, I'm also sick & tired of people b!tching that TNG 'had no conflict' or 'had no arcs'. Excuse me??? There's Worf's constant clashes with both his own people & his Enterprise crewman(don't forget he went to DS9 later on). There were also the Borg arcs, which is quite impressive in that they only appeared once a season from Season 2("Q Who") on; hence they were never overused the way they were on Voyager.
Picard and Crusher also had notable, (somewhat) heated exchanges. Hell, even Pulaski(though I didn't much care for her) had moments of conflict. I think people are just P.O'ed that TNG was beginning to eclipse TOS in popularity within some circles so they decide to make up ways to shoot it down.
Sun, May 25, 2008, 8:01pm (UTC -6)
Okay, I've watched this episode a few times and I gotta say it is rediculously overrated. Yes it is a great episode but the number of people who suggest it's the best episode made or something of the sort are crazy. I probably wouldn't even include it in my top 5 to be honest.

Great? Yes. The best? Far from.
Tue, May 27, 2008, 10:41am (UTC -6)
In my opinion, it is the best episode of DS9. It shows what DS9 is all about, shades of grey with no easy or contrived solutions. The reason it might beat out an entry like "Duet" for example as best epsode, is that this episode has lasting ramifications, the entry of the Romulans into the war. (Although it would have been nice to see some character development of Sisko from this).
Too many other great episodes from Trek involved Time-Travel situations where the status-quo was restored at the end of the episode.
Great acting and writing alround.
Fri, Jun 6, 2008, 7:02pm (UTC -6)
This episode is pure genius, another jaw dropping performance from Avery Brooks, and is why I love DS9. Logical answers to moral crises instead of shmultzy "We need to stick to starfleet protocol" status-quo-loving crap.
Maybe JJ will cast his eyes at DS9 for Star Trek XII
Fri, Jun 6, 2008, 7:54pm (UTC -6)
I have to agree Ishan regarding Avery Brooks, man what fantastic actor. I think he not only delivered in this episode but during the entire series. There was a passion and enthusiasm that he had that we didn't see much in Star Trek.

But back to this episode, your right when you say its not logical solution to an insane situation.
Mon, Dec 22, 2008, 8:13am (UTC -6)
The high point of season 6 in terms of quality, I think - like so many of you I love this episode. Its composition, content, delivery and the quality of the performances are amongst the best in Trek.

I'm with Ishan and Jayson on the Avery Brooks front - although, in what is probably my favourite scene I think they missed a trick (the last scene, incidentally). Brooks seems to be playing to the A camera as if it were a one-man play, and only occasionally do they cut to the second camera in a profile shot.
If they'd mixed the profile shot more, it would've given more of an impression that he was talking to himself/the computer only, rather than to a roving camera.

On the GR reaction front - I don't know. Perhaps if he'd been around, DS9 would never have happened, or would've been very different. Perhaps like us and so many others he would see the war themes (and more importantly the imperfect characters) as some of the most compelling drama ever put forward in the franchise. Wasn't he a war veteran himself? His idealism is clear throughout TNG, but as in TOS, perhaps he retained that kernel of realism that when the chips were down, humans would do what it takes to survive - and juxtaposing that against Sisko's federation morality as in this episode is what makes it so compelling.
Sat, Jan 3, 2009, 3:56pm (UTC -6)
Easily one of my favourite episodes, and the one of the best episodes of DS9, but it's let down by 1 thing: Why didn't Vreenak contact the Tal Shiar and tell them about the fake programme just after he left the station? Dis I miss something, or is this a bit of an oversight? It's not really a big problem but it does leave a couple of unanswered questions regarding the end of the ep.

Still, it's an excellent, gripping, intelligent and multi-levelled outing and one that's worth watching over and over.
Sat, Oct 31, 2009, 7:57am (UTC -6)
Although I enjoyed this, I don't agree that it's the best of DS9, nor even in the top 5. Avery Brooks solo performance in front of the log recorder is far too hammy for that.

It's something that he's been getting progressively worse at as the years go by, overacting, overemoting, chewing the scenery... but this episode has the worst of the lot.

I also thought the final scene where Sisko gives Garak a couple of solid blows to the face was over-the-top. Kirk was happy to throw his fists around when necessary but it was never the first thing he thought of. It was unnecessary in the context and the fact that Garak didn't seem to suffer much discomfort from it just makes it worse.

Finally, I think you may as well remove the 'bot checker' field from this comment form - it's always the same question. Is it broken or did it never actually work?
Fri, Nov 6, 2009, 3:32pm (UTC -6)
In reference to a few of the comments above, it is not true that DS9 came into being totally after Gene Roddenberry's death. The idea of a show set on a space station had come up in his meetings with Brandon Tartikoff, and both Piller and Berman had notes from meetings with Roddenberry in which they discussed his feelings about such a series and what it might be like. Piller said a number of times at conventions that Roddenberry had given his blessing to the basic idea of the series before he passed away.
Wed, Nov 25, 2009, 11:19am (UTC -6)
Great episode, but 1 question:
Sisko says that Vreenak was killed a few days (2 or 3, I forget) after he left DS9. When they last saw each other, Vreenak told Sisko that he was going to expose his scheme to everyone. So, what was he doing during the 2 or 3 days before his death? I would think that would be plenty of time to expose & prove someone's crimes to the universe.
Wed, Nov 25, 2009, 11:08pm (UTC -6)
"Great episode, but 1 question:
Sisko says that Vreenak was killed a few days (2 or 3, I forget) after he left DS9. When they last saw each other, Vreenak told Sisko that he was going to expose his scheme to everyone. So, what was he doing during the 2 or 3 days before his death? I would think that would be plenty of time to expose & prove someone's crimes to the universe."

Not stated directly, but seems implied that Vreenak wanted to make his presentation more dramatically, on the floor of the Senate. Transmit it immediately and he loses that opportunity. On why he didn't tell the Tal Shiar, it's been shown both in TNG and DS9 S7 that the Tal Shiar were often disliked by other power-centers on Romulus, I'm sure Vreenak didn't want to hand over his proof of Federation duplicity to another player.
Wed, Feb 24, 2010, 2:22pm (UTC -6)

Good theory about political infighting.

Unfortunately, we are told that Vreenak is in fact Tal Shiar himself; the very Vice Chairman.

Sat, Mar 6, 2010, 8:26pm (UTC -6)
"All it cost was the life of one romulan senator and one criminal"

I guess the 4 romulan body guards don't count...
Thu, Mar 25, 2010, 10:25pm (UTC -6)
Unlike anything before on Star Trek this episode gives a feel that the Federation is fighting for naked survival. Not even any of the Borg crises managed to carry that feel so well. At that point lofty principle or preserving life become pieces of embellishment and we fall back into a raw "us or them" mentality.
In a way "In the Pale Moonlight" is a logical consequence of "Statistical Probabilities" in which Bashir and his patients determined that in order to save many billions of lives, the Federation ought to surrender to the Dominion. It was the rational thing to do, yet it was rejected by all, likely including most viewers as well. Under no circumstances could it be accepted that the other side wins. By rejecting the sanctity of life means were already put before ends.
Mon, Jul 12, 2010, 8:15am (UTC -6)
When did Gene Roddenberry's view of what Star Trek should be become a BIBLE of what to do and what not to do? First of all, Gene's opinions about anything and everything changed throughout his life. Gene created Star Trek, and therefore Star Trek fans owe him A LOT, but now that he has passed away I see no point in wondering whether he would approved of this or that episode. If YOU don't like the show, then don't watch it.

I for one think this is a fantastic episode that was ruined for me because I pretty much knew the whole plot and even some of the dialogue before seeing it for the first time. That being said, I would rank it the second best of the season so far (after "Rocks and Shoals").
Sun, Aug 15, 2010, 11:15pm (UTC -6)
Fantastic episode, possibly the best episode in any of the trek series.
Although not too fond of sisko at the beginning he made the role his own as the series went on,Garak was class as always.

Great review btw
Marco P.
Wed, Aug 18, 2010, 5:01am (UTC -6)
While the idea behind the whole episode (namely that growing casualties in the Federation would push Sisko (or someone else) to do something drastic) is a good one, I am rather displeased with the final scene of "In the Pale Moonlight".

"A guilty conscience is a small price to pay for the safety of the Alpha Quadrant, so I will learn to live with it... because I can live with it. I *can* live with it." says Sisko.

Some readers have commented that after the events of Season 5's "For the Uniform", Sisko's actions and final scene statement should come as no surprise. Perhaps that is true. However, it is not only Star Trek's idealism (as envisioned by Roddenberry) that we are going against here, but MORALITY in general. A Jean-Luc Picard, despite perhaps forced to choose the same path and sacrifice a few for the greater good of the many, would have commented on the moral ambiguity of this choice, stating something along the lines "only time will tell if our choice was the right one... but at what price?". Sisko on the other hand, seems to accept the moral burden on his conscience far too easily, in a a way that is unbecoming of a StarFleet officer and even more so of a Trek lead character.

So while the script, story, and directing (great idea to use the flashback system) are all top notch, it is primarily in the morality department that I have a big problem with this episode. Something that not even the appearance of Canada's Stephen McHattie can erase...
Laura Sharman
Thu, Sep 9, 2010, 6:43pm (UTC -6)
interesting stuff
Mon, Sep 13, 2010, 12:21pm (UTC -6)
Marco, I think you misinterpreted the meaning of the final scene. Sisko is trying to convince himself that he can live with his immoral actions because they were for the "greater good", but there's something in the tone of his voice that tells us he hasn't succeeded - that his actions will haunt him the rest of his life.

That, for me, is what makes this a quintessential Star Trek episode. Hollywood action films of today are filled with "heroes" who often end up killing more people than the villains. The fact that Sisko is distraught about killing two "innocent" people to (potentially) save millions - a decision most military leaders today wouldn't even blink at - is true to the Trek ideology of an enlightened future for humanity. So yes, this is one of the darkest episodes of Star Trek ever made, but it is still a Star Trek episode. And a great one at that.
Sat, Sep 18, 2010, 7:50am (UTC -6)
This, along with Duet I think was the best episode of DS9 and one of the best in the whole of Star Trek.

The whole story was carried so brilliantly, and the acting complemented it superbly. Brooks and Robinson were incredible. I've gotta say, I was expecting Odo to put up a bit more of a fight about letting Tolar go, like Bashir did about the Biomemetic Gel, but that was the only flaw.

On that part about the Federation risking this going bad, they were desperate enough, they would have done it.

In Star Trek, Gene was trying to show that humanity has changed and developed to a utopia state, but that was challenged in Homefront and Paradise Lost, and completely flipped on its head here.

Sometimes you have to bend the rules to save them. There is a price for paradise. And that price is paid under the table.

(on a side note, I get the feeling that Garak used half the Gel to pay for a Dominion bomb to plant on the shuttle)
Sun, Sep 26, 2010, 6:51am (UTC -6)
Great episode. Like many other episodes from DS9 it demonstrates that during times of desperation even the federation shows its dark side.

Finally the Federation was facing a worthy opponent "the Dominion" the Federation could only stand their ground against them by sacraficing their morals and everything they believe in. By comitting acts such as this and lets not forget section 31.
Carl Walker
Sat, Oct 2, 2010, 10:00pm (UTC -6)
Maaz, Odo explains to Sisko that he is "certainly aware of the need for special security measures during wartime," and in fact he's always wishing that he could implement "special security." Odo had no problem recommending that "human" rights (there must be a broader term for this in the Trek universe, although we never heard it) be trampled on for the greater good in "Homefront." Letting an attempted murderer go must have been a bit harder for him to swallow, but I still find it plausible that he sees all justice as ultimately secondary to the greater order (just as the FC claims).
Tue, Jan 11, 2011, 3:24pm (UTC -6)

"Shades of Grey"...if I have to hear that damned phrase one more time...

Life is not black and white. Thank you for the heads up! I'll be sure to check to make sure there's no one crossing the street even when I have a green light.

This truism is not an explanation of something being "good" or "bad" in the dramatic sense, it's just a point of view. An intelligent person acknowledges the literary value in things with which he disagrees, whether it's Orwell or the Bible. He also acknowledges the failings of something with which he agrees (whether it's Buddha or Dawkins).

I am sick of people praising this show because it shows people violating their principals, as though that is a literary virtue. Good or bad, true or false doesn't really matter if the episode is executed well and exudes a mythic core. This one is a mixed bag. There's some good mood-painting and the story structure is a good one as well as fresh. Brooks gives one of his worst performances to date which is very sorry given the centrality of his character here. Garak is brilliant and compelling, making up for some of Sisko's nauseating portrayals.

The moral issue itself...well, at this point I don't believe in Sisko's morality at all, so the choices he makes are of very little insight into his character. Basically, he serves a Bajor-centric code at best, occasionally pausing to punch someone. Taking Sisko as an everyman in any time, the idea is interesting. It makes one think, momentarily about the ideas at present. No one bothers to mention that if everyone were to behave as does Sisko (a similar problem with the preceding Section 31 story), the federation would not exist, so why violate it's principals to save it? The federation may be an organisation, not a being, I understand that...but this episode and this show in general seem to be saying that people can and always will sell their souls to survive. I'm not sure what the point of saying that is other than to depress. Taking Sisko as a starfleet captain, he is simply a villan now, no two ways about it. He cares about saving his own people only. Such an attitude in the Federation is clearly immoral.
Thu, Jan 13, 2011, 7:10pm (UTC -6)
Your points are very interesting. Nuance is something that should be part and parcel of any quality drama. Its mere presence does not guarantee anything spectacular, although obviously, it helps the cause. And certainly, there is nothing intrinsically rewarding about plots that force characters to make grim decisions. But I doubt that fans of this episode enjoy it only because they get a sadistic thrill out of seeing Sisko’s ideals getting mangled.

TNG usually questioned morality and ethics by proxy. It used Data for the human condition, Klingons for politics and corruption, the Borg to consider collective identity, and Q for almost everything else. Here instead, we have a Starfleet Captain putting himself on trial, with no one to shift blame to or hold responsible but himself. There’s a definite power in this. The onus falls completely to Sisko, even if at the end of the day you find his moral limbo rather superficially consequential, as I do. “Self-respect” aside, has Sisko actually paid much of a price for his actions?

I also agree that Brooks toys with over-acting as usual, but he absolutely nailed the one line that he HAD to get right, and that is the “I can live with it” finale. He doesn’t really know if he can, and we don’t either, even if he is far removed from being the greenhorn idealist he was in earlier seasons. As pitch perfect as Andrew Robinson’s Garak is (as always), this is the moment that makes the show work.

I won’t go so far as to say ITPM is overrated, because it is stylishly told, generally well conceived, and I’d love to suffer amnesia just long enough to watch the last ten minutes again unspoiled. For me though, “Rocks and Shoals” does most of what ITPM does, but better.
Tue, Feb 1, 2011, 9:30am (UTC -6)
I have to disagree with RT about Avery Brook's last line being perfectly done. The emphasis on 'can' that suggests he is trying and failing to convince himself of that, is so badly done it's difficult to imagine how it was chosen from the probably 100 takes they did of that final scene.

However, the problem is that in reality, a person trying to convince themselves that they can live with what they've done will always be speaking to himself mentally, in his head. So as humans we don't have much experience with hearing that kind of sentiment out loud.

The closest thing I can think of is a boxer, standing in his changing room before a bout he is likely to lose, clenching his fists and shouting 'I *can* win this' to himself. Or some similar situation. And compared to that, Avery Brooks' version sounds small and obvious and badly acted.

Then again, maybe it's just me, but I find Brooks' acting pretty much uniformly awful whenever he does anger or frustration or any negative emotion. I think in real life he's a pussycat and he just can't do 'bad' very convincingly.

I did enjoy the episode the first time I watched it because the shuttle explosion was a genuine shock, I wasn't expecting it and in fact was really clueless as to what was going to happen after the hologram fake was detected.

And the retrospective narrative style was interesting, I'm not sure if DS9 has done one of those before.

But, by far the worst part of this episode for me was the main idea that Sisko was being torn apart by his evil actions in getting the Romulans into the war. If 'for the uniform' had never happened, it could be believable. But it had, so it wasn't.

There's 2 parts to his anguish. First, the people who were killed by Garak. An earlier commenter mentioned that the death of the romulan soliders on the shuttle didn't seem to bother him, and that's a key point. By this stage Sisko has murdered dozens of people in one-on-one combat... hell, he's murdered at least 50 Jem'Hadar face to face already.

Second, he's destroyed at least a hundred enemy ships by this point in the series, sending thousands of soliders to their death, the vast majority of whom were just innocent grunts fighting for their commanders like Sisko's own underlings.

So the idea that he cares about the death of a couple of random people is ridiculous.

The second part of his pain is the idea that he cheated to get another entire race tangled up in his war, and there will be thousands and thousands of deaths in the future because of this. I think this is the obvious *real* source of his pain, but again, I just don't beleive that someone in his position, having done the things we've seen him do, would even blink at this in reality. His self-hate for this is just not believable.

First, the fact is that the Romulans *would* have been invaded by the Dominion after the current war was won. That's been the Dominion's plan all along - they will enslave Cardassia and Bajor as well, eventually. And then *every* other race in the quadrant.

So even though the Romulans don't see it, he's actually done them a huge favour.

But more importantly, a rear-echelon mother-frakker one the losing side of a war this big and evil simply wouldn't think twice about doing this sort of thing to get a chance at victory. Sure, the Federation as imagined by Roddenberry originally would never have done this, but they would also have crushed the Dominion in two weeks due to their incredibly advanced technology as well. Roddenberry's Federation was *never* as pure as it should have been and by the time DS9 rolls around, the Fed is just as good at dirty tricks as every other species out there.

I enjoyed this story, mostly because I experienced genuine suspense in not guessing the outcome when I first watched it. But the core premise of Sisko's internal struggle is nonsense, and Brooks' acting was the over-the-top scenery-chewing over-acting we always get when he is in evil mode.
Mon, Feb 14, 2011, 1:17am (UTC -6)
I had missed a handful of DS9 episodes and finally got around to seeing them, ITPM was one of them.

An incredible episode that poses some HARD questions.

As Vreenak points out succintly, the Dominion " resolved." Very chilling. If something doesn't seriously change in the Federation's favor, it is doomed. Sisko knows this, Starfleet knows this. So the gloves come off and the Romulans are deceived into declaring war on the Dominion...princples and morals bent and broken so that their destruction can be avoided. Powerful themes, powerful performances.
Mon, Apr 11, 2011, 2:38pm (UTC -6)
There is only one thing that lifts this episode from good to great, and that is Andrew Robinson's performance as Garak. Garak is a nuanced, deeply realized character with a mysterious past that leads us to wonder not only what he's done, but also what he is CAPABLE of doing. Each scene with Sisko adds to Garak's virtuosity and ruthlessness. But watching his final confrontation with Sisko, it's blatantly obvious that he utterly steals the climax of this episode right out from under our dear over-emoting Captain. I've watched the end of this episode multiple times, and never cease to wonder at the depth of Robinson's acting -- it seems his every move, his every expression, his every gesture in that final confrontation is perfectly calibrated. Jaw-dropping.
Jim King
Fri, Aug 5, 2011, 9:46am (UTC -6)
This is a cheeseball episode that wants viewers to think it deep. Sisko doesn't really face much of a moral choice here.
Fri, Aug 26, 2011, 7:31pm (UTC -6)
As others have said, Sisko's actions in this episode were far less shocking after seeing him (in an earlier Maqui episode) order the poisoning of an entirely innocent colony's atmosphere just because it suited him as a bargaining chip...
Fri, Aug 26, 2011, 7:32pm (UTC -6)
...that was much more astonishing for me and I felt it was skipped over much too lightly at the end of the episode.

"Hey, they swapped planets, it's all fine."

Yeah, right.
Tue, Nov 1, 2011, 9:43pm (UTC -6)
I really disliked this style of Sisko talking to the camera instead of just his log. Why is it so bold to try to get the Romulans back it already happened once before? If it happened big whoop, it probably won't help. Yeah, treaty whatever. And Garack did something on his own, whats the big deal? Would have been much more interesting with a dozen of those accidentally created Superborg from Voyager but i guess this show isn't allowed to kick-ass unless the Founders do it.
Wed, Dec 14, 2011, 7:04pm (UTC -6)
I'm surprised no one has mentioned (as far as I can see) what really stuck out to me; Garak says (paraphrasing), "If you want to ensure the Romulans see evidence of Dominion duplicity, we're going to have to manufacture that evidence".

This comment is so much more troubling in light of the Iraq War that occurred several years after Deep Space Nine finished.

This episode, with Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges, really evokes a certain prescience in light of what has occurred since 9/11.
Fri, Feb 17, 2012, 10:52pm (UTC -6)
I couldn't disagree more; I think Brooks gave one of his best performances in this episode. Lobl's direction should get a lot of credit as well, but whenever he launches into his "People are dying out there" speech I am close to tears. Here is a man who has put the fate of the entire quadrant on his shoulders.

Yes, his moralizing is inconsistent with "For the Uniform", but I hold that against "For the Uniform" itself, not "In the Pale Moonlight".
Nebula Nox
Mon, Apr 2, 2012, 4:57am (UTC -6)
I agree that this is an incredible episode of DS9.

It shows what Quark maintained earlier: that humans, when they are cornered, do desperate things.

In terms of morals, of course, lying and deceit are not good. But if that is what is necessary to save all you believe in...?

Of course, six humanoids died in the process as well. One was a criminal already condemned to death. I love the chilling way that Garak promises to come to him and say "hello," - when of course it will be good-bye. Killing Vreenak was worse - he had been invited to DS9, and it is rwrong to kill an invited guest - but Vreenak was the pro-Dominion Romulan whose pact with them had already allowed the deaths of so many in the Federation. We know nothing of the bodyguards, but bodyguards have chosen a dangerous occupation.

So Sisko might reason if he was trying to justify this!

I only wish there had been more follow-up with Sisko on this.

And I do appreciate the comparisons to the situation leading up to Iraq, although Bush/Cheney and the media were more guilty in lying to their own people. And the US was not in danger, whereas the Federation was struggling for its survival.
Mon, Apr 23, 2012, 12:02pm (UTC -6)
Well, I'm certainly not going to engage in pointless debate about whether or not this episode (and the one previous) is a "bridge too far" outside of the Roddenberrian ideal. I respect that many fans feel that it is and acknowledge that they make very good points in expressing it and will leave it at that.

In regards to the stylistic choice of having Sisko address the camera during his log, I think it was extremely well directed AND acted. I don't understand this automatic distaste some viewers seem to have for melodrama. Not all melodrama is bad melodrama. People emote, it's a fact. Especially when they're forced to cope with impossible situations. So, is Avery Brooks chewing scenery here? Yes! What's wrong with that? He does it well and it's fun to watch. He's also a Shakespearean-trained actor. Who did melodrama better than Shakespeare, I ask you.

One of the reasons this is such a great episode is because it keeps you guessing all the way up until the end. At the beginning of the episode Sisko says he can "see where it all went wrong" and then we find out he's going to try to convince the Romulans to enter the war. So, right away we're duped into thinking the series of events we're about to witness will end in the failure of that goal. Because think about what we knew about the Romulans at that point. They could be counted on to be paranoid, arrogant, duplicitous, treacherous, and hard-headed. Add to that the fact that they had tried to unilaterally deal with the Dominion threat TWICE already. Once when Sisko (and future O'Brien) foiled their plan to collapse the wormhole, which in retrospect, turned out to be a pretty good idea; and once when the Tal Shiar was fooled by a changeling infiltrator and nearly wiped out after a failed invasion of the Dominion. So, it would be no surprise that the Romulans might take a "thanks, but no thanks" approach when the Federation comes, hat in hand, asking for their help. Garak's solution makes that much more sense taking all of that into account.

So, aside from Sisko's shocking revelation at the end (and it was VERY shocking), the surprise for me was that any attempt to convince the Romulans to join the war had worked at all.

A few points about Romulan politics and whatnot - this involves a bit of logical ret-conning, but bear with me...

Vreenak was a Romulan Senator, Pro-Dominion, and the Vice Chairman of the Tal Shiar. We find out later that Koval was Chairman of the Tal Shiar, and while on record as being opposed to the Federation-Romulan alliance, was actually an ally of Starfleet Intelligence and Section 31.

Why do I bring all of that up? Because it stands to reason that Vreenak and Koval would be at odds with one another politically. Therefore, it makes sense to me that Vreenak, after realizing that the Cardassian optolithic data rod that Sisko handed him was a FAAAKE, would want to sit on that information before getting back to Romulus. The Tal Shiar was probably still a mess, he knew there were already pro-Federation elements within his own government, and he had just left a secret meeting inside Federation-controlled space. He couldn't risk sending a transmission for all of those reasons. He also had a flair for the dramatic, so he probably wanted to wait until he was on the floor of the Romulan Senate before exposing Starfleet's "vile deception."

Garak, of course, knew all of this. Hell, he knew the Romulans better than anyone. Planting a bomb on Vreenak's shuttle - one perfectly designed to not completely destroy the data rod - was a masterstroke of underhanded genius.

The only thing I want to know is, how did Garak manage to dispose of Grathon Tolar without Odo taking notice? Or maybe he didn't and Odo looked the other way...?
Fri, May 11, 2012, 11:28pm (UTC -6)
Epic episode, 4 stars from me. We needed more of this kind of dark war episodes.
Thu, Jun 21, 2012, 7:13pm (UTC -6)
I wish that the destruction of the Federation as a positive vision of the future were the only problem I had with this episode, because then I would at least be able to respect it as an alternative vision, however inappropriate for Star Trek. But Avery Brooks's overacting stinks so hard in the long soliloquys (which the writers used to paper over and conveniently skip all of the toughest conversations), that it's really impossible to take this episode seriously enough to take offence. False dilemma. Bunch of self-justifying mumbo jumbo instead of showing a clear and complete record of what transpired. Not admirable even as a criticism of utopianism, and quite tediously overwrought in any case.
Sat, Sep 8, 2012, 10:50pm (UTC -6)
I love, love, love this episode, but I've always felt it would work better without the framing device. The plot is engrossing on its own, and every time I watch it I get lost in the narrative, but the jarring cuts to Sisko in his quarters jerk me out of the trance and remind me that "oh right, I'm watching a tv show."
Jock Strapp
Sun, Sep 16, 2012, 12:51am (UTC -6)
I'm starting to believe that they could show a scene of Capt. Sisko sleeping in bed and people will say Avery is over-acting? LOL!

Easily worthy of 4 Stars.
Sat, Nov 24, 2012, 3:30pm (UTC -6)
I thought that Worf's snarl of contempt at Garak as he walked off with Sisko seemed a bit out of place after the events of Purgatory/Inferno last season...he really owes his life to Garak in a way.
Thu, Nov 29, 2012, 8:31am (UTC -6)
This episode is a mixed-bag, well written, well directed but with obvious flaws. Many things have been said and I won't dwell on them, but I'd like to answer some.

First, the acting of Avery Brooks. Some love it, some don't; I... don't :p. It's not just about overacting, but this episode relies a lot on good acting with the monologue. When I watch, I see Brooks acting, not Sisko; it feels like he's reciting, not immersing himself into the role. Someone mentioned theatre and maybe that's his flaw, like Shatner's. What's overacting for TV would be great acting in theatre (they have to reach the far end of the audience), but TV needs something different. Well, just compare A.J. Robinson to Brooks ! Robinson gives us the whole deal: body language, facial expression, subtle line deliveries; He is Garak.

Second, the morality and obsessions of Sisko have been questionable from the very beginning. He disliked Picard (who was a Borg's victim) and held him responsible for his wife's death. He went after the Maquis not because of Starfleet honor, but for revenge against one man. He deliberately poisoned a planet's atmosphere for his own personal gain. He bribed and blackmailed many times (mostly Quark). He disobeyed orders to go and save one man (instead of keeping the station safe). And never once his position as a starfleet officer is threatened, he's even promoted ! And at the end of this episode, he goes punching Garak to ease his own conscience. Conclusion: Quark is more moral by Ferengi standards than Sisko is by human standards.

So, I'd have liked to have the writers take a bigger risk and have him do this without Starfleet knowledge and acquiescence. It'd have made sense and I wouldn't have lost my respect for Starfleet.
Thu, Dec 6, 2012, 8:41am (UTC -6)

I um, in my attempt to try really, really, REALLY hard not to find out what happens in this episode... spent the entire 45 minutes waiting for SISKO to blow up Betazed--and I apparently missed the 2 seconds at the beginning where they tell us the Dominion just conquered it.

Compared to that... the ending was a massive! relief.

Oh, so you were involved in getting 1 Romulan Senator killed. That's IT!? You didn't even kill him! geez...


(sorry for the yelling, but talk about a relief/freak out over nothing)
Wed, Jan 23, 2013, 5:16am (UTC -6)
I think people forget that the fact Sisko is agonising over what has happened is the whole point. A bona fide cynical show would have these events happen as a matter of course.

That's my reaction to the concept of Section 31 from the previous episode too. People react like they were the end of Star Trek...the crew were horrified they existed, they are quite clearly "villains", or at least an antagonistic presence. Bashir and Reed both "join" them in one fashion or another, but not wholeheartedly, usually subversively, with their own agenda at work.

In both cases I think it's clear while DS9 examines dark things, it's final stance is not positive about them.

Also I think it's interesting that someone pointed out a Roddenbery Federation would have lost to the Dominion long ago. That's what I find interesting about the idealism of the Trek's only idealistic about humans, what happens what an outside force pushes on them? I think people would say a sufficiently evolved humanity would find a way to make diplomacy work...but the Borg were an exception to that rule, completely unable to be reasoned with. Assuming the Dominion fall into that category as well, what does the Federation do?

That's why I think DS9 is a worthy Trek show. It's easy to be enlightened when you're not being attacked, when you're not being tested. The Federation probably did start to crack along the way, but I think it's worthwhile to show that enlightenment is hard to maintain, but important. Sisko did make a mistake here in many ways, but while he tried to tell himself he can live with it, he knows he made a mistake, and it bothers him, and *that* is the good thing.

On anther note, I do wish some form of Trek was still going, because I think one day the Romulans would have found out what happened in this episode. That would have started a great arc.
Thu, Mar 28, 2013, 5:22pm (UTC -6)
The only thing I didn't like was Sisko talking to the camera. This kind of took me out of the episode every time it was done. However, with that said the last scene was still great.
Chuck AzEee!
Fri, Apr 12, 2013, 1:23pm (UTC -6)
Arguably, Deep Space 9's opus, and while many might see Sisko's anguish on involving The Romulan Empire in the Dominion war as a bit melodramatic, but in truth, what he wound up doing cause a chain of events that would despite the heavy casualty aspect, end a war that would have cost billions and billions and all it took was the murder of one very important Romulan senator. Garak knew that and acted upon it.
William B
Wed, Apr 17, 2013, 6:38am (UTC -6)
To be honest, my biggest problem with Sisko in this episode is that his reactions in different parts of the episode are out of keeping with the scale of his actions. Being accessory to the murder of a Romulan senator and his aides is terrible -- but the loss of life of that action is simply nowhere near the loss of Romulan lives resulting from the forgery of evidence that the Dominion is planning on going after the Romulans. Oh, yes, the Romulans would have been attacked by the Dominion anyway, most people agree, but the Romulans had exactly the same information the Federation had and came to the conclusion that they would be safe, and the Romulans strike me as better judges of what is in their own best interests than Sisko, who doesn't give a damn about Romulans. The manufacture of evidence makes Sisko and Garak responsible for all the Romulan deaths in the war, and the fact that Sisko signs onto *this* makes his reaction to the senator's death seem frustrating; the manufacture of evidence is the greater crime.

For what it's worth, I also think that while we can suspect strongly that it's in the Romulans' best interests to enter into the war against the Dominion, I don't think the series provides enough information for us to conclude that with certainty. For one thing (ironic, considering that it exists only because of ANOTHER betrayal of Federation values) Section 31's genocide plan would probably lead to the Founders' death before the Dominion turned on the Romulans.

Garak is not so deluded as Sisko as to believe that one can "merely" create a lie/manipulate an entire sovereign state into sacrificing thousands of lives in a bloody war, without getting one's hands even dirtier and becoming a murderer/assassin.

This is still a strong episode, but Sisko is too blase about the manufacture of evidence early in the episode for me to be as sympathetic to his guilt later on as I would otherwise be.
William B
Wed, Apr 17, 2013, 6:44am (UTC -6)
Here's a story I'd like to see: the Romulans finding out about the deception and assassination of Vreenak. How would they react? Considering that the Romulans were the villains in the last two (both poor) Trek movies, it might have been interesting if somehow word got out to the Romulans that they were tricked into joining the war effort to save the Federation and this led to an increased desire for retaliation on the Federation for their deception (and, I suppose, a much greater hostility to Spock's attempts at reunification).
Blake W
Thu, Apr 18, 2013, 11:09pm (UTC -6)
I think In the Pale Moonlight might be EVEN better than most people believe because: It seems that when Garak agreed to help Sisko, he knew Sisko's plan was unrealistic & wasn't going to work. Garak alludes to this in his final conversation with Sisko: "that's why you came to me, because you knew I could do things you couldn't". I really wish this was mentioned in the review because:

It makes the episode that much better and really highlights how important someone like Garak can be (which easily turns into a moral argument). It totally seems like Garak intentionally lied to Sisko when he said, "all my contacts were killed".. But he never completely lied; he never actually said he was going to pursue Sisko's plan and I'm sure he really did have contacts that were killed after he tried to reach them... But did he try to reach them after his conversation with Sisko? Or did he spend the time coming up with his own plan? Like, how did Garak know about Vreenak meeting Weyoun? He had to have talked to one of his friends in the Cardassian govt more than once.

But, Garak told Sisko his contacts were killed within 1 day of speaking to him. And, if they were killed, why not tell Sisko immediately? And give an update and say he might have another plan? Garak waited until Sisko was anxious enough to come to him & ask for an update (he knew it would be the best time to propose his plan). He basically manipulated Sisko becuz, as Garak said, Sisko went to him to be manipulated.

Sisko wanted to believe his plan was realistic, but deep down he knew he needed someone willing to do what Garak was willing to do (or at least, that's what Garak said in the final conversation).
Thu, Jun 6, 2013, 7:40pm (UTC -6)
It might've been mentioned, but there's actually no scene in which the criminal who makes the forgery dies. It is only stated again that he did die. It makes me wonder if the character was killed in a deleted scene or perhaps was written out of the eventual program.
Take it easy
Tue, Aug 27, 2013, 1:43am (UTC -6)
@William B: Interesting take on deaths of Romulans.

@Arachnea: Bingo on Brooks acting.

@Marco P: I agree about morality. Everybody is immediately bringing Gene's idealism and rules it out. But here it is basic morality.
Wed, Sep 11, 2013, 8:05am (UTC -6)
Best episode ever. Perhaps the best hour of television ever.
Thu, Sep 12, 2013, 7:26pm (UTC -6)
The message of this episode can be summed up thus: America kills muslims to protect paradise and its freedoms. This, of course, is a lie. To make the lie sell, you have to invent extreme, ticking clock scenarious, which DS9 then does, to sell you to fascist message.
Sat, Sep 28, 2013, 5:01pm (UTC -6)
I cannot believe we're even having this discussion. Sisko did not kill anyone, never conceived of killing anyone, never had the desire to kill anyone. Listen very carefully: THAT. WAS. GARAK. Sisko's involvement and moral agony went no further than having to lie to someone. We are not given the opportunity to see him grapple with the possibility of having to kill. The script tries to justify Sisko's guilt with his line, "I am an accessory to murder". Bull. The episode strains so hard here that it herniates. Garak acted outside of Sisko's knowledge, on a level far, far above Sisko's willingness to participate. Lying is not morally justifiable, but it is so far removed from assassination and murder that Sisko's sense of guilt is dramatically unjustified. In fact, when Vreenak does die, Sisko is so morally outraged he goes down and starts tossing Garak around his shop in a fury. The story shoots itself in the foot by suggesting that Sisko never would have agreed to assassinate anyone, then having Sisko own someone else's assassination as if he did it. I'm not buying it for one second.

"In The Pale Moonlight" is a masterpiece of atmosphere, tension, and urgency, but its "character arc" pivots around a false dilemma.
Tue, Oct 15, 2013, 1:52am (UTC -6)
Brandon, Sisko knew about murders being committed and covered up for them, therefore he is an accessory after the fact.
Sun, Oct 20, 2013, 11:21pm (UTC -6)
Ye, Patrick is right. And it's sealed at the end when Sisko says if he had to do it again (including the hindsight of the two murders), he would.
Mon, Oct 28, 2013, 5:49pm (UTC -6)
I agree with Elliot's comment from 2011 that this episode is a mixed bag. Avery Brooks' acting is at its all-time worst here, and he nearly sinks the episode for me. It's not just overacting, it's _bad_ acting... silted and painfully forced. Ironically, Andrew Robinson is at his very best here, so the two performances cancel each other out. I also agree with Elliot that merely showing a character violating his principles has no literary merit in itself, and as many others have pointed out, Sisko already crossed that line when he basically gassed an entire planet with biological weapons to get Eddington.

I felt this episode seriously violated the old "show, don't tell" principle of storytelling with Sisko's totally unnecessary narration. Avery Brooks is at his best in his quiet moments with his family, and I think this episode would've been much better if the audience was following events as they unfolded, with Jake or Cassidy there to act as a check on his conscience. Far better to _see_ a character actually dealing with his emotions than have him shouting directly into the camera about what he was supposed to be feeling after the fact.

Also, I felt the writers cheated a little bit (as they often do, in cases like this) by making the Romulan Senator and the alien forger so personally despicable and unlikeable. If you really want to make it tough, make the Romulan honorable and decent, or make the forger into an entertaining and amiable fellow. This is supposed to be such a tough moral decision, something so unthinkable, yet all we really have is Garak being his badass self and bumping off a few real jerks offscreen. Yes, it defies Roddenberry's vision, but aside from challenging the hallowed ideology of Trekdom, it doesn't actually take that many dramatic risks. Because the audience really doesn't like either of these obnoxious and highly disposable characters, and because Garak is cool enough to be considered the Cardassian James Bond, there is ever point where the audience actually feels even the slightest bit of genuine moral dilemma.

In the end I like this episode just because it's a great showcase for Garak and I appreciate what the writers were trying to do. If they had replaced Sisko's fourth-wall histrionics with some quiet character moments, and had push the moral queasiness a bit more, I think it would've been as great as many believe it to be.
Blake W
Thu, Oct 31, 2013, 11:04am (UTC -6)
@Brandon you're absolutely wrong. Do you not remember the first conversation Garak and Sisko had? Sisko told Garak his plan, Garak told him it was an unrealistic suicide mission, Sisko suggested Garak use his contacts, (and the important part) Garak told Sisko it might be a very bloody business, and Sisko's reply: "I'm prepared to do whatever it takes".

For you to suggest Garak acted outside of Sisko's knowledge is just insane. Garak went out of his way to warn him that a slew of people may need to be murdered. He explicitly asked him if he was okay with that, and Sisko's justification was: "our people are getting slaughtered, so if ppl need to die to stop the slaughter, then fine".

What is so hard to understand about that? The story does not suggest Sisko would have never agreed to assassinate anyone; that's just your misguided interpretation of Sisko's anger at Garak. Maybe you're forgetting that Sisko isn't a cold-blooded murderer. And maybe you're forgetting Sisko's anger evaporated when Garak convinced him there was no chance of the Romulans discovering the truth.
Sat, Nov 2, 2013, 10:54am (UTC -6)
Interesting episode format. Develops Sisko and the story at the same time. Garak is always great.

Wed, Dec 18, 2013, 2:57am (UTC -6)
Refreshing episode format, splendid Garak as always, however disastrous acting from Brooks. Very good episode writing and execution, but with a plot that is atrocious to Star Trek heritage.

At this point there is no way back: DS9 has become a quite good political show, but at the expense of not fitting anymore within Trek world. It is true that the series crossed the line not just recently, but the past few episodes have put it far far off the equilibrium point between the so famous shades of grey and being respectful with how the Federation and Starfleet are written in any other Trek media.

Let's just pretend this is another parallel universe to the usual one, so it can be swallowed.
Wed, Dec 18, 2013, 2:58am (UTC -6)
Refreshing episode format, splendid Garak as always, however disastrous acting from Brooks. Very good episode writing and execution, but with a plot that is atrocious to Star Trek heritage.

At this point there is no way back: DS9 has become a quite good political show, but at the expense of not fitting anymore within Trek world. It is true that the series crossed the line not just recently, but the past few episodes have put it far far off the equilibrium point between the so famous shades of grey and being respectful with how the Federation and Starfleet are written in any other Trek media.

Let's just pretend this is another parallel universe to the usual one, so it can be swallowed.
Thu, Dec 19, 2013, 7:18pm (UTC -6)
@Ric: This would be the Federation and Starfleet where having Romulan ancestry would be considered a shameful secret to be hidden ("The Drumhead"), it is possible to seize sentient beings for research purposes ("The Measure of a Man", "The Offspring"), elements in Starfleet engage in illegal weapons research ("The Pegasus"), the "perfection" of the 24th century manifests as smug superiority ("The Neutral Zone"), the Federation involves itself in internal political conflicts ("The High Ground" and hardly limited to it), admirals often seem duplicitous if not outright rogue ("Too Short a Season", "Ensign Ro", among others), and treaties are signed resulting in the displacement of millions ("Journey's End").

I agree that the Federation and Earth in particular were often presented as something close to a utopia, especially in Picard's rhetoric or Troi's responses to Sam Clemens in "Time's Arrow". But there's plenty of evidence that it often fell short of that ideal, and that was just with the examples listed above on TNG. DS9 did indeed push the envelope further, but in this episode and some later ones it often functioned as a comment on the nature of moral compromise in war. The revelation of Section 31 hardly passed without comment from characters like Bashir, who in "Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges" called the Federation a "24th century Rome".

While it's true that early TNG exemplified, I suppose, the "vision" of Roddenberry that we'd have "solved" all human social problems in about 350 years, this was never the case on TOS or any of the first six movies. In Star Trek VI, elements of Starfleet conspires with Klingons to assassinate the Klingon chancellor!

Star Trek is at its best when exploring moral dilemmas through often loosely allegorical stories about the present day. Originally DS9 used the non-Starfleet characters to explore "less Starfleet" issues like terrorism and prejudice and the personal and political legacies of violent conflict. And the "frontier" setting (to quote Bashir) allowed us to see a less-perfect world where not every problem has been consigned to history. As Sisko said in "The Maquis, Part II":

"On Earth, there is no poverty, no crime, no war. You look out the window of Starfleet Headquarters and you see paradise. Well, it's easy to be a saint in paradise, but the Maquis do not live in paradise. Out there in the Demilitarized Zone, all the problems haven't been solved yet. Out there, there are no saints — just people. Angry, scared, determined people who are going to do whatever it takes to survive, whether it meets with Federation approval or not!"

Anyway, to my mind, examining the tension between maintaining a better world and fighting against the externalities of war, insecurity, and inequality is a lot more interesting and relevant than positing a stagnant and fairly arbitrary vision of a "perfect" future.
Blake W
Mon, Dec 30, 2013, 2:00am (UTC -6)
@Josh I'm so glad we have people like you who can intelligently counter all those who claim DS9 doesn't fit into the Trek world. As far as non-Starfleet characters exploring less Starfleet issues, Honor Among Thieves comes to mind. It's one of my favorite DS9 episodes because, as far as I recall, there's never been anything on TV that more accurately conveys (to the point where viewers truly understand) what it's like to realistically live as a gangster / criminal.

DS9 has done an outstanding job with exploring the truth about war and so many other issues. I think people are out of line to assume the truth about war would be something different in the future. Just because Roddenberry had a certain vision of society doesn't mean you can apply that to a war. And I think it would be outrageous if people actually suggested that simply deciding to explore the issue of war is disrespectful to the Star Trek heritage.
Thu, Jan 2, 2014, 1:48am (UTC -6)
@Josh Thanks for this insightful reply. It happens that, in general, I agree with it. I agree with your point of view and I do acknowledge that both Starfleet and the Federation have been shown as having their flaws since much before DS9. This is true, although of course less true for TOS than the later. And to think that any misconduct is absent from either the Federation or the Starfleet just because of their utopian-like organization, would be both a naïve reading and a mislead memory of the Trek legacy so far.

Of course there are wrong choices, misbehavior, misconduct, political crimes, conspiracy, choices made under the table, and so on. Human being are still human beings: the institutions were almost perfected, but individuals can certainly make mistakes. But usually, all of those mistakes, if relevant enough, are seem as deviants to be investigated, prosecuted, maybe punished. Notice that most of the examples of those deviations or misconducts happening in the TOS or in the TNG are examples of characters that deviate from the Federation and Starfleet norms and are either punished or at least investigated, put on hold, released from duty, etc. In the later DS9 episodes (I am thinking of seasons 5 to 7, mainly the second half of 5 and the entire 6), the very main characters are misbehaving or departing from the dogma and the norms regularly without facing almost any questioning or consequence whatsoever.

It means: I do not care about characters making mistakes. I do care about late DS9 transforming deviations in quite a normal thing, accepted easily by the institutions of Federation or Starfleet. It is institutionalizing what in previous Trek was sporadic deviation, usually punished or at least painfully investigated.

I've been giving examples in other comments so I will not flood them again here, but just recall some happenings such as Bashir's lie about this genetic enhancement, Kira showing her face to Dukat in a travel to the past and trying to alter/altering the future, Sisko bombarding a planet to chase the Maquis leader, his falsification of war events in the current episode, or when he simply decided to listen to the prophets and obstructed the agreement with Bajor, and so on.

It does not have anything to do with the so praised and realy welcome shades of grey brought by DS9. Of course I do recall the citation you've mentioned, where Sisko states how DS9 is facing a challenges that defy the easy world of the Federation and forces them to deal with unusual dilemmas. I do love this aspect of DS9. But it is not the same thing as going over the top and making DS9 crew untouchable for whatever crazy/outsider/illegal actions they make. Starfleet and Federation have to be the same across shows, no matter how many shades of grey we praise or how much we welcome moral dilemma. Consistency across shows is the number one necessity rule for belonging in the same fictional universe.

@Blake That said, I think it is clear at this point that I am not one of those who think DS9 as a whole did not fit in the Star Trek universe.
Tue, Jan 14, 2014, 8:27pm (UTC -6)
Sisko's faking an attack on the ROmulans is akin to America's provoking Japan into the Pearl Harbour attacks, the fake baby incubator lies used to start Gulf War 1 and the fake WMB lies used to start Gulf War 2. All fascist Empires do this.

DS9 ignores history and presents Sisko's actions as a "burden" and a "hard choice" which "must be undertaken" for the "greater good". To convince you that his action is "kinda necessary" the decks have to be stacked against the Federation, namely by creation a massive super villain in the form of the Dominion.

But the Dominion never exists in real life. Those cringing in the fear of big bad super villains are always liars who manufacture threats. Those doing what Sisko does are always the bad guys. The whole concept of the Dominion ruins DS9, because it creates the image of an Other who seeks to eradicate. But there is no Other, just propaganda, be it the propaganda that sells a false image of Hitler, or Saddam Hussein or whatever. There is no Dominion and there is never any justification to lie to sell wars.

This is not a complex DS9 episode. It's an apologia for fascism.
Wed, Jan 15, 2014, 9:07pm (UTC -6)
There have never been "Others" who seek to eradicate? What "false" image of Hitler are you talking about?
Thu, Jan 16, 2014, 11:37am (UTC -6)
You think Hitler was a boogeyman who, like the Dominion, wanted to take over everywhere?

Europe was ruled monarchs and Tsars, most of whom were related. The British, Russian and German monarchs were kin, for example. AFter WW1, when revolutionary forces across Europe stood up against the aristocracy, like Napoleon once did, the kings and queens got worried. Most of those instigating the uprisings were communist radicals and Marxists (ie the Federation). They wanted to end late-feudalism and instigate change. Into this chaos came Hitler, who was backed by the monarchs, West and the capitalist class. Everyone in power loved him because he set about crushing Marxists (which he labelled a Jewish conspiracy, and which he hated for "toppling" Germany's Wilhelm 2, again related to British monachs), and everyone was fine with his anti Semitism. You can find hundreds of quotes with the Pope of the time and the leaders of the US and UK praising Hitler and Mussolini and championing him as an "friend against the evils and ungodliness of marxism". The Banks of England and France outright petitioned the government to support Hitler as a "force against radicals". Furthermore, everyone was happy because he promised to attack the winners of the Russian civil war, the communists who toppled feudalism and ousted the Russian kings. The Kings/Tsars, to make matters worse, were supported by most Western nations, which lets you know quite clearly on whose side the West was on: the side of power, not the common man. Heck, the White Rebels were virtually funded entirely by the US to assist the Tsars during the Russian Civil War.

In other words, Hitler was a puppet of the monarchist/capitalist nations who was used as a tool to take out the threats to monarchs and capitalists. Why? Because communism (the Federation) destroys capitalist profit and eradicates the class based heirarchies which feudalism and capitalism rely on. It is progressive, and power hates losing power.

It's the same story with all other dictators, be they Saddam Hussein or the 40 or so CIA backed dictators put in place across Latin AMerica.

There is no Dominion out there who exists to threaten power and who exists to provide stupid "grey areas" where "you might have to break a few rules" in order to "get rid of evil". History doesnt work that way.

DS9's Dominion arc just promotes the typical evil empire vs good guys narrative that fuels most contemporary earth conflicts and propogates a gross distortion of history. It's the reason people had no problem taking out Saddam Hussein, for example, whilst the fact that he was a CIA asset goes unacknowledged. Not to mention the contemporary war on "terrorists" and "Al Queda", the latter whom "we" created. Heck, on 911, the CIA and Al Queda were working together in the Macedonia civil war. It's all about social class; power creates evil to destroy progressive movements. Check out the last 3 Western funded coups in Haiti and Honduras and Ecuador over the past 9 years, (or heck, lol, even current wars on bit-torrent websites). Not once were these even reported in the news. The Federation is not some utopian fantasy, it exists on our planet, and is always being crushed.

There is nothing in Earth history resembling the Dominion's attack on the Federation. It resembles "myths" and "lies" about certain conflicts in history, but not the truth. If the Dominion arc were analogous of Earth history, the Dominion would be a Federation creation.

If we, however, believe in Roddenberry's views on the Federation - the notion that it is utopian and always righteous - and we accept the rediculous, straw-man portrayal of the Dominion (which would never logically exist), then the Dominion arc would have unfolded much differently. We have no Earth examples of altrusitic wars waged to genuinely free people from exploitative systems, so this is hard to write.

My guess is that an enlightened society like the Federation would realise that going to war with the Dominion in order to liberate its member states might not be beneficial in terms of aggregate deaths. It might be better to run and play things defensively and diplomatically and just wait for their messed up feudal system to evolve. An enlightened body like the Federation wouldnt play things like Sisko played things, but the writers were stuck in a very bad (and propagandistic) WW2 allegory.
Thu, Jan 16, 2014, 11:41am (UTC -6)
Please excuse my typos and poor sentence construction. I did not proof-read and typed on a small device.
Thu, Jan 16, 2014, 3:58pm (UTC -6)
A few facts to clarify your bizarre conspiracy-laden rant:

- There were no more Tsars in 1933, the NSDAP having come to power in Germany some 17 years after the October Revolution and 16 after Nicholas II was executed.
- The only monarchs of any significance left after WWI were in the UK and Italy. Edward VIII aside, accusations of Nazi-sympathy are unfounded in the UK, which by that time had had constitutional monarchy for over 200 years.
- Hitler was preceded by the dictatorial emergency powers of several other chancellors under Paul von Hindenburg in the presidency of the Weimar Republic. Mainstream conservatives like Papen were too weak to govern on their own in the Reichstag and felt they could control Hitler. Of course, they were incorrect, and we know the rest of that story. Arguably monarchists like Papen and Hindenburg expected that Hitler would serve adequately as their "puppet", but otherwise your historical interpretation is, shall we say, rather far off the mark and reads like something you'd hear in a lecture in Moscow c. 1951.
- Whatever Nazi sympathizing went on prior to 1939 does not invalidate the fact that from about 1938 onward Hitler was uniquely the aggressor in numerous invasions and conflicts, up to and including invasions of monarchies and republics alike, from France to Denmark to Norway to the Soviet Union.
- That you would somehow omit mention of "The Final Solution" in your argument suggests you are wearing extreme ideological blinders.

Now, as for DS9, your argument simply does not withstand a review of actual textual evidence. Initially the Dominion attacks Starfleet vessels to establish an aggressive territorial claim in the Gamma Quadrant. Starfleet's response is to bolster defences at DS9 (e.g. the Defiant). In the meantime the Tal Shiar and Obsidian Order perceive the Dominion as a grave threat and collaborate to destroy the Founders. Unfortunately for them, the Founders infiltrate their ranks and lead them into a trap.

At the same time, they start sending changeling operatives to infiltrate Starfleet and the Federation. This could certainly be viewed as a defensive strategy against the uncertain threat posed by Federation "solids". They also seek to turn major Alpha Quadrant powers against each other through such infiltration (e.g. Martok in "Apocalypse Rising"). The Klingons have in the meantime responded provocatively to Cardassian weakness following the fall of the Order, and have attempted to annex Cardassian systems.

To paraphrase Eddington and Sisko in "Blaze of Glory", the Klingons (and the Maquis) had the Cardassians on the run - and they ran right into the hands of the Dominion.

Finally, facing the regular movement of Dominion troops and arms into Cardassia, Sisko and Starfleet decide to mine the wormhole. Their refusal to remove the mines is what starts the war (or at least becomes the trigger). All the preceding events led up to it, and while the Founders' somewhat paranoid ideology about "solids" played into much of it, they mostly adopted a strategy of covert operations aimed at the neutralization or mitigation of what they regarded as security threats rather than open warfare.

Anyway, we've seen the Federation involved in wars (or heard of it) in every series and most of the movies too. The Dominion War was of course the first to be fully dramatized. I'm not sure where it was ever portrayed as "altruistic". But either way, the level of anti-DS9 rhetoric based on fairly partial and questionable historical viewpoints is disturbing.
Thu, Jan 16, 2014, 7:01pm (UTC -6)
Well, I am home now and can hopefully type with more coherence.

In my last post I was broadly and quickly sketching historical movements which span from the 1850s to the 1970s, and the forces which led to a reactionary like Hitler getting into power. I think it is unfair and insulting to call this a "conspiracy rant". I also think you are misreading my writing.

"There were no more Tsars in 1933"

I did not say or imply this. Perhaps you think I am implying that "Tsars put Hitler in power"?

Regardless, even in 1933, the overthrown Russian aristocracy was behind many counter-revolutionary groups operating in Russia. So yes, there were "Tsars" in 1933.

In Germany, the Spartacus League (a Marxist group) would die off after WW1. In its wake came subsequent left-leading factions, which repeatedly rose up against the German government, only to be crushed. From 1919 onwards, the German Army was tasked with putting these groups down. This went on for decades, until Hitler took up the mantle and put an end to them all. I am not implying that "Russian Tsars wanted Hitler in power", but rather, the ruling class (in all superpowers) saw Hitler as a tool to crush worker movements. The aim was to stop the equivalent of a Russian Civil War in Germany. Because Russia was such a backward, feudal nation, these same flames couldn't ignite in the same way in Germany. The ruling class and land owners had a more robust state on their side.

"the NSDAP having come to power in Germany some 17 years after the October Revolution and 16 after Nicholas II was executed."

Irrelevant. And of cours Wilhelm 2 wasn't executed and the German aristocracy would maintain a grip even when Hitler was in power.
Erich von dem Bach-Zelewski, Wilhelm Keitel (war minister), Konstantin von Neurath (foreign minister), Otto Ohlendorf (head of SD), Kurt von Schroeder (financier of NSDAP), Ernst von Weizsacker (Foreign Office) etc...most of the major figures in the NAZI party are related to the aristocracy. But let's not forget that the opposite was also true. What makes the rise of Naziism horrible is that it was largely supported by the working class. I'd wager that throughout history, a dispossesed working class is always just as much responsible for conservatism and fascism as anyone else.

"The only monarchs of any significance left after WWI were in the UK and Italy."

No. The old monarchs simply transitioned into the new, capitalist ruling class. Churchill, of course, and many British politicians of the day, are descendents of royalty and openly praised Hitler. Their allegiances only turned when Hitler and Stalin formed a temporary alliance, which spooked Britain.

"Whatever Nazi sympathizing went on prior to 1939"

At least you agree with me now. Up until 1939, the US, UK, France and the Vatican endorsed Hitler. Specifically, they endorsed his killing of Marxist revolutionaries (often under the guise that these groups were Jewish and so "contaminants") and the protection of big land owners. I use the term "Marxist" loosely. While some of these groups were Marxist in the best sense, seeking the outright abolishment of class society, most were simple worker movements which fought for minor benefits. Most were put down.

I notice you have no interest in contesting my application of this historical narrative to US actions in the Middle East and Latin America. This is largely because WW2 propaganda and mythology lingers; WW2 is presented not as a class conflict, but an existential battle between good and evil.

"does not invalidate the fact that from about 1938 onward Hitler was uniquely the aggressor"

Not really. Leave Hitler alone, and Poland gives him back Danzig, he takes back Rhineland and Czechoslovakia and he either takes West Prussia by force (it was Germany's prior to WW1), threats, or bullies it into becoming an independent ally. He then goes north and takes on Russia - his target and self described life goal - with Ukraine taken as a backstop to prevent what Hitler called "Napoleon's mistake". His aim is Russia and Russia alone. All the other countries he takes were, in his eyes, and in the eyes of many in Germany (and even Americans), "simply part of Germany before WW1".

In my view, he has no interest in England or France and certainly not the US. But we cannot know this for certain. His goal is Russia. You can argue that Hitler's Imperialist ambitions to take back what Germany lost after WW1 are "immoral" - and you'd be right - but of course all the other land holdings of all the other Empires were taken by naked Imperialism and are equally immoral. And of course France and England were absolutely fine with giving Hitler every country (as the post WW2 demarcations only further prove), so long as he keeps going north east and takes out communism in Russia.

"in numerous invasions and conflicts, up to and including invasions of monarchies and republics"

Except he wouldnt have invaded these countries if the West didn't declare war. Once war was declared, all the Empires were invading countries to create bulwarks, jostle for resources or get at each other. England was dropping troops on foreign soil without permission too, and often armies had to pass through foreign countries simply to get at each other. Blegium and the Netherlands, for example, were specifically invaded by Germany because of the Allied declaration of war, to prevent British troops landing and to get access to France.

"That you would somehow omit mention of "The Final Solution" in your argument suggests you are wearing extreme ideological blinders."

Ah, so I'm a neo nazi holocaust denier? Why must I mention the Final Solution? Does something in my previous post hint at "Nazi sympathies"? Isn't it interesting that you'd label anyone who challenges your WW2 Good War mythology, a "holocaust denier"? Why do you think that is?

For the record, I hate Hitler and treat the Holocaust as seriously as every other mass murder, which is to say, not very seriously at all. As a student of history, I have been desensitized to mass murder, from the mass murders in Indonesia, to the recent genocides in Sri Lanka, to my governments continual genocides in Africa (currently being portrayed as a war between Christians and Muslims, the pressence of French puppet dictators conveniently ignored), and to the almost hundred million killed by CIA coups over the past century. I am tired of the sheer ease at which millions dead go ignored, and I believe what facilitates this cycle of murder is the way man both resorts to silly myths, and an analysis of history which ignores social class.

The truth is, WW2 is far more interesting and far more complex than the silly "goodies" vs "baddies" narrative that people force it into. There were absolutely no good guys, everyone was complicit, and to pick sides in a battle between Empires, when all Empires are inherently immoral, is a waste of time.
Thu, Jan 16, 2014, 7:36pm (UTC -6)
"Now, as for DS9, your argument simply does not withstand a review of actual textual evidence."

Your summary did nothing to sway me. The Dominion is an evil Empire which wants to "instigate order", "take over everything" and which "contaminates our civilization" with "terrorist cells" populated by figures who can "hide amongst us". It's all very familar. Thankfully, DS9 never slides into outright fascism. It is skeptical of the Federation's black ops units and it is skeptical of Sisko faking data (like the West faked sattelite photos and gave to Saddam, and faked the nurse Nayirah testimonies, and faked WMDs, and faked bombings in Saigon, and faked the Gulf of Tonkin etc), but these things are nevertheless still presented as "necessary evils", a part of the White Man's Burden. We accept these "necessary burdens" for one reason only: the Dominion is SUPER POWERFUL and painted as an existential threat. You cannot know Earth history and read this as nothing but the usual strawman preamble to fascism or fascist policies.

If the Federation were real, and an Empire like the Dominion somehow managed to form, the Federation would not have played things out like DS9 shows things play out.

"But either way, the level of anti-DS9 rhetoric based on fairly partial and questionable historical viewpoints is disturbing."

Many comments on this episode are similar. Scroll up and you will see users rightfully likening the episode to the US' "relationship" with "muslims" or chastising it for its phony "moral grey areas". People recognise crypto-fascism when they see it.
Andy's Friend
Fri, Jan 17, 2014, 1:11am (UTC -6)
Hello Trent. You mention that you are a “student of history”. As a professional and published Historian, I would like to examine some of the statements you so graciously have contributed to the discussion yesterday:

“…most of the major figures in the NAZI party are related to the aristocracy.”

This is an interesting claim. Let’s take it more or less from the top, shall we? And please note the last fellow on the list.

― Hess [Deputy Führer]: commoner ― Göring [Minister of Aviation]: commoner ― Goebbels [Propaganda Minister]: commoner ― Himmler [head of the SS]: commoner ― Speer [Minister of Armament etc.]: commoner ― Ribbentrop [Foreign Minister]: commoner [von by adoption in adulthood] ― Bormann [head of the Party Chancery]: commoner ― Lammers [head of the Reich Chancery]: commoner ― Bouhler [head of the Führer Chancery]: commoner ― Meissner [head of the Presidential Chancery]: commoner ― Frick [Minister of the Interior]: commoner ― Gürtner [Minister of Justice]: commoner ― Funk [Minister of Economy]: commoner ― Schwartz [Reich Treasurer of the Party]: commoner ― Daleuge [Chief of Police]: commoner ― Amann [Reich Press Leader]: commoner ― Rosenberg [Minister of Occupied Russia]: commoner ― Frank [Governor-General in Poland]: commoner ― Seyss-Inquart [Reich Commissar in the Netherlands]: commoner (in spite of the fancy name) ― Lutze [ill-fated head of the SA]: commoner ― Müller [Reich Bishop, i.e., head of the (Nazi) German Church]: commoner ― von Schirach [head of the Hitlerjugend]: noble!

I think I’ve missed a few, but you have the 11 most important of the 18 Reichsleiters here, plus a few ministers etc. ― virtually all the top brass, i.e., your “major figures”. If you had said that virtually all the field marshals and generals of the Wehrmacht were of noble birth, I would have agreed with you. As it is… well, what can I say?

‘I’d wager that throughout history, a dispossessed working class is always just as much responsible for conservatism and fascism as anyone else.’

Another interesting claim. 'Throughout history' is perhaps overdoing it, as the working class is a fairly new concept. But if you consider the inter-war period in Europe, which social groups were the mainstay of right-wing conservative, authoritarian, or fascist regimes?

In virtually all cases, they were [typical allegiance]: 1) senior army officers [conservative/authoritarian]; 2) junior army officers [radical right/fascist]; 3) upper urban middle class [conservative/authoritarian]; 4) lower urban middle class [radical right/fascist]; 5) large landowners [conservative/authoritarian]; 6) small farmers [radical right/fascist]; 7) industrialists [conservative/authoritarian]; 8) petty entrepreneurs [radical right/fascist]; 9) religious groups [conservative/authoritarian]; shopkeepers [radical right/fascist]; and finally, 10) students [anything goes].

This is what we see everywhere in Europe, from the Baltic states to the Balkans. Workers were left-wing. I’d advise you against wagering: you’d lose your money.

“What makes the rise of Nazism horrible is that it was largely supported by the working class”

A very interesting claim.

Until 1928, the NSDAP had followed an urban strategy designed to attract blue-collar workers. But at the 1928 elections, the NSDAP only won a miserable 2.8 percent of the vote. It was only after that that Hitler made a fundamental change in strategy, aiming now at all sectors of society. From 1928 onward, the NSDAP ― National Socialist German Workers Party ― was a workers’ party in name only. It was the middle class and particularly the farmers that were Hitler’s main supporters. The German workers, as everywhere else in Europe, were essentially left-wing. Don’t go near that dabo table, Trent!

[Josh]: ‘The only monarchs of any significance left after WWI were in the UK and Italy.’
[Trent]: ‘No. The old monarchs simply transitioned into the new, capitalist ruling class.’

Yet another interesting claim, yet also mostly untrue. While powerful noble houses did exist in Germany and Austria, who only became republics following the Great War, the role of the nobility in France was already mostly only that of government officials – the service of the State in the proud tradition of the Grands Écoles. In Spain the influence of the nobility experienced an all-time low during the Second Republic [1931-1936/1939]. In the Soviet Union, of course, it vanished entirely.

When considering the role of the aristocracy in Europe in the inter-war era, you have to remember that the only countries in Europe where the institution of entail hadn’t been abolished by the mid 1920’s were Germany and Sweden; in Germany Hitler began projects to abolish it, but only after the war were they carried out. In all Latin Europe, it had been abolished sometime in the mid-19th century.

The truth is, that for the vast majority of European aristocracy, 1) the upkeep of estates was becoming exceedingly expensive; 2) inheritance laws following the abolishment of the entail were fragmentizing the formerly vast noble estates in every country but Germany and Sweden; and 3) the nobility in most cases hadn’t succeeded in performing the transition to what you call “the new, capitalist ruling class”, i.e., the industrial and business sectors.

I know you’ll be able to find houses like the Liechtensteins and Schwarzenbergs in Austria, and a number of dukes etc. in the UK and Germany, and a few more who are the exception to this rule, but in the vast majority of cases, the European nobility was dire straits after the abolishment of the entail [Netherlands 1918, Denmark 1919, UK 1925…], and were mostly concerned with their immediate survival as landowners on the short-term. In fact, one of the main reasons why Sweden didn’t abolish the entail system before the 1960s was because one of the largest Danish noble estates was famously ripped apart in 1926 because when the old count died, all his eleven children had to get an equal share.

Finally, Mussolini’s Italy is a good example: though a monarchy, entail had been abolished in the various Italian states before the Risorgimento as early as ca. 1815; consuetudinary law allowed for women *not* to inherit real estate, but nevertheless, a hundred years later, all but the largest noble estates had been partitioned to oblivion – and the aristocracy had thus seen most of its economic and even political power be eroded. Look at the way Mussolini chaged ministers like we change underwear. And how many of them were noble? So again, I must disagree with you. Don’t go near that poker table, Trent: Riker will cut you to pieces every time.

I could go on like this with any of your claims, but the message would become too lengthy, and I don’t want to burden Jammer’s servers. Suffice it to say, if I may quote Data in “The Measure of a Man”: "You're a little vague on the specifics”, Trent.

Be careful next time you try to give a lecture on an internet forum: you never know when there is someone out there who actually knows what you’re talking about.
Fri, Jan 17, 2014, 3:23pm (UTC -6)
"I think I’ve missed a few, but you have the 11 most important of the 18 Reichsleiters here, plus a few ministers etc"

Yes, that line was hyperbolic. I am not implying that the party was a "new aristocracy". But I remember a French author (Daniel Guerin) detailing how the opposite was also true; he mapped the movements of the German aristocracy leading up to the mid 1930s, and how they retained alot of power in business and policy.

"This is what we see everywhere in Europe, from the Baltic states to the Balkans. Workers were left-wing."

Roughly 40 percent of the party was comprised of the working class, then you had a larger majority in or from esteemed jobs like mining, law, medicine etc, and then of course with a large base of support on the outside, what I called the "dispossesed working class". You're arguing that support from the public didn't come from the German working class, however, which I can buy. It's the old "fascism is petite bourgeoisie" saying, fascism appealing to "he who has lost something"; the worker never had anything in the first place.

"Until 1928, the NSDAP had followed an urban strategy designed to attract blue-collar workers."

This is the common countermyth to the myth that the Nazi party was all Big business. The story goes that small businesses burnt by the Depression and lacking the protection that the big fat corporations had, flocked to the Nazi party in the early 30s. Before this, the party is somewhat genuinely socialist. Then later its embraced by the big corps. Usually its US history books positing one narrative, Europeans the other.

"Yet another interesting claim, yet also mostly untrue."

Only semantically. You've got relatives to King's as Prime Minister of the UK and aristocracy in charge of it's Treasury...and this is in a modern democratic nation. Power protects power and power under capitalism is simply wielded differently.

I agree with your nuanced view - your point is that the aristocracy essentially withered away, my point was that old power transitioned into the new capitalist and ruling class - but I think it is reductive in a different way. Power doesn't just disappear. Wasn't the crown in Britain giving Wilhelm royalty for lumber harvested in Ssarland and Rhineland, which the British government then taxed? And this is while he's in exile and hates the British.

"the nobility in most cases hadn’t succeeded in performing the transition to what you call “the new, capitalist ruling class”"

Yes, most were supplanted by a new, moneyed class.

"but in the vast majority of cases, the European nobility"

But not as many as people presume. Names change, companies rebrand, and assets keep snowballing, especially for those who controlled grain, banking, insurance and are in oil and metals. Wilhelm 2's living relatives, for example, have titles in the UK, Spain and Russia. The Queen's a majority shareholder in some of the world's biggest bank and gas companies and so forth. Late capitalism is never a clean break from prior modes of social organisation.

The point though, is that Hitler's squashing of worker movments and Marxist movements were widely praised and supported, covertly and publically. Hitler only became a threat when his Imperialism infringed upon British Imperialism.

"You're a little vague on the specifics. Be careful next time you try to give a lecture on an internet forum"

I wasn't lecturing and was deliberately typing very broad movements (on a touch-screen phone no less, and on a comment box which allows no edits).

"you never know when there is someone out there who actually knows what you’re talking about."

I prefer CLR James' quip: "historians never know what they're talking about. I know. I'm a historian."
Fri, Jan 17, 2014, 3:32pm (UTC -6)
My last quip sounds rude in print. It was intended as a joke but reads offensive. That was not my intention. Au revoir.
Andy's Friend
Sat, Jan 18, 2014, 10:21pm (UTC -6)
@Trent: No problem :-) Much better to just both concede "Touché!" and get back to Star Trek ;-)

PS: And I think you're right about the CGI on Voyager. I wonder why that is.
Fri, Feb 7, 2014, 3:01pm (UTC -6)
I think what makes this all very disturbing, is that THE PLAN WORKED... Which in the end justifies the means, and helps Sisko justify his actions - and even think that they were right.

What is dangerous and disturbing, is that every dictator and evil person is convinced they are doing the "right thing" or the wrong thing but "for the right reasons". The loss of that absolute, objective moral compass is what is scary and at stake in this episode. That makes the last scene very chilling and disturbing.
Thu, Mar 13, 2014, 8:52pm (UTC -6)
@Jons, What is Evil, but the "greater good" to another?

We create laws, rules, and social systems to structure our selves from taking positions beyond a certain threshold, which we call evil. However, under different circumstances, evil is not easily defined.

Take the current debate right now about surveillance technology. Europeans are pissed off about it; Americans hate it. However, behind all this evil spying, how many lives have been saved by this use of covert surveillance? While detractors push for transparency, the world is not ready for the entire truth.

To connect this point to this episode, Sisko in this episode is committing a bunch of crimes, trying to bring a neutral power into his nation's war, and covering up murders, but he wanted to be transparent at first like most viewers of Star Trek would want back in the 90's (Transparency, Technological growth, and a "happy" future).

At the end of the episode, he chose to delete the record and bury the truth forever, because no one was ready to know. To classic Trek Baby Boomers, this is wrong and antagonistic to everything 90's stood for.

To me and others of my generation, DS9 is not talking to Baby Boomer generation, but my Millennial generation, who will witness our share of tragedy and know fear, no other generation alive has felt. This is social commentary 10 years before its time.
Andy's Friend
Sun, Mar 16, 2014, 6:02am (UTC -6)
@Trekker: "DS9 is not talking to Baby Boomer generation, but my Millennial generation..."

...which is exactly why so many of us have so many problems with it. DS9 isn't about the future. And certainly not the future we saw in TNG. In that sense, DS9 betrays what Star Trek stood for. It transformed a unique franchise into a mundane sci-fi series.

It could be argued that DS9 set the precedent to JJ Abrams' films. They would never have been done that way if DS9 had gone say, "more TNG than TNG", and had expanded on everything Picard's Federation stood for.
William B
Sun, Mar 16, 2014, 10:16am (UTC -6)
"It could be argued that DS9 set the precedent to JJ Abrams' films. They would never have been done that way if DS9 had gone say, "more TNG than TNG", and had expanded on everything Picard's Federation stood for."

I prefer TNG to DS9 overall, but I disagree with this. J.J. Abrams' films have nothing to do with most Trek, to be honest; their (popular, financial) success has everything to do with their rejection of the franchise as a whole, rather than hewing closer to any particular previous instance of it.
Sun, Mar 16, 2014, 10:55pm (UTC -6)
People around here - especially some commenting on this episode - like to throw around assertions about what Star Trek "stood" or "stands" for. But what is that exactly? Can you show that Trek has a particular definition that is either adhered to or violated in various episodes and movies? Provide textual evidence for your assertions, because that's all they are.

As for the comparison with JJ Abram's "reimagining", that's taking it much too far. These new films are vapid and derivative - and have product placement that is dated *now* (Bud? Nokia? Really???). Just deplorable. If the DS9 episode "Valiant" is often derided for being "implausible", at least it ends appropriately - all but one of the cadets dies. In the Abrams' version, not only does the cadet captain save the day, but he is rewarded with an instant full command. What?
Mon, Mar 17, 2014, 11:17pm (UTC -6)
@Andy- JJ Abrams is a Warsie, hiding behind a breen outfit :P Seriously, his films have nothing to add to Star Trek, which at its core had intellectual elements that aspired for more than action.

@Josh- I don't disagree with you, but one thing that Star Trek has strived for and is a confirmed statement from showrunners was social commentary.

However, what I saw was a commentary on how we were moving to the world we live in today. Government surveillance, secret clandestine intelligence operations, and military engagements were limited in 90's in terms of scope and visibility.

I think DS9 is depressing, but realistic to who we are as people. We won't ever become enlightened to a point that we can end violence, strife, and war. Roddenberry never advocated total peace, so why are older fans clinging onto that concept so hard.
Latex Zebra
Thu, Mar 20, 2014, 4:58pm (UTC -6)
I really can't take anyone seriously that dislikes this, and by association DS9, because of the way a Federation citizen is portrayed. In every series each Captain has done questionable things. In movies characters have behaved in questionable ways. Throughout the series the Federation or Starfleet have been inconsistent in their behaviours. The Prime Directive being handily used as a wishy washy way of non involvement.
The galactic equivalent of crossing the road to avoid walking past someone who is being mugged because they don't look socially evolved enough to deserve your help.
It is nonsense. Dislike this episode because you don't like the storyline or you don't like the fact that the Federation is at war. I mean surely such an enlightened species would never have gone to war with the Klingon’s, the Romulan’s, the Cardassian’s etc. But no evolved people still fight and kill for what they believe.

Star Trek cannot live up to the ideals it sets itself, even when Roddenberry was still alive. Is it entertaining though… Hell yes.

And this episode is entertaining. 4/4
Thu, Mar 27, 2014, 3:58pm (UTC -6)
I appreciate the writers' efforts here. I'd give the ep three stars for how hard it tries to say something big.

Pluses: Garak, as always.

Minuses: Brooks's hamminess, the framing device (It was far too similar to that TNG ep where Crusher invites some alien scientists for a symposium), and - as an above commenter said - Sisko going apeshit over the death of one Romulan senator after not agonizing at all about all the young Romulan men and women who would soon be cannon fodder thanks to his lies.

For me the most emotional moment of the episode was Garak relating that all his Cardassian contacts (whom I think must have been his last connection to the world he loves) had been murdered thanks to Sisko's scheme. In the fight scene when Sisko punched him, I really wanted Garak to retort, "You know, when all my friends died -- for YOU -- you didn't bat an eye. "

Somewhere along the line (I think it was 'Waltz') I stopped seeing Sisko as a sympathetic character. Which is a shame.
Thu, Apr 17, 2014, 1:25pm (UTC -6)
"... and all it cost was the life of one Romulan senator, one criminal, and the self-respect of one Starfleet officer."

Best line of the episode.
Tue, Apr 22, 2014, 2:31am (UTC -6)
I would have loved to have given a 5 out-of 5 star rating for this episode, good story and executed well but all the brilliant work was undone by some Avery Brooks overacting (tm) - completely agree with V_is-for_Voyager's comments about Brookes stilted and forced performance.
Thu, May 8, 2014, 1:39pm (UTC -6)
Definitely a lot of reading in the comments for this episode. A lot of contention here and understandably so. However, I have been adding my two cents to some of these shows and, despite my many agreements/disagreements with some comments, I will keep it brief.

This is about as top-notch as any Star Trek episode gets. Superbly written and directed with sociopolitical ramifications that evolve naturally and logically from what has been put before us so far. If I ever made a "best-of" list of Trek episodes; this one would get automatic inclusion into the top ten. Absolutely marvelous storytelling and a testament to what can happen when the strengths of the creative department are fully utilized.

4 stars.
Thu, May 8, 2014, 4:58pm (UTC -6)
@Vylora :

I too shall stay away from the philosophical aspects of the episode in this post. May I then ask, by what standards do you judge the directing, writing (presumably the acting) to be "top-notch"? Ignoring the implications and focusing on the episode-specific content, why are the ramifications' natural and logical (from your perspective) evolution particularly superb?

I am genuinely interested in your answer, but from my perspective, the logic in the episode is a bit wanting. Yes, the rôle of Garak and Vreenak and the entire ploy to get the Romulans involved in the war works quite well, and I commend the writers on this point, but the emotional core of the episode is about Sisko and his struggle with morality, which frankly comes out of left field. Frankly, if such an episode had aired in Seasons 1 or 2, it would be more logical to assume Sisko's writhing were warranted since our knowledge of him and his character would be more limited. We would have to rely on assumptions about his character based on his wearing a Starfleet uniform. But by Season 6, I've seen Sisko be rather amoral (The Maquis, Shattered Mirror, For the Cause, Rapture, Children of Time, Waltz) if not downright villainous (Blaze of Glory). The suspension of disbelief to empathise with his being bent out of shape over one oily Romulan Senator and one criminal who was sentenced to death anyway is too high for me to consider the episode truly excellent.
Fri, May 9, 2014, 2:22pm (UTC -6)
I didn't really feel that distraught by Sisko's actions. Maybe if the criminal he pardoned was a better person and not a murderer, then I would care more about Garak killing him. And I didn't really find the Romulan likable (no surprise there) so I didn't really feel like those two's deaths being on Sisko's conscience were such a big burden to bear. Now if the criminal was a kind-spirited innocent and the Romulan senator an amiable fellow NOT abetting the Dominion, maybe it would've felt more hard-hitting.

So this episode wasn't as "I've become a mob kingpin" thing as Sisko's menacing raise of his glass at the end alluded to for me. It's like, okay... a murderer and someone benefiting your enemy died and it potentially saved everything and everyone in the world that you hold dear. It's morally wrong, but... I found the selling of that bio-gel more sinister than inadvertently killing those two, because who knows who that invaluable gel is being sent to, in what ways they'll use it, or what innocents will suffer from its use.
Mon, Jun 16, 2014, 1:59am (UTC -6)
GREAT episode. Gene would probably be rolling in his grave over this, but let's face it, in wartime, idealistic morality is the first thing out the window, and I'm glad DS9 acknowledges that and faces it.

What I liked:

-Garak. Enough said. "And all it cost, was the life of one Romulan senator, one criminal...[sneering tone] and the self respect of one Starfleet officer. I don't know about you, but I'd call that a bargain." I still shudder when I think about that line. Sisko's face as Garak spoke those words said all that needed to be said.

-Ruthless Sisko going all Darth Vader on Tolar - "I am altering the deal, pray I don't alter it any further!" - er, I mean, "I am making a new agreement!" (Plot hole: Tolar recorded the data on the rod right before Sisko said that. Wouldn't that render Sisko's threat basically pointless? No matter. As Garak said, it's best not to dwell on such minutae ;) ) In general, Sisko was great in this episode, especially with the log entries.

-Vreenak. Such a sniveling arrogant jerk- perfect for the role. When he said "It's a FAAAAAAAAKE!" my stomach dropped. I genuinely wasn't sure if we'd get a happy ending at the end of the ep the first time I watched this.

-The Dominion has taken BETAZED?! Holy crap. I guess the good part is, no more Luaxana Troi! (I read that the writers considered having Vulcan get taken over instead, but then decided Vulcan would carry *too* much weight.)

-The final scene between Sisko and Garak. Highlight of the ep.

-One quibble and it's more of a long term plotting thing - I wish previous eps has shown at least a token attempt to draw the Romulans in at least in the background, just a couple of throwaway lines per episode, no more. Now we suddenly have Our Heroes taking on this project just for kicks when Starfleet's top brass should have been on this from the get-go? Then again, I guess I'm spoiled with modern TV's trend towards heavy serialization (BSG, Lost, even light sitcoms like How I Met Your Mother). Garak's quote on such minutae also applies here.

The folks at also did a great parody of this ep:

Call it a three-way tie with "Duet" and "Way of the Warrior" as one of my favorite DS9 episodes ever.

PS: In hindsight, Garak's ruthlessness was foreshadowed in "Rocks and Shoals" when, on the subject of massacring the Jem'Hadar, he said "Humans have rules in war. Rules that tend to make victory a little harder to achieve, in my opinion."
Come to think of it, seeing as to how Sisko in that ep decided, "We have no choice, we either kill them or they kill us", everything in that ep foreshadowed what transpired in ITPM, from a character perspective.
Fri, Jun 20, 2014, 3:06am (UTC -6)
I don't blame Sisko for doing what had to be done to win the war. Although in season 3 the romulans tried to destroy the wormhole which would have saved millions of lives and Sisko stopped them. This is also the same Sisko who was willing to risk the life of his son the aliens in the wormhole could fight a battle on the space station. Picard would never have been duped by aliens. He definitely wouldn't have put his crew or family in jeopardy for the aliens. That's why in the great Trekkie debate about who the best captain is you gotta throw Sisko out
Sun, Aug 10, 2014, 4:32am (UTC -6)
Elliot, this episode is not about saying that when pushed people will always violate their principles. This is not Sisko believing what he did is what was right. This is a man who believes in an ideology, pushed to the limits of that ideology. He's in a situation where the only way out is to do something wrong. And he knows this. Sisko is not telling us, the audience, about how he saved the Federation. He's confessing to us his crimes and submitting the events to us for judgement. Much like Dukat in Waltz. Sisko knows what he did is wrong but believes he can live with the guilt if it means that the end is good. No, the ends do not justify the means. And no, Sisko does not believe that.
Sun, Aug 10, 2014, 4:47am (UTC -6)
Ultimately the episode, and indeed the show, is an anti-war narrative. It shows us the harsh cost of war through a battle with the anti-Federation: the Dominion. The Dominion does indeed do what the Federation does: assimilate worlds in a vast interplanetary alliance; but does it in the absolute antithesis of Federation values. It's run on subjugation, colonization, alien invasion, and most telling of all, complete absolute religions faith in the Founders. Indeed, it was Weyoun's unquestioning faith in the female Founder at the end that led to his downfall, despite his being a brilliant tactician and leader. But that's another story.

DS9 is about the cost of such a war. Not just the cost in human lives as we see in such episodes as The Siege of Ar-558 or in the deaths of Jadzia or Ziyal (or the lists of the dead that Sisko routinely puts up). But also the cost of compromising ones morals. Doing that which you know is immoral because you believe it will help the greater good. This is also clearly echoed by Kai Winn's fall from grace in the final ten episodes because of her tragic flaw of lust for power, but most people seem to dislike this part so it's all good.
Tue, Aug 19, 2014, 1:55pm (UTC -6)
Wow! There is a war going on? About time we get back to it!

Jammer: "Sisko is not the type of character that I normally equate with obsessions"

Come on Jammer, 'For the Uniform' ring a bell?

Jammer: "But what this episode all comes down to is Sisko."

I'm not sure I totally agree. This episode DOES come down to one character, but it's not Sisko - it's GARAK! ... and does Sisko really change 'that' much? He's gone ape-shit before... he's hid things from Star Fleet before, he’s lied before... is this really that much of a stretch?

Sisko knew that when Garak says “I’m in”, that means Garak is in for the long haul, and Sisko knows it.

This simply does not happen is Garak is not on the station. Sisko knows this when he approaches Garak. (and I'm not knocking Sisko for doing this AT ALL)

What I will knock Sisko down a little for is his reaction towards Garak for doing exactly what he recruited him to do. Getting the Romulans into the war. He goes all Kira on him, punching him repeatedly. Really? Little overboard do you think?

How EPIC is this scene?!?!?

"That's why you came to me, isn't it, Captain? Because you knew I could do those things that you weren't capable of doing. Well, it worked. And you'll get what you want, a war between the Romulans and the Dominion. And if your conscience is bothering you, you should soothe it with the knowledge that you may have just saved the entire Alpha Quadrant and all it cost was the life of one Romulan senator, one criminal, and the self-respect of one Starfleet officer. I don't know about you, but I'd call that a bargain."

Damn straight.

I don't think Sisko's "so I will learn to live with it. Because I can live with it. I can live with it. Computer, erase that entire personal log." is Sisko trying to cope with his transgressions, I think it's Sisko revealing to us that he's a bad ass and he's going to make sure we win this damn war.

"Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges"

Sloan to Bashir: "You're also the reason Section Thirty one exists. Someone has to protect men like you from a universe that doesn't share your sense of right and wrong."

I wonder how Sisko feels about Section 31 now.

Incredible, brilliant episode! EASY 4 stars.

I’m not going to get into the “Roddenberry trek” thing, that argument is just stupid. Only Gene could answer that. I have a feeling, as Gene was in the military and a police officer, he would have approved.
Fri, Sep 12, 2014, 6:32pm (UTC -6)
Tomás Foley: He can't add another star, its a 4 star-rating system.
Tue, Sep 23, 2014, 5:58pm (UTC -6)
After the previous episode, we see that Sisko has kept Garak as his own personal Section 31. My main gripe with Sisko is less with his moral compass, but with him essentially putting the fate of the galaxy into his own hands and not mitigating the risk of failure. Once he has decided there are no 'half measures' as they say, but he relied entirely on Garak doing his own thing. If Sisko didn't anticipate Garak doing what he did, then he was irresponsible. He had no idea if the forgery would work and he would have put The Federation into a hopeless situation.
Wed, Sep 24, 2014, 8:43am (UTC -6)
@Hlau - "SISKO: Let's be very clear about this. You're not working for Starfleet. This entire matter is off the record. As far as you're concerned, you're working for me. "

I always kind of felt that if the plan failed hard enough Sisko would spend the rest of his life in a Federation prison to appease the Romulans. Starfleet had plausible deniability.
Wed, Sep 24, 2014, 9:28pm (UTC -6)
The George Bush/Ronald Reagan strawman episode. Had to resort to fascism to justifiably save the one's you love? Sorry. Never happened, never will.
Thu, Sep 25, 2014, 8:58am (UTC -6)
"The George Bush/Ronald Reagan strawman episode. Had to resort to fascism to justifiably save the one's you love? Sorry. Never happened, never will."

Are you kidding me? Apples and oranges.

But besides that, you can't possibly believe nobody has ever been tricked into entering a war. That's preposterous.

Just one off the top of my head that's a maybe is
h t t p://

I'm not a conspiracy nutter, but when you have Winston Churchill saying "most important to attract neutral shipping to our shores, in the hope especially of embroiling the United States with Germany" it leads one to imagine that even if the Lusitania WASN'T a British plot to get us to join the war there was a plot in place.

In addition Napoleon is known to have tweaked the fires a bit to start the war of 1812 (between the US and Britain). Getting other countries to declare war against your enemies is pretty much priority #1 when you are in the middle of a war. I assure you this has happened throughout history.
Tue, Sep 30, 2014, 11:17pm (UTC -6)
Great episode. One of my all time favorite Treks.

Brooks' acting aside (I thought he did fine, though some of the framing monologue was not great), Garak steals the show. Not since "Improbable Cause" has he had such freedom to act. And what a delightful web of treachery and deceit he weaves! Sisko doesn't have a chance -- which, given Garak's final speech, is probably just as well.
My favorite character -- though I'd be terrified of him in RL.

Sisko's conscience: After "For the Uniform", I'm having a hard time seeing this as a problem for him.

The Federation's "conscience": The writers have made it plain: The Federation faces the END. They've made peace overtures; the Dominion wants TOTAL victory. Others can say "Picard would have found a way to negotiate", but that's just silly. In the face of what we've seen, there's no reason to assume the Dominion has any interest in negotiations. We've never seen the Federation in this kind of danger (Betazed down, Vulcan, Andor, Teller threatened -- we've even got a think-tank recommending surrender). We saw a not-quite-so-dark future in "Yesterday's Enterprise"; how far would have *that* Picard gone to save the Federation?

Is it *really* the "ethical" position to condemn billions to Dominion slavery when you can "violate the rules of war" and prevent it?
I'm with Garak on this one: When your back is against the wall, you do what it takes to survive. The only dirty trick in war is to start one in the first place. (And to jump ahead a season, yeah I'd consider bioweapons....)
(Though I was appalled with Enterprise's "Damage" -- those people Archer condemned were completely innocent.)

What would GR think? Would he *really* say "the Federation goes down swinging?". Or is the very concept of a stronger foe anti-GR? Maybe Kirk would have pulled some implausible rabbit out of his hat and saved the day?
Sat, Oct 4, 2014, 12:47pm (UTC -6)
A LOT has already been said about this one, and I'm not sure I want to get into any of the more incendiary debates that the other parties may never see. I'm just going to leave some stray comments about what makes this one really, really great.

-This is the best paced episode of the series. Even in the best episodes, there's sometimes a bit too much piece-placing as the characters go about their day until they discover the problem. Not here, though. Right away, we start with Sisko's struggle. A lesser version of "In the Pale Moonlight" would start us with Sisko's friday morning ritual of posting the war casualties. Not here, though. Sisko's narrative beforehand gives that scene more weight. We already know a decision's been made in some way. We're not waiting to see where it goes since we know it already leads to Sisko's anguish in some way. The extra subtext throughout the whole episode adds dread and suspense to each scene. On a minute-by-minute basis, it's simply more entertaining than any other show DS9 has produced so far, with MAYBE the exception of "The Visitor" and "Far Beyond the Stars." Even "Duet" set its pieces up harmlessly at first.

-Garak. Always awesome. Pairing him up with a regular character has almost never failed on this show. There's "The Wire" with Julian, "Improbable Cause/Die Is Cast" with Odo, "Purgatory/Inferno" with Worf, Martok, etc, and now "ItPM" with Sisko. It's not just that Robinson plays Garak pitch perfectly, it's that Garak and the world with which he was/is involved is such a harrowing contrast to what we're used to. Which is not to say that the default DS9 and Federation settings are bad, but that the drama that results between the collision of those settings is always game-changing.

-It's a wonderful spiritual follow-up to "Inquisition." In the previous show, an implication was left at our feet - but here? "In the Pale Moonlight" takes everything that made us uncomfortable about the last episode's implications and turns the implications into actions. There's no going back from this. There's no mystery left. What's done is done, and it's really hard to disagree that it needed to be done. Sisko puts into action those hypothetical situations Sloan gave to Bashir.

-The deed is done without depicting a single physical confrontation (except Sisko vs Garak after the fact, which I'll address). It's all under the table or discretely in a back room. Did we need to see Tolar or Vreenak die? Blow up or be shot by a space gun? Absolutely not. This isn't about brutality; it's about violating principles and being insulated while doing it. Less "Breaking Bad" and more "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas."

-A small scene, but Bashir and Sisko are great when they're at odds. First in "Statistical Probabilities" and now here. The subtext of giving and receiving cryptic and potentially dangerous orders is not lost on either of these men. (As an aside, I'd argue that Sisko and Bashir are the two most interesting Federation characters the franchise has produced. Bashir especially, who might have the best arc in all of Trek.)

I could go on for a while, but I'll leave it at that for now.

4 stars, easy. It's hard to say what the "best" episode of DS9 is since the show tells so many different types of stories from week to week. "Far Beyond the Stars" and "The Visitor" are top hours, but they're self-evidently unique outside the show's main narratives. "The Way of the Warrior" and the "Purgatory/Inferno" two-parter are also powerhouses, but their genre is revelation-and-action, fundamentally different than the quiet, dialogue-heavy hour of "Moonlight". So, for my money, "Moonlight" is the best standard hour of DS9, narrowly beating out "Duet" and "Rocks and Shoals."
Thu, Jan 29, 2015, 2:04pm (UTC -6)
Thu, Jan 29, 2015, 2:05pm (UTC -6)
Hum... didn't take the rest of my post :D
Thu, Jan 29, 2015, 2:07pm (UTC -6)
Sorry. It doesn't work, I'm trying one last time...

"Others can say "Picard would have found a way to negotiate", but that's just silly. In the face of what we've seen, there's no reason to assume the Dominion has any interest in negotiations."

Here lies the problem ! Sisko is not Picard. Sisko lives in the moment, with the action. Picard is - usually - an educated diplomat.

More over, all the negociations have been done with the Vortas, NOT the Changelings, which is a huge mistake and a waste of time (knowing that for them, Changelings are Gods !). Each time officers are face to face with a Changeling, they're adversarial and don't even try to start a discussion.

For example, when Odo agrees to face judgement by his people, does Sisko take the opportunity to even ask why they're so bent on bringing order to the Alpha Quadrant ? Did he once try to negociate or try to understand the reasons behind their agressive policy by opening a dialogue ? Maybe, at that time, agreeing to close the wormhole would have been enough. Or maybe not, but at least we would have known that the war was indeed unavoidable.

(And what about Odo ? We don't see him at least once try to talk peace to the female Changeling. But he's not Federation, so I'll let this one pass :p.)

As for the episode in itself, I already said some years ago that it is a mixed-bag. By watching it again, I'll add this:
I have no problem watching Garak pulling the Romulans to fit his agenda, because it fits the character perfectly and he does it with panache. I'd have no problem with Sisko going along with it behind the Federation's back (because that's how he's been portrayed, moral and self-righteous when he's not the one at fault, but highly immoral when it fits him). But I still can't accept the fact that the Federation would agree to manipulate a power in the Quadrant in such a fashion !

This episode would have been so much more if Sisko's struggle had not been about the lies, but about the philosophy behind the lies. Asking instead: "did I have the right to pull the Romulans into Our war, allowing their people to die as well as mine ? Is it really the greater good or is it just what I perceive as such ? Would I have done the same if, instead of Romulans, it was a race I didn't despise ? And finally, is the price of balancing the war by removing the free choice of the Romulans to be neutral worth it, just because I believe the Alpha Quadrant is better off without the Dominion - and so, all should think the same !!?"
Thu, Jan 29, 2015, 10:36pm (UTC -6)
You're proving the point, Robert. Vietnam, Gulf War 1 and 2 (WMDs and Baby Incubators) etc were all started by Imperialists faking a war crime in order to justify entering a war. The party doing the faking always lies and says they are "doing this to stop an existential threat", when in reality they are the Imperialists and they are the ones interested in stealing resources/land etc.

In "Moonlight", Sisko pulls the Bush/Reagan defense. He is justified in faking WMDs, baby incubators, Gulf of Tonkins and what not, he thinks, because the enemy is even worse. The episode endorses the behaviour we see in the real world by making real the fantastical existential threat which those in the real world use to bolster their similar lies.

The reason DS9 believes this is okay, is because DS9 literally thinks the Dominion is Germany in WW2. It gets away with this shallow thinking because most Westerners have a very cartoonish view of WW2, a conflict in which the West were complicit in the creation of fascism, and actively fanned the class warfare which let to Hitler (not to mention most subsequent dictators, terrorists etc across the globe).

And of course the West in WW2 were, in aggregate, worse Imperialists than Germany. Britain would kill almost 2 billion in India over its 200 year rule there, not to mention it had colonies across the globe. America would itself commit genocides in the Phillipines and Indonesia and so forth. The point is, DS9 uses very well known real world behaviour but obscures the lessons we should learn from them. If DS9 were intellectually honest, it would LITERALLY DEAL with the Federation's slide into horrible fascism and vehemently denounce this as unnaceptable. Instead all the episodes like MOONLIGHT just tip-toe or abandon these issues.

The Dominion as portrayed in DS9 is a fantasy. It does not and can not exist. To say it has a real world analogue is to insult the historical causes which led to whatever analogue you find, and to obscure the proper way to solve the end result of the historical causes which led to whatever analogue you find.

Episodes like MOONLIGHT are anti-intellectual in the worst ways, because they bolster dangerous myths.
Fri, Jan 30, 2015, 3:16am (UTC -6)
, a conflict in which the West were complicit in the creation of fascism

Ah, here we go. More apologist nonsense. You can't go through life blaming every evil that comes along on the big bad West. I will agree that punishing Germany too long and in a silly way resulted in people of Germany uprising and voting Hitler... but that's the shallow way of looking at it. Hitler really did sort out the problems caused to the everyday people, while the governing parties of Germany ignored their electorate. THAT is the reason he came to power - along with the West (like Chamberlain) ignoring his threat and believing flowers would help.
Fri, Jan 30, 2015, 7:10am (UTC -6)
"In "Moonlight", Sisko pulls the Bush/Reagan defense. He is justified in faking WMDs, baby incubators, Gulf of Tonkins and what not, he thinks, because the enemy is even worse. The episode endorses the behaviour we see in the real world by making real the fantastical existential threat which those in the real world use to bolster their similar lies."

I said it above and I'll say it again. Apples and Oranges. Sisko did not lie to the Federation to get them to join the war. He lied to what is essentially an enemy of the Federation to get them to declare war on another enemy of the Federation.

I don't care if it was all lies, that's just good business sense. It'd be like if we could have gotten Japan and Germany to declare war on each other in the middle of WW2. I don't care what we had to fabricate to do so, that would have been AWESOME.

The Romulans are literally complicit in Dominion attacks coming out of their space. We aren't even lying to our allies. We're lying to our enemies to trick them into fighting each other. This episode is only "grey" and "dark" because of the twist that Garak had planned to murder the guy all along. Sisko ends up an accomplice to murder. If he had accepted the FAAAAAAAAAAKE the episode would have barely tipped into off white.

Using spy tactics to make your enemies go to war with each other is barely even morally questionable.....

As to us being complicit in the creation of Facism, I agree with DLPB. It's a bit shallow. The few world powers can be "butterfly effected" into causing anything. Because actions have a complex series of consequences. Coming out of "The Great War", which people of the time believed was the war to end all wars, appeasement seemed like a good idea because another world war was unfathomable. Until the stupid end they really thought they could prevent it. Hindsight is 20/20.

And as to American Imperialism in the Philippines.... to call it genocide in a paragraph underneath the one where you talk about Hitler is about as horribly over exaggerating as you can get. War crimes? Sure. America has had a dark spots to it's history, no denying that(including the Native Americans). But genocide? Nah.

As to Britain and India... I really don't know about about their histories to tell you that you're exaggerating, but if it's anything like your version of American history....
Mon, Feb 16, 2015, 11:16am (UTC -6)
One of the best Sisko episodes. Some people want to say in "For the Uniform," was a moral or questionable behavior for Sisko, well I disagree somewhat, he did warn them and they were able to escape and put an end to Eddington's treachery.

In the "Pale Moonlight" Sisko did what was necessary to save billions of people. The price was a bargain. Garak did pretty well in this episode, but I feel, "Broken Link" he was great.
Dave in NC
Mon, Feb 16, 2015, 4:04pm (UTC -6)
This entire episode can be boiled down to this question:

When faced with complete and total annihilation, do the ends justify the means?

The answer is obvious: if you are interested in protecting your loved ones and your very way of life, you don't really have an option.

Besides, do any of us believe that if the Dominion HAD defeated the Federation, they would have left the Romulans alone? From everything we know about the Founders and their motivations, the Romulans would have ended up fighting that war anyways.

Sisko's choice was the correct one.
Fri, Mar 6, 2015, 9:32pm (UTC -6)
I know some hate political comments on real life events but...

The government is protecting your money ( oil backed currency ), oil supply and world control, by controlling and manipulating its "Dominion" the middle east.

You can blame the government for its deceptions ( just like you can blame Sisko for millions of Romulan deaths ) but...

... you have to allow government " to do the things you cannot do, the 'darker things' " ( like Garak )

Trek has always been about social commentary, and the best line ever in Trek is from Quark during the station battle - something like 'morals only apply in times of happiness and peace, people become more savage when they are on the brink of desperation'


Sisko - acting like the American people during Iraq - moralizing evil acts by punching Garak and blaming him

Garak - American government - doing what is necessary and no caring about morality, but reminding Sisko, our way of life cannot be preserved without immoral actions.
Fri, Mar 6, 2015, 9:36pm (UTC -6)
What I meant by the above in one sentence is:

" People want to pretend to be moral, but secretly have blood on their hands, and blame the group rather then themselves, so they believe their own propaganda about being good people. "
Sun, Mar 8, 2015, 3:45am (UTC -6)
Maybe I should have made this comment earlier when this happened but, why did just 20 ships weaken the Romulans and the Cardassians? These were superpowers. The Tal Shiar was just a secret branch just like the Obsidian Order and I am sure they weren't stupid enough to take all of there operatives on this mission. I can see where the Klingons devasted the Cardassians but not the Romulans. Does anyone see where I am coming from?
Fri, Apr 3, 2015, 5:10am (UTC -6)
Some of the nit-picking in this thread is so amusing. This is fiction and drama guys not a doco. It works metaphorically and dramatically. As such it has all the elements if an outstanding even legendary episode. It has both moral and dramatic ambiguity and conflict, which is what makes Shakespeare great. Tragedy is defined as good people doing evil things through force of circumstances. It's gritty and subversive,all great art is subversive because it takes us out of our comfort zone and makes us question our beliefs and values. Both evil and morality are relative.It's a matter of nuance and this ep runneth over with nuance. Any other view is just childish. Bravo to the brave scriptwriters. Brooks shines by and large,the theatrical mode of acting is not necessarily unsuitable for TV, Robinson is stellar as usual and Quark summarises the whole theme of the ep aptly:"I always knew there was a bit of Ferengi in you"& "every man has his price".A Ferengi rule of acquisition? I don't think so.A very human truth. That's the brilliance of ST: how all the different aliens represent different facets of humanity.A complex great ep all round , who says you can't give it more than 4 stars? At least 8 out of 4.
Thu, Jun 4, 2015, 3:35am (UTC -6)
A great episode; what Icarus says, I second. And I do think it was one of Brooks' best performances. He erases the record while saying he can live with it. How conflicted can you get?
Wed, Jun 10, 2015, 11:27pm (UTC -6)
I am getting so tired of all the haters complaining about Avery Brooks' performances, especially in an episode like this one where he truly was spectacular (Beyond the Stars also was an amazing performance that is unfairly criticized on this site). This is undoubtedly one of the top 10 Trek episodes of all time (though I'd place Visitor and Stars ahead of it in DS9's run) and is simply spell-binding from start to finish. The story is another perfect job by Fields who also did perhaps my all time favorite Trek episode (The Inner Light) even if Moore may have taken a rewrite credit. I just can't say enough about this episode but I will try to nail down the important points:

-First, while Avery Brooks was stellar in this reluctantly menacing turn as Sisko, the obvious super star of the episode was Andrew Robinson as Garak, as always. This guy is simply the finest actor on the series and his episodes truly never disappoint. The writing and performance come together here even more so than any other Garak episode I can think of (though "The Die is Cast" comes to mind as well) and the payoff is spellbinding television.

-Second, the riveting suspense sustained throughout the episode is palpable and visceral. Jammer was not kidding about "being glued to the TV"! I truly feared for the survival of the Federation when Vreenak hissed, "It's a faaaaake!" Each act compounded the suspense and the twist end definitely caught me by surprise the first time I watched this way back in '98.

-Third, the flashback style as narrated by Sisko trying to justify what he has done is a very effective plot device that gives the episode a foreboding foreshadowing quality that gives away just enough info to make the viewer wary as to what is coming without giving away the game. I totally agree with Jammer here that the final scene is palpable in its emotional context, giving us a glimpse of what this ordeal has done to Sisko and the emotional toll that has been exacted upon him throughout the entire Dominion war. I would argue that the immoral decisions he made during "For the Uniform" could also be ascribed to this sustained stress level he has been subjected to over such a sustained period of time.

-Finally, I must comment on the resolution of the episode, which I find brilliant and so "Garak" in character. Always my favorite character of the series, this strikes me as just the sort of thing he would do, misdirecting everyone (even Sisko who was his "partner in crime" so to speak) while staying two steps ahead to ensure his goal was reached by any means necessary. This is exactly the sort of intelligent and devious plan that only he could have dreamed up, much less pulled off. I wonder if, when the writers first conjured up the idea of an Cardassian ex-spy recurring character, they had any idea how perfectly realized his potential would become over the run of DS9? Obviously the lion-share of credit must go to Robinson, who's smooth and powerful delivery allowed the writers the luxury of fully fleshing out the character in a way not often seen in a guest starring role. To be honest, Garak in many ways is a more complete and essential character in the show than some of the main cast.

Well there you have it. I decided against going into my personal feelings regarding the controversial aspects of this episode vis-a-vis Rodenberry's vision and ITPM's "ends justify the means" mentality. To be honest, DS9's darker tone and penchant for showing how in real life there are no easy answers to complex questions set it apart from the other series and was a breath of fresh air in what had become a slightly stale franchise by the end of TNG's run. Sisko is my favorite Captain precisely because he seems so much more believable as a person than the others. I don't care how "evolved" we become as a society (and flat out reject the slavishly liberal tone of the rest of the series), when you face an existential crisis as acute as what has befallen the Federation during the Dominion War, you do what you have to to survive and that is an undeniable truth that I'm sure will exist in the 24th century just as it does in the 21st.
Thu, Jun 11, 2015, 12:54am (UTC -6)
I am getting so tired of all the haters

I am getting tired of criticism being shouted down as "hating", or those criticizing being called "haters" by intolerant zealots.
Thu, Jun 11, 2015, 7:13am (UTC -6)
Seriously? Intolerant zealots?

Haters in modern slang is closer in meaning to "buzzkill" than anything worth getting worked up about. One might argue that it's easier to tear apart a bad episode than praise a good one. But when the majority of one's posts are negative, "buzzkill" is about right.

Haters gonna hate and all that is just about not letting the negativity get you down. It's not about labeling the other person anything serious.
Tue, Aug 11, 2015, 8:16am (UTC -6)
Is this episode bulletproof? No. Is it interesting & engaging? Yes. 3 out of 4 stars.

The ideas & debates put forth are certainly entertaining.
Fri, Oct 16, 2015, 3:55pm (UTC -6)
A great episode, but reduced a bit by Sisko's physical assault of Garak at the end. There was really no excuse for that, and Sisko is lucky that it isn't Garak's style to press charges, because if he had, Odo certainly couldn't have ignored it.
Thu, Nov 5, 2015, 8:32pm (UTC -6)
Jack - I have to disagree with your assessment of Sisko's physical assault on Garak. That was the whole point of the episode. Sisko 'looses it' when he realizes that Garak's 'detour' was to plant a strategic bomb on the Romulan Spaceship. Sisko delivers some accusations. And Garak, with a bloodied face, comes back with the most important line in the episode - "That's why you came to me". The devious, the plotters, the 'Obsidian Order'. The episodically developed semi-symbiotic relationship between these two - neither good nor bad. Only real. That's the message I took from this episode. And this was a Garek episode (perfectly acted), not just a Sisko episode.

Fri, Nov 20, 2015, 7:36am (UTC -6)
It almost doesn't matter to me whether or not Brooks is a good actor (for the record, I love his acting) because the timbre if his voice on its own is so compelling. Therefore I love the framing device, cheesy as it is, for letting him monologue.

And an episode placing Brooks and Robinson together and asking some tough questions about war and the Trek universe is of course going to have some over the top moments, since there's not that much subdued crew camaraderie. Still a great and compelling ep that held up to my 3rd rewatch. 4 stars for sure.
Sun, Dec 27, 2015, 3:38pm (UTC -6)
Dan said:

"All it cost was the life of one romulan senator and one criminal"

I guess the 4 romulan body guards don't count...

Henchman never count in such things. Protaganists will have second thought about whether their conscience will let them go through with killing some Big Bad, but usually only after hacking through dozens of his goons to get that far...
Sun, Dec 27, 2015, 3:48pm (UTC -6)
@ Craig

That doesn't really wash. From the outset, and also all along, Garak warned Sisko exactly what might be involved with all this business, even offering him a chance or two in the middle to back out...Sisko never did.

For Sisko to decide to up and have a fit over it at the end was ridiculous.
Sat, Jan 2, 2016, 1:25am (UTC -6)
@Jack, I think I'll have to join Craig on this one, but for different reasons. Yes Sisko did jump the gun and punch Garak, but Garak has gotten away with quite a bit. Sisko could have kicked Garak off the station when he blew up his shop or when he lied about the message he received from Tain and then proceeded to steal a runabout, he would have did it too, but the changling Bashir caught him. Another time in "Body Parts" Garak could have gotten them all killed if Worf had not caught him trying to fire into the Great Link.

ITPM was more of a Sisko episode than a Garak one. Of course Andrew did well in this one, but he was much better in Body Parts, he even had better lines.
Fri, Jan 22, 2016, 1:56pm (UTC -6)
my favourite ds9 episode. just amazing.

anyone else think section 31 is involved somehow? no matter how desperate, I can't see the federation approving Sisko's plan.

Garak really should have been a regular. probably the most interesting character in the series.
Mon, Jan 25, 2016, 11:52am (UTC -6)
@ canman

I don't think they ever got any official approval though, did they? I think it was Sisko and Garak acting alone in this case.

Although you'd think that Bashir would've had to report to somebody about the biomedic gel eventually. Hmmm.

Agreed on Garak, too.
Mon, Jan 25, 2016, 8:24pm (UTC -6)
Love the episode but the amount of hypocrisy in it is unbelievable considering the attitude about section 31 and the attitude in later episodes about them.

The way it all transpired was also very sloppy. If Sisko needed the gel why on earth would he go through Bashir. Surely if Bashir could get it so easily and surely if if it was supposed to be so important why didn't it go through more secret channels. It makes no sense.

I do love the episode but you need to look past a lot of things as I could pull this epiose apart on just about every scene.
Bashir's steampunk brain
Fri, Jan 29, 2016, 6:40am (UTC -6)
Sisko asked Bashir directly for the gel because his plans were vetted by the federation, as stated in the episode.
Diamond Dave
Sat, Feb 6, 2016, 6:41am (UTC -6)
Stirring stuff. Good people doing questionable things to achieve justifiable ends always enters into the realm of impassioned debate - witness the comments here. Where this episode succeeds is that it shows not only the cost to Sisko - the "self-respect of one Starfleet officer" as Garak puts it - but also the tangible benefit. He knows that he's done the right thing - and he knows he hasn't. It's that contradiction that lies at the heart of that great final scene.

Of course, to counterpoint that self-examination we need Garak, who has no qualms or remorse about doing what needs to be done. Here is the master of expediency, doing what he does best. Is Sisko like Garak then? Of course not, and again that's what creates the dramatic tension.

It's a wonderful episode, beautifully written, acted and directed. "It's best not to dwell on such minutiae" indeed. 4 stars.
William B
Tue, Feb 16, 2016, 7:30pm (UTC -6)
I'm not sure where to begin talking about the episode's broader implications, so I'll just say this: as a piece of drama and character work and mood, I was really impressed. This is some of the best material for Garak in the series -- entirely from Sisko's perspective, so that we miss *some* of Garak's nuances, but still wonderfully conveyed. This and "Inquisition" form quite the two-parter, a real uptick in quality for the season in terms of entertainment/character, and very troubling.
William B
Tue, Feb 16, 2016, 7:45pm (UTC -6)
One thing I will say now is that I think Sisko is probably right that it's in the Romulans' best interests to join the war, but that his reasoning is entirely, as Dax puts it early on, self-serving. First of all, Sisko told Bajor to stay out of the Federation to avoid destruction, so we know that Sisko plays favourites and does make allowances for some powers to escape the conflict. Bajor is a minor power compared to Romulus, I'll grant, but there it is. He cannot genuinely know what is good for the Romulans, and I found Vreenak quite a sympathetic figure -- his initial sarcasm quickly was revealed as something of a shield and he seemed willing to hear Sisko out, while also recognizing that Sisko cannot genuinely speak for Romulan interests -- metaphorically represented by his congratulating Sisko on the very good replica of the Romulan drink, which only affected him "for a second." By contrast, Garak's reasoning is also self-serving, but first of all, he does not have a Starfleet Officer presumptive moral standard to uphold, and, well, Garak applies to the Romulans a somewhat similar standard he has for his own people -- he views them as fools for trusting the Dominion. Garak's willingness to work against and even kill Cardassians to save Cardassia as a whole makes his perspective that the Romulans must be manipulated in a way that ultimately helps them (the Alpha Quadrant) more consistent with his overriding belief system -- and he is not particularly making the claims that Sisko makes.

One scene that really did not work for me: Sisko's bribing Quark. Quark's lines were good, but come on -- Sisko leveraged Quark's nephew's arrest to make Quark do what he wanted in episode one. Why is he behaving as such a shrinking violet at the prospect of dirty dealings with Quark now? For the most part, I believed Sisko's reactions throughout the episode, but this scene really pushed the idea of Sisko as a heretofore upstanding paragon of virtue who doesn't know how to bribe a man past the point of credulity given how willing Sisko generally is to be underhanded especially with Quark.
Wed, Feb 17, 2016, 10:39am (UTC -6)
@William B

Very insightful review. Garak is being more honest than Sisko is in his words and actions. Still, in Sisko's defense, every time I watch this episode I always try to think of a way to legitimately get the Romulans to side with the Federation, but haven't come up with one yet.

As for Sisko and Quark, I think scene shows that Sisko was very preoccupied with the Dominion war (becoming an Adjutant surely changed his perspective). I think he lost part of himself from the whole conflict forgetting some of the gambits he pulled off as a mere Commander.
William B
Wed, Feb 17, 2016, 10:50am (UTC -6)
@Chrome, I agree with the first point -- the reality *is* that it's hard to know what would convince the Romulans. And I do believe that Sisko believes that it's in their best interests, to his credit. There are some episodes where I find Sisko's resorting to extreme measures hard to fathom -- the WMDing of the planet in "For the Uniform" -- but I get how this situation he takes the only course that seems to be open to him.

I think you're right about the scene with Quark, though I'm not sure if it was executed well enough. I think the other thing is that in other conflicts with Quark, Sisko always believed he was right even when I don't think he was -- Sisko had a kind of brazen confidence blackmailing Quark into staying on the station in "Emissary," or making him kiss the Nagus' sceptre in "The Search," whereas here he really does think he's doing the wrong thing at the moment, though ironically I find this particular aspect (bribing Quark to drop charges) pretty low on his list of sins.

I like how Sisko's discomfort with the small-scale things he has to do in the episode is really something of a mislead -- ok, so he's working with a slimy programmer, and that's unpleasant -- but it's something of a distraction from the real issue, the manufactured evidence and later the assassination. I suspect Sisko finds the details unnerving in a way because they are smaller sins than the bigger ones, and thus a little easier to contemplate.
Wed, Mar 2, 2016, 10:42pm (UTC -6)
1. Did we not JUST see, in the very preceding episode, a message about the *exact* opposite of this? Did DS9's "brilliant" writers not just spend an hour convincing us that the ends did *not* justify the means and that sisko et al, with great conviction, decided that section 31's approaches were wrong? Could you pick a worst back to back of two episodes?

2. This episode nicely sums up why DS9 is the worst trek.

Zero stars.
Wed, Mar 2, 2016, 10:55pm (UTC -6)
Oh and don't get me wrong. This episode doesn't make ds9 the worst trek because of siskos plan. It makes it the worst because it really drives home the fact that the writers as a whole had no business creating or maintaining a universe. Ds9 is stumble after stumble, endless head scratching, bumbling, and contradictions. Poorly shaped arcs, consistently poor follow through, a feel that the universe does not exceed the bounds of ds9 force fields (it's like we're in another Wesley crusher warp core experiment), etc. Ds9 didn't even start getting half decent until it started rehashing TNG plots in one form or another.
Thu, Mar 3, 2016, 10:25am (UTC -6)

You could interpret it that Sisko was finally willing to go as far as Section 31 (albeit blindly) because of how bad the war was going for the the Federation. And I do want to emphasize that Sisko only had a vague idea of what methods Garrack would use, and probably felt like he hadn't crossed his moral event horizon until the end of the episode when found out he did. Oops!
Thu, Mar 3, 2016, 1:34pm (UTC -6)
@Chrome I could interpret it that way only if sisko deciding that section 31 was questionable wasnt, almost literally, the period at the end of the last episodes script.

Now if the last episode, for example, had everybody on the crew questioning section 31s motives, except sisko (e.g. he slowly could turn to the "dark side" at the end), now that would have been a more interesting and consistent development. Even as some as ending it with a sisko sounding unsure, perhaps a shot of him staring thoughtfully out a window, or a log entry or conversation with Dax, anything to show that perhaps after further thought sisko was clearly the type of character who could be inspired by the section 31 actions that the rest of the crew despised. Or anything. But to jump straight from the last episode to this one and have sisko do an implied 180 between episodes? Blech.
William B
Mon, May 30, 2016, 5:57pm (UTC -6)
I was just reminded today that earlier versions of this story focused on Jake uncovering a conspiracy as a reporter, and in particular that an intermediate draft had him uncovering what Sisko was doing. While I think it was the right decision not to have that happen in this episode given the amount of material there is, I can't tell you how much I would have loved to see the show Go There of having Jake uncovering Sisko's actions ala Watergate, maybe in season seven. Granting for the moment that the fact that Sisko succeeds is part of what makes this episode so chilling, the possibilities of another character, especially Jake, finding out about this and how their image of Sisko would adjust really excite me. An interesting might-have-been.
Fri, Jun 3, 2016, 1:26am (UTC -6)
"At 0800 hours, station time, the Romulan Empire formally declared war against the Dominion." I'll admit, the very first time I saw this episode, that statement left me with my jaw on the floor in shock and awe. To this day it still sends a chill down my spine. Beautiful!

There is something that really bothers me about "In the Pale Moonlight", however. Among the episode's detractors there exists a very vocal subset (not all the detractors, mind you, just a subset) who while decrying it as being a complete betrayal of Roddenberry's vision also fawn over AbramsTrek. Apparently, when somebody takes Kirk and turns him into a petulant, little, narcissistic man-child, Spock into a whiny momma's boy and a creepy perv who sleeps with his students while he's teaching at the Academy, Scotty into little more than comedic relief, Uhura into a foul-mouthed whore who literally sleeps her way to the top and Sulu and Chevok into cliched caricatures of themselves, (not to mention obliterating a HUGE part of the mythology by destroying Vulcan), that's apparently okay. But, craft a story that is a vital arc episode, an honest moral dilemma and a powerful character piece while simultaneously gluing you to your seat in rapt attention from the opening teaser to literally the final fade and that's a completely unacceptable sell-out and sheer treason against our one true Lord and Savior's blessed vision of what Trek is supposed to be? Call me crazy, but I think turning beloved characters on their heads is a worse offense than actually using Trek to examine a powerful aspect of the Human condition - our desire to quash evil wherever we find it.

Which is better - to keep your high-minded principles intact but go down to inglorious defeat and/or slavery or live in a peaceful world where mutual respect, tolerance and understanding reign but which is all based on a lie? Personally, while I do agree that principles are important and a person should hold true to them (as long as they're moral principles), when faced with such an existential crisis like the Federation is facing here, maybe (just maybe), the ends can justify the means. After all, principles are nice, but if you aren't alive or free to practice them then they aren't of much use, are they? So, count me firmly in the camp that thinks Sisko made the right call here in doing what was necessary to bring the Romulans into the war. The very survival of the Federation (hell, the whole Alpha Quadrant) was at stake. Maybe that means that I'm also predisposed to agree with some of the tactics of Section 31 as well. If that's so, then like Sisko, I think I can live with it.

This episode, unlike any other, shows just why Sisko is the man to be on the front lines of a total war - and why none of the other Trek captains could've possibly done the job he does. Kirk may have been willing to entertain the idea but would probably have ultimately decided not to go ahead with it. Picard would have undoubtedly rejected the idea completely out-of-hand. Janeway.... well, hell, I don't know how Janeway would respond; she's so inconsistently written. Archer might have done it (at least post-Xindi Archer), but I'm not sure. Sisko, however, is more than willing to get his hands dirty in order to get the job done. And unlike in "For the Uniform", here he is doing it for a legitimate reason, not just to satisfy a personal vendetta.

Finally, the fall of Betazed shows just why I love world-building so much in my Trek. If this had been another planet-of-the-week, or even a lessor-known Federation world, it wouldn't have been anywhere near as impactful for the audience. Making the conquered world be a well-known location gives the audience an "oh shit" feeling in the pit of the stomach as well as the ability to really sympathize with what Sisko is both going through and doing. And for those who criticize the choice of Betazed over the original idea of having Vulcan be the planet to fall, that just proves my point - we need more world-building! What other planet could they have chosen? Aside from Earth itself, I'm hard pressed to see an alternative. Vulcan was rejected as it would carry "too much" weight for the viewers. If Earth was conquered, even the most ardent detractors of the episode would probably have been screaming for Sisko to not only lie to the Romulans but for the Federation to launch full-scale WMDs at Cardassia!


Peter G.
Fri, Jun 3, 2016, 10:45am (UTC -6)
@ Luke,

Nice review, but I have one small quibble with this:

"Kirk may have been willing to entertain the idea but would probably have ultimately decided not to go ahead with it."

After watching "The Enterprise Incident" I don't think there can be much doubt that Kirk was quite willing to lie to the Romulans, steal their technology in violation of treaty, and in that case even do so right to their faces. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if that one incident was single reason for the clause in the Treaty of Algeron banning the Federation's use of cloaking technology.
Neil in LA
Sun, Jun 5, 2016, 7:18pm (UTC -6)
Now that I've seen this episode a few times, I truly appreciate some of the moments of great acting and writing, particularly with Garak and Sisko in the lift, discussing the trade for the data rod. The glare Sisko throws after Garak's "The quantity I believe is negotiable," is priceless -- somewhere inside him he knows that Garak is capable of deep, multi-layered deception, and I think he can't quite believe that he's gotten himself in this situation, to the point of bartering with Garak's unseen contact for material that could be used for unauthorized genetic experimentation.

And, "Uh, It's best not to dwell on such minutiae." I was howling.

All that said, I wonder now if Garak didn't manipulate this from the very beginning. Perhaps his cadre of Cardassian informants weren't actually murdered, but Garak decided to to use this ploy to up the ante for Sisko -- human lives were expended from the outset, so more drastic measures would be required. Perhaps Garak knew from the beginning that evidence of Dominion treachery would never surface (in a form suitable to change Romulan minds at least), and that manufacturing the evidence would have a very small chance of succeeding, and so he developed a fast track plan -- and all he needed was the authority of a starbase commander, and the access to materials and currency that this brings.
Thu, Jul 14, 2016, 9:06pm (UTC -6)
A lot of the earlier comments on this episode & the previous one are about whether or not this fits in with Roddenberry's "vision" of the future. I think it depends on which Roddenberry you're talking about.

It's clear that the guy in the 1980's, who ran TNG for the first 2 years, would not have allowed it. This Roddenberry said the TNG episode "Family" couldn't happen in his view of the future...humans had moved completely beyond conflict (somehow). Fortunately, he wasn't running the show at that time and "Family" got made, along with many other episodes that would not have fit with his vision of the future. It's no coincidence that TNG found its voice once 80's Roddenberry lost control of the series. Very little Trek actually lives up to 80's Roddenberry's ideals. Most of the episodes that don't violate those ideals are technobabble stories or "preach to aliens" episodes. I don't even think all of TNG's first 2 seasons lives up to his ideals; I think there are at least a few "mad admiral" stories that fail his vision.

A more interesting question is whether Roddenberry of the 60's would have approved. It was this guy who created the franchise. He had a vision of an improved future, which was not so over-the-top utopian. Most (if not all) Trek fits with his vision of the future. I think he definitely would have appreciated these episodes as great drama, but would he have felt they fit into his vision? We'll never know for sure, but given all the instances of humans behaving badly in TOS (which others have partially listed in the comments for these episodes), I think he would have accepted it.

Oh, and as to this episode, count me with those who think this is maybe the best DS9 episode. Count me also with those who think Brooks is great here.
Wed, Aug 31, 2016, 4:45pm (UTC -6)
What an astounding episode this was. I would place it in the upper 1-2% in the great pantheon of all Star Trek television series. It was just tremendous. I was completely engrossed and absorbed from the opening scene. It's always fun to see Garak in his element, doing his thing, however, watching Sisko grapple with his ethics and code of honor was truly mesmerizing. In my opinion, this was DS9's finest hour.
Fri, Nov 11, 2016, 8:00am (UTC -6)
Great episode - a study in moral dilemmas whilst reaffirming why Garak is the best character in the series, if not the franchise. The ending was great as well - glad Vreenak got blown up and Romulan steel could now be used as cannon fodder.
Paul Davis
Mon, Nov 28, 2016, 1:17am (UTC -6)
Possibly the most affecting episode I've watched of DS9. By the end I was getting choked up. Not just at the torture you could feel he went through but out of sadness seeing a beloved character knowingly put a little darkness in his soul for "the greater good".

I agree with every word of Jammers review. I'd add that without all the other episodes that have built this world and these people it would not have been as emotionally jarring and draining as it was.

Considering everything that happened this will sound strange, but this was a pure joy to watch.

Absolute masterpiece.
Supersized Scott
Wed, Nov 30, 2016, 1:49am (UTC -6)
I find it amazing that nearly 9 years after the original comment was made on this episode that we're here still talking about it with such intrigue.

Whether you liked the episode or not, it certainly goes to the quality of the story that this has happened.
Mon, Dec 19, 2016, 1:33pm (UTC -6)
Garak knows what he is - truly self-actualized. And that makes him, in a way, the most admirable of the DS-9 regulars. I'm getting a bit tired of all the plot-lines with our heroes revealing themselves capable of doing questionable, sometimes even despicable things, and having the writers try to rehabilitate them with a few minutes of handwringing - and then on to the next episode.

Kira was a murderous terrorist who killed innocents. Not long ago she interfered with an official investigation of serial murders to go off on her own, while carrying an innocent baby in her womb, on some half-cocked revenge mission. She survived only because some writer figured out how to have her eat some herbs that would counteract a sedative that would prevent the murderer from cutting a non-viable fetus out of her womb before killing her too.

How can anyone argue that Sisko's not the obsessive type? His reckless pursuit of Eddington, and now this craziness with him deciding, unilaterally, that billions of a species need to be on his side of a war, or else.... And for someone who's supposed to be such a great dad, let's not forget he not only introduced, but left alone, his son to his mother's "mirror-universe" counterpart. Even if she didn't kidnap him and almost cause his death, who thought it was a good idea to let his son deal with that kind of psychological weight on his own?

"Old" Odo erased the existence of 8000 people beause he "loved" Kira so much. Yikes. Later in another episode he's so jazzed up getting gooey with a Founder that he completely neglects his duty and nearly gets everyone killed.

In what is considered to be the finest episode of the series, Jake is more than willing to make sure that the woman he befriends and shows his work to will never exist, along with an entire timeline of other people and events, just because he wants his Daddy back.

This may be the most self-centered group of TV series regulars since the Seinfeld crew. But thank goodness there's Garak. He makes no pretense about getting what he wants at any cost. He knows what he is, and he's very, very good at it. In a way, he's the moral center of the show. :)
Sun, Jan 1, 2017, 12:44pm (UTC -6)
First of all, before I start criticising it, this episode is worth at least 3 or 3.5 on dramatic value. Issues:

- it seems unbelievable that Starfleet, which has a whole intelligence division (as well as Section 31), would approve such a ridiculous and risky plan (Sisko relying on a couple of ne'er-do-wells) to get the Romulans into the war. The fact it does totally backfire underscores this further. If Garak hadn't murdered Vreenak, which isn't especially credible in and of itself (I'd have thought Romulans were meticulous about scanning their vessels for bombs, and Vreenak could easily have recorded and sent an encrypted communication about what happened on DS9 before his ship was blown up), then Federation-Romulan relations would have been massively damaged to the detriment of the Federation's war chances.

It doesn't make sense that the Romulans were so reluctant to join the war anyway. With the destruction of the Tal Shiar and changeling infiltration on Romulus, they understood right from the start that the Dominion represented a threat to them. I know the Romulans are calculating and pragmatic but it doesn't make sense for them to sit back while the Dominion attacks their neighbours and gets stronger and stronger.

The ep is all about Sisko's moral dilemma, but it lets him off the hook at the end by having Garak commit the murders without his explicit knowledge or consent. If Sisko had indeed had his way, the entire scheme would have collapsed causing massive damage. Garak does what needs to be done in the situation to save the day. Which is why Sisko's entitled ethical outrage at Garak is so hypocritical - and indeed, Garak points this out. But Garak's actions truly save the Alpha Quadrant here, and Sisko rewards him for it with two punches in the face.

This is a good episode, for me I guess it's a 3.5, but I wanted to address those issues given the way the episode has been fetishised over and above the rest of the series for its "darkness". I really think Starfleet's intelligence, diplomatic and defence arms should have and would have had a much more professional approach to the Romulan situation rather than allowing Sisko to put everything at stake like this.
Sun, Jan 1, 2017, 12:48pm (UTC -6)
Other side notes: The choice of Betazed is perfect, and Avery Brooks's skilful yet nonchalant impression of his father is a wonderful little detail - the speech mannerisms are absolutely perfect and really invoke Joseph Sisko's presence. It's a joyful, warm moment in one of the series's heavier episodes. Also Garak's "it may explode" is hilarious.
Tue, Jan 10, 2017, 11:03am (UTC -6)
It occurred to me that Garak may have already possessed a data rod and was using the opportunity to do a side deal on the biomimetic gel. Wouldn't put it past him.,
dave johnson
Tue, Jan 10, 2017, 3:38pm (UTC -6)
Yeah, no question. I doubt the writers were thinking that deeply; however, it was made pretty clear the he had the assinnation planned from the beginning and was not transparent. So, anything could have been concocted including him saying all his contacts were dead. That could have been a ruse to get Sisko to cross the line to allow him to implement his real plan.

I would have loved a book written that did a fill out of this story. From Garak contacting his people in Cardassia, to getting the rod, finding Tolar (even a chapter on their history together), planting the bomb, what happened to the gel, etc.

I remember B5 did one complete novel just around the episode where they had the Technomages show up on the station, and it was pretty awesome to get all the ruses and "magic" they were doing to be explained.
Sun, Jan 22, 2017, 9:11pm (UTC -6)
Interesting yes but truly shows Jammers cynicism and degrading contempt for a brighter future. I mean really .
Fri, Feb 10, 2017, 11:30pm (UTC -6)
Wonderful episode. Highlight for Avery Brooks whom I have criticized in the past for his acting skills. He conveys the sense of self-berayal extremely well here. Garak's attempt at 'relieving' the captain of guilt was anice touch by the writers. Everything else, Jammer already said in his fantastic review. I echo the sentiments of Tomás in his comments from.. errr.. 9 years ago on Jammer's site and reviews..
Sun, Feb 12, 2017, 5:37pm (UTC -6)
I agree that the episode rigged it so that Sisko's actions are absolved of any real repercussions. Yes, he didn't expose Garak's murders, but he had no proof of them even if he decided to. Starfelet approved the plan, so his career wasn't at stake, and everything else he did was not that bad given the situation (Janeway had done far worse).
Paul Allen
Mon, Feb 13, 2017, 3:52pm (UTC -6)
An absolute masterpiece.

Love that tough decisions were made, and that the RIGHT decisions were made.

I'm watching DS9 & Voyager concurrently, and compared to the Voyager eps around the same time, Janeway makes utter terrible decisions. She's a boyscout who wants to placate every species 84-whatever, after it tries to end everyones lives, even if that means getting the Voyager crew killed.

Loving the gritty realism here instead on DS9.
Sat, Mar 11, 2017, 3:47pm (UTC -6)
I was relieved when he erased the diary entry in the end. The entire episode I was thinking, "What, they don't have hackers in the future?" It still seems like a big security risk that he even created the entry in the first place.
Sat, May 20, 2017, 1:12pm (UTC -6)
Yay!!! A script written to allow Brooks to showcase his "acting:"
1. Emphasize every syl-la-ble in random and unexpected ways
2. Randomly quiver your voice to simulate the hu-man emotions of "sadness" and "anger"
3. Make sure your eyes never match the emotion you're trying to convey with your mouth.
4. End your sentences like you're holding back ejaculation.
5. Repeat.

Garak shines as always.
Vulcan Logick
Sun, Jun 11, 2017, 9:42pm (UTC -6)
Just finished this episode again. Man it's powerful and badass. Jammer nails it perfectly in his review but I have to give props to Garaks character. The series in general does a good job with his complexity and cunning shadyness but this episode really highlights it. The way he orchestrates the series of events leading the Romulans entry into the war with a false flag operation is brilliant. The guy is like a magician and I enjoy him a lot in the series.

Alright "his way" awaits
Fri, Jun 16, 2017, 2:05am (UTC -6)
@William B I don't think Bajor is a "power" at all. Them joining the Federation would really make no difference. It's not really fair to call it playing favorites, since Bajor and Romulan Empire are not in the same position. I also don't believe Sisko before the war would be willing to go as far as this Sisko, who has been fighting a hopeless war for over a year.

"when somebody takes Kirk and turns him into a petulant, little, narcissistic man-child"

No argument there.

"Spock into a whiny momma's boy"

Because... He's angry his mom died? It's not like Spock was never shown to be sensitive on the subject of his mother. Given how much of Trek focuses on Daddy-son relationships, negative or positive (seriously, old as balls Jake changed decades long timeline to save his dad but Spock is somehow worse), deep bond between mother and son is precisely what it needs, especially given how easily disposed Kirk's mom is (IMO, fiction in general has or at least used to have pretty fucked up double standart regarding father-son and mother-son relationships). Admittedly, it could have done better than to just kill said mother off but that's besides the point.

"and a creepy perv who sleeps with his students while he's teaching at the Academy"

Admittedly, it is questionable, but they are both adults. I could see Spock trusting himself to have his objectivity as a teacher unaffected.

"Scotty into little more than comedic relief"

That's really not much more than he was in TOS or movies. At least Into Darkness used him as a moral center.

"Uhura into a foul-mouthed whore who literally sleeps her way to the top"

Okay, the hell is wrong with you? She didn't sleep her way to the top, she had a relationship with her teacher, yeah, but the movie made a point that she had qualification for the job and her relationship with Spock actually almost prevented her from getting it. And it's made clear she cares deeply for Spock (or what, was her comforting him in turbolift while crying supposed to be part of the facade).

@JC Well, unlike Section 31, Sisko had Starfleet's blessing, while they claim to answer to nobody. And at least Sisko's decisions came out of desperation, while them doing these things we are told is their modus operandi. There is a difference. And given how deeply troubled Sisko is in this and we are shown this all started as pretty innocent plan to just reveal already existing plan of Dominion invasion, I don't think this is 180 turn between episodes, it's at least 180 turn through out this episode.

@Peter G That is a different situation tho. If anything, Kirk was preventing war by doing it, since he was only making sure people who attacked them unprovoked wouldn't have decisive tactical advantage. Still, hard to say what Kirk would do in the face of Federation's destruction and Alpha Quadrant under the rule of a fascist empire....
Daniel B
Sat, Jul 8, 2017, 2:30am (UTC -6)
{ By giving Sisko "their blessing," Starfleet has essentially condoned one officer to lie, cheat, bribe, and cover up the truth. I see that as much more challenging than the idea of Section 31. }

Why is that worse than condoning many many people doing similar questionable things?
Sat, Jul 8, 2017, 7:55am (UTC -6)
"{ By giving Sisko "their blessing," Starfleet has essentially condoned one officer to lie, cheat, bribe, and cover up the truth. I see that as much more challenging than the idea of Section 31. }

Why is that worse than condoning many many people doing similar questionable things?"

You don't see an inherent difference between the philosophy of a black ops organization and the Federation's primary forces? Clearly one of these organizations is more in line with public opinion.
Real Ric
Mon, Jul 17, 2017, 10:55am (UTC -6)
People who hate DS9 are too used to the TNG paradigm - encounter resistance, shields at 30%, we will not compromise who we are, perhaps we can learn to co-exist, take us out of here warp 6 (the comfortable warp speed).

DS9 shows you don't always have that luxury of moving on, you don't always wrap things up in 45mins - sorry every episode doesn't end with alien jellyfish embracing.

The federation was built by people who wanted a better existence and the Dominion threaten that by going against everything the federation said no to (eugenics, domination etc)

This episode is a major arc for Sisko, whether he realizes it or not, he has become Eddington.

Quark quotes Rule of Acquisition 98 - every man has his price - Eddington's price were a bunch of displaced colonists, Sisko's is the Alpha Quadrant.

Was what he did right? Depends. If you're religious then your God sets the morality, if you're not then some charter simply replaces a holy book.

From a benthamite utilitarian aspect, Sisko did the right thing - the lives of a few Romulans, a criminal and Garak's contacts were worth dispensing with to turn the tide of a war that that by Bashir & co's predictions would have eventually claimed 9 billion lives.

But the slippery slope is that once you say "just this once" it's harder to stick to that and your precedents can eventually have you acting in the same way as the great evil you originally intended to defeat for the sake of peace.

The fact that DS9 invokes such thought and debate shows why it is the best Trek. TNG was too much of a rinse repeat idealistic fap-fest. Compare TOS to TNG and you see that unfortunately great creators in the old age become a bit more starry eyed and out of touch like Lucas with the original Star Wars trilogy compared to the prequels.

TNG fanboys seem to think only DS9 isn't Trek for its "shades of grey" but I question how closely they watched TOS.

Of course they retort "but by TNG we has evolved!" honestly, rewind history 400 years right now and tell me the people then were really *that* different than they are now. Why do you think the bible continues to be the most read, sold and translated book? Because the way people acted thousands of years before Christ has parallels even today.

Cultures change, tech improves but humans at their core don't shift as much as TNG fanboys and Roddenberry 2.0 would like you to believe.

Contest this? Best of both worlds, Worf and Data passed over as first officer for Shelby because it was war time against a formidable foe. Was that fair? I don't think so but I'm sure TNG fanboys will defend every single action and sentence in that series as being inspired by god Roddenberry while even the finest episodes of DS9 are not really Trek because of "shades of grey".

Face it, when you can't warp 6 away from your problems after 45 mins with a nice "supplemental" about how much you've learnt you get DS9 and since no TNG fanboys can resolve all their real world problems on their lunchbreak and warp 6 away to the next adventure, they should realize how great DS9 is.

"But 24th century we has evolved!"

*smacks head*
Steve Finlay
Tue, Aug 8, 2017, 10:13pm (UTC -6)
I haven't read all the comments, so I apologize if this has already been noted: The frame of the story is nearly identical to the frame of the opera Billy Budd, by Benjamin Britten. In that opera, the frame is used to show that Captain Vere CANNOT live with the memory. I think it has the same meaning in this episode.
Fri, Aug 25, 2017, 11:33pm (UTC -6)
3.5 stars

I thought it was a well done episode. I liked how there was the fundamental shift in the war with the huge development of the Romulans joining the war. The Romulans are a bit obtuse if they believed that the Dominion wouldn't eventually go after them. Maybe not at the moment. But once they defeated the Federation and Klingons of course they'd turn their sights to those who signed nonaggression pacts like the Romulans and Tholians. The Dominion only agreed to the treaty to clear the field as much as possible. So joining the war now would give the Romulans the greatest chance of victory by throwing their lot in with the other powerful Alpha Quadrant players rather than waiting til after the Federation and Klingons were defeated then facing Dominion all alone

I also loved the fact that a planet like Betazed we know and isn't a throwaway world is conquered by the Dominion. And Kira's comment about the Jem'Hadar now being just a stones throw away from key worlds as Vulcan, Andor and Tellar really sent home the bad way the war was going for the good guys

I thought the visual of the Romulan ship's arrival was well done--Sisko sending up the landing pad then It was coming down with nothing then the ship decloaking. Makes sense that the Romulans wouldn't want the Dominion to know of their meeting with the Federation

I generally don't have an issue with Aveey Brooks' acting but some of it in his log recording scenes was a bit much

Overall I thought it was a solid episode. I don't see it as quite the classic many do. I'm not one to view Trek in a special bubble so don't give it extra credit for simply doing something radical in Roddenberry's universe I judge it just like I would any other program. So didn't find it as compelling or as dark which tends to be why some love it to pieces. Still it's a very involving hour in the Dominion arc
Tue, Aug 29, 2017, 8:17pm (UTC -6)
@Real Ric

TNG is a late 80's wholesome Sci-Fi show that had trappings of its times. The dream of evolved human beings was subsequently overwritten.

The TNG fan boys are optimists and we do need them in our dark world to plot a future ahead as we're stuck In the Pale Moonlight, we live a world with terrorism, fundamentalism, fanaticism, racism, elitism, and all the worst that mankind has created. We want to rise above all this and seek strange new worlds, but to do that, we must face some ugly truths, not everyone is Captain Picard or Janeway, most are Kirk and Sisko, soldiers fighting for a better way of life while mired in the war.


Why can't it be both?

People know the CIA can be nasty and grotesque, they know the NSA is spying on them, and yet, they accept it still believing in Justice, Liberty, and Freedom in the US. Realistically, we gave up our moral high ground, but perspectively, we believe we're still right for compromising it.

Section 31 and Sisko's actions are nothing more than what people have come to accept from our own intelligence agencies or military officers.

If DS9 were produced in 207, this episode should have had a follow-up post dominion war. I'd love to think that Jake Sisko would discover this truth about his father and Garak's dealings, then pull a Snowden on both of them. Ultimately, the revelation in the 24th century as such revelations in 21st century, are meaningless, because We, the people, have accepted this reality (and our own acceptance also leads to denial into the Trump Administration's era)
Wed, Aug 30, 2017, 10:28am (UTC -6)
"Why can't it be both?

People know the CIA can be nasty and grotesque, they know the NSA is spying on them, and yet, they accept it still believing in Justice"

I don't think those two agencies have anything to do with each other, which shows how little the common person actually knows how they operate. The army, on the other hand, gives a news story at least once a week. That's the difference.
Peter G.
Wed, Aug 30, 2017, 12:44pm (UTC -6)

Those two agencies don't need to have anything to do with each other. The point seems to be that there are various nefarious things that go on in a "free" country and the people who accept it haven't sacrificed their idea that their country stands for justice. For my part it raises the question of what underlies that sense of justice still existing. Is it that justice isn't black and white and can include compromises, or is it more an issue of doublethink, where people can pretend anything they like, even contradictory things, in order to get by?

From my reading of this episode, I think Sisko is alluding more to the latter, where he decides in the end that he must live with it and that he'll accept his actions as somehow being concordant with his values. On the one hand he knows he's guilty, but on the other he's decided to accept the belief that he's not and not to live wracked with guilt. I think the point of the episode isn't so much that there's really no such thing as justice, but rather that slow compromises in justice can be justified using all kinds of doublethink, and that this can lead to a progression towards what the Cardassians ended up being. They, too, feel that they serve justice, even though their version of it is by this point so distorted that it reads to us as Nazism. The lesson to me isn't that there isn't really any true morality, but rather that terrible events like wars cause an erosion in morality and that this can turn a good people bad.
Wed, Aug 30, 2017, 1:16pm (UTC -6)
"Those two agencies don't need to have anything to do with each other. The point seems to be that there are various nefarious things that go on"

And my point is there's a difference between a classified agency and a standing force. That's why the CIA is different than the army. That's why Section 31 is different than Starfleet. The one that publishes its activities and lets the public react and complain to their elected officials (take the Vietnam War or even the War in Iraq as a good example) are the agencies that are more accountable.

Getting back to Trekker's original line, it's obviously not Starfleet's regular course of business to lie, cheat, and bribe. That's part of why Sisko is so disturbed here.
Peter G.
Wed, Aug 30, 2017, 1:56pm (UTC -6)
Chrome, I see no reason to expect the CIA and the army to be held to different standards of morality based on which conducts more secret operations. The CIA's activities may be less public but they are still supposed to have oversight and to obey American and international law. It may be *easier* for them not to, but that's beside the point. Both the CIA and the army conduct black ops, secret missions, and do thing the general public doesn't know about. Both do things that would outrage the public, and both are supposedly under the control of the executive, which in turn is supposed to implement the law. The point here isn't which agency is more accountable as they're both supposed to be accountable. If one of them isn't anymore that's good evidence that Trekker is right and that people have accepted things that are bad but still believe justice is being upheld.

In practice your comparison between Section 31 and the CIA is probably apt. But in principle it's not, because Section 31 isn't even supposed to exist, while the CIA is but goes beyond its legal mandate. Your suggestion was the the army going over the line would be more challenging than hearing about the CIA going over the line because maybe we sort of expect that from clandestine organizations, but again in practice I don't think you're right. People know all about various atrocities the military can do and it always blows over. They accept it, ignore it, or even allow it because the military is overall judged as being a force for good. With the CIA, though, most people barely know what it does and almost treat it like a spooky ghost story, like something from the movies with little reality to it. They're not concerned with the CIA for much the same reason the Federation citizens probably don't care about Section 31 - because they're not exposed to what they do. I think they'd be FAR more outraged to learn about secret black ops things (in the case of Section 31, of genocide!!) than to learn what they more or less already know, which is that the military occasionally does bad things like using banned weapons or torturing prisoners. The latter is practically old hat already. In the world of Star Trek it's a bit different because Starfleet isn't like that normally, but in the case of a war to the death I think they'd much more easily understand the rules of morality being bent than they would a shadow organization that accepts no rules whatsoever.
Wed, Aug 30, 2017, 2:18pm (UTC -6)
"I see no reason to expect the CIA and the army to be held to different standards of morality based on which conducts more secret operations."

This isn't my point, but it sounds like an interesting topic for you to discuss with someone.
Sat, Sep 2, 2017, 2:12pm (UTC -6)
@N -
If you think any of Sisko's actions had Starfleet clearance, then you would be wrong. One of the things that becomes startlingly clear by the final season of DS9 is that hardly anyone on Earth even knows Sisko is in command of DS9. Sisko gets all his "clearance" from just one man - Admiral Ross. And we all know that Ross has unofficially sanctioned Sisko to do Whatever it Takes to get the job done, Federation Charter and Prime Directive be damned.
Sun, Sep 3, 2017, 11:35am (UTC -6)
@Jakob M. Mokoru

I agree that "For the Uniform" showed Sisko making significantly worse decisions than in this episode. In this episode, it was easy to agree with his final conclusion, that the ends justify the means. But In "For the Uniform", I was mostly rooting for Eddington, which considering how grandiose he was acting and the fact that I never particularly cared for him on DS9, was a tall order.


This may be overrated, but I think I would definitely include it in my top 10 DS9 episodes, which is not too shabby, considering how many total episodes there are. And I honestly wouldn't ever be able to put them in a definitive order, because different episodes are great for different reasons. This could be my favorite, or number 10, depending on my mood. That's one of the interesting things about DS9. I think it leaves more room for personal interpretation of the quality of various episodes than some of the other Treks. At least for the episodes at the top. I think a consensus on the top 5 TNG or top 5 VOY episodes would be easier to reach than one for the top 5 DS9 eps. Because we're all looking for different things, coming from a show that does a lot of different things, and includes way more grey characters and storylines than is customary for Trek.

For me, DS9 is almost always at it's best when it focuses on the large story arcs, and this one is quite a turning point in the Dominion war, but yet also has more character revelation/development than most other episodes. I also love character stuff, like Duet and Waltz. Plus, I tend to like episodes with a strong focus on Garak a lot, especially when he's putting his sinister talents to good use. He's the most interesting character on the show, for me. I can't think of many other DS9 episodes that left me with so much to think about after they ended. And I just can't shake the last two scenes. The acting between Sisko and Garak when Sisko learns of the "real" plan is awesome.


"'All it cost was the life of one romulan senator and one criminal.'

I guess the 4 Romulan body guards don't count... "

I thought the same thing! Also, whoever was hurt of killed by whatever the biomimetic gel was used for! They said it would likely be biological weapons or illegal experiments.

@Marco P.

"It is not only Star Trek's idealism (as envisioned by Roddenberry) that we are going against here, but MORALITY in general. A Jean-Luc Picard, despite perhaps being forced to choose the same path and sacrifice a few for the greater good of the many, would have commented on the moral ambiguity of this choice, stating something along the lines 'only time will tell if our choice was the right one... but at what price?' Sisko on the other hand, seems to accept the moral burden on his conscience far too easily, in a a way that is unbecoming of a StarFleet officer and even more so of a Trek lead character."

I agree with you, that Sisko has stepped out of the realm of morality in this episode. I thought he did so to an even greater degree in "For the Uniform", due to his poisoning of that planet, even if no one died thanks to the evacuation. It was still a shitty thing to do. I think the point is that Sisko simply is not as moral a man as Picard. I don't accept that it's just the circumstances he finds himself in that makes him less moral than Picard. I believe Picard would have done more to find another way. Still, that doesn't make Sisko an evil man. He's just... grey. Like Kira, like Odo, like Quark, and like (the darker grey) Kai Winn, Gul Dukat, and Garak. Sisko is not an almost perfectly moral man, like our normal Star Trek heroes. But it may he that a completely moral man couldn't have made it all these years on Deep Space 9. He's working with and dealing with a LOT of morally ambiguous people and situations all the time. I like Sisko, but unlike Picard or Janeway, I don't look to him to be the moral compass of the show. And in fact, it's a bit difficult to find a moral compass on this show. Do any of the characters hold up to moral scrutiny??

I think this is why I tend to say DS9 is my third favorite of the Big Three Treks (TNG, VOY, DS9). It has lots of good episodes, more compelling arcs, and more layered characters. . . so why do I have less underlying affection for it? I guess I just really enjoy spending (viewing) time with some honest to god heroes and good guys, and the other Treks are chock full of them. Since DS9 claims to be Star Trek, I judge its characters based on lofty moral expectations, and they often come up short. I mean, I would say the main DS9 characters are all more moral than the Battlestar Galactica characters, for example. So I'm not calling them bad guys. But they're not "Star Trek" good.
Thu, Nov 9, 2017, 8:34pm (UTC -6)
Wow. Just wow. The ending blew me away. It's like the ending of "The Usual Suspects". When an episode leaves you thinking for hours after it's over, you know you've got a masterpiece.

The whole idea of Sisko's personal log narration is brilliant. I'm not a fan of Brooks' acting but when he's doing his monologue, he's just himself and he comes across as very real. But when he huffs and puffs and chews scenery the rest of the time, that's where he fails as an actor. But in his ending when he sits on his couch, crosses his legs and says "I can live with it" and erases his recording -- it's one of the most powerful moments in all of Trek.

This is brilliant stuff. Every step Sisko takes, he piles on the terrible deeds. Garak is terrific here -- we know he's a very shady character but Robinson's performance is awesome and the character exceeds expectations with the bombing of the Romulan shuttle. Have to wonder if Garak new the Cardassian rod would be found out to be a fraud so he decides to plant the bomb anyway.

This is the right way to show the dark side of the Federation as opposed to what Discovery is doing. This episode was just so compelling from start to finish. We know humans in real life will stoop to very low levels when things get really bad, but to see that on Sisko's level was something else. I hope people don't take his deeds too seriously and think they can get away with being an accessory to murder etc. for some potential greater good. Sisko's journey to hell dwarfs anything Kirk, Picard, Janeway or Archer had to do.

As for the "It's a fake!" -- I didn't know how bad things would get there -- prior to that you could cut the tension with a knife. Vreenkak, the Romulan senator, rightly comes across as an asshole and this also adds to the drama.

And as for Sisko's confrontation with Garak in the end...incredibly well thought out to put all these pieces together.

Easily 4 stars for "In the Pale Moonlight" -- for me, edges out "Duet" as the best DS9 episode. No contrivances, no technobabble, just real stuff about Sisko going down the road to hell with good intentions. The monologue was perhaps the best acting Brooks has done on DS9. A DS9 classic and one of the best hours of Trek.
Pierre Poirier
Wed, Dec 6, 2017, 10:40am (UTC -6)
I can't remember if this episode was that controversial. I remember being stunned and completely fascinated by this episode back when it was first aired. They say the first casualty of war is truth. Well, this is a perfect exemple of it.
This is to this day, my favorite, not DS9 episode, but trek episode. i rewatched it a few days ago. And the conclusion brings tears to my eyes. Here is a man, who did something taht, to hios face, was evil. But that ultimately can live with it, because he did it for the greater good.
it is not Roddenberry Trek. So what ? This is great STar Trek.
Peter G.
Mon, Dec 11, 2017, 12:23am (UTC -6)
I'm watching this favorite episode once again and had something click into place for me that I never saw before. Garak is first approached by Sisko to develop a plan to bring the Romulans into the war, and the type of plan Sisko requests is that Garak ask an informant to supply proof of Dominion duplicity. Garak appears to agree to try this plan...but does he really? The next piece of news we hear is that, to the shock of everyone, Betazed has fallen to the Dominion

Three days later Garak reports, with unperturbed composure, that all operatives contacted by him were killed by Dominion security within a day of speaking with him. His mention of Dominion efficiency at first suggests that Garak is as cool a customer as they come, sardonic in the face of terrible results, and that's how I always read the scene. However right after this he outlines a new plan he's come up with since the old one had failed, which is to bring Vreenak to the station to show him a forged data crystal. Garak assures Sisko that he can arrange for both the forgery and for the Senator to agree, but only if the invitation comes from Sisko himself. Garak also knew in advance that Sisko would never have the stomach for something that Starfleet would refuse to back, and here comes the kicker: When Sisko mentions that Starfleet would have to approve such a plan Garak immediately reminds him that since Betazed has just fallen Starfleet will no doubt be amenable to such a plan where they might not have been before.

Consider this: Betazed apparently fell so easily because the fleet guarding it happened to be away on training exercises, leaving the planetary system undefended. This is a pretty crazy thing to hear when one stops to think about it. It's a real wtf moment. They literally went off to train and lost a key star system for nothing within a day? That's not just a disaster, it's outrageous. To be honest I'd never given it much thought before. Just how did the Dominion get so lucky as to attack a key system that was normally defended at such a time as the fleet was away? The episode doesn't even address this question, and you'd think that the first thought would be that there was a Founder behind it or something like that, but the writers avoid discussing it altogether for some reason. It only clicked for me now for the first time after having seen this episode umpteen times. Here's the timeline:

-Sisko approaches Garak to bring Romulus into the war.
-Garak mentions that NO ONE wants the Dominion stopped more than him.
-Betazed falls due to the Dominion magically knowing a fleet was momentarily out of position.
-Garak presents a plan to Sisko that Starfleet would never had approved unless they had just lost a key system.

There's no certainty here, but this explanations seems to me to fit better than any other: Garak knew that to approach him Sisko must be desperate. Garak knew of the training exercise, fed the Dominion the information necessary for them to easily capture Betazed, lied to Sisko about having tried to contact agents who then died, and presented to him what had been the real plan all along, knowing that Sisko basically had no choice but to accept. And the reason Garak required Sisko to go along with all this is because Vreenak would never have gone anywhere near Garak or the station unless someone as credible as Sisko invited him. The beauty of it is that Garak's plan had outstanding chances for success since realistically all that he needed to accomplish was (a) getting past security on Vreenak's ship, and (b) keeping Sisko from losing his head during the process. These were both reasonable things for him to expect he could do, and so giving away Betazed - as crazy as it sounds - would have been a safe sacrifice to make with immense potential returns. He had probably already concluded, as Jack and the mutants had, that without a decisive turn of events the war was unwinnable by the Federation, and so from that perspective even if the gambit had been a longshot it would still be better than nothing.

It makes sense, but I'm wondering whether I'm connecting imaginary dots or whether the writers meant to imply this. If so then it was very subtle, but the clue is when Garak conspicuously mentions Betazed to Sisko right after telling him in a nonchalant manner that Sisko's version of the plan had failed.
Jason R.
Mon, Dec 11, 2017, 7:42am (UTC -6)
Peter, I just rewatched this last week and I'm dumbfounded by your interpretation. It never occurred to me before but damn it makes sense. What does the director's commentary say?
Mon, Dec 11, 2017, 9:19am (UTC -6)
I checked the script, and it looks like Garak was supposed to be "unusually subdued" during the scene where he informs Sisko all his informants were killed. Thus, I think this *might* be a rare case of Robinson not delivering his lines properly.

We're also missing a piece of information for Peter's interpretation to work. Why would Garak know about the activity of Betazoid and also what would make him even think that would get Starfleet to accept his plan? Someone's probably thinking "Garak's a spy, he can get access to any records!", but without any indication Garak was fiddling with a Federation console or something, that speculation seems dubious at best.

So, while I really agree Peter's interpretation is interesting, I think the showrunners were trying to tell us that the Dominion was so powerful, even Garak's usually handy abilities were initially thwarted.
Mon, Dec 11, 2017, 6:14pm (UTC -6)
I don't think Garak was responsible for the loss of Betazed.

But, I do agree with what "Neil in LA" wrote above, that there is a good chance that Garak's plan was always the death of the Romulan ambassador; the alleged deaths of his informants may have only been a story Garak told Sisko to prepare him for the real plan. In this case the fall of Betazed would have been helpful to his plan, though he wouldn't have been the cause of it.
Thu, Dec 28, 2017, 2:29pm (UTC -6)
If I was Dax I'd be very suspicious. You, Sisko and others discuss how much a pain the Romulans are. Then in his office you go through a whole role play with him on how to bring them into the war, a role play in which it becomes crystal clear that something needs to happen before the Romulans will change their stance. A few days go by, and by an apparent remarkable coincidence an assassination that seems likely to bring the Romulans into the war happens, and instead of reacting like everyone else Sisko mysteriously storms off wordlessly on hearing the news. Hmm...

On a separate note, even if the Senator had been taken in by the recording, how could the plan ever have involved Tolar staying alive? Garak obviously planned to kill him all along but what did Sisko plan to do?
"He believed it, Tolar. You're free to go... Obviously don't tell anyone. The entire future of the war depends on you keeping quiet. Even if we win, the Romulans will go apeshit and attack us if they ever find out. You're not the kind of person to do anything unscrupulous and blurt it out are you? The sort who is reckless after a few drinks?"
"Course I'm not! See you!"
Thu, Mar 22, 2018, 12:22pm (UTC -6)
The Sisko talks to the camera and acts overly-dramatic again shitshow.
Sleeper Agent
Sat, Mar 24, 2018, 5:52am (UTC -6)
This is so amazingly, freakin', ass-kickin' good that it's beyond words.
Sun, Apr 22, 2018, 8:33am (UTC -6)
Garak sold the biomimetic gel to Bashir's Lethian. Case closed.
Mon, Apr 30, 2018, 4:21pm (UTC -6)
Really disliked the monologues. As for plot: I'm on team Elliott. Sisko does what he want to get what he wants. Not so shocking. I did like how Garak played with Sisko and the final plot was nice. Two stars.
Fri, May 11, 2018, 11:14am (UTC -6)
I remember watching this episode when it first aired. It was scary.

It is easy to forget that back then DS9 was the only show dealing with the Federation in the Alpha quadrant. It was all new... there was no safety net of being a prequel and knowing "Kirk, Picard, etc. will all exist". There was a real fear that the Romulans could join the Dominion.

It was all unknown. DS9 was definitely not playing by the usual rules of trek at the time.

Today, serialized shows that routinely shake up the status quo are the norm. So it is easy to forget or overlook how different DS9 truly was from trek and the typical TV fare of the 90s. (Also great that these reviews were written as the episodes aired)

This episode scared me, in a good way, for the future of the trek franchise. It was boldly going into uncharted waters. I miss that with current trek.
Dark Kirk
Mon, Sep 3, 2018, 7:40am (UTC -6)
The final monologue referenced by Jammer is on Youtube. Watching it again, I was struck by Sisko saying he CAN live with it. But get this - Sisko joins the Prophets at the end of the series. He now has, presumably, immortality. So can his conscience last for eternity, regardless of the circumstances?
Mon, Sep 3, 2018, 12:12pm (UTC -6)
I understood Sisko's phrase "I CAN live with it" as one that introduces serious doubts about whether it was actually the right thing to do. If he was really sure he was morally in the right, he wouldn't have been going over it in his mind as he does throughout the episode. But as humans do, he is prone to try and justify it to himself, completely in private, almost as a style of confession. This is part of the reason this is one of the best DS9 episodes. If it had just been a straightforward story without the recollection aspect it wouldn't have held that same status.
Chris Q
Thu, Sep 13, 2018, 9:16pm (UTC -6)
"If there's one thing I've learned over the years, it's that bad news invariably comes in the middle of the night." So, so true.
Tue, Oct 23, 2018, 4:35am (UTC -6)
(SPOILERS IN THIS POST) Hi! It was a great episode. But would it not have been protocol for Senator Vreenak to report the fake attempt on Starfleet’s behalf to force them to enter the Dominion War as soon as realised the deception? Meaning, he would have reported it via subspace communication BEFORE getting on his ship to Romulus, or as soon as he boarded at least. Therefore, explaining the ruse before he was killed in the destruction of his shuttle? (I know it ruins the episode if you think about it that way, but it is a pretty big plot hole)
Tue, Oct 23, 2018, 1:35pm (UTC -6)

"It's best not to dwell on such minutae." - Garak

Greg L. Turnquist
Sun, Dec 23, 2018, 8:48pm (UTC -6)
This is my favorite DS9 episode, possibly favorite episode of the entire ST franchise.

The way it depicts Sisko in such an anti-hero fashion. With such a believable twist of character driven by the threat of war. have already captured that.

But the fact that it cuts away the ensemble cast and lets Robinson and Avery have the full stage makes it a high quality play. Seeing the back and forth between Garek and Sisko gives me fuzzies.

Everytime I rewatch DS9, I can't help but get excited in every episode which they place Garek. The acting is incredible. Compare that with something like Smallville, where the only "good" acting was the actor portraying Lex.

The creator of DS9, Ira Behr, had always felt TOS and TNG were too "pure" and wanted a different environment. One subject to breakdowns and frailties. Well this episode really shines in depicting such a realistic visage.

That combined with the Section 31 episodes + the moral ambiguities shown with Gul Dukat makes for a relishing series that quickly erased any initial concerns of "how can they create a Star Trek without a starship???"
Tue, Jan 1, 2019, 7:06am (UTC -6)
Tour de force for me.

I will watch this again, oh yes, and Garak is simply one of the best characters in all trek.

That final scene with him and Sisko .......

Oh for a modern version of DS9.
Mon, Feb 4, 2019, 9:59pm (UTC -6)
Watching and commenting:

--An intriguing beginning: " I was going to bring the Romulans into the war."

--It's spooky, the way Sisko's talking right to me.

--Ah, Garak, a man with a plan.

--Quark lays it right on the line: "Every man has his price."

--Huh. Talk of having to "forget the whole enterprise." Or is that meant to be "Enterprise," with a capital E? Because I have a feeling we are going to be "forgetting the Enterprise."

--Sisko talks to Senator Vreenak like he's trying to seduce him.

--Good job building tension. "It's a fake!!"

--The Dominion assassinated Vreenak?? Uh, I don't think so. Yep. I agree, Ben. It was Garak.

--Robinson is great. "That's why you came to me."

--A good premise, a good ep . . . the presentation . . . with Ben talking to us, it doesn't entirely work.

Overall, a wonderful, provoking way to make progress in the war-story, which has been suffering from little attention for many eps. The story itself, with its suspense and twists and turns, was top knotch.
William B
Mon, Feb 4, 2019, 10:20pm (UTC -6)

"--Huh. Talk of having to "forget the whole enterprise." Or is that meant to be "Enterprise," with a capital E? Because I have a feeling we are going to be "forgetting the Enterprise.""

Ha! Great catch.

I also think the target of Betazed was maybe thematically important, because of its tie to TNG and to Deanna. Obviously it is a longstanding, well established world.... But it fits this ep. There's a certain...TNG sensibility associated with Deanna's presence on the bridge, the idea of emotional openness and peace. Betazed with its weddings in the nude and open minds and peace and ship's counsellors are now (thematically) off the table. Time for cloak and dagger, lies, murder and secret confessionals to an impersonal log, never to be seen.
Tue, Feb 5, 2019, 12:09pm (UTC -6)
@William B

--Ah, yes, the capture of Betazed signifying an end to the warm fuzzies, for the Federation. I like that thought a lot.

--Here's the exchange I referred to:

GARAK (referring to the gel for Tolar ): . . . I'm afraid we either give him what he wants or forget the whole enterprise. 
SISKO: Then let's forget about it . . .

Interesting, huh? Almost reads as Sisko is giving Garak am OK to "forget the Enterprise" since this thing with Tolar can't work. And it can't. And he does "forget the Enterprise," so to speak, planting the bomb, and suggests that's exactly why Sisko recruited him.

Another ep ripe for a deeper analysis. Makes me miss doing that sorta thing. The 4 yr old starts kindergarten this Sep . . .
Tue, Feb 5, 2019, 12:46pm (UTC -6)
Betazed here was originally supposed to be Vulcan, but one of the higher-ups (Behr or Berman) nixed the idea, saying it was a step too far.
William B
Tue, Feb 5, 2019, 3:12pm (UTC -6)
I think Vulcan and Betazed would serve similar purposes -- both as longstanding Federation planets, and as symbols of Federation values (logic, openness) that are threatened by the Dominion (and which the increasingly panicked Sisko loses over the course of the ep).
Sat, Feb 9, 2019, 6:16pm (UTC -6)
Am I the only one bothered by the complete lack of logic in this episode??

1. In the holo meeting, it would not make sense for the Dominion-Cardassia to attack the Romulans while still in fighting with the Federation and Klingons. Furthermore, it would not make sense for the Romulans not to wait 3 weeks to find out if this info was correct, because at that time the Federation and Klingons would still be in the fighting. And It would not make sense that Sisko didn't realize that.
2. It would not make sense for Vreenak to inform Sisko that he knows it's a fake.
3. It would not make sense for Vreenak not to send a message to his gov the moment he left DS9. (I think that the explanation that he and the head of the Tal-Shiar were rivals is not clarified).
4. It would not make sense that Sisko would allow Garak to risk being captured inside Vreenak's shuttle just to get some info, when he believes that it's absolutely vital to be in Vreenak's favor.
5. It would not make sense that the Romulans would never post guards inside a shuttle.
6. It would not make sense that the Romulan gov would not know about Vreenak's making a stop at DS9 or at least that about his course change (or deduce it).
7. It doesn't make sense that Vreenak would not demand any answers regarding the method of obtaining the rod, because verifying its authenticity is too important to both sides so it outweighs any espionage revelation.
8. It would not make sense that the Dominion was aware of Garak's contacting his old friends on Cardassia, and not use it to (try to) prove what happened.
9. It doesn't make sense that the rod was readable after the explosion, and that this fact did not rose suspicion.
10. It doesn't make sense that the Dominion-Cardassians would have recorded such a sensitive meeting.
11. It would not make sense that Dax wouldn't have figured what happened anyway, as she knows what the original plan was.
12. It doesn't make sense that they say that only 2 men have been killed (forgetting the body-guards).

I think that the creators may have done that purpose, as a way of saying don't lie.
On that note, if it was certain that the Dominion was planning to attack the Romulans, then fabricating this evidence doesn't seems so harmful or deceitful toward them.
Tue, Feb 12, 2019, 9:43am (UTC -6)
"2. It would not make sense for Vreenak to inform Sisko that he knows it's a fake."

There are multiple possibilities. First of all, why not? If it's a fake, he's not going to enter into an alliance with the Federation. Simple as that. Sisko will know if Vreenak knows anyway. Second of all, it's possible that Vreenak doesn't know whether it's a fake or not, and he's doing it to gage Sisko's reaction. This fits with what we know about Garak's considerable talents in forgery and the Romulans' deception.

"1. In the holo meeting, it would not make sense for the Dominion-Cardassia to attack the Romulans while still in fighting with the Federation and Klingons. Furthermore, it would not make sense for the Romulans not to wait 3 weeks to find out if this info was correct, because at that time the Federation and Klingons would still be in the fighting. And It would not make sense that Sisko didn't realize that."

The entire point of the episode is that the rod, combined with the supposed assassination of Vreenak is what pushes the Romulans over the edge. Regardless of whether the attack plan makes sense, the fact that this senator who was holding a rod was killed in this manner looks extremely suspicious.

"8. It would not make sense that the Dominion was aware of Garak's contacting his old friends on Cardassia, and not use it to (try to) prove what happened. "

Big assumption: Garak actually contacted people on Cardassia. A major theory regarding this episode is that Garak lied about his contacts dying to Sisko. The evidence? Twofold. Firstly, Garak tells Sisko to give a speech to Vreenak with the whole 'many good men died to get this rod' schtick. Which is exactly what Garak would be doing if he were lying to Sisko about his contacts. Secondly, Garak's entire character. Lying is what he does, as established in "Improbable Cause"/"The Die is Cast". And I seriously doubt he'd risk getting everyone he knows on Cardassia killed.

"10. It doesn't make sense that the Dominion-Cardassians would have recorded such a sensitive meeting. "

They didn't, because it was a fake lie. Again, the main reason this pushed the Romulans into the war was the rod combined with Vreenak's assassination. It actually does make sense that the Romulans would rush into the war were one of their citizens killed-that's what great powers do. It all may seem too convenient that they buy into this-the Romulans are schemers, after all. And yet we've seen time and time again in the TNG era the Romulans being outwitted by the Federation. Since they can't ever actually succeed, they pretty much fail at everything they try to accomplish. Perhaps they're not as smart as they think they are.

"9. It doesn't make sense that the rod was readable after the explosion, and that this fact did not rose suspicion. "

This is applying real-world logic to a highly fictionalized setting. Sure, the episode asks us to believe a rod can survive an explosion, but it also asks us to believe a ship can fly faster than the speed of light. This is hardly the worst thing in a Trek episode. The episode asks us to believe it, and I can.

"4. It would not make sense that Sisko would allow Garak to risk being captured inside Vreenak's shuttle just to get some info, when he believes that it's absolutely vital to be in Vreenak's favor. "

No, but considering Sisko knows Garak was a member of the Obsidian Order, one of the most formidable intelligence agencies in the galaxy, I think he trusts him not to get caught.

"11. It would not make sense that Dax wouldn't have figured what happened anyway, as she knows what the original plan was. "

She doesn't believe Sisko is possible of such a thing (before this episode, he didn't either, unless you bring up "For the Uniform", which is a whole other can of worms), and she doesn't know about Garak's involvement.

I could go on, but I'll just say that most of these are iffy, and less gaping than the holes you could poke in other Trek episodes, which have never been known for their tremendous logical coherence (as @Quarkissnyder aptly put it). Add that to the fact that plot holes/nitpicks really don't matter all that much unless they're gaping, and I really don't have a problem with anything about this episode (But your mileage may vary. I have a high suspension of disbelief in general, but particularly for Star Trek-people have poked holes in every classic Trek episode, from "The Inner Light" to "The Visitor" to "Yesterday's Enterprise". A the end of the day, the entire franchise requires a high suspension of disbelief. That's my reasoning). In fact, my opinion is the opposite of yours-I think this story has fewer plot holes than the vast majority of Trek episodes. But I respect your opinion nonetheless.
Tue, Feb 12, 2019, 10:08am (UTC -6)
Out of all of these, the only thing that bothers me is that we are to assume Vreenak boarded his shuttle without any communication with Romulus and Garak's plan *depended* on that. It may be because this episode was a product of its time, while nowadays you can imagine Vreenak hopping on his mobile and texting "Dominion plan to attack us? FAKE NEWS! You should've seen Sisko's face, LOL!"

Or - it was such sensitive information that Vreenak wasn't 100% sure it was a fake and didn't want to leak anything about it and risk someone tapping his line. I guess they could've tidied that bit up, but you know, the limitations of a 42 minute runtime.
Thu, Feb 14, 2019, 9:44pm (UTC -6)
“Should've seen Sisko’s face”, LOL. Out of your objections to my criticisms, only 1.5 are plausible. One of them is Vreenak’s fake outrage. It does goes well with him telling the bodyguard to leave the room before announcing it, and also with Garak’s not admitting at the end that the forgery was substandard, just that ‘any imperfections will be attributed to the explosion’. Yet, this possibility doesn’t sink my criticism, as there are much better ways to induce truth telling than simply announcing it and expecting the liar to conform. Just ask Garak, haha.

The other one is that this was Garak’s plan from the beginning and that he lied that his contacts were dead. But this lie would be simple enough to detect; and it doesn’t serve a purpose because following the true plan from the beginning would save time.

Regarding the other objections, they say in principle that there are other episodes with bigger holes. But one must differentiate between buying into the premise of the series (i.e., few hundred years into the future, faster than light travel is possible, time travel etc.) and assuming that people don’t react as they would have in “real life”. When you incorporate time travel into the story, you are almost bound to run into the grandfather paradox, so you can’t blame the creators for not dealing with it well, as it is a paradox. But you can’t expect people to do unexplained things, such as ignoring the complete unreasonableness of an evidence or not acting on one’s race’s best interest (by immediately contacting the gov).

(I appreciate your comments to my comment, though)
Sat, Feb 16, 2019, 4:18pm (UTC -6)
"Regarding the other objections, they say in principle that there are other episodes with bigger holes. But one must differentiate between buying into the premise of the series (i.e., few hundred years into the future, faster than light travel is possible, time travel etc.) and assuming that people don’t react as they would have in “real life”. When you incorporate time travel into the story, you are almost bound to run into the grandfather paradox, so you can’t blame the creators for not dealing with it well, as it is a paradox. But you can’t expect people to do unexplained things, such as ignoring the complete unreasonableness of an evidence or not acting on one’s race’s best interest (by immediately contacting the gov)."

Yeah, my point was that you have to have a high suspension of disbelief to watch Star Trek in the first place. It doesn't excuse plot holes, but I don't think most of yours actually are in this case.

" One of them is Vreenak’s fake outrage. It does goes well with him telling the bodyguard to leave the room before announcing it, and also with Garak’s not admitting at the end that the forgery was substandard, just that ‘any imperfections will be attributed to the explosion’. Yet, this possibility doesn’t sink my criticism, as there are much better ways to induce truth telling than simply announcing it and expecting the liar to conform. Just ask Garak, haha."

Just because there are other ways to induce truth doesn't preclude the possibility of Vreenak using the one he did-it was effective and got the job done. In my opinion, you're reaching.

"The other one is that this was Garak’s plan from the beginning and that he lied that his contacts were dead. But this lie would be simple enough to detect; and it doesn’t serve a purpose because following the true plan from the beginning would save time. "

Since no one else knows who Garak's contacts on Cardassia are, so it's not really verifiable at all. It does serve a purpose because he avoids risking his only connections to his beloved homeland. Following Sisko's plan would mean risking that.

I stand by my original statement and respectfully disagree with your original post-most of these "plot holes" are nitpicks at best, as opposed to gaping logic flaws.
Sat, Feb 16, 2019, 4:28pm (UTC -6)

“Since no one else knows who Garak's contacts on Cardassia are, so it's not really verifiable at all. It does serve a purpose because he avoids risking his only connections to his beloved homeland.”

I think Lior’s point is there’s no real reason for him to lie to Sisko in the first place if he already had a plan that didn’t involve his contacts whatsoever. I mean you could argue that he was trying to cajole Sisko into desperation but nothing in the story suggests Sisko wouldn’t agree to Garak’s initial plan. Also, what’s wrong with Garak saying to Sisko “Sorry, my contacts wouldn’t even respond to me, security must be tight.” if he’s lying anyway.
Peter G.
Sat, Feb 16, 2019, 6:06pm (UTC -6)
The reason to lie to Sisko is simple: sunk cost fallacy. Get Sisko on board enough to feel somewhat committed. Then upon learning at how much the attempt has already cost them (lives of agents), coupled with the fact that Garak was only doing this to help Sisko and now it has cost him both his own power at home plus the lives of his countryment, and Garak has effectively leveraged this into Sisko feeling like he owes Garak something and ought to continue for his sake.

And in fact this isn't a mere speculation, but is continued later on when Sisko has already accepted the data crystal plan, and Garak informs him of the difficulty in procuring Tolar's help and the need for the gel: the sunk cost fallacy rears its head yet again, where "we're already gone this far and spent so much...but if you won't do this then I guess it's all over then..." which is manipulative to a T. And the amazing part is Sisko knows exactly that he's doing it, and yet goes along because while manipulative it's Garak's ironic way of showing Sisko that the stakes had been this high already from the start, even though Sisko didn't want to see it that way. Garak eases him into accepting what he believed deep down at the episode's start: namely that we've come too far to chicken out on account of small things. Garak tells him this point blank: that he needed Garak because he could do the things Sisko couldn't. And this doesn't just include assassination, but almost more importantly means awakening that voice inside Sisko that knew they needed the Romulans. Garak's 'excuses' were the means to get Sisko to believe what he couldn't get himself to accept on his own.

And this is exactly why Garak would have lied: because Sisko needed it. He needed to know how much was at stake, that much had been lost, and that backing out would be devastating to the Federation. Had Garak merely said from the start "well we'll just make a fake data crystal" Sisko wouldn't have been far enough along in believing his own conviction to accept that this was really what he wanted. So Garak had to develop his commitment a little first. I actually am inclined to believe this is what happened, and that it's not just my head canon.
Sat, Feb 16, 2019, 6:17pm (UTC -6)
@Peter G.

I kind of saw the conversation was going to go this way which why I mentioned “canjoling Sisko into desperation” above. For the sake of not rehasing an old discussion, I ask this: does Garak utilize any contacts on Cardassia in following episodes (barring the housekeeper, which we can assume isn’t useful here)? Is there any evidence in following episodes Garak is lying about dead contacts?
Peter G.
Sat, Feb 16, 2019, 6:48pm (UTC -6)
@ Chrome,

Fair question. In general I don't think the issue of Garak's actual assets is one I've ever given thought to, nor it is one I think I was meant to give thought to. It's mentioned here to give important to the mission at hand and for little other long-term purpose. Neither were these contacts mentioned before nor are they mentioned again - even in context of their absence. To the extent that the plot succeeded in turning the Romulans, that point sticks in the series; but to the extent of any minutiae that go down, such as Quark knowing SIsko has his price, or that Garak lost his operatives, or that Bashir had a major ethical grievance about the gel; or that Sisko's conscience weighs on him - all of these points are a one-off affair that aren't reprised. DS9 was serialized for the time, but not so serialized as that where small points would be mentioned again. And when minor points are re-used in the series, such as the dart board, the Alamo. beetle snuff, Sisko's baseball, Dax's penchant for dating weird people; all of these are made a big deal of to establish the continuity. Small points seem to rarely be re-used as story points since I suppose the series still had to pay general lip-service to the notion that new audience members could tune in anytime and not feel left out.

Is that a reasonable answer to your question? Basically I think the contacts are irrelevant to the broader DS9 world and are useful only as a plot point in this one. My suggestion, at any rate, is not so much the plot point that Garak has lost much in this affair (which the actor surely doesn't play up if we're meant to buy into this idea) but rather that *Sisko* is meant to understand that much has now been lost but that it can be made to count for something.
Sun, Feb 17, 2019, 6:11am (UTC -6)

“It doesn't excuse plot holes, but I don't think most of yours actually are in this case”.

You are right. My points are not holes per-se. But they do show the unreasonableness of the episode.

“Just because there are other ways to induce truth doesn't preclude the possibility of Vreenak using the one he did-it was effective and got the job done”.

That’s my point. In “real life” this method would have had little chance of success.

“Since no one else knows who Garak's contacts on Cardassia are, so it's not really verifiable at all”.

Death certificates (of people close to power), for instance.

@Peter G.

The sunk cost bias, at least in this case, is negligible. That’s because the fate of the entire alpha quadrant is at stake, so the death of a few men should not have altered Sisko’s state of mind. If anything, it only demonstrated the costs he was not willing to bear.

You could argue that Garak lied in order to put Sisko in a time pressure, giving him no time to think things over. But that would not necessitate saying that the contacts were dead.

There are many continuities:
The alternate universe; the Jem’hadar’s characteristics; Kira’s relationships; the ship from the episode “the ship” is later used in episode “a time to stand”; etc.

Overall, DS9 tied things together pretty well. @Iceman, I’d like to know which Star Trek episodes (except of TOS) has plot holes in them.
Sun, Feb 17, 2019, 10:32am (UTC -6)
"Death certificates (of people close to power), for instance. "

If they don't have the exact identity of his contacts, they can't prove anything. Simple as that.

"That’s my point. In “real life” this method would have had little chance of success. "

Two things. One, this isn't "real life". Two, I don't see your point. Gaging someone's reaction is a fine way to figure out the truth. If the rod was real, Sisko would be calm.

"You could argue that Garak lied in order to put Sisko in a time pressure, giving him no time to think things over. But that would not necessitate saying that the contacts were dead."

Again-Garak tells Sisko later in the episode "Make up a story. Tell him many brave men died to obtain this rod". It makes Sisko more likely to go along with Garak's plan.

"@Iceman, I’d like to know which Star Trek episodes (except of TOS) has plot holes in them. "

Look at @Quarkissnyder's comments for every DS9 episode-about 5 plot holes are pointed out per episode on average. Or at the comments of most Trek episodes on this website.

-"All Good Things"
-"The Inner Light"
-"The Visitor"
-The entire Dominion War arc
-"Call to Arms"
-""Treachery, Faith, and the Great River"
-"Force of Nature"

And countless others that can be found if you really want to look for them.
Tue, Feb 19, 2019, 7:06pm (UTC -6)
* Regarding the identity: they have to be people close to power that died within a few hours from Garak's contacting them. So it's not anyone. In addition, Garak would have used the station systems, so Sisko would have access to the logs.

* Gaging someone' reaction is a credible way to figure out the truth, only when they are not suspecting it. That is not the case here.

* Telling Sisko that the contacts were dead due to contacting them, and a made up story how they actually succeeded, are two very different things, and anyway, the made up story could have been different and even more elaborate.

* I read the Quarkissnyder's comments (why did you mentioned his comments?) for the episodes you wrote and that I remember. His comments are interesting and valid, but they don't poke 5 holes in every episode on average.
There are of course other plot holes, but mostly not within the same episode.
Bobbington Mc Bob
Thu, Aug 1, 2019, 1:32pm (UTC -6)
If Sisko had been 'High Ranking Starfleet Officer Who Is An Old Friend of the Crew But Turns Out To Be Evil' of the Week over on TNG, the final scene would have been a brutal dressing down and speech from Picard. Then a scene of Sisko being hauled away by that huge dude and tiny lady who were the unnamed security officers, followed by another scene where Picard receives a report of the admirals who sanctioned Sisko's acts being arrested.

Very chilling, immensely gripping, and honestlu worrying where Sisko's mind is going. From Jesus to Saddam Hussein last season, and now he's basically an Obsidian Order chief. How the hell they will reconcile this down the line with his role as Bajor's Holy Messiah I have no clue.
Peter G.
Thu, Aug 1, 2019, 2:01pm (UTC -6)
@ Bobbington,

"Very chilling, immensely gripping, and honestlu worrying where Sisko's mind is going. From Jesus to Saddam Hussein last season, and now he's basically an Obsidian Order chief. How the hell they will reconcile this down the line with his role as Bajor's Holy Messiah I have no clue."

I think you may be seeing DS9 a bit too much as a serialized arc show (like LOST) when you ask this, because although DS9 did develop character arcs over time where self-learning played a large part, the sort of arc where a person goes from good to mixed to evil and so forth is not really the kind of long-form story that I think they were telling. So while it's fun and everything to think about these things in head canon, I don't think the writers were wondering about "so where will Sisko's turn to the dark side go next?" The one exception to this maybe Dukat.

As far as Sisko being hauled away for crimes vis a vis Picard's POV, do remember that the question being asked in this ep is "what is good?" Is it good to personally protect your conscience at the cost of the Federation? Is the Federation worth protecting if it will do literally anything to survive? And if extraordinary steps are acceptable when being attacked, how do you justify to yourself each time you do it that it's ok? I don't think the episode tries to answer the questions with a conclusive "it was totally right" or "it was totally wrong". Sisko says he can live with it, but that's him.

If you're looking at the meta level in this show also think about the fact that Sisko is the Emissary for the Prophets, whose whole thing is that they see things outside of time. The idea of stepping outside of the bounds of "can I do this right now" and looking at the long-term big picture is perhaps in accordance with their way of assessing good/bad results, so maybe there's something of that type of analysis in Sisko's choice. Picard wouldn't have done this, but then again he's not the Emissary and hasn't been tasked with trying to establish any particular future path. And for what it's worth, the one time Picard did put his ethics over Federation security in I, Borg he was chastened for it. Maybe it's a good thing the decision wasn't his in this show. This is similar to my view about Chain of Command, where I think it's lucky for Picard that someone like him wasn't commanding the Enterprise while he was being tortured. Jellico got the job done; he wouldn't have.
Sat, Aug 17, 2019, 9:05am (UTC -6)
"This is similar to my view about Chain of Command, where I think it's lucky for Picard that someone like him wasn't commanding the Enterprise while he was being tortured. Jellico got the job done; he wouldn't have."

Interesting, why would you say so? I don't realyl recall Jellico doing anything at the end Picard was above-the way he ran the ship didn't really factor in it.
Peter G.
Sat, Aug 17, 2019, 5:08pm (UTC -6)
@ Strejda,

Most of Jellico's actions were preparatory, and maneuvering with the Cardassians bought them room. But the only action that ended the invasion and saved Picard was committing a preemptive act of war by entering the nebula to mine the Cardassian ships. Deployment of mines is already an act of war, no less *on Cardassians ships* with whom they had a treaty.

Picard would never have done that, and therefore it took a bulldog like Jellico to get this done. Captain Maxwell would have been up to it as well.
Tue, Aug 20, 2019, 5:10am (UTC -6)
@Peter G: I disagree Picard would never have done that. Maybe I don't remember all the details, but that doesn't seem to me much different than him going to destroy the Romulan base in The Defector
Fri, Aug 30, 2019, 2:54pm (UTC -6)
I think this episode was perfect except for one thing. The whole "I need to clear it with starfleet command" thing. It lets Sisko off the hook a bit for what happens.
Fri, Aug 30, 2019, 3:11pm (UTC -6)

FWIW, I believe Sisko only received Starfleet's blessing to give Vreenak the forged war plans. Given that Sisko deleted the Captain's log where he explains how Vreenak's murder was necessary for the plan to succeed, it seems like Starfleet never knew about that part (and probably would not condone it).
Fri, Nov 29, 2019, 1:52pm (UTC -6)
In the pale moonlight

One of my very favorite ds9's. It is difficult to impress with a political intrigue episode but this one was effective and entertaining. Garak was used effectively. It was as if through the whole series garak was set up to be used in this episode, in this way. He was the real hero. Or, should have been but since sisko is the protagonist of the series the writers had to short garak a bit - Specifically by having sisko berate garak verbally and physically to show who is boss. But as far as i could tell sisko had neither the moral or personal justification - just frustration for which garak was made to pay.

Skipping over his transgressions to garak, sisko was never made to pay for betraying his oath to starfleet either (the crime for which he himself persecuted eddington) nor for his part in the murder of grathon tolar nor for assassinating the romulans.

Star trek makes its living off of exploring moral questions and delivering a pointed lesson on the consequences. Here in this episode sisko forever loses all of his moral authority in several important areas. For some reason star trek shied away from exploring the consequences (except for a claimed guilty conscience) as it usually does and instead only shows is the internal battle sisko has with himself. Which, by the way, neglects acknowledging sisko and eddington did the same thing - just for different reasons.

At the end of the episode sisko claims garak was right about one thing but garak was right about everything it is just that sisko is given the credit and garak a broken jaw - courtesy of the man who claimed a thick skin from being in the company of and arrogant and acerbic garak.
Jamie Mann
Tue, Mar 3, 2020, 12:07pm (UTC -6)
This is a popular episode, with glowing reviews pretty much everywhere you look on the web.

Personally, I strongly suspect it was inspired by Operation Mincement back in WW2, when the British dressed the body of a tramp in an officer's uniform, planted some forged papers on the body and then dumped it where the Germans could find it, in the hope of misleading their intelligence services. And the Germans did indeed end up shifting a significant chunk of their troops as a result, making the allied invasion much less costly.

Credit also goes to Garak (and his actor), as he shines in his role as a reactivated intelligence operative. Plans within plans and secrets within secrets - all the way up to hiding his true intentions from Sisko.

But I still don't like this episode.

Partly, this is because as with much of this season, the plot feels very contrived, starting with the fact that the Dominion are now viewed to be winning this war.

With what, pray tell? They have no access to resupply through the wormhole, their fleets have already been ravaged, their Cardassian allies had already been gutted by the Klingons, and while I’m willing to suspend disbelief around their abilities to force-grow Jem-Hadar soldiers, I find it much harder to believe that they’d have the manufacturing capabilities or supply chains needed to build ships quickly enough to make up for their naval losses, especially since DS9 battles now involve hundreds of ships on either side.

(To partly counterbalance my argument, I’m guessing the Founders are willing to sanction the production of lower-quality ships, and to cut corners with the production techniques - after all, they’ll only be crewed by disposable solids. But we never really got any hints that they were actually doing things like this - and even then, quality can still beat quantity if you’re careful...)

Leaving that aside, we’re also meant to buy into the idea that Star Fleet High Command is willing to let Sisko and Garak put together a high-risk plan which goes against pretty much every single Federation principle.

Sisko is a captain with a history of questionable decisions and has gone native on Bajor, so much so that he now believes in their gods and has religious experiences which can sometimes actively work against Federation goals. And Garak is an ex-Cardassian secret agent with a highly questionable past, a tendency to play all sides and a character whose first loyalty is not to the Federation - in fact, his ultimate loyalties can’t be fully confirmed.

And High Command decided to let this pair of loose cannons go ahead with this extremely unethical and incredibly high risk plan? It’d be one thing if Sisko had decided to proceed with this plan by himself, but if nothing else, the fact that he’s officially gone on record to get his plan approved means that it’s far more likely that the Romulans will discover evidence about this plot. At least if he’d ahead purely on his own authority, Star Fleet would be able to distance themselves from it and paint it as a rogue operation.

(Equally, the fact that he asked for sanction weakens the story’s message; for all that he may have suggested the plan, arguably, the things which happened were at least partly the responsibility of the people who approved it! And indeed, all of the direct murders in this episode were carried out by Garak, without Sisko’s knowledge)

Then too: a key element of this episode is around how Sisko is forced into making ever more questionable choices in his effort to make his plan succeed. But his actions feel incredibly out of character, starting with the scene where Quark smugly extorts a number of concessions from him in return for not pressing charges against the forger. Normally, Sisko would have something up his sleeve to push Quark into cooperating; here, he just sits dumbly while Quark makes a surprisingly small number of demands.

But the thing which annoys me most is that the DS9 writers had already come up with a perfect way to explore Sisko’s descent down the road to Hell.

Section 31. As literally introduced in the previous episode. A black-ops department which officially doesn’t exist and routinely performs illicit and unethical operations to protect the Federation.

Imagine if Section 31 had come to DS9 with impeccable and unarguably authority. Imagine if they’d engaged Garak’s services in a plot like this, and ordered Sisko to support him by any and all means necessary. Imagine the conflict within Sisko of having to obey orders which he knows are morally wrong, but which could help end the war and save the Federation. Or imagine if Sisko wasn’t involved, but found out and had to choose between obeying his conscience or accepting their actions and keeping quiet about this conspiracy?

In fact, the DS9 writers could have put together a plotline similar to that in The Dark Knight Returns (released a decade earlier), where Commissioner Gorden reflects on how he couldn’t pass judgement on Roosevelt’s actions in WW2, because what happened “was too big”. It wouldn’t have even involved any significant changes to the episode’s format; Sisko could have still flashback-monologued to camera about how he slowly discovered what had happened, and had to make a choice as to whether to support S31 or not. And at the end, he could have still stated that he was willing to live with the consequences of his decision.

But they didn’t. And so we got an episode which somewhat works as a standalone piece, but sits very uncomfortably in Sisko’s personal-development arc and wastes a perfect opportunity to use DS9’s newest chess pieces.

Worse (and without wanting to spoiler things), the big Reset Button is triggered at the end of this episode: the only thing which carries forward is the Romulan decision to join forces with the Klingons and Federation. Sisko doesn’t do any further introspection, the Romulans never appear to suspect anything and even Quark doesn’t attempt to extort anything further out of Sisko, despite now knowing that he’s susceptible to bribery and blackmail.

So, yeah. It’s a popular episode. But I’m not convinced it’s a good one, and I do think it could have been much better...
Wed, Mar 4, 2020, 12:47pm (UTC -6)
@Jamie Mann

>And High Command decided to let this pair of loose cannons go ahead with this extremely unethical and incredibly high risk plan? It’d be one thing if Sisko had decided to proceed with this plan by himself...

The way I remember it, Sisko was acting as a rogue and did not have Starfleet's blessing. He even deleted his log at the end.

This episode is what got me in to DS9. Previously I could never get in to DS9 despite loving all other trek franchises, I always found it cheesy. Then I read the article for In The Pale Moonlight on Memory-Alpha and was hooked.

This episode really shows the dark side of Roddenberry's usually utopian vision of the Federation. 10/10 - One of Star Trek's finest.
Jamie Mann
Thu, Mar 5, 2020, 1:45pm (UTC -6)
> The way I remember it, Sisko was acting as a rogue and did not have Starfleet's blessing. He even deleted his log at the end.

The initial plan is carried out as a black op, but when Garak suggests that they pass a forged data-rod to the Romulan Senator, Sisko decides to discuss his plan with Starfleet.

To quote Memory Alpha's precis of the episode:
Sisko points out that he'll need approval from Starfleet to proceed with the plan, but Garak assures him that with the takeover of Betazed they should be more than willing to approve the plan, which ultimately they do.

You can argue that at this point Starfleet was desperate and would have approved any and all plans, but even so, something like this would surely have to go all the way up to the President for approval - and would vastly increase the risk of discovery.

And either way, Sisko offloaded at least some of the responsibility (and/or blame) on whoever it was that gave approval for his plan...
Peter G.
Thu, Mar 5, 2020, 2:20pm (UTC -6)
@ Jamie Mann,

"You can argue that at this point Starfleet was desperate and would have approved any and all plans, but even so, something like this would surely have to go all the way up to the President for approval - and would vastly increase the risk of discovery."

I don't know about that. In contrast to TNG, both TOS and DS9 seem to portray Admiral or Commodore type high-ranking officers as having *a lot* of personal latitude in making decisions for the Federation. Granted, this move is a big deal for all concerned, however structurally speaking I think it could easily be the case that a particular high-ranking admiral received the advisory and personally made a decision without it going to Starfleet's top brass or to the Federation Council. I'm not saying this happened, but I feel like it could happen. Just imagine if an Admiral Leyton type was the one to receive the request? I doubt he'd pass it along to others to consult with them; he'd be jumping for joy and begging Sisko to do it, even though he'd know the President would nix it on principle. And then there are the


moments with Admiral Ross when we also see that he sometimes receives orders from alternate channels, such as Section 31, and where these black ops are clearly not going through the main command structure of Starfleet Command. Good or bad, this is consistent with how DS9 portrays these things.
Fri, Mar 6, 2020, 8:28am (UTC -6)
I think Jamie Mann’s point that Starfleet approval was cooked into the story is still important regardless if it’s an admiral or the Federation Council. DS9 again and again wants us to believe that the Federation relaxes its moral standards during wartime (see also the Federation denying the Founders the cure to a disease the Federation is directly/indirectly responsible for).

What’s interesting is this breaks TNG/DS9 into a couple schools of thought about the norm for Federation values. One way of reading this is that Sisko would normally behave like Picard and uphold the highest standard of Federation values, but only in ideal circumstances. Another way of reading this is that Picard is somewhat of a preachy outlier who may have a higher (or simply different, depending on your POV) set of morals than the Federation itself. There’s another interpretation (which Elliott often espouses) that *Sisko* is the outlier and is more morally compromised than the average Federation citizen and he often pushes Starfleet into bad decisions. In the second reading, Sisko may actually be a better officer than Picard in that although he’s highly troubled by Starfleet orders at times (as shown by this episode), he doesn’t inject his own values as an excuse to disobey orders.

Another point that I think is important that neither Jamie or Peter bring up is that Starfleet only gave its blessing to the original plan. It’s unclear, and also unlikely they’d agree to Garak’s assassination plan. This gives a little more weight to the third reading in that Sisko was operating outside Starfleet morals when he chose Garak to carry out the plan. Garak postulates that on some level Sisko knew Garak would bring success to the plan by breaking Federation morals Sisko couldn’t. If we believe Garak, Sisko is morally compromised here as he’d obviously be an accessory to the whole incident — beyond what Starfleet condoned.
Andy's Friend
Fri, Mar 6, 2020, 9:59am (UTC -6)
All good points, Chrome.

You wrote: "It’s unclear, and also unlikely they’d agree to Garak’s assassination plan."

I agree. For what it's worth, I agree with Elliott: Sisko is the outlier, not Picard.

You wrote: "What’s interesting is this breaks TNG/DS9 into a couple schools of thought about the norm for Federation values."

One interesting fact about TNG is that the morally ambiguous Federation characters are all extremely driven individuals. They fall into two categories:

i) either slightly unhinged or decidedly deranged: the likes of Dr Graves, Admiral Jameson, Captain Maxwell, Dr Marr, or Admiral Satie.

ii) simply driven by personal and/or professional, intellectual and/or scientific ambition and pride: the likes of Director Mandl, Dr Farallon, Dr Kingsley, Dr Maddox, Dr Russell, or Dr Stubbs.

Note, however, how all characters in ii) above are scientists, not Starfleet officers; and that all of them but Russell change their stance over the course of the episode as part of the moral lesson of the story, in the best tradition of Star Trek.

In other words, the morally ambiguous Federation characters in TNG were either deranged individuals beyond hope, clinical if not criminal cases; or honest if overzealous scientists who suffer a change of heart as result of a moral lesson learnt: in other words, necessary and temporary evils only, in order for the Federation ethics of the 24th century to shine through in the end.

The only Starfleet officer I can think of who was *not* somehow deranged or possessed and was clearly in violation of Starfleet and Federation ethics was Admiral Pressman—who appears halfway into the last season (after the launching of DS9), and of course in an episode written by Ronald D. Moore.

Granted, Pressman was acting in collusion with top echelons in Starfleet. Yet although other Starfleet admirals might come off as slightly antagonistic—indeed, often even too much so—I find the claim so often made that there were plenty of shady characters in Starfleet to be false as far as TNG is concerned. Please correct me if I am wrong, someone. Am I forgetting anyone?
Andy's Friend
Fri, Mar 6, 2020, 10:13am (UTC -6)
Correction: Maddox was a Starfleet officer, of course, but still a scientist. The argument stands.
William B
Fri, Mar 6, 2020, 1:13pm (UTC -6)
@Andy's Friend:

I don't disagree with the general thrust of your argument. I think the key thing that distinguishes TNG's "Evil Admirals" from the DS9 pragmatism is that TNG's evil admirals were generally shown to be wrong, whereas the DS9 ones were generally shown to be "ambiguous" in a way that often tacitly supported their actions.

For a specific example of another case of a TNG admiral who doesn't fall into either camp you listed, Admiral Nechayev argues that Picard should have used Hugh to genocide the Borg, and while she's painted as an antagonistic character whom Picard dislikes, she's also not portrayed as crazy or unhinged and does not get any kind of comeuppance. Now of course this is in very late TNG, when DS9 has already premiered, and she's written by Ron Moore in this episode (and appears in both series) -- so we can put her in a similar category to Pressman, of being a development late in the series. Part 1 of Descent presents a conflict in which Picard may have done the wrong thing, and looking at the way the Borg in that episode behave suggests that Picard's actions with Hugh had unintended bad side effects, which further undermines the rectitude of Picard's initial choice and so calls into question whether Nechayev was right. Picard not only questions whether he did the right thing to do by doing the moral thing, but even agrees to Nechayev's order that he genocide the Borg if he gets another chance ("Yes sir").

I think that Descent Part 2 is meant to have Picard's values supported when he tells Data that Data's Lore-influenced position that one must kill several individuals in order to produce a good outcome is wrong (how can one do right by doing wrong?), though it's a bit lost in the shuffle of the scattershot script. By linking Nechayev's pragmatism to Lore and the emotion-mad addict version of Data, I think the two-part story Descent is meant to still validate Picard's POV and the general TNG ethos. That means that I think that Descent overall, in terms of intent anyway, falls within TNG bounds. Of course it can happen that good actions can have unintended negative effects, and Picard's appropriate self-examination as a result of seeing what the Borg have become leads him to the conclusion that he still did the right thing, but must now attempt to rectify the unintended consequences from his correct act, at least by encouraging Hugh to take on a more active leadership role and by removing the cult leader Lore who has taken the place of the old Collective for these Borg. I think it's (arguably) more a failure of the scripting rather than intent of part 2 that Picard does not more explicitly reject Nechayev's philosophy (i.e. by telling her that he will refuse to commit genocide, under any circumstances, and that Starfleet can remove him from his position if they wish but he will not violate his ethics, in contrast to part 1 where he says "yes sir"); however, I do think it's in line with late TNG/contemporary DS9 (e.g. Pressman) that Nechayev herself is never convinced by a Picard argument of the wrongness of her ways. It feels like a bit of a dangling thread -- for Picard to agree tacitly that he made the wrong choice in not destroying an enemy is a big enough moment that an ending in which Picard re-affirms his position *more explicitly* rather than in dialogue midway through the episode in an unrelated scene would probably be desirable. (Or, if the story actually went to prove that Picard should become more pragmatic -- which I don't believe that Part 2 is arguing -- it should commit to this point more strongly.)

Arguably this *is* a period of greater serialization in which the story is not entirely resolved at the end of the two-parter, and Picard can spend several episodes mulling over Nechayev's requests and only by acting against *Pressman* can he effectively resolve the conflict created by her orders. I'm not sure how much this really came off.
William B
Fri, Mar 6, 2020, 1:16pm (UTC -6)
Without getting into the I, Borg thing at length here, the other question at hand is whether the Borg really are an enemy race -- in which Picard's position is correct -- or if this is a misunderstanding of the Borg, and that they are essentially a viral malevolent force. The latter seems to be Nechayev's POV, in which case Nechayev may be consistent with Federation ethics, just that Picard makes a category error with the Borg. My feeling overall is that Nechayev is out of bounds of standard Federation ethics, but not insane, mad with power, deluded, etc., but believes that standard Federation ethics are inappropriate when dealing with an enemy as powerful and destructive as the Borg, which places her closer to Pressman (or to Sisko in ITPM) than to Jameson or Maddox.
Peter G.
Fri, Mar 6, 2020, 1:44pm (UTC -6)
Things don't strictly have to come down to pro/anti Trek ethos when it comes to the actions of one character. In fact this is one thing TNG routinely did well, which was to present different ideas and although Picard's was usually the most enlightened, it was only *able to be* enlightened by virtue of giving all the differing ideas a hearing. The senior staff meeting is literally the essence of TNG. It's not that Worf's aggressive attitude is "counter to" the Federation ethos; that would be a very inappropriate remark to make. The problem would be if *everyone* thought just as Worf does, in which case the Federation would be overly aggressive. But him alone having that personality and set of values is a healthy fit into the family of the Federation, so long as everyone is working together and pooling their ideas. Picard is the nexus of that pooling on the Enterprise, and this is why his crew is always so alarmed when they're on a mission and he declines to explain to them what's going on.

So it would not be fair to Nechayev as a character, I think, to require her to somehow "represent" the values of the Federation, as some kind of corporate talking head. Each officer no doubt has a spectrum of leeway about which views and emphases they can have and still serve in Starfleet. I mean, Worf would definitely have been down with genociding the Borg, and no one's giving him the crook-eye as being somehow not a decent Starfleet officer. I feel this same way about Captains Maxwell and Jellico, who represent Starfleet's values *from the point of view* of a more militaristic and hard-hitting Captain. There is room for that, as long as they abide by Federation law and don't become Captain Garths.

The biggest problem in looking at Nechayev in Decent, or Pressman in The Pegasus, and sussing what "what this is saying" about TNG's ethos, is that they are characters in a story, and it's the story, not the POV of the characters, that is supposed to tell the show's ethos (which ends up being the Federation's ethos). This confusion is at the heart of what's wrong with DISC and PIC, because both of those shows want to deify their central character and make their personal views *the singular statement* about what is right and what the show is about. This doesn't give them any room to be characters, and instead they become direct corporate spokespeople for the writers. And this is also why the peripheral characters in DISC and PIC are more or less irrelevant other than as aesthetic window dressing: they have no part to play in teaching us the show's values, because the shows are both about how one person is the only one who counts. And THAT is a position that is anti-Federation values, which put a premium on the voices of many being important, not the voice of one person. The Borg are such a frightening enemy because they are almost exactly following that principle, except for one detail: the Borg place zero value on the opinion of one drone, whereas the Senior Staff Meeting works by valuing highly the input of each person present. The individuality is what makes the collective in Trek, and Nechayev, Pressman, Maxwell, etc, can certainly be part of that collective and not be somehow 'against it' or need to be discussed in that way, because there are other voices, other races, and other views in the mix. So long as all voices are heard it's fine to have some be militant.
Peter G.
Fri, Mar 6, 2020, 2:28pm (UTC -6)
I just thought to mention one other detail: the reason Nechayev makes us bristle ever time she speaks with Picard isn't, I think, because she's assertive, hard-hitting, or militaristic. I think the reason she ends up being an antagonist is because it doesn't feel like she respects the Picard-type of Federation member, whose every move is shackled by having to ask moral questions, even oddball ones. I mean, Picard's Enterprise is willing to have debates about whether construction tools might be sentient, so I can see how this would rankle with officers whose main priority is to get things done. Picard is the futuristic version of that guy tying himself to a tree because it's wrong to cut it down. He might have a point, and might even be more in touch with nature than the loggers are, but at the same time there is going to be friction between Picard and them on occasion when he's blocking them accomplishing goals they want to pursue. I think that's the price of being the voice of ethics in all situations. Many officers obviously respect Picard, but I think those like Nechayev who irk us as an audience do so because they don't go in for his way of thinking. It's not her values that make her antagonistic to us, it's her lack of respect for Picard's views.
William B
Fri, Mar 6, 2020, 2:38pm (UTC -6)
@Peter, I agree with what you say. My comment is more directed at Andy's Friend and takes his approach to TNG in which the characters are more archetypal with regard to their opposition to "Federation values" in mind. I actually don't mind whether Nechayev represents Federation values or not, though I do think Descent could have benefited by having Picard's arc be clearer.
Peter G.
Fri, Mar 6, 2020, 3:21pm (UTC -6)
@ William B,

I see that. My comment wasn't so much directed at you so much as at people who are concerned whether a given individual correctly represents Trek values. Elliott in particular takes umbrage with Sisko and how because of his behavior DS9 seems to go against Trek values. Putting aside whether I agree with his assessment of Sisko, I don't think looking at one character - even the star - is quite the right way to look at it. DS9, just for instance, has representatives of *very* divergent points of view, only some of them from Starfleet, and yet their entire collective and their stories all told are the show's perspective, not just Sisko's opinions. Not that it's my mission to disagree with Elliott particularly, but I was more struck by how this notion of one character being 'it' is perhaps the great mistake both new Trek shows make, putting aside writing quality and the rest. They really did turn Trek into Star Wars.
Fri, Mar 6, 2020, 4:04pm (UTC -6)
I’m not really saying one person represents Federation values in this show either, just to be clear. I think it’s actually a great feature of DS9 that we can see different characters running the spectrum of Federation values but not quite reaching the ideal at times.

As for STP being single-character driven, considering how many dressing-downs Picard gets, it’s hardly a fair description of the show. These shows are all ensemble shows, and I think it’s more accurate to say that the showrunners would like for us to learn about the Federation or Star Trek values through *the ensemble* working together.
Peter G.
Fri, Mar 6, 2020, 4:12pm (UTC -6)
@ Chrome,

"As for STP being single-character driven, considering how many dressing-downs Picard gets, it’s hardly a fair description of the show."

Yes, but isn't it all really just in context of whether Picard was right or wrong? They're upset when he's wrong because his opinion seems to be the one that matters. They're happy when he's right because he's the hero. He occasionally asks for opinions about tactical situations but I don't recall him ever asking anyone on the series so far what they thought of any issues. How much does Rios' personal view of life really impact their mission or Picard's perspective? Or what about the Admirals who dressed him down? I feel like he took those lumps but it's not like he's concerned about their point of view or wonders whether they had a point. The only person that he really seems to listen to is Raffi, so to that extent it feels like the hero/sidekick dynamic, as seen in The Force Awakens. Yes, that movie technically had a supporting cast too but their opinions were irrelevant when it came to Rey's decisions.
Fri, Mar 6, 2020, 4:29pm (UTC -6)
@Peter G.

To the degree that Picard is important in STP is no different than in TOS where we rally around Kirk as the show’s ethos or Janeway as the only one who can make the tough decisions in Voyager. Of course these shows have a central authority figure who the audience generally sides with, but I don’t think the correct conclusion to be drawn from that is that the ensemble should be discounted. To take your Rios example, is it really important how much he motivates Picard, or can we learn something about Star Trek by the way Rios loyally goes beyond for his ship and crew?

Does Miles O’Brien not getting a big say in Sisko’s command decisions make him less important as a main character of interest representing how Federation families work?
Peter G.
Fri, Mar 6, 2020, 6:58pm (UTC -6)
@ Chrome,

Actually you raise a good point, which is to ask how much the star's decisions have been shaped by the views of those around them (Starfleet or otherwise). To the extent that Sisko, for instance, runs off half-cocked and doesn't care what anyone says (e.g. For the Uniform) he makes everyone concerned and they're not happy about it. Mostly though I think he takes O'Brien, Dax and Kira very seriously when they chime in. At her better moments Janeway is the mother figure, but in the more aggravating iterations of her writing she does whatever she wants and iignores all advice. To the extent that she does this she's a troubling and autocratic figure IMO. The TOS scenario suffers from this the least because the Bones vs Spock pressure is almost always there, and dramatically speaking nothing Kirk does happens outside of this context. The question isn't whether the star cares about the others, but whether the script goes out of it's way to include scenes where the star's view is being guided by these voices.
Sat, Mar 7, 2020, 7:36am (UTC -6)
@Peter G.

I see what you mean. I think the issue with Janeway is very much a writing issue because in the better episodes like “Tuvix” we’ll see Janeway talk over the decision and reach a sort of consensus before she makes the final say. Even if we didn’t agree with her decision in that episode, it’s clear weight was taken and I would consider that a Federation value-friendly decision. Contrast that with say, “Nothing Human”, where Janeway makes the most practical decision by forcing a valuable officer to undergo life-saving surgery. Janeway still goes through all the motions of thinking through her decision but then she also orders B’Elena to “get over it” after she makes a questionable decision that violates B’Elena. That’s not a Federation-friendly decision; indeed even the most callous of politicians in our time would be more considerate of civil liberties. So that’s just bad writing.

Did Sisko consult anyone in this episode? Well, I suppose he talked the situation over with Starfleet, but mostly he made the calls and kept his mission hush. I don’t want to make a value judgement on Sisko here, but I think most would agree he’s acting in contrast with Federation values in this episode. I suppose we could even say if he had consulted Dax or O’Brien, he might’ve been talked out of his mission. But still I think the controversial non-Federation maneuvering by Sisko in this episode actually makes it quite engaging. I think the main difference here between Janeway in “Nothing Human” and Sisko here is that we can see Sisko is in pain over his decision.

I don’t really want to get into the weeds too much about Star Trek: Picard because the show’s still in its infancy. I do think the writers are trying to have Picard revaluate his decisions in many episodes in a style very consistent with Federation values, but maybe the writers will mess it all up by the end of the season. :-)
Jamie Mann
Sat, Mar 7, 2020, 7:58am (UTC -6)
Wow, this triggered a lot of new conversations :)

> Another point that I think is important that neither Jamie or Peter bring up is that Starfleet only gave its blessing to the original plan

True, but even then, they were still being asked to give their blessing to a plan which would outright lie to a neutral party (famed for being paranoid, to boot). If it failed, it'd almost certainly cause the Romulans to move towards actively supporting the Dominion; if it succeeded, then thousands of Romulans would be killed fighting for a lie.

And it goes beyond that. Failure would mean certain defeat. Success might mean short-term survival, but could then lead to significant long term issues - after all, if the lie is ever discovered, what would the impact be? It could well be Star Fleet's Watergate, with political consequences which could tear the Federation apart. And then there's the impact it could have on the Federations's alliances - who knows how the Klingons would react, and as for the Romulans? If they ever discovered the lie, it could lead to a new war which could finally destroy the Federation, especially if it's already reeling politically and abandoned by it's usual allies.

As I mentioned before, it's "too big", in much the same sense as Roosevelt's alleged knowledge about Japan's plan to attack Pearl Harbor.

And that's why I think the plan should have come from Section 31.

> What’s interesting is this breaks TNG/DS9 into a couple schools of thought about the norm for Federation values. One way of reading this is that Sisko would normally behave like Picard and uphold the highest standard of Federation values, but only in ideal circumstances. Another way of reading this is that Picard is somewhat of a preachy outlier who may have a higher (or simply different, depending on your POV) set of morals than the Federation itself

I think it's perhaps simpler than that.

Picard (and to a degree, Janeway in Voyager) represent the "exploration" aspect of Star Fleet: they look towards negotiation and diplomacy as the primary means of resolving issues. However, there's then the "military" aspect of Star Fleet, which is focused on dealing with threats, ideally permanently, and this is usually represented by the Admirals who pop up from time to time.

Sisko generally fell somewhere between the two poles, depending on what the writers wanted to do that week.
Fri, Apr 17, 2020, 4:07am (UTC -6)
Just rewatched this episode in the DS9 rerun on SYFY UK, still an outstanding episode.

I have to slightly correct your review though. You implied Garak had to intervene with the bomb to save Sisko's plan when Vreenak found out the rod was fake. It wasn't an intervention, Garak had the explosion planned from the start knowing the fake rod wouldn't stand up without damage.

And this ironic thing I love about Garak is that even though he's long been set up as the one character you never turn your back on, actually he's the one you can most rely on when the stakes are extremely high. That's why he finally gained Odo's respect in The Die is Cast. Garak KNEW Sisko would morally struggle to 'pull the necessary triggers' even for the sake of the Alpha Quadrant, so perfomed the acts himself and willingly took Sisko's outraged punches of attempted purged guilt. He's more like a true friend indeed.
Fri, Apr 17, 2020, 9:05am (UTC -6)

I'd push back a bit on your Garak as a friend take.

"he's the one you can most rely on when the stakes are extremely high."

It all depends if Garak's motivations are aligned with yours -- or in this case Sisko's. Garak wants a free Cardassia and wants the Dominion out of there. Sisko enlisting him gives him a chance to do something about it.

"He's more like a true friend indeed."

I recall participating in a discussion a while back about if you were living on DS9, whether or not you'd keep a safe distance from Garak. Personally I would. Garak was a high-ranking member of the Obsidian Order, basically like the KGB or SS. His morals/value system is messed up.

What I also found very interesting is at the end of "Second Skin", the Cardassian Ghemor tells Kira something like don't ever trust Garak, don't ever turn your back on him even after Garak rescued Ghemor by phasering Entek. Presumably this is because of what Ghemor thinks of the OO and all those who once worked for it.

No doubt Garak is one of the most enigmatic characters in all of Trek -- a wonderful creation of a former KGB/SS forced to live as a civilian away from his homeland. Some of his habits die hard.
Fri, Apr 17, 2020, 9:37am (UTC -6)
@ Rahul
I agree with your post. Garak is (was; kind of still is) a cold blooded murderer and god knows what. He did horrible things and enjoyed it. A great character, though.

One correction. The Obsidian Order was not like the SS but the Gestapo (which means GEheime STAatsPOlizei= secret state police). The SS was not an intelligence organization but more or less a paramilitary organization that after Hitler took power became kind of it's own little military alongside the Wehrmacht.
Fri, Apr 17, 2020, 11:03am (UTC -6)

I didn't go as far as to say Garak was a true friend (I did use the word 'like') but how many times has he actually acted against the crew of DS9 and the Federation. Maybe when to rejoin his Enabran in the OO but was even that was more due to daddy issues? Even Enabran detected his son had changed. If he can plot a devious ruthless game to bring the Romulans to the party so easily, he could easily have plotted to improve his own situation at the cost of the crew a long time ago.

And I remind you @Booming Kira was a cold blooded killer too.
Fri, Apr 17, 2020, 11:15am (UTC -6)
"Kira was a cold blooded killer too."

The main difference is Kira is a reformed soldier, in that she takes a conscious effort to be patient and not resort to violence anymore. It's not clear if Garak ever reformed per se, though I agree one possible ending we could imagine to his arc is that he gives up the spy game and tries to rebuild Cardassia (basically becoming like Kira at the beginning of DS9).
Fri, Apr 17, 2020, 12:02pm (UTC -6)

That's semantics -- "like" a true friend or "as" a true friend. I think I got the gist of your initial post. Bottom line, I think most people would not get involved with Garak if they knew his history with the OO. There's also a difference between being a freedom fighter like Kira and a KGB henchman like Garak. I think most people would want Kira as a friend.

The point I'm making is that Garak acts on his own interests. It just so happens that most of the time, he's one of the good guys as his interests jive with Sisko & co. But wanting to rejoin Enabran Tain at the expense of the rest of the DS9 team is an example where he diverges from Sisko & co. for his own motivations.
Fri, Apr 17, 2020, 12:40pm (UTC -6)
He also once tried to kill all the founders but Worf stopped him. ANd yeah the comparison between Kira and Garak is off for so many reasons. That's like saying a polish Jew fighting for his survival and killing many Nazis in the process is the same as a Nazi who actively participated in genocide.
Jason R.
Fri, Apr 17, 2020, 1:03pm (UTC -6)
Garak's history and the reason for his exile were never made clear but some of the stories he told in The Wire hint at a crisis of conscience being the reason and possible acts of compassion to the Bajoran people (which were seen as betrayal by Tain, hence the exile).

Later in the series in The Dogs of War, his comments to Kira about Damar's illusions about the occupation and Cardassia's role in it also allude to a certain moral awareness that one would not expect from an amoral person.

In The Die is Cast, Garak finds himself barely able to stand participating in Odo's torture / interrogation, again hinting at the fact that for whatever reason, he's not the same ruthless Obsidian Order agent he once was.

I also recall the "root beer" conversation with Quark where he implies strongly that being around the Federation and its values could change a person (it's insidious!)

This is not to excuse Garak or suggest that somehow war criminals should be forgiven just because they change and repent, but I do think it refutes the claim that Garak is amoral at the time we meet him in the series. He clearly has a moral code, and while it is not the same as Sisko et al. the evidence is pretty clear that it also isn't any longer that of a ruthless Obsidian Order operative.

Incidentally, even if Garak were a monster, there's no basis to suppose that he'd be any more dangerous to associate with casually than anyone else. He may have been a murderer in his former career, but he wasn't some rabid dog. And I see no reason why one can't associate with immoral people - the very premise of this notion is distasteful to me. Being friends with someone isn't an endorsement of their lifestyle.
William B
Fri, Apr 17, 2020, 1:32pm (UTC -6)

I agree with much of what you say and I think that Garak does have a conscience. I think I'd say that he doesn't have a fully coherent "moral code," in that I think he's still kind of consciously operating on the Obsidian Order moral code some of the time but that he has compassionate impulses which interfere with what he thinks he should do. I think that his discovery in The Die is Cast that he can't really be a good agent anymore, and arguably his working through in In Purgatory's Shadow that much of his OO persona was from wanting Tain's approval and acknowledgment free him from this code and allows him to start to develop another one, though I still think he's still working on developing it.

I disagree a bit with your last claim. There are lots of occasions where Garak puts himself into situations he "shouldn't" have been and pursues his own agenda, using friendship or information he overheard in social settings as a result. Profit and Loss, arguably; definitely Our Man Bashir, where because he's friends with Bashir he decides to illegally break into Bashir's program and then attempt to kill the DS9 crew trapped in the program to save their hides and to prove a point to Bashir. I'm not saying this is pure evil or anything -- he did the right thing seemingly in Profit and Loss, and he has a point in OMB -- but the latter especially shows that there are real dangers to having Garak as a friend, and Bashir had to be willing to shoot him in the face to get him to back down. That is, oddly, a great friend for *Bashir* to have, at least by this point in the series, but it's a risky proposition for anyone who isn't willing to shoot their friends in the face if a crisis comes up.

This is in addition to times like Improbable Cause or Broken Link where Garak has some plausible official goal (investigation, talking with the Founders about the OO) which when new information arrives leads to Garak doing wildly dangerous or destructive things (torturing Odo, attempting to genocide the Founder's homeworld with the Defiant blowing up too). Odo never really lets his guard down around Garak much so the former is a bit of a wash, but the latter I think that the crew treating Garak as a friend/ally rather than a dangerous criminal who should be watched carefully around WMDs when in a sensitive situation was part of what almost led to a big problem. And again, this isn't even that Garak is evil. He has a point in Broken Link, and in The Die is Cast he can't go through with the torture as much as he wanted to. But dangerous? Absolutely.
William B
Fri, Apr 17, 2020, 1:42pm (UTC -6)
It may be that, except for Our Man Bashir (and I think some other cases with Bashir), Garak is fine to be around as long as you never let him near a situation where he might betray you for some large goal, and if you can keep the social and professional interactions with him wholly separate. Broken Link is a case where they really don't, though; Garak comes on board the ship for "official" (seeking out the truth about Cardassia) and social (helping Odo while away the hours) reasons, and I suspect that it's partly the latter that lulls them into a sense of security on the former.
Fri, Apr 17, 2020, 2:16pm (UTC -6)
I like William B's points but I do sympathize with Jason R's position. Indeed, if Bashir had been too timid to befriend Garak, Garak might have turned out for the worse, actively working to undermine the DS9 crew.

Interestingly, I think this episode itself illustrates that Garak is still a volatile person to have on your team. Sure, he got the job done, but he did it with multiple murders and a dangerous gambit that could've made things worse. I think the only reason Sisko asked Garak for help was that he was desperate and he knew Garak was capable of swaying the Romulans with means that he couldn't devise himself. Garak went behind Sisko's back to get the plan done, but it also seems like Sisko counted on Garak to do something like that. When you're dealing with Garak you basically need to expect a certain level of treachery and hope that his goals align with your own.
Fri, Apr 17, 2020, 2:36pm (UTC -6)
Yeah and Garak wasn't just an operative. He was the number 2 of the most feared secret service and lost all that because he wanted blame his father for something he did.

"And I see no reason why one can't associate with immoral people - the very premise of this notion is distasteful to me. Being friends with someone isn't an endorsement of their lifestyle."
That kind of depends on the level of immorality (and the definition).

The relationship between Kira and Dukat is a good example. Kira could never be friends with Dukat because his is a horrible mass murderer. I don't think I could be friends with a mass murderer.

And in Garak's case. He plays mind games with people which is a no no for me.
William B
Fri, Apr 17, 2020, 2:41pm (UTC -6)
@Chrome, yeah I agree. Part of the reason I said it was good for Bashir is that I think not only does Garak benefit from Bashir's friendship, but Bashir benefits from Garak's, partly because Bashir's adventurousness, his own secrets, his own mind, his quick thinking, etc make him someone well suited to play the dangerous but rewarding game of being Garak's friend. The key thing is not that it's not rewarding but that it's not without dangers, and I think Bashir is eventually clear eyed about that. I think we often have to make smaller stakes cost benefit analyses with friendships, and decide when it's worth taking a chance on someone once we've found some evidence that they might be dangerous to be around under certain circumstances when our goals clash. This is a more extreme version of that. Something similar with Sisko in this ep (with aliance rather than friendship).
Jason R.
Fri, Apr 17, 2020, 3:55pm (UTC -6)
"I don't think I could be friends with a mass murderer."

To be clear I am not suggesting that you or anyone *should* befriend a morally suspect person. I simply reject the notion that people should be condemned for befriending (even casually) bad people, as if casual acquaintance or friendship is equivalent to endorsement.
Peter G.
Sat, Apr 18, 2020, 11:10am (UTC -6)
I've been thinking about this discussion, and it occurs to me that Kerr's original comment was that Garak is the kind of guy you can *trust* to get the job done. And insofar as he was going to follow through even when Sisko was despairing, he was like a "true friend indeed." But this doesn't seem to be arguing that he "was like" a true friend; it's a reference to "a friend in need is a friend indeed." Meaning, Sisko even at his lowest in this ep could never doubt for a moment that Garak was going to keep going right to the end. It's kind of like an addict going through withdrawal, which in this case was Sisko in withdrawal from the security and comfort of his Federation rules. Garak was the guy holding his head in the bucket even while demanding to be handed back the bottle. Within this context I think what Kerr said makes total sense: Garak was never going to back down, give up, change his mind, or lose his nerve. If what we're calling a friend is "someone you can rely on even when the odds are low" then he is that. If what we mean is "someone who's totally safe and who will never give you threat" then he is not that. Too often I think we consider friendship to be the latter, and personally I think this is a mistake. In fact, the extent to which we confine our actual friends into having to be something for us that we box them into is probably an issue to be examined. A person is not a security blanket.

I think there was probably a time when Garak's training would have been self-preservation at all costs. Despite the Obsidian Order supposedly being the backbone of Cardassian security, I would personally expect that they created at least as many problems than they solved, if not many more. Their own power probably came at the expense of their world, as is often the case. I could well imagine Tain training Garak that he and Garak were worth more than all of Cardassia combined, in a wink-wink sort of way. This was much the mindset of the Guls we've seen, despite the state rhetoric about it all being about patriotism. What it was was systemic narcissism. So in the past I expect Garak would have turned tail and ran at the first sign of trouble; keep himself alive at all costs. But now we've seen him ready to go down with the Defiant to protect his people, or possibly at least to avenge his father. Whoever he was, that guy is gone.

Granted we see a change of setting in Our Man Bashir, and at first glance we might assume that Garak really hasn't changed: after all he wants to turn tail to preserve himself at the first sign of real trouble. Seeing the episode as a Bashir episode it could be easy to see how Garak has a bit of the villain in him. But if we flip the diagram and look at it as a Garak episode, maybe it's about how Bashir is like that voice inside him insisting that he's not who he was; and that inner voice shoots the Garak that tries to run away, because there's no room for that Garak anymore. And the beauty of Garak's realization that you can "save the world by destroying it" is that being a loyal Cardassian, or even a good agent, doesn't actually require being a scoundrel. In fact those traits are probably harmful to an agent if that agent's agenda really is to protect his world. So Garak could sacrifice everything he thought he needed to be, and yet by doing so be much more the thing he always thought he was. He said that in his heart he never betrayed Cardassia, and I think that's the truth. Now his heart and his actions could be aligned.

So when it comes to saving Sisko's Federation, I don't think it's merely the case that Garak's goals just happen to align with Sisko's. I legitimately think that Garak would not have turned tail, betraying Sisko, and sink the Federation on purpose in the process if that would have helped Garak's agenda. And that's because I think at this point Garak knows that his agenda can no longer include backstabbing everyone in sight for some small advancement for himself. Everyone loses - including you - if there's a race to the bottom. Maybe that's the insidious thing: it doesn't just smell fizzy and taste sweet, but it's actually good for you too. Only an idiot would go against that just on principle.
Sat, Apr 18, 2020, 1:14pm (UTC -6)
That's a lot of head canon. :)
People always bring up that Garak wasn't happy torturing Odo. What does that tell us and Tain's dialog about torture? Garak really enjoyed torturing people. If some random schnuck had to be tortured I doubt that Garak would have had a problem with it. Who knows. Another point about him. You kind of play down what Garak did to Tain. He messed up somehow and probably in a big way, he stated that he wasn't protected anymore. Considering that he was basically the vice leader of the Obsidian Order, it must have been very significant. In desperation he pinned it on Tain who expected it but still let him live after his betrayal. That doesn't mean that he is a backstabber.

He is obviously still a ruthless killer who murders people like it was nothing. Look at this episode. He kills six people without any remorse or hesitation. He actually planned to kill all these people from the beginning. Think about those four guards and their families. I guess they were on wrong shuttle at the wrong time. He had chosen a guy (Tolar) who was in prison, got him out, promised him freedom from persecution and then killed him after he the job was done. That is pretty evil. Like muhahahaha evil.

Let's also not forget that he found a guy who wanted to do messed up stuff with that gel, maybe bioweapons and for what? For a rod that was never supposed to pass inspection. Fingers crossed that it is just some rich guy who wants 50 clones and not a psychopath who wants to know how it feels to annihilate an entire planet. That gel sounded really serious.

And the last point. If Garak would have thought that killing Sisko would have achieved the mission, would he have done it?
I think yes.
Peter G.
Sat, Apr 18, 2020, 2:37pm (UTC -6)
@ Booming,

It's not *all* headcanon, especially the bit about the OO probably being responsible for more harms than help. We see in several episodes that the iron grip of both the Central Command and the OO are basically a one-way trip to civil revolt and eventually invasion. They stave it off as much as they can but the individual Cardassians are too treacherous to be trusted to value the commonwealth over their own power, for the most part.

One quibble with your comment here:

"Considering that he was basically the vice leader of the Obsidian Order, it must have been very significant. In desperation he pinned it on Tain who expected it but still let him live after his betrayal. That doesn't mean that he is a backstabber."

For one thing I always got the impression that it really *was not* something significant by our standards. It could have been as little as Garak releasing a child set to be executed and Tain would have reacted just as he did: it's a betrayal of Cardassia, the OO, etc etc. But in reality it was just a betrayal of Tain, which is to say, exercising any free will other than being his little slave. We know that Garak was never shown affection (which most Cardassians do show) except once by accident, and that his entire upbringing was an exercise in narcissistic manipulation. I don't think it would take much at all to count as a 'betrayal' of Tain. If you deal with narcissists IRL, you'll find that anything contrary to their wishes will be seen as a betrayal. But the other point is that I do not believe it was ever asserted that Garak tried to pin anything on Tain. In The Die Is Cast we hear that Garak 'betrayed him' but that's all they say, and that could mean anything. I very much doubt it was pinning something unbelievable on the chief spymaster. More likely it was finally realizing that he couldn't be the son Tain wanted (i.e. an remorseless killing machine). To whatever extent Garak did enjoy doing so, we at least have perhaps an inkling that what he enjoyed was impressing his father, more so than the actual torture itself. I'm not sure I see much evidence in the series that Garak is actually sadistic.
Sat, Apr 18, 2020, 4:15pm (UTC -6)
@ Peter
"especially the bit about the OO probably being responsible for more harms than help."
If you mean with harm that the Cardassian Union wasn't prospering. Sure. On the other hand the Federation in STP has also stopped prospering, without the Obsidian Order. One could also say: All empires must fall. Ok, I'm just playing devils advocate. It is a corrupt military dictatorship with totalitarian elements. Naturally the corrupt elements: the Obsidian Order and the military are doing everything to destroy other potential power centers. That's bad for prosperity. :)

And about Garak's past.
The only things we really know are, that he was Tains son and protege, that Tain was an absent father, that Garak betrayed him and sent him into exile. Everything else is speculation... but considering that it is all made up anyway... ;)
Jason R.
Sat, Apr 18, 2020, 5:31pm (UTC -6)
"that Garak betrayed him and sent him into exile. "

Hmm? Tain exiled Garak; Tain himself was never in exile.
Sun, Apr 19, 2020, 12:03am (UTC -6)
I know. Badly write English no good in. :)
Wed, May 20, 2020, 4:53am (UTC -6)
Aside from everything else that's been said, this episode has one of my very favorite exchanges when Sisko and Quark discuss the bribe. The self-loathing Brooks shows as he asks the favor, the way Armin Shimerman manipulates that huge prosthetic eyebrow and pauses just perfectly, and then launches into his fervent praise for Sisko releasing his inner Ferengi is wonderful. And then his glee at actually getting to negotiate with Sisko! This episode needs a little levity, and it was two minutes of pitch perfect success.
Baby Mandalorian
Mon, Jul 6, 2020, 5:31am (UTC -6)
Great episode. Had flashbacks to the old "ITS A FAKE" meme that was around many years ago. Two things though, one has been mentioned- it's weird that given the technology that the Romulan ambassador wouldn't at least send a communiqué out either from DS9 or his ship after this with the details of what happened. Secondly, Sisko has done/engaged in exactly what section 31 do, yet wants to go against them in the previous episode and infiltrate them. I forget how this plays out in future episodes, but we'll see..
Mon, Jul 13, 2020, 9:00pm (UTC -6)
This is the very best episode in DS9 and no doubt one of the very best in the whole franchise. Right along Best of Both World for me.
Wed, Jul 22, 2020, 5:28pm (UTC -6)
The fall of Betazed was absolutely brilliant in a very brilliant episode. That was like literally jaw dropping to me.

I was unaware before this thread that the writers had initially considered having Vulcan fall but thought that would be too weighty. I basically agree, but also I would have found it less plausible. Weighty, yes, because that’s a very core federation planet, right by Earth, and I would expect Starfleet to abandon 90% of the Federation and fall back to defending its core systems. Though, they would almost certainly still try to hold DS9.
Wed, Aug 19, 2020, 8:16pm (UTC -6)
I kind of wish Garak had given Sisko a good beating at the end of this one. Sisko is a fine character at times but rather naive - he comes across as being a bit too privileged and comfortable, the kind of comfort that keeps distance between the powerful and those dying for convenience's sake. Like his absurd idea to beam Jem Hadar survivors aboard, or attempting to negotiate with them...those rosy Boy Scout days are over for Starfleet. He needs to wake up and realize just what the Romulan said - the Federation is getting their asses handed to them.

Sisko knew unconsciously that the Garak option was their best chance even if he didn't want to admit it to himself. Garak knows how to play the game and was probably never addled with illusions of peace. After Far Beyond the Stars, you'd think Sisko held a better understanding of fighting for existence against a merciless opponent. Drink up and kill some commies, Captain.

And once again... where's Odo?
Wed, Sep 16, 2020, 7:59am (UTC -6)
Dark Kirk's contribution on this thread is a very selfish one. Ever heard of a spoiler alert fella?
Thu, Oct 1, 2020, 5:35pm (UTC -6)
I hate this episode. Was it right when the Gulf of Tonkin incident was used to get the US into the Vietnam War? Was it right when George W. Bush used "weapons of mass destruction" which didn't exist to get the US involved militarily in Iraq? No. Deception used to justify war is very old and it is evil. So Captain Sisko's use of deception to bring the Romulans into war is the same dark immorality. We can be better than that. The point of Star Trek is that we can be better than that. Does Trek celebrate the racist? No, it says we can be better! So why should it celebrate, however darkly, the war deceiver?
Fri, Oct 2, 2020, 4:06am (UTC -6)
That is really not a good comparison. Tonkin and WMD lies tricked the Americans themselves into the war not another power. Both wars were a superpower against a third world country for oil/propping up a puppet regime. The episode clearly depicts Siskos behavior as wrong. This is at bad as it gets (or should have gotten). I disliked the siege of ar something far more and I H A T E the Sisko gasses planets episode (The worst Trek episode). What does Sisko effectively do in this episode: Lying to a Romulan senator which Federation diplomats probably have to do all the time. (Ok he also threatens the blue guy and gives somebody else this nightmare gel)

There are two deceptions going on. Siskos and Sisko being tricked into letting Garak do it's thing. The Federation would have been doomed without the Romulans. You could argue of course that creating such a situation in the first place is the actual problem.

The bigger problem I have is that they never really follow up on it. Sisko never mentions it again.
Peter G.
Fri, Oct 2, 2020, 11:04am (UTC -6)
Even though this is the best episode in all of Trek, I am actually sympathetic to Doody's argument since I am personally wary of lies that lead to war. Part of the problem is context, which the public never gets because they only hear what they're told. Sisko's position here is clearly not nefarious in its end goal: the Romulans are needed, because the side of democracy, freedom, and respect for individuality is in danger of losing the war. This is a bona fide "good cause", which we are privy to because we're watching the show. The problem in treating this as an allegory for contemporary events is that I do not particularly believe in the benevolence of modern wars (sorry, police actions).

The argument made regarding Iraq 2.0, for instance, is that blatant lies were told to take America to war, for reasons other than national defense, but rather to effectively seize oil and resources. Assuming for the moment this is an accurate description, these two cases may look similar on the surface in terms of lying to go to war, but this isn't a case of "the ends justify the means" because the ends of both cases are different. Doing harsh or deceitful things to protect your way of life from existential threat is really not the same as doing so for greed. Not that it's ever good to lie to the people, however it's also fairly clear that if the decision is between the Federation ending outright or telling one big lie, it's a no-brainer unless the citizens of the Federation have knowingly signed up for martyrdom. Assuming they would vote to be protected at all costs, then implicitly there is actually a mandate to lie if that's what it takes to survive. I have a hard time believing all the Federation members would have knowingly joined if they were told that the Federation would not lie even if it meant sacrificing their member worlds. Security would have been the most basic fundamental, perhaps just after the Prime Directive if we're being finicky.

So while I actually do agree that lying to go to war is very troubling, and ITPM makes it clear that Sisko finds it so, this is not equivalent to the sorts of horseplay seen in the 20th century. But it's cheating in a way, because here we're seeing Sisko's inner thoughts whereas in real life we'll never have that kind of assurance when we learn our leaders lied to go to war. How will we know that it was a Sisko-esque man of honor, and not a realpolitik power-monger?
Jason R.
Fri, Oct 2, 2020, 1:34pm (UTC -6)
Well Peter that is the fundamental problem - many of us agree that lies are wrong except to defeat an existential or otherwise dire threat, but of course we will never ever have the level of information in real life that permits us to understand definitively if a threat truly meets this high threshold.

The vast majority would agree with Sisko, but only because of a level of knowledge that is impossible outside of fiction.

This reminds me of the torture debate that arose in the Bush years after 911. Most of the public, if their feet were put to the fire, would probably endorse Jack Bauer style methods if it was a true ticking time bomb scenario like a suitcase nuke going off in Manhattan. But even in those rare situations the act of preventing the disaster precludes any certainty that said methods were the only way to do so. It's akin to an uncertainty principle, where the act of halting a disaster makes it impossible to know if you were justified in doing so and hence taints you with the moral implications of those methods.

So we are all left with an ugly deal with the devil and a stark choice. Do we disclaim lies and torture, knowing that one day we may be destroyed as a consequence, or do we strike this deal, knowing that we will be tainted by it and become morally suspect with no chance for exoneration.

This, incidentally, goes to the heart of the Rodenberrian "evolved" humanity as put forth by Picard in TNG. It's easy to be evolved when you're flying around in a night invicible Galaxy class starship or if you're a Q or Organian or something. But that vision is nothing unless it's tested. And Sisko fails the test. Or rather, he plunges his hands in the muck so that others don't have to (to borrow a metaphor).
Fri, Oct 2, 2020, 2:39pm (UTC -6)
I want to mention that the whole ticking bomb scenario has never happened and probably never will. The main reason that I never watched 24 is that it is so openly pro torture that it is just ridiculous. It is like an evil version of the trolley problem. Americans wanted to torture but also not feel bad about it. In comes the ticking time bomb scenario.

Sisko on the other hand knows that the likelihood of the federation being overwhelmed are high and not some completely fictional scenario.
Fri, Oct 2, 2020, 4:19pm (UTC -6)
In the context of the show itself, Sisko can be defended. He's up against an existential threat.

The question is why a writer from a country whose last few major wars were based on lies and trumped-up phony existential threats, would write a show in which the Goodies must do Bad Things to stop a Super Villain. This has all kinds of sneaky effects on an audience. It conditions an audience to think a certain way and approach problems a certain way. And it would anticipate the lies - used to sell Vietnam and Gulf War 1 - used to sell the second Gulf War.

I mean, you're a writer living in a country which has a history of wrongly selling anything remotely different as an existential treat (they'll rape our women! They'll destroy our way of life!), and you choose to tell a story like DS9?

And what's your defense? That the Federation is not like us? That it's different this time?

That's a cool and refreshing angle for Trek.

But IMO it's only responsible if you take the time to show when these arguments and tropes were used to massively negative effect. If you take the time to show why the Feds aren't like the contemporary nations or governments of the audience. And DS9 doesnt do this (at least in my memory of it; im re-watching the last 4 seasons now). It doesn't interrogate anything. Instead it tacitly endorses all kinds of scummy behavior.

There's a reason you had a glut of shows like DS9, and films like Saving Private Ryan and Blackhawk Down in the lead up to Gulf War 2. American's were itching for another Dirty Harry and another righteous cause. And Ira Behr was itching to dirty up Roddenberry's view of the Federation, which he doesn't believe in.

TNG's version of the Dominion war is basically those Crystalline Entity episodes (
"It's an unknown creature, capable of stripping all life from an entire world... insatiably ravenous for the life force found in intelligent forms like us!"). A mass murdering, planet gobbling alien and Picard priority is to talk to it. Picard woulda nuked that thing into a billion shards if push came to shove, but you saw him exhausting other options first. I've always felt this kind of writing was edgier and more subversive than what DS9 touted as "subversive" and "adult".
Fri, Oct 2, 2020, 11:13pm (UTC -6)
@Jason R. said:

"The vast majority would agree with Sisko, but only because of a level of knowledge that is impossible outside of fiction."

Great point, @Jason R. With Star Trek (and other scifi), we notice obvious incredible aspects like faster than light travel, or time travel, or transporters, or holodecks, etc.

But one thing we don't immediately recognise how central to scifi Perfect Information is.

Perfect Information, like faster than light travel, is impossible. Wouldn't it be amazing to know how things would turn out *for sure* in order to make a decision? Like Dr. Strange checking millions of possible outcomes in the middle of the Infinity War, before closing a course of action. Talk about fantasy.

There are a lot of mechanisms in scifi for achieving perfect information.

How about telepaths? Knowing what other people think is a huge informational fiction. Babylon 5 loved to use this.

Or time travel? Especial with a reset button. Now you actually know *for sure* how things would have turned out if something had been different. Think TNG's "Tapestry".

And of course In the Pale Moonlight is not different from ordinary fiction in providing a God's Eye View (, giving the audience perfect information with which to evaluate moral quandaries.

People are very uncomfortable with making decisions with imperfect information. One of the biggest crutches we get in scifi in the fantasy of Perfect Information.

There aren't too many examples of people in Star Trek making the wrong choice. Not wrong in the moral sense - wrong in the, oh fuck, things didn't work out sense. Because there is so often a time-travel reset button or some other informational cheat available.

Worf is one of the few people who makes incorrect decisions. He did it when he chose to save Jadzia over completing the mission in "Change of Heart". And he did it when he destroys the the Klingon ship in "Rules of Engagement".

But even in "Rules," the writers can't help but give Worf a scifi out - the crew manifest had been faked, there was no one aboard. nBSG did a slightly better job when they had Lee destroy the Olympic Carrier in "33".

But maybe the best example of a wrong decision with permanent consequences and no Perfect Information cheat, was TNG's legendary "First Duty." Easily one of the best of the entire franchise.
Jason R.
Sat, Oct 3, 2020, 9:33am (UTC -6)
"TNG's version of the Dominion war is basically those Crystalline Entity episodes (
"It's an unknown creature, capable of stripping all life from an entire world... insatiably ravenous for the life force found in intelligent forms like us!"). A mass murdering, planet gobbling alien and Picard priority is to talk to it. Picard woulda nuked that thing into a billion shards if push came to shove, but you saw him exhausting other options first. I've always felt this kind of writing was edgier and more subversive than what DS9 touted as "subversive" and "adult"."

I agree to a point. Choosing to spare a planet destroying entity or even just a murderous rock blob a la the horta is very subversive and distinctly Trekkian.

On the other hand even you qualify your statement "if push comes to shove..." thereby acknowledging that even Picard could not just stand by and permit people to die to avoid sullying his own hands by killing.

In DS9, push comes to shove with the Dominion. It is subversive to subject an "evolved" society to the kinds of no-win scenarios that were always neatly sidestepped in TNG.

Regarding the "ticking time bomb" this need not be a literal bomb but can be thought of as any extreme situation where survival necessitates violence or some other normally immoral response. Self-defence is the classic example as are numerous other scenarios carved out under the law from necessity to the battered wife pre-emptive "self-defence" argument.

Mal is correct that scifi and fantasy cheats on this point by providing not only the protagonist but the viewer with perfect information, squeezing out the moral ambiguity. But on the other hand, these scenarios do certainly happen all the time, especially in wartime, which makes wartime leaders easy prey for revisionist smears and takedowns by charlatans and opportunists.
Top Hat
Sat, Oct 3, 2020, 9:46am (UTC -6)
Speaking of the matter of information, I admit I always thought: isn't this a bit out of Sisko's paygrade? Shouldn't you consult with somebody from the Federation's "Romulan desk"? Does your position and level of security clearance really allow you to properly weigh the variables on this matter? I get it: it's a TV show, and the protagonists often have to do implausible things because they're the protagonists. But on DS9 it gets egregious -- Sisko seems to exceed his duties on a regular.

I like this episode but I agree that it's troubling how appealing realpolitik can look if it's for "good reasons." Especially since the blowback of Sisko's treacherous actions never arrives.
Sat, Oct 3, 2020, 10:42am (UTC -6)
Interesting discussion here about perfect information -- I like how Mal has put it regarding perfect information.

Another way of thinking about it is Trek's oversimplification of a very complex, political and societal problem. It's television fiction of course and a story needs to be wrapped up in 1 hour and then we move on. So often times Trek will have a handful of people our protagonist deals with that represent the entire population of a society or a planet or even a planetary system -- a decision is made, action taken and that's it. Rarely do we follow up with consequences or second-order effects.

I don't think that's a drawback necessarily as we as viewers have to look at it as telling a part of a larger story with plenty of details/motivations/consequences being left out. If we are overly meticulous in our scrutiny of a Trek episode, of course it can fall apart -- we have had to accept that spaceships carrying hundreds of people can travel hundreds or thousands of times faster than the speed of light, matter/energy scramblers in the transporters etc. Are we gonna call all of that BS and hate Trek? Of course not, so similarly, the oversimplification of a political conflict is part of the package or suspension of disbelief.

I do think Sisko takes matters into his own hands to some extent but there are references to his contact with / approval from higher-ups. The bottom line is a good story is told of a man with the weight of the world on his shoulders feeling he has to violate his fundamental principles and morals -- and this is done all while keeping within the Trek paradigm. ITPM is a brilliant episode and one of the franchise's very best for me in terms of what it takes the viewer through.
Giving It a chance
Mon, Oct 26, 2020, 12:38pm (UTC -6)
Giving this episode a watch after all the great reviews, but gotta say, the start isn’t promising, with Sisko and Dax having a cringe-worthy back and forth on how to draw Romulus into a war. “And then...”. “But...” “Yeah, that’s the ticket!”. Egads, a major deceptive operation hashed out by two people having an 8th grade vocabulary conversation. Pffft..

I truly hope it gets better.
Thu, Jan 14, 2021, 5:16am (UTC -6)
Man, am I ever getting annoyed by fans of the morally darker New Star Treks pointing to this and "For the Uniform" as justifications via "whataboutism" for "Discovery," "Picard" and "Lower Decks"'s reprehensible moral codes. These were the EXCEPTIONS to for Sisko, while being the rule for those series.

Here is a whole EPISODE about Sisko reflecting on the damage he did and trying to come to an "ends justifying the means" reasoning, with his success in doing so VERY much in doubt. Characters in the new Trek don't even bat a friggin' eye at wanton murder.

As for "For the Uniform" there's a whole tizzy about chemical warefare on civilians. Admittedly, not a good look, but also ignoring complete situational context. That was a COLONY world. By it's very nature such a world would not have large numbers of infirm upon it because it's not a difficult supposition to make that only able-bodies and fit people would sign up for frontier colonization, given that it would likely entail large amounts of physically demanding work. That plus the fact there was ample evacuation time and a whole other planet close by to evacuate to, makes Sisko's decision to do this, while not a great action, not the murderous genocide some make it out to be.

And then there's the whole Dominion War. And if you need me to explain the difference between a period of sustained conflict against a singular enemy faction seeking to annihilate you with superior tech and numbers versus vaprizing every opponent in every hostile encounter, (when you have STUN settings no less) be it a gang of bounty hunters or an enemy vessel, then I really have to wonder what's wrong with you. Preferably we'd all want to do our best to avoid either, but the new Treks don't even try, or feel remorse. Not when they're too busy feeling fully justified for every murder because they tell themselves they have the moral high ground and were RIGHT. Pretty sure that thinking is what's lead to every religious conflict ever.

Can't wait for Kurtzman's new Trek series, Star Trek: Crusades, where the plucky, failed upwards captain who is brave enough to show their feelings at every oppertunity leaves the Alpha through Gamma Quadrents awash in the blood of those that refused to come around to the Federations dogmatic, moralistic way of thinking. It'll be a real barn-buster of an action romp thst promises to truely resonate with 4% of it's audience and pats them on the head dhile telling them how right THEY are. Gaw, I wouldn't put it past him, I really wouldn't.
Jason R.
Thu, Jan 14, 2021, 11:27am (UTC -6)
"Man, am I ever getting annoyed by fans of the morally darker New Star Treks pointing to this and "For the Uniform" as justifications via "whataboutism" for "Discovery," "Picard" and "Lower Decks"'s reprehensible moral codes. These were the EXCEPTIONS to for Sisko, while being the rule for those series."

Yes. DS9 for all its reputation as a "dark" Trek isn't actually all that dark. We have to make a distinction between dark subject matter and what I would call a dark morality I e. nihilism. DS9 ventures into the former but almost never into the latter.

In the Berman era shows killing was a big deal and Starfleet crew almost never did it if it could be helped. Voyager was notorious for this and it even became a bit comedic as Janeway would permit the rando alien hard-ass of the week to wail on the Voyager until its shields were down to 8% before ordering the return of fire - and then she'd just target their engines or something. DS9 wasn't all that different, although given the war setting, obviously Sisko wasn't able to be as accommodating when facing a wing of Jem'Hadar fighters.

Compare this with the casual violence of 7 of 9 mowing down a dozen people in Stardust City Rag or Burnham setting her phaser to kill and shooting that Klingon in the back (no I'm never going to let that one go, cause it was way worse than the mutiny).
Wed, Feb 3, 2021, 12:05am (UTC -6)
Outstandingly great within DS9, quite good for Star Trek.

While I liked the ending, it still was a semi-easy way out (so typical for Star Trek) for Sisko and the good Federation as he did not have to make the hard call:

Sisko is okay with - previously unbeknownst to him - someone else murder someone to help create a false pretense for his people to enter into war in the self interest of the Federation / presumed interest of the people in the Alpha Quadrant.

The better question would be: had he also gone as far as killing the ambassador himself, maybe even plan it all that way?

I think not (None of the other Captains would have) and Garak even said so but rather than looking THAT question in the eye, non-human/non-Federation Garak is the means to conveniently avoid that question and still reap the benefits. Typical ST. I love ST but it suffers from this flaw that, mostly, our heroes only can be morale heroes because they keep meeting loop holes and convenient turns of events that fix their problems for them.

The means to an end question is seldomly truly explored just touched.
The episode is positively different, dark and discomforting for ST standards. For real world standards its probably only skin deep.
Peter G.
Wed, Feb 3, 2021, 2:50am (UTC -6)
@ Seb,

I'm not entirely sure you're taking the argument made in this episode seriously enough. For Sisko to know he can't do the truly rotten things, but to allow Garak into the game, is a case not of ends justifying means, but of compartmentalizing responsibility. In the real world analogy, we might well say something similar to what Garak said, which is "what do you actually think the CIA is for? to do the things you don't want to know need to be done, because you won't do them yourself." Now this can be contested, and IMO the bedrock of the argument is to be found in other episodes such as the first Section 31 episode. Is it possible to actually compete in the real world without using advantages (such as the Obsidian Order, Tal Shiar, Section 31) that other major powers use?

ITPM doesn't address that question directly, but it does suggest that people of conscience may need to let others *occasionally* step in to do some dirty work, knowing full well it may entail things they don't like, but also knowing those other people cannot run things. And maybe there is something here about illusion; maybe some actions are possible only if you blind yourself to them. Maybe certain dangerous jobs and plans would never come to fruition if one was too aware of their dangers; and maybe war would never be possible if we truly knew the pain we were causing. It's worth asking whether that disconnect is a good thing or not, just as Sisko asks whether being able to live with it justifies his actions. He didn't commit murder, Garak did, and the difference there is no trivial. Even if he would repeat it all again to achieve the same end, doesn't necessarily mean he would agree to do Garak's part in it with his own hands. And I'm not entirely sure that's an inconsistent or hypocritical position to take. Or at least - the episode asks whether it is.
Wed, Feb 3, 2021, 8:57am (UTC -6)
Peter is right, I think, Seb. I'd like to gentle suggest you missed the point of the episode if you think the ending was meant to be taken as a simple Sisko is a "moral hero". He did some pretty grubby things and was responsible (how directly or indirectly is a matter for debate) for some even grubbier things - but it was supposedly all for the greater good.

Sisko clearly thought it was a worthwhile trade but I don't think the writers want you to simply agree with him unthinkingly. Even he is clearly very troubled by it, despite that conclusion.
Wed, Feb 17, 2021, 2:52pm (UTC -6)
Please excuse me if someone mentioned this, but I view Sisko’s actions as being Garak’s enabler. This is the kind of scheme that Garak has always demonstrated he’s capable of implementing, and I’m sure he was pleased when Sisko went along with it. I agree with those who are annoyed by Brooks’ overacting, and Sisko’s previous actions make his handwringing rather inconsistent.
Sat, Mar 6, 2021, 8:16am (UTC -6)
So, having just seen the episode, and thinking on it for a bit, I feel like, while a decent episode, with some nice character work, it wasn't quite the 'Top 10 Star Trek episode' that others have described it.
The premise seems very much like your basic 'person becomes desperate, and makes a deal with the devil to try and fix it' scenario, with Garak being the devil in this instance, and Sisko as the desperate individual who's tricked by the Devil to performing various dark deeds, both directly and indirectly*. The difference here is that, being Star Trek, the dark deeds are limited to: Forging evidence (of something that was likely to happen anyway), Murder (of a death row criminal), and Blowing up a shuttle with a senator on board (one who was going to make the war that much harder to fight)**
It being Star Trek is also the thing that makes that work, because from the perspective of an advanced society like The Federation, actions like this *would* still be concerning (and in fact, it's something that the show acknowledged in the previous episode). That said, two things that keep the episode from being great for me are:
1 - As others have pointed out, the actions shown here aren't that much worse than others taken in prior episodes in this show (the changeling's on Earth two-parter is a good example, where Sisko actively defends his actions by saying "It's easy to be a saint in Paradise", a stark contrast to his response here).
2 - Sisko is for the most part not very pro-active. Most of his actions in this episode are basically him agreeing to Garak's ideas, and/or generally playing along to Garak's tune, out of desperation, with the final act being conducted almost entirely by Garak, with Sisko as an unwitting accomplice at best. This, to me, undermines the theme of an individual performing dubious actions in service of the greater good, by essentially offloading most of the work to Garak. Had he started out this way, but then gradually began to make decisions of his own accord (somewhat like what he did with Quark, but worse) I feel the idea could've worked, but it instead seems to do the opposite.
Overall, in isolation, the idea is an interesting one for Star Trek, and is still a decent enough episode overall, but it has some caveats that to me, keep it from being the all-time great that it's often described as.

*Then again, Breaking Bad built an entire Emmy-winning show entirely on this very premise, so maybe originality in premise doesn't matter much if it's well-done?
**Another factor is that the 'devil' in this instance is Garak, who is a series regular and someone (somewhat) sympathetic to Sisko's goals (that's also why each action comes with some sort of 'mitigating circumstance').
Sat, Jun 5, 2021, 4:03am (UTC -6)
Given his basic personality, Sisko was doomed from the beginning to feel guilt concerning his actions in ITPM. The episode is bound to resonate among persons, who like Sisko, have a developed conscience.

Since such persons do not like to deceive others, a line of work outside the military would be more suitable. Garak has a conscience which is comfortable with deception, duplicity even. Sisko has no stomach for one if the essential tenets of warfare (at least according to Sun Tzu ).

However, what amazes me about the episode, is the Romulan's reaction to the intelligence he receives from Sisko, screaming "It's a fake!!!" or something to that effect. It is certainly powerfully acted; but is it true to a self-respecting Romulan, I wonder? ....IMO, a Romulan, schooled in some general staff college on Romulus, would have assumed that it was fake as a matter of principle. Therefore: (1) It is a stretch that he even made the trip to DS9. But since the writers force that one upon us, (2) Having viewed the record, he should have uttered the word, "fascinating" with a raised eyebrow, and simply departed, but opting to leave specially prepared cylinder behind. If for no other reason he, as a trainee in the operational art of war, would wish to convey at the very least, that one report would never be enough to trigger war. "Is this the best you've got?" comes to mind as his riposte.

Still, it was a thought-provoking episode which is among the series' most watchable stories.
Peter G.
Sat, Jun 5, 2021, 9:19am (UTC -6)
I suppose we could chalk up the "it's a fake!!!" to Sisko's own perception of the rejection of his offer. But if we don't want to be so theatrical in our presumption, then perhaps even that outraged attitude was itself a maneuver to see what Sisko would do in the face of such a reaction. As it turns out he did nothing, which perhaps was itself fascinating to the Romulan. He would think so, since from his perspective his opponent in the situation was Sisko, who appeared to back down. Little did he know who the real opponent was.
Sat, Jun 5, 2021, 9:29am (UTC -6)
I think the anger was genuine. He clearly disliked the Federation already and now he sees them trying to sucker the Romulans into a bloody war with lies. Why wouldn't he be furious?
Peter G.
Tue, Jun 8, 2021, 11:11pm (UTC -6)
Watching this one again right now, and was hit by an alarming idea. Conveniently, right before Garak is set to pitch an outrageous plan to Sisko involving forgery and theft, Betazed just happens to fall due to the 10th fleet being away on a training exercise? I guess I always just assumed the Founders were one step ahead and had Changelings around to gather this kind of info. But...what if Garak fed it to them, to make the Federation desperate enough to go along with his way of planning? When Garak says to Sisko that Starfleet Command will probably go along with the plan after having just lost Betazed, it's almost too smooth, like he knew it was the perfect puzzle piece to fall into place to get him into the game his way. I could almost imagine him thinking, "how can I convince these fools to follow my lead so I can give them the tools they need to win the war?"

Not sure if this point is exactly implied overtly...but man he is certainly confident in his plan being accepted, which it would not have been just one day earlier. Did Garak sell out Betazed to drive Starfleet to desperation?
Wed, Jun 9, 2021, 12:13am (UTC -6)
I don't think so. Too complicated. Apart from former contacts he has very little resources and those contacts are mostly in the Cardassian Empire. Does he earn buckets full of Latinum with his tailor business? I don't think so. He is just presenting his case well.

Making the Dominion attack a specific planet, changing fleet orders to fit that, not to forget the outdated planetary defenses, tricking Starfleet intelligence, Section 31 and more while sitting on DS9. That would be a gigantic operation, even for an entire spy organization. To me it sounded like the Dominion would have won anyway but it would have been harder for them if everything would have worked right for the Federation.
Peter G.
Wed, Jun 9, 2021, 12:38am (UTC -6)
Well obviously I'm not sure about it, but it struck me that it was an amazing coincidence that the Federation suffered such a major blow right at the point when Garak sensed Sisko was ripe for coming to his way of thinking. Because I'm pretty sure that plan would have been torpedoed if the war had been in a holding pattern. Anyhow I don't think it's as big an operation as you think. All we need to do is assume Garak was privy to certain intelligence he wasn't supposed to have (not a stretch), and that he simply passed along word to the Dominion that an important Federation task force would be absent for training maneuvers.
Wed, Jun 9, 2021, 2:17am (UTC -6)
Sure, but that would still mean that the Federation had to miss a major Dominion build up. The Dominion had to assemble a huge fleet, resources to supply an invading army and maintain an occupation of an entire system. But hey don't let me tell you what your head canon should be. ;)
If we focus it on Garak then I would lean towards no. It's already quite past the time when he was incapable of torturing Odo, would the same guy willingly risk probably causing millions of death and enslaving billions to achieve his goal? Maybe.
Wed, Jun 9, 2021, 6:11am (UTC -6)
I got the impression that the fall of Betzed was - basically - a natural result in the progress of the Dominion fleet. And that Starfleet's inadequacy of dealing with that invasion was the result of being overtaxed by the ongoing war.

I also don't see why the Dominion, with their excellent intelligence, would need someone like Garak to tell them about the training schedules of starfleet divisions.

Also, as always with Garak, we need to ask the question of "what's in it for me?". Why would he do such a thing? I'm willing to buy him risking an entire planet to further his goals, but there needs to be some kind of logic in his actions. Would Garak really hand a key planet to the enemy, thereby risking a swifter defeat, just to change Sisko's mind?

Doesn't seem very likely to me.

Then again, with Garak, you can never know.
Peter G.
Wed, Jun 9, 2021, 8:46am (UTC -6)
I suppose the argument would be something like that the Federation was going to lose with 100% certainty unless the Romulans joined, so any action at all would be worth it to reverse that. But no, if you watch the scene again where they discuss the fall of Betazed, they all look very surprised, as if to ask how it could have happened. It's played more like a stroke of bad luck than a regular type of progression toward their defeat. It's made to sound like an attack fleet they knew nothing about struck just at the moment where the defensive fleet was away on maneuvers. The implication is the Dominion could never have taken Betazed otherwise.
Mon, Jun 14, 2021, 12:33pm (UTC -6)
I won't say much given everyone pretty gave a topo on this episode, but looking at Avery Brook's face in the end scene when he's staring at us saying he can live with it.......I'm not convinced he cannot live with it, despite deleting the log.

After introducing us to section 31 , pale moonlight pretty much sums up how mucky SF is willing to get to end the war with the Dominion (after all this was greenlighted by SF command).

Despite this dark turn on the part of the Federation , Sisko still somehow grips with it's initial ideals in that final scene (from my point of view anyhow), which adds importance and credence to Garak's speech about how he alone could of done it giving Sisko complet exoneration.
Sun, Jun 20, 2021, 7:20am (UTC -6)
It's possible that the fall of Betazed is all the more shocking, both to characters and audience, because everyone implicitly accepts that prescient & mind-reading Betazoids should have seen the attack coming, but were by the millions, unable to sense that the Dominion was anywhere near the place.

Added shock factors include that the planet is a particularly idyllic locale, which is never shown having a standing army, i.e., the Tibet of the galaxy, like Alderaan in SW.
Sun, Jun 20, 2021, 7:35am (UTC -6)
"It's possible that the fall of Betazed is all the more shocking, both to characters and audience, because everyone implicitly accepts that prescient & mind-reading Betazoids should have seen the attack coming, but were by the millions, unable to sense that the Dominion was anywhere near the place."

If TNG is any guide to how useful these powers are at figuring out the non-obvious, only once all the ground troops had landed and slaughtered a couple of million people would some Betazoid would have said "I sense great hostility!".
Sun, Jun 20, 2021, 9:35am (UTC -6)
Sad to say, that's a pretty good estimate! : )
Sat, Nov 13, 2021, 4:42pm (UTC -6)
Some were wondering how Garak was able to dispose of Graython Tolar (pretty shade of blue) without Odo noticing.

That's a good question. Odo knows the station inside and out, but then Garak likely still knows it better. However, Odo is well aware of Tolar's presence and would likely take notice of him disappearing without a trace...

But this may clear something up for me. When Tolar is detained for attacking Quark, Odo acknowledges to Sisko that wartime calls for secrecy yet insists he has to arrest Tolar because of matters of law, leading to Sisko bribing Quark to make the matter disappear.

But, um, wut? I wondered why is Odo being a hard ass on this. His statements seem contradictory.

Now I'm thinking Odo was just cleaning up the immediate situation. After all, Sisko should have notified Odo that Tolar was coming aboard, certainly if he was going to be allowed to waltz around the Promenade.

It was too public and too big a deal to just wink wink, so it has to be handled. Sisko bribes Quark (who likely becomes extremely curious, but files the information away in his head because no way he'll cross Sisko).

There remains an untold story about just how Garak disposed of Tolar without Odo knowing (?) but possibly it's as simple as declaring parts of the station off limits to everyone but Sisko, Garak AND Tolar, but no Odo, just as they do with Vreenak's shuttle.
Top Hat
Sun, Nov 14, 2021, 7:36am (UTC -6)
I'd assume that like Vreenak, Garak killed Tolar remotely somehow. Like Tolar was just found dead in his quarters, no particular reason to suspect anyone in particular. I don't picture Garak personally strangling him to death or something like that.
Mon, Dec 13, 2021, 11:41am (UTC -6)
Re-watching this episode for the first time in a long time. Still holds up very well. Just had a thought, although it’s idle speculation:

I wonder if Jadzia ever suspected Sisko’s involvement in this whole affair? Consider things from her POV: Sisko involves her in some role-playing to game out what it would take to get the Romulans into the war. Then the Dominion conquer Betazed, which is a pretty big deal. A few days later, Sisko gives orders to seal off an entire section including a landing pad and tells Kira to await a coded signal with no explanation given. Sisko is unavailable for several hours after this. Three days later, a Romulan senator’s shuttle is blown up, apparently Dominion sabotage - dovetailing almost too perfectly with your role-playing with Sisko days before. When Sisko hears the news, instead of reacting with some degree of hopeful interest, turns really grim and excuses himself abruptly. Later it turns out that said senator was carrying proof of a Dominion plan to invade Romulus. And the entire time these events are taking place, Sisko, who normally considers you one of his closest friends and trusted confidants, barely talks to you.

Is it idle speculation to think that she would suspect at least on a subconscious level? Just my two cents.

Some years ago, I had an idea for a Trek episode that would involve the biomimetic gel traded away in this ep being used to carry out a horrific biological attack. Over the course of the episode, our heroes would trace the gel back to DS9 and then reconstruct the events of this ep, which would leave them a choice: tell the galaxy the truth, or let the dead rest to stave off a greater interstellar conflict? It’s definitely worth a discussion at the very least…
Sat, Dec 18, 2021, 4:22pm (UTC -6)
"In the Pale Moonlight" is generally regarded as one of the best Trek episodes, but I've always thought it was one of the worst and one of the most insidious.

What is the point of this episode? That Sisko deviated from his ideals? He's been doing dubious stuff since season 3, none of which is re-visted, and none of which gets challenged.

Maybe the point is that nations must, when push comes to shove, commit false flag operations in the name of self-preservation? Ideals are fine, after all, but sometimes you need to break free of them.

But this is a truism in the same way that "there potentially exists a situation in which me murdering a 5 year old baby might protect the world from Martians" is also a truism. It's only true in a very silly and very contrived situation.

Meanwhile, in the real world, we know that "superpowers lying to convince people to join a war" is overwhelmingly bad. For example, WMD lies bedrocked the second Iraq War. Fake "baby incubator" and "nurse testimonies" bedrocked the first Iraq war. Fake ship attacks and CIA bombings blamed on the NVA were used to justify the Vietnam War. Similar fake shenanigans started the Russo-Swedish war, the Japanese Invasion of Manchuria, and the German invasion of Poland (Gleiwitz incident). Countless similar false flags were used by various "dirty tricks" departments to instigate coups or toy with regimes.

You'd struggle to find an example in history where this stuff is good, or leads to good outcomes, or was done altruistically. DS9, however, positions you to accept this behavior as a necessary evil which leads to good outcomes.

So this episode's thesis on false-flags applies to our lives, and the real world, and history, and planet Earth, only insofar as it sells us a lie. The episode isn't "morally ambiguous" or "tackling the naivety of TNG", rather it is dishonest. Indeed, it is this episode which is naive and lacking in understanding.

And it's all contrived for the specific purpose of giving TNG/Roddenberry the finger, and all reverse engineered for the specific purpose of selling its brand of "moral flexibility" ("Are you telling me you wouldn't waterboard the Pope if he had the nuclear disarmament codes!?").

I once read a book by the philosopher Umberto Eco on what constitutes modern fascist art, and it's remarkable how many tenets you could level at DS9 episodes like this. He'd talk about such art always hinging around the preservation of your hegemony, around some over-hyped existential threat, how it always adopts a tone of passive victimhood (the wagons are outnumbered by hordes of Indians, the British by hordes of Zulu, DS9 by hordes of Jem Hadar etc), how it aggressively collapses complex topics into simple choices etc etc.

Two points in particular I've always remembered. Such art uses pseudo-religious blood sacrifices to heavily guilt-trip the audience into swearing fidelity to a future cause. So instead of Jesus' death for sinners you have soldiers dying upon the altar of freedom, and fittingly this episode begins with everyone teary-eyed and sad as they read the death notices of the hundreds of friends who've died to the Dominion (All this blood! Something must be done!).

Eco also mentions how such art increasingly "outsources" or "downplays" specific things. We see that here with any evil done given to Garak, and without Sisko's knowledge, and in any case, only one Romulan died (or one ship). The Federation gets to wash its hands of everything ("It wasn't our fault, and even if it was, it was no big deal! And even it is, the outcome was positive!").

A similar thing would be done to the Founder's Virus, which simultaneously wins the war, and which our heroes get to nobly wash their hands of.

"In the Pale Moonlight" also prefigures our current glut of amoral anti-heroes on TV, whose "edginess" is uncritically and matter-of-factly accepted as "just how things are". Drone bombing some brown kids for the greater good? Whatcha expect? The world's COMPLICATED! But such art only offers a false "complicatedness" in order to obfuscate real complexity.

And there's always a double motion to such portrayals, the characters superficially condemned while the audience gets off on their lawlessness or their transgressions. Indeed, the lip-service toward condemnation is precisely what sanctions our consumption of these transgressions, and allows us to consume them with impunity. More than this, the more politically and socially impotent an audience becomes, the more it seeks to live vicariously through such art. It's the old Marcusian joke; the more subjugated the subject, the more fascist the dreams. Marcuse was talking about political impotency, but I suspect it applies to Ira Behr in a more literal sense. The more boxed in by TNG rules he became, the more he delighted in throwing mud.

If "In the Pale Moonlight" were not so naive, it would recognize that the real lesson is not that one must sometimes hire criminals to false-flag rival superpowers into waging war on your enemies, it's that you should boot Sisko from Starfleet in season 3, respect Dominion space, ban Federation ships from crossing the wormhole, park a giant fleet by DS9, work overtime to bring Bajor and Cardassia into the Federation, and build a giant death star at the wormhole mouth.

But that's what stories like "In the Pale Moonlight" have always historically done. They get you focusing on irrelevant nonsense, and then trap you into a spiral of other irreverent nonsense ("Ohh, maybe if Betazed had..." or "Ohh, if only Section 31 had done...", "I wonder if Sisko really meant for..." ).

Who care? You're in a high-tech Federation with hundreds of worlds, access to limitless knowledge and technology, and you're OUTSOURCING THE FATE OF THE ALPHA QUADRANT TO A CARDASSIAN TAILOR with a PIPE BOMB? It's the silliest stuff ever, but it all postures as edgy and deep.
Sat, Dec 18, 2021, 5:04pm (UTC -6)
@ RealTrent
While I agree that the later seasons of DS9 started the downward trend of Star Trek, this episode works very well as a morality play. As a Trek episode it is pretty awful, though.
It is not fascist iconography or themes, that is really overdoing it. While the settlers or the British in their respective conflicts were outnumbered in some situations, they still were technologically superior and just a tiny part of a huge force. The Federation on the other hand is outnumbered and at best at the same level techwise and Sisko's behavior is not glorified. If it was fascist then it would be about how the strong does what is necessary. He doesn't question it, he knows it's right and that morality or doubt is for the weak.
Peter G.
Sat, Dec 18, 2021, 5:05pm (UTC -6)
That's all well and good, Trent, but you're supposing two things that you take to be true in the real world to also be true in this episod:

1) These false flag operations put nations into a bad war for bad reasons.
2) That the threat posed by the Dominion is an "over-hyped existential threat" (a la 1984).

Putting aside the morality of lying for good reasons, which is sort of a side discussion IMO, your objections seem to be based on the idea that the situation Sisko is in mirrors the false flags you mention IRL. But is the issue of the false flags that they draw a nation into an improper conflict, or that they improperly draw a nation into a correct conflict? Because I don't think you'll find much support for the idea that conflicts are never correct. In the Pale Moonlight deals with the 2nd case, where a necessary alliance is brought about due to duplicity, but where that duplicity is actually in everyone's best interests strategically (other than the Dominion). So the parallel you want to draw shouldn't be with nations engaging in nefarious conflicts for their own selfish gain, and lying to do so; the correct parallel would be if a nation absolutely had to go to war, and would not obtain consent to do so under normal circumstances. For instance, what if the U.S. people would have objected to helping Europe in WWII? Would a propaganda campaign, or lie, have been justified to bring America into what most people consider a historically necessary conflict? So that brings up issues like transparency and whether lies can lead to good. These are valid questions to ask, but they are separate from what you seem to be saying, which is that lying = bad and so Sisko is an anti-hero.

Now the Jack Bauer scenario if often referred to as a right-wing fantasy, where an existential threat is so severe that any tactic at all would be justified to prevent it (like torture, most often). Now while this type of thinking does create the possibility of a government pretending there is such a threat in order to justify...well, just about anything at all, on the other hand the fact they could lie about it doesn't actually mean such a scenario can't exist. It just means that abusing the public trust for bad purposes isn't all that hard for bad men to do. But what if good men are the leaders and find public support lacking for an absolutely necessary action? That is the scenario DS9 is portraying. You can question it, or say that Sisko is really a liar and the Dominion threat is trumped up; or that the scenario presented IRL would always be a lie so the DS9 one ends up being propaganda; or that Starfleet is not much different from a Cold War power for lying. But all of these objections ignore the actual facts in the series up until this point, ignore Sisko's character (which despite yours and Elliott's opinions, is that of a moderate, compassionate, and upstanding man), and treat the scenario as nefarious as you would imagine it to be IRL contrary to present facts.

Yes, we get the god's eye view in a tv show, so we know Sisko's reasoning is on the level. We know it from his conversation with Jadzia. We know the Federation will lose if the Romulans don't join. We even know they Weyoun would push to exterminate all life on Earth if the Federation surrendered, just on principle, so the argument that the Federation and the Dominion are morally at parity cannot be made. And yes, IRL we don't get the god's eye view and so it's hard to take this type of reasoning at face value, i.e. that we need to do X or we all die. But it isn't an impossible scenario, and it's the one we have here. You have to simply accept this proposition: if you knew with 100% certainty you and all your nation's people would be exterminated unless you told a lie, would you tell it? Some very few would say that it's better to let humanity be wiped out rather than commit even a minor sin. Is that really your position, because I think it would have to be if you're really so against what Sisko does. I'm not saying there's no debate, or that what Sisko does is unambiguously good. I'm saying it's tough, and that I can't help but feel you're being reductionist and leaving out certain facts.
Sat, Dec 18, 2021, 5:20pm (UTC -6)
Trent is refering to this, I believe.
Peter G.
Sat, Dec 18, 2021, 5:40pm (UTC -6)
Thanks for the link, Booming. I see little or no similarity for any of those propositions (which are mostly reasonable) to the situation in this episode. To the extent that Trek teaches heroism as a basic concept, it's not the muscular dominating heroism of the macho Nazi regime, but heroism of reason and understanding. Not sure how any other clause is even remotely applicable here.
Sat, Dec 18, 2021, 8:08pm (UTC -6)
@TheRealTrent, fascinating write up.

"What is the point of this episode?” To answer that, I’d take a step back and ask What is the point of Star Trek?

There is of course the classic description from Picard in The Neutral Zone,

PICARD: This is the twenty fourth century. Material needs no longer exist.
RALPH: Then what's the challenge?
PICARD: The challenge, Mister Offenhouse, is to improve yourself.

And so TNG, especially, was about asking what do people do once they "are no longer obsessed with the accumulation of things”?

TOS was about forging that New Man. You saw shades of it with Pike,

BOYCE: Chris, you set standards for yourself no one could meet. You treat everyone on board like a human being except yourself.

But it was most evident with how Commodore Stone treated Kirk in Court Martial,

STONE: Stop recording. Now, look, Jim. Not one man in a million could do what you and I have done. Command a starship. A hundred decisions a day, hundreds of lives staked on you making every one of them right.

For almost all of Trek up till DS9, we hardly saw any civilians. We saw life aboard a Starfleet vessel, and almost all the stories we saw were these new post-material men, molded by Starfleet Academy. These men weren’t born that way. They were made and molded - made by a society with no money, and molded by a militaristic education and training.

So DS9 asked the fascinating question - is this New Man real? Picard said, "We have grown out of our infancy,” but you take away that society, will the training hold? Quark had his answer, a resounding NO, it ain’t real,

QUARK: Let me tell you something about humans, nephew. They're a wonderful, friendly people as long as their bellies are full and their holosuites are working. But take away their creature comforts, deprive them of food, sleep, sonic showers, put their lives in jeopardy over an extended period of time, and those same friendly, intelligent, wonderful people will become as nasty and as violent as the most bloodthirsty Klingon.

DS9’s thesis was that the TOS-TNG New Man was just a veneer. If push came to shove, you’ll find that nothing had really changed deep down in his soul.

Even TNG, though, never really believed the changes were real.

We saw that when the Federation was pushed to the brink in the Cardassian war, and Picard was sent on a very illegal mission (“Chain of Command Part I”). For that matter, even on TOS, Kirk and Spock were hardly above violating the neutral zone and stealing a cloaking device (“The Enterprise Incident”).

Indeed, Starfleet seemed to break the rules (e.g., “Pegasus” cloak) with alarming frequency.

Even undertaking ethnic cleansing,

PICARD: What if these Indians refuse to be evacuated?
NECHEYEV: Then your orders will be to remove them by whatever means are necessary. I understand your moral objections, Captain. If you wish, I can find someone else to command the Enterprise for this mission.
PICARD: That will not be necessary, Admiral.

And genocide,

NECHAYEV: As I understand, it you found a single Borg at a crash site, brought it aboard the Enterprise, studied it, analysed it, and eventually found a way to send it back to the Borg with a programme that would have destroyed the entire collective once and for all. But instead, you nursed the Borg back to health, treated it like a guest, gave it a name, and then sent it home. Why?
PICARD: When Hugh was separated from the Borg collective he began to grow and to evolve into something other than an automaton. He became a person. When that happened, I felt I had no choice but to respect his rights as an individual.
NECHAYEV: Of course you had a choice. You could've taken the opportunity to rid the Federation of a mortal enemy, one that has killed tens of thousands of innocent people, and which may kill even more.
PICARD: No one is more aware of the danger than I am. But I am also bound by my oath and my conscience to uphold certain principles. And I will not sacrifice them in order to
NECHAYEV: Your priority is to safeguard the lives of Federation citizens, not to wrestle with your conscience. Now I want to make it clear that if you have a similar opportunity in the future, an opportunity to destroy the Borg, you are under orders to take advantage of it. Is that understood?
PICARD: Yes, sir.

Part of why VOY was so bland, was by design. VOY and DS9 ran in parallel, and VOY posited that those fundamental changes were real. That New Man would keep his post-materialistic nature even if he was separated from the society that made him. The answer was so ridiculous that they must have felt forced to throw in “Equinox," and we got the more realistic Captan Ransom to show that us that the crew of Voyager was a very exceptional case - there were definitely Federation citizens who would revert to their base nature if separated from the Federation’s creature comforts.

Having asked in TOS how we make a post-materialist man, and having asked in TNG, what that post-materialist man would spend his time doing; Star Trek asked in DS9 if those changes were real, and its answer was NO. But the answer in VOY was Yes (or at least Maybe). Then we got to ENT.

In ENT they asked a different question: what was man like before they started making him into the TOS/TNG New Man? It ended up being not a very interesting question, because of course those people are us, and we don’t need scifi for that.

At the time ENT was on, there was another show that did ask an interesting question, Firefly. Firefly asked, what about all the people who refuse to go along with this plan to make and mold a post-materialistic Trek man?

TEACHER: With so many social and medical advancements we can bring to the Independents, why would they fight so hard against us?
RIVER: We meddle.
RIVER: People don't like to be meddled with. We tell them what to do, what to think. Don't run, don't walk. We're in their homes and in their heads and we haven't the right. We're meddlesome.
TEACHER: River, we're not telling people what to think. We're just trying to show them how.

Other shows went in other directions. Babylon 5 went the opposite direction from Trek. B5 posited that people never change. In B5, yes man would eliminate hunger and poverty, but by an Orwellian slight of hand,

JULIE MUSANTE: Earth doesn't have homeless. We don't have the problem. Well, yes, there are some displaced people, here and there, but they've chosen to be in their position. They're either lazy or they're criminal or they're mentally unstable.
SHERIDAN: They can't get a job.
JULIE MUSANTE: Earth-gov has promised a job to everyone that wants one. So, if someone doesn't have a job, they must not want one.
SHERIDAN: Poverty?
JULIE MUSANTE: It's the same.
JULIE MUSANTE: Yes, there is some, but it's all caused by the mentally unstable. And we've just instituted correctional centers to filter them out at an early age.
SHERIDAN: Prejudice?
JULIE MUSANTE: No, we are just one happy planet.

Other shows like nBSG went a different way, instead of making post-materialist man, they made men out of materials, called them Cylons, and used them as slaves. Plus ca change.

The problem with nuTrek, and new scifi in general, is, what is the question they are asking?? What aspect of humanity are they exploring?? You talk about the "current glut of amoral anti-heroes on TV," and that nihilism is a symptom of that deeper problem.

Discovery started with almost no grand vision at all, no curiosity into the human condition. No questions to ask. That’s part of the problem of this new woke era - they think they have all the answers. So there is nothing left to explore. The Spore drive is the perfect metaphor for that - you can go anywhere in the universe in a blink of an eye, but you end up in all the same places again and again and again.

The interesting thing about The Burn was that there finally was a question! It was a slightly modified version of Quark’s observation in Siege of AR-558, but instead of taking away their holosuites and creature comforts, they took away faster-than-light travel. And almost overnight, the Federation collapsed.

In a way The Burn was a very faithful homage to the Original Star Trek. If man was made anew thanks to dilithium, then man reverted to form when dilithium disappeared. That was the metaphor they were going for in TNG’s “Force of Nature." The only way for an organization - a society - like the Federation, and people like post-materialistic man, can exist, is if there is faster-than-light travel.

The point of DS9’s "In the Pale Moonlight” @TheRealTrent, is that the Federation charter is not a suicide pact. As Admiral Nechayev once told Picard,

NECHAYEV: Your priority is to safeguard the lives of Federation citizens, not to wrestle with your conscience. Now I want to make it clear that if you have a similar opportunity in the future, an opportunity to destroy the Borg, you are under orders to take advantage of it. Is that understood?

Or as Thomas Jefferson wrote years earlier,

"A strict observance of the written law is doubtless one of the high duties of a good citizen, but it is not the highest. The laws of necessity, of self-preservation, of saving our country when in danger, are of higher obligation. To lose our country by a scrupulous adherence to the written law, would be to lose the law itself, with life, liberty, property and all those who are enjoying them with us; thus absurdly sacrificing the ends to the means."

Not that I would expect @TheRealTrent to agree with Jefferson,

@TheRealTrent: That's a glib answer and a cheap way to avoid the fact that you've trampled on the very thing that those men and women are out there dying to protect! Does that not mean anything to you?
ROSS: Inter arma enim silent leges.
@TheRealTrent: In time of war, the law falls silent. Cicero. So is that what we have become? A twenty fourth century Rome driven by nothing more than the certainty that Caesar can do no wrong!

Admiral Ross. Admiral Nechayev. You’d think the only point of the new Picard show is that one more pip really turns you into a horrible person, even if you started off as The Picard!

DS9 - and evidently Discovery post-Burn - are both grounded in a belief that the New TOS/TNG Man is merely a product of a post-scarcity society, and that without limitless energy and fast-than-light travel, man will revert to form.

What means are justified in preserving that way of life? Section 31 says even genocide would be justifiable. Sisko may not be willing to go quite that far. But lying, cheating, bribery, and murder? The point of "In the Pale Moonlight” is that yeah, if that’s what it takes, then this is the way.

Earlier this season Bashir and is band of mutants calculated the Federation-Klingon alliances' best chances was to bring the Romulans into the war. Evidently there are enough Romulans like Chairman Koval of the Tal’Shiar who agree (ROSS: He's been providing the Federation with critical military intelligence for over a year. When he started working with Section Thirty one I don't know). The Cardassians and Garak agree. Do we think Ambassador Spock sitting on Romulas had no opinion on this? How many thousands (millions?) of others were involved in big ways and small ways to make this happen?

You really think Sisko and Garak save the Alpha Quadrant all on their own? They aren’t Michael Burnham. If Sisko didn’t do the job, Starfleet would have just found someone else to do it. (SISKO: Starfleet Command had given the plan their blessing). We already know what kind of organization Starfleet is. We don’t need "In the Pale Moonlight” to tell us that. "In the Pale Moonlight” tells us what kind of man Sisko is. That’s the point.

SHEPHERD BOOK: Live with a man 40 years. Share his house, his meals. Speak on every subject. Then tie him up, and hold him over the volcano's edge. And on that day, you will finally meet the man.
Sat, Dec 18, 2021, 9:13pm (UTC -6)
Booming said: "Trent is referring to this, I believe.."

No, that list is just about fascism, not artwork. In the wake of 9/11, Eco released a book filled with essays which analyzed jingoistic WW2 art, and compared it to how a similar function is achieved in modern times sans all the traditional iconography.

Booming said: "Sisko's behavior is not glorified."

Eco's point is that it wouldn't be. Eco details how fascist art in the early 20th century mutates as time goes on. So there's no more patriotism (indeed, the work would seem apolitical), no more glory (people or institutions once glorified would be painted as incompetent and/or always screwing up), no more dying for nations (wider context collapses; you die only for the guy next to you) etc etc.

The modern fascist "hero" would be like the stuff warned of at the end of "Full Metal Jacket", where an "intellectual" soldier who identifies himself as being morally opposed to and above the Military Industry Complex, nevertheless rationalizes killing an enemy girl (nation) out of mercy and compassion.

The intellectual rationalizing parodied in that film, is how modern fascist art functions (and how modern complicity functions). Something like John Wayne's "Green Berets" wouldn't get made today. People are too sophisticated, like Sisko. To get a Sisko to do bad stuff, or rather sell it to an audience, similar sophistication is needed.

Peter said: "But what if good men are the leaders and find public support lacking for an absolutely necessary action? That is the scenario DS9 is portraying.

It's a false flag. And a bomb. To instigate a war. Versus evil villains. These are a very specific, and very loaded, set of tropes, with very specific connections to the real world. You do not use these tropes to "investigate what happens if the public refuses to support a necessary action", you historically use them to convince people to do bad stuff, for bogus reasons, and to prime people to believe in very specific "necessary evils".

We criticize Jack Baur for waterboarding guys to stop the world blowing up from ticking bombs, because we recognize it as a bogus situation. DS9's false flag is the same thing.

Confronted by this fact, people thus have to argue that "DS9 is just a fantasy" and is "not supposed to have real world analogues". But when you push the notion that a piece of art is representative of nothing but itself - typically done for shady reasons ("I'm not saying all Jews are evil and have big noses, just the one in this one particular film!") - you shut down most art criticism.

And even if you accept that the episode's dilemma is being honestly posed ("I, Ira Behr, really am interested in how good men get support for..."), the answer is not "false flags". The answer is to make episodes explaining to the audience why Sisko should have acted properly, ten, fifteen, thirty dilemmas ago. After all, if good men need to resort to false flags, then an endless chain of errors have been made prior to getting to this position. DS9 never shows this chain of errors. Never even acknowledges they've taken place. Never calls out Starfleet or Sisko.

That this doesn't happen, demonstrates that Behr has no real interest in moral philosophy, or warfare, or politics, or opposing Evil Empires. He's interested only in the Federation's survival being dependent on the false flag. The false flag is the raisen detre.

Peter said: "Some very few would say that it's better to let humanity be wiped out rather than commit even a minor sin."

This kind of emotional blackmailing is why this kind of art is so bad. It boxes you into its premise, asks you to forget about the wider universe, and then shunts you toward the only two false solutions it allows.

DS9 never earns its right to false flags and other bad stuff. It is not meticulous enough in working its way through its own premise. You can't dodge the Dominion War for 17 episodes a season, then the handful of times you make an episode about it, it's coincidentally about false flags and Section 31 shenanigans. This tells the audience nothing, teaches nothing, and only inculcates a weird mix of naivety and cynicism.

Peter says: "I'm saying it's tough, and that I can't help but feel you're being reductionist and leaving out certain facts."

But it's DS9 which is reductionist and leaves out facts. I mean, it has you unironically espousing Kipling's White Man's Burden (it's tough! And a necessary evil! But somebody's gotta take on everybody's sins!).

Sisko needs a false flag because Starfleet is incompetent for 5 seasons, and Ira Behr refuses to admit this. The correct lesson is not that "sometimes things are tough", it's that DS9's Starfleet is populated by idiots very similar to those who find themselves using false flags in the real world.
Peter G.
Sat, Dec 18, 2021, 9:20pm (UTC -6)
@ Mal,

That's a very interesting write-up, and kudus on all the supporting comparative quotes. However I must fundamentally disagree that Trek, and DS9 in particular, is saying that this so-called evolved man is a mere veneer, a facade hiding the ugly truth. The reason I don't think that's what DS9 is saying is because I don't think most of Trek writing ever suggested that mans' 'soul' or fundamental nature had ever changed. In fact if it *had* suggested that it would invalidate all of the lessons Picard taught Data on TNG. What use would his lessons on humanity have for us if his humanity is fundamentally different from ours? The lesson of Shakespeare is that fundamentally we can related to humanity across the ages. But that doesn't mean nothing changes. And the reason for this is we don't exist in a vacuum, just as floating DNA. We have our bodies, our instincts and natures, but also our ecosystem, our culture, our history (which is like cultural DNA), and so on. All of these things pieces together form the matrix that will yield our reactions and provide the playing field for our choices. Change some of it and you get a different result; that's pretty much trivial. If a person born and educated in the Federation is taken out the Federation, do his circumstances change? Of course they do. How they change might depend. You can look at Colonel Nicholson in Bridge on the River Kwai for your stiff upper lip British officer, anticipating Picard's general comportment. Put him in a pit and he responds in a different way than you would. *But* even in his attempt to keep his training and his honor his choices go haywire. Put him in strange circumstances and navigating them becomes mired, where retaining his British honor ends up causing him to think it highlights British glory to build the Japanese bridge for them, betraying his side of the war.

All this to say, things are really complicated. TOS was very clear that all our dark parts are still there, but that we can learn and work together to overcome them. This element of working together on it is very important, because the human community was a concept strongly emphasized on TOS. Now TNG did edge towards making grand claims about humans having overcome shallow emotions, but the writing on this point is inconsistent and occasionally far-fetched. Too many TNG episodes make it very clear that future humanity is what it is because of good tech and a good environment. And that's nothing to sneer at. In the culture wars, one culture showing its values, its brotherhood, and its success, is absolutely a monument to its greatness. There's no need to go beyond that and try to claim at the same time that its people are...genetically superior, or beyond evil inclinations? We should actually be scared to hear such claims.

So in my view, and I think for others as well, what DS9 is doing is course-correcting on the more outlandish claims some TNG episodes made, and staying in synch with much of the other writing on that same show. When we ask whether Sisko is beyond breaking his principles, the answer should be simple: of course not, he's not a god, just a man. And sometimes he doesn't know the right answer and has to just make a choice. I don't think DS9 is saying that the human advances are merely a veneer. I think what it's saying is that they have *preconditions*. And I think what Quark is saying is similar to this: he's not saying that humans are really just like Klingons deep down; he's saying that they can be brought to that state under certain conditions. And that's not a revelation, just a reminder to Nog that being in Starfleet doesn't mean Nog is safe. Quark's speech is a warning about danger, not a repudiation of the claims the Federation makes about its people.

I very much like the tenor of your remarks, and I think you're very right to want to inspect what various series are asking about humanity. I agree with you that B5 and Firefly, for example, have very different answers than Trek does about where we are - or where we should be - headed. Ironically Trek has perhaps the most cautionary premise of them all, because although B5 portrayed humans on Earth practically like Nazis, it was Trek that said we'd never learn our lessons until we blew ourselves to kingdom come in WWIII and almost lost Earth to engineered supermen. It's what I call a dystopian-utopian vision, and it's pretty particular.

In my analysis of this episode, I ask the following: does Sisko have clearly defined values, is he aware of the disjunction between them and pure strategy, and does he measure what it will cost him to 'win' the war. My answer to all of these is yes, meaning it's thoughtful and analytic: a great start already. And despite the fact that Sisko does the 'wrong' thing to win, his moral calculus changes over the episode. Garak is the one who puts it to him plainly: is the self-respect of one officer worth countless lives? I challenge someone to solve that trolley problem trivially. How do you measure your own honor and values compared to pure lives on the table? Do you let a million people die so you can be a 'better person'? What does better even mean then? To that extent I think your Jefferson quote is quite apt. Even though the question may be hard, this episode asks it: what is it really to be a better person? How can your own morality be measured in a vacuum, without reference to other people and what becomes of them? Remember that all of Sisko's choices are prefaced by the death counts, and that each and every choice is only furthered in regard to that. This is not him just deciding what he thinks is right. This is him asking what he owes all those people who've died, and more importantly, what he owes the ones who are still alive. Is his self-respect more important than they are?
Peter G.
Sat, Dec 18, 2021, 9:44pm (UTC -6)
@ TheRealTrent,

I guess my conclusion is that you seem to be condemning not this episode in this series but what you think its equivalent is right here and now. I can't blame you for condemning such in the here and now. But Trek is supposed to be about a different time with different people. By definition you can't assume their reasons are as corrupt as ours are now; they are better. We know they're better because it's the premise of the show. You can reject that and call Starfleet duplicitous, but then you're just rejecting the premise as ridiculous. As I've mentioned in the past in other threads, at that point you're essentially doing the same thing as rejecting warp drive and transporters. You can say Sisko isn't really making a choice between lives and his code of honor, since that scenario is a sham fantasy; but then you could also argue that fighting the Borg was also bogus because in real life the enemy isn't a collective evil unreasonable force but just people who scare you. According to this logic The Best of Both Worlds was really scare-mongering propaganda, since in the real world there is no such thing as an implacable foe. I guess I'm not seeing the point of transmuting what the show actually says into what you believe it must be saying after applying a cynical real-world filter onto it, and assuming the worst. I take Sisko's comments at face value, as given circumstances in the story. Reject those and there simply is no story. And I think the multitude of accolades this episode gets should suggest there is a story here.
Sat, Dec 18, 2021, 10:12pm (UTC -6)
Peter said: "I challenge someone to solve that trolley problem trivially. How do you measure your own honor and values compared to pure lives on the table? Do you let a million people die so you can be a 'better person'?"

There are some speeches by Tony Blair, following the Iraq war ("I weighed the lives of British soldiers against Iraqis, and I believe I was right; only God can judge me..."), which echo Sisko in this episode.

What's interesting is that actual British intelligence reports, and experts, and military scientists, were telling him that he was talking high-highfalutin nonsense. His appeals to "trolley problems" and "God" and "morality" were a kind of post-hoc rationalization following, or stemming from, a prior anti intellectualism, and a refusal to listen to experts.

DS9 does a similar thing. The Federation is a highly advanced body with access to spectacular technology, tactics, scientists, anthropologists, psychologists, ambassadors, dedicated first contact teams, intelligence operatives, and hundreds of different worlds, super-weapons, massive fleets and so on.

There is no way such a body handles the Dominion War as portrayed in DS9. The War is only portrayed this way because the show forces the Federation to turn its back on centuries worth of expertise, and basic common sense. Like Blair, Sisko's "moral conundrum" requires one to ignore experts, and ignore history.

The moment the Federation lost that first Galaxy-class, that wormhole should have been secured. Sisko should have had a light switch in his office that collapses that thing at a moment's notice, or activated mines, or activated defense platforms. There should have been artificial gravity-well generators all around that wormhole designed to pull ships instantly out of warp should the need arise.

Instead it takes the Federation years to act, and even then, it still falls upon ROM to invent a SELF-REPLICATING MINE.


Starfleet is so incompetent, the Alpha Quadrant relied on ROM.
Peter G.
Sat, Dec 18, 2021, 10:51pm (UTC -6)
@ Trent,

"What's interesting is that actual British intelligence reports, and experts, and military scientists, were telling him that he was talking high-highfalutin nonsense. His appeals to "trolley problems" and "God" and "morality" were a kind of post-hoc rationalization following, or stemming from, a prior anti intellectualism, and a refusal to listen to experts."

What's stopping this analogy working is the facts. You are assuming that Blair was wrong because he was lying (or incorrect) about the situation in Iraq and whether in fact the UK was in danger. So his appeals to the lives of his countrymen was pure spin designed to sell something no one would buy if he was telling the truth. But to say he was lying is only to compare the actual facts against his words. But since Sisko's words do match the actual facts presented in DS9, I just don't see the point of this comparison. It's like, the analogy you'd like to apply here shows it's bad, even though the analogy is literally the opposite of our scenario, but you insist it's the same because the show is lying too? Or something like that. If you won't take the facts into consideration, or at least those presented in this one episode, then it's not really criticism. I will grant that when looking at a series such as this as a whole, there are certain types of flair, or writing style, which are varied rather than all strictly in line with each other. Since the show is not strictly serialized, and since we only get slices of an arc rather than a true B5-style through-line, I think you should take with a grain of salt the actual tenor of how Starfleet acted leading up until this point, when inspecting Sisko's moral dilemma here. Yes, this is part of an on-again-off-again war arc. But I still think it needs to be seen as a standalone in the sense that its premise and its writing are unified internally, not in regard to other episodes. The style, content, and even questions this episode is asking are unique to it, and it should be considered in that vein. Whether Starfleet acted properly back in season 3 really shouldn't weigh into how this story right here and now is being told, any more than our concern for Picard in Chain of Command should be weighed as being relevant to him acting like a dick in early S1. That story is that story.
Sun, Dec 19, 2021, 12:05am (UTC -6)
@TheRealTrent said "You can't dodge the Dominion War for 17 episodes a season, then the handful of times you make an episode about it, it's coincidentally about false flags and Section 31 shenanigans.”

I think you can. TNG dodged the entire Cardassian war. It only gave us a few scraps on the edges when it was essentially over, like “The Wounded.” And then when TNG did dive in, it was to justify an act of war in “Chain of Command” and an ethnic cleansing in “Journey’s End”.

That was the TNG way with The Dominion War as well. We get nothing, and then suddenly “Insurrection."

Things are so bad at the start of “Insurrection" that the Federation is cozying up to any old planet,

TROI: Remember, they have a significantly less advanced technology than ours. They only achieved warp drive last year.
CRUSHER: And the Federation Council decided to make them a protectorate so quickly?
PICARD: In view of our losses to the Borg and the Dominion, the Council feels we need all the allies we can get these days.

So aside from the Federation’s Section 31 planning a genocide of the Founders, and before the Federation ever brings the Romulans into the war, they have also approved the forced removal of the Sona from their homes,

PICARD: I won't let you move them, Admiral. I will take this to the Federation Council.
DOUGHERTY: I'm acting on orders from the Federation Council.

Again, the Federation doesn't really care who they have to work with,

PICARD: Our partners are nothing more than petty thugs.
DOUGHERTY: On Earth, petroleum once turned petty thugs into world leaders. Warp drive transformed a bunch of Romulan thugs into an Empire. We can handle the Son'a. I'm not worried about that.
PICARD: Someone probably said the same thing about the Romulans a century ago.

So the question, @TheRealTrent, is are you with Picard,

DOUGHERTY: Order them to surrender, and I promise you won't be court-martialled.
PICARD: If a court-martial is the only way to let the people of the Federation know what is happening here, I welcome it.

Or are you with Dougherty?

@TheRealTrent says, "Sisko needs a false flag because Starfleet is incompetent for 5 seasons.” The Ba’ku believe something similar, but put it a little differently,

RU'AFO: Federation support, Federation procedures, Federation rules. Look in the mirror, Admiral. The Federation is old. In the past twenty-four months, they've been challenged by every major power in the Quadrant. The Borg, the Cardassians, the Dominion. They all smell the scent of death on the Federation. That's why you've embraced our offer, because it will give your dear Federation new life. Well, how badly do you want it, Admiral? Because there are hard choices to be made. Now!

There are hard choices to be made. Now!

You might call them "a false flag. And a bomb. To instigate a war. Versus evil villains. These are a very specific, and very loaded, set of tropes, with very specific connections to the real world,” and that is certainly your right. But what would you do about it?

Would you follow orders of the Federation Council, like Dougherty and Nacheyav and Ross and every other Admiral. Are these people "idiots very similar to those who find themselves using false flags in the real world.” Or would you disobey orders like the newly rejuvenated Picard in “Insurrection," who suddenly seems to have grown a new set of balls after forcing the Native Americans to move in “Journey’s End.”

That’s the thing about Leadership. You’re tested again and again and again and again. And you don’t always make the same decisions.

You also forget that people like Bashir who always “do what is right”, are very predictable, and bureaucracies staffed by mediocre people can easily work around them.

@TheRealTrent said, "The answer is to make episodes explaining to the audience why Sisko should have acted properly, ten, fifteen, thirty dilemmas ago. After all, if good men need to resort to false flags, then an endless chain of errors have been made prior to getting to this position. DS9 never shows this chain of errors. Never even acknowledges they've taken place. Never calls out Starfleet or Sisko.”

What were Sisko’s chain of errors? Do we know what Spock is doing to bring the Romulans into the war? Do we know what Koval and the Tal’Shiar are doing?

Remember, it was the Romulan Tal’Shiar and the Cardassian Obsidian order that essentially declared war on the Dominion on behalf of the Alpha Quadrant (“Die is Cast”). And fuck, it was the Founders who encouraged them into declaring that war! This is a pretty tricky moral situation. I find it odd that you think it is so simple.

ODO: Of course. This whole plan was the Founders' idea in the first place. You wanted the Tal Shiar and the Obsidian Order to combine forces and come into the Gamma Quadrant so you could wipe them out.
LOVOK: Not exactly. Tain originated the plan, and when we learned of it we did everything we could to carry it forward. The Tal Shiar and the Obsidian Order are both ruthless, efficient organisations. A definite threat to us.
ODO: But not after today.
LOVOK: After today the only real threat to us from the Alpha Quadrant are the Klingons and the Federation. And I doubt that either of them will be a threat for much longer.

And before you say, well, Sisko should have stopped him, again, it was Starfleet’s decision - not Sisko’s - to sit on their hands,

TODDMAN: That message was intercepted by a Federation outpost earlier today. A similar message was sent to the Romulan Senate. Now, both governments are denying any prior knowledge of Tain's plans and calling this a rogue operation.
BASHIR: Are they going to do anything to stop Tain?
TODDMAN: Both the Romulans and the Cardassians claim to be studying ways to stop Tain, but we believe that they'll just sit back and wait to see if he succeeds or not.
DAX: But sir, that could plunge Romulus and Cardassia into war with the Dominion.
TODDMAN: Only if he fails, Lieutenant. His plan looks like it has a fair chance of success. He's commanding a fleet of twenty ships manned by combat veterans. They know the location of the Founders' homeworld and they've modified their cloaks so the Jem'Hadar can't detect their approach.
KIRA: It sounds like you're hoping Tain will succeed.
TODDMAN: I never hope for war, Major. But if it comes, I'd rather see the Dominion on the losing side.

You seem to want to live in a world where treachery doesn’t exist. Star Trek may have warp drives and holodecks, but even those are more realistic than thinking human nature will ever change!

If you stick by your principals in the face of evil, you may end up like @Peter G.’s Colonel Nicholson,

Garak’s flexibility may have been infuriating, but neither Garak nor Tain would ever do anything to help the Dominion. Bashir, on the other hand, did try to help the Jemhadar in "Hippocratic Oath” and the Romulans in “Inter Arma”, even if that meant losing their support for the war,

BASHIR: What I am about to say may be shocking. It may even damage the relations between our two peoples, but it's the truth.

Of course, the irony I love is, bringing the Romulans into the war was Bashir’s idea!

BASHIR: What we need is to bring the Romulans into the war on our side. With the combined forces of the Federation, the Klingons and the Romulans we could finally go on the offensive.

What separates DS9 from fascist literature, is that Star Trek isn’t uniform. It isn't all Bashirs or all Sloans. There are men closer to Bashir, like Picard, who still slip up from time to time. There are officers closer to Sloan, like Nechayev, who still devote their lives to the Federation. This is not a banality of evil people just following orders. Each person comes up with a different answer. Indeed, sometimes the same person comes up with different solutions to different ticking time bombs.

For every time Picard tried to ethnically cleanse the Natives, he also stood up for the Sona. For every time he fought for the rights of the accused (“The Drumhead”) and the individual (“Measure of a Man” and “The Offspring”), he begged an exception to the law (“Justice”) or hid behind a technicality (“Ensigns of Command”). “Insurrection" is the story of a man who has been pushed to the edge by Starfleet again and again, and has finally said enough is enough, this far, and no further.

Sisko has his own story. It is a story of sacrifice. He lost his wife fighting the Borg. He lost his best friend to the Maquis. He lost his mentor to a Cadassian. He lost his life for the Prophets. He lost his self respect for the Federation. “In the Pale Moonlight” is the story of a man who gave everything to his job.

SISKO: You realise I can't authorise a thing like this on my own. I'll have to clear it with Starfleet Command.

That may be a good thing or a bad thing. But it isn’t out of nowhere.
Sun, Dec 19, 2021, 5:23am (UTC -6)
Ok, lots of interesting responses. I strongly disagree with Eco's reinterpretation of what fascism means. Could you name the text? If you take out heroism, glory or dying for the fatherland, then you rip out the heart of what the word fascism really means. The things you state as new fascist art could be applied to most war and anti war movies.

"Something like John Wayne's "Green Berets" wouldn't get made today."
Well, there are movies like American Sniper which is using many fascist tropes. Sacrificing yourself for the nation, doubt is not allowed, the enemy is in-human, flag cult, being a MAN of action. 300 is famous for using fascist iconography. I therefore disagree that movies like that aren't made anymore. Both 300 and American Sniper were hugely successful.

To give my general perspective on why Star Trek became the nihilist nightmare that it is now. Maybe that sentence of Picard that humanity has grown out of it's infancy, is the problem. I do not judge societies as good or bad, I differentiate them between better and worse. For example, the USA wasn't the good guys in WW2: a segregated army, racist internment camps and throwing A bombs on cities to just name a few horrible deeds. But they were better than Nazi Germany and fascist Japan. Sure, that is not a high bar but still the USA or the UK were the "better" guys.
The Federation is not the perfect state or even good in a pure form but they are better, they represent something that is better than what is now. DS9 broke that, for all it's accomplishments, it began the implosion of Star Trek. That it ended with the Federation almost committing genocide and a red eyed Dukat fighting saint Sisko is really appropriate. It was the anti roddenberry star trek at that point and sure, people say Roddenberry had some terrible ideas but he also had some ideas that made Trek unique.

There is another speech that Sisko once gives after Worf blows up that Klingon transport ship.
Sisko: "We don't put civilians at risk, even potentially at risk to save ourselves. Sometimes that means we lose the battle and sometimes our lives" In season 4 DS9 was still walking the line, sometimes stumbling but still being a Trek show for the most part. In season 6 and season 7 it falls down the rabbit hole and often uses jingoistic war tropes.

One point I want to correct though. What Sisko does here is not a false flag op. Garak does that. Sisko just lied to an adversary to get them to help because they certainly wouldn't help if asked nicely. Sisko didn't know that Garak was on a little murder spree.

Also your interpretation is a little too post modernist for my taste. While I see your point, it also sounds like that you are saying that you can never make a war movie or show where you portray one side as better than the other without it being a sinister way of goading the populace into supporting wars. Meaning that if you portray a better, future society then that society can never come into any real conflict.

Your criticism of the Federation and what they should have done is obviously correct but let's keep in mind that shows have to be made for a broad audience. Making everything too cerebral will put people off. I liked the early seasons of DS9 and the whole Bajor situation but the audience in general was not a big fan. I accept the fact that shows and films cannot be made for people like me because I represent a part of the audience that is too small to be financially viable.
Jason R.
Sun, Dec 19, 2021, 6:40am (UTC -6)
"Sisko needs a false flag because Starfleet is incompetent for 5 seasons, and Ira Behr refuses to admit this. The correct lesson is not that "sometimes things are tough", it's that DS9's Starfleet is populated by idiots very similar to those who find themselves using false flags in the real world."

Weren't you the one who rationalized burning down someone's business for the right cause? (Or was that the fake Trent posting?) If an individual finds himself burning down a building and destroying someone's livelihood in the process, perhaps he should have made better choices in his life leading up to that decision. And perhaps writing apologetics for that act .makes you morally bankrupt, like Sisko and Behr.

DS9's premise is that sometimes there are no morally acceptable solutions to a problem. This is undeniably correct on an individual level as well as on the level of governments.

You pose a counterfactual (the Federation could have easily stopped the Dominion without a war) and then hang the Federation and the writing on this (false) premise.

You can fairly fault the show for its premise or you can fairly fault it for its approach to that premise but not both.
Sun, Dec 19, 2021, 7:01am (UTC -6)

The Trolley Problem it strikes me is intimately involved in many, if not most time travel scenarios and also drives the political 'no good choice' story lines. Does the trolley not have a driver? Why is the non-professional innocent passer-by/onlooker the only one being judged? As Devil's advocate, do not the persons on the two tracks have eyes, ears or other senses to change outcomes? If the sole individual steps off the track, the passer-by/onlooker has an uncomplicated decision. Just once, I'd like to see these scenarios written differently. How about the 15 people on the other track running over to push the single person on the other track out of harm's way for a change?

It boils down to laying all responsibility on the single player (the onlooker) when, it seems much more likely that we are swimming in a sea that is full of lazy, complacent, selfish beings who are incognizant of their own safety and that of others in most instances. Is it not these types of behavior that lie at the heart of a dystopic universe?
Sun, Dec 19, 2021, 7:28am (UTC -6)
The goal of the trolley problem is not really about the problem aka who to save or who is responsible, because there is no absolute answer, but about why Humans more often choose one option over another. If you have the choice to steer the train towards one person to safe five then most people choose that option but when given the choice to push somebody in front of the train or let five people die the majority will let the five people die.

There is an interesting experiment by Kahnemann and Tversky (famous study) where they asked people two questions.
Outlined here

The gist is that if you present people with two options for a medical treatment a and b, for which in both cases the outcome is identical, then a huge majority will choose the option a that frames the outcome as gains and if asked the same question but framing the outcome as losses almost the same amount will avoid option b.

Same applies to the trolley problem. Pulling a lever to kill somebody to save five people is ok for most but most people aren't ready to push one person in front of a train to save five people. It is a paradox because there is not much difference between the two options. In both cases your actions lead to the death of one person to save five others. In the Kahnemann Tversky experiment it is even more glaring because there is absolutely no difference, it is just worded differently.
Sun, Dec 19, 2021, 7:46am (UTC -6)
You explained that to me extremely well. It really comes down to framing.

I've often thought that Jammer's initial review of a given episode 'frames' that episode for the rest of us. That would explain the number of times I have read reviews or comments on the site which emulate Jammer's or follow his original review pretty closely.
Sun, Dec 19, 2021, 8:00am (UTC -6)
The whole dynamic with Jammer is interesting. This page is it's own little case study in how authority is created.
Sun, Dec 19, 2021, 8:15am (UTC -6)
And because we are talking about the trolley problem, I feel obligated to share this scene
Peter G.
Sun, Dec 19, 2021, 9:05am (UTC -6)
@ Booming, @ Sigh2000,

The trolley problem "about" which option people will pick more; it's not a statistical analysis or psych case study. It's a dilemma in moral philosophy, purely abstract and not related to its wording. Obviously quantitative methodology can use a classic scenario and try to see what people would do if you re-word it, etc, which is fine, but that's not what the trolley problem is fundamentally about. It's about how to weigh moral choices and what basis one has to judge one outcome superior to another.

@ Sigh2000,

The issue with the trolley problem isn't about why the people on the track don't act instead of you, that's a cop out. You don't even have to think of them as people, they can be considered as moral stakes, people being there is just an example. The point is you have to make choices in life, and regardless of all the advice you may receive it's you who have to choose, and you alone. No one can escape making choices, and if you let others make them for you that's a choice too, and IMO the more pernicious one. Also I think Babylon 5 (for those who've seen in) had a point when it said that certain people are a 'nexus' and cause huge movements based on their choices. Put a different way, some people end up being more important than others. I think that's a fairly uncontroversial statement, mechanically speaking. Im not saying some lives are morally worth more than others, merely that their actions create much greater waves, and therefore the consequences to all from a wrong choice are severe. Not everyone is the commander of DS9, for example.
Sun, Dec 19, 2021, 9:07am (UTC -6)
'Very reassuring'. Fan of Chidi.
BTW, I liked the Chamberlain and troops marching to Gettysburg clip from that other thread. Chuckled.
Sun, Dec 19, 2021, 9:24am (UTC -6)
@Peter G.
I grant the “copped-out” nature of my own rant against the inactivity of others. It is pushing the trolley problem into the Kobayashi Maru department (especially with reference to Kirk reprogramming the computer to cheat his way out).
Can I get out of the dilemma as designed by its designers, by refusing to accept its premises. This may border on facetiousness (I don’t intend a jab), but I make a choice in life by not accepting the premise.
For example, can I awaken the sleeping trolley driver by allowing myself to fall under its wheels in the hope that my initial screams will have the desired effect of creating an alarm? The driver horrified at what has just happened to me, quickly stops the trolley before the other 6 people (1+5 on the two tracks) are hit.
My original idea was to suggest that If society has done its job properly in the first place, we should have nobody near any tracks to begin with. Since the trolley problem has existed and been discussed, has anyone in a single public safety department done anything to eliminate the possibility of the scenario taking place? (An earnest question).
Peter G.
Sun, Dec 19, 2021, 9:28am (UTC -6)
@ Sigh2000,

The trolley problem isn't a department of transportation engineering issue... :p
Sun, Dec 19, 2021, 10:10am (UTC -6)
"It's about how to weigh moral choices and what basis one has to judge one outcome superior to another."
That is what I meant
I wrote
"because there is no absolute answer, but about why Humans more often choose one option over another."
As I social scientist I obviously have a different perspective on the trolley problem than a moral philosopher.
The Kahneman and Tversky thing has some similarities and is fascinating (used it in my thesis). I just try to push it in as many conversations AS POSSIBLE. :)

When I posted it I chuckled,too. :D
Sun, Dec 19, 2021, 10:31am (UTC -6)
@Peter G.
I deserved that! : ) Your right. On the management of the moral issues .....“There’s nothing I can do today. " JLC
20th Maine Move out!” (h/t @Booming Thu, Dec 16, 2021, 9:00am).
Sun, Dec 19, 2021, 2:42pm (UTC -6)
Can we please not have another off-topic monster thread?

I meant, it's great when you guys discuss deep non-Trek issues, but can you at least make an effort to tie your comments to the actual episode (or at least: the Star Trek universe as a whole)?
Sun, Dec 19, 2021, 3:37pm (UTC -6)
"What is the point of this episode? That Sisko deviated from his ideals? He's been doing dubious stuff since season 3, none of which is re-visted, and none of which gets challenged."

What dubious stuff has he been doing?

The only really bad thing he did, as far as I recall, is in "For the Uniform". That's a problem with *that* episode (I thought it was completely out of character for Sisko) rather than this one.

"Maybe the point is that nations must, when push comes to shove, commit false flag operations in the name of self-preservation? But this is a truism..."

The difference between your truism and the episode, is that this episode refers to a very specific situation: Very specific (and very high) stakes as well as a very specific breach of ethics (which - in my view - is entirely reasonable given the immediate danger).

To refresh your memory:

The situation was that a superior invasion force was literally hours from conquering the Federation and turning it into a living hell.

Also, the Romulans themselves were at risk. It was quite clear that they would become the Dominion's next target, whether they believe it or not.

We are not talking here about some fear-mongering assumptions of a politician. We are talking about an actual war which has been going for some time, and an actual invasion force which is already conquering key Federation planets.

And now to the second half of the equation:

What was Sisko willing to do in this situation? How far was he willing to breach his ethical code in order to get results?

Well, the episode makes it clear that he wouldn't go as far as killing someone. He was *furious* when Garak booby-trapped the Romulan ship. Even though the freedom of the entire alpha quadrant was at stake, Sisko would not go as far as killing one man to achieve his goals.

Yes, he lied. He cheated. He manufactured false evidence. But given the *enormous* stakes and the *immediate* danger (including danger to the Romulans), was he really wrong to do these things?

Making comparisons to present day issues is laughable, because present day leaders lie and cheat and fake evidence all the time. What this episode *really* shows, is how far a 24th century Starfleet officer needs to be cornered in order for him to resort to such tactics.

And quite frankly, I like what we see here. I would love to live in a world where our officials only resort to lying and faking evidence under such ultra-extreme circumstances.

What's better: Sisko is clearly agonized by what he did. To me, given the stakes, it seems like an absurd over-reaction. Man, you've just saved the entire Alpha Quadrant from enslavement, give yourself a break!

But that's just it: 24th Century Starfleet officers are made of better materials than we are. They get wretched by relatively minor breaches of ethics even under unbearable extreme circumstance, while our persent day leaders break the very same ethical rules a dozen times before breakfast.

Or at least, this is the point that this episode tries to convey. It's undermined quite a bit by the section 31 plots, but that - again - is not a problem of this episode.

Comparing this episode to the trolley problem is also misleading. Reducing "Choose between 'enslaving the entire alpha quadrant' and 'a deceitful plan where two people were killed due to complications" to the trolley problem is missing the entire point of the episode's scenario.
Sun, Dec 19, 2021, 4:40pm (UTC -6)
"Man, you've just saved the entire Alpha Quadrant from enslavement, give yourself a break!"

-Spoiler alert -!!!

The problem Sisko faces in the episode is that his little lie was discovered. Consequently, he has to live with the reverberating memory of the Romulan's anger at having been betrayed by someone he believed to be honorable. Sisko, as someone who tries to be beyond reproach in all things, will tend to take the horror of the Romulan's reaction pretty hard. It doesn't help matters that the man is later handled in the way that Garak arranged.
Sun, Dec 19, 2021, 5:31pm (UTC -6)
>Can we please not have another off-topic monster thread?

Jammer should make a general chat board for these types of discussions.
Mon, Dec 20, 2021, 12:44pm (UTC -6)
Booming said: " I strongly disagree with Eco's reinterpretation of what fascism means."

But do you agree with the Eco-list you posted? IMO that list is spot on. For the record, I wouldn't call DS9 or this episode "fascist". I would say this episode merely dishes out right-wing tropes that would become even more popular in the post 911 years; a kind of state apologia for "dirty tricks", which pushes you in a certain direction by dint of how it frames a problem, and how it decides where to start and stop its analysis of the problem.

Agree with you on "300" and "American Sniper"; Eco was writing in the years just after 2001, though, and focused on fare like "Private Ryan", "Black Hawk Down", and various television series.

Jason said: "Weren't you the one who rationalized burning down someone's business for the right cause?"

This seems to bother you, because you seem to always bring it up

I said the exclusionary nature of landed property, endogenously-created debt based monetary systems, arbitrary monopolies on credit, and the nature of capitalism itself (where rates of return on capital historically outpace growth), cause dispossession (landed property pooling into fewer hands), poverty, social exclusion, crime (and factors which lead to crime: poor diet, mental illness etc) and eventually riots.

The science which demonstrates the aforementioned, is the science which would guide a hypothetical body like the Federation on how to deal with a hypothetical villain like the Dominion.

Jason said: "an individual finds himself burning down a building and destroying someone's livelihood in the process, perhaps he should have made better choices in his life leading up to that decision."

You're about 100 years behind economic theory and the social sciences' understanding of crime and poverty, and about 20 years behind neuroscience's understanding of free will. You have also just condemned the 80 percent of the human race who live on less than 1.25-1.45 dollars a day, to the "lazy" and "stupid" category.

This kind of "make better choices" and "pull yourself up by yer bootstrap" thinking is also irrelevant in a class society. Over two thirds of all jobs globally are extreme poverty wages, and even in the world's superpower, 70 to 75 percent earn less than a living wage. One's station is not due to "choices" ("choice" is the posthoc rationalization humans apply to justify prejudices , and to obfuscate "impositions against one's will"), and is largely an inevitability based on how trophic triangles work.

But again, this is my point regarding this DS9 episode. It frames things in a dumb way.

Peter said: "The trolley problem isn't a department of transportation engineering issue... "

Peter's joking, but Picard would make it one.

DATA: Sir, this appears to be a no-win scenario!
PICARD: What if we beam the trolleys away and hold them in stasis?
DATA: :O !!!

Jason said: "You can fairly fault the show for its premise or you can fairly fault it for its approach to that premise but not both."

I don't fault the premise ("What if the Federation faces a evil power which tests its principles?") or the approach ("We need false flags and genocide viruses!"). I am in favor of false flags and outright genocide if I feel certain conditions have been met (I've never seen them met in the real world). I don't believe morals are absolute.

What I criticize is the show's disinterest in working its way through its premise honestly and methodically (show us why every other solution failed before you deliver the false flag, and show us a Sisko who understands and is aware of his failures), and its readiness to uncritically endorse tropes which the wider real-world culture already holds, to negative effect.

Omicron said: "What dubious stuff has he been doing?"

Raped Mirror Dax for starters. He could have faked a headache or groin injury, but he was feeling rapey. The episode then plays this for laughs.

I would say almost every decision he makes regarding the Dominion War in season 3 and 4 is bad and makes things worse. His failure to warn the Founders of the fleet, his brain scans in "The Search 2", and his repeated ordering of warships into Dominion space, confirms to the Dominion all their anti-solid prejudices.

Omicron said: "But given the *enormous* stakes and the *immediate* danger..."

This is what these kind of tales always do. They manipulate you into buying their "ticking clock" scenarios, then trick you into examining the wrong things.

The Federation know the Romulans want the Dominion dead way back in season 3, and knows this with even more certainty when Sisko thwarts the Romulans' (arguably very sensible) plan to destroy the wormhole. It is the Federation's behavior which pushes the Romulans to therefore side with the Dominion.

Any serious, enlightened, far-future organization would have doubled down on forming alliances with the Romulans and Cardassians the moment the size of the Dominion is established. When you know the Romulans are willing to risk war with the Federation to stop the Dominion, you double down further to placate their fears. Permanent Romulan observers on DS9, for example, or a combined-nation fleet at the wormhole, or emergency devices to quickly block or shut the route down etc etc.

If Romulan ambassadors say this is not enough, then you know, 3 to 5 years in advance of the Dominion war, that you are inevitably on a course to war with the Romulans, or worse, a Romulan-Dominion and potentially Cardassian alliance. You know this. This is not something that can sneak up on you.

These kinds of tales always telescope history. You're asked to ignore the past, because the politics and actions being begrudgingly sold to solve present problems, are what caused all your problems in the first place.
Mon, Dec 20, 2021, 1:32pm (UTC -6)
"But do you agree with the Eco-list you posted? IMO that list is spot on."
I'm fairly certain that during some basic political science seminar I read something from Eco that had basically the same theme. It seems to be a fitting list of what fascists are. I was always reminded of this contrary believe of strength and weakness when it was argued that Obama is an all powerful tyrant who gets nothing done. :D

"a kind of state apologia for "dirty tricks", which pushes you in a certain direction by dint of how it frames a problem, and how it decides where to start and stop its analysis of the problem."
As I said. The later seasons of DS9 were already bordering on anti trek.

"Raped Mirror Dax for starters."
I disagree. He lied and then had sex. I find it far more disturbing that he is having sex with a close² friend. It is wrong on so many level but rape, no.
Jason R.
Mon, Dec 20, 2021, 2:13pm (UTC -6)
"You're about 100 years behind economic theory and the social sciences' understanding of crime and poverty, and about 20 years behind neuroscience's understanding of free will. You have also just condemned the 80 percent of the human race who live on less than 1.25-1.45 dollars a day, to the "lazy" and "stupid" category."

@Trent I was making this point in the context of you handwaving away the necessity of the Federation using dirty tricks against the Dominion because supposedly they should have made better choices so as to avoid being in the dilemma they were in. (Your counter factual claim that the Federation could have saved itself by blockading the Wormhole or such)

Basically your premise was that somehow empires and political bodies always have a choice to be moral in their dealings and that if they find they must be immoral in order to avoid annihilation (or enslavement or whatnot) that is a false dilemma borne of bad decisions they previously made.

I found it ironic that you would make this kind of argument while at the same time rationalizing a looter burning down a business arguing that this person can't be held responsible for bad decisions because life circumstances left them no choice. The two positions seem dissonant to me. Like individuals, governments do face true no-win scenarios. Why should a rioter be absolved of his choices but not a government?

Incidentally, in the original thread where you condoned burning businesses, it wasn't the fact of the looting and burning *as a consequence of injustice* that I objected to (which is a reiteration of the MLK idea of riots as the language of the unheard or whatnot) but your apparent belief that a business being burned down was itself nothing to be condemned. Saying riots are a natural consequence of injustice is not the same as saying that capitalist small business owners "had it coming". You seem to be saying the latter which is what put the bee in my bonnet. You never answered my original question of whether or not it would be ok for someone to burn down *your* house (or livelihood)
Mon, Dec 20, 2021, 3:10pm (UTC -6)
"Any serious, enlightened, far-future organization would have doubled down on forming alliances with the Romulans and Cardassians the moment the size of the Dominion is established."

Perhaps the Federation did that off-screen and the Romulans said no? Given what we know about the relations between the Federation and the Romulans at this point, I wouldn't have expected them to agree to any kind of alliance.

In fact, I'm willing to bet that the Federation did just that. After all, any serious, enlightened, far-future organization would have done that, right? You said so yourself :-)

"These kinds of tales always telescope history. You're asked to ignore the past, because the politics and actions being begrudgingly sold to solve present problems, are what caused all your problems in the first place."

How on earth does your statement connect to this episode?

The actions being begrudgingly sold in this episode are lying, faking evidence, and (without Sisko's consent) the assassination of a Romulan official.

Are you saying that the Federation is in the habit of faking evidence and assassinating foreign leaders? Seems to me that you're using the discussion of this episode as a disguise to discussing a real-world issue, and you're not noticing when that analogy breaks down.
Mon, Dec 20, 2021, 5:06pm (UTC -6)
Booming said: "I disagree. He lied and then had sex."

I think that would still fall under Rape by Deception laws, unless I'm misremembering the episode.

Jason said: "Why should a rioter be absolved of his choices but not a government?"

The nature of riots, crime and poverty can be explained by looking at the factors which led to them. Things are contingent upon other things. You stop things happening, by stopping the things which they are contingent upon.

Similarly, false flags, war crimes and so-called Necessary Evils, are a result of previous things. They are contingent upon, and intimately bound to, history. If you agree that false flags, war crimes and so-called Necessary Evils are bad things, then a piece of art which includes them, should make an effort to show how these things are contingent upon other things. And this art should explain how, if you wish to stop these bad things, you have to understand or stop the things which they are contingent upon.

I could care less about whether a work of art "includes or endorses false flags or rioting or genocide" or whatever. What matters to me is the larger explanatory function of the art, otherwise you're just tacitly endorsing bad tropes, like "rioters are evil" or "sometimes you need to lie about WMDS".

Jason said: "same as saying that capitalist small business owners "had it coming". You seem to be saying the latter which is what put the bee in my bonnet. "

Because you view business and money as morally neutral things (the value of your dollar is intimately dependent upon, and benefits from, billions of humans having none), and property as sacrosanct, rather than forms of violence. These views are inculcated at birth. So rioters torching stuff strikes at something fundamental.

Jason said: "You never answered my original question of whether or not it would be ok for someone to burn down *your* house (or livelihood) "

Yes. A civilization has to meet very specific criteria for me to be able to philosophically justify an expectation that my house be protected. We'd have to be living in some kind of hyper-democracy for me to deem it an issue.
Jason R.
Mon, Dec 20, 2021, 5:10pm (UTC -6)
"Jason said: "same as saying that capitalist small business owners "had it coming". You seem to be saying the latter which is what put the bee in my bonnet. "

Because you view business and money as morally neutral things (the value of your dollar is intimately dependent upon, and benefits from, billions of humans having none), and property as sacrosanct, rather than forms of violence. These views are inculcated at birth. So rioters torching stuff strikes at something fundamental."

Understood. Or rather, I understand a bit of your underlying ideological premise now. And thank you for answering the question.
Jason R.
Mon, Dec 20, 2021, 5:20pm (UTC -6)
Out of curiosity Trent, how do you characterize your beliefs? I assume you are a Marxist but is that all?
Mon, Dec 20, 2021, 7:00pm (UTC -6)
Omicron said: "Perhaps the Federation did that off-screen and the Romulans said no?"

As I said, then you start securing the wormhole immediately. The moment the Romulans turn you down - if they were asked, it would presumably be in season 3 - Sisko and the Feds have 3 priorities: Cardassian alliance, parking a fleet and other gear to guard the wormhole mouth, and devising a way to immediately collapse the wormhole on command.

Omicron said: "Are you saying that the Federation is in the habit of faking evidence and assassinating foreign leaders?"

The point was, the callous handling of the Romulans in this episode is a continuation of how we see the Federation handle everyone in the previous years. First contact with the Dominion itself begins with an act of Starfleet hubris ("Screw your sovereign territory! Nothing can stop us exploring the Gamma Quadrant!").

Regarding "assassinating foreign leaders", the Federation strikes up an alliance (to share intel and tech) with the Romulans in season 3. The Romulans then try to wipe out the leaders of the Dominion. Starfleet controls the wormhole, gives the Romulans the location of the Founder home, but does nothing to stop or interfere with the assassination force, or warn the Founders.

Knowing that the Dominion now have reasonable grounds to hate all Alpha Quadrant powers, who they believe to be linked (the Cardassians working with the Romulans, the Romulans with an intel/tech alliance with the Feds), and who they believe to want to wipe them out, the Federation should see the writing on the wall. But they keep dithering their thumbs.

The Feds' handling of the Klingons is equally bizarre. Our heroes recognize the divide-and-conquer game being played (Sisko points it out way back in Way of the Warrior). So why wait another 2 years? Why fight a proxy war with the Klingons inside your Cold War with the Dominion? You know the only place this can end up. So collapse the worm hole.

Billions and billions of lives were lost because the Feds - the supposed grown ups in the room - were asleep.
Mon, Dec 20, 2021, 7:01pm (UTC -6)
"Yes. A civilization has to meet very specific criteria for me to be able to philosophically justify an expectation that my house be protected."

With all do respect, stop bullshitting us.

The simple fact is that you *do* expect it. You may not be able to "philosophically justify" it, but you expect it all the same.

Otherwise, you wouldn't be sitting in *your* house typing those words on *your* computer. And when a storm hits your town, you wouldn't be sitting safely under *your* roof, certain in the knowledge that you are safe from the elements.

It is quite apparent that as much as you hate the current system (and with good reason) you have no qualms about relying on it when it is convenient. So I guess these "evil property laws" sure come in handy, don't they?

Now, you want to know why burning your house would be immoral? It's not because some stupid sh*t capitalist philosophy. It is, quite simply, because burning your house down will cause you suffering.

And no, the fact that our current system causes a lot of grief is hardly an excuse to cause even *more* suffering. Why on earth would anybody think such a thing?

"Because you view business and money as morally neutral things (the value of your dollar is intimately dependent upon, and benefits from, billions of humans having none), and property as sacrosanct, rather than forms of violence."

Once again - I call this BS.

Given your online presence, it is clear that you have no qualms using these "evil forms of violence" to buy a computer, connect to an ISP and so forth. You may abhor these concepts in principle, but you still rely on them.

So when you say "it's okay to torch businesses", you're are saying that it is okay to destroy a thing that you - yourself - find indispensable. Which means that you are - once again - condoning an act that increases human suffering.

Mantras such as "business/money is evil" do not excuse this, regardless of how justified they may be. Philosophical grandstanding is not an excuse harming actual human beings.

(I'm downright amazed by the amount of people who take such morally repugnant arguments seriously)
Mon, Dec 20, 2021, 7:15pm (UTC -6)

Regarding the episode:

I don't remember the ongoing arc well enough to intelligently discuss the war as a whole. Sorry, but I'll have to actually review the episodes in question before I continue on that line of discussion.

At any rate, I don't see how your criticism (which may or may not be valid) has anything to do with this specific episode. I mean, you could certainly argue that the writers of DS9 didn't do a convincing job setting this episode's situation up, but the message of the episode itself is quite clear.
Peter G.
Mon, Dec 20, 2021, 7:36pm (UTC -6)
@ Trent,

That analysis is all fine, and trying to link an episode like this into your particular worldview is sort of ok as a personal project. But it's bad art analysis. When inspecting a work of art it is absolutely the wrong question to ask how it fits into *your* schema of the proletariat, etc. That's the sort of game people played for decades trying to analyze Hamlet, and other famous works like that. It gets you nowhere because until you're asking where the writer is coming from what his piece's worldview is, and how this particular work speaks to his POV, you're just ignoring the art and trading in armchair philosophy.

When I watch In the Pale Moonlight, my first question is - what was that experience like? Well my experience watching this one is - this is awesome! The acting is awesome, the writing is awesome, the directoral style and angles showing Sisko dictating the log are awesome, the flavors are all baked in AND we get a hero led through a door he doesn't realize he's entering until it's too late, led by a man we ruefully admire and respect but who makes no promises about the state of your soul on the other side. What a story!

So my second question is to ask what the episode is trying to say within its own framework. It's underlined by this: I *can* live with it. Not that Sisko wants to, or feels it makes him a better person, but he literally can *live* with it, meaning he lives, and so do the Federation people he saved. This is saying that lives may be worth more than honor. It's saying that a great man might actually be great because he didn't let his pride get in the way of the job, rather than because he wanted to look like a paragon. And maybe it's saying that, as Jason R mentioned, in a situation with no good choices, it might be at minimum compassionate to go on the side with fewest lives lost. Maybe.

These are all ok points. You can disagree that things are like this in real life, or that other episodes in the series match this theme, or worry that this is a right-wing dog whistle (although that is far-fetched, to say the least). These are ancillary points, perhaps worth noting to yourself, but you're writing as if the episode is nigh unwatchable because of all these illogical, immoral and un-strategic factors. Well I don't buy it. I don't buy that you could go in a Monet exhibit and start saying the paintings are bad because you don't care for Monet's politics. I don't buy that you could smell a flower and say it's dastardly because the seeds may have come from a farm using illegal labor. That's just not an open response to art. I think there is room for intellectual interpolation...once the primary experience registers. Wagner's music may accompany a rhetorical narrative that's proto-Nazi and anti-Semitic, but these facts should be kept separate - at least in analysis - from whether the music is beautiful and the stories are exciting. Now whether you should air it on an Israeli music station is another matter.

I can't help but feel that your politics and worldview are overwhelming even the most basic appreciation of the TV product that's been put together. I can sympathize. When I watch the Godfather, which is a princely film, I can't help but feel that it romanticizes what is essentially an entirely corrupt and even disgusting culture. But these notions don't stop me still marveling at how incredible the film is. I think about it afterward, note these things; but they are not the film. A pure propaganda film is something else. If you think what you are watching is deliberately manipulating you into embracing something horrible, it might be right to sit back and refuse to engage, refuse to like it. That might be good self-protection. It's just that's not what this episode is doing. No way, not by a longshot. That's just misreading it by a mile and a half.
Mon, Dec 20, 2021, 7:51pm (UTC -6)
Very well said Peter G.

"In the Pale Moonlight" is a tour-de-force episode and trying to examine it from some kind of Marxist lens and ripping it apart is just simply misguided. As you rightly say, it is about first understanding where the artist is coming from.

And then I'd add, try to evaluate it from an unbiased perspective.

This little exercise should also give an idea of how to interpret Trent's comments given his extremist / disingenuous stances.
Mon, Dec 20, 2021, 9:09pm (UTC -6)
".....What matters to me is the larger explanatory function of the art, otherwise you're just tacitly endorsing bad tropes,....."

In the Pale Moonlight is an expression of profound regret made by a man who, as shown, is, I think, on the verge of madness. Madness during confession. Whatever the outcome, Sisko knows that a part of him went to hell in the doing.

We all know implicitly that we should avoid such a fate.
Brooks breaks the 4th wall to communicate that.
Could that be the larger explanatory function? Or is someone now aware that his better self has died, more or less, simply a bad trope?
Tue, Dec 21, 2021, 4:16am (UTC -6)
"Trying to link an episode like this into your particular worldview is sort of ok as a personal project. But it's bad art analysis."

I disagree with this blanket statement.

Linking the Trekverse with our worldviews can deepen our understanding of both Star Trek and our own views. It could also result in interesting discussions.

Of-course, the quality of the views in question matter. If you find a person's view to be utterly ridiculous in the real world, then you're unlikely to find their view any more palatable in the Trekverse.

And to be frank, I don't think 1000-comment-long political debates become any more compelling just because we're using a thinly veiled Trek analogy to discuss them. That - really - is the crux of the problem here.

Back to the episode:
"In the Pale Moonlight is an expression of profound regret made by a man who, as shown, is, I think, on the verge of madness. Madness during confession. Whatever the outcome, Sisko knows that a part of him went to hell in the doing."

That's part of it, yes.

But there are grander themes in this episode as well. The question of "when - if at all - do the ends justify the means?" is a major theme here. The thing I like most here, is the episode doesn't give a clear-cut answer to this question.

Was Sisko in the right? Is breaking your moral code (in a limited way) under such desperate circumstances, actually moral?

It's a tough question. The way I see it, Sisko did what he had to do. I can't really fault him for taking the only sensible choice he had, yet it seems laughable to call what he did "moral".

I'm now reminded of a very powerful moment, when Sisko said this:
"But most damning thing of all, I think I can live with it. And if I had to do it all over again, I would."

It's hard to watch, because many of us would the same thing when backed into such a corner. Any other course of action would seem positively stupid in this scenario. What else could you do? Sacrifice the entire alpha quadrant for your principles? So Sisko's self-torment becomes our own.
Thu, Jan 27, 2022, 9:31pm (UTC -6)
GARAK: "...I've also left him with the distinct impression that if he attempts to force the door open, it may explode."
SISKO: "I hope that's just an impression."
GARAK: "It's best not to dwell on such minutiae..."

Garak = awesome character
Andy Robinson = outstanding actor with great delivery
Wed, Mar 23, 2022, 1:45am (UTC -6)
Best episode of DS9 hands-down, but it prominently features Garak so that's almost a given. I've seen it a dozen times over the past twenty years and every time its as good as the first time.

Garak tries to warn Sisko that accomplishing their goal will be a "Very messy, very bloody business - Are you prepared for that?" to which Sisko replies that he's already in a very messy, very bloody business. At this point, Sisko accepts responsibility for whatever happens. He thinks that he's in control and he thinks that he knows exactly where the line is and he won't cross it, but that's just a mixture of huge arrogance and delusion. When he freaks out at the end and attacks Garak it provoked an angry response in me because it just goes to show how self-righteous and hypocritical Sisko is.

Some of the greatest lines of the series are in this episode.

"Are you in? Or out." "I'm in."
"I hope you're not giving up that easily. After all, the stakes are much higher than a few dead operatives. The fate of the entire quadrant hangs in the balance - or at least that's the case you made to me."
"If you want to guarantee evidence of a Dominion plot to attack the Romulans, I suggest that we manufacture that evidence yourself."
"The Klingons were going to execute me tomorrow! Of course, they say that every day - it's one of the little games they play."
"I'll be along to say...hello."
"I find its best not to dwell on such minutiae."
"I believe that the quantity to negotiation."
"Think of them both as tragic victims of war."

Sisko tries to act like he is responsible for bringing the Romulans into the war, but Garak did all the work and single-handedly saved the Federation and the rest of the Alpha and Beta Quadrants.

Also, Andy Robinson is the best actor on this show. It's kind of a shame he was never made a full member of the cast.
Thu, Apr 14, 2022, 8:36am (UTC -6)
Watching this again now, with the Ukraine war raging, where does one draw the line? Sisko was right.
Bill clay
Tue, Jun 7, 2022, 3:51pm (UTC -6)
With regards to the question as to the artistic merits of the episode I will answer indirectly.

It has spawned a vibrant respectful intelligent discussion with differing viewpoints leading to introspection and debate across a wide spectrum of philosphic, moral, political, and artistic issues.

In this regard then I would say it is a phenomenal episode (and I agree as well personally). That it has provided such a wonderful broad intelligent debate as well makes it high art as well.

Finally as a social commentary, I read the entire stream over 15 years of comment. Differing feelings differing viewpoints ranging from Marxist to conservative with all in between with varying amounts of passion. All without vitriol, dismissing, cancelling. Kudos to all for an intelligent discussion. How is this so different than the usual threads? How is it that everyone above has been able to have passionate discussion? I suspect that those commenting above learned how to interact with differing people in person before social media became the dominant form of interaction between people.

This is my personal lamentation and warning for the future
Peter G.
Tue, Jun 7, 2022, 3:55pm (UTC -6)
@ Bill clay,

I would propose adding as a possible reason for the civilized discussion the actual quality of the episode itself. It may well be that when something commanding respect is the object of a discussion it will mediate to an extent how people engage about it. Imagine, by way of analogy, having a discussion with people in a beautiful church, or perhaps an art gallery. The environment itself would suggest a series of feelings, ranging from awe, to respect, to worship (even in a secular sense), and these in turn will place boundaries on what people will permit themselves to do.

If I'm right then there would be a correlation between the quality of an episode or a show, and the quality of the discussion that emerges around it. I'm not sure if this holds, but it's a possible factor. Can you even imagine a screaming match over The Inner Light? Seems difficult to imagine.
Sun, Sep 25, 2022, 11:07am (UTC -6)
100% four stars. This was exquisite. One of the few, if any, episodes, of ANY show, where I can't complain about nor would change even a second of either the plot or the execution.

The retrospective style of narration, which I usually dislike, worked excellently here, in large part because it wasn't obtrusive and didn't detract from the story.

The Cisco, whom I generally dislike on account of his lackadaisical personality, did a phenomenal job here: expressing his misgivings looking back while being assertive and resolute in seeing his plan through.

Garak shone as the brightest of stars, as always.


Now, as far as the...eye-roll, please!..."social commentary," sorry-not-sorry, I'm not going to entertain commentary on warfare strategies from anyone who never experienced any kind of war and whose most arduous struggle in life has been having to contend with Facebook being down for 25 minutes. Everyone else intrinsically understands that in a war, especially an existential one, you do absolutely anything to win. You fight dirty, you lie, you cheat, you bribe, you murder, you sacrifice innocents, and so, so much more that the chichi bien-pensants at Manhattan cocktail parties and academic conferences find oh-so utterly degoutant. An existential war is not a gentlemen's duel.

The Cisco, instead of decking Garak, should have planted a big wet one on him. But them, it IS The Cisco after all... - although he redeems himself through the very self-aware synopsis at the end. Garak's own peroration was simply fantastic.

Simply wonderful.
Mon, Oct 31, 2022, 5:18pm (UTC -6)
Gilligan’s Starship
Wed, Nov 16, 2022, 12:37am (UTC -6)
A superb episode. I watched this for the first time after having just recently watched the episode “One Way Out“ of the Andor series and was fascinated by the similar themes in both. Sisko & the character Luthen both had to compromise their morals and “use the tools of their enemy to defeat them”, find a way to rationalize it AND live with it. I’d heard people lauding this episode for years, but having seen it, itexceeded my expectations.
Buck Bartolik
Sun, Dec 18, 2022, 6:18am (UTC -6)
Maybe Starfleet didn't approve it, or let Sisko know they couldn't do so openly. In short, if it works you're a hero. If it fails you're a traitor. But 46 minutes isn't much time for an episode with this much engine under the hood. There wasn't a wasted minute to be found.

Also one of Garak's finest episodes. You don't want this guy mad at you.
Sun, Dec 18, 2022, 6:29am (UTC -6)
He fights well... for a tailor.
Wed, Mar 15, 2023, 11:41pm (UTC -6)
I have to laugh at this comment from Garak and wonder if others caught this bit of foreshadowing.

GARAK: One last thing, Captain. The man we need to forge this holoprogram is currently sitting in a Klingon prison awaiting execution. To save time and incidentally his life, I thought that perhaps you could contact Chancellor Gowron today and arrange a pardon.

Saving time was Garak's priority and Grathon Tolar's life was incidental.
Wed, Apr 5, 2023, 2:51pm (UTC -6)
Incredible episode, and a wonderful discussion. I read it all - it's amazing to read comments going back so long, and see how they change to reflect current events.

Anyways, I thought about this episode (and the discussion here) at a purely personal level: I am a vegetarian, and I have been for a long time, and it's important to me. On several levels, one of them being a moral level. I realize I have the luxury of these morals, this vegetarianism, because I am relatively well off and live in a society where I can be healthy being vegetarian due to the many options available to me.

But, if the world (my world) would descend into chaos, and getting enough to eat every day was a real concern, I'm fairly certain I would eat whatever was available, including meat. Because I have to survive. My morality would be secondary in such a situation.

I see that as the choice Sisko faces in this episode.
Mon, Oct 2, 2023, 4:04am (UTC -6)
@splatomat Great quotes! My personal favorite:

"So with a seemingly legitimate data rod in one hand, and a dead senator in the other, I ask you, Captain. What conclusion would you draw?"

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