Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

"Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges"

4 stars

Air date: 3/1/1999
Written by Ronald D. Moore
Directed by David Livingston

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"Let's make a deal, doctor: I'll spare you the ends-justify-the-means speech, and you spare me the we-must-do-what's-right speech. You and I are not going to see eye-to-eye on this subject, so I suggest we stop discussing it." — Sloan

Nutshell: The plot is overly complex and too perfect at times, but the payoff polemics make it a very strong hour.

The title says it all: "In time of war, the law falls silent." The plot concocted in part by the mysterious Sloan in "Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges" is one of meticulous planning and perfect execution. Everything goes as planned. Everything. And yet we're left with a feeling of certain dread. If a perfect plan has to step on so many people, exploit so many innocents, and undermine so many principles to get where it's going, how perfect is it? If you're Sloan, you would argue that it's simply no more perfect than the world itself.

That's the central argument of "Inter Arma...", an episode with attitudes that grow out of out of last season's "Inquisition" and "In the Pale Moonlight." In a way, Sloan's plot in this episode undermines everything the Federation stands for. And in a way, it reveals an attitude that's necessary to protect the Federation so its ideals might survive desperate times.

There are some who are calling DS9's exploration of these darker aspects of the Federation a conscious dismantling of the "Gene Roddenberry idealism." Is it? I don't think so (I'm one who thinks too much is often made of the "Roddenberry vision" and that his intentions are sometimes viewed through too narrow a scope), but I do think it raises the question of the ability of such ideals to survive when humanity is faced with a real threat to its existence. True idealism must be occasionally challenged for us to see what it truly represents and how practically it can be applied. In terms of this episode, is Section 31—that unofficial, unsanctioned, and generally unknown power of the Federation—an organization that acts in the Federation's best interests? A better question: Exactly how do you define "best interests"?

The plot of "Inter Arma..." is complex. Probably too complex, in fact, in the sense that every bit of it is calculated ahead of time by Sloan (William Sadler, in a performance that follows up his role in "Inquisition," and that's magnificent in its straightforwardness). I'm not sure how plausible it is that Sloan could anticipate every action Bashir makes in the course of this story, but, then again, the whole point of the episode is that Sloan is able to manipulate Bashir by understanding how his mind works and the sense of morality from which he approaches situations.

Like in "Inquisition," Sloan takes advantage of Bashir when he is scheduled to leave the station. This time, Bashir is to go to Romulus for a conference. Sloan wants to use Bashir as an avenue for convenient reconnaissance—or so he says. One can never take what Sloan says at face value. From square one we're pretty sure there's about 100 things Sloan knows that he's not telling Bashir. But Sisko sees this as an opportunity to see what Section 31 is up to and who else might be working for them. It runs far deeper than Sloan, that's for sure.

So Bashir finds himself on a starship to Romulus. One of the best qualities of "Inter Arma..." is the way it blindsides Bashir with its steady diet of surprises. It really puts him through a mental wringer. You see, Bashir is also working with Admiral Ross (Barry Jenner) to investigate Sloan. Ross and Sisko had agreed to use Bashir's recruitment by Sloan to learn the nature of Section 31's involvement in the Romulan government. There are suspicions that the Romulan government has an operative in its midst that is working for Section 31.

One might wonder why—especially considering the Federation and Romulans are allies in the effort to defeat the Dominion—Section 31 would investigate and plot around an ally. The reason is simple: Allies are temporary. DS9's history through the last four seasons is perfect proof of that. The Federation has faced hostility from the Klingons, Romulans, and Dominion. Now the Cardassians have been absorbed by the Dominion and the Klingons, Romulans, and Federation have their own alliance. It makes perfect sense that Section 31, given their nature, would want now to plant their moles in the Romulan government—since, Sloan predicts, they're destined to become the next major threat after the Dominion is forced back to the Gamma Quadrant and the Klingons find themselves too weak to threaten anybody. (One of many brilliantly telling exchanges: Bashir: "This war isn't over, and you're already planning for the next!" Sloan: "Well put.")

This is all very insidious and neat to ponder. At the same time, it challenges the morality of Starfleet up to a point: Starfleet wouldn't dream of "approving" the actions of Section 31, yet they have absolutely no intention of trying to stop what Section 31 does, either. As Sloan says, the Federation may need someone like Section 31 to look at the bigger picture. The question is where do you stand on moral ground, and can you live with yourself? (As Sisko put it last year, "This is a huge victory for the good guys," and he "will learn to live with it.")

The details of Sloan's plot are intriguing. I won't go into endless detail (this is a story so complex that it would take forever to summarize), but I'll put it in a nutshell. Sloan wants Bashir to subtly determine if a powerful Romulan official, Senator Koval (played by John Fleck, who appeared as a Romulan years ago in TNG's "The Mind's Eye"), has an illness that can be carefully manipulated into sudden advancement, effectively causing an undetectable assassination. But the plan takes a number of twists that puts Bashir into difficult positions where he must act on his own. Ultimately, he recruits Romulan Senator Cretak (Adrienne Barbeau, painting a much more sympathetic character than was performed earlier this season by Megan Cole) into helping investigate the leads and stopping the assassination.

There are twists upon twists, including an explanation of who Sloan "really" is, which itself turns out to be completely bogus. By the time it's all over, Sloan is presumed dead, Cretak's life is destroyed, and Koval—who we learn is actually a Section 31 mole—has solidified his position in the Romulan government as one skeptical of the Federation, thus making him more powerful as a Federation operative.

The way this all plays out is perfect. Too perfect, really. But it's done with great skill and clarity thanks to Ron Moore's script and an atmospheric direction by David Livingston that evokes a sense of mystery and intimidation involving Romulan society. The scene before the Romulan senate that reveals the "plot," is impressively executed.

Meanwhile, Bashir, who is smart and resourceful, is nevertheless manipulated like a chump. (This manipulation is effective and enlightening concerning a set of various characters' motives and philosophies, unlike the manipulation within Voyager's "Course: Oblivion," which was simply infuriatingly arbitrary.)

So is Bashir naive for embracing his idealism and allowing himself to be manipulated? I say no, because the whole point of the story is that moral idealism is a choice, and Bashir is sticking by his guns in the face of those whose actions he views as appallingly wrong. This episode isn't subtle about its debate. That's part of why it's so powerful. When it's done well, I'm a big fan of the Heated Substantive Argument. Seeing the moral questions arise from the situation is interesting, but seeing the moral questions tackled directly through a one-on-one verbal argument between two characters can be equally interesting.

In this case, we learn that Ross had been working with Sloan to manipulate Bashir into going through with this whole charade in the interests of fortifying the Federation's strategic position. Bashir figures it out and privately challenges Ross. The discussion that ensues is pure polemics, and I appreciated the points from both sides of the table. Ross' situation reveals a real desperation, a weakness on the part of the Federation; it's doing what it has to in order to survive. With this war on, the ideal moral world is simply implausible to some.

People like Bashir, who maintain their moral compass even in the depths of this danger, deserve respect, and I appreciated the sincere respect Sloan reveals to Bashir, even though he puts Bashir through such a devious game to fulfill Section 31's agenda. But at the same time, who's to say that Bashir wouldn't be tempted to work with an organization like Section 31 if he were in Ross' pained position, ordering wave after wave of Starfleet soldiers to their deaths?

In that way, "Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges" is completely conscious with the Roddenberry idealism. The question posed is whether that idealism can survive a universe with such increased chaos and danger, and whether the war will permanently change the Federation's ideals.

As a final note, let me pose a frightening question: What if Sisko knew Ross was working with Section 31 from the beginning? It's speculation that could very easily be false, but given the nature of the war and Sisko's role in bringing the Romulans into it, who can say? When considering the plausible substance of Sloan's and Ross' arguments and Sisko's own involvement in the war since day one, could perhaps the moral rules have been so distorted that the rules' bending is now rationalized by DS9's own captain? It might not be the case, but I certainly think it could be.

"Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges" indeed.

Upcoming: Several reruns, followed by a dive into the big final stretch of the series.

Previous episode: Badda-Bing, Badda-Bang
Next episode: Penumbra

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117 comments on this post

Wed, Oct 10, 2007, 8:33pm (UTC -5)
A truly terrific episode of DS9. I for one have always liked the Romulans, and this show revealing that members of the Federation can be every bit as scheming as the (supposedly) best race in the quadrant at covert action (except perhaps the Cardassians) was disquieting and felt real at the same time.

One thing springs to my mind as I read this review, though: it reads more like a three-and-a-half-star review, rather than a four-star one. Was the verdict on this one changed later?

Greets from Germany,

Thu, Mar 12, 2009, 5:15am (UTC -5)
From a stand-alone point of view, yes, the episode is great. The quote is great, Sloane is great, and the convoluted plot is more complicated than Ocean's 11.

But it's a bit of a cheap thrill, since there are no consequences. One reaps what he sows, and thus, if the Federation wants to continue to allow Section 31 to exist, tacitly or not, what's the result? The Federation/Romulan/Klingon alliance wins the war in the series finale, Odo wears his tux, the Dominion is broken, Julian and Ezri get together, etc. But the tough questions posed in this episode are nowhere to be seen.

By all accounts, Section 31 is directly responsible for winning the war. They infected the Founders. Yet the Federation doesn't reject this situation, the idea of a peace forced by the pending genocide of an entire race. That's sort of like having your cake and eating it too, a criticism that both Jammer and I lob in the direction of VOY's weak 'Endgame.'
Tue, May 5, 2009, 11:45pm (UTC -5)
Explain to me how Section 31 "won" the war in any sense of the word? Poisoning the Founders only made them more determined to win, and even if the Founders died from the virus, the Vorta, and the Jem'Hadar would have kept fighting to the last man. Attempted Genocide didn't do donkey shit for them. It certainly didn't win the war, nor did it cause the Cardassians to revolt, or the Female Changling to surrender. Yes, she did agree to stop the war in return for Odo going home, but she would have agreed to that virus or not. She even stated Odo was more important to the Founders than the entire Alpha Quadrant. She actually would probably have been more receptive toward surrendering to a people who HADN'T tried to commit genocide against her race. Face it, all Section 31 did was make things worse.
Sat, Jun 20, 2009, 1:32pm (UTC -5)
Right to the point Jayrus,

You cannot protect something that doest excist.
Section 31 simply doesnt have a place in the federation because the very basic of the federation is freedom before anything else.

Sacrificing freedom to save freedom is selfish and stupid.Current times and history itself are the proof of that.

Great episode never the less,but not one that brings hope to our current state of stolen freedom in the name of that same freedom.Would be such a waste that American Paranoid politics would still dominate the powers that be 400 years from now.
Aldo Johnson
Tue, Dec 8, 2009, 11:02pm (UTC -5)
If the code you live by, your morality, your democracy, can be so conveniently put aside whenever you think it's dangerous, then why live by that code anyway? Might as well just choose any moral that fits what's happening this month, this week, this day.

Or put it another way; officially the Soviets do not have a policy of state-sanctioned assassination. Yet I'm sure the GRU/ KGB "allowed" people to die.

Now replace "the Soviets" with "the Federation" and "GRU/ KGB" with "Section 31" Any Difference?

When they did it, the Soviet was an "evil Empire" What does that make the Federation?

Interesting that Bashir compared the Federation to a 24th century Rome, since some Americans are already doing that with their own country.
Mon, Jan 11, 2010, 5:08pm (UTC -5)
Watched this last night- still excellent. Also remarkable for how prescient it was in predicting how America's principles would be compromised by war. Very good.
Mon, May 31, 2010, 7:25pm (UTC -5)
Enjoyed this one quite a bit. Did anyone else think Ron Moore just took the plot of The Spy That Came in From the Cold and adapted it for Star Trek? Not that it's a bad thing mind you, but credit where credit's due.
Marco P.
Fri, Aug 27, 2010, 1:07pm (UTC -5)
Awesome awesome episode. And what do you know? "Written by Ronald D. Moore". Surprised?

Sloan = Cigarette Smoking Man from X-Files. Same duplicity, same "unscrupulous-do-what's-necessary" attitude.

Also interesting fact: the conference takes place aboard an Intrepid-class starship, the same model as USS Voyager. :) It was great seeing it make an appearance in DS9.
Wed, Nov 17, 2010, 9:50pm (UTC -5)
Aldo Johnson, you hit the mark. But I agree with Jammer that this episode is still true to the ideals of Star Trek (I won't say "Roddenberry's ideals" because I know a lot of other people deserve credit for making Star Trek what it is) because in the end, it does condemn Section 31's actions, which in this case were totally preposterous. There is absoloutely no indication that Cretak would have changed her opinion on the Alliance with the Federation (either before or after the war). Section 31 may very well have made things worse.

Poor Bashir. The whole episode I was thinking "Don't cooperate with him! Don't even PRETEND to cooperate with him! He'll screw you over!" but to no avail. :)
Wed, Feb 23, 2011, 11:19am (UTC -5)
what if Section 31 was the one who pushed the idea to put the borg to sleep in best of both worlds, or infect them and disable them?

what if Picard/Data took their cues Sloan?

seems like these debates have been around for a while, Section 31 is a physical manifestation of the dark choices made by character past
Sun, Sep 25, 2011, 5:51pm (UTC -5)
FOUR stars? Hmm. Personally, I thought it was a good episode, but the whole 'morality dilemma' was a bit cliched and overplayed by this point, and could have done with being a bit more subtle and nuanced.
Sun, Nov 27, 2011, 1:06pm (UTC -5)
Personally, the question: "Could the ideals and morals of Roddenbery's Federation as conceived survive without a discreet organization to defend them?" has been answered - in the alternate universe.

The Terran Empire, as Spock surmised, would have collapsed under its own overt oppression within 240 years. So he instituted reforms, disarmaments, etc that pretty much fully embraced the pacifistic, progressive Roddenberry ideals. This resulted in the Terran Alliance being conquered by neighboring rivals and the entire human race (among others) to become nothing more than slaves.

Section 31 is the balance between these two extremes. Progressive ideals cannot survive on their own - not in a complicated real world environment.

I applaud Bashir's morality and ideals but I am a firm realist so I know not everyone thinks like me or embraces my ideals. Not everyone sees progressive'ism as progress and some actively will fight against it with morals and ideals and convictions that in his own mind are just as strong as mine and opinions that are just as viable - to him.

One could argue that the Klingon/Cardassian Alliance was born of the Terran Empire's aggression but one could just as easily argue that it would have happened one way or the other. In the alternate universe the Terran Empire's philosophy was that aggression is the answer and a peace overture was only a ruse to lull you into letting down your defenses (thus those poor Vulcans met their fate from the barrel of a shotgun). Any other race could have embraced those ideals - the Romulans for instance - and put them into practice.

Anyway I ramble. Bottom-line, as a realist, I support Section 31. No, it does not fit in with the Roddenberry vision but as I've already said, I don't feel the Roddenberry vision could have survived in the real world without an organization willing to bend the rules to protect it.

Perhaps, that's whats wrong with the "real" world.
Sat, May 5, 2012, 11:29pm (UTC -5)
I must have watched this episode a dozen times by now and never once did it occur to me that Sisko could have been aware of Ross' involvement with Section 31. It kind of makes sense that he might have been.
Paul York
Fri, May 18, 2012, 11:08pm (UTC -5)
Planning assassinations in a wartime situation is the moral equivalent of picking up a rifle and shooting someone -- both are acts of legalized murder. In any case, no assassination was actually plotted or executed - so I am trying to understand where the moral violation occurred: interfering with another culture? The Prime Directive is foolish because it excuses moral relativism and inaction in the face of the violation of basic rights, at times. The real harm done here was that a patriotic politician was wrongly charged with treason - but she certainly should not have been foolish enough to help Bashir access a restricted database. But we know she did it because she believed his motives were pure. As for Bashir, he came off across as a rather weak character in this episode, playing along when asked, but balking the whole way. Sloan evaluated his character well: he could not resist the lure of playing along. Bashir's moralizing speech at the end seemed petty, and the Admiral's rationale for the operation seemed sensible. At the same time, that does not mean that the end always justified the means; after all, it is slippery slope from that reasoning to the kind of fascism that the Romulans personify.
Fri, Jun 15, 2012, 7:44pm (UTC -5)
Can people NOT post spoilers in their comments? Completely ruined the ending of DS9 for me.
Wed, Jun 20, 2012, 9:14pm (UTC -5)
@Brendan. How about you take this as a learning curve and DON'T read the comments? The shows been over for thirteen years now! I think we're entitled to some spoilers.
Sun, Jul 1, 2012, 10:51am (UTC -5)
Agree with Matrix...if you haven't yet watched a show that ended well over a decade ago, and still care about spoilers, don't read messageboards. The statute of limitations has long expired on holding back spoilers.

Two things stuck in my side on this episode...O'Brien's mention of docking bays "inside" DS9 itself to make repairs...DS9 is large but I see no part of it that looks "thick" enough to have a starship "inside" it, especially a Romulan warbird.

ALso, the Romulans are only temporary allies of convenience, so the idea that 25 Federation hospital ships were being transferred to Romulan control struck me as extremely strange...
Wed, Aug 15, 2012, 7:46am (UTC -5)
Another Ron Moore winner, love spy thrillers, enjoyed this episode a lot.

Although the discussion about morality and neccessity of secret services is fun, it's also naive and overly intellectual. Granted, it's probably proper as far as the role of those kind of organizations in peace time is concerned - overturning foreign governments and constant meddling in other nations' affairs certainyl goes against ideals of freedom and democracy.

But if there's a war, you have only two choices - to defend yourself or die. Most people would certainly choose the former one. It's not only a question of duty, but quite frankly common sense as well. And since war involves much more than maybem at battlefields, defending yourself also involves much more than just shooting from a machine gun or driving a tank. For that reason an organization like Section 31 (or CIA for that matter) is a crucial and justified part of the war effort.
Mon, Dec 3, 2012, 4:12am (UTC -5)
I won't discuss the "Roddenberry vision" now; it's been done and re-done. But I wanted to add little things in response to some posts here.

How can one see Bashir's speech as petty ? It's true to his principles, his ideals, his morality and to the Federation. How can someone see the incarceration or possibly the death penalty of an innocent woman as something justifiable ?

How can one take the mirror universe as an example ? It is so twisted and unrealistic, just made to offer fans something special or comic.

As we know, the Federation never gave up its weapons: even the flagship which is intented for exploration, is heavily armed.

If, in a time of war, you forget everything you're fighting for, then why fight at all ? Here, I'm just very disappointed by Admiral Ross. He was the first admiral so far who wasn't corrupted or evil.

An interesting point Jammer raises is about Sisko. I always wondered why Sisko would want to risk Bashir to uncover section 31, because it's definitely not part of his agenda or responsibilities as captain of DS9. It makes sense that Sisko knew all along and was asked to order Bashir to accept Sloan's offer. That implies that Sisko'd be even worse than he already is, but adding that to the already long list of wrongs he did wouldn't be that much :p.
Fri, Jan 4, 2013, 10:46am (UTC -5)

First of all, before I go into my 2 cents, I just wanted to make a note of something I noticed while watching the episode recently (interesting to note that this is probably my 3rd or 4th time watching it over my lifetime). The first scene aboard the U.S.S. Bellerophon when Bashir is enroute to Romulus, when Admiral Ross, Senator Cretak, and Bashir all drink some romulan ale, Sloan suddenly appears to answer the question of the etymology behind the phrase, "Never say die." There is an interesting visual cue that, perhaps I'm over thinking, but considering all that happens during this episode, is interesting in its ever so subtle foreshadowing. As Sloan explains the meaning to Cretak, Admiral Ross ever so slightly widens his eyes and nods his head (bear in mind everyone is looking at Sloan at this point and Admiral Ross is the farthest person from Sloan, so only Sloan can see this response. A few seconds later, still during the conversation, Sloan just finishes mentioning the "Merchant of Venice" as part of his explanation of the phrase above, and Sloan provides an acknowledgement of Admiral Ross's signal by touching the right side of his neck with his finger... In retrospect, knowing everything that happens, it is a chilling prospect to know how much Admiral Ross was involved, though as it has been said, it is also very understandable given the situation. The cliche, "Desperate times call for desperate measures," comes to mind, and certainly has its place here.

Secret Motivations, Secret Agendas:

Honestly, I wish I was older when I first watched this series. Granted, not every episode is a masterpiece, but I would have appreciated the potential of each episode at least and, when given a masterpiece like this episode was, I would have appreciated it all the more, perhaps even suspected Admiral Ross's involvement from the beginning. I do appreciate Jammer's comment regarding Sisko's potential involvement as well and I must agree that it is a possibility. If he can keep a secret like his involvement with having the Romulans enter the war, then I would certainly consider him capable of this, and for the most part we were seeing things from Bashir's perspective. Then again, the Romulans entering the war was a more extreme circumstance than this was. Conquering an important member of the UFP and potentially facing loss of the war was much more extreme that this situation. Which brings me to the idea entertainment and the presence of extremes as a theme commonly used in such mediums.

Utilization of Extremes as a Theme in and for Entertainment:

I find a great deal of the analysis and the comments for this episode most compelling. The question of morality and what to do under extreme circumstances is often questioned. Often movies and entertainment are modeled around such a theme, in one way or another (ex. soap operas around personal drama, war movies around the circumstances of the war and their impact on the individual while some focus on the government and its choices, etc.)

But then, when is it right, or at least understandable, to grant exceptions to the rule? The is a question that still exists today and will continue to exist for the foreseeable future. Look at the law for example, the law is not a collection of agreed upon precepts that set punishment for a crime, rather it is a range of potential punishments that can even be overridden by the judge, if they see fit. Each situation is unique and must by analyzed accordingly.


This may sound trite in today's society, but the nature of what the word "extreme" has come to mean has such a level of volatility, it can mean almost anything from a mother taking short cuts to make cookies for a bake sale for their child's school to fighting terrorism to saving a civilization from complete and utter annihilation.

The question of where to draw the line has become hazy at best (though I think the cookies example was a bit humorous). But the bottom line is that in a society which praises and prizes the importance of individual liberties, where does one draw the line before those liberties are curtailed? Where does society draw the line between continuing to exist and fading in the annuls of history?

Well, I'm certain the world has come close to fading into the annuls of history many times, of which we've heard of only a few (the Cuban missile crisis comes to mind). While I find the idea of innocent people (like Cretak in this story) being eliminated because of their point of view to be repulsive, I find it much more heinous an act to allow a civilization (while still having many problems is basically morally good and is trying to correct those problems) to become a forgotten society, to allow all of the potential good it can do for not just their own citizens, but for the other civilizations it can affect for the better must all be considered.

As a result, I would say the United Federation of Planets needed to do this to survive. However, the important aspect that needs to be acknowledged here is that the United Federation of Planets deserves to survive. It has it's flaws, but the good it does for its citizens, the freedoms its people enjoy and its progressive nature and willingness to accept others (at least significantly more so than other civilizations) makes it necessary to commit such acts and still be worthy of survival. The question is does that carry over into the real world? I think it does. Despite all that has happened, the USA has been more of a positive influence on the world than a negative one. Yes, it has its flaws, but it is still a relatively young country with basically good citizens that want a better world, not just for themselves, but for everyone. Furthermore, they have already overcome many obstacles in their relatively short history. Give it time, and as the USA continues to evolve, so will its efforts to make itself and the world a better place.
Fri, Jan 4, 2013, 1:53pm (UTC -5)

I forgot to include the second scene with Admiral Ross that gave something away... A little more than half way through the episode, when Bashir is briefing Ross on Sloan's interest in killing Koval, after Ross mentioned that there could be another party involved whose duty it is to kill Koval, Bashir mentioned that it could be a Romulan. As soon as he said that, Ross shifted position and his voice suddenly changed (he seemed almost genuinely surprised and concerned). Given that Koval is the federation operative, I can understand why Ross would suddenly become concerned that maybe Bashir figured out what was really going on... Lucky for Ross, Bashir trusted Ross implicitly because he couldn't imagine Ross being part of the conspiracy on Sloan's side and, therefore, told Ross his entire thinking process, which certainly put Ross at ease after Bashir explained that another Romulan may be tasked with killing Koval.

So many layers this episode had along with twists and turns... It could easily have been turned into a movie. In fact, if more of the regular cast were involved, this probably could have been turned into a 2 part episode... Regardless, definitely among the best episodes of DS9, and that, in and of itself, is quite an achievement.
Sun, Mar 10, 2013, 10:40pm (UTC -5)
A very well-done and intriguing if somewhat convoluted episode. It was a finely crafted mystery that kept me on my toes trying to figure out what was going on every second of the episode up until the end when Ross explains everything. The one thing that I have not seen mentioned by anybody here nor by Jammer, was anybody sort of freaked out by Koval's repeated questioning of Bashir about the "Quickening" disease and his apparent desire to have it replicated? It makes me wonder if he ever got his hands on it and what exactly he'd do with it if he did? And the Federation was actually there to support HIM- and to get Senator Creetak out of the way!
Thu, Mar 21, 2013, 12:05pm (UTC -5)
Dr. Bashir, I think, is the proxy-Roddenberrian character of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (right down to the libido!). As a matter of fact, in TNG's "Birthright, part I" he fits perfectly on the Enterprise-D. It was refreshing to hear him defend the principles of the Federation on a show that constantly puts them down without rebuttal. Sisko, Dax, O'Brien, or even Worf would nary make a peep when the constant bashing of the Federation/Starfleet was constantly made on this show. Julian's a true believer, and even when his faith is shaken some, he still behaves accordingly.
Sat, Nov 9, 2013, 6:32pm (UTC -5)
Solid episode.

Thu, Feb 13, 2014, 9:33am (UTC -5)
"Many think it not only inevitable but entirely proper that liberty give way to security in times of national crisis that, at the extremes of military exigency, inter arma silent leges." - Anton Scalia

"Show me a crisis facing a nation, and I will show you a lie." - Vonnegut

The problem is, Section 31 broke laws (removed politicians, faked intel, commited murders and poisoned a race), and DS9's writing not only sets up strawmen to justify this (otherwise WE LOSE!), but to show this behaviour as being essential for victory. To further faciliate this kind of fascism, you then need to paint the Dominion as a big unstoppable boogeyman.

This is not deep or good writing, just scaremongering to faciliate fascism. Sloan says this himself to Bashir at the end of the episode: "Your ideals don't work in the real world. We must kill in the shadows to protect people like you."

You cannot find any example in history where this is true, or where this kind of behaviour was not exactly what caused the "problem" in the first place, the very problem it purports to solve.

Aren't we seeing the same thing in Syria now? Aren't Governments arming terrorist factions, faking war crimes and lying, all to "topple a bad guy"? Aren't they doing bad to do a greater good ("good" is subjetive; it's all about resources and greed)? But isn't this very behaviour (ie countless Western coups in Syria), precisely what set up the need for this betrayal of principles in the first place? These "deep" DS9 episodes are very superficial, and they simply promote bad philosophy and history.
Thu, Feb 13, 2014, 9:37am (UTC -5)
"Did anyone else think Ron Moore just took the plot of The Spy That Came in From the Cold and adapted it for Star Trek? Not that it's a bad thing mind you, but credit where credit's due."

Glad someone noticed this. That film is a masterpiece though, and pushes a bit further than this DS9 episode (which itself is pretty riveting, dispite its shallow ending).
Sat, Feb 22, 2014, 8:36pm (UTC -5)
"Show me a crisis facing a nation, and I will show you a lie." - Vonnegut


yeah, tell that to France in WW2 and numerous other conflicts where a country was conquered.
Sun, Feb 23, 2014, 4:19am (UTC -5)
Ah, that's it, I knew at some point I would have to read some nauseating argument such as Nejer's above. I mean, comparing the heterodox portrayal of the Federation and of Starfleet in DS9, in relation to the other Trek, with the US foreign policy and war efforts.

The thing goes like this: our country/Federation of Planets is so wonderful, has so many good freedom values, such an advanced viewing about the world, and has such good intentions and feelings about the rest of the world, that it justifies some "minor" mistakes we make. Mistakes we make, of course, just for safety reasons (never to achieve more power against others, noooo). Just to protect all these good things we wanna have and even share with the rest of the world/galaxy. I am certain that people in dozens of countries where the US has financed couple d’états, supported bloody dictators, invaded with laughable excuses, plotted against politicians and even against the life of elected presidents (hello Chilean readers) will agree with this view of the Federation. They will agree that our US/Federation of Planets in the end only wants a better world.

My dear gosh, really? Really? Star Trek was supposed to be an allegory of a different future. As unlikely we may think this future can be, that was the idea. Sure, with debates about dilemmas in a different future. Not a justification for our absurdities from the present reality. If anyone has ever needed a good example of how DS9, as good a show as it is, departs from Trek and extrapolates our reality to the Trek legacy by naturalizing what is not natural or normal, these ethnocentric, non-universalist comments of Nejers are here to leave no doubt. . I love our country today. And would love to live in a Federation of Planets. But Nejer’s argument is precisely the sort of reasoning that puts us much farther away from Trek’s canonical reality. Disgusting.
Sun, Feb 23, 2014, 7:12am (UTC -5)
"yeah, tell that to France in WW2"

France reaped what it sowed and Hitler had no intention of attacking it. Heck, the very same banners at the entrace to Hitler's concentration camps ("Work Makes Freedom"), lined the entrace to Britain's Kenyan camps, in which virtually the entire population was caged. The Allies weren't "good guys" in WW2, just equally bad, or worse, Imperialists.

Needless to say, I agree fully with what Tuningan says above. The Dominion conflict really is trite and insulting.
Sun, Feb 23, 2014, 11:40pm (UTC -5)
Pretty cool episode for those like my self who like political plotting shows. Pretty hateful for those like myself who likes Roddenberry’s Star Trek.

Once again, I to like that DS9 offers the so welcomed shades of grey to ST. Nice. DS9 has been (or was) a strong and good show for quite a while. But let's face it. DS9 has fully crossed the line, probably at some point in S6, maybe the end of S5.

It fully changes Star Trek universe. One thing is to show shades of grey. Another is to change the basic premises. Section 31 is one of the examples of crossing the line. Its existence, its behavior, but above all its acceptance by Starfeet and/or high Federation leaders changes what we have known about these institutions.

You can think it is more realistic. You can claim it is dramatically interesting. But it is undeniably changing ST previous canon. If it is good or bad, it's a next step of discussion. For me it sucks. One of the reasons being the fact that extrapolating our present to the future is something already done a thousand times. It is lazy writing and looses what ST had as the most creative and innovative.

For those of you who do not care about these total departures from ST, it is a strong episode. For those like me who care, it was once again just bad and shows how DS9 was adrift at this point.

PS: I follow my friend Tuningan and also Corey. I especially dislike this extrapolation of present that naturalizes what we do today as if nothing different could have ever been possible or would ever be. In fact ST is about a different future as Tuningan says, not about a justification of our present.
Thu, Mar 13, 2014, 9:04pm (UTC -5)
Star Trek couldn't last in this world, not because of writer decisions, but the reality that Star Trek underpinned was leading towards something darker.

Human beings aren't ever going to solve all our issues, nor the issues of other Interstellar Civilizations fully. The human spirit in the last decade has been tested by an impossible war of ideologies that are as ancient as the Preservers :P

The war on Terror is not going to end, nor is the instability in the middle east, nor the strife of nations.

TOS was looking forward to a detente between US and USSR, TNG was looking at the progressive 90's filled with hope and no war.

DS9 looked further to 2000's.

I keep reading other fans complaining about the show's writers pushing us in dark direction; they weren't pushing us, but telling us we were going there like all other Trek Series.

That hope for the future stuff ended at the turn of the 21st century, because we gave up on it.
Sun, Mar 23, 2014, 2:57am (UTC -5)
@Trekker One thing is putting Trek in a darker situation. Another thing is to change its premises.

That said, it is amazing how humanity Always think of the present as impossible to change. You yourself just did that: "The war on Terror is not going to end". But before you gave exampls of things that seemed impossible to change.... but have changed.

Besides, it does not matter if we think things are or not going to change. What matters is that premise of Trek is different from what DS9 offers at least in the last seasons. As I said, "You can think it is more realistic. You can claim it is dramatically interesting. But it is undeniably changing ST previous canon. If it is good or bad, it's a next step of discussion. For me it sucks. One of the reasons being the fact that extrapolating our present to the future is something already done a thousand times. It is lazy writing and looses what ST had as the most creative and innovative".

Trek never extrapolated the present to the future in TOS or in TNG. It does not mean that these shows were not products of their time, of course they were and it is impossible for any movie, show, poem or any form of art to not be so. But constiously extrapolating the present to the future? No and no.

Last, this argument about DS9 looking further to 2000s is completely pointless if you thnik if Voyager. It was broadcasted at same time as the second half of DS9. Why Voyager could stay much closer to the original Trek tone in what regards Federation and Starfleet portrayal and DS9 didn't? Oh and whay about Enterprise, how does it look like?
Klovis Mann
Mon, Apr 28, 2014, 9:50am (UTC -5)
Trek Meets LeCarre.....and well done....glad somebody mentioned the connection's certainly there....The Spy Who Came In From The Cold.....The scene at the end between Ross and Bashir when Bashir is outraged at the sacrifice of Cretak recalls the film version and Richard Burtons "who do you think spies are"....? speech......Bashir was Claire Bloom to Ross' Richard Burton....."How big does a cause have to be before you kill your friends?".....great episode, great script, great rating.....
Sun, Jun 8, 2014, 7:39pm (UTC -5)
Full credit to the scriptwriters here in this engaging, complex and involving episode that asks a lot of interesting questions. After the dreadful run of holosuite episodes this season, a welcome return to form for DS9. 5 stars out of 5 for this one.
Tue, Aug 19, 2014, 12:16pm (UTC -5)
France reaped what it sowed and Hitler had no intention of attacking it.

If you actually believe that, you are ridiculously undereducated on WWII. I suggest you read some history books. Hitler invaded Poland without provocation, and made it clear numerous times that he wanted Europe and Russia for "Living Space".
Sun, Aug 24, 2014, 3:36pm (UTC -5)
I have to say, I don't like this episode. Mainly because it messed up poor Senator Cretak, and I really liked her.

That's probably just a personal problem, though.
Mon, Aug 25, 2014, 10:54am (UTC -5)
Very interesting episode.

Ross played along. The reason Bashir was approached from the beginning is now apparent.

I never got the impression that Sisko was an accomplice. Probably a stretch to pin that on him although I wouldn't put it past him as we all know what he's capable of (ITPM)

It's not good to be a Romulan Senator... First Vreenak now Cretak... very expendable "for the cause".

It was fun to try and figure out what Sloan wanted done the first time I watched this.

Jon Fleck is outstanding. No wonder they chose him to play silik.

Koval as a section 31 ally... not even during Koval's little speech about Sloan's interrogation. Nicely done.

3 stars for me.
Wed, Oct 29, 2014, 1:32pm (UTC -5)
Excellent hour. It slides in a notch under "In the Pale Moonlight" but only because that episode's frame narrative was so compelling. I agree with everything Jammer says (except that the plot may be too complex for its own good). I never even considered that Sisko would have been aware of the plot, but given what we already know, it's not an unsupported conclusion.

Things that are awesome:

-Every beat of the episode works and builds into a legitimately high stakes mystery. (I especially enjoyed the call-back to "The Quickening". It's not a big deal, but continuity always makes a series that much more realistic.)

-The episode is necessary in that it shows DS9 is a show that recognizes the precariousness of political alliances. It's been going on the entire series, and it takes care not to suggest everything will be resolved just because the good guys (inevitably) are victorious. This episode suggests its own future without being able to explore it, and I think that's a pretty effective device. The Wire's (excellent) finale is an example of this, too.

-I love the sobering portrayal of the Federation trying to hold itself together in a region of political upheaval, which is a legitimate question to pose when one is working with a future utopia. "Homefront" and "Paradise Lost" effectively utilized the "rogue admiral" cliche, but it's done even more effectively because, A), we already know Ross to be a reasonable man, and, B), his rationale is completely understandable given the last two seasons of war and especially episodes like "AR-558". It was a smart move to only have Ross collude with Sloan rather than be a part of Section 31 completely.

-Even though I've seen this show in its entirety, I forgot that Admiral Ross gets this much development in S7. I've made comments on other S7 episodes that this season is the year of the secondary characters. I forgot how true that continues to be. As much as I miss the routine of our main cast doing their jobs every week, it just goes to show how big and unpredictable DS9 has become. The canvas just keeps widening.

This episode has one flaw, I think, though it's pretty minor and really pretty subjective: the new actress playing Cretak. She's actually really quite good, but the new face kind of weakens the punch that this is the same (reasonable and likable) woman we know from "Shadows and Symbols". She works perfectly within the story but, y'know, that visual continuity just isn't there.

Other than that, this is not only an easy 4-star episode but it's a top 10 episode of the series. Essential. Do not skip.
Jayson Vaugh
Wed, Jan 28, 2015, 3:55am (UTC -5)
Just, no.

This episode was vile to me. I remember loving it as a teen. However, re-watched I found Cretak's fate too hideous to find acceptable. An innocent woman to be put to death - for nothing. No thank you.
Mon, Feb 16, 2015, 10:01pm (UTC -5)
Hey Jayson Vaugh, remember these are Romulans.
Sun, May 24, 2015, 5:23am (UTC -5)
Someone mentioned a while back, that I was a little too hard on Bashir, well maybe I was. At times I felt he didn't use common sense. (ex. in a cloaked ship, going to rescue Dukat and co., with Klingons all around cloaked and he wants to stop and find survivors, which meant de-cloaking). Not this time. In spite of the fact that his values are misplaced, he was great. I really admired him for standing his ground and trying to help save Koval's life. If Bashir stood by and let someone get assassinate he would not be Bashir. He was set-up from the beginning by someone he trusted and played by Sloan with the help of Ross. This episode really proved that Roddenbury's Trek can't work even on Trek. With the brutal and chaotic universe they operate in, those Ideals fall flat. The Federation would cease to exist.
Wed, Jun 17, 2015, 10:12pm (UTC -5)
I loved this episode - there may have been a few squeals as I was watching it. I find the Romulans fascinating - they're probably my favourite race in Trek - and the plot was suitably complex for the parties involved. How far does it support the Section 31 viewpoint? I'm not sure, and Bashir was certainly eloquent in his attack on it. Plus Cretak was clearly shown to be the victim. In short: it left me thinking, which I take as a sign of good writing.
Sun, Jun 28, 2015, 10:06pm (UTC -5)
I don't know what's worse... Bashir's hard-ons and constant drooling over a certain female character on the show (in my opinion, the worst female character on the show), or his display of naivety and emotionalism every time he opens his mouth to bitch about someone "violating the principles we are all sworn to protect".
Sun, Jun 28, 2015, 10:21pm (UTC -5)
I don't know if Section 31 won the war not. I don't know about all their operations and what kind of advice, input, and information they provided to Starfleet/Starfleet Intelligence during the war. There could be an entire parallel series just for Section 31 and their role during the war that we don't know about from watching DS9. But I do know this: Tactics and methods identical to those used by Section 31 helped win the war. The example I can think of right now is what took place in "In the Pale Moon Light", which caused the Romulans to join the war on the Dominion. It doesn't matter who did the dirty work, the dirty work helped win the war.
None of that bothers me, what bothers me is that I don't recall seeing any serious and genuine effort by the Federation on this show to seek peace with the Dominion before the war started and during the early stages of the war, before things get out of control.
Mon, Jun 29, 2015, 7:54pm (UTC -5)
@Aldo Johnson:

* "If the code you live by, your morality, your democracy, can be so conveniently put aside whenever you think it's dangerous, then why live by that code anyway? Might as well just choose any moral that fits what's happening this month, this week, this day."

- It's no different than killing. It is illegal and immoral, yet allowed in war and in self-defense situations. As with every thing else in life, different circumstances dictate different ways of doing things.

* "Or put it another way; officially the Soviets do not have a policy of state-sanctioned assassination. Yet I'm sure the GRU/ KGB "allowed" people to die."

- I find it interesting that use Soviets/KGB as an example. Are you from Russia? Because I am from the USA, and if I was trying to make your point, I would have used USA/CIA, and the sentence would still be true.

* "Now replace 'the Soviets' with 'the Federation' and 'GRU/ KGB' with 'Section 31' Any Difference?"

- I will replace "Soviets" with "USA", and "KGB" with "CIA" as indicated earlier. Any difference? No.
Ok, replace them with Federation/Section 31. Any difference? Probably, but it doesn't matter either way.

* "When they did it, the Soviet was an 'evil Empire' What does that make the Federation?"

- They were an "evil empire" because someone from another empire with a similar track record decided to label them as such. That's the only reason, and it is only a label. Someone might label the Dominion or the federation as an evil empire as well, that doesn't mean that either is actually an evil empire.
Sat, Aug 8, 2015, 11:34pm (UTC -5)
The best part of this episode was when Bashir overheard about the admiral's supposed aneurysm, not long after he just spoke to him. The glance to Sloan, the dumbstruck look on his face and complete loss of composure in that scene really drives home the fact that he was not only trapped, but powerless in his situation to do anything about Section 31, who was constantly looking over his shoulder.

Of course, at the time he didn't know it was a ploy, but the scene was done well.
Sat, Sep 26, 2015, 12:31pm (UTC -5)
Shocking that almost no-one has mentioned there's an Intrepid class starship in this episode. Gives me a nice "what if" feeling, as in what if Voyager made it home and there were episodes set in the alpha quadrant. The first time i saw this episode and I saw the Bellerophon, my mind skipped a beat and I thought I was watching Voyager. Maybe that's why we don't see main series starship classes in the other Trek series very often, but for me it was one of the best moments in DS9.

Otherwise a good, solid episode. DS9 is like Stargate Universe: I completely failed to appreciate it the first time around, but now I'm older and I've given it time, I realise DS9 and SGU were possibly the very finest science fiction going.
Nathan B.
Sun, Nov 8, 2015, 2:18am (UTC -5)
Wow! What an episode!

I wanted to add one thing: I know that many claim that Sisko does not work for Section 31, but that he is sympathetic to it. I think that given how closely Sisko and Admiral Ross worked, and how they appear to have a lot of not only respect, but also a certain knowing camaraderie; and given how Sisko in ITPM rationalized the murder of a Romulan diplomat as the price to be paid for getting the Romulans to enter the war against the Dominion, that Sisko is indeed in the Section 31 loop. And I think he manipulated Bashir into accepting Sloan's assignment just as Admiral Ross did.

Well, it makes for a bit of fun, anyway. And yet the topic is quite serious--and thoughtfully explored. The argument between Bashir and Ross at the end recalled some of the best of TNG's greatest episodes, episodes in which a moral issue is really explored from two opposite angles.
Diamond Dave
Mon, Feb 22, 2016, 1:55pm (UTC -5)
DS9 does a full on paranoid Cold War spy story, and while tightly plotted, pacy, and full of interesting twists, I felt it pulled up a little short. And for me the main reason is thus - if Section 31 is so good at what it does, how is it losing the war? As I read in another review, there are few things less interesting that the unstoppable foe.

The second reason is that I can't help feeling we've seen these basic arguments before - it boils down to idealism versus pragmatism and it's not new. The dialogue makes it interesting to a degree, but not enough to make it a classic. 3 stars.
William B
Tue, Apr 26, 2016, 4:08pm (UTC -5)
I agree with commenters above about The Spy Who Came in from the Cold being the obvious inspiration for this episode's plot. In some ways, having seen the movie recently (haven't read the novel), it makes the episode's plotting problems a bit more clear to compare with the source material, and also clarifies for me what this episode is doing by comparison. In the film at least, the impression I get is that we are meant to see the spy agencies from both powers as corrupt and despicable, and while there may be "justification" for it the the tone suggests a pretty negative take on what goes on. This episode is a little less definite about whether Sloan is a rotten, bad guy or a man of conscience who eschews conventional morality in favour of desperate preservation of his people. However, I still don't think this episode is actually arguing in favour of Sloan. The episode ends with Bashir/Ross and Bashir/Sloan scenes in which Bashir remains unconvinced by their arguments, and there is a real sense of irresolution to the episode as a result. To me, this is because the Bashir/Section 31 episodes form a sort of trilogy on DS9 -- Inquisition, this one, and Extreme Measures -- wherein it is the third piece which gives something like answers. As the middle installment in the trilogy, IAESL keeps the moral positions of the characters relatively static, while leaving Bashir and Sloan poised for a sort of rematch which will end that arc up.

In fact, in terms of the overall storyarc of the show, it is easy to imagine this episode being deleted; Cretak had not been in any episodes since the season's opening two-parter, and so her absence in the final string of episodes does not particularly need explaining. Section 31's duplicity had already been established in Inquisition -- though certainly having them do something besides put Bashir through the wringer helps set them up as a genuine force to be reckoned with. We could have just taken as read that the Romulan Alliance wouldn't fall apart. Now I want to emphasize that these aren't complaints -- I just want to point out some things about this episode and the show's serialization.

So here are a few things that I think this episode does for the series and for the series' arc, which are a little more subtle than the actual content of the big-scale plotting (shifting Koval into power at Cretak's expense).

1) Apart from the very brief moment of Bashir running into Ezri in the corridor (and calling Odo on security at the end), the only station people we see Bashir interacting with who don't end up on the Balleraphon or on Romulus are Garak, who decries Bashir's idealism and recalls his own experience with the Romulans, and Sisko, who tells Bashir to go along with what Sloan wants, having since spoken with Admiral Ross. As we know, Ross was playing Bashir all episode, and as Nathan B. suggests, it is fully possible Sisko was *consciously* in on Ross' plan (if not necessarily in specifics); at the very least he was unconsciously involved. I think it's appropriate that those are the two that Bashir talks to, because this episode involves secret dealings including the (probable in this case) death of a Romulan senator, to bolster Federation interests and ensure the Romulans stay in the war. Of course Garak and Sisko were the people behind the assassination of Senator Vreenak in In the Pale Moonlight. Sloan and Ross, effectively, map onto Garak and Sisko, respectively -- cynical spymaster who does this for a living, high-ranking Starfleet officer who enters a reluctant temporary alliance because of the difficulty of war -- whereas of course Cretak as sacrifice maps onto Vreenak. So I think that having this episode play out elements of ITPM allows for a way to talk about that episode's plot without actually threatening Garak and Sisko's secret. One imagines that Bashir's end-of-episode conversations with Sloan and Ross could be what Bashir would say in response to Garak and Sisko in ITPM, where the true "idealistic" Roddenberryan moral voice was actually absent. I am not saying that Garak and Sisko are unethical entirely -- Garak does have an ethical code, albeit not a very traditional one, and Sisko hates himself for what he does -- but basically it is entirely on the audience to react to this. Bashir actually gives a voice to the moral objections, not just in the sense of "I am upset about what happened but can live with it" but an actual voice saying "This is wrong and I reject that this is 'necessary.'" I like this because the link with ITPM also ties Bashir's story into Sisko's in a weird way -- in fact, in Tacking (spoiler) Bashir plans to fight back against Section 31 in the same episode where Sisko tells Worf to do Whatever It Takes. That ITPM immediately followed Inquisition further links these stories together.

2) Bashir gets to live out his thrilling mission of being a spy, and realizes that his goodness backfires, and can even be used for nefarious purposes. "He's manipulating you!" O'Brien warned him in "Hippocratic Oath," about Goran'agar, and here we see, and Bashir sees, that he can indeed be manipulated. But he is also smart enough to see through the manipulation, though after it's "too late" (more on this in a second). This really is very appropriate for the second act of the Bashir-Sloan story; in Inquisition Bashir's only real accomplishment was managing not to lose his mind and also figuring out Sloan's deception, but no harm was done and Bashir also did not quite get to the point of seeing how far out of his league he was. Here he gets it, and it sets him up to be readier come Round Three in Extreme Measures. (My memory and Jammer's review tells me that Extreme Measures is not very good, which is very much a shame, but I don't think that means that isn't how these episodes work -- building toward an actual climax.)

In terms of the plot, I don't actually get how this was supposed to work -- not only do Sloan and Ross know that Bashir will go to Cretak, but they also know she will access the secret files rather than going to Neral or whomever. Further, the episode's ending is hard to parse -- Cretak accesses Koval's secret files hoping to get info on who is trying to kill him, after Bashir talks to her. Koval indicates that it is *possible* that Bashir was a duped innocent, and surely that possibility is the only reason Bashir is allowed to leave. But then Koval argues that Creatk accessing the data proves that she was planning on killing him? But if she was planning on killing him, why would she wait for Bashir to tell her? If she was in on the plot with Sloan, she wouldn't need Bashir to tell her about the plan. Unless of course she wanted to find out who was involved in the plan, but then if that were the case then there are others involved in the plan, whom Koval should track down. Unless the idea is that Sloan had no mole at all, in which case -- what, Cretak was looking for someone to partner with? Or if she was accessing is information to use it to kill him alone, somehow, what does this have to do with Sloan's plot -- did she not consider assassinating him until someone pointed out that it was possible to do so? If the idea is that she did not know about his illness before then, it's odd that Koval acts like it is common knowledge within the organization at the end. Also, if Romulans have those nifty neural probes, could those be used to determine if Cretak is telling the truth? (Now, granted, if Koval is in charge it would be easy for him to fake those results, but it seems like it'd be worth bringing up.)

That Bashir comes forward to save Koval's life demonstrates how he operates. But then once he finds out Cretak is going to be wrongfully executed, *and he knows information that demonstrates this* -- i.e. Ross and Sloan's true involvement, Koval's spy status -- he does not try to build on this knowledge to try to save Cretak from execution, or even consider doing anything about that. I think it may be on that last point that he has given up trying to outmaneuver Sloan, at least in this round, or it may be that he genuinely thinks that the depth of the conspiracy here really is too extensive for him to unravel all by himself, or revealing the truth really might destroy the Fed/Romulan alliance and despite his ethical objections he won't actually intervene at this point. But I think the episode rather treats it as something Bashir sees as a fait accompli when it isn't -- there would still, probably, be time for him to make a last-ditch appeal to someone for Cretak's life, especially if he was willing to make that appeal for Koval's.

I ultimately am much more Bashir than Ross or Sloan, in terms of my ethical orientation, but I do understand where Ross and Sloan are coming from. One argument that I do wish that Bashir gave, though, is the pragmatic one: putting aside the ethical horror of condemning an innocent woman to die, there is also the fact that:

1) it could get out, somehow, that they did this, and that would seriously jeopardize all Romulan/Federation relationships; and
2) despite the risk that Cretak will leave for the Dominion, is it not still possible that she is more trustworthy than a plant like Koval?

We don't know exactly how Koval operates -- why he is a Federation operative, why his loyalty is to the UFP foremost. But we do know that he has Sloan-or-worse style ethics. We actually don't know much about him except that he is willing to destroy Cretak to get ahead, since the let's-use-the-Quickening-on-someone could actually be part of his act. But he is willing to destroy innocent Cretak. Cretak is a patriot and she might decide that it's in Romulus' best interests to do something else, but Cretak also is a woman of integrity, as we see in this episode, and her integrity is part of the crux of the trap that Sloan, Ross and Koval lay out for her. Cretak decides to trust Bashir. And Sloan and Koval know that Bashir and Cretak are people of integrity who could learn to trust each other, and use that to destroy her in favour of Koval-who-does-not-hesitate-to-arrange-his-opponents'-death. A Federation of Bashirs could convince a Romulus of Cretaks that the Federation, ultimately, *is trustworthy in a way that the Dominion is not*, and that this is ultimately the reason for them to join together. I know, I know: I am simply naive. But part of the tragedy here, and part of what Bashir should recognize, is that it is only people like Bashir and Cretak that make the Federation and Romulan Empires any different from the Dominion anyway, and that to kill Cretak by using her good qualities seems short-sighted as well as wrong.

Other things: I like that Ross had never had Romulan Ale, and cited the illegality, in order to set up his later betrayal of core values, to help establish that it is very often law-abiding men who reject all law when in positions of power. There is a lot in this episode about idioms -- Koval says "what's the phrase?", there is the discussion about "Never say die," etc. -- which I think is maybe emphasizing the various communication/language barriers (in terms of idiomatic phrases) and underlining Bashir's aloneness in this situation. The whole thing is very effective paranoid-thriller, though I think the plot does not quite hold together fully. 3.5 stars.
William B
Wed, Apr 27, 2016, 4:44pm (UTC -5)
I think it's worth pausing at this moment to sum up season seven before the Final Arc. I'll summarize my ratings at the end of the season, but so far the season has an average (from me) of about 2.4, which is lower than any season average (from me) save s1 and s3. However, this jumps up considerably (to around 2.75) if we eliminate the four Ezri-heaviest episodes (Afterimage, Prodigal Daughter, The Emperor's New Cloak and Field of Fire). To be fair here, I don't think Ezri herself is a disaster as many people do, and TENC is the worst of those and the one that features her the least and there features an AU version. And I suppose with a bit of distance I think I'd rate Afterimage as a 2.5 (average rather than mediocre). After the opening two-parter, which I thought was okay, I think that the season has mostly been spinning its wheels on much of the main cast, which is somewhat understandable. With a few exceptions, the characters are mostly already where they need to be for the final arc by the end of Shadows and Symbols, which means that there are not many *necessary* character pieces to do, and that further it is hard to do any significant development for the characters which won't actually in some ways make it harder to do the concluding stories. I assume that many of the *outlines* of where the characters end up, though probably not the details (especially since the details by and large got sloppier the closer the final arc came to wrapping up) were decided early in the season and that no one really wanted to mess with the characters too much early in the season as a result, which is a common problem in serialized shows which are ending. I don't want to overstate this, since many of the character arc resolutions hardly required all that much shuffling around of the characters. Most of the cast were in stasis. Now despite its serialization, DS9 did not actually change characters *all that much*, but I think the thing is that there even relatively few one-offs where something *very important* happened to one of the opening credits cast besides Ezri.

The number one exception is Odo, who I think actually was still in development in these episodes. Granted for the moment that the only major Odo stories are Treachery, Faith and the Great River and Chimera, 1) those are two great episodes, which no one else really has, and 2) both of them, I think, end up being relevant to Odo's story in the last few episodes. In particular, Chimera really *makes* Odo/Kira, to the point where I don't think the relationship would have that much impact in the final episodes if that episode hadn't happened. That is a big moment for Kira as well, but Chimera gets under Odo's skin more than Kira's (which is not a criticism, just an observation). I think the Odo/Weyoun stuff does not get paid off directly, but the Founders' disease and Odo's acceptance of Weyoun's worship help position Odo to recognizing that he might have an important role to play in the Dominion. It is not surprising that Odo has the good stuff here because he's the best-handled of the main cast generally. Kira, in addition to Chimera, has Covenant as well, which...sort of wraps up Kira/Dukat but which I find unsatisfying, but at least is recognizably an important story that they attempt, so I'd say that Kira is someone else the writers tried paying attention to. The other character who gets some development is Bashir. And well, Chrysalis is not very good and while it highlights some of Bashir's important qualities it does so in a way that seems to regress him (IMO). IAESL, though, does work to set up Bashir.

Of the rest of the cast, while most people got one or two stories, it's notable that they mostly involve some sort of wheel spinning. With Worf, on some level I think the only story they really knew they wanted to do with Worf for a while was to deal with the Ezri fallout, but they waited on this until Penumbra, and kept him mostly enigmatic and showed him from Ezri's perspective (see his tiny role in Field of Fire). The one Klingon story he had, after the opening two-parter, was Once More Unto the Breach, which is good but in which Worf is actually very static (it's Kor and Martok who get the development). With Quark, there is "Quark has a crush on Ezri," and there is The Emperor's New Cloak, which doesn't even try to give Quark much to do; the main use of Quark after the Quark-Worf stuff in the opening two-parter is Quark's role in The Siege of AR-558, which is a good use of the character. O'Brien actually has a fair amount of screentime, but a lot of the time is just him and Julian talking about the Alamo in very similar scenes to each other, and the closest thing to a character-centric show he gets is the comic subplot where he waits around for Nog to solve the desk problem in T,FatGR. He also becomes a murder investigator twice, both in stories told mostly from Ezri's POV. Jake obviously has basically no material. And after Take Me Out to the Holosuite, Sisko sort of fades out and becomes a distant authority figure who sometimes shows up to scold or give exposition but otherwise is absent, with the exception of The Siege of AR-558, where he once again learns a lesson about casualty reports, and Badda-Bing Badda-Bang. Since Sisko actually has little to do for much of the final arc, too, he does sort of fade out. The two most frequently and heavily featured non-regulars in the series, Garak and Dukat, each have one episode, which does have what I would say is important development but which is not executed well -- it's still okay in the case of Garak in Afterimage, but is disappointing, and I am not a fan of the Dukat material in Covenant.

So the big focus here is on supporting players, who do indeed get a lot of work: Nog has his own episode and big roles in both TFatGR and TSoAR558, Rom basically gets the triumphant moment in Take Me Out to the Holosuite and gets about equal time with Quark in TENC, Vic gets *two* episodes (one better than the other), Martok and Kor have the main emotional arcs with Worf in mostly a supporting role in OUITB, Weyoun and to a lesser degree Damar get the focus in TFatGR. Kasidy doesn't have that much to do but she is the one who has the big private emotional revelatory scenes with Ben rather than Jake in the holosuite-fun episodes. Mirror-Brunt basically gets more material as a sympathetic protagonist than any other non-Ezri MU characters in TENC. Ross and Cretak have pretty big roles in the opening two-parter and in IAESL. So that is actually cool, on the one hand, that the supporting cast gets so much attention and development. In the case of Nog, it works great. But some of this gets tiresome, particularly with Vic.

It's also worth noting that the sense of dread that hung over everything in season six, IMO *even the non-war episodes*, has sort of dissipated in season seven. While season six sometimes dropped the war stories and had poor follow-through on developments, they actually did a pretty good job of keeping the war on backburner and not having stories where the Starfleet officers seemed to have totally moved on. The big "lightweight" episodes were either related to the Dominion anyway (The Magnificient Ferengi, One Little Ship), deliberately underlined as being a release from recent tensions (You Are Cordially Invited), or involved non-Starfleet characters (TMF, Who Mounrs for Morn, His Way). Episodes like Time's Orphan or The Sound of Her Voice (like Field of Fire this year) introduced a situation which was clearly urgent enough for those characters to make it their top priority for the moment. Honour Among Thieves dubiously started with O'Brien being assigned to infiltrate the mob, but even there eventually tied things in with the Dominion (albeit, again, dubiously). This season, I dunno. The tone of Take Me Out to the Holosuite, Chrysalis, the O'Brien-Nog subplot in Treachery etc., Prodigal Daughter and Badda-Bing Badda-Bang really seem to me to make the Starfleet crew seem to have mostly forgotten that they are ostensibly in an existential conflict for their very lives. I think that the best way to look at it is that after the Chin'toka system victory in Tears of the Prophets, and after the wormhole stuff was resolved and Worf et al. blew up that shipyard or whatever in Shadows and Symbols, the Fed/Klingon/Romulan alliance were winning and the pressure mostly reduced. The need to remember that people are still dying in The Siege of AR-558 is a kick in their (Sisko's) complacency, but only a partial one -- it's as if most of the Starfleet people on the station have stopped feeling particularly worried about the war despite going out on fights we don't see pretty frequently, and it's only people like Ross and Sloan who are still focused on it. In fact, given how much TSoAR558 emphasized that it was a wake-up call/reminder, it really does strike me as something of an exception to what Sisko et al.'s experience is usually like...which means that for *representative* battle stuff, the only actual war material the season gave us was on Klingon ships (in Shadows & Symbols and Once More Unto the Breach). People are fighting on the Defiant, but it is so de-emphasized and relegated to offscreen that it makes it all seem routine and uninteresting, which is something of a shame. While I do think that the choice to have things look less bleak in season seven than in season six was deliberate, I'm also not sure if they intended people to be quite as blase as they seem to me, somehow.

Still, you know -- I do think that the first three shows are mixed but generally worthwhile (all 2.5's once I bump up Afterimage), and Treachery, Faith and the Great River, Once More Unto the Breach, The Siege of AR-558, It's Only a Paper Moon, Chimera and Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges are very good shows, with Chimera being one of the series' best. I think the Ezri shows don't really work, I seem to be immune to the "fun digressions" (TMOTTH, BBBB), Chrysalis and Covenant left me cold, and The Emperor's New Cloak was very bad indeed, and generally there are signs of wear and tear on the series, but it's still hitting quite a few good notes. Onward to the final arc....
Peter G.
Sat, May 14, 2016, 1:36pm (UTC -5)
Just to clarify the plot, since some posts above seem to be confused, the objective was to ensure Koval would enter the Continuing Committee. Cretak was his competition and Section 31 wanted her removed so their man could get the position of power. It's very simple, and any analysis of how trustworthy Cretak may have been is beside the point. She was, as Ross mentions, a Romulan patriot, which means she would never be anyone the Federation could trust anyhow, no matter how 'nice' she was. Remember the 'nice' behavior in Shadows and Symbols, which was just a ruse to execute the effective annexation of Bajor? Weyoun said it best: Romulans are predictably treacherous. So any talk of an "innocent woman" possibly being executed as a result of what Section 31 did here is drivel. She was not innocent, and was, as Sloan put it, not a "nice person." To think that because she smiles at Bashir instead of sneering like other Romulans means she's a Real Nice Lady is unbelievably naive. She would have seen the Romulan flag flying over Earth just as soon as anyone else. The only difference between her and Romulans against the alliance is she saw it as furthering Romulan interests, and that is all.

Regarding why Cretak went along with Bashir's plan, I think some data on this is omitted from the episode. What we do know is she tried to access Koval's personal files, apparently to help 'save him.' But was that really the reason? Or was it a pretence she felt she could use if caught now that she had Bashir to back up her story? What Romulan wouldn't, after all, like to peruse the files of the head of the Tal Shiar? Or more to the point, what Romulan looking for advancement wouldn't like to find dirt on her chief competition? It would be foolish to suppose Cretak wasn't already planning something else on her own to get Koval to lose the nomination. You don't get ahead in a place like Romulus by allowing your competitors to beat you fairly on merit.

Regarding what Cretak knew, I think it's fairly clear she wasn't certain Koval was sick, but she may have suspected and lacked proof. She was not yet on the Continuing Committee, which likely means she had no awareness of what would or would not have been common knowledge amongst them. The fact that Koval had already made them aware of his condition was clearly meant to come as a plot twist that was a surprise to both Cretak and the audience. It's just as likely as not that while pretending to help Bashir 'save him' her real objective was to obtain proof of his condition so she could present it to the Continuing Committee and have him deemed unfit to advance. She is correctly labeled a fool by her peers at the end, and the only takeaway worth mentioning is that she played the game and lost. Any notion that she was a nice, honest Senator who got played by some bad people cannot possibly be accurate. The Romulans all play each other, and the reason she lost this time is because she was so certain Bashir wasn't lying to her. And he wasn't! That's the joke, and why Section 31 needed him. They needed an operative who honestly didn't believe he was one, since a canny Romulan would invariably see through a deception. This reminds me strongly of Total Recall, where the only way to get past the psychics was to mindwipe an operative and have him unwittingly infiltrate them. That is exactly what Bashir effectively did here.

As for Koval, his motivations remain entirely unknown in terms of his helping the Federation, which I like. Is he really trustworthy in the long run? Could he have been using Federations security to help him advance to the Continuing Committee, somewhat betraying his people to advance his own career? But maybe the Committee is even aware of this and would later use him to undermine Starfleet Security. Notice how quickly the Committee accepts his story and sends Bashir back home without further word? It's almost as if they were in on it too and it was a larger conspiracy to get rid of Cretak and maybe even expose Section 31.

The most fun in this great episode is to watch it from the start knowing everything and see how Ross, Sloan and Koval all maneuver Bashir into position. Knowing Koval is a mole as he approaches Bashir with his terrifying questions about The Quickening is actually laugh out loud funny. The intent was clear: make it clear to Bashir from the onset that he is a Bad Guy so that Bashir would believe immediately that Sloan had plausible reason to fear his advancement. And by establishing immediate contact with Bashir he set up the precedent whereby Bashir could later approach him and request a handshake, which he would accept. He knew Bashir might have to shake his hand to confirm the diagnosis, and therefore gave Bashir the opening to do this and confirm Sloan's plan by introducing himself in the first place. The part about inquiring about biogenic weapons was clever as well, because it painted Koval as being just about anything *other than* an ally. Such mind games. And he even sat right in from of the room during the lecture just to make sure Bashir would be close enough to get his diagnosis.

Brilliant episode, although in Sloan's place I would have been more than a little nervous that the transporter trick at the end would fail.
William B
Sat, May 14, 2016, 2:28pm (UTC -5)
I don't know how much that was specifically directed at me, but:

I suppose I went overboard in describing Cretak as having integrity, but nevertheless I do think it may be possible that Bashir is right that Cretak did act in an attempt to stop Koval from being assassinated. She may want her political rivals stopped but not welcome foreign powers from assassinating Romulans, even her rivals. And if the assassination was imminent, why bother exposing herself by reading up on secret files now? I don't see how she would believe that acting on Bashir's information would provide any cover for her. My read of the episode was that the reason Sloan et al knew they could rely on Cretak accessing the database was *because* she could be trusted to attempt to stop the assassination, as a *patriot* rather than being purely self-serving. That is consistent with the picture of her in the first two episodes -- she is acting in Romulan interests in attempting to annex the Bajoran system. If Sloan knew that Cretak would access the database based on Bashir's info for nefarious reasons then that makes sense but I don't see that Cretak would use Bashir's info as a cover in case she gets caught as obvious enough for Sloan to be able to predict.
William B
Sat, May 14, 2016, 2:47pm (UTC -5)
Also, for Cretak to use "I was trying to save Koval's life" as an excuse to the Romulan praetor et al would require that it is possible that a Romulan senator would take a risk to save a rival, unless Cretak badly misjudges what would be a plausible lie, which either means Romulans are deluded about each other or people acting in national (/ethical, perhaps) rather than self interest does or at least can happen at this level, whether Cretak was doing it herself or using it as a cover.
Peter G.
Sat, May 14, 2016, 5:11pm (UTC -5)
It certainly is possible that Cretak was a well-intentioned dupe here, and that is certainly the story she tells the Committee. I have my doubts but as I mentioned we lack data. Knowing the Romulans as we do I think we should always suspect duplicity, and remembering Cretak from Shadows and Symbols she is absolutely not a straight shooter. After what she pulled on Bajor I'm frankly surprised Bashir trusted her at all. I really do think he was taken in by her friendly disposition, which really does paint him as still being as naive as Garak suggests.

The plot definitely does hinge on her actually trying to access the secured files, and so our lack of knowing her exact reasoning for doing so could be seen as a minor mystery or even plot hole. However, since they assumed she absolutely would do so, and since I doubt Koval could have known for sure she'd really want to save him at possibly her expense, my conclusion is simply that they already knew she wanted to access those files and now gave her a plausible excuse to do so. The fact is, though, that doing so was treasonous for any reason, even a 'good one', and so ultimately what happened to her was her own fault. My takeaway at the end is that Bashir has a right to be upset at being used, and at Starfleet going along with covert ops counter to the charter, but the distress over her fate is, I think, sentimental on his part and not really his problem.
William H
Mon, May 30, 2016, 4:17pm (UTC -5)
I enjoy the episode, but I find the too perfect foresight given to Sloan a problem, and one that pushes the story towards promoting his position, rather than being a balanced look at a moral question.

When the story consistently shows Sloan to judge right, and Bashir to only be able to serve as a helpless patsy, its hard to feel like the story is asking us to believe in Bashir's judgement.
William B
Mon, May 30, 2016, 4:43pm (UTC -5)
@William H., I agree.
Fri, Aug 5, 2016, 2:35pm (UTC -5)
The scene with Ross revealing the whole plot was stupid and downgrades this episode to 2.5 stars. What's Ross's motivation for spilling secrets to Bashir other than a lazy writer's crutch to do the "big reveal".

Here's a better way to handle it : Bashir returns to DS9, confused and thinking that he had missed something, but he's not sure what. He has lunch with Garrick and tells him the whole story.

" forgive me doctor," says Garrick, " but I don't think it was that way at all. You have to always remember in these things that knowing who benefits when all of it is over is the best way to untangle the inscrutable. Now, of course I only speak as an amateur, but here's what I think happened..."

Garrick then lays out the entire plot including Ross's involvement. We're left with no easy answers. Is Sloan alive? Was Ross involved? And the episode ends with Bashir sleeping uneasily, not knowing who he can trust.
Mon, Sep 26, 2016, 11:31am (UTC -5)
1) They made it way too obvious that Ross was working for Sloan.
2) Bashir would make a terrible spy.
3) Liked the Romulan council scene, and Sloan's 'death' was shocking.
4) Romulans need more makeup where the foreheads meet their real faces. Or just don't have such a low camera angle, if that's easier.
5) Solid episode, but not 4 stars. 3.5 at best.
Latex Zebra
Wed, Sep 28, 2016, 4:06am (UTC -5)
Not seen this one before either. Seem to be doing my Sloan trilogy now!

Loved it. What I really liked is that this touched upon some of the fan controversy of Section 31 by framing it against the almost perfect Federation citizen, Bashir. The line about Section 31 being there because people like Bashir are too idealistic is brilliant and it makes loads of sense,
I’ve always maintained that the Federation cannot just be some wet pacifist organisation as they live in a Galaxy with Gorn, Tholians, Romulans, Klingons, Borg, Breen and countless other threats. An organisation like Section 31, no matter how un Federation, HAS to exist.
The senate scene was excellent, I was genuinely on the end of my seat wondering how it would pan out (I knew it would end relatively well as I have seen the end of the series). Great interplay with Bashir and Sloan. Love seeing another Intrepid class ship. Enjoyed the off the record chat with Bashir and Ross even though it was obvious Ross was working for them.
4/4 easy.

Now for the final 10 parts!
Tue, Nov 8, 2016, 6:33am (UTC -5)
My personal favorite Section 31 episode. Good arguments on both sides, even the plot is waaaaaay too complicated for its own good (Walter White would be proud) - apparently Sec 31 learned from their goof-ups back in Archer's day (see ENT "Divergence" where they basically got played for chumps). I read on the Memory Alpha page that the writers almost had Bashir triumph over 31 before they went for 31 successfully manipulating Bashir. So glad they did - it made for a much more meaningful episode. One can also emphasize with both Sloan/Ross and Bashir even if one has already picked a side - a major strength of the ep.

Trivia: This was actually the first Jammer review I ever read, way back in 2012. I had watched "Inter Arma" with one of my friends and wanted to look up one of the actors, and when searching for this episode's Memory Alpha page I accidentally clicked on the link for this review which had turned up 3rd or 4th in the search results. Boy am I glad I did - I've been coming back ever since. Goes to show - Google can implement all the fancy tracking algorithms they want to give you content they consider "relevant" to you, but in the end, there's something to be said for pure serendipity.
dave johnson
Fri, Nov 25, 2016, 1:20pm (UTC -5)
Hah, I love the guy who complained about spoilers in a comments section of a show from the 1990s :)

I get that it may be the first time(They just came on Canada Netflix this year which is where I am rewatching it, so there could be many first timers)..... however, going to comments sections from reviews made in the 1990's and then complaining is funny.

Anyways, I found that funny scanning the comments after watching the episode last night.

PS - love coming back to these review pages each time I rewatch a series..... nice to see others still commenting over the years too.
Fri, Feb 17, 2017, 3:20pm (UTC -5)
Agreed with Dave above. I love coming back to read Jammer's reviews, as well as the fact that people are still commenting now.

One of the best Bashir episodes. His character evolved a ton since the beginning of the series to the point where I look forward to seeing him now. And I mean "now," as in, Julian of today who contemplates and implicates himself in complex situations, and not the one from the mirror universe, holosuites, or the early-drooling-Bashur version. Credit to the writers and to Sid's acting for succeeding with the much-needed renewal of the character over the seasons.
Fri, Mar 10, 2017, 7:46am (UTC -5)

"Can people NOT post spoilers in their comments? Completely ruined the ending of DS9 for me."

Right? People say you should not read the comments of an episode of a show that is over a decade old, but is it really too much to ask for people to give a spoiler warning---like, just typing one word: "SPOILERS:"---when they're about to discuss events that happen later in the series than in the episode in question?

It's entertaining to come here after watching a DS9 episode, read Jammer's review of it, and then also see what others have felt about it in the comments. Besides, the comment section of the early episodes didn't really have any spoilers in them, so when I finally had the "pleasure" of reading one, it really took me by surprise; my earlier experiences on this website had given me a mindset that people limit their discussion on each episode without reflecting it against the future events in the series---at least without giving a heads up first.
Sun, Jul 23, 2017, 9:39pm (UTC -5)
This is completely off-topic, but Adrienne Barbeau, who played Cretak in this episode, is completely awesome. When I was a kid and she was starring on Maude I happened to be in an elevator with her in a hotel, and she was sweet to me. About a year ago I saw her in the traveling Broadway show Pippin, playing a 70 year old woman who has a trapeze scene in a circus. I didn't realize who it was at the time and after the show I was like, "they shouldn't have some 30 year old playing a 70 year old woman." But it was Adrienne Barbeau, age 70.
Mon, Jul 24, 2017, 10:55am (UTC -5)

That's a cool story, I never knew "Cretek" was capable of such things. I wish she'd gotten more screen time in DS9. Actually, Romulans in general were very well handled in DS9.
Mon, Aug 7, 2017, 5:30pm (UTC -5)
@SouthofNorth It's clear Ross felt terrible about what happened and it was clear to him that Bashir knew and he had no way of convincing him otherwise, so he might as well try to justify himself.
Daniel B
Thu, Oct 5, 2017, 3:52am (UTC -5)
{ his manipulation is effective and enlightening concerning a set of various characters' motives and philosophies, }

I disagree. Sloan manipulates Bashir by basically being godlike omnipotent and Bashir just blunders along in a way uncharacteristic of him. It's boring when the villain is so magically unstoppable that he succeed at everything, no matter how improbable, usually with no explanation given.
Thu, Dec 21, 2017, 3:22pm (UTC -5)
Loved this episode from start to finish -- the Romulans make such good enemies. A really riveting set of twists and turns that turns out to make sense given what the ultimate purpose of them was. Great performances for the characters of Cretak, Koval, Admiral Ross, and of courses Sloan. I particularly like John Fleck who plays Koval as well as the Suliban Silik on Enterprise.

The ending with Sloan explaining to Bashir that he's a good man and that men like him need Section 31 to do the dirty work is a concept that rings true, as much as it is unpleasant. Bashir will only go to a certain extent before his morals get the better of him. In a sense it is like "In the Pale Moonlight", although not as powerful. Also the fact that it works out so perfectly according to Ross and Sloan's plans might be pushing it, whereas IPL was more on the fly and credible.

Bashir sticking to his principles is admirable given the ringer he has been put through by so many people. It does also beg the question of what role Sisko has in encouraging the doctor to go along with Sloan's plans at the conference.

So Cretak is basically destroyed -- we don't know too much about her other than she seemed to be genuine in the alliance between the Federation and Romulans.

Just good enough for 4 stars for "Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges" - the tension at the conference created really was effective, pretty gripping stuff throughout and a nice title -- good that Ross actually said it. Powerful stuff in the end between Bashir and Ross and Bashir and Sloan -- best DS9 episode since IPL.
Sat, Nov 17, 2018, 4:28am (UTC -5)
2.5 stars.

It started out as an intriguing web of intelligencd machinations between section 31 and Tal Shiar before taking a turn into a convoluted switcheroo on the aidient before ultimately landing with a soft payoff.

I appreciated the larger message of the episode. That being sometimes you have to get down and dirty when the stakes are so high but in retrospect the episode itself was kinda just there.

I did enjoy for a change a Romulan heavy focus and the intrepid class reuse.
Mon, Dec 10, 2018, 6:57pm (UTC -5)
On the topic of spoilers I can't see the argument against spoiler tags.

The ideal way to use this site, is to watch an episode and read Jammer's reviews & the comments section whilst it's all fresh in one's mind. It seems odd to bar the first timers from the comments section because someone can't write spoiler before randomly summarising the end of the series. If you've already watched the series you know how it ends so why does someone have explain it to all the DS9 9 vetrans?

Some people make out that this website is just for people who have watched the whole of DS9 two, three, or more times which is a little selfish if you ask me.
Mon, Dec 24, 2018, 12:31pm (UTC -5)

“the USA has been more of a positive influence on the world than a negative one”

Are you serious? The USA has been the greatest scourge on the planet in all history, worse even than the British, Spanish and French Empires. Undoubtedly you’re a white person who thinks in white terms about what benefits whitey, and not anyone else.
Sat, Feb 16, 2019, 10:17pm (UTC -5)
Watching and commenting:

--The Romulans feel that they're being treated like pointy-eared stepchildren. O'Brien promises to give their ships more attention.

--Garak the Wise wonders if Star Fleet will use the conference on Romulus to gather intelligence. Enter Section 31. All in black leather. In and out like Batman.

--Sisko seriously believes that Section 31 might be some sort of . . . rogue organization? Not officially condoned or funded by the Federation? Not part of Star Fleet'intelligence? How could that be?

--Love the formal Star Fleet uniforms.

--How can Julian be so stupid and traitorous? And stupid? Confiding in the Romulan Senator, just because she seems trustworthy?

--Can the Romulans mind meld?

--This is just . . . convoluted and hard to buy. I don't like sneery Julian.

--Not a favorite, disappointing.
Sun, Feb 17, 2019, 11:35am (UTC -5)
Having read commentary:

I like Jammer's idea that Sisko was in on the plan. Section 31 is presented as Star Fleet's Obsidian Order. Sure, Star Fleet gives them latitude and may not want to know ALL the details, and will disavow all knowledge off their actions . . . but sending Bashir to infiltrate them makes no sense.

So I figured Ross had to be in on whatever Sloan was doing. I never thought about Sisko until Jammer brought it up, but his theory makes sense. I'm still clueless on how Bashir could believe Star Fleet wants him to infiltrate Section 31.

Does he believes Section 31 operates totally without Star Fleet? An independent organization of grossly misguided psycho-patriots who do what the Federation won't do? More like some crazy homegrown militia than the Tal Shiar?

I guess if he can believe it's a good idea to trust a Romulan Senator whom he barely knows with explosive and super sensitive information, he can believe anything.

I like the idea of an episode about idealism vs pragmatism, values vs results. But this was badly conceived, convoluted, and I couldn't buy in.
Fri, Feb 22, 2019, 9:46am (UTC -5)

The first time I watched this episode, I agreed with your take on it. On re-watch, I found it much easier to understand, and I absolutely loved it. I'm in total agreement with Jammer's review and rating. The plotting was the main issue I originally had with it. Once I understood that, it allowed the other elements-mainly the thrilling espionage-to shine.
Fri, Feb 22, 2019, 11:37am (UTC -5)
I agree with the notion that this episode gets better with time. I know the ending seems a little pat, but there's so much nuance to this episode. One thing that had always been missing from the Section 31 equation was how much did Starfleet actually know about the organization and how much would they we be willing to permit?

Up until this point, we'd only seen S31 from Bashir's point of view, which makes them seem like horrible monsters. But - what's important is how S31 foils Bashir's character so well. Bashir represents the absolute ideal in Federation values: he's the class salutatorian. Importantly, everyone else in Starfleet is that other 99% of the academy. For every Bashir and Picard, there's the other part of the class that's comprised of Jellicos, Siskos, and Janeways.

So while S31 clashes with the ideal Federation, it may resonate with others in the Federation who think the ideals alone aren't enough. One big tenant of DS9 is that it's stationary. They don't solve problems then move on to the next planet, but they solve problems and live with that solution. Federation ideals are great. They are a hopeful aspiration, and they deserve reverence. Yet, they don't provide guidance on what to do on a day-to-day basis. Can the Federation's security's interests be protected by ideals alone? I believe Bashir would resoundingly say "yes" but you have to appreciate Ross' pragmaticism here as he points out there's no Federation to protect if they don't get their hands dirty sometimes.
Sleeper Agent
Sun, Feb 24, 2019, 7:03am (UTC -5)

Very well put, Sir!
Sun, Sep 15, 2019, 10:48pm (UTC -5)
How cool would it have been if Commander Sela, Tasha Yar's offspring from the "Yesterday's Enterprise" alternate timeline, whom we haven't seen since TNG's Unification popped up in this episode. Even cooler if she was somehow connected to Section 31...
Fri, Nov 29, 2019, 2:27pm (UTC -5)
Inter arma enim silent leges

I am the first to advocate personal freedom from government intrusion - in any way, shape or form. However, on this episode the 'government' i.e. the federation was illegally snooping on an ally not its own citizens. There is a distinction and as sloan put it, a temporary ally at that. So i would put forth that the law is the thing that is suspect not the actions of the federation.
1. Everybody does it. Everybody snoops on everybody else. It is foolish to trust that an ally will always act in your best interest so you need to know what the intentions of an ally is at all times so you may act accordingly.
2. Nobody even believes for a second that the federation or any other government past, present or future does not conduct constant assessments of their allies - including covert surveillance. Again, it would be foolish not to.
3. The title of the show implies that the government acts differently that this during a time of war. I would disagree. The government may move to restrict some personal freedoms during time of war but will always assume foreign governments will act in their own best interest that may be contrary to their own and therefore move to inhibit their ability to do so.
Starfleet knows what is going on and does not try to stop it. All the allies know starfleet has and uses the same covert intelligence methods as everyone else and expects it. The only ones who are clueless are the gang on DS9 along with whomever made the law nobody will follow in the first place.
This star trek episode gave us a romulan government official we all liked. We all wanted her to succeed and do well. It was no accident that the role was cast as a female being victimized by white males. After all, who would care if it were a rotten person being set up? But, realize that you would feel different - even if all the rest of the circumstances were the same.
Jamie Mann
Wed, Mar 25, 2020, 2:42pm (UTC -5)
An interesting episode.

It's a bit of a one-trick pony - it all hinges around the idea that Sloan is able to perfectly maneuver everyone he encounters - from Starfleet personnel such as Bashir and all the way over to Romulan politicians.

(And in much the same way as I think Section 31 could have been a prime element in the Pale Moonlight episode, the fact that Sloan is so good at manipulation could have been linked to another DS9 plot thread. What if Sloan was a genetically enhanced human - and one with superior capabilities to Bashir? And to go one further, what if Section 31 was entirely composed of genetically enhanced humans, seeking to guide the Federation through crises via their (perceived) greater capabilities? We could have had something more akin to Asimov's Second Foundation. Or we could even have gone the other way and have Sloan as the *only* member of Section 31. But I digress...)

Unfortunately, as with the last Section 31 episode, there isn't really much discussion within the episode about their role within Federation society; what little there is, is shut down when Sloan decrees "You and I are not going to see eye-to-eye on this subject, so I suggest we stop discussing it". So much for any answers on who watches the watchers!

Still, Sloan manages to weave his path all the way up to the end of the episode, when he manages to both convince the Romulans that Section 31 doesn't exist /and/ vanish in a literal puff of smoke.

After all, the best trick the devil ever pulled was to convince the world he didn't exist...

It's all a bit contrived, but overall fun. It's a shame that subsequent episodes featuring Section 31 were something of a letdown.
Fri, Jul 23, 2021, 10:17am (UTC -5)

It would have, but I feel it would of convoluted everything from Unification and Redemption . None the less it would of been a great reminder of the veneer of Trek
Fri, Jul 23, 2021, 10:39am (UTC -5)
If inquisition was the introductory episode to section 31 , Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges is the debate episode on it's morality and existence.

My only complaint is that it sort of betrays what was established in Inquisition that section 31 operates outside of Starfleet , hence I would think any admiral would know they exist yet be completely oblivious to their operations. I would of thought section 31 is Julian's dirty little secret.

In this case Ross is completely invested in this operation even playing a facilitator part into it, faking his accident.

As for Sisko, he's clearly telegraphing to Bashir that he'd wash his hands of section 31's activities if it means ending the war (and rightfully so). In all , this last episodic outing for Trek shows that everything we thought was dandy and green in the Federation is tainted and kept in order by the anonymous operatives who would do the things an ideal Starfleet officer would consider barbaric and atrocious .
Thu, Mar 3, 2022, 6:14pm (UTC -5)
This ultimately falls flat for me. It starts ok, kind of, but Sloan waltzing around severely strained credibility, even though it did play into his ploy.

I really couldn't believe the Romulans would be unaware of Section 31.

Cretak is so nice and personable, it's telegraphed she would be screwed in some way.

But overall it's ok up until Julian is captured by the Romulans, where it just screeches to a halt. It's no surprise at all that there's a "twist", it's quite obvious.

The Romulan meetings were boring, then we get Julian talking to Ross which tries to be compelling but just isn't.

Ross is such a wet limp noodle, this meeting is extraordinarily boring. And whipping out Latin? Bleh.

And Sloan is far too magical in his machinations.

To me this is 2 stars.
Thu, Mar 3, 2022, 6:20pm (UTC -5)
I agree that Sisko was well aware of Section 31. In this episode and "Inquisition", he appears to be intent on uncovering Section 31, and ostensibly to accomplish that, he tells Julian to do what they ask!
Wed, Mar 9, 2022, 9:56pm (UTC -5)
It's seems like some people (Jammer included) like drama and action so much that it blinds them of the flaws of an episode.

Bashir telling all to Cretak is unbelievable. Cretak being a greater threat than the other high ranking official is also unbelievable. Wanting to remove her rather than the others is without credence.

Sloan being able to move around like he does is just pure fantasy.

Bashir being duped so much but somehow working out who Koval was seems unlikely.

This episode is bonkers. Dumbed down Trek. Give me Voyager any day.
Thu, Mar 10, 2022, 8:38am (UTC -5)
Can someone here explain to me what was achieved by this plot?

1, Now the Romulans think that Section 31 is a part of Starfleet.
2, The most openly pro-Alliance (yet supposedly patriotic) Romulan politician has been removed. What makes her any more dangerous than other politicians? She was the one willing to help Bashir.
3, The Romulans may suspect other among them belong to Section 31.
4, Bashir is left in a state where he may divulge secrets about Section 31 to the outer world.

How does all this help Starfleet?
Thu, Mar 10, 2022, 9:25am (UTC -5)
1. I would assume that the all-spy no-fun Romulans knew already that the Federation would have some kind of Tal Shiar equivalent.

2. The point was that Koval, who is a double agent, can now make certain that the Romulans will stay in the war. Sympathy, like Cretaks for Julian, doesn't mean much in international politics. There is a famous quote by De Gaulle:"France doesn't have friends, France has interests." And that sentence is definitely true for dealings with autocracies like the Romulans.

3. Sure, and the boss of the Tal Shiar will certainly look into all of those who are potential traitors and maybe coincidentally open to a peace with the Dominion.

4. Sure, some guy talking about dark agencies that are super powerful but also secret for hundreds of years and he has zero proof for. They would soon find a nice place at that institute for him where all the other genetically engineered crazy people are.
Wed, Mar 16, 2022, 4:09pm (UTC -5)
What I love most about this episode is that you really have to read between the lines to understand how deep Sector 31 goes in the Federation, rather than take what people say at face value. Admiral Ross is just the tip of the iceberg. Look at Sisko's speech to Bashir at the start of it all, when he says that Bashir needs to take Sloan's assignment, yet not let Sloan know that "we're onto him". He warns Bashir that Sloan can't get the slightest wiff of a conspiracy or he will go deeper into hiding. This all has the effect of getting Bashir to ignore his intincts and comply with Sloan.

Meanwhile, Admiral Ross is Sisko's Commanding Officer for the Bajoran sector. All of this sends Bashir right into Sloan's hands, with Bashir thinking that he is representing the good of the Federation that wants to suss out this shadow agency.

In the future episode when Bashir and O'Brien go rogue to capture Sloan, they don't tell Sisko because he might accidentally tip off Starfleet. Meanwhile Sisko is probably like every other Starfleet brass who quietly brushes aside Section 31's existence.

This is some good writing.
Wed, Mar 16, 2022, 4:18pm (UTC -5)

1, Now the Romulans think that Section 31 is a part of Starfleet.

No. It will be written off, especially with Koval intelligently dismissing it as non-sense.

2, The most openly pro-Alliance (yet supposedly patriotic) Romulan politician has been removed. What makes her any more dangerous than other politicians? She was the one willing to help Bashir.

I guess security breaches are a big deal to the Romulans, so they removed her. As for alliances... it's better to have an anti-Federation/pro-Romulan Koval as you ally because he will arouse way less suspicion.

3, The Romulans may suspect other among them belong to Section 31.

Doubtful, if their most trusted council member, Koval, tells them it's non-sense.

4, Bashir is left in a state where he may divulge secrets about Section 31 to the outer world.

He is being monitored constantly. Even if he told one person, he would get taken out.

This is so close to reality and is how real-world intelligence agencies operate.
Wed, Apr 13, 2022, 3:14pm (UTC -5)
@Robert and @Booming

2, The show clearly says she was taken out for being a "patriot". What evidence is there that she was removed for being against the anti-Dominion alliance? If anything she would be the one most likely to support the alliance.

Secondly the notion that she would be a security threat is nonsensical. If anything Koval is more likely to be involved in security breaches because he is actively involved in helping the Federation. She was merely a progressive Romulan who wasn't actively involved in covert pro-federation activities. Sending messages to the Federation makes him more of a security threat.

4, Bashir did go around talking to other senior staff at DS9. He wasn't killed or imprisoned.

You both disagree with each other on points 1 & 3. So I wont address that.

In the end the act of killing Cretak is stupidity from Section 31.
Peter G.
Wed, Apr 13, 2022, 3:28pm (UTC -5)
The Federation doesn't need a spy on Romulus who is raising trouble and questioning the system. What they had in Koval was a reliable and safe bet to influence Romulan policy and provide intel. I assume they would want Cretak gone if she was posing a risk to their general operations. The moral is supposed to be that they aren't going to side with someone friendly or even decent, but rather someone who will effectively achieve their goals, even if it's a fascist. What we are meant to understand from this is what Section 31 uses pure realpolitik and has zero regard for honor. It's not terribly important exactly why Cretak was troubling them, but sufficient that the episode shows us in detail how surprisingly humane she is, only in order to illustrate how that is not a consideration for them.


It's worth mentioning, when comparing Cretak to Koval, that Cretak had some sympatico with Julian's ethics, and he, too, ended up being a serious problem for Section 31. At this point they believed they could manipulate Julian into serving them, so he was useful as an unwitting participant. However left to his own devices he would undermine Federation security for the sake of doing what's right, and I assume a similar evaluation might be true of Cretak. From Section 31's perspective, both would be unacceptable. In Julian's case they just let his puppy dog face lull them into thinking he'd be harmless, whereas presumably with Cretak they decided from the start she'd be a problem. Maybe there are some details I'm forgetting; I may just go for a re-watch anyhow to enjoy this one again.
Wed, Apr 13, 2022, 3:58pm (UTC -5)
I'm not a big fan of section 31 in general. Giving the Federation a Gestapo was a bad choice in my opinion.

In this case it made far more sense to keep Koval if realpolitik is the guiding thought. Cretak was just a senator while Koval was head of intelligence which in the Romulan Empire is certainly a central figure. It gives the Federation access to all the secrets of the Romulan Empire. I could not think of a better source for secret information.
Peter G.
Wed, Apr 13, 2022, 4:20pm (UTC -5)
"I'm not a big fan of section 31 in general. Giving the Federation a Gestapo was a bad choice in my opinion."

For what it's worth, I don't think it's fair to assume that by introducing Section 31 Behr was endorsing the obvious need for such an organization. I would say the Section 31 episodes were well-written enough that they present a solid argument for why many people do indeed feel such organizations are necessary, but I don't think the episodes are ever one-sided in this regard. I just think the average viewer isn't used to seeing a strong argument presented on a TV show where that view isn't being put forward as a moralizing sermon. Generally facile shows give you a right vs wrong story and tell you what's right. This episode (and its predecessor) do a good job describing a type of mentality without passing judging on it, for or against IMO. I think I disagree with those who assume DS9 is applauding war, use of force, and Section 31. However this is a problem generally with (a) episodic tv, and (b) TV meant to be entertaining rather than depressing; everything will necessarily have a positive gloss just by virtue of its style. So even an episode like Power Play or Conundrum in TNG will have a 'fun adventure' feel even though what's happening strictly speaking is horrible. To show the actual horror of the murders done in Conundrum would rob the episode of its entertainment value, so the ethics of what it's showing need to be examined through that lens. Likewise, if Sloan is portrayed as slick and witty, and his antics amusing to the extreme, this must be understood as a TV conceit rather than as the show holding him up as a model citizen. And I think a similar argument can be made about the Defiant; it just wouldn't work bringing a warship onto the show and having the cast spend their hours lamenting the need for such a device. It would just be too dour. On rare occasion we can have some super-serious feelings, like Inner Light or The Visitor, but that has to be exceptional if the show is going to retain a generally light tone rather than grimdark.

I think what makes this episode tricky is they portray Starfleet brass as being in on it. Except the thing is they don't: all we see is Admiral Ross, and maybe 1-2 others. In a free society there will perhaps be some people whose views diverge and do think Section 31 is necessary, but I don't think we can conclude from this that Starfleet is fundamentally corrupted and that the Federation ethic is just a veneer. I'm sure many admirals would not support this group at all. Judging from the Fed president we met in Homefront, I'm sure he legitimately wouldn't have known about it at all.
Wed, Apr 13, 2022, 5:25pm (UTC -5)
It really doesn't matter if it is endorsed or anything. At it's founding the Federation created a secret police that had free hand and no oversight. If I would make a list of worst things to have in a democracy a very powerful, unrestricted secret police with no oversight would be very high on that list. One could argue that the Federation has effectively no rule of law.

Including Section 31 was blowing a huge whole into what star trek stood for. The Defiant is far less significant, even though also a bad idea.

"Judging from the Fed president we met in Homefront, I'm sure he legitimately wouldn't have known about it at all."
Democratically elected politicians not knowing that a secret police exists. That's another huge red flag.
Peter G.
Wed, Apr 13, 2022, 6:26pm (UTC -5)
Not that this makes it look any better, but Section 31 isn't really a secret police, because they have no authority. A better analogy might be Batman, who is legally a vigilante who has sympathizers within the system (but only a few). Or maybe you might think of Section 31 as akin to the A-Team, a commando/intel squad who do dirty work but not strictly as part of the government. And things get mired worse (in the case of the A-Team) when you consider that groups like the CIA, or even private corps, may hire them as mercenaries, but on their own initiative and not part of some centrally planned agenda. Within the CIA there would be sub-groups that have their own secrets and agendas. Now I agree that I wouldn't want to liken the CIA to anything in the Federation, however what I'm examining is purely structural: one can be part of a group that is *not* sanction, not even known to the President, and which in reality has very few associates or sympathizers, but enough capability to accomplish at least certain tasks within boundaries.

You can say it's a bad sign that they exist, but then again you such a thing not to exist you'd need 100% of all people across time to agree with the rules in practice, not just in principle. Given that the Federation is a free society, it sort of increases the odds that a few people will have ideas of their own and execute them.

This is all sort of apologetics in my head canon. But sticking only to what we know from DS9, Section 31 existed since the founding of the Federation. At first glance this makes it sound worse: wow, they've been here the whole time! But actually it makes it better. Back at the founding of the Federation the public morality that Picard is so proud of didn't exist. Judging from ST: ENT, they were pretty much savages compared with Picard, closer to us now than to him. So it's not surprise that some people didn't believe fully in the enlightened future. That they were able to stay secret for so long is a credit to their skill, and maybe it's time to have done with them. But *that* they exist says more about Earth from 200 years prior than it does about the Federation now.
Wed, Apr 13, 2022, 6:57pm (UTC -5)
The A Team never tried to commit genocide and even if they wanted to, they couldn't. :)

Bashir points out in Extreme measures:"I kept thinking just how many people had to be involved in the conspiracy to infect him with the disease. Computer experts, doctors, security officers, admirals, clerks. In the end, I came up with at least seventy-three people." and that's not even counting all the resources needed. At least 73 people for one operation. Probably not much less when it came to Koval. One can assume that this organization has extensive resources and thousands of agents, maybe more and an even greater network of supporters.

That's the thing people often ignore, for example when it comes to conspiracies, but it applies here as well. How many people are needed to do these things. You need highly specialized people, which means that you need a lot of them.

Even the Federation council, the highest legislative body of the Federation, refused to give the cure to the founders.

"Back at the founding of the Federation the public morality that Picard is so proud of didn't exist."
It wasn't just humanity, though. In the end they just wrote it in because it was anew toy to play with. It arguably made the Federation itself much darker which I will always dislike.
Peter G.
Wed, Apr 13, 2022, 8:29pm (UTC -5)
@ Booming,

"That's the thing people often ignore, for example when it comes to conspiracies, but it applies here as well. How many people are needed to do these things. You need highly specialized people, which means that you need a lot of them."

The Manhattan Project required thousands of people to accomplish what it did, but I would not agree with the proposition that thousands of people are responsible for nuking two Japanese cities. It appears that very few of them, maybe just a handful, knew what was going on. They each did their own individual tasks and that's it. If handled correctly the grand scheme could be compartmentalized pretty well. Richard Feynman, for instance, only figured it out because he was one of the only people in existence who followed all facts to their logical conclusion, refusing to just accept anything. He was highly inquisitive and never just saw work as work. But that is very rare; most people really will just do their job and not look for clandestine interpretations. Other than him Oppenheimer, Einstein, and a few others knew, and of course Truman and the politicians. But looking at the ratio of the amount of workers involved with how many understood what was happening, it was a very small %. Scaling this to Bashir's estimate of 73 people, and it's doubtful that most of them understood well what was happening. That's just one analogy, mind you, but it's meant to illustrate that I wouldn't equate what Bashir says with saying that 73 people conspired to commit genocide. What it does imply, though, is that Section 31 had many people they were able to leverage for the job. It means their vines grow quite far, but not necessarily that all these people are corrupt.

"Even the Federation council, the highest legislative body of the Federation, refused to give the cure to the founders."

This, I think, is a bit of an unfair point. It's quite different to sanction research on such a virus, versus to refuse to offer a cure to your mortal enemy who is literally trying to wipe you out. I don't think there is a moral equivalence here by any means. Forget for the moment where the virus came from, maybe imagine it was naturally occurring. If the Federation had a cure is the onus on them to heal their opponents and sacrifice millions or billions of their own people for their good deed? I think this would be highly irresponsible. Committing to genocide we can't condone, but once the deed is done it might well be equally appalling to help the enemy to recover. It's not as if the Founders offered a truce at this point. No, they were absolutely willing to die as a race if it meant also subduing the evil solids. They had the option to sue for peace and ask for help, and I bet the Federation would have offered it, too, on condition of disarmament. It was probably already assumed this would never happen, so giving the cure would be out of the question unless it was on these terms. Odo negotiated that for them, and the Federation did indeed (via Odo and Kira) give them the cure at that point, even over the objections of the Cardassians (via Garak).
Thu, Apr 14, 2022, 2:45am (UTC -5)
The Manhattan Project's goal was developing something that didn't exist. It's a little easier to keep that a secret than development of a bioweapon. Ross admits that Koval directly works with Section 31. So Koval did not only know that Section 31 exists, he also was able to contact them and then set up a cooperation. That strongly implies that Section 31 is significant and reliable and not some ragtag band of rogue citizens.

"to refuse to offer a cure to your mortal enemy who is literally trying to wipe you out."
Yes, the pros and cons of benefiting from genocide committed by a by a shadowy Federation organization. What was that sentence:"The road to hell is paved with good intentions?" :)

" It's not as if the Founders offered a truce at this point. No, they were absolutely willing to die as a race if it meant also subduing the evil solids."
Would you trust an enemy that created a bioweapon to murder every last one of your species and then withholds the cure? There is no grey area here. The Federation condones and by withholding the cure actively supports a warcrime, the ultimate warcrime. Total Genocide.

"It was probably already assumed this would never happen, so giving the cure would be out of the question unless it was on these terms."
That's the thing, giving the Founders the cure would have made no difference because the Alliance overcame the Dominion militarily.
Jason R.
Thu, Apr 14, 2022, 5:25am (UTC -5)
"That's the thing, giving the Founders the cure would have made no difference because the Alliance overcame the Dominion militarily."

Are you kidding? What series were you watching?

The Founders were worth more to the Dominion war effort than 2,000 Jem Hadar ships. Let me remind you that but for plot induced armor the Founders *alone* would have:

- Started a war between the Klingons and Federation and basically run the Klingon Empire
- Started a war between the Federation and the Zenkathi
- Provoked Earth into becoming a military dictatorship
- Blown up the Bajoran sun along with DS9, Bajor and most of the Federation / Romulan fleets
- Wiped out the Tal'Shiar and Obsidion Order (this actually happened)

To be honest I am not sure it was wrong to use the bio weapon against them in that context - although I am troubled at how such an arbitrarily black / white high stakes scenario could send the wrong message about what is right in the real world.

I mean it's about as contrived a scenario as you can imagine. But within that scenario and context, remember, Section 31 wasn't just attacking the Founders as in a race of beings, it was neutralizing the most potent weapon of war the Dominion possessed.
Thu, Apr 14, 2022, 6:00am (UTC -5)
"Are you kidding? What series were you watching."
At the point the Federation obtained the cure the war was maybe 6 month away from being won.

"Section 31 wasn't just attacking the Founders as in a race of beings, it was neutralizing the most potent weapon of war the Dominion possessed. "
That is certainly a very convenient way of describing the murder of an entire species. Are all changelings guilty, do they all deserve to die? How about Odo?

What the Federation did.
- Supporting genocide committed by a Federation organization against the founders
- Wanted to commit genocide towards the Borg
- Helping a Romulan Cardassian fleet to commit genocide, even before the war.
- Starting a war between the Romulans and the Dominion, through murder and giving out material to create biogenic weapons.
- Infiltrating the Romulan government and by that having huge influence on the Romulan Empire
- Gassing planets/chemical warfare against a group of resistance fighters.
- General order 24

"To be honest I am not sure it was wrong to use the bio weapon against them in that context"
I would say that genocide is always wrong and I'm somewhat surprised how controversial that stance seems to be here.

That's what I severely disliked about DS9 in the later seasons, that it created scenarios where the Federation could do evil things and then they were portrayed as at least somewhat reasonable.
Jason R.
Thu, Apr 14, 2022, 6:11am (UTC -5)
"At the point the Federation obtained the cure the war was maybe 6 month away from being won."

And you think the two things were unrelated? Notice how all the changeling infiltration plots had stopped in the last season? I wonder why?

"Are all changelings guilty, do they all deserve to die? How about Odo?"

Well canonically yes, all Founders were equally guilty because they were all components of the Great Link - basically akin to a Borg collective.

Now don't get me wrong - this is a super contrived scenario, in no way analogous to real life. But yes, within this scifi contrived scenario, I think the case for genocide against the Founders was not without merit.
Fri, Sep 2, 2022, 8:11am (UTC -5)
The fact that a cure was developed at all is interesting. Unless 31 didn't intend to wipe out the Founders from the beginning, it makes no sense to do so (what if the Changelings get a hold of it?). In fact I consider this a plot convenience to dig the writers out of a hole.

@Booming: The Alliance did not overcome the Dominion militarily in the Battle of Cardassia, in fact the battle was not going well until the Cardassian fleet switched sides. In fact, the message is far more in tune with older Trek series than what Roddenberryists give it credit for: The scales were tipped against the Dominion in the end because they dropped all pretense of being "allies" of Cardassia and went into full "overlord" mode.

The Dominion and the Federation are more similar than many people might think. Both are multicultural powers which expand their territory and influence by absorbing new races into the fold. DS9 clearly develops the Dominion as the antithesis of the Federation in this similar framework: Order instead of freedom, threats and oppression instead of democracy, reverence of a master race instead of equal partnership between members, oversight instead of autonomy and blind loyalty instead of faith in its goals.

What the Roddenberryists don't see is that the Federation is still painted as the good guys in DS9. Sometimes the enemy is stronger than you and is also not interested in talking. As a result, rules have to be bent and morally difficult decisions have to be made (just like in this episode) to keep the Federation and its ideals alive among sinister autocracies, fascist-expansionist slave masters, tech-seeking hive minds and bloodthirsty Samurai/Vikings in space. It's just that the Federation isn't portrayed as perfect anymore. And that is exactly as it should be. Sometimes there is just no easy solution-This is where TNG was too naive and unrealistic (there always was a perfect solution to every problem and every resolution was only a matter of finding it) and this is why it is not as good as DS9.

As for the episode itself, I liked it. Not top 10, but top 15 or 20 for sure.
Peter G.
Fri, Sep 2, 2022, 8:21am (UTC -5)
@ Daemonic,

I really like that review. Especially having just commented on Homefront (and Paradise Lost) it occurs to me that Admiral Layton was an example of taking one step toward becoming the Dominion in the security vs freedom issue. And I fully agree that the Federation is painted as the good guy throughout DS9, just in a reality where there is not always a sitting-down-to-talk happy ending.
Fri, Sep 2, 2022, 9:41am (UTC -5)
In comparing the Federation with the Dominion, I think we need start at a very high level with the Fed's Prime Directive -- non-interference. This speaks to who are the "good guys". (And this is also why I would rubbish suggestions that the Fed are some kind of "space commies". Romulans and Cardassians are much more suited to that description.)

The Federation is in reaction mode against a more powerful enemy in the Dominion and so it has to get dirty to preserve its ideals (Sisko certainly does personally). But it doesn't use force to conquer lesser worlds -- which speaks to the principle of non-interference. Clearly the Dominion, (and you could say this of the Romulans, Cardassians) have no such prime directive and are therefore primarily portrayed as adversaries to the Federation. It's just that here, as Daemonic rightly says, the Dominion goes into "overlord" mode, which the Klingons, Romulans, Cardies (and Federation) obviously won't tolerate. Then it just comes down to which side -- the Dominion or the Alliance (which eventually gains the Cardies) -- is more powerful.
Fri, Sep 2, 2022, 2:50pm (UTC -5)
"The Alliance did not overcome the Dominion militarily in the Battle of Cardassia, in fact the battle was not going well until the Cardassian fleet switched sides."
The whole last battle was always a little silly. So the Dominion got all it's ships to Cardassia, effectively giving up all other systems that they controlled, to a planet where their jem hadar drug supply would run out quickly. Afterwards the Jem Hadar would go on a rampage

There were no shipyards and even if there were any, the would not have any materials to actually build new ships. Attacking them is so stupid and while the Dominion threw everything into the fight the Alliance was certainly committing a smaller part of their fleets or are we supposed to believe that the Romulans wouldn't leave the majority of their fleet to guard Romulus. If the Romulans keep a big part of their fleet in their home territory then the Klingons and Federation would do so as well.

That the Dominion was actually stupid enough to wipe out an major city and not execute all active Cardassian field commanders as well is plain nonsense.

So while I like this episode, I never like the final episodes of DS9. It felt like a gymnast trying a triple somersault and breaking it's leg on landing. Don't get me started on the Sisko Jesus plot. Dukat with red eyes... so bad...

I liked DS9 more than TNG but being a former soldier myself I sometimes rolled my eyes when DS9 tried to justify violence. Sisko gassing planets surely being the worst. In my opinion the worst trek episode. In my opinion shows are to quick to say:" let's use violence." There is one quote by fan favorite wesley who say to Picard:"Don't worry Captain, I will think us out of here." :D

"This is where TNG was too naive and unrealistic (there always was a perfect solution to every problem and every resolution was only a matter of finding it)"
was there always a perfect solution?? Weren't there several episodes where things didn't work out?? The crystalline entity comes to mind.
Gorn with the Wind
Fri, Sep 2, 2022, 5:30pm (UTC -5)
Romulans are an interesting case, but the Cardassians are blood and soil fascists in the most literal sense. You can think of it as “self-inflicted colonialism” if that makes more sense.

Dukat echoes the “Kinder, Küche, Kirche” mantra of the Nazis (and others) when we see him giving propaganda speeches on Cardassia about “looking to the children”.

The whole “Make Cardassia Great Again” hearkens back to a lost golden age, which is fascism 101.

If you want to get even less metaphorical, he’s Hitler to Bajor’s planet of Space Jews. When the DS9 writers foolishly tried to float a “Kira-Dukat hookup” episode, Nana Visitor shut that shit down due to the historical parallels.
Jason R.
Sat, Sep 3, 2022, 7:02am (UTC -5)
"The whole last battle was always a little silly. So the Dominion got all it's ships to Cardassia, effectively giving up all other systems that they controlled, to a planet where their jem hadar drug supply would run out quickly. Afterwards the Jem Hadar would go on a rampage"

Did you see all those automated defence platforms? From what we saw of them previously, I have no earthly clue how the Federation fleet was going to scratch the paint on them. And I'm sure the Cardassians had patched the targeting software so that deflector dish trick wasn't going to work again.
Sat, Sep 3, 2022, 11:37pm (UTC -5)
Oh I blocked out those platforms because they made no sense. That was another bad idea by writers who at that point were just coming up with crazier and crazier nonsense.
Mon, Sep 5, 2022, 8:14am (UTC -5)
@Gorn with the Wind

I agree with your assessment of the Cardassians but Dukat can't be a direct Hitler ripoff in my opinion. The motivations are completely different, and I doubt Hitler cared about being respected or liked by the Jews. Dukat is just a softer character ("a true victory is making your enemy see that they were wrong to oppose you in the first place").


In my opinion Sisko's behavior in For the Uniform is so low-stakes (because the Maquis have zero sway outside the Badlands and are not a threat to the Federation as a whole) that it could easily be swept under a rug by SF Command. The alternative was antagonizing a much more threatening power, so I can buy into the narrative where Sisko does not suffer any repercussions for his actions. He was in a position of power and he used that power to achieve his goals, without killing anyone. Ruthless? Sure. Excessive? Probably. Unjustifiable? No, especially considering that the Maquis had already attacked Cardassian colonies with biogenic weapons. He did get too obsessed with one man to the point of becoming genuinely scary, but that's the beauty of DS9 which allows its main characters to be imperfect and still good.

On the perfect solution issue, let me word the TNG comment more precisely. TNG had far too many perfect solutions for the problems encountered in that it essentially became a technobabble problem solving show where no solution required any moral compromises. The moral conflicts that did occur were the exception rather than the rule, and were generally duty vs personal loyalty issues which worked out by the end of the episode or were written off as "it never happened (TM)", without affecting the character at all. Many of TNG's highest rated episodes happened when moral conflict was allowed to occur in spite of the all-too-easy resolutions.

Take as an example Measure of a Man, one of the best Trek episodes ever produced, one reason for which is that it bent the traditional TNG formula and allowed Riker to experience internal conflict. It was a standard duty vs personal loyalty issue, but in the end Riker performed his duty and his friend was saved anyway in typical TNG fashion. Imagine what would have happened if Riker had won the case; would he be able to live with himself knowing his role in Data being disassembled and used for questionable experiments, possibly resulting in his destruction? TNG shied away from these questions by (sometimes forced) happy endings where the conflict magically worked out, usually with an impassioned Picard speech.
Tue, Sep 6, 2022, 10:14am (UTC -5)
"that it could easily be swept under a rug by SF Command."
Do I really want to imagine the Federation being ok with state terrorism and war crimes even in low stakes situations? I call all these things the normalizing of Star Trek. When the Federation more and more became a power closer to today's nations states. In a sense even worse. Maybe at that point the Federation really is only driven by the certainty THAT CAESAR CAN DO NO WRONG. ;)

"He was in a position of power and he used that power to achieve his goals, without killing anyone."
Yeah because the show demanded it that Sisko didn't gas people to death. Getting every person in a colony onto ships in a very short amount in reality would be impossible. There is always a child that ran away, a couple taking a hike. But even then, Sisko dropped gas on innocent civilians, robbing them of their homes and certainly most of their possessions.

"Unjustifiable? No, especially considering that the Maquis had already attacked Cardassian colonies with biogenic weapons."
I guess that is why Kira once said:"Everyone has their reasons. That's what's so terrifying; people can find a way to justify any action, no matter how evil."
If you say that a terror attack justifies dropping gas on civilians targets, is there really any line anymore?

To me this is still the worst trek episode ever.

I share your view that TNG often took the easy way out.
Tue, Sep 6, 2022, 10:18am (UTC -5)
PS: To clarify, I mean the "For the uniform" episode. Daemonic, maybe we should shift our conversation over there, if you want to continue to discuss Benjamin Sisko channeling his inner Baschar Al-Assad.
Mon, Sep 12, 2022, 8:33am (UTC -5)
Booming, you're right, this discussion is more pertaining to For the Uniform. I will likely comment there in the near future. Just short responses to conclude what has been started here:

-If SF Command believed that the alternative was war with the Cardassians and millions of casualties, they may have chosen to sacrifice a few thousand Maquis colonists. I don't agree with it, but I can at least understand why they did it.
-I do agree that no one getting killed was a cop out (which is the main reason why FtU is not a great episode in my opinion).
Wed, Oct 5, 2022, 3:12pm (UTC -5)
Bashir is the textbook example of a "useful idiot." (Look up the history of the phrase; it's much more than just a glib insult.)

He's like a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed college student taking International Relations 101 who gasps at the abominable alliances and repugnant military escapades perpetrated by America (or a Western country). How DARE we claim we are in favor of freedom and democracy if we overthrew Allende and Mossadegh!? We reproach the Taliban while teabagging the Saudis! We armed Saddam when it suited us, and had him hanged when he fell into disfavor. Junior believes in being consistently ethical and never compromising the hallowed principles of liberal (or social) democracy, regardless of who we're dealing with. You conduct a military checkpoint in Baghdad the same way you operate a D.U.I. checkpoint in Idaho, doggone; otherwise, you're no better than they are, and we cannot--repeat can NOT--have that.

That's Bashir, in a nutshell. Moron. Or at least youthfully idealistic. When you leave the college campus though, you realize that global affairs are based on Realpolitik, not the U.S. Constitution or the Magna Carta. Why? Because not everybody plays by the same rules. And when not everybody plays by the same rules, you need to reduce yourself to the lowest common denominator: the most vicious, the most bellicose, the most underhanded, the sliest, the most Machiavellian, the most genocidal, the most brutal. Because if you don't while the other side does, you fucking lose. As I wrote elsewhere before: If you're in a boxing match and your opponent produces a chainsaw, you don't stand there like a putz insisting you'll play by the Queensbury Rules no matter what. You get a chainsaw of your own... - indeed, a bigger one, louder, with greater R.P.M.

Bashir's naivete is laughingly stupid. Yet, Sloane's closing monolog puts it (and Bashir) into perspective. It is some of the best, most insightful speeches I ever heard, certainly on this topic.

Four stars.
Fri, Feb 17, 2023, 12:58am (UTC -5)
Sloans black jumpsuit 12/10. Episode 9.5/10
Fri, Jun 16, 2023, 3:41pm (UTC -5)
Several people have mentioned Bashir as the "model Starfleet officer" and he certainly says all the right things, but let us not forget he hid his genetic enhancements for his entire career and only acknowledged them when he was forced to.

That said, absolutely love this episode. One of the best across all Trek, though it is built upon a foundation of many previous episodes, and not a standalone.
Peter G.
Fri, Jun 30, 2023, 8:56pm (UTC -5)
I'll post this here rather than in TNG S4's The Mind's Eye, to avoid spoilers. I never noticed before that John Fleck plays Taibak in The Mind's Eye, in a quite prominent role. And he is made up *exactly* the same way as he is as Koval here, and plays both identically. The performance is so identical, in fact, that I wondered whether they did a little Easter Egg by bringing back an old Romulan character. Alas, it's just re-using the same actor. It's more fun to think of the characters as being the same, though.
Bok R'Mor
Tue, Aug 15, 2023, 2:19pm (UTC -5)
An incredibly superficial point, but I was just delighted to see another Intrepid class ship here (and yes, I know they were the exact same sets from VOY).

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