Star Trek Deep Space Nine: The Maquis, Part II

"Just because a group of people belongs to the Federation, it does not mean that they are saints."

What happens with any society is this. They grow myths. After a while the myths are no longer true for the current society - they are reflections of moments of truth, instead, recalling times of valor or faith or bravery. Today's society is different, and has different truths. Eventually the new truth of that society is engaged with or the society dies. What we're seeing in this two-part episode, the Maquis, is an attempt to portray this reality in terms of people. What we get is incredible drama as we resolve Part One, identify the terrorists who blew up the Bok'Nor, and realize that all these events are far more personal than political.

Sisko, after last episode's events and his interactions with Hudson in this episode, is made to realize that the Federation's myths aren't true everywhere. That maybe those myths are not even true as much on Earth as they used to be. So how will our hero react? We see from other characters examples of his potential choices in reaction to disillusionment - Hudson rejects the Federation and the hypocrisy entirely, preferring to come up with a new life. Gul Dukat and the Federation reps seem to go for 'we must take an even more institutional tone,' or at least Dukat does initially. Sisko chooses to find a more challenging ground of his own, upholding his own ideals and commitments while finding a legal, upstanding way to end the smuggling of weapons and resolve the conflict. Is this stupid or idealistic or naive? I bet he's asking himself constantly. Personally, I think it's the most mature thing to do; both conformity and rebellion, as Neal Stephenson has noted elsewhere, are simpleminded. It's so revealing that it's Kira who understands Sisko the best. Kira too has had to take complicated paths because of having her own illusions destroyed by her society and because of choosing to uphold personal ideals regardless. Every brief scene with these two is utterly perfectly acted, and the moment when Sisko loses control and rants about the saints back on Earth has been coming for a long time. Kira didn't say it but I felt an 'I told you so' playing about her lips. When you think about Dax, and Odo, though, this quality - choosing one's own path - seems to be what brings our DS9 family together.

During the first part of this twoheader, Quark showed the worst of his character, allowing lust and greed to delude him. He became the intentionally-unwitting pawn of the pointy-eared. Well, in this second half, he redeemed his character, and showed his best sides. The way he extrapolated the Rules of Acquisition into a moral and ethical framework for choosing when and how to argue for peace was simply breathless and I found myself wanting to take Quark Philosophy 101. I doubt there will be any lasting consequences to his behavior, since his arguing and winning a logical discussion with a Vulcan enabled the DS9 crew to stop an attach and change the course of the future. I just wish Quark's best sides weren't usually brought out by threat of lifelong imprisonment or execution!

Dukat is the sad mirror of Sisko in this series. Did you feel sorry for him as he realized he'd been betrayed by his government and saved by his enemy? Must be something like being betrayed by a friend and finding one's government isn't the Savior one thought it might be. I think his argument with Sisko about killing Hudson was more about tying up loose ends and giving Dukat the ability to play more politics on Cardassia than about ethics, but it proved one thing. Both are so alike in terms of personality that neither will give up the moral codes they've chosen to adopt. They just won't let others decide the meaning of those codes for them.

And the scary thing about this type of independence, Sisko discovers, is the uncertainty. Dukat is on the loose and alive, the Cardassian government is clearly somewhat fractured, the Federation government is pretending that problems don't exist, and Sisko sits in the dark looking at a future, has no idea what it holds, and knows he's just cemented part of that future - whatever it turns out to be. Terrifying place for him, maybe, but it's an exciting place for us as an audience. And, going back to the point which began this review - could Sisko's be the act that keeps the Federation relevant, and aware of what's happening out on the border?

Commander's Log

Legate Parn does a fantastic job of insulting Kira and the other Bajorans on the station. I love the richness of the history for this show. But then if you think about it Admiral Necheyev had just done the same thing with her remarks about replacing Odo!

Odo grabbing a terrorist with a tentacle was awesome!

Watching this show I'm always impressed by the quality of the supporting cast. O'Brien has no role here but is basically everywhere, suggesting tactics and repairing ships. Even Bashir has a few relevant lines. Of Odo no praises need be spoken. It creates a feeling of a serial drama which just feels so different from the TNG episodic elements.

Overheard by the Universal Translator

Hudson: Every week innocent people are being murdered by the Cardassians. I will not allow those deaths to go unpunished.
Sisko: You don't want peace, Cal. You want revenge.
Hudson: I prefer to call it retaliation.

Sisko: Do you know what the trouble is?
Kira: No.
Sisko: The trouble is Earth.
Kira: Really?
Sisko: On Earth there is no poverty, no crime, no war. You look out the window of Starfleet headquarters and you see paradise. Well, it's easy to be a saint in paradise, but the Maquis do not live in paradise. Out there in the Demilitarised zone, all the problems haven't been solved yet. Out there, there are no saints, just people. Angry, scared, determined people who are going to do whatever it takes to survive whether it meets with Federation approval or not.
Kira: Makes sense to me.
Sisko: I'm glad someone understands.
(A moment that actually had me tearing up in a show’s second season. I think it’s been earned.)

Sakonna: I find this very confusing.
Quark: Then I'll make it so simple that even a Vulcan can understand. The Central Command has been caught red-handed smuggling weapons to their settlers. So, every ship that approaches the Demilitarised zone will be searched. Without the support of the Central Command, the Cardassian settlers won't be so eager to fight.
Sakonna: You forget the weapons they already have.
Quark: They have weapons. You have weapons. Everyone has weapons. But right now, no one has a clear advantage. So the price of peace is at an all-time low. This is the perfect time to sit down and hammer out an agreement. Don't you get it? Attacking the Cardassians now will only escalate the conflict and make peace more expensive in the long run. Now, I ask you, is that logical?

Overall

After a bit of a hiatus, I'm glad to resume DS9 viewings with this episode. Five out of five Vulcans coveting Quark-lobes.

3 comments:

Patrick said...

You're right about the secondary cast, but I would go even deeper than those who are listed in the opening credits. DS9 was able to create what I believe is the largest set of primary, secondary & ancillary characters of any Trek show. Combine that with the stationary setting compared to shows like TNG or Voyager, and you have the chance for really strong, consequential storylines. Not just because the main characters have to face the consequences of their choices, but when things happen in the world, they don't just impact random nameless aliens, they have an effect on characters we've gotten to know and become invested in.

Victoria Grossack said...

DS9 is by far my favorite Star Trek. The Maquis episodes, were not, but you bring up excellent points. And how relevant they seem today, when governments are telling us things are fine when we know they are not. Who are you going to believe, the "news" or your "lying eyes"?

Heather1 said...

I agree that DS9 was such a strong show and for the reasons stated above. However, I was always disappointed in the eventual direction they took with Dukat. I felt his character deserved better than that.