Star Trek Deep Space Nine: The Adversary

Sisko: "Begin Captain's Log, Stardate 48960.9."

By nature I love brevity: Alright. I can feel good about this. It's not a perfect episode, and it leans on cliches a tad bit too much, but 'The Adversary' accomplishes what it needs to accomplish while still managing to be a good offering.

'The Adversary' is the season finale of DS9 season three. The writers of the series had a fairly good idea of the direction they were taking the show in the foreseeable future, and this episode began that journey. But first, they had to accomplish a few basic goals. The first was to take the tension and sense of dread they had been building up for the past year and dial it up to 11. The second was to give Odo an important decision to make that would have consequences in the next season (more on that later). And the third thing goal was to promote Sisko to Captain.

Finally! The whole series so far, Sisko has been a Commander in charge of the station. He was, at that time, the only Trek lead who was not a Captain. This promotion has been a long time coming, and the reactions to it are lovely. I love the entire party scene, because it's just the crew hanging out, being themselves, and celebrating a simple happy occasion. By this time in the series, the writers have all the characters down to a tee, and their interactions are nearly always on point.

But the plot has to get moving, so Ambassador Krajensky (Lawrence Pressman) is at the party to give Sisko and co. a new assignment. The Tzenkethi, he says, have had an uprising on their planet. It's near their border with the Federation, so Starfleet Command wants the Defiant to go do a weeklong patrol to wave the flag and show their commitment to their border colonies' defense. The crew preps for the mission, and while O'Brien does a final systems check, he hears odd noises in the engine room. No one's there, so he shrugs it off as nothing. But this is a TV show. It's never nothing.

The ship launches and gets underway without a hitch, however, and there's a little more friendly interaction before things get serious. But O'Brien hears a few more noises while in the Jeffries Tube, and when he investigates, he finds Bashir. Julian claims to have been linking his new medical console to the power supply, and when O'Brien investigates, he finds it hooked up. Again, he thinks nothing of it. That all changes, though, when they can't send any communications from the ship.

You see, they receive a transmission from a ship asking for assistance in defending themselves from the Tzenkethi. The transmission is cut off and the ship can't be found on sensors. When Sisko tells the crew to send messages to Starfleet and to the nearest Fed ship, neither goes through. O'Brien discovers that a strange network of mechanical tubes has been connected to the ship's comm systems. Every critical system, in fact, has been sabotaged in the same way. He reluctantly reveals to Sisko that he saw Bashir near the power supply, which is right next to the comm system. Dax comes up with a solution to find the saboteur.

Whoever did it would still have residual tetryon particles on them, Dax explains. But they're fading fast, so the senior staff are quickly scanned. Sisko and Kira are clean, and Dax scans Bashir twice, finding nothing. She moves to scan the ambassador, as Bashir is confused in the background about O'Brien's questions. He was never in the Jeffries Tube. Dax finds the particles on the ambassador, who smirks and morphs into a changeling; he promptly escapes.

What follows is a fairly by-the-numbers 'Find the monster/alien who can look like any one of us' plot. They devise a method to figure out if someone is a changeling by taking a blood sample; if the blood reverts to changeling DNA, they're clearly a changeling. There's ample paranoia, confused identities, and accusations. In one somewhat clever turn of events, the changeling impersonates Bashir so he can fake someone else's blood test. This allows the writers to use Eddington (Kenneth Marshall), who's always come across as untrustworthy, as a red herring. As in 'The Die is Cast', he proves to be a reliable man of his word.

It's about this time that the crew discovers that they can't control the ship at all. If they reach Tzenkethi space with their weapons armed, the Tzenkethi will destroy the Defiant and it will start a war. So Sisko makes the decision to arm the self-destruct sequence, giving it the exact amount of time until they're in weapons range of the Tzenkethi.

Finally, O'Brien finds a way to disable the force fields surrounding the tube systems, but it'll disable every force field on the ship, including those around the warp core. Before he can activate the program, Odo shows up, shortly followed by Odo. O'Brien is presented with the classic shapeshifter dilemma: which one is really my friend. Refreshingly, he has his security officer hold a phaser to both rather than waste time figuring out who's who. He manages to activate his program, but the changeling reveals himself and knocks the security officer out. Before he can do the same to O'Brien, Odo grabs him and shoves him back.

The changeling makes an appeal to Odo, to come with him and join his people. He tries to link with Odo right there. But Odo responds by forcing him to morph in a very painful-looking way. He falls – against the unshielded warp core. O'Brien quickly disables the tube systems and Sisko cancels the self-destruct. The day has been saved, but the lasting effects of saving the day don't simply disappear.

The other two goals of this episode still need to be accomplished. One of these, Odo's fateful decision, has actually already occurred. The point has been made in this episode, as well as in previous changeling episodes, that 'No changeling has ever harmed another'. But Odo has broken that record here, distancing himself from his people not just through an ideological difference, but through a breach of his people's code of conduct.

And the final goal of this episode is achieved in the final scene of the episode. The changeling whispered something in Odo's ear before he died. In the final scene, Odo comes to Sisko and tells him what it was he was told. The changeling hinted that they've already infiltrated the Alpha Quadrant, that it's already too late. And the episode ends on this note, a somber and frightening revelation that will cause our characters to question everything they know. No one knows to what extent the shapeshifters are already among us. Anyone you know could be a changeling.

And thus ends the third season of DS9. The tense relations with the Dominion are rapidly approaching war. No one knows anymore who they can trust as the changelings replace people in positions of power. The DS9 crew has by now come together as a fully-functioning team, and they know each other very well. Bajor has gained and lost good leaders, and gained and lost a few bad ones as well. But the conflict between the planet's different leaders threaten to destabilize its delicate balance. Things are approaching their boiling point, and it feels like when they do, nothing will be the same again.

Strange New Worlds:

The whole episode took place on either the station or the Defiant.

New Life and New Civilizations:

We heard about, but didn't see, the Tzenkethi.

Pensees:

-I never skip the DS9 theme. It's just so amazing; it definitely deserved the Emmy it won.

-In case you hadn't guessed, I really loved Sisko's first ever Captain's Log. A long time coming, and well-deserved.

-I liked Dax needling Sisko about Kasidy. Kasidy is a lot of fun, even in the episodes she doesn't appear.

-The self-destruct sequence has been expedited since the TNG days; it used to take three officers to activate it. I guess the Defiant only takes two since it's got a different crew pretty much every time it goes out.

-Odo doesn't sweat. Makes sense.

-Both times the crew is tested to determine if they're a changeling (the tetryon particles and the blood test), Kira volunteers to be tested early on. That's very in character for her.

Quotes:

Jake: "Dad, there's something I've been wanting to say to you for a long time. And now that I finally have the chance, I'm going to make it short and simple. Congratulations... Captain Sisko."

Eddington: "People don't enter Starfleet to become Commanders, or Admirals, for that matter. It's the Captain's chair that everyone has their eye on. That's what I wanted when I joined up, but... you don't get to be a Captain wearing a gold uniform."

Eddington (holding up a phaser): "You sure I can't interest you in one of these?"
Odo: "I don't use them. Besides, in the history of my people, no Changeling has ever harmed another. I'd hate to be the first."
Eddington: "Apparently, that Changeling doesn't feel the same way. If we don't stop him, no one on board will escape unharmed, including you."
Odo: "You may be right. But I've been a security officer most of my humanoid existence. And in all that time, I've never found it necessary to fire a weapon or take a life. I don't intend to start now."

Odo: "The Changeling, before he... died, he whispered something to me."
Sisko: "Go on."
Odo: "He said: 'You're too late. We are everywhere.'"

4 out of 6 expedited self-destruct sequences.

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CoramDeo doesn't always know what's going on. That's what he gets for missing staff meetings.

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