Star Trek Deep Space Nine: Things Past

"Giving me a name tag that read 'Elim Garak, Former Cardassian Oppressor' was hardly polite."

It's easy to forget sometimes that the Cardassian occupation did not end that long ago. Seven years ago, it was still ongoing. And Odo was still the security chief.

It has always been a little surprising that Odo is so widely trusted by the Bajorans, even being able to keep his job as security chief. You would think that they would have wanted to replace anyone who had any measure of authority. As Kira said, no one got out of there without dirtying their hands even a little bit.

"Things Past" is a very strong example of this show going darker and grittier than Star Trek usually goes. And I don't just mean with regards to the lighting and sets, which were fantastic. I didn't recognize the station at first. But no, I'm talking about how it takes a character that the audience knows and loves and then stripes away part of the persona, part of the larger preconception of who the character is away from them. Odo is synonymous with justice for a lot of people due to his actions during the occupation, but there is a fine line between upholding justice and maintaining order.

The scenes between Odo and Thrax are by far the most compelling and the most emotional to watch, especially with the knowledge that Odo is essentially pleading with himself to do the right thing and look deeper into the bombing. When the security chief is a Cardassian, it's very easy to see everything that happened surrounding the bombing as an abuse of power and clearly morally wrong. The evidence is circumstantial at best. It's more uncomfortable to look at that same situation knowing that Odo is the one who knowingly relied on weak evidence.

Because that's the real gut punch of the episode. Odo and the audience don't know if this is the only time that he sided with order and stability and let innocent people die. He hopes that it is. But he just doesn't know. And that's a very sobering note to end an episode on. We can make huge, tragic mistakes and simply not know that we did.

One of my favorite things about this episode is the sense of mystery and unease to it. I always love it when characters are suddenly thrust into an unexpected time or location and have to blend in the best that they can. And while it became clear pretty quickly that Odo's guilt had something to do with their situation (hallucinating bloody hands is a classic symbol of that, after all), I still wasn't sure if this was a dream or if they were actually in the past somehow. When Sisko ran towards Dax, I wondered if maybe their actions would be why these three, innocent men were executed. But that's not where we went.

I do wish that a little bit more had been done with the idea of injuries actually affecting the physical body unconscious in the infirmary, but that's a relatively minor nitpick. Overall, I think that this might be one of my favorite DS9 episodes that I've seen so far. It was a very fascinating character study.

Random Thoughts

This episode takes place at least six months after the season four episode "Broken Link," as Garak is no longer under confinement.

Funnily enough, "Broken Link" is also referred to as the reason why and how Odo was able to create this mental link.

Dukat is such an uncomfortable yet interesting character to watch, especially when he's in a position of power and comfort.

This episode was one of Rene Auberjonois' favorites.

Dax used the name "Leeta," who we just saw last episode.

Quotes

Dukat: This is the fourth assassination attempt I've survived.
Dax: Maybe you should find another job.

Odo: How much damage would it do to the timeline if Quark were to suffer a mysterious accident?
Sisko: I'm not sure. But maybe we should conduct a little experiment and find out.

Garak: I took the liberty of borrowing this from the gentleman who thought my nose needed adjustment.
Odo: I see I'm going to have to add the word "pickpocket" to your resume.
Garak: It's only a hobby.

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An Honest Fangirl loves video games, horror movies, and superheroes, and occasionally manages to put words together in a coherent and pleasing manner.

2 comments:

magritte said...

I liked this episode a lot. It was so interesting visually as well as in terms of Odo's character and past. I tend to like most of the episodes that focus on the Cardassians. I think they're a big reason DS9 is my favorite Star Trek series. They're just so much more complex and interesting than the Klingons or the Borg ever were.

Joseph Santini said...

I loved Odo in this episode. I’ve never questioned how everyone seems to trust him. He generates his own morality field - but I’ve always wondered how he got there from being a lab rat. This episode seems to give me actually part of the answer. And I loved how it was structured too. Great review Fangirl!