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Star Trek Deep Space Nine: In Purgatory's Shadow

"The answer is out there, Commander. We just have to have the courage to find it."

When Garak is asked to translate an encrypted Cardassian message, a chain of events begins which will split the command crew of Deep Space Nine – at the moment of their greatest need.

The opening of this episode is a glimpse into Odo's mind. He returns with Kira to his shapeshifting space, with bits of very memorable furniture, and begins reconstructing his life as a changeling. During the discussion he looks at the remnants of the ideas and passsions he had as a humanoid – books on how to find love, with Dr. Jennings Rain. In the end he winds up saying pooh to love – he's satisfied with creating order in his world. Is this the essence of Odo – or is it the creature which looks sometimes at Kira and shows a different feeling?

Unfortunately, we don't get to go into the issue in greater detail, because this is a story about fathers, not lovers, and this excellent scene is merely the overture for a deep and complex opera. This episode focuses on two plotlines, both central to the emerging Dominion storyline. First, Garak gets wise to a communication intercepted by Starfleet. His translation claims it's a mining report – but Bashir's wise to Garak; he catches Garak stealing a runaway and the whole comes out – the message is actually from Enabran Tain, Garak's old mentor, and Garak will do anything and say anything (and boy, that man will say anything) to get to Tain's side.

The counterpoint in this opera sets up a neat parallel. Ziyal is struggling with her father, Gul Dukat, who arrives unexpectedly and inexplicably on the station, in time to realize Ziyal's falling for Garak. The plot is a dance around Ziyal's blossoming's feelings and Dukat's insistent rejection of those feelings. Ziyal is more invested in Garak and Bajor than Dukat and Cardassia, and in an inversion of the storyline, is resisting following Dukat's commands.

This is one of the best-written episodes of Deep Space Nine. Throughout this episode, there are constant references to the lives and experiences of the crew – Odo's vignette above, and Kira with her feelings for Kirayoshi, and Garak understanding honor while recognizing he has none of it himself. These are sprinkled between the two storylines mentioned above – but there's more. Throughout the episode, beginning with the discussion of cutting off the wormhole and the introduction of the changeling Bashir, we're very very aware that these little cells of drama are scenes happening within the greater act of an oncoming war which cannot be stopped. They begin to get a message – but it's cut off. Then Sisko sends Kira into the wormhole to check on the Dominion – but we don't see what Kira sees and don't get to hear her report; she just says she found trouble. The sense of invisible apprehension is palpable throughout. It's a very effective use of tension and anticipation, and the episode becomes a very showpiece for the concept of space opera.

What Garak wants, ultimately, is to be acknowledged as Tain's son, and in the process many things about Garak become more clear to us, the viewer – reasons for his exile, and the tone and quality of their relationship in the episodes incorporating Tain to date. What Ziyal wants, ultimately, is not too dissimilar – a place to be accepted, and an individual who doesn't reject her. When her father pooh-poohs Bajoran superstitions, you can see Ziyal reading in that response the general attitude of Cardassia towards 'lesser' races. Tain dies in prison, but in his death gives Garak the balm he seeks. Ziyal is rejected by her father after she declares her feelings remain steadfast, despite recognizing Garak may already be dead, she wants to honor her promise to wait, and wants to remain in the one place she's found herself recognized as a person – and creates thereby her own reality. Ziyal earned some respect from me in this episode.

The episode ends with one of the best cliffhangers in the season. Deep Space 9 is sabotaged and the traitor still remains unknown and undiscovered. Worf, Garak and Bashir are on the other side of a wormhole. And a fleet of Jem'Hadar ships is totally ready to kick some bucket.

Seen in the Scenes

Worf and Garak make a really great pair – not quite as fun as Bashir and Garak, but the pairing of heroic sacrificing fighter with wily irreverent kinda-wanna-do-gooder worked for Thor and Loki, and it works here, although Garak often seems a bit more in control.

How many Changeling replacement spies are there? Martok, who we already knew was replaced if I remember correctly, is also on the asteroid. How will his rescue change the game? What about those blood tests?

Once I realized Bashir was a changeling, he. creeped. me. the. hell. out. I kept watching his expressions, his small movements, waiting for him to do evil.


Garak: And remember, it's not just Tain we're looking for. The Maryland, the Proxima, the Sarajevo. Starfleet ships that have been lost in the Gamma Quadrant for years, and their crews, brave soldiers, warriors of the Federation unaccounted for. We owe it to them to do everything in our power to find them and bring them home. It's the honourable thing to do.
Word: You use that word, but you have no idea what it means.
Garak: Maybe not, but you do.

Ziyal: I'm not one of your soldiers.
Dukat: No, you're my daughter.
Ziyal: I'm Tora Naprem's daughter too. I'm half Bajoran. I don't belong on Cardassia. You know I will never be accepted there.

Garak: All my life I've done nothing but try to please that man. I let him mold me, let him turn me into a mirror image of himself, and how did he repay me? With exile. But I forgave him. And here, in the end, I thought maybe, just maybe, he could forgive me.
Bashir: From what I've seen of him over the last month, he doesn't come across as the forgiving type.
Garak: I've been a fool. Let this be a lesson to you, Doctor, perhaps the most valuable one I can ever teach you. Sentiment is the greatest weakness of all.
Bashir: If that's true, it's a lesson I'd rather not learn.


I can't wait for the next episode. 5 out of 5 attempts to destabilize the wormhole.


  1. This and the next episode are my two favorite episodes of DS9 and I would put them up against any other series top episodes. This is also the episode during DS9’s original run when I finally realized the Andrew Robinson played the killer in Dirty Harry. Every time they’d show Garak’s face I’d think - where do I know this actor from? There’s something so familiar about his eyes.

    Ah, the halcyon days of the pre-internet.

  2. RB, that's right -- I'd forgotten Robinson was in Dirty Harry. Blast from the past!

  3. RB - this two-parter ranks at or near the top of my list too, especially Part 2. SO many awesome things happen!

  4. This episode and the next are a major turning point in the DS9 saga -- after this, war with the Dominion becomes inevitable. And the STAR TREK universe will never be the same ...


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