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Star Trek Deep Space Nine: Behind the Lines

"A lot of people are going to die. Don't you care?"
"It has nothing to do with me."

Jadzia captains the Defiant on a mission, while Kira, Odo, Rom, Jake, and Quark continue to live under Cardassian occupation on Terok Nor.

As a general rule, I’m a big defender of Star Trek’s traditional episodic, you-can-watch-in-any-order format, as I think there’s still a place in the world for that kind of story-telling, depending on the show. However, I do find I really enjoy the arc-based story-telling on Deep Space Nine.

What with the stationary nature of the space station and limited opportunities for exploring (I think originally the wormhole was probably supposed to provide the “exploration” aspect, but there’s a limit to how many new worlds are going to be found within reach of the station), combined with the tense political situation and eventual war, the more modern fashion for long-form storytelling works really well for Deep Space Nine. The story arc following the Cardassian/Dominion occupation of the station is especially interesting.

This episode splits its time between events on the Cardassian-occupied Terok Nor and on the Defiant. The Defiant storyline is shorter and simpler, but it gives us a nice glimpse into life on the front line of a war for our heroes.

The used power cell ritual Sisko has developed following a successful mission is rather sweet, and it’s good to see Dax getting a chance to captain the ship. Bearing in mind that Star Trek: Voyager had only been running a couple of years and the idea of a female captain heading up a series met with a lot of resistance at the time – not to mention the fact it was 2020 before we saw another female captain leading the main ship of a Star Trek series (Georgiou doesn’t count as she never helmed the Discovery) – it’s always good to see the women of Star Trek getting a chance to step up to a leadership position.

The storyline on the former Deep Space Nine is more complex. On one level, it acts as an interesting reminder of some of these characters’ pasts. Odo and Quark both worked on the station during the previous occupation and are, technically, collaborators (Odo more so than Quark, as he worked as security for the Cardassians). Now that Kira is working there too, she could also be considered a collaborator. This is a serious thing – French collaborators were often executed or murdered after the war was over.

Of course, Kira is off the hook in a sense, because she’s leading a resistance cell and using her position to her advantage. Rom, Jake, and eventually Quark are in on it too, and supposedly so is Odo, until the Female Changeling gets into his head (and other places). I have to confess to being honestly quite upset by Odo’s betrayal here. Everything we think we know about his character, about his sense of justice, about his love for his friends on the space station, seems to be upended in an almost unforgiveable action that puts Rom in serious danger.

Odo’s actions feel almost out of character, but perhaps that’s not entirely fair to the complex person RenĂ© Aubojonois and the Deep Space Nine writers had built over five years. Odo has talked before about the pain of being separated from other Changelings and how desperate he is to return to the Great Link, and perhaps as a viewer it’s easy to underestimate just how deep that goes. Here, we see how strong those feelings are – stronger than his feelings for Rom or even Kira.

This episode is dark, and unsettling, and makes us feel like perhaps we never really knew Odo at all. Which makes it a very good exploration of life in occupied territory, trying to mount some resistance. All in all, both storylines show us our favourite characters in a new light, though the Defiant crew appear in much more positive circumstances. That’s one of the most effective aspects of this occupation arc, and it’s not over yet...

Bits and pieces

- In real life, I would never be judgmental about someone else’s sex life or sexuality, but Changelings aren’t real so – the whole Changeling-link-which-is-sort-of-a-sex-metaphor thing is just icky to me somehow!

- Although talking of Changeling sexuality, I feel like if the species were created now, their gender would be a lot more complex. They are, after all, giant blobs who can take on any physical form they want to, so I’d sort of expect them to be genderfluid and honestly having a character identified only as “female Changeling” just feels strange. But then, it makes sense that some Changelings might identify with a particular gender, so I’ll just assume that Odo is male and the Female Changeling is female, and other Changelings might be any variety of genders. I do wish the female Changeling had been given a name, though.

- And now I’ve said the phrase “giant blob” all I can think of is Red Dwarf’s Camille and Hector. Who also identified as “male” or “female” despite being able to be anything.

- Most of you may not have heard of the old British sitcom ‘Allo! ‘Allo!, which was set in a village in Nazi-occupied France during World War Two and focused on a somewhat hapless restaurant owner and barman who was just trying to stay alive and have affairs with his waitresses. But if you have ever seen it – if Quark is a barman in an occupied territory, does that make him RenĂ©? Now picture it. It’s hilarious.

Quotes

Quark: I just shared a bottle of kanar with Damar. Hahaha, that rhymes.

Quark: I want to sell root beer again!

A dark, unsettling look at life under occupation. Three and a half out of four used power cells.

Juliette Harrisson is a writer, Trekkie and lecturer. She hosts the podcast Creepy Classics, re-telling and discussing ancient, medieval and early modern ghost stories (currently on hiatus)

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