Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch: “Dramatis Personae”

“Dramatis Personae”
Written by Joe Menosky
Directed by Cliff Bole
Season 1, Episode 17
Production episode 40511-418
Original air date: May 30, 1993
Stardate: 46922.3

Station log: Kira is recommending against Sisko allowing Valerians to dock at the station because they provided the Cardassians with arms they used against the Bajorans during the occupation. She thinks they’re still running weapons, and wants to search the Valerian ships. But Sisko can’t allow that without evidence. If she can give him some, then the Federation can put diplomatic pressure on the Valerians. Kira is skeptical, but she’s willing to try it Sisko’s way. To that end, she gets a report from Odo on the Valerian captain.

A Klingon ship comes through the wormhole from a survey in the Gamma Quadrant a month ahead of schedule, and as soon as it clears the event horizon, it explodes. The first officer beams off just as the ship goes boom, says, “Victory!” and then dies on the transporter pad, having taken multiple disruptor hits. Sisko sends Dax and O’Brien to take a runabout to investigate the debris and try to find the Klingon ship’s mission recorder. (Dax delays getting up to leave, seemingly lost in a private joke of some kind.)

Kira delays letting the Valerians dock until she finishes a background check on the ship—it’s made two of the three stops it used to make when it was running weapons for the Cardassians, and if she can confirm that it made the third stop, she’ll have the evidence Sisko demanded—but Sisko won’t allow her to delay the docking procedure.

Odo gets Quark to admit that the Klingons thought they’d be coming back through the wormhole with a weapon that would make their enemies tremble—then Odo has a kind of seizure and collapses. Bashir examines him, but he has no idea what Odo’s body chemistry is supposed to be like, so he’s relieved when Odo wakes up. Bashir then expresses concern about “the Valerian situation,” speculating that the “uneasy alliance” on the station will fall apart soon.

Kira interrupts Sisko, who’s working on something on his desk that he doesn’t want to show Kira. She says she has the proof that the Valerians are arming the Cardassians. She plans to send an armed party onto the Valerian ship, but Sisko won’t let her; she comes within a hairs breadth of challenging his authority, but she backs down—for now.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: Dramatis Personae

Dax and O’Brien search for the flight recorder, and O’Brien expresses concern to Dax about the Bajorans getting all uppity and stuff and militantly states that anyone who’s against Sisko is against him. Dax, for her part, is barely interested in the conversation, and seems to be lost in her own world.

Kira goes to Odo and asks him to infiltrate the Valerian ship, but he sees through her claim that Sisko authorized it in short order. Kira backs off from her attempted mutiny, but reminds Odo who his friends are in case he has to choose sides.

The flight recorder is badly damaged, though there is a mention of the captain going insane and executing two officers. Kira speculates that the mission went badly; Sisko looks bored, and has no interest in finding out what happened, retreating back to his office and making it clear that, whatever they find, they should not bother him with it.

In Quark’s, Dax has a drink and is approached by Kira, who basically tries to recruit her for her side in a manner that is almost flirtatious. She also makes it clear that she’s determined to get rid of Sisko, and she doesn’t want to have to get rid of Dax as well. After throwing an eavesdropping Quark into a wall, she leaves.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: Dramatis Personae

Quark, now in a neck brace, reports Kira’s actions to Odo. Odo then goes to ops to find O’Brien in Sisko’s office—Sisko’s in his quarters where it’s “safe.” The Klingon first officer’s log seems to be about a power struggle between him and the captain. Odo goes to Sisko’s quarters—where two Starfleet guards have been assigned by O’Brien—and reports the abnormality of several officers’ behaviors. But Sisko is too busy sketching a design for a clock and doesn’t seem to give a good goddamn.

Kira is in Odo’s office, making it clear that she intends to get rid of Sisko and O’Brien and either get a Starfleet commander they can control or they’ll go it alone. After she leaves, Odo tries to contact Starfleet Command, but communication with Federation space has been restricted by Kira. When he tries to contact Bajor, the computer tells him that communication with Bajor has been restricted by O’Brien.

The computer has completed the reconstruction of the first officer’s logs. Odo finds the one entry that specifically mentions contact with an alien species: they found energy spheres that appear to be a telepathic archive of a culture called the Saltah’na, which destroyed itself in a power struggle.

Sisko’s back in his office, now building the clock he sketched, and O’Brien is expressing concern over Kira’s locking down the Valerian ship and taking control of half the station. Sisko orders the arrest of Kira and every Bajoran officer, but O’Brien points out that they’re outnumbered. He suggests a strategic retreat, and coming back with a large Federation force. The Valerian captain has agreed to provide transport for Sisko, O’Brien, and those loyal to them back to Federation space.

Odo walks in on Bashir giving something to a Bajoran officer. Bashir is still cautioning Odo about choosing sides, and Odo plays along, saying that his autopsy on the Klingon could determine who controls the station. Bashir reveals an anomaly in the Klingon’s brain that could be accounted for by telepathic intrusion, leading Odo to theorize that the Klingons’ brains “downloaded” the Saltahn’an power struggle from the telepathic archive they discovered, and they reenacted it, and now the same thing’s happening on the station. Odo wasn’t affected because he doesn’t have a normal humanoid brain. Odo convinces Bashir to find a cure for this malady as it would give them an advantage in the power struggle.

In ops, the Bajoran who met with Bashir tries to assassinate Sisko. O’Brien warns him in time. Dax tries to contact Kira, but O’Brien backhands her while Sisko beats the holy hell out of the would-be assassin. That’s when Kira makes her move, showing up in ops with a couple of armed Bajoran Militia people to take over. O’Brien, though, beams himself and Sisko off ops. Kira’s blocked the Valerian ship with force fields, so they wind up in a corridor. Hoping they can trust Odo, Sisko and O’Brien ask him to help them get to the ship—Odo gives them a route to take through cargo bay 4. Kira then wants to know why Odo is lowering force fields, and he tells Kira that he’s leading O’Brien and Sisko into a trap in cargo bay 4 for her. Bashir, admiring Odo’s duplicity, says he’s set up an interference pattern in the cargo bay that will get rid of the telepathic matrix.

Kira and Dax confront Sisko and O’Brien in the cargo bay. As they face off, Odo and Bashir enter the bay and Odo activates a program. Energy comes out of all their heads, which Odo then blows out of the cargo bay by opening the doors.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: Dramatis Personae

Everyone and everything is back to normal. Kira feels the need to apologize, but Sisko agrees to let it go—this time.

Can’t we just reverse the polarity?: Dolamide can be used as a weapon only in its purest form. When it’s less pure, it has other, more mundane uses, which is why Sisko is reluctant to go after the Valerians just for that.

Also, explosive decompression can be withstood if you hold loosely onto a crate. Right.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: Dramatis Personae

The Sisko is of Bajor: The telepathic matrix turns Sisko into an obsessive-compulsive, and easily distracted, leader. Writer Joe Menosky patterned him in part after the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolph II.

Don’t ask my opinion next time: Kira uses all the charisma at her disposal to get Odo and Dax on her side, including some pretty obvious flirting with the latter. (She seems to flirt with Odo a bit, too, but quickly changes tacks when it doesn’t work.)

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: Dramatis Personae

For Cardassia!: Kira is legitimately concerned that the Valerians are still providing weapons-grade dolamide to the Cardassians and that they might use it against the Bajorans again. This provides the telepathic matrix with a basis for the conflict between her and Sisko.

The slug in your belly: The telepathic matrix turns Dax into an easily distracted older person who barely makes any sense. On four different occasions, she starts to reminisce about some old story from her past, only to be interrupted.

Preservation of mass and energy is for wimps: When Odo hangs onto the console in the cargo bay when he opens the doors, why does he just use humanoid hands? Why not shift his arm into a lasso or something to wrap around the console so he’s guaranteed not to be blown into space?

Keep your ears open: “Did you really build that?”

“Apparently so.”

“Why?”

“I have no idea.”

Kira and Sisko on the clock the latter built while under the influence of the telepathic matrix.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: Dramatis Personae

Welcome aboard: Tom Towles plays the Klingon; he’ll be back in Voyager’s “Rise” as Dr. Vatm. Randy Pflug, a regular background extra on both TNG and DS9, got a line for once as the guard outside Sisko’s door, while longtime stuntman Jeff Pruitt got to try to kill Sisko as the Bajoran junior officer.

Trivial matters: This is the first Star Trek title in Latin. It is far from the last. TNG will do “Sub Rosa” in its seventh season, Voyager will give us “Ex Post Facto” and “Non Sequitur,” Enterprise will do “Terra Nova” and “Vox Sola,” and DS9 will in the seventh season provide us with the classic, “Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges.”

The clock Sisko builds will continue to be seen in the background of his office.

This is Joe Menosky’s first time writing for DS9 (and his only solo effort for the show), and also Cliff Bole’s first time directing for DS9. Both are veterans of TNG, and both will continue to work for this show and Voyager.

Dax and O’Brien mention that Keiko has taken her schoolkids on a field trip to Bajor, which conveniently keeps O’Brien’s wife and Sisko’s son from having to deal with them being weird.

An early example of the Valerians supplying dolamide for the Cardassians shortly after the occupation of Bajor began is seen in the Terok Nor novel Night of the Wolves by S.D. Perry & Britta Dennison. However, that is the only other mention of dolamide, possibly because saying it out loud makes it sounds way too much like the 1975 Rudy Ray Moore blaxploitation film.

Walk with the Prophets: “Put the shoe on the right foot first, but put the left foot first into the bathtub.” Yet another Joe Menosky weird-ass culture that communicates in ways that we have trouble understanding (cf. “Darmok,” “Masks”), this one is entertaining to watch while it happens, but really kind of falls apart upon examination. It doesn’t help that—like so many of Menosky’s scripts—the practical consequences are brushed aside, which is even more of an issue on a space station than it would be on a ship. The Enterprise is a closed, isolated community. Deep Space 9 is a port of call with ships coming and going all the time, plus it’s tethered to a planet in Bajor, even though it’s not directly in orbit of it.

Which makes it hard for me to believe that the ops crew was able to be this crazy for this long without anyone noticing. The station just has too many external elements for that to be in any way convincing. Somebody besides Odo should’ve been able to step in and say, “now cut that out.”

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: Dramatis Personae

Having said that, it’s a very entertaining acting exercise for the cast. Avery Brooks and Nana Visitor in particular shine, the former as a slightly crazed despot leaving no piece of scenery unchewed, the latter perhaps warming up for her role as the Intendant in the Mirror Universe episodes as a slinky, plotting, scheming, flirtatious Kira. Siddig el Fadil instantly makes himself more mature and devious, and I was incredibly entertained by Terry Farrell’s senile-old-man act (I especially love the way she was never able to finish any of her stories about the past). The only weak link is Colm Meaney, oddly enough, who pretty much acts like O’Brien often does when he’s cranky (there’s not much difference between this O’Brien and the sleep-deprived one we saw in “Night Terrors” on TNG).

DS9 also continues to be the only Trek show that understands the function of security chief and allows that person to be competent. The job is more cop than soldier, but neither Yar nor Worf nor Tuvok nor Reed were treated as much other than the guys who fire the weapons. Freed from that responsibility by virtue of the show’s structure, Odo gets to actually be more of the cop the role often requires him to be, and Rene Auberjonois beautifully plays it as Odo has to figure out what’s going on, and play all three sides (Sisko’s, Kira’s, and Bashir’s) against each other so he can get them into the cargo bay to make the technobabble work.

So ultimately an episode that doesn’t really mean much in the grand scheme of things, and doesn’t make a lot of sense when you think about, but is also tremendous fun to watch.

 

Warp factor rating: 5


Keith R.A. DeCandido is one of the guests at PortConMaine in Portland this weekend. If you’re in Maine’s capital, come see him!

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