Jan 22 2014 4:00pm

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch: “The Adversary”

The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on The Adversary“The Adversary”
Written by Ira Steven Behr & Robert Hewitt Wolfe
Directed by Alexander Singer
Season 3, Episode 26
Production episode 40512-472
Original air date: June 19, 1995
Stardate: 48959.1

Station log: Sisko records his final commander’s log, as he’s been promoted to captain. Jake gets to put the fourth pip on his uniform, and there’s a champagne toast. Also present is Ambassador Krajensky, who isn’t there for the celebration: there’s been a coup on the Tzenkethi homeworld, and the Defiant is to patrol the border for a few days, showing the flag.

O’Brien goes to work in the Defiant’s engine room, thinking he hears a strange noise, which isn’t at all ominous. Later, after the Defiant sets off for the Tzenkethi border, he hears another noise when he’s in a Jefferies Tube—but this time, apparently, it was Bashir, who was hooking up a power supply for a diagnostic table.

Sisko talks to Eddington in the wardroom, telling him that if hostilities break out, his job is to make sure Krajensky is safe—even though Krajensky won’t like being escorted off the bridge.

The Defiant gets a distress call from Barisa Prime, which is under attack. Sisko changes course for that world. But they can’t contact Starfleet Command or get backup from the Ulysses—due, as it turns out, to sabotage. Something that looks like a big straw is working its way through various key systems. The straw wasn’t there when O’Brien did a systems check when they departed, so the saboteur has to be on board.

The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on The Adversary

Sisko announces to the senior staff that they found a straw in the warp plasma field, which means the saboteur will have been exposed to tetryon particles, which will leave a residue for a while. O’Brien fears that it’s Bashir after seeing him in the Jefferies Tube earlier, but he’s clean—however, he insists he was never in any Jefferies Tube. But then Dax scans Krajensky, who does have tetryon particles on him—

—at which point he transforms into a liquid state, widening to knock Kira and a couple of other people over, and escapes through the vents. The cloaking device activates, and the bridge controls are locked out. The Defiant is hurtling at warp toward Tzenkethi space with weapons armed and the cloak active and the crew can do nothing about it. Odo and Eddington lead a security sweep of the ship, but they find nothing. And there’s no sign of the real Krajensky or his remains—it’s likely that Krajensky never came to the station and the changeling engineered all of it to start a new Federation-Tzenkethi war.

Sisko orders nonessential personnel locked in their quarters behind force fields. No one is to travel alone. Bashir is to check tricorder readings of Krajensky—who read as human—to see if there’s some kind of anomaly they can use to detect the changeling.

After Eddington and Odo issue phasers to all security personnel (except Odo himself, who reiterates that he refuses to carry weapons), O’Brien calls security to engineering, where he found Dax alone and unconscious. This means they don’t have use of Dax to regain control of the ship.

Phaser rifles have been retuned to a wide beam that will affect the changeling but not affect equipment. Two-person teams are sent to check the ship. If anyone isn’t with a partner, that person is to be escorted to the brig. The teams search the corridors, the Jefferies Tubes, the cabins, everything. Sisko and a security guard are ambushed by the changeling, and Sisko pursues—only to find Kira and another security guard who were separated facing off against each other because neither is sure if the other is the changeling. The guard refuses to lower his weapon (Kira does), and Odo is forced to take him out, but doing so required him to be separated from Eddington for a minute, so now they don’t know who’s who.

The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on The Adversary

But Odo notices that Sisko is bleeding, and the drops of the floor are still blood—when a piece of Odo is separated from the rest of him, it reverts to a gelatinous state. Now they have another detection technique, and Sisko summons Bashir to the mess hall to draw blood from everyone. If it stays as blood in the tube, the person isn’t a changeling.

The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on The Adversary

When Eddington’s blood is drawn, it turns into changeling goo, at which point he’s brought to the brig. Eddington denies being a changeling—and while he does so, there’s a small explosion that opens a door behind which Bashir—the real one—is trapped. He’s trying to escape from being imprisoned by the changeling who has been disguised as Bashir (and who framed Eddington). The changeling again zips off into the vents, and this time Odo gives chase.

The Defiant enters Tzenkethi space, and is now heading straight for a Tzenkethi settlement that’s twelve minutes away. Sisko and Kira set the auto-destruct sequence for ten minutes, giving them that much time to locate the changeling. Also it turns out that Dax is fine, but the changeling pumped her full of sedatives while pretending to be Bashir.

O’Brien figures out how to shut down the changeling’s force fields, but it also takes down all the ship’s force fields, including the one protecting engineers from the radiation given off by the warp core (probably the same radiation that killed Spock...). Two Odos show up in engineering just before O’Brien takes down all the force fields. One Odo changes into a form that resembles Krajensky and attacks the security guard and O’Brien. They fight and Odo throws the changeling against the exposed warp core. O’Brien is able to regain control of the ship, and they bugger away from Tzenkethi space as fast as they can while disengaging the autodestruct.

It turns out that the real Krajensky was supposed to go on vacation on Risa, but never arrived. The Tzenkethi coup never actually happened. Odo also reveals that the changelings last words to him were that changeling infiltrators are everywhere.

The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on The Adversary

The Sisko is of Bajor: Finally, after three years, the writing staff fixes a problem the series has had from its very conception: the lead character was not a captain. Pike was a captain, Kirk was a captain, Picard was a captain, hell even Decker and Spock (in the movies) were captains. There was no good reason for Sisko not to be a captain, made worse by his status as the first non-white character to lead a Trek cast.

The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on The Adversary

This is also the last time we’ll see Sisko with hair. Also, he mentions his father, the first indication that said father is still alive after several references that implied that he had died.

The slug in your belly: Dax is viewed by the changeling as a threat to keeping control of the ship, and so takes her out quickly, then disguising as Bashir to keep her unconscious.

Preservation of matter and energy is for wimps: Odo admits to Eddington that he’s unable to put himself in the changeling’s head as the latter requests because he truly doesn’t understand his people. He chases the changeling through the vents the second time he runs away into the vents, which makes you wonder why he didn’t do it the first time. And he hits on the notion of using blood screenings, which will be seen a lot moving forward.

Rules of Acquisition: Bashir purchases real champagne—Chateau Client, 2303—from Quark, who serves it at Sisko’s promotion reception.

Victory is life: One changeling comes very very close to starting a war between the Tzenkethi and the Federation.

Tough little ship: We get to see more of the Defiant, including the Jefferies Tubes, engineering, and bunches of corridors. Also, thanks to the changeling, there is another use of the cloaking device in the Alpha Quadrant (after “Defiant” and possibly “Second Skin”).

No sex, please, we’re Starfleet: Sisko wants to tell Yates in person that he’s been promoted, but she’s not coming back to the station for a month. Dax gets him to admit that he misses her, and also that he’s taking her to see Game 7 of the 1964 World Series in the holosuite, which Dax cites as proof that he really likes her.

Keep your ears open: “I think I may be able to shut down the changeling’s force fields and gain access to the sabotaged systems. The only problem is we may lose our force fields, too.”

“Auto-destruct in seven minutes.”

“Just tell me how long it will take.”

“Well, I guess it’ll have to be less than seven minutes, won’t it?”

“That’d be my suggestion. Sisko out.”

O’Brien telling Sisko how he can fix things, with the computer providing a tight deadline.

Welcome aboard: Kenneth Marshall is back as Eddington, and Lawrence Pressman—last seen as Tekeny Ghemor in “Second Skin”—returns this time as the changeling posing as Krajensky. Jeff Austin plays the paranoid Bolian security guard; he’ll return as Allos in Voyager’s “The Omega Directive.”

Trivial matters: In “The Search, Part II,” “Heart of Stone,” and “The Die is Cast,” Odo was told that no changeling has ever harmed another, a streak that ends with this episode. Odo will suffer the consequences of that action in the fourth-season finale “Broken Link.”

The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on The Adversary

The original plan for this episode was to establish changeling infiltration on Earth, and do a season-spanning two-parter similar to those done on TNG. That basic storyline—which was also supposed to introduce Sisko’s father—was later used for the “Homefront”/“Paradise Lost” two-parter in the fourth season. Instead, this finale followed the same pattern as the previous two (and the next three, for that matter): a standalone story that sets up how the next season will begin.

This episode is the first mention of the Tzenkethi, though they are never seen on screen. In the novels, they are part of the Typhon Pact that formed in your humble rewatcher’s A Singular Destiny in response to the events of the Destiny trilogy by David Mack. Tzenkethi have appeared in my Articles of the Federation as well as several of the Typhon Pact stories, including Brinksmanship by Una McCormack, The Struggle Within by Christopher L. Bennett, and Rough Beasts of Empire, Plagues of Night, and Raise the Dawn, all by David R. George III.

Sisko fought in the last Tzenkethi-Federation War. It’ll be established in “Homefront” that he served on the Okinawa during that war as first officer under Captain Leyton. The aforementioned Rough Beasts of Empire has flashbacks to Sisko serving in that war in a timeframe prior to “Encounter at Farpoint.”

Game 7 of the 1964 World Series saw Bob Gibson—one of the greatest pitchers of all time—of the St. Louis Cardinals face off against Mel Stottlemyre and the New York Yankees. The Cardinals won 7-5. (Amusingly, both Ken Boyer and Clete Boyer, brothers who were on opposite sides, hit home runs in that game.) The Sisko family affinity for Gibson was seen back in “The Homecoming.”

This episode establishes that Bolian blood is blue.

The real Krajensky appears in an alternate timeline in your humble rewatcher’s Myriad Universes short novel A Gutted World (in Echoes and Refractions), where he’s given the first name of Theodore.

Walk with the Prophets: “You’re too late. We’re everywhere.” On the face of it, this is a decent episode. It’s tense, it’s well constructed, it’s a nice claustrophobic action piece, and so much of the texture of the show going forward—paranoia about the changelings, blood screenings, the Dominion “invading” the Alpha Quadrant not via Jem’Hadar attack but through divide-and-conquer tactics aided by changeling infiltration—is on display here.

In addition, we get the way way way way overdue promotion of Sisko to captain, with even the characters saying it’s about damn time (both O’Brien and Eddington get to mention that, in what feels like a serious rebuke to Rick Berman and Michael Piller for “demoting” the character in the show’s conception—as Eddington points out, nobody goes into Starfleet wanting to be a commander, or an admiral).

And yet, there’s a disappointingly empty feel to the episode. Part of it is Alexander Singer’s depressingly limp direction. Modern Trek has done fast-moving action before—“Power Play” and “Starship Mine” on TNG, “The Siege” and “The Die is Cast” on DS9 to name four particularly strong examples—but this episode doesn’t have enough intensity.

The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on The Adversary

Part of it is also that the story just doesn’t make sense. Starfleet ships don’t get their assignments from the Diplomatic Corps, so why was Krajensky ordering Sisko around? Also if a ship of the line is being taken off its usual assignment (protecting DS9 and Bajor from the Jem’Hadar flying through the wormhole), then it’s something that will involve a lot of bureaucratic hoops to jump through, and verification of the orders with someone at Starfleet Command.

Plus, if there was a coup on the Tzenkethi homeworld, wouldn’t Sisko or Kira or Odo or O’Brien or Dax or somebody have heard about it from someone else besides Krajensky, and if they didn’t, wouldn’t that make them suspicious? Isn’t there a Federation News Service that would be reporting on this sort of thing? (There is, but it hasn’t been introduced yet. Still and all...)

What it boils down to is that Sisko took the Defiant and his entire senior staff away from its post solely on the verbal word of an ambassador without ever once checking with his superiors. That strains credulity well beyond the breaking point.

Then there’s the Tzenkethi themselves, about whom we’ve never heard before. Why is it necessary to pull yet another Alpha Quadrant power out of their asses when there are plenty of others that we’ve actually seen before, heard of, and will give an airborne intercourse about if we invade them? As it is, the threat of a war with the Tzenkethi is muted by the fact that we don’t have the first damn clue who or what the Tzenkethi are.

The storyline picks up nicely from “The Die is Cast.” In that episode, the Dominion managed to weaken the Cardassian Union and the Romulan Empire by giving a body blow to their intelligence-gathering networks (and in the case of the former, wiping out half the government), and now we see the next stage of that plan. I like the fact that the plan pretty much fails because of a niggling detail: the changeling didn’t know about tetryon particle residue. Without that, the crew isn’t on alert and the sabotage can work more subtly. I also love that Bashir was able to use the engineering extension courses that he goes on about (and that the changeling went on about when disguised as him) to get the door open so he can warn the others that he’s been replaced.

But that leads to another major issue with the episode, which is why the changeling left Dax and Bashir alive. There’s no reason to, especially since he was sending the Defiant on what would almost definitely become a suicide mission. The only reason to keep those two characters alive is because they are in the opening credits, and that’s a failure of scriptwriting, made worse by the fact that the changeling does kill (or at least maim) a security guard (it’s hard to tell because nobody seems to give much of a shit about the poor bastard, not even Sisko who never even says there’s a guard down when he calls in the changeling sighting).

The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on The Adversary

This is the first time DS9 has ended its season on a disappointing note, though it’s not the first time an episode has been important in what it establishes without actually being any good...


Warp factor rating: 5

Keith R.A. DeCandido reminds everyone that you can preorder The Klingon Art of War (out in May) from either Amazon or Barnes & Noble (in either hardcover or eBook).

1. James2
To be honest, I kinda have trouble taking "The Adversary" seriously nowadays thanks to Chuck Sonnenburg over at SF Debris.

His commentary on the Changeling Hunt is so snarky that I can't help cracking up when re-watching this episode.

Anyway, the exchange between Eddington and Sisko is the Defiant mess is one of my favorite scenes of Season 3. It's a great insight to his psychology and nice foreshadowing of Eddington's character direction over the next two years.
Raymond Seavey
2. RaySea
The Tzenkethi thing always bothered me. We learn basically nothing about them in this episode, other than they're a power that the Federation has a history of animosity with. There are plenty of exsisting powers than fit the bill. Cardassia might not have worked, since it's too close to DS9 for the plot to unfold, but we still have, say, Romulus. And even if you wanted to go more obsure, you've got Tholians, Gorn, Sheliak, Tamarians, Breen, the Jarada...the point is, there's plenty to choose from already exsisting in Trek cannon. Inventing a new one and telling us about this war that was never mentioned before just felt really odd.
Christopher Bennett
3. ChristopherLBennett
My choice for the best quote from the episode would be Odo's: "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." As I've commented before, I like how the show made Odo distinctive this way, a tough and stern lawman but one who genuinely cherishes life. And I like the idea that he's been able to do his job successfully for years without needing a gun. Though as I've said, it's hard to reconcile with "Vortex," wherein he apparently led a pursuing ship to its destruction -- although we never actually saw for sure whether the ship was destroyed or just crippled.

I also liked the changeling action in this one. I recall being very impressed with the way the Krajensky changeling transformed and moved so swiftly when it was first outed.

As for Sisko's rank, I thought it was a nice change of pace to have a series lead who wasn't a captain; but given prior precedents, if they were going to make the lead character a starbase commander rather than a starship captain, wouldn't it have made more sense to make him a commodore or admiral? Maybe they just didn't want the spinoff lead character to match or exceed Picard's rank, since TNG was still the flagship show at the time.

@2: Yeah, Trek has always had a disappointing tendency to invent new aliens-of-the-week rather than fleshing out the many existing ones they had. It undermines the sense of a cohesive universe. Although on the other hand, it gives the books plenty of fodder.

Worth mentioning: For years, there was a misconception in fandom that the Tzenkethi were meant to be a nod to the Kzinti from Larry Niven's Known Space universe (introduced to the Trek universe in Niven's TAS episode "The Slaver Weapon" and his LA Times Trek comic-strip storyline "The Wristwatch Plantation"), and a fair amount of fanfiction has depicted them as felinoid. But back in 2006, I consulted Robert Hewitt Wolfe about his intentions behind the Tzenkethi, and he said he'd actually imagined them as being like the Hakazit from Jack Chalker's Well World novels, "heavily armored lizard things" like 3-meter tyrannosaurs. However, when they finally appeared in David R. George III's novel Rough Beasts of Empire, they were described as luminous, beautiful humanoids with flexible, mostly boneless bodies.
4. CanuckMom
Agree with this assessment of the episode though leaving Dax Bashir alive didn't bug me. The Great Link was always trying to win Odo back and killing two of his close friends right under his nose might have pushed him too far.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
5. Lisamarie
Yes, I agree! Even as I was watching this I was thinking, "Man, this should probably be a more tense/engaging episode" but I just really didn't care. Partially because I knew nobody was really going to die (redshirts aside) - you knew Dax would be safe, that none of the 'main cast' would be harmed long term, the ship is not going to blow up, etc.

Plus, I think in my head, I kept thinking of "Conspiracy" (I think that's the TNG episode with the invaders that never show up again and make some guy explode?) and feeling like we'd already done this idea.
6. Ginomo
"airborne intercourse"

That took me a second, LOL
David Levinson
7. DemetriosX
I think the best and most problematic bits of this episode have been pretty well identified. CanuckMom @4 has come up with a reasonable explanation for not killing either Bashir or Dax, though given "Heart of Stone" that excuse would have played better with Kira. The never-before-seen Tzenkethi also seriously hurt the tension. Any race we'd heard of before would have done.

O'Brien's “Well, I guess it’ll have to be less than seven minutes, won’t it?” feels like a nod toward Scotty always saying he needed more time that was available before everything went to hell, but pulling off a miracle in the end.
Nick Hlavacek
8. Nick31
The problem with the whole "no changeling has ever harmed another" thing is that unless the infiltrator planned to get himself and Odo safely off the ship after it starts the war between the Federation and whoever, the changelings had set it up for one (or two) of their own to die. That seems unlikely given how much they previously bent over backwards to keep Odo alive. And why risk the infiltrator? Wouldn't it have been easier to just use him to steal the Defiant and let a crew of Vorta and Jem'Hadar die in the attack? Not that I expect TV plots to make sense, but I'd at least like them to try harder than this one did.
9. Alright Then
This is one of my favorite episodes. I'll easily put it in my top twenty (not quite top ten) of DS9. Oh sure, it has its flaws, but I guess I like it simply because I'm a big fan of John Carpenter's The Thing. And it's fun to see Star Trek make a version of that story, right down to the blood tests.
Mike Kelmachter
10. MikeKelm
The episode does one thing well, which is show how a single changeling can cause great havoc. This will be an important part of the next couple of seasons....

After that it is plot hole central... most of which we've already cited (damn you for being so thorough KRAD!) but I want to emphasize the biggest one- everybody has to do the exact sequence which is out of character for them in order for the evil plot to work- we saw this a bunch in TNG (especially Descent Part 1). Sisko has to just accept an order from a random ambassador (who we've never seen before) to go to a random planet to investigate a coup nobody else knows about and he can't bother to stop and check with anyone? Sisko is by training an engineer who only later entered the command path. As someone who works with engineers, I can tell you- they don't just accept anything. They have the need to check, recheck, overthink and check and recheck their overthought idea. It's a maddening process, and while Sisko probably isn't quite that bad (he isn't Barclay) he has never struck me as the type to just wander off on a jaunt without telling anyone...

By the way- O'Brien is the only engineer on board? We see him in engineering a few times and he seems to be the only one there. I know we put all non-essential personnel in quarters but I think when the ship has been sabotaged, the engineers would qualify as essential. This is a reoccurring issue I have with Trek series- I get that this is a smaller shi than the Enterprise, but O'Brien can't be the only engineer on board- damage control, shift changes, etc. Figure with a crew in the 40's or so, he's got to have at least 6 other engineers on board (2 per shift for 3 shifts).

As far as season enders go, this one was pretty weak- it makes us get worried about the Dominion, but that's about it...
Keith DeCandido
11. krad
MikeKelm: O'Brien makes reference to other engineers working on fixing things at one point, and after Dax is found unconscious, he summons a damage control team to engineering. I think it was just a case of limiting the number of extras.

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
Christopher Bennett
12. ChristopherLBennett
On the subject of Sisko taking Krajensky's word versus checking with Starfleet... maybe he did check, and maybe the Founders have already infiltrated Starfleet more than we realized at this point. Or maybe they pulled a standard Mission: Impossible trick, intercepting his transmission to Starfleet Command and routing it to a changeling impostor.

Still, if so, they should've said so. Even if we can rationalize it, it's still a plot hole.
13. Lsana
Don't have much to say about this episode that the rest of you haven't already said, but I was kind of gratified to see that Sisko is apparently a Cardinals fan. Generations of my family are nodding in approval.
14. GarrettC
Sisko is a Giants fan (he has a hat and Jake tries to get him a Willie Mays rookie card). Jake might be a Braves fan, for some reason, but that's only based on a hat.


This one was notable for me because it was the first episode during my re-watch that I noticed the uncanny similarities between large chunks of the DS9 and and BSG storylines and mythologies.
15. MatthewRigdon
Um, do you remember a show called Star Trek in the 60s? Every few episodes, an ambassador would come on board the ship and order Kirk around. It was established on the original series that ambassors outranked everyone in Starfleet, up to and including Admirals. They were always wanting Kirk to let some crewman or other die so they could get to some planet on time...

I didn't start watching Deep Space Nine until a few years ago and I had read about how the staff of DS9 were all big fans of the original and wanted to recapture that, so I when I watched this episode and an ambassador was bossing Sisko around, I thought, "Hey, just like the original series." I'm not saying it isn't a stupid idea (US ambassadors can't unilaterally give orders to the US military, as demonstrated in Benghazi), but Gene Roddenberry thought it was a brilliant notion in the 60s, in order to make Starfleet less of a militant organization. Thinking back on Next Generation, I guess you never see an ambassdor order Picard around, but I don't remember any episodes that indicated the Federation had changed policy and stripped ambassadors of their command privileges in the 24th century.
16. RobinM
The most destinctive thing I remember about this episode was that changelings are good at sabotage, and Odo causing the death of the other changling was going to come back to bite him in some way. Turns out I was right cause just you wait til the rest of the Great Link finds out.
jonathan inge
17. jonathaninge
"the first indication that said father is still alive after several references that implied that he had died."

i haven't read all the rewatch entries on the show, but i've seen DS9 many times and i never got the feeling that sisko's father was dead.
Keith DeCandido
18. krad
GarrettC: Sisko seems to be a general baseball fan without loyalty to any one team, and generally seems to like particular players. In the case of the '64 Series, I think it was specifically to see Bob Gibson, already established in "The Homecoming" as one of the pitchers he liked to re-create in the holosuite.

MatthewRigdon: There's a HUGE difference between an ambassador sent to board the Enterprise and an ambassador who shows up on a space station. A starship is a closed environment, where an ambassador's arrival is something the ship has to, in essence, be aware of and allow. But anybody can just show up on DS9. While the Enterprise (of whichever vintage) was always moving and had a fluid assignment, Deep Space 9 and the Defiant have a very specific assignment, so to be taken off of it would have to have a lot more bureaucratic hoops to jump through. The situations aren't remotely equivalent.

jonathaninge: Watch the scene between Dax and Sisko in Quark's in "A Man Alone" and the conversation between Sisko and Odo while Dr. Mora is in the infirmary in "The Alternate." Both conversations heavily imply (though never state outright) that Sisko's father is dead.

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
alastair chadwin
19. a-j
Being a huge childhood fan of Space: 1999* where the lead (Martin Landau) was one Commander Koenig, I never had an issue with Sisko being a commander, in fact I rather liked it. Ranks in Star Trek by this time had become a tad confused so I never really thought of him as being subordinate to Captains Picard or Janeway. The race implications, I'm sorry to say, never occured to me. Anyway, I do agree with ChristopherLBennett that, given he's in command of a station, a star ship and a small fleet of runabouts, the rank of Commodore would have been more appropriate and in keeping with Roddenberry's original 'Nelson's Navy in space' idea.

Keith DeCandido
20. krad
a-j: ranks in Star Trek were not even a little bit confused. it goes ensign, lieutenant junior grade, lieutenant, lieutenant commander, commander, captain, admiral. And commanders were very clearly subordinate to captains as evidenced by the number of pips on the collar. Sisko was subordinate to Picard and Janeway because he was one grade rank lower, the same rank as Riker and Chakotay, plus you had Picard giving Sisko orders in "Emissary," and Sisko setting all subordinate and calling him "sir."

--- Keith R.A. DeCandido
21. lvsxy808
The reason that Sisko is/was a Commander is pretty thoroughly established from the very first episode - I don't see why it's questionable. His career progression had stalled because of his depression over Jennifer's death. And the boss of DS9 only needed to be a Commander because the brass considered the position a make-work job that didn't need anybody of higher rank. He was promoted once the post to which he was assigned became more important. Those are the in-the-box reasons.

The out-of-the-box reason is so that the two simultaneously airing Star Trek shows didn't both have captains - it was a way of distinguishing between the two. The fact that it leads to the black man having a lower rank than the white man is a shame, certainly, but I don't believe it was ever the intention, and besides it's clearly a 20th century concern and not a 24th century concern.
22. McKay B
I actually liked that they intended to lead a series with a Commander rather than a Captain. It stands to reason that a LOT of posts in Starfleet would be led by Commanders, unless "Captain" is a washed-out rank that pretty much anyone can attain.

Although the racial implications were unfortunate, and since Bajor became very important in the first season, I wouldn't have had a problem with Sisko getting promoted much sooner.

I always pictured the Tzenkethi as non-humanoids, and with that caveat I liked that they were used as the unseen threat in this episode; it's good for the show to give lip-service to the idea that not all of the major powers in space are humanoid. (Even if the top 5 or so are.) Also, none of the other top Alpha powers really would have fit the bill -- the Founders are already basically satisfied with what they've done to the Cardassians and Romulans, they already have a plan going (although the viewers haven't seen it) with the Klingons, and ... hmm, I guess the Ferengi could have worked, if they'd referenced the TNG-style military/pirate branch of Ferengi society. But I'm glad they didn't.

Having an unseen foe that the Federation has already had violent conflict with -- in which Sisko could have served -- makes the plot holes a little less grating, too, so that rules out some of the non-humanoid races that they could have re-used instead of making up a new power. The Sheliak, for example, definitely haven't been at war with the Federation in Sisko's lifetime. I suppose it could have been nice to use the Gorn or the Tholians, though ...

Off the top of my head, I think this might be the only episode where Eddington serves effectively in a completely non-antagonistic role ... and even here, the rest of the crew suspects him long enough to lock him in the brig. Poor guy.
23. KnightLife
as for Sisko being a Commander, I thought (and could be completely wrong on this) that it dates more to a naval tradition of that rank being CO's of smaller vessels and outpouts. And DS9 was more of an outpost. And, of course, as a way to differntiate him from Kirk and Picard.

Part of me wonders what the upcoming seasons would be like if they were written in a post-9/11 world, or even in this NSA,f big-brother era. All the paranoia that would come out of the Founders infiltrating the Alpha and Beta quadrants could probably become a very dominating factor in storytelling. Not that DS9 skipped over it, but in today's television one could only imagine the stories that might come from it, kind of like what BSG did with the humanoid Cylons. Then again, that's just my opinion. I could be wrong.
Dante Hopkins
24. DanteHopkins
Watching the show, starting Sisko off as a commander made sense given the nature of Sisko's assignment. Looking back, I can see the oddness and the unfortunate racial implications, particularly being an African American myself. I suppose its a credit to the writers that this particular distinction did not become an issue at the time, though I agree this promotion should have come sooner. That said, the series really kicks up another notch once Sisko got that fourth pip, so this episode is always kind of a cut off mark for me: the end of not only Sisko being a commander, but also the end of this chapter of the series.

Also, those who haven't seen the series before will see subtle differences between Commander Sisko and Captain Sisko, and I look forward to that discussion.
Christopher Bennett
25. ChristopherLBennett
@24: For what it's worth, the franchise had already established a number of commodores and admirals of African descent, going all the way back to Commodore Stone in 1967's "Court-martial," and including Admirals Morrow and Cartwright in the TOS movies and TNG admirals such as Haden ("The Wounded"), Henry ("The Drumhead"), and Shanthi ("Redemption II," "The Pegasus"). Not to mention Asian flag officers like Nogura and Nakamura. So it was already clear that race was not an impediment to flag rank, which may have softened any unfortunate (and unintended) implications of Sisko being a commander.

And maybe establishing up front that Sisko was a crucial religious figure to an entire civilization helped balance out the question of his importance too...
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
26. Lisamarie
Oh yeah, you know what I remember disliking about this episode? O'Brien saying Sisko is the best captain in Starfleet. DUDE, YOU WORKED WITH PICARD! ;) In fact, I am wondering if they purposefully gave him that line instead of one of the other non TNG characters just to be funny/good natured ribbing.

Although, I must admit Sisko is growing on me quite a bit too. Still, I'll probably always be a Picard fangirl ;)
27. Ward3
I was never fond of this episode. The emotions seemed forced. The plot seemed contrived. I rewatched it a couple of weeks ago, and my first impressions were spot on.

It was great to see Sisko finally get promoted to Captain, and I can agree with those who thought his rank of Commander early on was the correct rank. Deep Space Nine (prior to the wormhole discovery) was a backwater outpost, and his role to administer a space station not nearly as busy as it became.

The plot, however, is full of holes. I won't repeat those here. Not only that, but I really don't feel much dramatic tension at all during the episode. Of course they will fix the Defiant. Of course Odo will beat the Changeling Infiltrator. It just felt really dull, flat, boring.
Christopher Bennett
28. ChristopherLBennett
@27: "I can agree with those who thought his rank of Commander early on was the correct rank. Deep Space Nine (prior to the wormhole discovery) was a backwater outpost, and his role to administer a space station not nearly as busy as it became."

Maybe so, but it still took too long to promote him, given how quickly his posting became more important. (In fact, come to think of it, I have to wonder why Starfleet didn't replace him with a higher-ranked officer once the wormhole was found and Bajor became the most strategically critical posting in the region.)
29. Idran
@15: What are you talking about? That happened exactly once on TOS: Robert Fox in A Taste of Armageddon, and he said outright that it was the Federation government that had sent him to make sure they made a treaty to stop the deaths that were being caused around Eminar VII; he didn't outrank Kirk, it was just a mission ordered by the top levels of government. The only other actual ambassadors that showed up on TOS at all were in A Journey to Babel. Unless I'm just forgetting something?
30. MatthewRigdon
The Enterprise got commandeered at least twice, there was Ambassador Fox and in "Galileo Seven" Commisioner Ferris took command of the Enterprise. So, in the original series there were all sorts of people from outside of Starfleet who could walk in and take over a starship.

Whether the Starfleet property in question is moving or fixed, it doesn't make any difference. In the original Star Trek, there were a number of Federation organizations that could come in and supplant the captain of a starship. There's no modern day analogue (I don't even know if there is a historical precedent). If the President himself were on an aircraft carrier, I guess he would be able to give direct orders, but I don't think the Secretary of Defense would have the same authority. And I know the State department can't give direct orders to the military.
31. lvsxy808
@ 28: "In fact, come to think of it, I have to wonder why Starfleet didn't replace him with a higher-ranked officer once the wormhole was found and Bajor became the most strategically critical posting in the region."

That was also implied fairly early on and explicitly stated in "Rapture" - if they removed Sisko and replaced him with someone else, they would likely lose Bajor as a potential Fed member forever, given that they thought Sisko was the next best thing to a god. And getting Bajor to join the Feds was basically the post/station/show's entire original mission.
32. McKay B
Lisamarie @26: Interesting line, huh? While it may have just been a friendly rivalry, it also might have become O'Brien's opinion. I could see that. There's no doubt that O'Brien will always have great respect for Picard, but I can believe that he ends up respecting Sisko even more. (For one thing, he works much more closely with him. Also, O'Brien is one who would appreciate that Sisko is a fellow family man. And there's the arguably greater scope of Sisko's regular challenges compared to Picard's.)
Keith DeCandido
33. krad
McKay B and Lisamarie: I actually played around with that -- as well as another line of O'Brien's from "The Wounded" -- a bit in my eBook Enterprises of Great Pitch and Moment, part of the Slings and Arrows miniseries, in which Picard is a passenger on the Defiant, which is taking him and Sisko to the Klingon border to try to convince Gowron to re-enter the Khitomer Accords (this takes place between "Apocalypse Rising" and "By Inferno's Light"). The two are sitting in the mess hall and this conversation ensues:

O'Brien and Picard talked a bit more, catching up on various bits of gossip. The captain found it oddly refreshing. He'd always admired O'Brien's friendly professionalism, and had been sorry to see him go. By the same token, the opportunity to become chief of operations of DS9 was too good for him to pass up, and he decided to say as much: "The job here suits you, Chief. Aside from the day I married you to Keiko, I don't recall seeing you so happy."

"Don't get me wrong, sir—the job does have its frustrations. But it's been great serving with—with all these people," he finished lamely.

"Chief, I won't hold it against you if you say you like serving with your captain."

"I guess I've been lucky, sir—I've served with the two best captains in Starfleet."

Picard thought it would be impolitic to point out that O'Brien had said the exact same thing to Picard once before—only then, the other captain was Ben Maxwell, who was soon thereafter disgraced.

---Keith R.A. DeCandido

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