“The Die is Cast”
Written by Ronald D. Moore
Directed by David Livingston
Season 3, Episode 21
Production episode 40512-467
Original air date: May 1, 1995
Station log: After a summary of “Improbable Cause,” we see Bashir having lunch with O’Brien, which has a lot less conversation than Bashir’s used to with Garak. They’re interrupted by the arrival of the Cardassian/Romulan fleet Tain mentioned last time, which all decloak at once. At first Sisko thinks they’re under attack, but then the fleet goes into the wormhole.
On the warbird, Tain and Garak share a drink and reminisce over the good old days, and even admit that they’ve missed each other. Tain also mentions that he may need to have Mila executed, as she knows too much, but Garak pleads the case for sparing her, though he does it in such a way that it doesn’t look like he’s pleading.
The verbal fencing is interrupted by Tain’s counterpart on the Romulan side, Colonel Lovok. They’ve re-cloaked and are headed to the Founders’ homeworld, and Odo is imprisoned. Tain assigns Garak with the task of interrogating Odo on the subject of his people.
Tain sent a prerecorded message to the Central Command as well as the Romulan Senate, explaining what he’s doing, and saying that this will cripple the Dominion, though the Jem’Hadar will likely strike back, at least until the supply of their drug runs out, at which point they’ll be helpless. Admiral Toddman shows the message to Sisko and his senior staff (Kira, Dax, Eddington, Bashir, and O’Brien) in the wardroom. Toddman orders DS9 evacuated of nonessential personnel and the Defiant on standby.
Sisko, though, wants to rescue Odo, as his distress call from the runabout got through before he and Garak were captured, which indicates that he’s on one of the task force ships. Toddman orders the Defiant to stay put, but Sisko won’t just abandon Odo, and there are nine starships en route to Bajor to defend the station and the planet. Sisko makes it a volunteer mission, but of course, this being television and all, everyone goes along, despite the threat of court martial and the likelihood of being in a nasty firefight.
Lovok and Tain share the plan with Garak, which is pretty straightforward: they’ll decloak over the planet in the nebula and bombard the crap out of it. But they’re concerned about planetary defenses, and Tain wants Garak to interrogate Odo—with help from a prototype device that will neutralize his shapechanging. Lovok is angered to learn of this device, as the Tal Shiar wasn’t informed of it. Garak resists acceding at first, as he believes that the ever-thorough Odo won’t provide any new intelligence that he didn’t already put in his reports to Starfleet, but he agrees when Tain threatens to give the interrogation to Lovok instead. Garak knows that Tain won’t trust him until he does this.
The Defiant decloaks out of nowhere, leaving their asses hanging out in Dominion territory. Eddington reveals that he sabotaged the cloaking device at direct orders from Toddman; orders he couldn’t really refuse. O’Brien can fix it, now that he knows what the problem is, and Eddington gives Sisko his word that he won’t do anything else to hurt the mission. Sisko agrees to let him stay on duty, but warns him to stay out of O’Brien’s way.
Garak shows up with a device and a bucket. It’s about time for Odo to regenerate, but before he goes for a swim, Garak has questions. He turns on the device, and Odo is devastated to learn that he can’t revert to his liquid state or change shape at all. Garak, meanwhile, is sure that there’s something Odo hasn’t shared with anyone about the Founders. He’s too private a person. But Odo’s not willing to talk, even as he cries out in agony, even as his skin dries and flakes, until finally he confesses to Garak that he truly wants to go home to his people and join the Great Link. Garak turns the device off, and Odo pours himself into the bucket. Garak tells Tain and Lovok that Odo didn’t break. Tain wants to kill Odo, but Garak says that killing a Bajoran Militia officer may not be the best idea, and Lovok agrees, saying that having a live changeling could be useful in case one or two escape the attack. Tain reluctantly agrees in the spirit of cooperation. Lovok, though, is suspicious of Garak’s interest in protecting Odo.
The fleet arrives, they read liquid life on the planet, and the bombardment starts. But after the first barrage, the lifesign readings don’t change at all—and then 150 Jem’Hadar ships appear in the nebula and attack. The Founders are long gone from the planet, leaving false sensor readings behind, and the Jem’Hadar were waiting all along. Garak channels Admiral Ackbar by announcing that it’s a trap.
Garak rescues Odo, with some surprise help from Lovok—who reveals that he’s a changeling. The Founders learned of Tain’s plan and encouraged it so they could wipe out the Order and the Tal Shiar in one fell swoop. The Lovok changeling tells Odo it’s not too late to join the Great Link but—to Garak’s surprise—Odo refuses. Odo goes to the runabout, but Garak insists on rescuing Tain. But Tain is more concerned with figuring out what mistakes he made and how he can fix them than in being rescued, and Odo has to sock Garak in the face and drag him to the runabout in order to get him to leave.
O’Brien fixes the cloak, which is good, as the Defiant shows up just in time to rescue Odo and Garak before their runabout is destroyed. (When they think they’re going to die, Garak sincerely apologizes for getting Odo involved in this. Odo grumbles, “A little late,” but also admits that he understands Garak’s desire to go home.) O’Brien beams them aboard, the Defiant gets to kick some serious ass, and then they bugger off home while the Jem’Hadar focus their energies on kicking the Romulans’ and Cardassians’ asses.
Back at the station, Sisko reports to Toddman, who likens the massacre to the Battle of Wolf 359. Meanwhile, Odo goes to the tailor shop where Garak is cleaning up. Odo thanks Garak for not including Odo’s confession in his report, and he also tells Garak that they should have breakfast some time.
Can’t we just reverse the polarity? Eddington sabotages the tetryon compositor (which apparently composes the tetryons?) in the cloaking device in order to get the Defiant to turn around and go home. O’Brien is able to fix it because he’s just that awesome, but it takes him more than three hours (which is what happens when you’re trying to fix the unique piece of equipment that’s on loan from the hostile foreign power, which means not a lot of spare parts on board). Meantime, the Obsidian Order has created a device that creates a quantum stasis field that keeps changelings from changing shape, which turns a changeling into a flaky mess after a while.
The Sisko is of Bajor: Sisko doesn’t hesitate to disobey orders and go on an incredibly dangerous mission to rescue one person (well, two, but his primary concern is Odo).
The slug in your belly: Dax does some very spiffy piloting in the nebula, darting and weaving around Jem’Hadar ships and their weapons fire.
Preservation of matter and energy is for wimps: Odo seemed to pretty easily turn his back on the Founders in “The Search, Part II,” but he admits to Garak under torture that his fondest desire is to join his people in the Great Link. However, he knows he can’t, and when the Lovok changeling makes the offer, he respectfully refuses.
Plain, simple: Garak may be a bastard and a spy and a torturer, but living amongst the namby pambies of the Federation has obviously had an effect on him, as the person he used to be—the one he and Tain reminisce about over drinks—would never be so regretful over doing his job as an interrogator as he is when he tortures Odo.
For Cardassia! Both Central Command and the Romulan Senate disavow any knowledge of the task force, but neither makes any move to stop them, figuring it’s worth seeing if they actually accomplish their goal. (The Federation actually feels the same way...)
Victory is life: In the Lovok changeling we see the first Founder to infiltrate an Alpha Quadrant power by replacing a high-powered personage. He’s far from the last.
Tough little ship: For the first time, we really get to see the Defiant kick ass and take names as they plow through a bunch of Jem’Hadar ships, rescue Odo and Garak, and make it home in one piece (despite Toddman and Eddington’s best efforts).
Keep your ears open: “If you pull a stunt like that again, I’ll court-martial you—or I’ll promote you. Either way you’ll be in a lot of trouble.”
Toddman letting Sisko off the hook for disobeying orders.
Welcome aboard: Andrew J. Robinson as Garak and Paul Dooley as Tain are both back from “Improbable Cause.” Plus, Kenneth Marshall finally returns as Eddington, having fallen into a hole since “The Search” two-parter, Leland Orser plays Lovok, and Leon Russom, last seen as a different Starfleet admiral in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, plays Toddman.
Trivial matters: The title of the episode is a quote from a Julius Caesar speech made just before his troops crossed the Rubicon in 49 BCE, and Garak quotes Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar at the episode’s climax to Tain, which calls back nicely to Bashir and Garak’s Shakespeare discussion in “Improbable Cause.” Fittingly, the runabout that replaces the one destroyed in this episode will be called the Rubicon.
The Lovok changeling’s reference to the Dominion believing that the Klingon Empire and the Federation won’t be a threat for much longer is basically a preview of the fourth and fifth seasons of the show.
Toddman is the first admiral we’ve seen to be wearing colors other than those of command (gold in the original series, red in the Next Generation era), wearing security/operations colors instead (gold).
Sisko makes reference to the Gamma Quadrant communications array that went live in “Destiny.”
Given what will eventually be revealed about Eddington, his giving Sisko his word and the latter trusting it because of the uniform he wears is bitterly hilarious.
An alternate-timeline version of Lovok, who is not replaced by a changeling, appears in your humble rewatcher’s A Gutted World in Myriad Universes: Echoes and Refractions, although he is killed by a changeling who instead replaces another high-ranking Tal Shiar operative, Koval (whom we’ll meet in “Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges”).
The destruction of the Obsidian Order will have long-term consequences, which will first be seen in “The Way of the Warrior” at the top of the fourth season. The road from this episode to the forthcoming one is shown in Una McCormack's novel The Never-Ending Sacrifice. (Thanks to Jarvisimo in the comments.)
Walk with the Prophets: “You know what the sad part is, Odo? I’m a very good tailor.” This is a stellar episode, one that seriously raises the stakes for the entire Trek universe, truly. At the end of the episode, we get way more forward movement and change than we’ve ever seen from a single Star Trek story with the possible exception of Star Trek VI—and even then, that was more of a retcon, as the changes to the Klingon Empire in that movie were by way of explaining the alliance that had been established four years earlier on TNG.
But look at what we get here:
After spending the better part of three seasons showing us the well-oiled (if sometimes tense) machine that is Cardassian politics, we suddenly get the entire Obsidian Order—in essence, half the government—wiped out, an event that will have significant consequences moving forward.
The Tal Shiar is also wiped out, which will have less obvious consequences, but that’s mostly because the Romulans are less of an everyday presence than the Cardassians in this little corner of the Trek universe.
And the Dominion threat finally has some bite to it. It’s been mostly abstract up until this point. The Jem’Hadar destroyed the New Bajor colony, but there’s been nothing since, aside from a fact-finding excursion by the female changeling. They haven’t even made good on their threat to treat any trip through the wormhole as an act of war.
But now we have this. The revelation that Lovok is a changeling is huge, the first time we’ve seen that the Founders are more than happy to use their shapechanging abilities to replace folks in the Alpha Quadrant for their own purposes, a devastating tactic.
And that isn’t even the heart of what makes this episode great. No, it’s continuing the magnificent double-act of Odo and Garak, who spend less actual screentime together than in “Improbable Cause,” but their thematic character bonds grow far closer over the course of this hour, as we see how alone they both are, how desperate they are to return to their homes, and how impossible that goal really is. Garak is given back everything he’s lost, but it’s too late on more than one level: he doesn’t have the stomach for torture anymore, and Tain’s offer turns out to be built on a house of cards, as his triumphant return to the Obsidian Order was doomed to failure thanks to the Dominion learning of it and turning the tables.
As for Odo, he admits to Garak (and the viewer) for the first time his true agony: he wants to join in the Great Link more than anything, but he knows he can’t. He even refuses when the Lovok changeling gives him the opportunity. The only person who would know if he said yes to Lovok is Garak, who is the one person who actually knows that particular heart’s desire. The crew on DS9 would assume him lost in the battle, and no one would be the wiser. But he still politely declines.
The two also have some great snotty exchanges, with Garak snidely pointing out that Odo has no cause to be disappointed in Garak’s behavior, given that they have no history of loyalty or friendship, and Odo turning the sarcasm right back on him when Garak brings in the quantum stasis thingamabob, by mock-begging Garak not to torture him, as he’s been soooooo dreading this...
On top of that, the episode has the most ambitious space battle Trek has done to date, an impressive display of stuff blowing up real good, and finally getting to see the Defiant in action.
Where it loses a point is the utter uselessness of all the stuff with the Defiant. It’s just there to give the rest of the cast something to do, to remind us that Eddington exists, and to provide a useful cutaway during Garak’s torture of Odo, but that’s not a good enough reason for the thread to be there. The conventions of television are such that Sisko’s behavior is expected—in fact, it’s so predictable a plot point that Toddman went ahead and predicted it, ordering Eddington to cut it off at the pass. But it’s actually spectacularly irresponsible to leave Bajor and the station unprotected and risking the lives of the 40 people on board just to bring back two people. Oh yeah, plus the whole disobeying orders thing, though Toddman at least lets him off the hook for that one.
Plus, they didn’t need to be there. There’s no reason why the runabout should be even fired upon, since the Lovok changeling was the one who freed Odo in the first place. Odo’s safety was guaranteed, so the runabout being in danger makes no sense from a story perspective except to give the Defiant a reason to be there and rescue them. But the story would’ve worked just fine—better, in fact—without the Defiant ever leaving DS9. This was Odo and Garak’s story, the others are just intruding on it with pointless filler.
Having said that, it’s a great character piece and a great action piece, with points to both writer Ronald D. Moore, who killed it in the script, and director David Livingston. The camerawork is superb here, from the great angle on Odo as he thrusts his arm out in a futile attempt to change shape to an excellent use of close-ups during several conversations. Best of all is the superb closing scene with the close-up of Garak in profile and the shadowy reflection of Odo in the mirror, one of the most visually impressive and vivid scenes in the show’s history, punctuated by Garak sad returning of the favor to Odo by confessing something he doesn’t want to admit to anyone else: that he’s a very good tailor.
Warp factor rating: 9
Keith R.A. DeCandido wishes everyone a happy new year and fond wishes for the most spectacular 2014 imaginable.