Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch: “Civil Defense”

“Civil Defense”
Written by Mike Krohn
Directed by Reza Badiyi
Season 3, Episode 7
Production episode 40512-453
Original air date: November 7, 1994
Stardate: unknown

Station log: As part of Jake’s apprenticeship to O’Brien, he’s assisting O’Brien in converting an ore processing unit, which was used to process uridium during the occupation, to a deuterium refinery. Sisko shows up to take Jake to lunch, but before they can go, Jake is having trouble deleting one file. It just won’t go away—and it’s got no file name, no indication what it is.

O’Brien tries to set it aside, and it triggers an alarm indicating that an unauthorized use of the ore processing computer and asking for an access code. O’Brien’s access code doesn’t work, and even as he and the Siskos are locked into the ore processing center by blast doors, a recording of Dukat appears on the screens urging the Bajoran workers who are revolting (ahem) to lay down arms or security countermeasures will be put into effect.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Civil Defense

Dukat’s message was heard all over the station. Kira tries to beam O’Brien and the Siskos (the name of my next band) out, but the computer asks for an access code that they don’t have to operate the transporter.

Odo tries to use his old Cardassian access codes to get through, but he only has level six clearance. Quark shows up to annoy Odo (well, really, to find out what’s going on, annoying Odo is just a fortuitous side effect), and gleefully announces that he has a level seven clearance. Quark also decides that, until the crisis is past, he’s staying with Odo where it’s safe. (He will regret this decision.)

Sisko tells the computer that he’s the leader of the Bajoran rebellion and that he surrenders. The recording of Dukat urges them to wait for Cardassian security to take them into custody. This only buys them a few minutes, since Cardassian security won’t be by to give the all-clear. There’s a tube through which molten uridium used to be poured to the secondary processing unit. It’s skinny enough for Jake to fit through, and he crawls through to open a hatch that only opens from the inside so that all three of them can leave the room. He does so just as the counterinsurgency program, not having been told by Cardassian security that the rebels are in custody, releases neurocine gas into the ore processing center.

Their escape leads the program to put the station on lockdown. All the doors to Ops close, and the recording of Dukat threatens to kill every Bajoran on the station if they don’t surrender.

The Siskos and O’Brien make it to a loading bay where the uridium was separated from rock and dumped down the chute they just crawled through to the processing center. The room is sealed, and now they can’t communicate with anyone, either. Ops is similarly cut off, as the doors are all sealed, and when Kira phasers the door control in order to get it open, a force field goes up in the doorway. (Dax points out the irony: Ops is sealed to protect them inside from the hordes of Bajoran rebels.) A similar force field is in place around Odo’s office, trapping him and Quark inside.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Civil Defense

Dax tries to get at the main computer, but her attempt triggers a force field (which gives her second-degree burns on her hands, making her manually useless for the rest of the episode), and the program now thinks that Ops is compromised and triggers level two. Dukat’s recording now says that the habitat ring will be flooded with neurocine gas in five minutes. (This raises the question of why the neurocine gas is still in the life support system after two and a half years. Why didn’t O’Brien get rid of it? Why didn’t anyone notice the tanks of gas during all the maintenance and upgrades they’ve been doing?)

Garak comes into Ops, his old access code allowing him access through the force field. (He’s amused that a Bajoran space station is the only place his code still works.) He can’t evacuate anyone, as the force field pops back into place the moment he walks through it, but he does suggest destroying the life support system to disable the gas. Doing so will cause everyone to suffocate and die in twelve hours, but twelve hours is a lot more than five minutes, so Kira whips out a phaser and destroys life support.

Unfortunately, that triggers level three, which assumes that the rebels have taken control of Ops. In two hours, the station will be destroyed—the extra time is to give Dukat’s fellow Cardassians time to retake the station. Garak’s access code only gives him access, not the ability to do anything. Dukat appears to be the only person who can stop the program. Dax and Garak try to technobabble their way into fooling the computer into thinking that Garak is Dukat, but it doesn’t work and level four kicks in, which creates a disruptor blaster in a replicator. Everyone has to hide in order to avoid being killed (one redshirt isn’t so lucky).

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Civil Defense

Then Dukat himself beams into Ops. “Let me guess—someone tried to duplicate my access code.” He’s very amused by the fact that he received a distress call from himself alerting him to a Bajoran insurgency on Terok Nor. He can simply enter his command code and end this whole thing—but he wants some concessions first. As a good faith gesture, he enters a code that eliminates level four, and then tells Kira that he’ll end the counterinsurgency program if Kira agrees to let him put a garrison of Cardassian troops on the station. Kira, naturally, says no: first of all, the Federation and the Bajoran government aren’t about to honor an agreement made under a death threat, and secondly, Kira will blow up the station before she lets there be a Cardassian presence on it again.

Dukat still has a half hour of negotiating time, and he orders a beam-out to let them think it over. But nothing happens, and another recording appears in Ops, this of Legate Kell. Kell says that if Dukat is seeing this, it means he tried to beam out when the self-destruct was activated, which means he’s lost control of Terok Nor. His command codes have all been rescinded, and he’s just gonna have to die like a Cardassian.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Civil Defense

Now Dukat’s in the same boat as everyone else—and Garak and Dukat are stuck in Ops, as Kell’s program wiped all security codes out. The self-destruct works by overloading the fusion reactor that powers the station. The nearest location whereby one can shut down the reactor is on level 34, but the only way to get there is to shut down all the force fields at once. Dax suggests overloading the power grid, and Dukat suggests using the emitters for the security force fields, which are still in place, but were shut down when the Bajorans took over because they prefer non-lethal security measures. But that means they weren’t affected by the counterinsurgency program, so they can use the emitters to overload the grid. (It’ll also eliminate turbolifts and transporters, but they’re not very useful right now, anyhow…)

Using raw uridium and an electrical charge, Sisko, O’Brien, and Jake are able to blow a hole in the door and get out of the loading bay. But the force fields are keeping them trapped in a corridor. They try to climb a turboshaft, but then Dukat and Dax get the emitters going and the power grid overloaded. Communications are back online, and Kira brings Sisko up to speed. Sisko’s on level 29, closer to where they need to be, so he, O’Brien, and Jake (the latter basically insisting that he go with his father) head down to shut off the fusion reactor.

Sisko, O’Brien, and Jake are sauntering casually down a corridor in a station that’s five minutes from blowing up. (Really? Not running?) The way to the junction is blocked, of course, and the maintenance crawlway alongside it is filled with plasma fires. Only Sisko makes it through—O’Brien gets hurt—and he jimmies the deflectors so they’ll absorb the explosion.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Civil Defense

The door to the security office opens, and Odo and Quark are finally freed (the force field remained active even after the power grid overload). They walk onto a Promenade that has people calmly walking about in a well-lit corridor—neat trick for a station with no life support, no power grid, and no fusion reactor…

Can’t we just reverse the polarity? Lotsa technobabble in this one, mostly from Dax when she jiggers with ODN conduits and reroutes secondary whozamadingitzes, and so on. We also get a smattering from Dukat and Garak (and surprisingly little from O’Brien). Also, as just indicated, it’s pretty neat that the station can lose life support, the power grid, and the fusion reactor, and yet the lights and doors still work….

The Sisko is of Bajor: Sisko shows a heretofore unseen propensity for engineering (though given that his previous post was to be in charge of the Starfleet shipyard at Utopia Planitia, it’s not really a surprise) by jiggering the fusion reactor explosion so that it’s absorbed by the shields.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Civil Defense

Don’t ask my opinion next time: With Sisko stuck belowdecks, Kira’s in charge in Ops. Even at the climax when Dukat’s trapped with the rest of them, there’s no doubt that Kira’s the one in charge. It’s also amusing to see that twice (to get the door open and to eliminate life support) Kira’s solution is to whip out her phaser and shoot something.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Civil Defense

The slug in your belly: Not Dax’s finest hour, as her attempt to get control of the computer results in her hands being badly burned and her attempt to trick the computer into thinking Garak is Dukat fails. Having said that, she’s also the one who comes up with overloading the power grid and comes up with a method to stop the fusion reactor from exploding.

Preservation of mass and energy is for wimps: The force field around the security office is on a separate power grid from the rest of the station. Odo speculates that the Cardassians put it on a separate system because they didn’t entirely trust Odo. It never occurs to him or Quark that maybe it’s there to keep anyone imprisoned stuck on the station no matter what.

In an uncharacteristic show of sentiment, he tells Quark that, while he’s known Ferengi that are more successful, he’s never known one more devious. Quark is touched right up until he reads Odo’s security file on him that refers to him as someone who isn’t as clever as he thinks he is. Odo admits that he was being nice because he thought they were going to die, and then proceeds to list all the Ferengi he thinks are cleverer than Quark, including Rom, his cousin Gaila, his uncle Frin, the grand nagus, etc.

Rules of Acquisition: Quark laments that he didn’t listen to his father, who told him to stay on Ferenginar where there were plenty of business opportunities, instead of following the 75th Rule: “Home is where the heart is, but the stars are made of latinum.”

Plain, simple: The bad history between Garak and Dukat that was hinted at in “Cardassians” gets more play here, as apparently there was some manner of interaction between Garak and Dukat’s father that ended with Dukat père being put on trial (and as we know from “The Maquis, Part II” and “Tribunal,” Cardassian trials always end the same way). And just in general, Dukat and Garak spend a lot of time sniping at each other, including Dukat saying the whole trip was worth it to see Garak cowering in a corner to avoid the disruptor fire, while Kira spends a lot of time telling them to stop comparing dick size and actually work at solving the damn problem.

For Cardassia! Concerns about the Bajoran resistance led to Dukat creating an entire counterinsurgency program that would automate the process of putting them down. Cardassia also has many lethal security measures from containment fields that kill (removed by Bajor and the Federation) and neurocine gas throughout the station (inexplicably never removed by Bajor or the Federation).

No sex, please, we’re Starfleet: Dukat preens for Kira’s benefit and is called out by Garak. For her part, Kira looks nonplussed by the very notion (an underreaction, if anything), while Dukat protests a bit too much when Garak gives him a hard time (ahem) about it.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Civil Defense

Keep your ears open: “I should’ve listened to my father. He always warned me this was going to happen.”

“What, that you’d spend your final hours in jail? I could’ve told you that.”

Quark and Odo when they think they’re going to die.

Welcome aboard: The only real guests are recurring regulars Marc Alaimo as Dukat and Andrew J. Robinson as Garak. Danny Goldring also appears as the recording of Kell.

Trivial matters: This is the first of five episodes directed by the late Reza Badiyi, a veteran TV director who also designed the opening credits sequence for Get Smart, Hawaii Five-O, and The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

Kell appears in the novels The Art of the Impossible by your humble rewatcher and the Terok Nor novels Day of the Vipers by James Swallow and Night of the Wolves by S.D. Perry & Britta Dennison.

The history between Garak and Dukat’s father, Procal, is seen in Andrew J. Robinson’s “autobiographical” Garak novel A Stitch in Time.

Quark makes the first reference to his cousin Gaila, who’ll be mentioned several more times, and then finally appear in “Business as Usual” in the fifth season.

While Mike Krohn got sole credit for the episode, the entire writing staff wrote uncredited drafts of the screenplay, as apparently the gestation of the storyline was a difficult one.

Odo’s belt is no longer part of his uniform. Rene Auberjonois was the one who lobbied for it after “Crossover,” but after a few episodes, he apparently thought it looked too “Buck Rogers,” and asked for it to be removed. Kira will comment on its disappearance in “Crossfire.”

Walk with the Prophets: “And now your integrity is going to get us both killed. I hope you’re happy.” I first heard about this episode long before it aired thanks to being friends with John J. Ordover. I first met John in 1990 when he was an associate editor at Tor Books, I was a producer/host of a public access talk show on genre stuff called The Chronic Rift*, and we were introduced by Greg Cox, also an assistant at Tor and a previous guest on the Rift. The three of us spent about an hour talking about The Flash TV series, and more than two decades later, the three of us remain close friends.

* The Rift lasted four years on the Manhattan Neighborhood Network. In 2008, we revived the Rift as a podcast, and now it’s the flagship of a huge-ass network of pop-culture podcasts, including my own semi-regular podcast Dead Kitchen Radio. But I digress….

Anyhow, by ’94, John had moved on to Simon & Schuster, where he was one of the editors in charge of the Star Trek novels. (It would be another five years after that before John would invite me to submit a proposal to him, eventually leading to Diplomatic Implausibility, my first Trek novel, which I signed the contract for in 1999.) One of the perks of his job was to get scripts ahead of time, and when the script for this particular episode came across his desk nineteen years ago, he just went on and on about how awesome it was.

When I finally got to see “Civil Defense,” I adored it also. It’s a delightful little action set piece, and I love the fact that every single thing the crew does makes matters worse—yet every action they take is necessary. Plus there are so many delightful moments, from the Garak-Dukat bickering to Kira casually whipping her phaser out to solve pretty much anything to Garak no longer even bothering to try to make anyone believe he’s anything other than a disgraced spy to Sisko urgently pointing at the chute to tell Jake to get his ass in there when the recording of Dukat announces the neurocine gas will hit in a few minutes to the always-delightful Odo-Quark banter. Marc Alaimo is particularly fun in this one, preening his way across Ops, snarking Garak, taking absolute delight in his total control of the situation. The second best moment in the episode is when he casually flicks Sisko’s baseball off the desk.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Civil Defense

The best moment, though, comes after Dukat spends the better part of an act lording his superiority over everyone, only to try to beam off and getting a nasty comeuppance from his former CO, who traps him on the station with an embedded program of his own. It’s an excellent reversal, made even more entertaining by Garak going “Neener neener” at him afterward.

Rewatching it now, though, I find myself picking out all the flaws—and there are a lot more than I remembered.

We start with the entire premise of the episode. In the first season, this episode would’ve worked perfectly. The station was a mess, O’Brien was spending all his time fixing things, and there were tons of systems that hadn’t been dealt with. But now? It’s the third friggin’ season and they haven’t done a thorough going-over of the computer? This should’ve been found ages ago.

Even if you accept that this file with no name and no description snuck by everyone, why is there still neurocine gas all over the station? I find it impossible to credit that they never noticed the tanks of gas any of the times they’ve crawled around the station. Making this worse is the establishment in this very episode that they dismantled other lethal Cardassian security measures, so why not this one?

And then there are the structural problems. As with TNG’s “Disaster,” the crew is separated during a setting-wide disaster, and as with the TNG episode, it doesn’t all work. In particular, Odo and Quark stuck in the former’s office is a total mess, for all that most of the episode’s best lines come from that segment. It adds nothing to the plot, and doesn’t even make sense within the story’s setup. Worse, the episode ends, not with a coda involving Dukat, or even a token mention of putting the station back together after blowing up life support, the power grid, and the fusion reactor, but a cheap joke at Quark’s expense.

Also, the episode’s middle has nothing for Sisko, O’Brien, and Jake to do. They set the story in motion, and they do the oh-noes-there’s-only-five-minutes-to-destruction-and-the-only-path-to-the-control-room-is-on-fire! climax, but between those two things, they’ve got bupkuss to contribute, so the act of getting out of the loading bay—which should be taken care of in a single scene—is stretched out over three acts. And the climax itself is so painfully rote that all suspense is drained out of it, despite the best efforts of Avery Brooks to look really anxious as he shifts rods from one slot to another.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Civil Defense

Finally, I really hate that they play Dukat’s flirting with Kira for laughs here. It’s like Hitler flirting with Anne Frank, and really shouldn’t be seen as anything other than repugnant. (Dukat’s leering over Kira will be dealt with more maturely as time goes on, and be given a rather brutal twist in “Wrongs Darker than Death or Night.”)

Having said all that, when the episode is focused on the gang in Ops trying to fix the problem and only partially succeeding, it works as a nice little romp.


Warp factor rating: 6

Keith R.A. DeCandido will be at Philcon 2013 this weekend in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, doing panels, a reading, an autographing, and a self-defense workshop. His full schedule is here.


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