Written by Ronald D. Moore
Directed by Cliff Bole
Season 3, Episode 9
Production episode 40512-454
Original air date: November 21, 1994
Station log: Kira is having a really crappy day filled with report requests, schedule changes, cargo requirements, and other nonsense, culminating in her blowing up at Bashir, who diagnoses her with stress, borderline exhaustion, and in need of a day off. He marches her over to Quark’s and gives her gambling tokens, a holosuite program, a jumja stick, and a drink. Bashir’s prescription is that at least two of those must be enjoyed before she leaves the bar.
After Bashir goes off (and Quark promises to give the doctor a full report), Kira is joined by a familiar face: William T. Riker. They sit and talk for several hours. The next day, Riker reports to Sisko: he’s just passing through on his way to a vacation on Risa, but he thought he’d spend some time at Quark’s. Sisko invites him to dinner with him and Jake, while Kira insists to Dax that they just talked and they’re just friends, and besides, she’s seeing someone.
Later, when Kira’s off duty, she offers Riker a tour of the station, which eventually includes the Defiant. O’Brien surprises Kira by being on board doing some extra work, and Riker surprises everyone by saying he has nothing to say to O’Brien. The temperature in the room goes down a million degrees or so. Kira then shows Riker around the ship, and he gets her to take off the bridge lockout.
As soon as she does, Riker shoots her. Then he beams two Maquis members on board. They fake a warp-core breach to get Sisko to release the docking clamps and then go to warp. Kalita, one of the Maquis, says, “You did it, Tom,” as he removes the sides of his beard, revealing a simple Vandyke. (Some things never change…)
Sisko summons Dukat to the station. After Odo reads the Wikipedia entry for “Second Chances,” he says that Thomas Riker showed Maquis leanings while serving on the Gandhi. Dukat is understandably appalled at the notion of the Defiant being in the hands of Maquis terrorists. Sisko insists that any search operation be jointly done by Starfleet and Central Command, and to sweeten the deal, Sisko offers to go to Cardassia with Dukat. He helped design the Defiant, he can help find the ship, and he knows her weaknesses. Dukat brings him to a mission control center on Cardassia Prime, where an observer from the Obsidian Order named Korinas is also present. Sisko tells the Cardassians about the cloaking device, at which point Korinas says that the Order already knew about it. Central Command, however, did not, and Dukat’s more than a little pissed that the Order kept that intel from them. Sisko also tells them about the antiproton beam the Jem’Hadar used to penetrate the cloak back in “The Search, Part I.”
Thomas, meanwhile, is keeping Kira prisoner in one of the crew cabins while they rendezvous with more Maquis vessels to get a full crew on board, and then head for the Cardassian border under cloak. They send a decoy ship to mimic the warp signature of the Defiant to draw their patrols off. Sisko sees through the deception—the power output’s not right—but it’s too late. The Defiant destroys a Cardassian outpost. Korinas thanks Sisko for his tactical acumen, also making a snide remark at Dukat in the process.
Kira manages to sabotage the plasma conduits, burning herself in the process, which keeps the Defiant uncloaked for a half an hour while they effect repairs. She also questions Thomas’s commitment to the Maquis, since he doesn’t live in the DMZ. Thomas brings her to the bridge to keep an eye on her.
Sisko and Dukat bond over fatherhood—Dukat had to not take his son to an amusement center on his eleventh birthday to fulfill this mission—while repairs are completed on the Defiant. Thomas reveals to Kira what their actual mission is: they intercepted an intelligence report that there’s a secret buildup of Cardassian ships that even Central Command doesn’t know about in the Orias system. The Maquis believes that it’s a fleet being constructed to invade the Federation and destroy the Maquis. Kira then takes Thomas to task for his actions. He’s not acting like a terrorist, he’s acting like a Starfleet officer—like a hero. “Terrorists don’t get to be heroes.”
Sisko figures out that the Defiant’s attacks are designed to shift Cardassian patrols away from the Orias system. Dukat doesn’t see why that’s a big deal—there’s nothing there and only one M-class planet that’s uninhabited—but he orders a ship there. Korinas then informs him that the Orias system is under the Order’s purview, and no ships will be sent there, and any vessel that enters the system will be fired upon.
The Cardassians pick up a neutrino leak—courtesy Kira’s sabotage—heading for the Orias system. Despite Korinas’s apprehension, Dukat sends ten ships after the Defiant, which leads them right to Orias. Then three Keldon-class ships come from Orias, which Dukat doesn’t recognize—which means they belong to the Order, who aren’t supposed to have military equipment of any kind. Korinas just smiles and walks away.
Sisko makes Dukat an offer. The Defiant had to have scanned Orias, and Dukat obviously wants to know what’s going on there. He offers the sensor logs in exchange for getting the Maquis, the Defiant, and Kira back. Dukat insists that they bring at least Thomas into custody, as there must be a scapegoat brought to Cardassian justice, and he led the mission.
Thomas manages to disable two of the Cardassian ships pursuing them, but three more come out of the Orias system. Dukat and Sisko then call with the deal offer. Kira convinces him to be a Starfleet officer one last time and think of his crew. There’s no way the Defiant can defeat more than a dozen ships. Sisko tells him to surrender to one of the ships behind him, as the ones in front aren’t under Dukat’s command. Thomas beams to a Cardassian ship—after getting a quick smooch with Kira—and Kira then takes the Defiant home, after promising to get Tom out of there.
Can’t we just reverse the polarity? Apparently you can use the wiring under the replicator panel to set off an explosion that will damage your ship. Some of this is Kira’s general awesomeness and using her mad terrorist skillz to commit acts of sabotage but it’s also appalling how easy it is to bring a warship to a dead stop from the crew cabin.
The Sisko is of Bajor: “Emissary” established that Sisko’s previous post was the Utopia Planitia shipyards, so the revelation that Sisko helped design the Defiant isn’t much of a surprise. He also shows impressive tactical acumen, anticipating Thomas’s moves, and remaining a step ahead of Dukat and the other Cardassians.
Don’t ask my opinion next time: Thomas uses Kira to get on board the Defiant, but then is stuck with her, so she gets to be his conscience. Her speeches to him on the subject of terrorism are magnificent, and she sees through his desire to help the Maquis for what it really is: being something other than William Riker.
The slug in your belly: When Will Riker visited the station and cleaned up at Quark’s, Dax lent him a couple of strips of latinum during a losing streak.
For Cardassia! The civilian government of Cardassia, first mentioned in “Cardassians,” is given a name: the Detapa Council. “The Wire” and “Second Skin” established that the Central Command and the Obsidian Order share power, and Dukat states outright that the Detapa Council’s functions are mostly ceremonial.
Tough little ship: Hilariously, I had chosen this header for the section on the Defiant based on Will Riker’s line in First Contact, having completely forgotten that Tom Riker said the exact same thing about the ship in this episode. Ronald D. Moore scripted both movie and episode, so the movie line was probably a deliberate callback. Either way, it fits, as the Defiant destroys an outpost and two ships with only minimal damage to itself. (Kira does more damage with her sabotage, truly.)
Also we get our first mention of quantum torpedoes, which are apparently bigger and badder than photon torpedoes….
No sex, please, we’re Starfleet: Kira and Thomas spend three hours talking in Quark’s, which Kira insists isn’t romantic, despite Dax’s egging on the next morning. She also volunteers a tour of the station on her off-duty time—which leads directly to Thomas stealing the ship, though one suspects he would’ve gotten on the Defiant one way or another. At the end, Thomas is rewarded for his selflessly letting himself be imprisoned in exchange for his crew being tried by the Federation rather than Cardassia by getting to smooch Kira.
Keep your ears open: “The last time I was here, I was only able to spend a couple of hours in Quark’s. But by the time I left, I had all of his latinum and a date with one of his dabo girls, so I thought I might try my luck again.”
“You be careful. Quark’s dabo wheel has been a little stingy lately, and one of his dabo girls is dating my son.”
Thomas pretending to be Will, and Sisko making it clear that dating the dabo girls may not be such a hot idea this time.
Welcome aboard: Past TNG guest star Tricia O’Neil (Captain Garrett in “Yesterday’s Enterprise” and Kurak in “Suspicions”) plays Korinas, while Shannon Cochran reprises the role of Kalita, the Maquis member she played on TNG’s “Preemptive Strike”; she’ll be back in “You Are Cordially Invited…” to play Sirella and the movie Nemesis to play Senator Tal’Aura. And Marc Alaimo returns as Dukat.
But the big guest is, of course, Jonathan Frakes, appearing to reprise his TNG starring role as William Riker, but truly reprising the role of Riker’s “transporter twin” Thomas Riker from TNG’s “Second Chances.”
Trivial matters: This episode serves as a sequel to TNG’s “Second Chances,” with Thomas mentioned as serving on the Gandhi, the ship he transferred to at the end of that episode. It also takes place shortly prior to Star Trek Generations, and in fact aired the same week that movie was released (timing that likely was not coincidental).
The Double Helix novel Quarantine by John Vornholt serves as the bridge between “Second Chances” and “Defiant,” showing how Thomas came to join the Maquis, and also featuring Voyager’s Chakotay, Torres, Seska, and Tuvok. The novel ends with Chakotay suggesting the mission to steal the Defiant to Thomas.
While the show never picked up on Kira’s promise to get Thomas home (though it was discussed in later seasons), several novels and comics told varying (and contradictory) stories about Thomas’s fate, among them Triangle: Imzadi II by Peter David (which takes place very shortly after this episode), the 29th and 30th issues of Malibu’s DS9 comic written by Mark Paniccia, the Millennium trilogy by Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens, the Titan novel Fallen Gods by Michael A. Martin, and The Poisoned Chalice, James Swallow’s entry in The Fall miniseries. Thomas’s fate is also part of both the Dominion Wars and Star Trek Online videogames.
Though Thomas doesn’t appear in the eBook A Weary Life by Robert Greenberger (part of the Slings and Arrows miniseries), Kalita does, and Thomas’s actions kind of hang over the events of the storyline.
Jonathan Frakes will go on to play a person who was born with the name William Riker in all four Star Trek spinoffs as he’ll play William Riker in Voyager’s “Death Wish” and Enterprise’s “These are the Voayges…,” making him the only opening-credits Trek regular to appear on three of the remaining four shows (Ethan Phillips, Tim Russ, Armin Shimerman, and Marina Sirtis appeared on two other shows; all the others only appeared on one other, if any—Rene Auberjonois, LeVar Burton, Michael Dorn, Siddig el-Fadil, DeForest Kelley, Robert Duncan McNeill, Colm Meaney, Leonard Nimoy, Robert Picardo, Brent Spiner, and Sir Patrick Stewart).
The truth behind the fleet the Obsidian Order is constructing in the Orias system will be revealed in “Improbable Cause” and “The Die is Cast.”
Walk with the Prophets: “Maybe that’s what Will Riker would do.” A tense, exciting little thriller with echoes of Fail-Safe and The Hunt for Red October, a nice use of a familiar actor playing a slightly less familiar character, a nice sequel to a stronger-than-expected TNG episode, a good insight into the characters of Sisko and Dukat, lotsa Cardassian political thingie stuff, and some great insights into the differences between terrorists and heroes from Kira. Plus we make it clear that, even though the work has been done to set up Voyager with the Maquis, just because Chakotay’s gang is trapped in the Delta Quadrant doesn’t mean the organization isn’t still a thorn in everyone’s side.
This story continues the work done in “The Maquis” two-parter and “Civil Defense” in making Dukat a more rounded character. He’s actually completely sympathetic here, and if you watch “Defiant” without ever having seen another episode of the show, you’d think he was one of the good guys. Marc Alaimo and Avery Brooks continue to sparkle in their scenes together, and their bonding over fatherhood is one of the best scenes in the series history.
And then we get the politics, as the contempt that Central Command and the Obsidian Order have for each other is seen again, as it was in “Second Skin,” only with Dukat and Korinas in the Ghemor and Entek roles this time. Tricia O’Neil is magnificent as Korinas, her smile just radiating sleazy evil. She’s a good foot shorter than Alaimo, yet when Dukat confronts Korinas, there’s no doubt who has the power in the room, and it ain’t the gul.
Brooks also lets Sisko shine here, showing us what a talented tactician Sisko is, and also how you really shouldn’t mess with his stuff. He doesn’t hesitate to go deep into enemy territory to help track down the Defiant, because he knows the stakes. He also doesn’t hesitate to do everything he can to save lives, including a very clever use of Dukat’s desire to know what the hell’s going on in Orias to broker a peaceful solution. Though it’s never mentioned, you get the feeling that Sisko’s still feeling the sting of Cal Hudson’s betrayal in “The Maquis” two-parter and won’t let someone else in that uniform betray him. (Not to mention kidnapping his first officer…)
Speaking of Kira, Nana Visitor comes very close to owning this episode—no mean feat in a story that has so much Dukat-and-Sisko goodness. In her speeches to Thomas, we see the real sting of the betrayal of Starfleet’s values that the Maquis represents. Hudson never gave a good goddamn about being a hero, and was more than happy to blow up ships and kill people just to prove a point. He stopped being a Starfleet officer as soon as he joined the Maquis and phasered his uniform to prove it. Tom Riker, though, never takes his uniform off. In fact, it’s not even his uniform, it’s Will’s he’s wearing, as if trying desperately to prove that he should’ve been the one to wear it, and if not, he’s going to seriously disgrace it.
But Kira’s right in that he’s not acting like terrorist. He’s not trying to help the colonists in the DMZ, he’s going on a covert ops mission to save the Federation. That’s what heroes do, but it’s not what terrorists would do. Kira details in great depth what she’d do if she had the Defiant when she was in the resistance, and it boils down to “not what you’re doing.”
To make matters worse, it’s a plan that fails, because the intelligence report he’s basing the mission on sold the Orias system short: they’ve got at least part of a working fleet, and even the Defiant can’t handle that many ships.
If anything, the episode could’ve afforded more of a look into Thomas’s psyche—did he really have a death wish? And the other Maquis seem to just go along with things, giving us only Shannon Cochran looking constipated every time Thomas gives an order she doesn’t like. But still, it’s a nicely constructed episode about some hard choices with some lovely moving forward of various bits of galactic politics.
I do recall several fans complaining at the time the episode aired about the way O’Brien was treated. People kept thinking they missed something or the script left something out, because O’Brien went along with Thomas dissing him like that, so it must have been something that really happened. But it really wasn’t. O’Brien is the one person on the station who knows Will Riker well, and so was the most likely to see through the deception. Thomas had to get rid of him as fast as possible, and he knew that O’Brien, as an enlisted man, would never question a high-ranking officer who told him to screw off.
Warp factor rating: 8
Keith R.A. DeCandido in retrospect wishes he had worked Korinas into his novel The Art of the Impossible, especially since Rachel Garrett, another Tricia O’Neil part, was in the book. He’s also extensively written O’Neil’s third Trek role, Kurak, in his various pieces of Klingon fiction.