Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch: “Things Past”

“Things Past”
Written by Michael Taylor
Directed by LeVar Burton
Season 5, Episode 8
Production episode 40510-506
Original air date: November 18, 1996
Stardate: unknown

Station log: Sisko, Dax, Odo, and Garak return from a conference on Bajor that was intended to take a dispassionate view of the Cardassian occupation of Bajor. Garak was there to represent the Cardassian POV, and he feels it was a waste of time, his first clue being the nametag that read “Elim Garak, former Cardassian oppressor.” Odo, though, was a big hit, though he’s not at all proud of what he did when he worked for the Cardassians.

When the runabout arrives at the station, all four passengers are unconscious. Worf has Bashir and a security guard beam on board with him, and the doctor detects unusual neural activity. He takes them to the infirmary. Worf determines that the runabout encountered a class-2 plasma storm, but Bashir can’t find a correlation between that and the neural activity, and the fact that they’re not responding to any external stimuli.

However, Sisko and the others wake up in civilian clothes on the Promenade—but the Promenade as it was when the station was under Cardassian rule, with beaten-down Bajoran workers shuffling along and armed Cardassian soldiers on the upper level keeping an eye on things.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: Things Past

A Bajoran wakes them up and tells them to have some dignity—if they’re going to spend the night getting high, they shouldn’t do it on the Promenade. They go off to the side. They’re in the Bajoran sector, and everyone’s treating them as if they are Bajorans, even though they look like a human, a Trill, a changeling, and a Cardassian (WALK INTO A BAR!—sorry…). Odo thinks it’s urgent that they get off the station. Garak suggests reporting to the authorities, but Odo and Sisko both think that’s a bad idea.

They see Dukat talking with Thrax, Odo’s predecessor as security chief, and move on. While walking, Odo sees a Bajoran with a nasty chest wound, but then that person disappears.

A Cardassian arrests Dax. Garak tries to bribe the guard, but gets punched in the face for his trouble. In the infirmary, Garak develops a wound in the same place.

However, Garak was also able to swipe a control unit from the soldier who decked him. With it, he’s able to determine that the three of them are all from Rakantha Province—and Odo recognizes their names, even figuring out his own analogue before Garak can inform him. Before Odo can explain, Quark shows up, offering the three of them work in his bar. (So a human, a changeling, and a Cardassian really do walk into a bar!)

Dax is brought to Dukat’s office. She identifies herself as Leeta for lack of anything better to call herself, and she’s left alone with him. He asks her to pour kanar for two. Dax plays the submissive role well, and Dukat announces that he wishes to have a friend to talk to, as it’s lonely at the top. It’s a pretty clichéd line, and Dax pretends to fall for it for the sake of maintaining the timeline.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: Things Past

Sisko, Odo, and Garak clean up at Quark’s. Odo sees three Bajorans—the one he saw and two more besides—with chest wounds, and then he finally tells the others how he knew who he was: the three of them were accused of trying to murder Dukat. They were innocent, but before that was found out, Dukat had them killed, wanting to make an example of them.

Thrax questions Quark about a smuggler. Garak recognizes the smuggler’s name—he was a Romulan spy, who didn’t start working in the area until seven years earlier. But seven years ago, Thrax was gone from Terok Nor and Odo was in charge of security on the Promenade. However, that’s a minor problem—the main thing they need to do is get off the station before Dukat targets them for death.

When they return to the Bajoran sector, Sisko leaves a signal for the resistance that Kira told him about. While they eat, Dukat comes into the Bajoran sector with Dax in tow and a mess of guards.

Odo goes into a panic, temporarily seeing blood on his own hands. That’s not symbolic at all.

 

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: Things Past

A resistance member meets up with them. Sisko wants off the station, and the rebel says he’s not a commuter service—he won’t help if it’s a dispute over drugs or women. Though if they killed a “spoon-head,” that’s another story. Before the conversation can continue there’s an explosion near Dukat, in which Dax is injured. Sisko goes to help her, and then he and Garak and Odo are arrested, accused by Thrax of trying to murder Dukat. They have traces of a component of the explosive on their hands, though Odo points out that the cleaning solution they used in Quark’s has that component. Thrax points out that they have ties to the resistance, and Odo fires back that after 50 years, everyone has ties to the resistance. The three of them ran toward Dukat when everyone else ran away, but Sisko says that he was concerned for his friend. Cardassian troops say that Sisko wasn’t looking at the woman, but trying to strangle Dukat. Odo pleads with Thrax to interrogate the troops—which he won’t do—or do a ballistic analysis which will prove that they couldn’t have thrown the grenade from where they sat.

Dukat and Dax sit in the prefect’s office. Dukat says he feels better than the last time someone tried to assassinate him, and Dax suggests a different line of work. Dukat starts a lengthy soliloquy about how the Bajorans are like children and he’s a noble parent trying to guide them and a whole lot of other bullshit. Just as he’s talking about how he cares too much for the Bajorans, Dax clubs him on the head, thus earning the gratitude of the entire viewership.

Sisko wants to know what the connection is between Odo and what’s happening here. But before Odo can say anything, Dax breaks them out and takes them to Dukat’s private shuttle—she’s tied the computer up in knots. They’re stopped by Thrax and a security detail en route—Dax is shot, but Thrax changes shape and gets away before Sisko can take him down. No one is sure what a changeling is doing on the station years before the Dominion even learned of the wormhole, but they can worry about that later. They enter Dukat’s shuttle—

—and then they’re back in the cell. Their execution is scheduled for two hours hence. Sisko, Dax, and Garak confront Odo: he must know what’s going on, and he’s been agitated and squirrelly since they woke up on the Promenade. But then Thrax shows up, acceding to Odo’s earlier request to talk to him. Odo urges Thrax to look more closely, but Thrax points out that the Bajorans are fighting against stability and justice and order and the rule of law. Odo tries telling him that they’re not who they appear to be—but then Thrax says he knows that and calls Odo by name.

Suddenly, they’re on the Promenade. Sisko, Garak, and Dax are being lined up to be shot. Dukat and Thrax taunt Odo, who then says that he won’t let this happen again.

Then they’re elsewhere on the Promenade, back in their uniforms (or civilian clothes in Garak’s case). Across the way, they watch as a Cardassian soldier kills three Bajoran men, while Odo—wearing a civilian outfit vaguely similar to the one we saw him wearing in “Necessary Evil”—watches.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: Things Past

Odo admits that that was exactly how it happened seven years earlier. He didn’t find out until later that the trio was innocent. He was too concerned with maintaining order to actually serve the cause of justice.

And then they all wake up. Bashir found traces of morphogenic enzymes in Odo’s neural pattern, and he formed a version of the Great Link with the other three, as he was thinking about the case when the plasma storm hit. He formed a kind of link with the others, reliving the case.

Kira then walks in, the moment Odo’s obviously been dreading. She had always thought of him as being better than everyone, of rising above it all. He says he guesses he’s just an imperfect solid, and Kira can accept that even he had to get dirty during the occupation. But she has to ask if this was the only time that innocents died under his watch, and he gives the best possible answer, because it’s the most believable: “I don’t know. I hope so.”

Don’t ask my opinion next time: Kira is disappointed in Odo to say the least, though that’s at least a byproduct of her believing a little too much in the legend of Odo (the same legend that was joked about following the conference).

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: Things Past

The slug in your belly: Just as in “Past Tense,” Dax role-plays superbly, first as Dukat’s comfort woman, and then diving right into being Dax The Awesome, orchestrating a successful jailbreak that probably would’ve worked in a universe that isn’t fueled by Odo’s guilt.

Preservation of mass and energy is for wimps: The entire episode is basically Odo exorcising the guilt of letting three innocent people die, something he’d managed to keep to himself until the conference in which he’s praised as a paragon of maintaining a balance between Cardassian order and Bajoran justice.

Rules of Acquisition: During the occupation, Quark would hire Bajorans to clean up the place—pretty much the stuff we saw him make Nog do during the first season. He was also spectacularly obnoxious about it, prompting Odo to query Sisko about how damaging it might be to the timeline if they killed Quark seven years previous, and Sisko thinks it might be a worthwhile experiment.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: Things Past

Plain, simple: Garak was hoping that the conference on Bajor would be an open exchange of ideas and be filled with academic debate. Given that the occupation’s only five years done, this was a forlorn hope, and his outrage in the teaser is pretty disingenuous.

For Cardassia! We see Cardassian jurisprudence up close and personal. Thrax enters the holding cells at one point and announces to everyone what sentence was passed in their trial—which they didn’t get to attend.

No sex, please, we’re Starfleet: Dukat announces to “Leeta” that he just needs a friend. It’s unclear how much time spent naked on a bed this friendship requires. Certainly the Bajoran resistance fighter who meets with the trio believes that she’s a sex toy, and one suspects that the explosion and Dax’s later clubbing over the head staved off her having to make an uncomfortable choice regarding the maintenance of her character’s verisimilitude.

Victory is life: Apparently, there are enough morphogenic enzymes in Odo for a plasma storm to kick up a mini-Great Link.

Keep your ears open: “My heart is too big.”

“And so is your ego.”

Dukat bloviating, and Dax’s response after she clubs him on the head.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: Things Past

Welcome aboard: Marc Alaimo and Andrew J. Robinson are back as Dukat and Garak, while Victor Bevine plays the resistance fighter. But the big guest here is the great Kurtwood Smith as Thrax. Smith was last seen playing the Federation President in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, and will return as Annorax in Voyager’s two-part “Year of Hell.”

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: Things Past

Trivial matters: This episode grew out of a desire by the producers to do another Terok Nor flashback after the success of “Necessary Evil,” as well as a desire to see what kind of compromises Odo would have had to have made in order to properly do his job as the chief of security for the Cardassians.

Thrax appears in the short story “Foundlings” by Jeffrey Lang in the anthology Prophecy and Change, where he’s running an underground railroad of sorts to get Cardassians out from under Dominion control. He also appears in his capacity as Terok Nor’s security chief in the Terok Nor novels Night of the Wolves and Dawn of the Eagles by S.D. Perry & Britta Dennison.

The ability of Odo to form a mini-Great Link, albeit plasma-storm-aided, was meant to foreshadow the possibility of Odo regaining his shapeshifting ability.

Walk with the Prophets: “There is more to life than rule of law.” The biggest problem with this episode is that it’s trying too hard to be another “Necessary Evil,” and it winds up being a pale imitation of it. Worse, it adds a layer of technobabble, with the plasma storms and the morphogenic enzymes and the other nonsense, though at least we only get one scene cutting back to Bashir and Worf furrowing their brows and looking concerned while staring at readouts.

Part of the problem with the episode is that it telegraphs Odo’s guilt a bit too much. It would’ve been far more effective if Odo was acting normally, if we think that his harassment of Thrax comes from his own outrage at how the Cardassians fake justice—only to find out at the end that it’s Odo’s own fake justice that he’s outraged at. But by telegraphing the reveal, they blow it. I mean, seriously, blood on his hands? Could we get any less subtle?

Honestly, I was much more interested in the conference that Sisko, Dax, Odo, and Garak were returning from. It might have been fun to see some of that, to show Odo being lionized as the—well, maybe not the hero of the resistance, but at the very least the sheriff of it. Put him even more aggressively on the pedestal that Kira had him on until this episode.

And then the cherry on top of the disappointment is the attempt to re-create the ending of “Necessary Evil,” which just fails on every level, mainly because of “Necessary Evil.” Odo’s response to Kira’s diatribe should’ve been, “Well, now you know how I felt when I discovered that you killed Vaatrik,” but in an episode that is trying so desperately to be another “Necessary Evil,” the actual events of that episode never come up and they really needed to at the end.

The episode has its good points—Rene Auberjonois is very good at anguish, Armin Shimerman, Marc Alaimo, and Andrew J. Robinson are all at their snotty best, and no one ever went wrong casting Kurtwood Smith—but ultimately the show fails both in comparison to and because of the superiority of the episode that inspired it.

 

Warp factor rating: 4


Keith R.A. DeCandido reminds everyone that The Klingon Art of War is on sale now! You can find the hardcover at your local bookstore or you can order it in hardcover or eBook form from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indie Bound, or direct from the publisher. Hear interviews with him about the book on the “Literary Treks” podcast from TrekFM, on TrekRadio, on The Chronic Rift, on The Sci-Fi Diner, and on The G & T Show.

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