“Behind the Lines”
Written by Rene Echevarria
Directed by LeVar Burton
Season 6, Episode 4
Production number 40510-528
Original air date: October 20, 1997
Station log: Sisko is back on the Defiant, and they’ve been conducting raids on Dominion territory, trying in vain to turn the tide of the war. Every time a power cell from the phaser array wears out, Sisko places it in the mess hall alongside the other exhausted power cells after giving a speech about the character of the crew and how they’ll fight to the end.
Ross then arrives to inform Sisko of new intelligence that explains why the Dominion has had such an advantage: they have a massive sensor array in the Argolis Cluster that can detect ship movements as far as five sectors away. Sisko’s next assignment is to construct a battle plan that will take it out.
Damar has written a report on the diminishing supply of ketracel-white in the Alpha Quadrant (no doubt due to the white facility our heroes destroyed in “A Time to Stand”). In it, Damar concludes that they should poison the final ration of white when they get that far so that the Jem’Hadar won’t turn on everyone. On behalf of the station resistance, Rom has managed to steal the padd on which Damar wrote that report and gotten it into the Jem’Hadar’s hands. Sure enough when an agitated Damar enters Quark’s for his post-shift kanar (and to see if Quark knows where his padd is), he is soon confronted by some seriously pissed-off Jem’Hadar, who have the padd. The inevitable bar brawl erupts while Kira and Rom look on, having stirred the pot of tension between the Cardassian military officers and the Jem’Hadar.
The brawl results in several fatalities. Dukat is furious at Damar for letting it get out of hand. Weyoun is equally pissed that Damar left so inflammatory a document lying around, though Dukat believes Damar’s accusation that the Jem’Hadar stole it, while Weyoun insists that the Jem’Hadar are not thieves. Meanwhile, Odo is furious at Kira because he thought instigating the bar brawl was a bad idea, but Kira went ahead and did it anyhow after discussing it further with Jake and Rom. Their argument on the subject is interrupted by the female changeling, who has come to the station to see Odo. She was trapped in the Alpha Quadrant when the wormhole was mined, and she’s been spending far too much time among solids, and wishes to be with one of her own. Odo, though, isn’t feeling all that chummy, since the Founders condemned him to live as a solid. The Founders may have forgiven Odo for his crime of killing another changeling, but Odo hasn’t forgiven them.
Sisko proposes a battle plan that involves navigating through the cluster, which is incredibly dangerous, but Dax thinks she can navigate through the gravimetric distortions and catch the Dominion off guard. Ross approves the mission, but Sisko won’t be leading it. Ross’s adjutant has been promoted, and the admiral taps Sisko to replace her, leaving Dax to captain the Defiant.
The female changeling arrives at the end of a meeting of the station ruling council, and Weyoun and Dukat struggle to show her who can suck up the most efficiently (Weyoun wins mostly by virtue of Dukat’s arrogance getting in the way), while she wants to know what’s taking Dukat so long to bring the minefield down. She then walks Odo to his quarters, and is impressed with his jungle gym. She’s pleased that he’s learned the lessons she taught him when he first visited the Founders’ homeworld.
Odo insists that he doesn’t regret rejecting the link, but he also admits that his love for Kira is devastating, because he loses all control with her. He says he wants peace, but the female changeling says that what he needs is clarity. And then they link. It’s an expert seduction on her part, and Odo falls for it hook, line, and sinker.
Kira isn’t at all happy to find out about this. Odo assures her that the Founder didn’t learn about the resistance from him, but she isn’t truly worried about that—she doesn’t trust the Founder, as she has lied, manipulated, and stood in judgment of Odo. But Odo thinks he might be able to influence her to make her realize the Federation isn’t a threat. Kira, however, points out that this is a really crappy time for a personal quest as there’s a war on, and she needs him there and focused. Odo agrees to not link with her again until the war is over.
Sisko sees Dax off on her mission as O’Brien and Nog complete repairs. He’s incredibly wistful as he watches the Defiant leave Starbase 375. Sixteen hours pass with no word, and Sisko can’t sleep. He contacts the Rotarran to fill Worf in.
Damar comes into Quark’s and orders the top-shelf kanar. He can afford it, as he’s gotten back into Dukat’s good graces with a plan to bring the minefield down. Quark manages to get it out of him by getting him drunk. Quark then comes to the resistance meeting, equally drunk, to share this with Kira, Odo, Rom, and Jake. Dukat wants him to start field tests right away. Damar said something about the deflector array, and that’s enough for Rom to work out how they’re likely to do it. The only way to sabotage this effort is to shut off an EPS tap that’s in a secure area. Odo can deactivate the security long enough for Rom to commit the sabotage, which he’ll do at 0800.
Odo gets together again with the female changeling and acts like an eight-year-old, pestering her with questions about the Great Link. But words are a clumsy method of communicating—it would be so much easier for them to link. Odo says he promised Kira, but the female changeling dismisses her concerns as that of a solid. This is about what Odo wants.
Rom shows up at Kira’s quarters and they toddle off to commit sabotage. At 0800, Rom is ready to go—but Kira then sees that Odo isn’t in his office. She contacts Odo, but he’s linking with the female changeling and doesn’t hear her. Kira is unable to warn Rom in time, and he sets off the alarm. Damar and his troops capture Rom and put him in a holding cell.
Dax returns with the Defiant, battered and bruised, but successful. The sensor array in the Argolis Cluster has been destroyed. O’Brien then brings Dax a depleted phaser power cell, and she does the same ritual Sisko did at the top of the show.
Kira storms into Odo’s quarters, but Odo’s all blissed out. The link is all that matters to him now, and Rom being imprisoned, the minefield coming down, it all has nothing to do with him. And after Kira storms out, Odo’s not even all that upset.
The Sisko is of Bajor: Sisko really really really really really doesn’t like not being in the thick of things. Avery Brooks’s facial expressions when seeing the Defiant off, when waiting for them to return, and when watching Dax go through the ritual he pioneered, is of someone who can’t stand being stuck behind a desk when he can be out there doing stuff.
Don’t ask my opinion next time: Kira does an expert job leading the resistance, and they’re done in only by the female changeling’s seduction of Odo.
The slug in your belly: Dax takes command of the Defiant and is successful in her mission. We only see bits and pieces of her captaincy, but you can tell she commands with her own inimitable style, as seen in her interactions with Nog and O’Brien and later with Bashir.
Rules of Acquisition: There may be a war on, and Nog may only be a cadet, but he’s still a Ferengi, and he manages to get his hands on real Saurian brandy for the senior staff.
For Cardassia! Damar gets promoted from glinn to gul in this episode after coming up with a minefield-takedown plan.
Victory is life: Odo learns a whole bunch about the Great Link: on the homeworld, they mostly stay in the link, only occasionally taking other forms; they’re individuals but also collective; they don’t have names because they have no need of them (thus forcing your humble rewatcher to keep using “the female changeling”); etc.
Tough little ship: The Defiant destroys the array in the Argolis Cluster, thus negating one of the Dominion’s best tactical advantages.
No sex, please, we’re Starfleet: Sisko assures Worf that Dax won’t miss their wedding for anything.
Keep your ears open: “Just a few more minutes, Commander.”
“That’s ‘Captain.’ It’s an old Navy tradition. Whoever’s in command of a ship regardless of rank is referred to as ‘Captain’.”
“You mean, if I had to take command, I would be called ‘Captain,’ too?”
“Cadet, by the time you took command, there’d be nobody left to call you anything.”
Nog and O’Brien discussing naval parlance.
Welcome aboard: Barry Jenner officially cements his recurring status by reappearing as Ross following “A Time to Stand,” while Salome Jens is back as the female changeling for the first time since “Broken Link.” Plus we have recurring regulars Marc Alaimo (Dukat), Casey Biggs (Damar), Jeffrey Combs (Weyoun), Aron Eisenberg (Nog), and Max Grodénchik (Rom).
Trivial matters: While the previous three episodes were novelized by Diane Carey in The Dominion War Book 2: Call to Arms, she covered this and the next two in Book 4: Sacrifice of Angels (with Books 1 and 3 being a parallel new story of what the Enterprise-E was doing at the same time, written by John Vornholt). In addition, the station arc throughout the entire six-episode run was expanded and shown through the lens of a nascent friendship between Jake and Ziyal in Terri Osborne’s short story “Three Sides to Every Story” in the DS9 anthology Prophecy and Change.
An early attempt to bring down the minefield is seen in Greg Cox’s short story “Night of the Vulture” in Tales of the Dominion War (edited by your humble rewatcher), in which a changeling spy acquires the codes to deactivate the minefield, but the ship she’s on is destroyed before it can reach Terok Nor.
The original title for this episode was “Life During Wartime,” and I for one am deeply disappointed that they didn’t go with that, as it would be the first Star Trek episode to be named after a Talking Heads song.
The female changeling showed Odo the joys of shapechanging (inspiring his jungle gym, which he installed in “The Abandoned”) in “The Search, Part II.” She tricked him into thinking she was Kira in “Heart of Stone,” and she and the rest of the Great Link found Odo guilty of murder (committed in “The Adversary”) and sentenced him to live as a solid in “Broken Link.” Odo became a changeling once again in “The Begotten.”
The destruction of the ketracel-white facility in “A Time to Stand” is obviously an issue, given that it leads Damar to write a report suggesting they poison the white when they get to the last bit of it.
Walk with the Prophets: “I didn’t forget, it just didn’t seem to matter.” As with last time, the station plot is far more interesting than the front-lines plot, only the contrast is greater. Part of the issue is that there’s no real thematic link between the two plots this time around. After “A Time to Stand” established the new status quo, “Rocks and Shoals” gave us both Sisko and Kira confronted with difficult choices based on the Dominion’s insidiousness, while “Sons and Daughters” both dealt with cross-breed children of regular characters who have trouble finding their place in the galaxy. This time, though, the two plots really didn’t have anything to do with each other.
Which is too bad for the Starbase 375 plot, because it’s a total fizzle. Sisko is unhappy about being marginalized, which is established when Ross promotes him—and then again when he sees Dax off—and then again when he stays up all night worrying and talking to Worf and Ross—and then yet again when the Defiant returns and Dax does the power cell ritual.
That would be okay if those scenes were broken up with showing us what the Defiant was doing. They’re going behind the lines (look, it’s right there in the title!) engaged in a highly important, very risky mission. It’s Dax’s first command. Why aren’t we seeing this??? Instead, we’ve got Sisko furrowing his brow over and over again over losing his command, a state of affairs that’s going to last all the way to the next episode, when he’ll be back in the captain’s chair, anyway, so not only are we overloading on the angst, but it’s angst that has absolutely no long-term meaning or consequence. Sigh.
The good news is that when they cut away from yet another iteration of Sisko’s discontent, it’s to the station plot, which is superb. After hearing about the resistance for two episodes, we see them in action, Rom engaging in a bit of thievery in order to start a vicious bar brawl between the Jem’Hadar and the Cardassian soldiers, and setting up a way to sabotage Damar’s plan to take down the minefield.
But once again the Dominion is victorious because their greatest asset isn’t their genetically bred supersoldiers, it’s their ability to be smarter than their opponents (something Ross actually mentions to Sisko at one point, sorta), and use misdirection and subtle suggestion and disguises and smoke-and-mirrors to gain the upper hand. Prior to all-out war commencing, all their biggest victories came from tricking the Alpha Quadrant powers into doing stupid things (the Klingons invading Cardassia, the Obsidian Order/Tal Shiar suicide mission to the Gamma Quadrant, martial law on Earth, and so on).
And we get it again this time with the female changeling—whose primary motivation is to get Odo to rejoin the link, screwing the resistance is just a fortuitous side effect—working on Odo to the point where he’s become as disconnected from the solids as the other Founders are. The female changeling’s methods are meticulous and perfect, playing on Odo’s heart’s desire (which we know from way back in “The Die is Cast” is to return to the link), as well as his growing frustration with how vulnerable his love for Kira makes him, especially since her own feelings in return are not the same. The Founder slowly seduces him away from his concerns with the solids in general and Kira in particular, to the point where he’s too busy getting down and gooey to take down the security field, thus leading to Rom’s capture.
It’s a ballsy move to make one of your main characters into a scumbag, and Odo has performed—or, more accurately, not performed—in a manner that is pretty dang close to irredeemable. Not that it’s in any way out of character, because of what we know about Odo—not to mention what he became in another timeline in “Children of Time,” willing to wipe thousands of people, with whom he’d lived for centuries, out of existence just to save Kira.
Mention must also be made of Quark’s magnificent drunken speech, where he spends quite some time talking about how the Cardassians are mean and the Jem’Hadar just stand there and he misses the Federation and he wants to sell root beer again. It’s a bravura performance by Armin Shimerman, and a nice follow-up to his “hey, this occupation isn’t so bad” speech in “A Time to Stand.” But a gilded cage is still a cage. Kira had to be reminded of that two episodes ago, and now it’s Quark’s turn.
We end the station plot in a very dark place: Rom’s in jail, Kira’s beyond livid, and Odo’s pretty much gone over to the other side. Plus, the minefield’s gonna come down. Makes you really wanna know what happens next week, doesn’t it?
Warp factor rating: 7
Keith R.A. DeCandido feels real loose like a long-neck goose.