“Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges”
Written by Ronald D. Moore
Directed by David Livingston
Season 7, Episode 16
Production episode 40510-565
Original air date: March 3, 1999
Station log. Kira is running a meeting that includes Cretak, Worf, Odo, and O’Brien, discussing repair schedules and shore leave requirements and other such fun stuff, which includes a great deal of snarking back and forth between Worf and Cretak on the subject of their respective nations’ prosecution of the war and need for shore leave.
Cretak is off to a conference on Romulus, which Bashir is also attending. Garak and Bashir discuss the conference—Garak was less than impressed with Romulus when he was assigned there as an agent of the Obsidian Order—and then Bashir is awakened in the middle of the night by Sloan, who says that Section 31 has an assignment for him: to gather data about the Romulan leadership, to take the pulse of the Romulan government. Bashir doesn’t like the idea of working for 31, nor does he like the idea of spying on an ally. Sloan points out that they’re a temporary ally at best, and he’s just there to gather information. Sloan predicts that, when the war ends and the Dominion retreats to the Gamma Quadrant, the Federation and the Romulans will be the only significant powers left, as the Klingons will take a decade to recover from the war and the Cardassians will be an occupied nation.
Bashir still doesn’t want to take the assignment, as he doesn’t work for 31, but Sloan is very insistent. However, Sisko has consulted with Ross, and the investigation that was promised after “Inquisition” has never materialized—which means that either Starfleet Command doesn’t take 31 seriously or someone in Starfleet is protecting them. Sisko wants Bashir to go along with Sloan, pretend to work for him and give him at least some intelligence, while finding out more about 31.
Bashir, Ross, and Cretak are being transported on the Bellerophon, where they share a (newly legal, thanks to the alliance) Romulan Ale. Their conversation is interrupted by Sloan, who is posing as Wendell Greer, a cartographer. Using a map-maker’s interest in Bajor as an excuse to get Bashir alone, he has a brief conversation and sets a meeting for later.
Ross checks on “Greer,” and his cover is solid. Ross thinks they can limit his access on Romulus, but he tells Bashir that he’s worried about what his presence means for Bashir’s mission.
Later, Bashir and Sloan go over the personnel attending the conference, including Praetor Neral, who has been the head of the government for a year, and the chair of the Tal Shiar, Koval. Koval isn’t on the Continuing Committee, which is usually a given for the head of the Tal Shiar. There’s an opening on the committee, which Cretak is lobbying for—and so is Koval. Sloan reminds Bashir that Koval is against the Federation alliance—which may be why he’s been denied a seat on the committee—and if he gets the seat, the Federation will be in trouble. Sloan also believes that Vice Admiral Fujisaki, the deputy director of Starfleet Intelligence, was assassinated by Koval, but there’s no proof. In addition, 31 has heard that he might be ill with Tuvan’s Syndrome, but they can’t confirm it. Bashir, however, can.
At a reception on Romulus, Bashir is approached by Koval, who asks him about the blight from “The Quickening”—specifically how to introduce it to a population—and then buggers off. Cretak is impressed, as Koval rarely speaks to anyone, particularly someone from the Federation. Later, Koval has a front-row seat for Bashir’s lecture on the blight. After the lecture, Bashir reports that Koval is showing signs of being in the early stages of Tuvan’s Syndrome, which means he only has about 25 years left. Sloan then asks if there’s any way to accelerate the syndrome’s effects.
Bashir is appalled, and Ross expresses similar dismay when Bashir reports to him that Sloan is talking about assassinating the head of another nation’s intelligence network. Ross does admit, however, that he shares Sloan’s preference for Cretak on the committee rather than Koval, since the latter has always wanted to see the Romulans conquer the Federation. Ross can confine Sloan to quarters, but he also may have a confederate. Bashir is sure that Sloan does have a confederate, and that it may well be a Romulan. But Ross points out that they can’t tell the Romulans about 31, as describing a rogue Federation organization out to kill a high-ranking Romulan official will likely destroy the alliance. Ross orders Bashir to do nothing until he hears from the admiral.
The next day, Bashir overhears a Bellerophon officer saying that Ross collapsed at his desk with an aneurysm. With Ross out of action, Bashir goes to the only person he can actually trust: Cretak. He asks her to access Koval’s personal database to find who might be Sloan’s ally. In addition, Bashir sows some seeds of doubt with Sloan as to whether or not Koval has the syndrome, but Sloan’s response is to put a microadhesive on Bashir’s hands so that he’ll get a skin sample when next he shakes Koval’s hand. He can test it and then they’ll be sure.
Bashir meets with Koval and does shake his hand—and then Koval brings him to an interrogation room and places a probe on his head. Unfortunately for Koval, the probe doesn’t work on his super-duper enhanced brain. So he brings Bashir to a courtroom—where the committee, led by Neral, has put Cretak on trial for trying to access a Tal Shiar database. Bashir tells the truth: about Sloan, about 31, about the attempt on Koval’s life, about his trying to get Cretak to help.
Koval then brings in another witness: Sloan, who’s been very badly beat up. Koval reveals that Sloan is a regular old Starfleet Intelligence operative who was mentored by the late Fujisaki, and after his death, had a psychic break. He made up an organization called “Section 31” and concocted a scheme whereby he would get revenge for the imagined assassination of Fujisaki, using Bashir and Cretak as his patsies. His fatal mistake was to go on the mission himself, not realizing that the Tal Shiar knew who he was.
Cretak is found guilty of treason. Bashir is to be remanded back to the Bellerophon, while Sloan is to be held by the Tal Shiar for further questioning. Sloan, not liking that idea, tries to break free, forcing Koval to shoot him.
On the Bellerophon, Bashir goes to Ross—who seems to have made a complete recovery from his aneurysm—and asks where Sloan is. Ross insists that Sloan is dead, so Bashir asks again. With a sigh, Ross takes off his combadge, as he’s only willing to have this conversation completely off the record. Bashir also removes his combadge.
Ross asks how Bashir knew, and Bashir says the revenge-crazed Sloan that Koval described and whom he saw in the courtroom was not the man who recruited Bashir. Sloan is incapable of being that sloppy. Plus, the whole notion of an accomplice came from Ross, which is what got this whole mishegoss started, and Ross was the one who ordered the communications blackout, who told Bashir not to do anything without hearing from him, who told Bashir not to tell the Romulans about the attempt on Koval, and who had a damn convenient aneurysm.
Ross doesn’t know for sure where Sloan is, but he is probably still alive, since he was supposed to be beamed away at the split second before Koval fired on him. Koval has been a Starfleet Intelligence asset for about a year—Ross isn’t sure how long the chairman has been in 31’s pocket. Koval’s anti-Federation stance will make it more convincing when he pushes to keep the alliance intact, where Cretak would sell the Federation out in a heartbeat if she thought it would further Romulan interests. Ross isn’t happy about it, but he likes ordering people to their deaths even less. Bashir reminds Ross that he’s done so by trampling over the very ideals that those people are dying for.
After reminding Bashir that the conversation never happened, Ross puts his combadge back on and dismisses Bashir.
Back on DS9, Bashir is again awakened by Sloan interrupting his sleep to thank Bashir for being a good person. His decency made the mission workable—and it also reminds Sloan that he’s what the Federation needs, and who 31 needs to protect. Bashir is less than impressed.
The Sisko is of Bajor: Sisko is not happy that Starfleet Command has buried the investigation into 31. What’s hilarious is that he and Ross have both supposedly come to the conclusion that there’s someone in Starfleet covering for them, with Sisko not realizing that the someone is Ross. (Yes, Ross denies that he’s working for 31, but Bashir makes the same denials at the top of the episode, for all the good that does him. I can’t imagine that 31 gave Ross any more of a choice than they gave Bashir.) There will, sadly, be no consequences to this revelation, as Ross goes back to being Mr. Happy Friendly Admiral in the rest of the series.
Don’t ask my opinion next time: Kira apparently holds weekly meetings that involve station business among the Federation, Klingon, and Romulan personnel on DS9.
There is no honor in being pummeled: Worf tartly points out to Cretak that Klingon ships need more repair because they fight more aggressively.
Preservation of mass and energy is for wimps: When Odo suggests that Romulans and Klingons not have shore leave on the station at the same time, Cretak kindly says the Romulans will delay their leave because they’re professional soldiers and don’t need to get drunk at Quark’s.
Victory is life: Bashir is sent to the conference on Romulus because he’s the foremost expert on ketracel-white and Dominion biogenic weapons. Lucky him.
Keep your ears open: “Let’s make a deal, Doctor: I’ll spare you the ‘ends justify the means’ speech and you spare me the ‘we must do what’s right’ speech.”
Sloan cutting off the inevitable argument between him and Bashir (also one of my favorite lines in the history of Trek).
Welcome aboard: This episode has five returning characters, only three of whom are played by the same actor. Two of those are recurring regulars Andrew J. Robinson as Garak and Barry Jenner as Ross. The third is William Sadler, back after “Inquisition” as Sloan—he’ll return for a third and final time in “Extreme Measures.” The other two are Neral (last seen played by Norman Large in TNG’s “Unification” two-parter) and Cretak (last seen played by Megan Cole in “Images in the Sand” and “Shadows and Symbols”), but these two Romulans are played in this episode by, respectively, Hal Landon Jr. and Adrienne Barbeau.
In addition, John Fleck is back for his third DS9 role, and fourth Trek role out of an eventual six. He played another Romulan, Taibak, in TNG’s “The Mind’s Eye,” and played a Cardassian overseer in “The Homecoming” and the Karemma Ornithar in “The Search, Part I.” He’ll go on to appear on Voyager’s “Alice” as Abaddon, and have the recurring role of the Suliban named Silik on Enterprise.
Trivial matters: This episode was switched with “Badda-Bing, Badda-Bang” because Paramount wanted to air the other episode during February sweeps.
Section 31 is solidified as a recurring concern in this episode.
Neral is established as having ascended to the praetorship some time after “In the Pale Moonlight.” By the time of Star Trek Nemesis (which takes place four years after this episode), he will have been replaced by Hiren. Neral’s fall and Hiren’s rise is chronicled in the Vulcan’s Soul trilogy by Josepha Sherman & Susan Shwartz.
Koval appears in several works of tie-in fiction, in all of them as an important member of the Tal Shiar. There’s two Lost Era novels—your humble rewatcher’s The Art of the Impossible and Margaret Wander Bonanno’s Catalyst of Sorrows (which established a previous romantic relationship between Koval and Cretak)—as well as Andrew J. Robinson’s Garak novel A Stitch in Time, the Section 31 novel Rogue by Andy Mangels & Michael A. Martin, the short stories “Blood Sacrifice” by Sherman & Shwartz in Tales of the Dominion War and “Suicide Note” by Geoff Trowbridge in The Sky’s the Limit, the Vulcan’s Soul trilogy by Sherman & Shwartz, and the Titan novel Taking Wing by Mangels & Martin, in which he is assassinated. Alternate timeline versions of Koval appear in Gene DeWeese’s Engines of Destiny and your humble rewatcher’s A Gutted World in Myriad Universes: Echoes and Refractions.
Cretak refers to Sub-commander Velal at the end of the meeting in the teaser—the character will appear in “When It Rains…” and “The Dogs of War.”
The Bellerophon is an Intrepid-class ship, the same as Voyager, which enabled DS9 to use their sister show’s sets for the scenes on that ship, done when Voyager was using a different sound stage.
Romulan Ale was first seen—and established as being illegal—in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.
The poem that “never say die!” derives from is mentioned in passing by Sloan. The actual poem is “The Merchant of Venice: A Legend of Italy” by Thomas Ingoldsby (a pseudonym for Richard Barham).
Sloan makes a reference to the “Jack pack’s” insights into Damar in “Statistical Probabilities.” Bashir gives a lecture about the blight from “The Quickening.” Garak’s time as a “gardener” on Romulus was first mentioned in “Broken Link.”
The white dress uniforms that Starfleet personnel wear during the conference were first seen in Star Trek Insurrection, and are among the ugliest things ever put on a person in the history of Star Trek.
Walk with the Prophets: “So is that what we have become—a 24th-century Rome, driven by nothing other than the certainty that Caesar can do no wrong?” When I first watched this episode, I was thrilled by the scene in the courtroom where Koval outed Sloan as a fake. I was cheering—I just adored the notion that Section 31 was all a delusion of Sloan’s. Sure, it made Bashir look like a chump, but I was okay with that. They even set us up for it when Sisko gave his two options for why Starfleet had dropped the investigation—one possibility was that they didn’t take 31 seriously, and they wouldn’t if it was just one nutjob with access to a holodeck and a transporter.
So it was kind of disappointing for it to all have been part of Sloan’s elaborate plot to get an asset into a better position. It also made Koval a bit less of a nifty bad guy if his entire performance in front of the Continuing Committee was, in fact, only a performance.
Plus, honestly, there are few things in this world less interesting than the all-powerful bad guy. The laziest writing tool in the book is the unstoppable foe, in which the foe always manages to avoid detection, always manages to plan three steps ahead, always manages to do something impossible to get away in the end. In this episode alone, Sloan manages to sneak onto and off a military base in the middle of a war twice, get himself assigned to a sensitive mission, corrupt a Starfleet admiral, fake his own death, and get away from the most secure location in the Romulan Empire. We’re given no explanation for how Sloan does any of this—the death-faking is the only thing that even gets a token attempt, and it’s pretty much the same trick the mercenaries pulled in “Gambit, Part I”—we’re just supposed to believe that 31 has infinite resources, ones that they inexplicably don’t share with anyone else. (Having said that, the ruse helps keep 31’s secret via Keyser Soze’s dictum that the best trick the devil ever pulled was making the world believe he doesn’t exist.)
Barry Jenner’s excessively wooden performance as Ross doesn’t help matters. The confrontation with Bashir at the end required an actor with more nuance to his line deliveries than Jenner can truly manage.
However, up until the double fake, this is actually a very fun episode, full of some crackling dialogue. Every scene with William Sadler and Alexander Siddig sparkles, and this episode serves as a magnificent showcase for both of them. Coming up very close behind them are a superlative Adrienne Barbeau (who brings much more nuance to the role of Cretak than Megan Cole’s bland delivery could manage) and an oily John Fleck, who’s controlled delivery makes Koval a magnificent character.
Warp factor rating: 6
Keith R.A. DeCandido really enjoyed the crap out of writing Koval because John Fleck’s voice and affect are just magnificent.