Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch: “The Changing Face of Evil”

“The Changing Face of Evil”
Written by Ira Steven Behr & Hans Beimler
Directed by Mike Vejar
Season 7, Episode 20
Production episode 40510-570
Original air date: April 28, 1999
Stardate: unknown

Station log: Worf and Dax return to DS9, greeted by a very happy Bashir and O’Brien. (Apparently Morn won the betting pool as to when they’d come back.) Sisko arrives soon thereafter, foregoing reprimanding Dax for stealing a runabout and disobeying orders because he wants to hear more about the Breen alliance with the Dominion, which they only know about because Worf and Dax reported it. They also discuss Damar’s dissatisfaction with Cardassia’s place in the Dominion.

They’re interrupted by Kira with a priority-one message from Starfleet Command: the Breen have announced their alliance with the Dominion by attacking Earth. They fired on Starfleet Headquarters in San Francisco, badly damaging the Golden Gate Bridge as well. Starfleet was able to destroy most of the Breen ships that attacked, but by then the damage was done.

Weyoun is thrilled with the attack on Earth and effusive in his praise for the Breen. After he goes to report to the Founder, Damar tells Thot Gor that the Dominion used to sing Cardassia’s praises in much the same way. But the war didn’t end as quickly as they’d hoped, so now they blame Cardassia. If the war doesn’t end soon, Damar warns, they’ll shift the blame to the Breen.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: The Changing Face of Evil

Sisko returns to his quarters to find a disaster area: Yates has attempted to cook dinner, which is something less than a howling success. She’s ruined Sisko’s peppers (he’d been growing them for months). She was hoping to cheer him up after the attack on Earth, but she’s just annoyed him further—and then she doubles down by reminding him that she’s going on a cargo run early next week, which doesn’t make him happy as it isn’t safe out there.

Damar meets with Gul Rusot, one of the people who feels as Damar does: that the alliance with the Dominion was supposed to be the dawn of a new age of prosperity for Cardassia, and instead they’ve become an occupied power. Rusot has a list of Cardassians he trusts—which, he adds, isn’t a very long list.

On Bajor, Winn is having Solbor cancel all her engagements—including a talk before the vedek assembly. She’s testy with Solbor, and even more testy with Dukat. She hates having to pretend to be the kai of the Prophets, and wants the Pah-wraiths to get up off their asses and embrace her, already. Dukat drops the next shoe: they need to release the Pah-wraiths from the fire caves, and to do that, they need the text of the Kosst Amojan. It’s forbidden for anyone to open that text—anyone, that is, except for the kai…

O’Brien and Bashir are playing with a miniature model of the Alamo with figurines to represent the combatants. Bashir, who plays Travis in the holosuite, is trying to figure out a way to win the battle—O’Brien’s cheeky response is, “Be Santa Ana, he wins every time.”

Weyoun is impressed to see that Damar has reported for duty early, and isn’t carrying a bottle. The Vorta mistakes this renewed confidence for Damar realizing that the Dominion will win the day thanks to their new Breen allies. Damar gladly lets him think that.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: The Changing Face of Evil

Solbor very reluctantly brings the text of the Kosst Amojan to Winn and Dukat. He’s suspicious of Winn for wanting to read this book of evil, and incredibly suspicious of Dukat. But he gives in, buying Winn and Dukat’s line that the Prophets sent “Anjohl” to her, leaving the book with Winn.

But when she opens the book, she finds that it’s full of blank pages. Winn refuses to give up, requesting that Solbor bring her lots of texts from the archives to try to figure out how to make the words appear. She kicks out Solbor—and then kicks out Dukat, too, as she needs to concentrate.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: The Changing Face of Evil

Yates is furious to learn that Sisko has arranged for Bajoran Freight & Shipping to give Yates a month’s paid vacation. She will not let him interfere with her job. So he talks to BFS and they put her back on the active list, which Sisko informs her along with flowers.

Ross then informs Sisko that the Breen is trying to take back the Chin’toka system. The Defiant is sent to join the task force that will defend Chin’toka. Weyoun, meanwhile, is also heading to Chin’toka on a Jem’Hadar ship alongside the female changeling. Weyoun is concerned that the Founder is going to be too close to the front lines, but she wants to see this battle up close.

Dukat sees Solbor taking the texts away from Winn’s office while she sleeps, angrily telling him to put them back on Winn’s desk. He smacks Solbor around and then takes the texts back to the kai himself.

The Defiant destroys two Breen ships in the initial salvo, but the Breen have a weapon that, when it hits a ship, drains all power from it. They become a sitting duck, and Sisko has no choice but to abandon ship. Moments later the Defiant is destroyed—as are dozens of other Starfleet, Klingon, and Romulan ships. The female changeling belays Weyoun’s order to destroy the escape pods, as those pods are filled with frightened officers who will bring the tale of woe back to the Federation.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: The Changing Face of Evil

Solbor reveals to Winn that the real Anjohl Tennan died nine years ago. He took a sample of “Anjohl’s” DNA, which revealed that he’s Cardassian—not only that, he’s Dukat. Winn pulls a knife on Dukat, but then Dukat forces her to reveal to Solbor that they’re working for the Pah-wraiths these days. Before Solbor can go out and proclaim her heresy to all of Bajor, Winn stabs him in the back.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: The Changing Face of Evil

But she isn’t exactly on “Anjohl’s” side anymore, either, now that she knows who he really is. Her life, she thinks, is over now, this whole thing a Cardassian plot. She goes to destroy the book—but the knife drips Solbor’s blood onto the pages, and the text is revealed. Winn does another heel-turn, realizing that the Pah-wraiths have found her worthy. Dukat promises to dispose of Solbor’s body while she studies the text.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: The Changing Face of Evil

Sisko moping over the loss of his ship is interrupted by a transmission from Cardassian space by Damar. He expresses his dismay at how Cardassia was promised to become the conquerors of the Alpha Quadrant with the Dominion’s help. But instead of gaining territory, they’ve lost it, and they’re now second-class citizens in their own home. The streets of Cardassia are overrun with Jem’Hadar, Vorta, and now Breen. Damar’s allies have attacked the Dominion outpost on Rondac III, destroying the cloning plant there (a shot at Weyoun, since his clones were produced at that facility). While the female changeling orders Damar and his allies found and killed no matter what it takes, Sisko, Kira, and Ross agree that they need to find a way to help him.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: The Changing Face of Evil

Can’t we just reverse the polarity? The Breen have a weapon that drains all energy from a ship it strikes. This is bad for the people they’re firing on.

The Sisko is of Bajor: Not Sisko’s happiest week—yes, he gets Dax and Worf back, but he majorly screws up his marriage (though he fixes it skillfully) and loses his ship.

Rules of Acquisition: Quark’s role in this is to play Greek chorus, commenting on both Bashir and O’Brien’s Alamo obsession and on the Sisko-Yates argument over the former manipulating the latter’s job.

No sex, please, we’re Starfleet: Worf and Dax share a drink and discuss whether or not Dax should tell Bashir how she feels. Bashir himself is obviously way more happy to see Dax than he is Worf at the beginning.

Victory is life: The Dominion takes back the Chin’toka system, but they lose the cloning facility at Rondac III. However, the Breen’s arrival brings with it an energy-dampening weapon that may be unstoppable.

For Cardassia! Damar finds three fleets among the Cardassian forces that are willing to turn against the Dominion, and he assures Rusot that more will join them once they strike back.

Tough little ship. Rest in peace, Defiant.

Keep your ears open: “Kasidy, you don’t cook!”

“I know—I was just making sure.”

Sisko’s response to Yates’s failed attempt to cook, and Yates’s acknowledgment of same.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: The Changing Face of Evil

Welcome aboard: James Otis makes his final appearance as Solbor, while John Vickery makes his first appearance as Rusot, who will recur over the next couple of episodes. Vickery, possessor of one of the finest voices extant, previously appeared in TNG’s “Night Terrors” as a Betazoid, and he’ll appear in Enterprise’s “Judgment” as a Klingon lawyer.

Meanwhile, we get the usual suspects: Marc Alaimo, Casey Biggs, Jeffrey Combs, Aron Eisenberg, Louise Fletcher, J.G. Hertzler, Barry Jenner, Salome Jens, and Penny Johnson.

Trivial matters: The Breen attack on Earth was dramatized in Dave Galanter’s short story “Eleven Hours Out” in Tales of the Dominion War (edited by your humble rewatcher); the Enterprise plays a significant role. In that same anthology, Howard Weinstein wrote “Safe Harbors,” which shows what Scotty and McCoy were doing when the attack on Earth occurred.

Chin’toka was captured by the allies in “Tears of the Prophets.” It was their only foothold in Dominion space, and they lose it in this episode. It isn’t specified whether or not AR-558 is abandoned or if the troops assigned there (like the ones in “The Siege at AR-558”) were killed. It’s also never revealed whether or not they finally doped out the protocols for the communications array on that world.

O’Brien will eventually find the William B. Travis figurine that Bashir lost in this episode in “What You Leave Behind.”

Walk with the Prophets: “Our ‘allies’ have conquered us without firing a single shot.” There’s a lot going on in this episode, and I really wish more of it was interesting. Or, at least, not repetitive.

Indeed, this episode takes great joy in repeating itself. Worf and Dax twice have the same conversation about Dax’s feelings for Bashir, once in Quark’s, once on the Defiant. Damar and Rusot have the same conversation about Cardassia needing to throw off the Dominion twice, and many of the things they say to each other are repeated (far more effectively, I might add) in Damar’s speech at the end. Sisko does something stupid and Yates castigates him for being stupid, and then she castigates him again for being stupid when he fixes it. And the Dukat-Winn-Solbor dance is endless: Solbor disapproves, Winn assures him everything’s fine, Dukat gets snotty, Solbor leaves in a huff, Dukat reassures Winn that everything will be fine when Winn doubts, lather, rinse, repeat. When Solbor reveals Dukat’s true identity, it’s less effective as a scene of tension than a relief that one of these many scenes will finally end differently.

Which is too bad, because there’s some great moments in this episode. Two are visual: the destruction of the Golden Gate Bridge and Starfleet Headquarters at the beginning and the Defiant’s destruction at the end (with a lovely followup of Weyoun commenting that Captain Sisko really liked that ship in that unctuous tone of his). The third is Damar’s speech. Damar has been a toady, a killer, a drunk, but in this episode he finally lays the foundation for being a (Cardassian) hero. Damar has always been a follower, and until Dukat made it clear that he wasn’t coming back and that Damar had to take charge, Damar was waiting for someone to come along and tell him what to do. The only person fulfilling that role was Weyoun, which wasn’t really helping.

But once he gets his fecal matter together and starts fighting for himself, he kicks some serious ass and takes all the names. His rallying cry to his fellow Cardassians is magnificent, beautifully written and phenomenally delivered by Casey Biggs. It’s a moment of hope after a bleak battle.

The battle itself was skillfully done, as things start promisingly with the Defiant blowing stuff up, but then the Breen energy-dampener hits and the Defiant is destroyed—and then we cut back to the rest of the fleet, which is equally devastated. It’s the most effective “ship graveyard” we’ve seen since “The Best of Both Worlds Part II,” and it’s horrible in all the right ways.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: The Changing Face of Evil

What’s especially fascinating is that the Dominion is once again using terrorist tactics, which we haven’t seen much since the war actually started. But here they are doing a symbolic attack on Earth, and then leaving the escape pods intact so they can report back how awful the battle was.

These moments are almost enough to leaven the repetition, not to mention the fact that the Winn-Dukat plot is moving at a snail’s pace…

Warp factor rating: 6

 


Keith R.A. DeCandido is buried in snow.

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