“For The Cause” (season four, episode 21; originally aired 5/6/1996)
In which Eddington takes a powder, among other things…
I’ll be honest: I’d forgotten Eddington existed. He wasn’t a bad character—it was good to have a representative of Starfleet protocol on hand to remind us of the stations connections to a world we don’t often see, and Ken Marshall’s low-key delivery suited the role well. But he wasn’t used very often, and after a few dickhead moves, he integrated into DS9’s inner workings to such a degree that the writers never bothered to show him again. Until “For The Cause,” which starts (after a brief interlude of Sisko and Kasidy exchanging morning pillow talk; the two do good banter) with Eddington giving a briefing to the main crew about a sudden rise in Maquis attacks in the demilitarized zone. After the meeting is over, Odo and Eddington (who act like the bestest of buds) take Sisko aside and tell him they suspect Kasidy has been smuggling supplies to the Maquis. Which gives us the episode’s obvious conflict: our hero, torn between his heart and his duty. While there’s never any question which will take precedence, there is ample opportunity for the sort of long-distance stares that Avery Brooks does so well.
Before we get to that, though, there’s the episode’s lone subplot: the burgeoning friendship between Garak and Ziyal (played for just this episode by Tracy Middendorf). It’s fine? I feel like I’ve been short-changed great Garak storylines this season, and watching him negotiate a potential relationship with his greatest enemy’s daughter doesn’t really fill the void. There’s a fun conversation with Quark about paranoia, Kira is clearly not happy that Garak and Ziyal are friendly with one another, and Garak is briefly concerned that Ziyal might try to kill him. But because she is a very nice young woman who’d rather enjoy some computer-generated hot rocks and hear about a planet she’s never been allowed to spend much time on, the two end the episode in a state of mutual accord. I’m not sure if this is supposed to be a romantic tryst (Quark seems to think so, but he’s Quark), and I kind of hope it isn’t; Garak is more interesting when his sexuality is ambiguous, and the probable age difference between the two is icky. But we’ll see.
Regardless, the Sisko/Kasidy sparring takes up the most of the running time, and it works well. Kasidy has always been something of a mystery, in the way all minor recurring characters tend to be; we know the broad outlines (wordplay!), but the motivations can shift on a dime when the writers decide the character can be better used elsewhere. Kasidy Yates is a perfectly charming woman who transports cargo, likes baseball, and has a fondness for one Benjamin Sisko. Penny Johnson manages to convey a decent impression of an inner life in her few appearances, and the actress’s fundamental harshness (far more evident in her work on 24) is put to good use in making sure a potentially sappy relationship has a center, pleasing edge. While she’s willing to change her life to be closer to him, Kasidy still has enough clear sense of self that she doesn’t come across as a pawn or a fantasy. The affair doesn’t bog down the show’s main plotlines, and she’s yet to wear out her welcome. Plus, she’s been around long enough that she’s become a kind of accepted quantity, which means it’s the perfect time to start shifting things around.
There’s never any real question if Kasidy is involved with the Maquis. As soon as Odo and Eddington voice their suspicions (in the cautious, respectful way you do when telling your boss his girlfriend is a spy), it’s clear where this is going, and to its credit, the script (by Ron Moore, based on a story by Mark Gehred-O’Connell) doesn’t make any real effort to keep things ambiguous. Odo and Eddington wouldn’t have brought the information to Sisko unless they were reasonably sure, and even Sisko can’t argue with them for very long. After some understandable anger over the idea, the captain falls into a certain weary resignation, as though he himself might have had questions about what his lover was doing out in the stars all this time. (It’s telling that the first line of the episode is, “Kasidy Yates, where are you going?”) Sisko calls off an inspection of the lady’s ship, only to have Worf follow the Xhosa in the Defiant; Captain Yates heads into the Badlands, where she makes contact with a Maquis vessel and passes along her cargo. It’s mostly organic, so at least Sisko can tell himself that she’s just been transporting food for the colonies. This time, at least.
All of this is well-handled, with that kind of melancholy tension that all stories of betrayed love exude; we know there’s going to be a final break, we just don’t know when it will happen, and how bad it will be. All of which serves as terrific misdirection for the episode’s biggest twist. When Kasidy goes out for another run, the Defiant follows her again, only this time, it’s Sisko at the helm. (There’s a lovely scene before the ships leave when Sisko finds Kasidy and begs her to drop everything and take a trip with him to Risa. She, of course, refuses without realizing what her refusal really means.) The two ships arrive in the Badlands, and spend five hours waiting for nothing before Sisko and Odo realize the truth. Beaming over to the Xhosa, Sisko demands answers, but Kasidy doesn’t have them. The whole thing was a ruse to get the captain off the station, so Eddington and his team could steal the industrial sized replicators that had been intended for Cardassian colonists and deliver them to the Maquis.
It’s a great surprise, and well-crafted. Eddington mentions the replicators earlier, and the script goes to some pains to establish their importance. It makes sure we understand why the Maquis would want them, before dropping the subject until the final 10 minutes. The plan works, too, which is always an unexpected pleasure; we don’t need our heroes to fail every time (or even most of the time), but letting them get tricked occasionally makes them more vulnerable, while making their opponents appear stronger, all of which adds to those mystical stakes that critics like to go on about so much. Plus, it’s immensely entertaining when done well, because it creates the illusion that everything is up for grabs. Having Kasidy working for the Maquis was interesting, but while she was a familiar face, her and Sisko hadn’t been together long enough for her criminal behavior to be devastating. With Eddington, there’d been a history, however brief, that established him as a stickler for the rules. A company man, so to speak. Only now, he’s turned his back on the Federation, and he is super pissed off about it.
That’s where the episode’s flaw lies, and it’s the kind of flaw that probably couldn’t have been avoided and still retained the episode’s biggest strength. That terrific moment when Sisko realizes he’s been had, and comes back to the station to find Eddington and the replicators gone without a trace, is something I’m not sure I’d want to give up; it caught me completely off guard, and gave a jolt of energy to an otherwise solid, but not spectacular, hour. But in order for that surprise to work as well as it does, Eddington needs to be entirely opaque, and that means the character with the strongest motivation in the story is one we never really get close to. Eddington and Sisko have one final conversation over the viewscreens, in which Eddington rails about the horrors of the Federation while Sisko promises vengeance. It’s a good scene, and Eddington’s hatred for his former employers is fascinating, and hard to entirely dismiss. It’s just, where the hell is this coming from? What happened to changing his mind? How long has he hid this anger? There’s a history we’re not getting, and it makes the twist seem a trifle hollow in retrospect. When Kasidy returns to the station and allows herself to be arrested because she just can’t bear to let Sisko go, it’s a little corny, but there’s enough feeling between them for the conclusion to have power. This is an end to a story we’ve been watching, and while it may not be the end, it feels like a continuation of everything that’s come before. With Eddington’s departure, his time on the show seems like something else: a trick played by expert magicians which is still, at bottom, just a matter of misdirection and mirrors.
- Slight SPOILER: I’m pretty sure Kasidy comes back (I made the mistake of glancing at her Wikipedia page once), but I have no idea about Eddington. Given Sisko’s fury over the betrayal, you’d think there’d be some kind of pay-off down the line, but I can also imagine him disappearing, never to be seen again.
- The Kasidy/Sisko banter is really top notch, the kind of low-rent wit couples in love often use to amuse themselves between smooches.
- Eddington shot Kira. Sure, he just stunned her, but screw that guy.
- “You know in some ways, you’re worse than the Borg… You assimilate people, and they don’t even know it.”—Eddington, channeling a bit of Malcolm Reynolds
“To The Death” (season four, episode 22; originally aired 5/13/1996)
In which Sisko has to close a magic door…
The other day I mentioned on Twitter that I’m a sucker for storylines which force enemies to work together to achieve a common goal, and look at what lands on my doorstep this week: “To The Death,” which has Sisko and the others teaming up with a squadron of Jem’Hadar to take down a rogue group of their (the Jem’Hadar’s) race. We see our first Vorta since Eris back at the end of the second season; this time, it’s a male named Weyoun, played by the great Jeffrey Combs. And to satisfy those of us with slightly deeper memories, “To The Death” also works in a reference to Star Trek: The Next Generation, specifically an episode in the second season called “Contagion.” (Worf helpfully points out the connection, which, to be honest, I would not have caught otherwise. It’s been a few years.) It’s a solid hour which, while lacking the big twists of “For The Cause,” reconnects us with the Dominion War, serving as reminder of just how much danger DS9 and our heroes are still in, and also delivers some rousing action set-pieces.
Of all the races of the Dominion we’ve seen, it seems we know the most about the Jem’Hadar. The Vorta have barely registered beyond their initial appearance; beyond a vague telekinetic ability (which Weyoun never demonstrates) and a supposed mastery of the Jem’Hadar, they remain ill-defined, a people more interesting for when they first appeared than for who they are. The Founders themselves have a bit more of a history, given that Odo is Changeling himself, and we’ve visited their former homeworld, but there’s still more mystery than hard fact about their culture. One of Odo’s tragedies, after all, is that even when he found the place that told him who he was, he couldn’t bring himself to belong there, which means our only possible entry into a closed and paranoid culture has put himself out of the game. The Jem’Hadar, though, are old friends by now. They’ve appeared in at least three episodes before this one, and their culture and ways were the focal point for two of those episodes. Admittedly, there’s something inherently familiar about them, in the same way the Vorta and the Founders seem so strange; anyone who’s read a fair amount of fantasy or science fiction has come across the Warrior Race before. Hell, Klingons have been a staple of Trek for decades, and the Romulans aren’t exactly peace loving folks.
The main difference is that the franchise’s other honor-fixated species are all self-motivated. Nobody tells a Klingon what to do unless he or she isn’t all that attached to their limbs. But the Jem’Hadar have been designed and bred specifically to serve others, which makes their harsh devotion to duty a kind of poignant existentialism; when Omet’iklan (Clarence Williams III, who is excellent) says in his pre-battle pep-talk that the Jem’Hadar are warriors who go into battle to earn the right to their lives, he isn’t fooling around. With the Klingons, as crazy as they can be, it’s possible to still admire their passion and their courage. With the Jem’Hadar, that admiration comes tinged with horror. A slave race who, on average, live only a few years before their brutal demise, who depend on a regular influx of synthesized drugs to keep sane, would have to develop some sort of system for justifying their existence. Obviously the Founders and the Vorta provided the basis of that system, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Jem’Hadar themselves perfected it, turning enforced obedience into worship, making a virtue of the brutal brevity of their place in the cosmos.
All of this has been apparent before, but here we get a long, clear look at a Jem’Hadar squad which is still operating under Changeling control, seeing first hand how their pride has been twisted into valuing their status as property, and how that pride somehow gives them a power that might one day prove dangerous to their masters. Weyoun is a smarmy, insinuating salesman, arrogantly confident in his control over the squad at his disposal, and yet while Omet and the others appear to need him, they don’t act all that reverential in his presence. The Jem’Hadar worship the Founders, but clearly, they aren’t all that enamored of their more immediate wardens, and that gives them a curious autonomy. It’s a shock at the end of the episode when, having accomplished their main mission, Omet murders Weyoun for questioning his and his men’s loyalty. (There are no Jem’Hadar women, by the way. The soldiers are created in vats.) And yet there’s an inevitability to it as well. These Jem’Hadar don’t obey because they have to. They obey because they believe that obedience makes them strong. They take pride in it. That can be dangerous.
I’m burying the lede a little, in that there is at least one unpleasant surprise in “To The Death”: an attack on Deep Space Nine which partially destroys one of the station’s main pylons. For a few minutes, it seems like the Dominion War has entered a new, more violent phase, and when Sisko decides to follow the Jem’Hadar squad that did the damage (stealing equipment in the process), it’s thrilling to wonder what might happen next. A fleet of warships decloaking outside the wormhole? Will half of the station’s staff suddenly reveal themselves to be in league with the Founders? Instead, the damage turns out to be more self-contained, at least for the moment. A rogue Jem’Hadar team has broken away from the Changelings and are working to restore an Iconian gateway, for presumably nefarious purposes. The gateways (and Iconia) were first mentioned on TNG, when Picard and the Enterprise discovered a planet that was once home to a long dead, incredibly technologically advanced race. The episode wasn’t all that great, and the Iconians were more an ill-defined McGuffin than a rich culture waiting to be revisited, but it’s a nice, continuity building nod to the older show to use the same device here. And honestly, the gateway in “To The Death” is just as much of a McGuffin as the one in “Contagion.” The point isn’t whatever plans the soon-to-be-dead rogue Jem’Hadar had for it. The point is seeing how our heroes deal with the problem.
The solution, of course, is that they team up with Weyoun and Omet’s group. This leads to the sort of cultural clash one might expect, as the more laissez faire attitudes of Sisko, O’Brien and Dax clash against the Jem’Hadar’s rigorous discipline. The main point of contention being that Sisko and the others put some value on their own lives, while Omet and his men do not. So there’s some squabbling about one side being soft and selfish, although things don’t get really serious until Worf is involved. The Jem’Hadar have a thing about Worf, most likely because he’s the crew member closest to living a kind of life they can understand. That makes him easier for them to hate. There are some harsh words, and eventually, Worf and Toman’torax (Brian Thompson) get into a fight in the mess hall. After Sisko breaks things up, Omet disciplines his soldier by breaking Toman’s neck. Sisko, on the other hand, disciplines Worf by confining him to quarters during non-operational hours. This seems to insult Omet (who says that Toman was one of his best), and he swears he’ll kill Sisko as soon as the mission is over.
He doesn’t, of course; and if you guessed Sisko manages to change his mind by saving the Jem’Hadar’s life in battle, have a cookie. The overall plot of the episode isn’t hard to predict, but that’s not really a bad thing, and there are small surprises throughout that provide ample texture. Weyoun’s attempt to bring Odo back “home” is an odd, fascinating little scene, as the Vorta walks the balance between high-pressure sales tactics and obsequiousness. And I didn’t see his death coming at all, for reasons I’ll get into in the stray observations. In retrospect, the episode’s only weakness is a certain smallness of ambition. The aftermath of the attack on DS9 is the most upsetting moment; after that, we quickly discover that the situation is still basically the same as it ever was. The Jem’Hadar responsible were acting on their own initiative, and while they have access to a potentially devastating weapon, that weapon is destroyed by the end of the hour, all neat and tidy as you please. We’re no closer to finding out what the Founders really have in store for the Federation. But who knows how many more gateways are out there. Or other things.
- SLIGHT, JEFFREY COMBS-RELATED SPOILERS: Okay, so, I knowWeyoun is in more than just one episode. I’ve seen at least part of a later episode with him in it. It surprised the hell out of me to see him get vaporized. I hope he comes back soon. Combs is great; all unctuous charm and weaselly arrogance.
- “I am Chief Miles O’Brien. I’m very much alive, and I intend to stay that way.”—O’Brien’s war cry
- “How old are you?” “I stop counting at 300.” “You don’t look it.”—Fun exchange between one of the Jem’Hadar and Dax
- Random speculation: Are the Jem’Hadar even capable of physical intercourse? No women isn’t necessarily a barrier, but I’m not even sure if these guys have the right equipment. The more we learn about them, they sadder they are.
Next week: Bashir becomes a Highlander in “The Quickening” and things get wacky with “Body Parts.”