|A possessed Sisko builds an alien device.|
A Klingon ship explodes immediately after coming through the wormhole. The first officer is barely able to beam over, and he is dying from weapons burns. His only word, as he slips into death? "Victory."
As Odo begins investigating what the Klingons had been doing in the Gamma Quandrant, the members of the Ops crew begin behaving oddly. Sisko becomes secretive and suspicious of Major Kira. She, in turn, seizes on a minor policy disagreement toward a Cardassian ally to begin plotting against Sisko, while the members of the command crew begin talking about choosing "sides."
As Odo pieces together what happened on the Klingon ship, he realizes that the exact same pattern is occurring on the station. While he works to find a way to defuse the tension, Kira ratchets it up - moving toward open mutiny!
Commander Sisko: The teaser shows an example of Avery Brooks putting a beat into his character that isn't always there on the page. Sisko insists on a diplomatic solution to Kira's problems with the Valerians. Kira reluctantly agrees to "do it (his) way," momentarily forgetting that she's addressing her superior. Brooks puts a note in his reply of "Good," that serves as an unmistakable reminder of which of the two of them is boss. Then he fixes her with a look - one which would inspire anyone with an ounce of sense to get out of his office, and get out right now. That last, silent look is a beautiful bit of nonverbal acting, a sign that Avery Brooks has become confident enough to play even the more generic material in a distinctive manner. Compared with his bland performances early in the season, it represents considerable progress. It goes without saying that he has great fun with the "crazy Sisko" scenes later in the episode.
Kira: Continues to cling to resentments from the Cardassian occupation. She has to be reminded by Sisko both about the need for evidence to proceed against a race, and that he is the one in charge. She trusts Odo to a very strong degree, but knows that he is not corruptible. Her friendship with Dax is strong enough that "infected Kira" believes that Dax might side with her against Sisko. Interestingly, "infected Kira's" interactions with both Odo and Dax carry a strong sexual note, as if she's attempting to literally seduce both of them to her side.
Odo: As a shapeshifter, lacking a humanoid brain, he is able to throw off the alien effect (rather violently). Once he's back to himself, he realizes how strange his colleagues' behavior is. He engages in his usual investigative technique of talking to Quark, then moves decisively in figuring out exactly what is happening and in using the various insecurities - of Sisko, of Kira, and of Dr. Bashir - to his advantage in solving the problem.
Dax: Her behavior is the most peculiar. She becomes giggly and absent-minded, seeming constantly distracted from what's going on around her. I could speculate that because she's a hybrid species, half Jadzia and half Dax, that the effect only really struck Jadzia, creating some confusion. That would also explain why she ends up siding with Kira. Dax has known Sisko for a long time... but Jadzia has known Sisko and Kira equally long. Her interactions with Sisko have been occasionally strained by the commander's adjustment to her new persona, while there has been no strain at all in her friendship with Kira.
There's also an amusing running gag involving Dax trying to tell stories about her friendship with Sisko, and being constantly cut off. Perhaps the crew are starting to weary of her constant anecdotes, but generally like her too much/are too polite to tell her so in normal circumstances. Or perhaps it's a side effect of the alien influence, resisting any serious reflection about actual friendships.
O'Brien: Becomes a complete martinet. There are other words that could be used to describe "infected O'Brien," but for the sake of politeness, we'll stick with that one. This doesn't seem to have any deep basis in O'Brien's regular character, but it does at least allow Colm Meaney to do some entertaining scenery-chewing.
What If Wishes Were Horses was to Shore Leave, this episode is to The Naked Time. The characters fall under the influence of an alien influence and behave out of character. But unlike the lackluster TNG variant, this episode has a clever setup all its own.
One aspect of the episode that I really enjoyed was the way in which the behavior starts out rooted in the characters' actual traits. The teaser reminds us that Kira and Sisko often disagree about policy matters, and that Kira still sometimes chafes at working under Federation command.
The script is mostly well put-together, making use of all of the featured regulars. Even Quark, who's largely on the periphery, gets a couple of very good scenes, while all of the command staff get several strong moments. The clock Sisko puts together is a very impressive prop, by the way, and I do hope it stays in his office. I don't for a second blame him for still being fascinated with it at the end.
The Valerian subplot, having done its job of setting up a genuine disagreement between Sisko and Kira for the infection to play on, is then largely forgotten. There's no payoff to Kira's suspicions about gunrunning, and no acknowledgement at the end that there might even be a problem with them. That, however, is my only significant complaint about a highly entertaining episode.
Previous Episode: The Forsaken
Next Episode: Duet
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