Saturday, April 23, 2011

2-18. Profit and Loss.

"Of all the gin joints, in all
the towns, in all the world..."


Ops detects a damaged Cardassian ship, which is brought into the station for repairs. The pilot is Professor Natima Lang (Mary Crosby), a teacher who is accompanying two students and who claims to have been caught in a meteor storm. Sisko puts O'Brien to work repairing their vessel, while Natima and her students tour the station.

It isn't long before Natima runs into an old friend - Quark. She and Quark were lovers when she was attached to the station during the Occupation. Right up until Quark betrayed her trust by stealing Cardassian funds under her control. That betrayal makes her anything but happy to see Quark again, even as the Ferengi attempts to rekindle their old romance.

There is another, larger complication. O'Brien determines that the ship was damaged not by meteors, but by Cardassian weaponry. Natima acknowledges the lie, and reveals that her students are Cardassian dissidents, part of a movement to take control of the government away from the Cardassian military. One other person on the station is aware of the situation: Garak (Andrew Robinson), who sees an opportunity to restore his tarnished reputation on Cardassia - even if it means certain death for Natima and her students!


Commander Sisko: Deals sympathetically with Natima and her students. When Natima fairly readily acknowledges the situation of who she and her students are, Sisko is quick enough to forgive their initial deception. He is less quick to forgive the Cardassian warship that takes a threatening stance outside his station, however.  When Garak acts as messenger for the Cardassian military, Sisko is calm but clear in his resolve to "respond in kind" to any attempt at force.

Quark: Necessary Evil showed us Odo's perception of Quark when the station was under Cardassian control: Quark buddying up to Gul Dukat, getting away with minor infractions of the rules in exchange for profit and collaboration. That's the Quark Odo and Kira see. Here, we see another side to that - Quark used his position to sell food to Bajoran refugees, something which would have gotten him executed had he been caught.

In the main story, Quark is very much the anti-hero. When confronted with the capture/execution of Natima and her students, Quark is only too happy to sell out the students, just as long as Natima is safe. In this way, he is able to be the hero of the piece without contradicting the fundamentally selfish character already established. He doesn't care a jot about Cardassian politics: He wants to protect the woman he loves, period.

Odo: OK, how can Odo make the decision he makes in this episode and not be summarily dismissed from his position afterward? I'd love to see some ramifications of Odo's actions here - but I'm confident that will never happen, leaving a major component of this episode almost entirely unconvincing. That aside, Rene Auberjonois gives his typically strong performance, and the love/hate relationship between Quark and Odo remains as entertaining as ever.

Garak: Andrew Robinson's Garak continues to be a multi-faceted delight. We learn that he is an outcast from Cardassian society, though we don't learn what put him into this position. He is eager enough to return that he seizes on the opportunity of Natima's presence to inform to Cardassia. His loyalties to his home world, however, do not necessarily translate into unswerving allegiance to the military, making him an entertaining wild card at the story's climax.


Deep Space 9 does Casablanca, with Quark filling in for Humphrey Bogart. Insert a cloaking device in the place of exit visas and Garak in the place of Claude Rains, and it hews very closely to the 1940's classic. For some, this will be a weakness, as much of it seems a beat-for-beat remake rather than simply an homage. For me, it worked, simply because Deep Space 9's political situation has always had that "Casablanca in Space" vibe to it. Given the station as a neutral setting with Starfleet, Bajorans, Ferengi, and the stray Cardassian spy who is able to walk around unmolested, and just going with it and doing a Casablanca episode ultimately doesn't seem like a reach.

It also works as a good episode of Deep Space 9, one that will engage and entertain even those who have never seen the Bogart/Bergman film. As an episode of Deep Space 9, it expands what we know about Quark and Garak, while also adding new dimension to Cardassian society. We have already seen, in Cardassians, that Cardassia is far from monolithic. Here, we learn that there is a strong movement to wrest control from the military. We also learn more about Garak's background, and see Garak pick a side within Cardassia's internal conflict - even if his choice is kept carefully concealed from the Cardassian government.

Though a good episode, the climax is overly busy. One character holds the heroes hostage at gunpoint while talking at length. Then another character arrives to hold them all at gunpoint and talk at length some more. That and some cheesy romantic dialogue keep the episode from being as good as its potential. But even if it's no Casablanca, this is a solid Deep Space 9 story, worthy of a strong rating.

Overall Rating: 7/10.

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