Sunday, August 28, 2011

3-07. Civil Defense

Kira responds to Gul Dukat.


O'Brien and Jake are deleting old Cardassian files from the computer of one of the ore processing units. When a single, unnamed file resists Jake's attempts to delete it, O'Brien tries duplicating the file to review in the morning - inadverdantly activating an old security protocol, designed to go into effect if Bajoran workers were to revolt.

First, the program seals the ore processing chamber, locking O'Brien, Jake, and Sisko in. Gul Dukat's voice informs them that they have ten minutes to surrender before lethal countermeasures go into effect. Meanwhile, all the station's computers lock out the Bajoran and Federation personnel, responding only to Cardassian security codes... meaning that Kira and the Ops crew are unable to get Sisko out.

Sisko, O'Brien, and Jake escape - but in so doing, they trigger additional countermeasures. Now the Ops crew is locked in. Every attempt they make to circumvent the Cardassian security makes matters worse.

That's when Gul Dukat shows up in person, a grin on his face and an offer extended to save the day - for a price...


Commander Sisko: Though protective of his son, he's pragmatic enough to allow Jake to participate in both the risky escape and the attempt to deflect the final explosion into the shields. He maintains tight focus on each obstacle as it presents itself: First escaping the room, then breaking out of the ore receiving area. At each stage, Sisko's practicality shows itself. He keeps a hold on his temper, but does grumble during one of Dukat's recorded speeches about how much he hates the sound of the Cardassian's voice.

Major Kira: Gets the episode's best scene, as she faces down Dukat. When the Cardassian demands that Kira allow a permanent Cardassian presence on the station in return for his help, Kira flatly tells him that she would rather blow up the station than turn it back over to him. She responds to obstacles put in her path by the most direct approach possible - Shoot it with a big gun. This works at overcoming early obstacles (such as shutting down life support to halt the release of poison gas), but is less effective when long-term planning is needed.

Odo/Quark: Locked helplessly in the security office for the run of the episode, these two are largely reduced to comedy relief. There is some further building of their peculiar, adversarial friendship, as each man takes time to pay the other a compliment that's only thinly veiled as an insult. Odo is disgruntled, but not really terribly surprised, to find that he was apparently viewed as a security risk by Dukat. A big missed opportunity is the lack of a scene between Odo and Dukat, two characters who spark very well opposite each other - but given the Kira/Dukat and Garak/Dukat material, I can overlook that.

Garak: Cardassians hinted that Garak and Dukat were acquainted, and not in a friendly way. This episode confirms that. Garak was evidently responsible for the trial of Dukat's father. He sneers at Dukat even before the Gul arrives, complaining about Dukat's short-sightedness and paranoia. When Dukat attempts to take control of the situation, Garak mocks and insults him relentlessly. At this point, I'm starting to think they might as well make him a regular. He's been in as many episodes this season as Jake, and his material's been a lot more memorable.

Gul Dukat: Right around the episode's midpoint, when it seems things can't possibly get any worse for our heroes... in beams Gul Dukat, literally standing on a platform in Ops, alternately preening and laughing as blasts go off around him. Credit where it's due: He may be evil, but he sure knows how to make an entrance. One of Garak's taunts hints that Dukat may be trying to impress Kira with his "take charge" attitude. Given the sparks that fly in the scene between Kira and Dukat, I can actually believe this - and suspect that Kira would find it less than amusing. More signs are shown that the Cardassians don't really trust Dukat, as our unfriendly neighborhood Gul gets an unpleasant surprise from his own security program when he attempts to beam back to his ship.


Not generally a feature of my Deep Space 9 reviews, but this one is just begging for it. Redshirt count: One. A nameless Bajoran crew member gets vaporized in Ops when the security system goes up to "Level Four." No one bats an eye, and the crew member's death is never again mentioned nor does it prevent the episode from fading out on a jokey tag involving Quark and Odo.


Civil Defense doesn't quite break the winning streak Deep Space 9 has enjoyed. It is a very entertaining episode, even if it never quite builds up the sheer momentum that a basically mindless action episode needs to truly work.

It's based on a fundamentally very stupid premise, though. O'Brien triggers a Cardassian defense mechanism that threatens to blow up the station, after it threatens to pump the air with poison gas and shoots at the station personnel. We actually see the poison gas released at one point, and one nameless Bajoran in Ops is vaporized. This might have been halfway believable in Season One, when Starfleet and the Bajorans had just barely taken command of the station. Even in early Season Two, I could just about have bought it.

But this is Season Three! "I've been on this station for three years," Dr. Bashir tells us at one point. So has O'Brien, so has Starfleet security. I just can't quite suspend disbelief that a station-wide trap, tying in the station's reactors, life support, and Ops could somehow escape everyone's notice for that length of time. I can overlook the premise to enjoy the episode, but I can't quite shake that the episode doesn't really pass what Col. Sherman Potter would probably have dubbed the "horse hockey" test.

It's still good fun, with several nice character moments. Given the limits of the budget, the first half probably milks the automated system plot for as much as the production can. Which makes it a masterstroke to bring in Garak and Dukat right around the midpoint. The two Cardassians liven the episode up considerably. Each is completely different from the other in terms of personality and approach. Garak is soft-spoken and subtle, while Dukat is more direct. As has been observed on multiple occasions, neither man can be trusted. Add in their mutual hatred of each other, and there are several delightful moments in the second half.

Overall, it's a touch weaker than the last... oh, thirteen or so episodes have been. But it's still solidly entertaining.

Overall Rating: 6/10

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