|Sisko enjoys a long-overdue promotion.|
Krajensky (Lawrence Pressman), a Federation ambassador, arrives with news: There has been a coup on the homeworld of the Tzenkethi, a race whose relationship with the Federation is already strained. Without information about which faction is now in control, Krajensky asks Sisko to take the Defiant to that sector in order to "raise the flag" in order to discourage potential moves against nearby Federation colonies.
The Defiant is twelve hours from the border of Tzenkethi space when a transmission is received from a colony world. The colony is under attack. When the transmission cuts off suddenly, it appears everyone's worst fears have been realized. Sisko orders an immediate report to Starfleet, and that's when another horrible discovery is made: Communications have been tampered with, the control mechanisms blocked by force fields. There is a saboteur on board the Defiant, and it could be any one of them. Quite literally...
Commander Sisko: Is promoted to full captain. He appreciates the promotion and the good wishes of his crew, but he insists it doesn't actually change anything. "I have the assignment I want, the crew I want," he says, which means that rank isn't that important. Once he discovers there is a saboteur, and that the saboteur is a changeling, he focuses on dealing with the situation at hand. Every step he takes to counter his opponent is sensible within the situation, though the sight of security locking non-essential crew behind force fields is still disturbing.
Odo: Given that Eddington's arrival on the station almost caused him to quit, it's surprising how well the two security men work together here. It makes me regret once again how little we've seen of Eddington this season, as it would have been nice to have seen this working relationship evolve. Odo refuses to take a phaser to hunt the saboteur, telling Eddington that in all his years working security, he has never needed a weapon and has never taken a life. "I don't intend to start now," he declares - and this being a season finale, I knew as soon as he said it that the episode would end with him being forced to cross that line.
O'Brien: His friendship with Dr. Bashir has evolved to a point where the two men are almost like brothers. It is that level of loyalty O'Brien feels he is breaking when he tells Sisko that he saw Bashir in the conduits. He doesn't really believe Bashir is the saboteur (though his relief is visible when the doctor's innocence is confirmed), but he still feels like it's a betrayal to briefly make his friend into a suspect. At the episode's end, when there are two Odos facing off in Engineering, O'Brien refuses to be distracted from his efforts to regain control of the ship. "I have more important things to do than play Choose the Changeling," he declares, sealing Engineering and then focusing on his work.
There are many reasons why Deep Space 9 is my favorite Star Trek spinoff. Its darker tone appeals to me. I also love the way it keeps building on its own continuity, making events from episodes not simply pay off down the line, but resonate through multiple episodes and even seasons.
"No changeling has ever harmed another." This has been repeated all season long, ever since Odo first encountered his people in The Search. It's become an axiom, echoing through episodes such as The Abandoned, Heart of Stone, and The Die Is Cast. We've been told this is true in the season opener. We've seen its truth in the changelings' rescue of Odo in The Die Is Cast and in their multiple attempts to get Odo to join their Great Link.
It is the way in which this has been established as Fact, even as Divine Law, that makes the ending so devastating for Odo. Add in his own, perfectly in-character declaration of pride in never having killed, and the way in which this particular cat-and-mouse game plays out becomes all but inevitable. Since that axiom is the only absolute law established among the changelings, we also realize what Odo must realize: With this act, he has likely forever closed the door on any chance of joining Changeling society. Which, as The Die Is Cast revealed, has been his one great wish.
If the Odo material was all this episode had going for it, this would still be a very strong episode. But The Adversary is superbly executed on pretty much all levels. It starts off already looking like it will be a strong suspense/action piece. Then, at every Act break, the stakes are raised. It appears the Tzenkethi are attacking Federation colonies; the Defiant has been sabotaged by a changeling; the ship is out of control, and Sisko may be forced to destroy it to avoid starting a war. It's as if the characters are caught in a vice that just keeps slowly, steadily tightening. Kudos to writers Ira Steven Behr and Robert Hewitt Wolfe for such a superbly-structured script.
And also to director Alexander Singer, who amplifies the tension with judicious use of tight shots and sudden bursts of action. As the tone of the episode darkens, so does the overall lighting. As the tension increases, the camera frames the characters ever more tightly. Nor does it truly lighten at the end, the foreboding atmosphere maintained as Odo reports the changeling's final message:
"We are everywhere."
In the Hands of the Prophets, The Jem'Hadar, and now this episode. It must be said: Deep Space 9 definitely knows how to close out a season!
Overall Rating: 10/10.
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