Monday, October 14, 2013

5-8. Things Past.

Odo is forced to face a secret from his past.


Sisko, Odo, Garak, and Dax are returning to the station after attending a Bajoran conference devoted to the Cardassian Occupation. Garak drew some attention by ill-advisedly discussing the benefits of the Occupation, but the real star was Odo. His even-handed stewardship of the security of Terok Nor (as Deep Space 9 was then known) earned him the respect of both Cardassians and Bajorans - respect Odo isn't entirely comfortable with.

By the time their runabout arrives at the station, the four are in a comatose state, and Dr. Bashir's attempts to revive them prove futile. He observes that their neural activity indicates that they are actually conscious...

...And so they are, but not of Deep Space 9's Medlab. They awake on Terok Nor, under the Cardassian Occupation. They are dressed as Bajorans, and despite being members of various races they are perceived as Bajorans. Dax catches the eye of station commander Gul Dukat, who has her brought to him to relieve his "loneliness." Meanwhile, Sisko, Garak, and Odo discover the identities of the Bajorans whose place they have taken.

They have assumed the identities of three men whose names Odo knows all too well. They were three Bajorans who were executed for a crime they didn't commit: Attempting to assassinate Gul Dukat. And the day of the attempted assassination? This very day...


Capt. Sisko: As soon as he realizes where and when they are, he focuses on the immediate priority of not attracting any Cardassian attention. Once out of sight, he allows the others to discuss what could be occurring - but again moves them on once Dukat makes his appearance. It doesn't take long for him to recognize that Odo is agitated, but he doesn't press him until late in the episode because there is always a more immediate priority. When he does confront the constable, however, he does so with such fire that Odo is actually grateful when the Cardassian security chief, Thrax (Kurtwood Smith) comes for him.

Odo: Uncomfortable with the degree of respect he is given for his role during the Occupation. "I tried to bring order to a chaotic situation, that's all," he protests, bringing to mind what we already know about the Changeling predisposition to maintaining order above all. It's an early hint of the revelation to come, one that Odo tries very hard to keep his friends from learning and that he seems to even be trying to deny to himself. Rene Auberjonois is excellent as usual, and his pleas with Thrax to conduct a more thorough investigation (pleas he knows are doomed before he makes them) are particularly effective.

Dax: As far back as season One, I've been impressed by how good a nonverbal performer Terry Farrell is. She shows this very strongly in her scene with Dukat. She is "selected" by Cardassian guards and brought to him. She doesn't know what is about to happen - Cardassian interrogation, sexual assault, possibly both - and is visibly frightened. When Dukat presents himself pleasantly, even offering her a drink, her hand shakes as she is thrown by the incongruity of his demeanor. Then she sees that he wants her as a companion, wants her trust, and she smiles slightly, as she realizes how she can use his neediness to her advantage.

Garak: This is Garak's first Season Five appearance (presumably, after some time in the brig for his deeds in Broken Link), and both the character and actor Andrew J. Robinson are on terrific form. On the surface, Garak almost appears to be comedy relief, commenting sardonically on their situation and sniffing at his recollections of the Occupation being "tidier." But he never stops thinking. When Dax is "selected," he steps forward to attempt to bribe the guard out of taking her. That fails, and he earns a punch in the nose for his trouble... But being Garak, he takes advantage of the situation to pick the man's pocket for some gear that allows him to figure out a key piece of the puzzle. Also being Garak, he spends the time awaiting execution thinking up and evaluating excuses that might save his own skin.

Gul Dukat: It's a treat to see Dukat back when he was in power. As in Season Two's Necessary Evil, there are indications that he at least wanted to be a benevolent dictator to the Bajorans - likely for his benefit, however. His interactions with Dax show that he craves approval, not just of his men but of his subjects. He relishes holding the power of life and death over the Bajorans, but he also wants to be beloved by them. An unrealistic expectation, to put it mildly, but then he did go on to amorously pursue Kira, so it's not like he's ever been realistic in his self-image.


Things Past acts very much as a companion piece to the outstanding Season Two episode, Necessary Evil. That episode flashed back to the start of Odo's career on Terok Nor, the name for the Cardassian-run Deep Space 9 during the Occupation of Bajor. It also showed the start of his friendship with Kira, and revealed a secret about Kira's past.

Things Past returns us to Terok Nor through the magic of Technobabble, only this time it is Odo who has the guilty secret. The Terok Nor setting remains terrific, and director Levar Burton doesn't hesitate to go for broke with the grittiness of the setting. Everything is dark, varying shades of shadow punctuated by harsh shafts of light. Colors are subdued to the point of being a step removed from monochrome, and the Cardassian guards (usually seen overhead) are a near-constant presence. The atmosphere is superb, almost as strong as it was in the earlier episode.

Michael Taylor's script is a good one. The opening scene seems light-hearted, but it introduces the major idea of the episode: Odo's attempts to bring order to the station during the Occupation, and his discomfort, even guilt at the praise he receives. We get just enough scenes with Worf and Bashir to establish that the four are only mentally in the past but that damage inflicted there can affect them physically. But we only get those scenes, restricted to the episode's first half, with no other cutaways to dilute the tension. What humor there is is of the darkly sardonic variety. As even temporary victories, such as Dax knocking out Dukat and rescuing the others, are snatched away, the situation becomes ever more hopeless - and the visual style becomes ever more enclosed and claustrophobic.

Though Kira only barely appears in the episode, her one scene is a superb one, in a tag that mirrors the ending of Necessary Evil. In that episode, Odo confronted Kira with the truth. This time, it's Kira's turn to confront Odo with his shameful secret. There's even an oblique reference to the earlier episode, as she acknowledges that she's far from perfect and that "anyone who lived through the Occupation had to get a little dirty."

The episode ends perfectly, with the two on opposite sides of the room. Each has now had his or her worst secret revealed to the other, and each has now taken a turn disappointing the other. And it's on this note that we cut to the station exterior and the credits.

Overall Rating: 10/10.

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