|Garak and Worf, prisoners of the Dominion!|
When an encoded Cardassian transmission is picked up in the Gamma Quadrant, Sisko orders Garak to decode it. Garak tells him it's innocuous, just a years-old planetary survey. But when he states that he's given up on the idea of survivors from the Cardassian attack on the Dominion, Dr. Bashir knows that he's lying. Bashir pushes Garak to reveal the truth: The transmission is a message from his old mentor, Enabran Tain (Paul Dooley), consisting of just one word repeated over and over: "Alive."
Garak insists on going after Tain, and points out to Sisko that if Tain is alive then there may be other survivors as well. He is sent with Worf in a runabout to trace the signal back... but they don't get far before they are intercepted by a Dominion fleet. Worf is able to get out a warning that Dominion forces are building up near the wormhole, but that is all he is able to accomplish before he and Garak are captured.
They are taken to a prison camp on an asteroid. The only atmosphere is provided by a dome, making escape an apparent impossibility. Meanwhile, at the station, Worf's message is received, leaving Sisko with only one option to stop a Dominion invasion: Collapse the wormhole!
Capt. Sisko: Though he doesn't trust that Tain's message is real, he can't ignore the possibility of survivors. He sends Worf with Garak, knowing that the rigid Worf is unlikely to be swayed by the Cardassian's manipulations. When Worf's message gets through, Sisko gives him and Garak as much time as possible before collapsing the wormhole. Ultimately, however, he knows that cutting them off is an acceptable tradeoff to stopping a Dominion attack, and orders it done when the moment comes.
Worf: I love this show's willingness to combine different characters to create new dynamics. We've usually seen Garak paired with Bashir (and do for a bit of this episode), but we've also seen him teamed up with Odo to very different but equally enjoyable effect. Now Worf is assigned to accompany the Cardassian, and we get something different again. Worf's too inflexible to spar with Garak the way Bashir or Odo did. Instead, he calls out Garak's lies as soon as he recognizes them. His inflexible mind-set doesn't stop him from being manipulated, though. When he is about to turn back, as Sisko ordered, Garak prevails on his honor to get him to continue. Worf snaps that Garak doesn't understand the meaning of the word... but as Garak points out, that isn't the point. Worf does, and that's all that's needed for Garak to get the Klingon to do as he wants.
Dr. Bashir: Instantly recognizes Garak's claim of an inconsequential message as a lie. He waits in a runabout for the Cardassian to attempt to steal it, then takes him to Sisko to reveal the full truth. When Garak compliments him on how untrusting he's become over the past five years, Bashir says only that he had a good teacher. Much later in the episode, when Garak is stung by Tain rejecting him yet again, Bashir does provide some comfort. Garak snaps about how the best lesson he can teach Bashir is that sentiment is a weakness... Prompting the doctor to reply that this is one lesson he hopes never to learn.
Garak: Though there are big moments for several characters, this episode belongs to him and is all the better for it. Garak remains an unpredictable delight. He pushes Worf into considering sponsoring his application to Starfleet, only to reveal that he did so only to keep his lying skills sharp. He greets both Gul Dukat and his captors with a disarming grin, and doesn't seem too bothered when both encounters result in hands around his throat. For all of his rampant deception, and for all the wrongs Tain has done to him over the years, he retains a strong loyalty to his mentor. His final scene with Tain seems to reveal more about both men's backgrounds... though honestly, given Garak's nature, I don't trust that the information we seem to learn is truly genuine.
Gul Dukat: Enters the episode in a fury - literally, as he throttles Garak for his association with his daughter. This sets the tone for Dukat's entire role. When Kira confirms that she knew about Ziyal (Melanie Smith)'s association with Garak, he accuses her of willful betrayal. Gone is the smiling flirtation of the past two seasons - Dukat makes it clear in one scene that he now fully regards Kira as an enemy, and he intends to get his revenge. His last scene sees him denouncing his daughter for refusing to leave the station on his orders, lumping her in with all his other self-created enemies. For all of this, you can see that in his mind, he is the injured party in every case. Much like the man who claimed to want to protect the Bajorans as his "children," he has made himself into a victim. It will be very interesting to see where he goes from here.
Gul Dukat, Garak, and Enebran Tain all in the same episode, along with a massive Dominion build-up and a few big surprises... If I didn't know this was still the mid-season, I would think this was the first part of a season cliffhanger! It's certainly momentous enough. If the next episode sustains the momentum, this will likely rank alongside The Jem'Hadar, The Die Is Cast, and The Way of the Warrior for episodes that cause a seismic shift in the series.
I'll wait until my next review to discuss the episode's biggest revelation - I want to mull it over a while before seriously discussing it in any event. Besides, while I can't imagine many people are reading these reviews without having first seen the episodes, I want to allow at least one review's space before spoiling one of the best surprises the series has yet sprung.
Writers Robert Hewitt Wolfe and Ira Steven Behr provide the big moments and the sense of a series turning point, but they don't forget to make room for plenty of good character material. In addition to moments I've mentioned in the "Characters" section, we also see Odo adjusting to being a shapeshifter again, and finding that there are many aspects to being a solid that he's going to miss. The Kira/Dukat scenes are charged with energy, with Kira all but laughing at Dukat's attempts to intimidate her (something that I suspect she's taking far too lightly). worf and Dax get a scene together that shows the spark, humor, and chemistry that was so sorely lacking in Let He Who Is Without Sin...
All in all, an excellent first part that leaves me eagerly awaiting Part Two.
Overall Rating: 10/10.
Previous Episode: For the Uniform
Next Episode: By Inferno's Light
Search Amazon.com for Star Trek: Deep Space 9