|Sisko and Eddington: Keep your friends close...|
Gen. Martok informs Sisko that he has intercepted a Maquis message, clearly directed to captured Maquis leader Michael Eddington (Kenneth Marshall), stating that a missile launch is imminent. Martok reveals that the Klingons provided the Maquis with cloaking technology during the conflict with Cardassia. If the missiles are cloaked, they will be impossible to detect; and if they strike Cardassia, then it will be the start of the very war that they have all been trying so hard to avoid.
There is one hope. If they can locate the launch site, then someone who knows the abort codes will be able to deactivate the missiles remotely. Sisko offers Eddington a full pardon for his cooperation. The Maquis leader is bitter about the destruction of his people by the Dominion. He blames Starfleet in general, and Sisko in particular, for allowing it to happen. He does eventually agree to help - but he warns that once this mission is over, he intends to kill Sisko!
Capt. Sisko: He may be willing to deal with Eddington, but it's clear that he has not forgiven the man his betrayal. Though Sisko talks about how Eddington broke his oath to Starfleet, and how Cal Hudson did so before him, Eddington is right when he says that isn't the captain's real problem. Hudson was a personal friend, Eddington a trusted officer. In Sisko's mind, both men did something worse than betray Starfleet - They betrayed him. Sisko sums it up himself, when he realizes exactly what this entire mission has really been about. "I don't like being lied to!" he snarls, punctuating the statement with a punch.
Eddington: When Sisko says that the Maquis should have been pushing for a negotiated peace with the Cardassians, rather than continuing to wage war, Eddington snaps back: "The Maquis won its greatest victories under my leadership... We had the Cardassians on the run!" As Sisko observes, the Cardassians ran to the Dominion, with predictable results for the Maquis. Those words appear to finally resonate when Eddington stands in the midst of corpses of Maquis who were massacred by the Jem'Hadar. Eddington spends the first part of the episode pretending to have a death wish, a ruse Sisko sees through immediately. After he sees the end result of his private war, what had been an act becomes a reality. Kenneth Marshall's performance here is easily his best of the series, and the many sharp exchanges between Eddington and Sisko form this episode's very strong center.
Nog: Gets the episode's "B" plot. His rotation as cadet now having put him with Security, Nog is finding difficulty dealing with Martok and his Klingons. He complains that they don't even acknowledge his presence, just looking over his head when he tries to talk to them about violations of station regulations. After Sisko tells him to stand up to them, to earn their respect by refusing to be intimidated, Nog spends most of the rest of his subplot spoiling for a fight - though when his chance finally comes, his voice quavers with fear even as he forces the confrontation.
Blaze of Glory brings the Eddington arc to a close, and to all appearances closes out the DS9 Maquis arc as well. Following up on Gul Dukat's vow to cleanse Cardassian space of the Maquis, this episode reveals that the Jem'Hadar have destroyed them. Which makes sense: The Jem'Hadar were established in their very first appearance as ruthless. There's no reason they would have wasted any time in removing an enemy from space settled by treaty as Cardassian space... which is now Dominion space.
For Eddington, this means that the cause he fought for, and the people for whom he sacrificed his freedom, have been all but eradicated. And it happened while he was in prison, helpless to do anything except hear about it through news reports. Again, it makes perfect sense that this has engendered massive resentment against Sisko, who made his capture into a personal crusade. Had Sisko simply left him alone, he would have been able to at least try to save his people from the Jem'Hadar, even if all that would have resulted in was him dying alongside them.
Both men have valid points, but both exaggerate their claims. The Maquis may have become more aggressive under Eddington, but the real damage to Cardassia was wrought by the Dominion's eradication of the Obsidian Order and by the Klingon conflict. Sisko, in turn, did make his pursuit of Eddington personal - but Eddington was launching biogenic attacks against entire planets, clearly raising the stakes past what Starfleet was willing to accept. Our knowledge of the backstory lets us see that neither man is entirely wrong, but neither is entirely right.
The plot ticks along at a swift pace, buoyed by some of the most beautiful effects the series has yet offered in the Badlands scenes. The sequence in which Eddington and Sisko desperately evade two Jem'Hadar warships is particularly well-done, outstanding effects edited tautly with the live action to create a truly nail-biting moment. The planet-bound action of the last third is also effective, the stock Trek set given atmosphere by the dim lighting, by the smoke hanging in the air, and by the Maquis corpses that surround both men even as they battle through Jem'Hadar to reach their goal.
All of this makes Blaze of Glory a good episode, but there is a slightly mechanical quality to it that keeps me from rating it as a great one. Part of this is that the Maquis strand, while far better-handled by DS9 than by Voyager, never felt completely a part of the series. Once or twice a season, DS9 would remember the Maquis were there and do an episode involving them. Folding Eddington into the arc upped the stakes a bit (and did something interesting with a previously bland character)... but in the full season that separated Eddington's betrayal from this resolution, there was only one other Maquis episode and a handful of isolated mentions.
All of which leaves the sense that this episode was mainly designed to cut out an inconvenient thread so that it wouldn't distract from the building Dominion conflict. Ira Steven Behr and Robert Hewitt Wolfe are among the show's best writers, and they do a fine job of making the Maquis resolution fit with what's come before. But with only scattered build-up of that arc prior to this point, the ending just doesn't have the power that it should have had.
It's still good, though, and significant within the fabric of the series. It's just a pity that the Maquis were never truly exploited to their full potential.
Overall Rating: 7/10.
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