Saturday, October 10, 2009

Classics: DS9 2:8 – Necessary Evil

(Credit to SABR Matt for collecting the highlights and writing the overview.)

Overall Rating: 9.6

Another brilliant character piece written by the master of early DS9 storytelling – Peter Allen Fields (hereafter, PAF) – Necessary Evil displays a thorough, intimate, and heartfelt appreciation for the complexity of each character highlighted within the story. Not only is it brilliantly written (as my co-author would say, “it’s the words!”), and wonderfully subtle, but it provides a landmark moment in the early development of the relationship between Odo and Kira that sets them on a path toward deep intimacy, not mere respect and friendship. Well-acted, crisply-directed, and artfully-filmed, there is little to dislike about this second season classic.

Plot Synopsis:

When Quark is summoned to Bajor by an old acquaintance of his from the Occupation, he finds the widowed Vaatrik Pallra in need of his services. She asks him to retrieve a box from the station’s former chemist’s shop, long ago hidden by her murdered husband; the box (as Quark discovers) contains a list of eight Bajoran names. Before Quark can decipher their meaning, Vaatrik’s henchman – sent to make sure Quark can’t squawk about what he finds when he inevitably defies her instructions not to look inside – guns him down at point bank range. Rom alerts Dr. Bashir just in time to save Quark’s life, but he remains unconscious and in critical condition.

His attempted murder launches an investigation which brings Odo back to his first meeting with Kira and his first ever criminal investigation – a time during the Cardassian Occupation when she was a suspect in Vaatrik’s murder. When Kira manages to all-too-quickly reassemble the list starting from an incredibly cryptic clue from a dazed Rom, Odo begins to suspect that her involvement in the still-open case may have run deeper than he suspected. Her broken alibi, her ties to Vaatrik, and her terrorist activities on board the station lead Odo to the realization that Kira must have been there to ferret out Vaatrik’s fellow collaborators and when he confronts her with his suspicions, she is forced to confess to the murder.

SABR Matt’s Ratings:

Writing: 9.8

While Necessary Evil lacks the kind of gut-wrenchingly dramatic and eloquently crafted dialogue found in Duet, it is, nevertheless, a cleverly conceived plot with solid dialogue which focuses the viewer on one of the show’s most important relationships. It has a very intimate feel right from the get go – PAF knows how to play to his own strengths as a writer. He obviously has a gift for understanding the inner workings of all of the characters for whom he writes – particularly Kira, who is (perhaps not surprisingly) at the center of just about all of his scripts. What is most impressive about this episode is his refusal to resolve the element of his story that is at the very core of our emotional attachment thereto. It is all too easy to feel the pressure to give the audience an answer at the end of a plot arc with high emotional stakes, but I believe the whole episode would have suffered in my mind had PAF chosen to do that. Odo’s discovery of Kira’s criminal past is not something that can be smoothed over in a day or even a week…it’s at the very core of their ability to forge a trusting relationship, and producing a quick answer would have cheapened the significance of this revelation.

Acting: 9.2

Marc Alaimo is the ultimate guest star. There is a direct correlation between the acting score of a DS9 episode and the amount of screen time he gets. I, personally, felt that Catherine Moffat was just plain AWFUL (painfully flat and forced, I think she took the emotional detachment concept about ten steps too far) – and her role in the story being rather critical, it limits how high I can go with my rating here, but other than her portrayal of Vaatrik Pallra, I can’t think of a single bad thing to say about the cast. Nana Visitor and Rene Auberjonois were fantastic in all of their scenes together – Kira conveying a layer of fear and intimidation under the surface in all of her interactions with Odo in flashback scenes, Odo slipping comfortably into the role of investigator – concluding with one of the most dramatically intense sequences ever filmed for this franchise. Max Groddenchik was even properly entertaining as Rom.

Message: 9.7

Here’s a little known fact about forgiveness – it’s not easy. In fact, it’s not SUPPOSED to be easy. If it were, it would not be virtuous to give it. We’ve all done things in our lives that we may not be proud of. Few of us have done anything quite as dramatic as killing a man, even if it was self defense; but we should still be able to relate to a story that concludes with two friends – now more closely linked than ever by a common tragedy – forced to confront an ugly secret about their combined past where one friend begs the other to forgive her. Some of us might even know what it’s like to ask for forgiveness and have that plea met with uncertainty rather than immediate acceptance.

This story also continues a long running series of events in the early history of Kira’s character development where she is forced to confront the consequences of her life as a terrorist and make amends somehow. The real penance she must pay to move on with her life and mature to her full potential mounts throughout the first few seasons. It is rare to see a Hollywood TV franchise confront moral issues like these in such adult – dare I say SPIRITUAL – ways.

Stephanie S.’s Ratings:

Writing: 9.8

It is easy to see why the cast and crew are proud of this episode. As my co-author notes above, it brings to life the moral ambiguities of warfare with an adeptness that will come to be another DS9 hallmark – and in the process deepens an existing relationship. In fact, this is the first episode in which Odo acknowledges that he not only respects Kira, but loves her as well. The juxtaposition of this personal revelation and Odo’s simultaneous professional revelation creates a very interesting tension indeed.

Beyond the central story, this episode also cleverly appropriates the conventions of classic film noir. Odo’s logs echo noir’s use of first person narration; the switching between present and past is yet another nod. And if I may talk about a production choice for a moment, even this episode’s use of lighting – or lack thereof – is influenced by noir. We see in the shots below, for example, an interesting use of shadow that is almost certainly noir-inspired (with thanks to TrekCore for the screen captures):

Notice the bands of light and dark across Quark’s face in this shot from one of the early scenes in the episode. This was a common technique in noir.

It was also common in noir to either partially or totally obscure faces in darkness, as seen here.

Unusual, dramatic shadow patterning – another noir characteristic.

In short, I am certainly not above appreciating a nicely done homage.

Acting: 9.5

I find nothing especially wrong with Catherine Moffat’s performance myself. I concur with the bulk of my co-author’s assessment, however – the rest of the cast is in top form. I would even add that Nana Visitor’s scenes in the present were fantastic; you can definitely see in said scenes that Kira has a confession sitting right on the tip of her tongue.

Message: 9.7

I really have nothing to add to my co-author’s remarks here – except to point out that Kira’s deep remorse in this episode belies the contention made by some liberal-left fans that DS9 is sympathetic to terrorism and would therefore have never made it to air during the Bush administration. Leaving aside the ludicrousness of the assumption that President Bush would’ve given two hoots about a television show when he clearly had more important things on his mind – and the fact that several protagonists in Battlestar Galactica, a program contemporary with the Bush presidency, essentially became terrorists while on New Caprica – episodes like Necessary Evil demonstrate the writers’ clear understanding that terrorism is ugly – that it requires amends.


ODO: “Commence station security log – stardate 47282.5. At the request of Commander Sisko, I will hereby begin a voice record of station security affairs. The reason for this exercise is beyond my comprehension…except perhaps that humans have a compulsion to keep records and lists and files. So many, in fact, that they need to invent ways of storing them microscopically or their records would overrun all known civilization. My own very adequate memory not being good enough for Starfleet, I am pleased to put my voice to the official record on this date. Everything is under control. End log.” – That just cracks me up every single time I hear it! Malicious compliance at its finest.

QUARK: “It’s a positron lock seal. I can get it to release in 25 seconds.”
ROM: “25 seconds?! Someone will see us! Let me do it.”
QUARK: “You?? We’d be at it all night.”
ROM: “All night? Uh…no. I can get it to release in ten seconds.”
QUARK: “How will you get a positron lock seal to release in ten seconds?”
ROM: “You have one on the store room door.”
QUARK: “So?”
ROM: “Sometimes, when you forget to leave me the de-sealer, I have to get into the store room!”
QUARK: “You unsealed the store room without my knowledge?!”
ROM: “Only to serve a customer’s needs!”
QUARK: “In ten seconds?”
ROM: “You forget fairly often.”
QUARK: (obviously not believing his claim) “Ten seconds.” (they make their way to the door to the old chemist’s shop) “Let’s see how you handle the de-sealer rod.”
ROM: “No need…I have my own.” (Quark boggles) “Nog made it for me! Boy’s always been clever with his hands. Time this, brother! You’ll be very proud.” (the door pops open practically instantly) “There, see?”
QUARK: “Thief!! Don’t deny it…you’ve been stealing from me!”
ROM: “Brother, I never!”
QUARK: “Tomorrow morning I’m changing my entire lock system.” (moves toward the panel they need to get behind) “Four in…five up…here…it’s behind this one. Keep an eye on the Promenade while I burn off the panel.”
ROM: “The glare could attract attention. I have a better idea.”
QUARK: “A better idea?”
ROM: “I took the liberty of bringing along a small vial of magnacite drops.”
QUARK: “Magnacite drops, what are magnacite drops?”
ROM: “A compound that will eat through duranium. A drop on each corner and the panel will fall off!”
QUARK: “How do you know that?”
ROM: “When you were in the Gamma Quadrant overnight, we did very big business. Naturally I had to keep your profits safe!”
QUARK: “You got into my latinum floor vault?? With that!?” (the panel pops right off – Quark looks stunned)
ROM: “I didn’t want to tell you because then you’d know I burned off your floor plates. But I replaced them out of my own salary, brother.”
QUARK: “There’s the box…”
ROM: “Should I take it out for you?”
QUARK: “Don’t touch it! Don’t you touch anything! Ever! EVER again!” – ROTFL!

ROM: “He’s dying isn’t he? My brother’s dying! What will I do if my brother dies?”
ODO: “Do? Oh, you’ll have a lot to do once this place is yours.”
ROM: “But if…mine?”
ODO: “Wives serve, brothers, inherit. Rule of acquisition number sixty-one if I’m not mistaken.”
ROM: “I hadn’t thought of that!”
ODO: “Really? I had…because it’s a pretty solid motive for murder.”
ROM: “Yes, actually. I have heard of a number of unfortunate incidents that seemed…wait a minute! You’re not suggesting that I…”
ODO: “I’ve had my eye on you for a long time, Rom, and you’re not as stupid as you look.”
ROM: “I am too!!” (LOL!) “I would never!!”
SISKO (good cop): “Constable, it’s his own brother!”
ROM: “My own brother!!”
ODO (bad cop): “Stay out of this, Commander, I know these Ferengi. They’d sell their own flesh and blood for a Cardassian groat!”
SISKO (good cop): “Odo, he’s a family friend, his son’s very close to my boy.”
ODO (bad cop): “Well you’d better tell his son that his father’s going to the lunar prison on Melba Four! Two hundred degrees in the shade!”
ROM: “I didn’t! It’s not true! Ooooooooh…irony of ironies! I finally get the bar, and I’m falsely accused of my brother’s murder!”
SISKO (good cop): “Rom…as a friend…if you know anything that might help…I think you should tell us.”
ROM: “It was a list.” (best good cop bad cop I’ve ever seen – hee!)

DUKAT: “I’m talking about order, Odo…justice…”
ODO: “There’s very little justice in the Cardassian occupation of Bajor.” – ZING!!

ROM: “I barely saw it! I’m sorry! I don’t remember any of the names.”
ODO: “Alright! Alright…let’s…just relax for a moment.”
ROM: “I really aught to be getting back to my bar.”
ODO: “He’s not dead yet, Rom.”
ROM: “They’re not keeping him alive by artificial means, are they? My brother wouldn’t want that.” (LOL)
ODO: “No, he’s clinging to life all on his own.”
ROM: “Typical.” (LOL!!)
ODO: “Alright, let’s try again. Close your eyes. Take a deep breath. Clear your mind of anything in it. If there’s anything there.” (hee!) “Breathe…breathe…now…what do you see?”
ROM: “The bar.”
ODO: “Yes?”
ROM: “With my name on it.”
ODO: “The past, Rom, not the future.” ( :) ) “The box opens, there’s a piece of paper.”
ROM: “Yes, I see it!”
ODO: “Quark unfolds it…there’s a list of names…Bajoran names…the one at the very top catches your eye. And the first letter is?”
ROM: “C! It’s a C!”
ODO: “The next letter is? (Rom mumbles, unsure) Skip to the last letter in the name, Rom.”
ROM: “O!”
ODO: “Starts with a C, ends with an O…”
ROM: “And there’s a mark in the name…”
ODO: “An apostrophe…”
ROM: “Che’so!!”
ODO: “You’re sure!”
ROM: “YES! I think…”
ODO: “You think…”
ROM: “It’s something like Che’so…I think?” – I love these scenes.

ODO: “Mind if I join you?” (sits) “Pretty girl like you shouldn’t be eating alone.”
KIRA: “I don’t do what you want, not for money, not for food.”
ODO: “No, you misunderstand…although I can see how you could. Let me start again.”
KIRA: “You some kind of police officer?”
ODO: “How did you know?”
KIRA: “You are, aren’t you?”
ODO: “Unofficially, I suppose…”
KIRA: “Unofficially? What’s that supposed to mean?”
ODO: “Gul Dukat asked me to investigate the murder of a Bajoran man named Vaatrik. I understand you knew him.”
KIRA: “Who says I did?”
ODO: “His widow.” (very long pause as Kira sizes up Odo, trying to figure out what to do next)
KIRA: “I suppose she also told you I killed him.”
ODO: “Did you?”
KIRA: (very quietly) “No.”
ODO: “On the contrary, you were in love with him.”
KIRA: “No.”
ODO: “But…he was in love with you?”
KIRA: “No.”
ODO: “Doesn’t sound like much of a romance.”
KIRA: “We weren’t having a romance!”
ODO: “Then why would he tell his wife that he was?”
KIRA: “Well you’ll have to ask him!” - And later…
KIRA: “Let me tell you something, Constable…unofficially or not, you’re working for the Cardassians. Sooner or later you’re going to have to choose whose side you’re on.”
ODO: “I don’t choose sides!”
KIRA: “Everyone has to choose sides, Constable.” (this theme will be echoed later and is worthy of further commentary)

ODO: “Nobody ever had to teach me the justice trick. That’s something I’ve always known. A racial memory from my species, perhaps. That’s the only clue I have to what kind of people they are. Are these kinds of thoughts appropriate for a Starfleet log? I don’t care. There’s no room in justice for loyalty or friendship…or love. Justice, as the humans say, is blind. I used to believe that. I’m not sure I can anymore.” – Odo after realizing Kira was probably guilty of the murder.

KIRA: “Who’s side are you going to be on, Constable?”
ODO: “I won’t play your game.”
KIRA: “When I tell you the truth, you’ll have to choose.”
ODO: “No, no! That’s why I was given this job. That’s why all of you come to me with your problems! I’m the outsider. I’m on no one’s side. All I’m interested in is justice. If you’re innocent, you’ll go free; if not, I’ll turn you over to Cardassian authorities. That’s the only choice here.”
KIRA: “I didn’t kill him. When he was killed, I was on level twenty-one.”
ODO: “Twenty-one? Ore processing?”
KIRA: “Check the Cardassian security logs. You’ll see a breech on twenty-one last night. I’m in the Bajoran underground. I came here to commit acts of sabotage; last night I succeeded.”
ODO: “The ore processor was damaged by a sub-nucleonic device at exactly twenty-five hundred hours last night. It’ll be out of commission for two weeks.”
KIRA: “Give the mine workers a little time off at least. I’ll describe the device I used if you still don’t believe me.”
ODO: “That’s why you needed an alibi from Quark.”
KIRA: “If you tell the Cardassians about me…none of this will matter. I’ll be tried and executed. Who cares about Bajorans killing Bajorans when you can hang a rebel.” (Dukat enters)
DUKAT: “Is this her?”
ODO: “I told you, when I have a name…”
DUKAT: “Is this…her?!”
ODO: “No. You can go.” (Kira moves to leave but Dukat grabs her arm to stop her.)
DUKAT: “If you’re lying, shape shifter…”
ODO: “If you know me as well as you say you do, Gul Dukat, you know I don’t lie. I’m convinced she didn’t kill Vaatrik.”

KIRA: “When did you realize?”
ODO: “The possibility occurred to me when you got the name Che’saro so quickly. Your friends from the underground must have already suspected that he was a collaborator. Once I knew that the eight names were a list of collaborators, the murder of Vaatrik made sense for the first time. He must have been a collaborator too. He had the money for ginger tea…he had the private quarters. I’ve never had a motive for his murder until now. He kept his wife in relative luxury; she surely wouldn’t have killed him. So who would kill a collaborator? Someone from the Bajoran underground, of course.”
KIRA: “A colleague of mine was given the job of sabotaging the ore processor. Vaatrik was my responsibility.”
ODO: “You were here to execute him.”
KIRA: “No! I was here to find the list. The names of the Bajorans who were selling us out. We’d been informed that Vaatrik was their direct link to Dukat.”
ODO: “That must have been why Dukat wanted me to investigate. He had to stay as far away from the situation as possible so as not to endanger his network of Cardassian sympathizers.”
KIRA: “Obviously, I never found the list. But that’s what I was looking for in his shop when Vaatrik…walked in on me. I didn’t have a choice.”
ODO: “I misjudged you, Major. You were a better liar that I gave you credit for.”
KIRA: “You were working for the Cardassians!”
ODO: “I haven’t been for over a year! You’ve had all that time to tell me the truth!”
KIRA: “I tried to tell you the truth a hundred times. What you think of me…matters a lot.” (she begins to get choked up) “I was afraid…”
ODO: “…that it might affect our friendship?” (Kira nods, tearing up) “Maybe it doesn’t have to.”
KIRA: “Will you ever be able to trust me the same way again?” (Odo looks into her eyes for a long moment and then lowers his head, unsure of what to say or do next…and this is where the story ends…just beautifully I might add)

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