Sunday, April 3, 2011

Classics: DS9 5:13 - For the Uniform

Overall: 9.1

Sisko poisons an entire planet to get that traitorous Eddington. What's not to love?

Plot Synopsis:

The folks at Memory Alpha have posted a summary here.

The Skinny:

Stephanie S.: I definitely possess a touch of bloody-mindedness when it comes to my TV. I love it when Zhaan, D'Argo, and Rygel cut off Pilot's arm in the first season of Farscape. I love it when Laura Roslin spaces Leoben in the first season of the new BSG. I love it when Vir finally gets his chance to cheerfully wave at Morden's severed head in the fourth season of B5 (moreover, I love that displaying your enemy's head on a pike is so normal on Centauri Prime that even Vir will accept the practice in the right circumstance). And I absolutely, positively love it when, in the current episode, Sisko decides to show Eddington that He Is Totally Not Bluffing and shoots trilithium into the atmosphere of a Maquis-occupied planet. Only on DS9, folks. Only on DS9.

But let's push aside the evil cackling for a moment and get serious. In particular, let's talk about Eddington and how a man can be both right and wrong simultaneously. By a rather marvelous coincidence, I have always taken point on DS9's Maquis episodes, so you should be well aware of my opinion regarding the treaty between the Federation and the Cardassian Empire and the formation of the DMZ. In case you've forgotten, allow me to reiterate: I think it was a bad idea. In the real world, ignoring the local population (particularly their understanding of tribal borders) has always led to disaster. Eddington is absolutely right to decry the Federation's choice to unceremoniously uproot millions of its own citizens in the name of peace, and I find it entirely understandable that he - and others like him - would scoff at the Federation's after-the-fact offer of resettlement.

On the other hand, Eddington's overweening self-righteousness makes it very hard to root for him on a personal level. His belief that he is the brave and selfless hero fighting an honorable battle in the name of a worthy cause is sheer self-delusion given the things he does in this episode, which include: risking millions of Cardassian lives by poisoning two Cardassian-occupied planets and then critically disabling one evacuating Cardassian vessel; attacking two Federation starships, thereby endangering the lives of a number of Starfleet officers; and - oh, yes - stranding the unfortunate Cing'ta on an inhospitable planet to suffer a slow death. Eddington can sneer all he wants at Sisko, but no one's going to be nominating Eddington for sainthood any time soon. Indeed, as I indicated above, we all feel a little schadenfreude when Sisko finally outsmarts the arrogant bastard.

As for Sisko -- well, I'll let SABR Matt take over that part of the discussion.

SABR Matt: To quote our colleague in critique, sfdebris, "When the Borg were finished f***ing up Captain Picard's life, he went to his ready room and drank tea thoughtfully. When the Borg were finished destroying Ben Sisko's life, he returned to Earth to oversee the design of a ship built specifically to kill mother-f***ing Borg!!" You don't f*** with The Sisko. And that is awesome when channeled correctly. Sisko is a deeply flawed individual, there's no doubt. I don't think DS9's writers ever made the mistake of portraying Sisko's bad-assery as morally unassailable. Sisko's tendency to take things personally and lose site of the big picture can lead to a lot of hand-wringing and moral lines being crossed...but it also makes him a great Military leader.

In fact, Sisko perfectly represents the difference between the more mature (and realistic) depiction of the Trek-verse on DS9 and Star Trek to that point. Picard is the consummate leader for a peaceful ship of exploration. His battlefield triumphs are actually quite limited. As you think back to the various battle-heavy moments in TNG history, Picard's tendency to be diplomatic when the situation doesn't call for it (like in his first encounter with the Borg, or his dealings with Data's brother, of his many encounters with the Romulans) has led to members of his crew getting captured, himself getting captured, his ship getting into spots it shouldn't, etc. Picard would not be the right man to lead the war against the Dominion. He would have agitated for a detente, just as he always did with the Romulans. He would have given the Dominion Cardassia and probably even DS9 as "The Search" speculated they might demand. Ask yourself honestly...what is Picard's greatest MILITARY victory? Um...inventing a perfectly obvious tactical maneuver to defeat those brilliant warriors...the Ferengi? Getting Data to put the Borg to sleep in TBOBW? Hardly the stuff of strategic genius or decisive action in heated moments.

The Sisko, on the other hand, is a bit of a loose cannon...but when facing an intractable enemy that will use diplomacy as a weapon to trick you into an unwinnable battlefield posture and takes the long view to world-building (like the Dominion)...take your loose cannons and aim them at the bad guys. Period. DS9's grown up approach to foreign policy ( centers around the more rational belief of its' creators that diplomacy cannot always work and that men of action are sometimes required to solve such problems...without making the mistake of assuming that men of action plow ahead with no regrets. Sisko has regrets, but in the end, he takes responsibility for his actions and their consequences...Picard is so worried about consequences that he often refuses action even when it seems prudent (such as the incident that began the spiral toward the creation of the Maquis when O'Brien's former CO tried to force the Federation to search a Cardassian cargo ship smuggling weapons). Both types of men are needed in a proper, balanced hierarchy...I'm not badmouthing Picard entirely. But some Trek fans make the mistake of thinking of Picard as the mature leader and Sisko as an uncultured loud mouthed ruffian. We beg to differ. Just as we chafe at the notion that our military is to be looked at with suspicion because it's trained to be violent when called into action.

As for Eddington...I think what we have here is a man who was right to be outraged, but wrong to convince people to fight an unwinnable battle against two superpowers just because he was right. A good leader, as we've seen in our SGU reviews, shouldn't think making life and death decisions is easy if the cause is just. That's why Rush will never be a good leader on Destiny and it's why Eddington was a bad leader for the Maquis. Even The Sisko doesn't make life or death decisions involving his own crew easily. As we see in The Siege of AR-558, he cares deeply about all of the men in his command. It's just that he has chosen to be the man that makes the tough calls and lives with the consequences. Where Eddington convinces people to give up any hope of a good, peaceful life and fight an admittedly unfair treaty no matter the cost - leading to desperate poverty, misery, and eventually death for every last Maquis (except those that made it to Voyager and became hopelessly boring...perhaps a worse fate) - just because he knows that he's right! - Sisko chooses the defend the lesser of two evils on a daily basis if it saves the lives of his crew mates.

Writing: 9.5/9.5

Peter Allan Fields comes out of retirement for this one, and that is very much to the episode's benefit. When it comes to penning strong two-person scenes, you really can't go wrong in hiring the teleplay writer behind such DS9 classics as Duet and Necessary Evil.

Acting: 8.5/9.0

I think the acting is this episode's weak link. The performances are generally solid, but Brooks apparently finds the scenery quite yummy at times. Mmmmm. Scenery!

SABR Matt: I am a bit more forgiving of the scene chewing because there are moments where it is appropriate to the "play" he's acting out for Eddington...but yes...both Sisko and Eddington come off a bit "larger than life"...especially the punching bag scene complete with "AAAARRRRGHGHGHDGHDHJLKHDGJHGJ!!!!!!" LOL

Message: 9.0/9.0

When dealing with thorny political and military issues, it is best not to cast the players as heroes and villains in a grand melodrama. The real world is far from that simple.


EDDINGTON: Mister Cing'ta won't be joining us. His shuttle had an accident on the way to this rendezvous.
SISKO: Is he dead?
EDDINGTON: You just don't understand the Maquis, do you, Captain? We're not killers. Mister Cing'ta's accident has marooned him on a particularly nasty planet in the Badlands, but I assure you he's very much alive.
SISKO: How merciful. You condemned him to a slow death.
EDDINGTON: It's more than he deserved. He was going to sell us out to you. He betrayed us.
SISKO: Now there's a subject you know a lot about.
EDDINGTON: You've been on my tail for eight months, and now that we're face-to-face, that's all you have to say to me?
SISKO: I will say the rest at your court-martial.
EDDINGTON: Tell me, Captain - what is it that bothers you more? The fact that I left Starfleet to fight for a higher cause, or the fact that it happened on your watch?
SISKO: You didn't leave Starfleet. If you had, I wouldn't be here. You betrayed Starfleet. You used your position as security chief to feed the Maquis information about us. And at the same time, you misled us with false information about them. There is a word for that: treason.
EDDINGTON: Look out there.
(Sisko looks like he might refuse, but Eddington raises his weapon to force him to comply.)
EDDINGTON: Those people, They were colonists on Salva Two. They had farms, and shops, and homes, and schools, and then one day the Federation signed a treaty and handed their world over to the Cardassians. Just like that. They made these people refugees overnight.
SISKO: It's not that simple and you know it. These people don't have to live here like this. We've offered them resettlement.
EDDINGTON: They don't want to be resettled. They want to go home to the lives they built. How would you feel if the Federation gave your father's home to the Cardassians?
SISKO: (turning) I'm not here to debate Federation policy with --
EDDINGTON: (brandishing his phaser) I didn't tell you to turn around. Look at them, Captain. They're humans, just like you and me, and Starfleet took everything away from them. Remember that the next time you put on that uniform. There's a war out there, and you're on the wrong side.
SISKO: You know what I see out there, Mister Eddington? I see victims, but not of Cardassia or the Federation. Victims of you, the Maquis. You sold these people on the dream that one day they could go back to those farms, and schools, and homes, but you know they never can. And the longer you keep that hope alive, the longer these people will suffer.

EDDINGTON: You know what your problem is, Captain? You've made this personal. It didn't have to be. It wasn't with me. I have no animosity, no harsh feelings toward you.
SISKO: I wish I could say the same.
EDDINGTON: Does it really pay to risk yourself, your ship, your crew, on a personal vendetta? And would Starfleet approve?
SISKO: I don't need any lectures about Starfleet from you. And no matter what happens here today it's not over between us.
EDDINGTON: I'm the one in control here, Captain. Your ship is defenseless. I could destroy you right now, but I won't. Like I said, the Maquis aren't killers. Our quarrel is with the Cardassians, not you. Leave us alone and we'll leave you alone. Cease fire.
SISKO: Am I supposed to thank you?
EDDINGTON: No. I'm not going to make you grovel for your life. Unlike you, Captain, I know when to walk away. Maybe you should think about that on your long trip home.

ODO: Sir, have you ever reminded Starfleet command that they stationed Eddington here because they didn't trust me?
ODO: Please do. (Heh.)

(Sisko is taking his frustration out on a punch bag.)
DAX: The good news is Starfleet Intelligence is making progress breaking the Maquis communication codes.
SISKO: The bad news is it won't do us any good. We're out of the game. But what the hell, right? You win some, you lose some.
DAX: You always had problems with the lose some part of that.
SISKO: What can I say, old man? In twenty five years of duty, I have never been taken off an assignment until now.
DAX: Right. This is about being taken off the assignment. It has nothing to do with a certain ex-security officer we both know.
SISKO: He worked under me for a year and a half. I saw him almost every day, read his reports, had him for dinner. I even took him to a baseball game in the holosuite once. And I never saw it. It's my job to be a good judge of character, and what did I do? Not only did I not see it, I put him up for a promotion.
DAX: He played his hand well.
SISKO: He played me all right, and what is my excuse? Is he a changeling? No. Is he a being with seven lifetimes of experience? No. Is he a wormhole alien? No. He's just a man, like me. And he beat me!
DAX: It's good.
SISKO: Good?
DAX: It's good you're working it out on the bag, Benjamin. Because you're going to have to let go of this one. Eddington is someone else's problem now, and you're going to have to live with that. (Fat chance.)

O'BRIEN: The Defiant's comm system is fried. And I do mean fried.
DAX: Well, we still have our comm badges.
O'BRIEN: I'm afraid not. They won't work either - not with all the interference from the unshielded EPS conduits.
DAX: Well, what do we use? Cups and a long string?
O'BRIEN: We'll have to improvise. Let me introduce you to your new comm system. Cadet.
NOG: Cadet Nog, reporting as ordered, sir.
SISKO: Stand easy.
O'BRIEN: With most of the bridge control functions offline, all orders to Engineering have to be relayed. In the interests of clarity I thought it best that those messages be relayed with one voice: Mister Academy here. I figured you'd want someone who could hear you while the bridge is exploding all around you.
NOG: Exploding?
SISKO: We may be going into a combat situation. Do think you're ready for that, Cadet?
NOG: Sir. Yes, sir. Absolutely, sir.
SISKO: I'm glad to hear it. Report to the bridge.
NOG: Aye, sir. (Then, as he leaves:) Exploding? (LOL! Cute.)

SISKO: All right, say it.
DAX: What?
SISKO: That I have lost all perspective. That I'm turning this into a vendetta between me and Eddington, and that I'm putting the ship, the crew and my entire career at risk, and if I had any brains at all I'd go back to my office, sit down and read Odo's crime reports.
DAX: I wasn't going to say that.
SISKO: But that's what you were thinking, right?
DAX: No. Actually, what I was thinking is, you're becoming more like Curzon all the time.
SISKO: I don't know how to take that.
DAX: Consider it a compliment. And the next time I go off half-cocked on some wild-eyed adventure, think back to this moment and be a little more understanding.

EDDINGTON: (hologram) You just couldn't resist the temptation to come after me, could you, Captain.
SISKO: I like to finish what I start.
EDDINGTON: Well, I'm afraid you're going to be disappointed, again. You won't get me, Captain. But I do have a consolation prize for you. Actually, it's more of a gift.
KIRA: Incoming transmission. Sending over a document.
EDDINGTON: It's a book. One of my favourites. Les Miserables.
SISKO: Thank you, but I've read it.
EDDINGTON: Recently? If not, you should read it again. Pay close attention to the character of Inspector Javert, the French policeman who spends twenty years chasing a man for stealing a loaf of bread. Sound like anyone you know?
SISKO: Why don't you beam over and we'll discuss it.

SISKO: Helm, bring us about. One more to go.
KIRA: Sir, this one's making another run for the planet. I don't get it. They've already poisoned the atmosphere.
SISKO: More speed.
NOG: Engine Room, bridge. More speed.
KIRA: They've locked phasers on one of the transport ships evacuating the Cardassians.
(The Maquis fire.)
KIRA: They've disabled the transport. It's losing power. It's going down.
SISKO: Can we beam the crew off?
KIRA: We're out of transporter range. Incoming transmission.
EDDINGTON: (hologram) Well, Javert, let's see how deep your obsession with me is. You've got me. I can't outrun or outfight the Defiant. But, if you come after me you'll have to pay a price. You'll have to let all those helpless Cardassians spiral down to their deaths. The choice is yours.

DAX: Les Miserables.
SISKO: You know it?
DAX: I can't stand Victor Hugo. I tried reading The Hunchback of Notre Dame, but I couldn't get through it. It was so melodramatic, and his heroines are so two dimensional.
SISKO: Eddington compares me to one of the characters, Inspector Javert - a policeman who relentlessly pursues a man named Valjean, guilty of a trivial offense. And in the end, Javert's own inflexibility destroys him. He commits suicide.
DAX: You can't believe that description fits you. Eddington is just trying to get under your skin.
SISKO: He did that eight months ago. What strikes me about this book is that Eddington said that it's one of his favorites.
DAX: There's no accounting for taste.
SISKO: Let's think about it. A Starfleet security officer is fascinated by a nineteenth century French melodrama, and now he's a leader of the Maquis, a resistance group fighting the noble battle against the evil Cardassians.
DAX: It sounds like he's living out his own fantasy.
SISKO: Exactly. And you know what? Les Miserables isn't about the policeman. It's about Valjean, the victim of a monstrous injustice who spends his entire life helping people, making noble sacrifices for others. That's how Eddington sees himself. He's Valjean, he's Robin Hood, he's a romantic, dashing figure, fighting the good fight against insurmountable odds.
DAX: The secret life of Michael Eddington. How does it help us?
SISKO: Eddington is the hero of his own story. That makes me the villain. And what is it that every hero wants to do?
DAX: Kill the bad guy.
SISKO: That's part of it. Heroes only kill when they have to. Eddington could have killed me back in the refugee camp or when he disabled the Defiant, but in the best melodramas the villain creates a situation where the hero is forced to sacrifice himself for the people, for the cause. One final grand gesture.
DAX: What are you getting at, Benjamin?
SISKO: I think it's time for me to become the villain.

SISKO: Helm, set a course for Solosos Three.
DAX: Aye, sir.
SISKO: Major, I want you to send the following message on all Maquis frequencies. To all the members of the Maquis resistance. This is Captain Sisko of the USS Defiant. In response to the Maquis's use of biogenic weapons in their recent attacks, I am about to take the following action. In exactly one hour, I will detonate two quantum torpedoes that will scatter trilithium resin in the atmosphere of Solosos Three. I thereby will make the planet uninhabitable to all human life for the next fifty years. I suggest evacuation plans begin immediately. (The others look at Sisko askance.) What are you waiting for, people? Carry out your orders.

KIRA: Incoming message. It's Eddington.
EDDINGTON: (hologram) What are you really up to, Javert? Do you expect me to believe that a decorated Starfleet officer, the pride of the service, is going to poison an entire planet?
SISKO: That's exactly what I'm going to do.
EDDINGTON: You're bluffing.
SISKO: Am I? Commander, launch torpedoes. (Worf hesitates.) Commander, I said launch torpedoes!
WORF: Aye, sir.
(Two lights impact the atmosphere, and it starts turning yellow.)
KIRA: The trilithium resin is dissipating throughout the biosphere. The Maquis are scrambling their transport ships. They're starting to evacuate.
EDDINGTON: Do you realise what you've done?
SISKO: I've only just begun. I'm going to eliminate every Maquis colony in the DMZ.
EDDINGTON: You're talking about turning hundreds of thousands of people into homeless refugees!
SISKO: That's right. When you attacked the Malinche, you proved one thing: that the Maquis have become an intolerable threat to the security of the Federation, and I intend to eliminate that threat.
EDDINGTON: But think about those people you saw in the caves, huddled and starving. They didn't attack the Malinche.
SISKO: You should have thought about that before you attacked a Federation starship.
(Sisko turns his back on the Eddington hologram.)
SISKO: Helm, lay in a course for Tracken Two, warp six. Commander, prepare two more torpedoes.
NOG: Engine Room, bridge. Warp six.
DAX: Set course zero five zero mark one seven nine.
WORF: Unlock safeties on torpedoes three and four.
EDDINGTON: Can't you see what's happening to you? You're going against everything you claim to believe in, and for what? To satisfy a personal vendetta?
SISKO: You betrayed your uniform!
EDDINGTON: And you're betraying yours right now! The sad part is, you don't even realize it. I feel sorry for you, Captain. This obsession with me, look what it's cost you.
SISKO: Major, shut that thing off! Commander Worf, prepare to launch torpedoes!
EDDINGTON: Wait! If you call off your attack I'll turn over all our biogenic weapons.
SISKO: Not enough.
EDDINGTON: All right, Javert. I'll give you what you want. Me. (MUAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA forever.)

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