This episode feels like an Echevarria piece, but it's actually done by Ron Moore...that's the highest compliment i can think of to give Moore for his character work and his beautiful use of language.
The full scoop can be dug at Wikipedia.
Two things had to happen in this episode for it to work as a pitch, and trust me when I say that either of those things could easily have whiffed badly without requiring "bad" writing. First - we had to really like the person on the other end of that subspace telephone. Second - if you're going to pull the old BS technobabble switcheroo on us (a completely and totally unnecessary plot twist to get to the funeral...and a scientifically dubious one meant to be "high concept"), you'd better give the woman a full Wrath of Kahn style burial complete with heartfelt speeches to make up for it. Perhaps Moore thoguht he was being clever...but maybe someone could explain to me how this ending is any more effective dramatically than, say, taking her back to the runabout hoping to bring her back and having Julian fail because they were just a bit too late? And yes...I am gonna dock Moore a few points for choosing the silly "oh snap!" ending for Lisa Kusack (why? because I LIKED Lisa Kusack...she deserved better, gosh darn it!), but the episode is saved in spite of this decision by solid character work and a real tear-jerker of a funeral.
Before I go any further in discussing the character-driven storytelling that made me compare this with Echevarria's best works, I would like to mention one other structural flaw I see with this episode. It was written as an A/B story and paired with another nice idea - Jake tails Quark while he tries to trick Odo into being distracted long enough to smuggle some contraband and make a big profit. It's fun watching Quark talk about a relatively harmless bit of deviousness, and heart warming to see Odo soften for a day and let Quark get away with it. But here's the thing...it doesn't fit the theme of the A plot...it feels out of place emotionally, and the result is that adding a good B plot to a very good A plot makes both plots less effective. I still enjoy this episode or it wouldn't be hitting the third tier ceiling and just missing feature status, but, to be honest, I don't think this episode needed a B plot...I think we should have had more interactions between Kusack and the other members of the crew and I think we could have spent longer on the rescue attempt and the post-death grieving and really hit this one of the park. Save the Odo/Quark story for an episode that would benefit for a sweet little "awww!" moment and some chuckles.
Now...after those quibbles...on to the good stuff! All of the problems that Lisa gets out of the Defiant bridge crew were spot on. Sisko is running a war and really, there's no way you could expect him to be comfortable with Kassidy barging onto the bridge to say hello. This is a very common problem for military types while on duty. As a matter of fact, this was one of the primary reasons that the US armed forces resisted female inclusion for so long and, after allowing women to serve (and rightfully so), instituted policies against fraternization. Intimacy amid the ranks breeds distraction, damages morale, and gets people killed, as much as we might wish otherwise. Even if kassidy were another officer, I'm guessing that Sisko would still have been uncomfortable with her on his ship. O'Brien seems precisely like the kind of person who would keep his growing sense of isolation and depression to himself and soldier on until he got a good kick in the butt from a helpful listener. Combat veterans have to be able to detach and focus on the work in order to handle the stress of war, but a long drawn otu war can cause a person to close themselves off entirely. Bashir's obsession with his work is another manifestation of the same problem. I would have liked to have seen Dax deal with a problem - perhaps relating to Worf - she could have lightened the mood or been leveraged in some other valuable way. But all in all, the personal stories made sense, flowed nicely, and gave this episode lasting significance.
I'll close with some love lavishly poured out for the funeral. Bashir and O'Brien each give beautiful speeches that build on each other and leave you dewy-eyed if you possess a soul. I'll quote them both here:
BASHIR: (slightly drunk) I just wanted to say that although I only spoke with her for a very short time, I really admired Lisa Cusak. I cared about her and I'll miss her. And another thing. Contrary to public opinion, I am not the arrogant, self absorbed, god like doctor that I appear to be on occasion. (pause) Why don't I hear anybody objecting to that statement?Not a dry eye in the house, baby. This isn't QUTIE as impactful as, say, the Siege of AR558, but the message is similar. Our instincts in times of war are to put our heads down and avoid facing the excruciating emotions that war generates in us, but at some point, if you do this for too long, you'll either go crazy or lose your humanity. It's at these times when we must turn our thoghts to our friends, or family, and God. The intersection of Lisa Kusack's death and the lives of the Defiant crew could be viewed as a terrible blow - a cruel curse at the worst moment. Instead...it feels like divine providence. This is why we love DS9.
O'BRIEN: Well, I will if you insist.
BASHIR: I insist.
O'BRIEN: Then I object.
BASHIR: Thank you, Miles Edward O'Brien. No, I have a heart, and I really care about all of you, even if sometimes it would appear that I care more about my work. To the woman that taught me that it is sometimes necessary to say these things. Lisa Cusak.
ALL: To Lisa.
O'BRIEN: I never shook her hand and I never saw her face, but she made me laugh and she made me weep. She was all by herself and I was surrounded by my friends, yet I felt more alone than she did. We've grown apart, the lot of us. We didn't mean for it to happen but it did. The war changed us, pulled us apart. Lisa Cusak was my friend. But you are also my friends, and I want my friends in my life because someday we're going to wake up and we're going to find that someone is missing from this circle, and on that day we're going to mourn, and we shouldn't have to mourn alone. To Lisa and the sweet sound of her voice.
I'm dinging the script just a bit for being structurally "off key" and for making needless use of technobabble. Normally that doesn't annoy me too much, but when you're doing a character peice that doesn't need it to get the plot to work...please eschew it.
The voice acting for Lisa was...only OK...though she did have her moments. The rest of the cast was brilliant.
See my closing comments above if you want a reason.