The Great Star Trek DS9 Rewatch: For the Uniform

Eight months ago, Michael Eddington betrayed Starfleet and joined the Maquis. Since then, Sisko has been determined to capture him, and when a new lead turns up, he relentlessly pursues it. And after Eddington starts poisoning Cardassian colonies, Sisko decides he will stop at nothing to bring his former security officer to justice.

Every series needs a good Captain Ahab episode, and this is Sisko’s – although the theme they actually go with here is Les Miserables. But where Kirk and the captains of his time went after faceless space entities, and Picard went after the Borg, Sisko’s nemesis is a fellow human and former colleague. With that in mind, is it no wonder that this is one of Star Treks darker episodes?

The Maquis situation has always been a bit of a blot on the Federation’s copy book – colonists were essentially abandoned on the grounds of pragmatism, a far cry from the upstanding morality usually displayed by Starfleet. Since then, they’ve been fighting for their homes, alone, unsupported and generally regarded as terrorists by all other galactic powers. Now, Eddington has disabled two Federation starships and poisoned the atmosphere of Cardassian colonies, and for Sisko, that means the gloves are off. This is the Sisko we’ll later see in In The Pale Moonlight, a man who will do anything to achieve his goal, no matter how morally questionable his methods are. Would Kirk or Picard ever poison the atmosphere of a planet to force their opponent’s hand? I don’t think so – and this is both a strength and a weakness of DS9. The show isn’t afraid to go to those lengths, but at the same time, it loses some of that naïve innocence that makes Star Trek such a wondrous future. Humans don’t have to dirty themselves with such moral choices in the future, because we’ve all evolved beyond such concerns, and can sit around drinking Earl Grey tea and dispensing our wisdon to less evolved alien races.

Living in the 24th century
• I’m somewhat disturbed by Sisko’s use of trilithium resin as a chemical weapon in this episode. Not only because it’s an unethical course of action to take just to capture Eddington, or even because it’s been described as a powerful explosive rather than a poison in both Starship Mine and Star Trek Generations. It’s because actions like this, and the Klingons poisoning an entire planet in The Chase, seem to indicate that there’s no real ban or control on chemical weapons in the 24th century. Here in the less enlightened 21st century, most of the countries of the world have agreed not to use chemical weapons, and to destroy any stockpiles, but in the future, it’s fine to use them whenever it’s convenient? I get that Eddington, as part of a rogue organisation, might not abide by any galactic agreements about chemical weapons, but shouldn’t Sisko be bound not to use chemical weapons? Instead, he deploys them with impunity and doesn’t even face an inquiry or court martial about it.
• This episode introduces the Defiant’s holo-projection communications system, which lets anyone talking to the Defiant appear as a hologram on the bridge – complete with sight of all the classified tactical information therein. It’s a new technology, but so amazing that it still works even when most of the Defiant is crippled.
• When the Defiant heads out again after being crippled by Eddington’s virus, Dax says they have no transporters. Later in the episode, other vital systems like commas still haven’t been fixed, but the transporters appear to have been repaired, as Sisko has a team beamed over to the Malinche. Perhaps they patched into the Malinche’s transporters that time, but then later on in the episode, Sisko orders the transporters to be used again.
• With internal comms down and comm badges unusable, Nog is forced to relay commands from the bridge to the engine room using some kind of headset. What makes this headset so amazing and magical that it works even when the established comms methods are broken?
• At the end of the episode, the Cardassians and Maquis seem happy enough to swap colonies now that their respective sides have become poisonous to themselves. I thought the whole point of forming the Maquis was because relocation was unacceptable to them.
• If the Maquis are still such a big deal to Starfleet, why aren’t there more starships stationed near the Badlands?

Summary – For the Uniform: Captain Sisko’s got to hunt his whale.

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