The Great Star Trek DS9 Rewatch: In the Pale Moonlight

The war with the Dominion is taking its toll. Every week, Sisko posts up a list of missing or dead Starfleet officers, and every week, his crew see names that they recognise. The one thing that could turn the tide would be if the Romulans broke their non-aggression pact with the Dominion and entered the war – but it’s unlikely that they would do so without a good reason. Unable to find such a reason, Sisko decides to manufacture evidence of a Dominion plot against the Romulans.

In the Pale Moonlight is widely regarded as one of DS9’s best episodes, and with good reason. Much as I complained about the moral implications of Section 31 in Inquisition, here, moral compromise is the order of the day, and it works. This is an episode neither Kirk nor Picard could have done – both are far too upstanding and devoted to doing what they think is right no matter the consequences. Sisko is doing something that he knows is at best morally questionable, and worst outright wrong, but he’s doing it because it’s a means to an end. His actions results in bribery, deceit and murder, but when you weigh it up against the thousands of lives that will be saved, it’s a small price to pay. The Federation has always been an ideal, a place where people can live in plenty, and the only questions of morality are tests for the righteousness of Starfleet officers. But now, to protect it, Sisko must shoulder the burden of no longer being an enlightened, 24th century human. He must step off the pedestal and become imperfect, like an alien race, or, heaven forbid, one of us 21st century types.

Captain’s Log

  • One of the critical turning points in this episode is the invasion of Betazed, a core Federation world as seen in TNG. Let’s hope Lwaxana Troi and the Sacred Chalice of Rixx are all right.
  • One from the previous episode – why didn’t Sloan get a Vulcan to mind meld with Bashir to check whether he was a Dominion agent?

Summary – In the Pale Moonlight: So… I lied. I cheated. I bribed men to cover the crimes of other men. I am an accessory to murder. But the most damning thing of all… I think I can live with it. And if I had to do it all over again, I would.”

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