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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Defiant (Review)

The September and October, we’re taking a look at the jam-packed 1994 to 1995 season of Star Trek, including Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager. Check back daily for the latest review.

Defiant is a cheeky piece of work.

On the surface, it appears to be a rather lame bit of cross-promotion for the release of Star Trek: Generations. The first movie featuring the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation had opened three-days before Defiant aired, and so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to get a nice cameo from a well-loved cast member and remind audiences that the film was currently in cinemas. Jonathan Frakes is a likeable actor, and Riker has been used as an ambassador for the series before. He appeared in Cybill, after all.

However, then Defiant takes one sharp left-turn, massively upsetting expectations and becoming something a lot more interesting than a cross-media tie-in.

Guess who's coming to Quark's...

Guess who’s coming to Quark’s…

It is a little disappointing that Star Trek never really committed to a proper large-scale crossover between the various franchises. Sure, actors appear across the franchise in various roles. Jonathan Frakes has appeared in all of the spin-offs from the eighties onwards. There are shared guest stars, recurring plot threads. Worf and O’Brien even formed part of the ensemble for two different shows. At the same time, it’s disappointing that the franchise never went all-in and gave us an epic team-up story.

Although, reportedly, one had been planned for the end of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine‘s first season. It didn’t come to pass, which is probably for the best. In the Hands of the Prophets is one of the strongest stories of that first season, and the cast were still struggling to find their feet. Still, it would have been nice to see Picard and Sisko collaborating to stop some alien threat, or O’Brien catching up with Geordi, or Odo talking with Data. Alas, it was not to be.

"You are going to enjoy this crossover, if we have to give Jonathan Frakes a goatee to make it happen!"

“You are going to enjoy this crossover, if we have to give Jonathan Frakes a goatee to make it happen!”

The best the franchise ever did was the occasional awkward guest star. Bashir served as an ambassador from Deep Space Nine when he appeared in Birthright, Part I. It was a way of letting fans know that the spin-off was on the air. Similarly, Quark made a brief appearance in a seventh-season episode of The Next Generation, as if to remind viewers of where they might get their Star Trek fix now that The Next Generation was winding down.

By all appearances, Defiant looks like something similar. William T. Riker shows up. He flirts with Kira. The teaser ends with Frakes throwing that charming Riker grin at the audience. The first act consists of Riker wandering around the station, engaging in a bit of mutual appreciation. This looks like it might be a bit of groan-inducing box-ticking as directed by the studio higher-ups, the sound of writers fulfilling an obligation imposed by their superiors.

A striking likeness...

A striking likeness…

After all, Riker is a pretty bland ambassador from The Next Generation. I like the character, but he’s hardly as iconic as Picard or Data or Worf. Writing Riker into an episode like this initially seems to be a compromise. One can imagine, watching those first few minutes of Defiant, that Patrick Stewart was busy, or Brent Spiner was enjoying the sensation of not having to get up at unholy hours to have make-up applied. Riker is about as low down the Next Generation totem poll as you can go and still treat his appearance as “an event.”

And then… bam!

A stunning turn around...

A stunning turn around…

The reveal is a thing of beauty. Part of it is down to the way that the episode has been carefully (but not too obviously) pointing towards it. Jonathan Frakes earns a “special guest star” credit, but his character is not identified in the opening credits. One imagines the show would have been all over that. Then there’s that strange conversation with O’Brien. Who could possible hate O’Brien? And then he phasers Kira.

It’s a brilliant moment, for so many reasons. The most obvious is that it’s so sudden and sharp. It looks like Riker is “touring” the Defiant as a means of welcoming any Next Generation viewers who have followed Frakes to Deep Space Nine. There’s some nonsensical technobabble that really seems like an excuse for the show to say “look at our set!” and then… phaser! Frakes plays the scene beautifully. The moment he has what he needs, the cheery façade drops and Riker is all business. He doesn’t keep the sideburns a moment later than he has to.

"It's the Van Dyke of Doom!"

“It’s the Van Dyke of Doom!”

The twist is an exceptional piece of work, jolting Defiant to life. What had seemed like a nice bit of cross-promotion suddenly becomes a far more esoteric piece of Star Trek. Indeed, Defiant almost immediately morphs from what looks like an attempt to welcome new viewers into a story steeped in franchise mythology. All the reveals in Defiant draw the episode deeper into the Star Trek universe, and it’s easy to imagine some first-time casual viewers getting lost quite quickly.

This isn’t William Riker! It’s his evil twin! Never mentioned outside of Second Chances, a sixth season episode of The Next Generation! And he’s secretly joined a bunch of terrorists who popped up over the last year or so of The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine! And it turns out that there’s something fishy going on within the Cardassian government, which has been developed and elaborated upon over the last year or so of Deep Space Nine!

Stop me if you've heard this one before...

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before…

To be fair, Defiant includes all the necessary exposition, but in a decidedly half-hearted fashion. The history of Thomas Riker is offered to the audience during what amounts to a power point presentation by Sisko and Odo to Gul Dukat. During that presentation, the event of Second Chances – which involve an identical clone of Riker living on an isolated base for seven years before being discovered and re-acclimatised – are covered in the space of two lines, while Gul Dukat seems quite disinterested. “This is a very entertaining story,” he sarcastically offers, “but why am I listening to it?”

In a way, this seems like Deep Space Nine being almost deliberately contrary. What seems like a tie-in to Generations suddenly morphs into a story that is uniquely tailored to Deep Space Nine. It develops a recurring character unique to the show. It features a terrorist organisation which has become unique to the show. It sets up plot threads that will pay off down the line for the show. Far from being an episode shared between The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine, Defiant is very clearly primarily written as an episode of Deep Space Nine.

Hey, terrorist... terrorise this!

Hey, terrorist… terrorise this!

This is one of the more interesting aspects of this short stretch where Deep Space Nine was the only Star Trek on television. One imagines the show would be trying to court new viewers – to win over the audience looking for a Star Trek fix in that narrow gap between The Next Generation and Star Trek: Voyager. Instead, the third season has been almost aggressively firm in asserting its own identity. Those looking for the optimism and idealism of The Next Generation will find very little to appeal to them in this first run of episodes.

As such, choosing to make Thomas Riker that focal point of Defiant makes a great deal of sense. Thomas Riker is a clone. He’s a man without his own identity. He exists in the shadow of his “original” self, knowing that he will never be William T. Riker. He feels like a perfect stand-in for Deep Space Nine, which still seems to be trying to assert and establish its own unique voice, distinguishing itself from its more popular and successful sibling series.

Who wants to bet this photo went right up on Dukat's creepy spacebook page?

Who wants to bet this photo went right up on Dukat’s creepy spacebook page?

Over the course of Defiant, Thomas is constantly measuring himself against Will – a character conspicuously absent from the show. When he’s trapped and his options are limited, Thomas refuses to play into what is expected of him. “Maybe that’s what an experienced Starfleet officer would do,” he concedes. “Maybe that’s what Will Riker would do. But it’s not what I’m going to do.” Kira puts her finger on the episode’s pulse. “You are looking for a way to set yourself apart. Some way to be different.”

This feels a lot like what Deep Space Nine has been trying to do over its second and third seasons – trying to demonstrate that it is very much its own entity. With the end of The Next Generation and the cast’s transition to the movies, that identity crisis has become a bit more acute. It’s worth nothing that all the episodes that aired between the start of the third season and the broadcast of Caretaker are concerned with identity in some form or another.

"We were able to mock up a powerpoint pretty quickly. You'd be amazed at how frequently the Federation has to deal with evil twins."

“We were able to mock up a powerpoint pretty quickly. You’d be amazed at how frequently the Federation has to deal with evil twins.”

After Voyager airs, and Deep Space Nine becomes the elder sibling, this identity crisis calms down a bit. Things become a bit more settled. Deep Space Nine eventually grows comfortable in its own skin. As it stands, though, Defiant feels like an act of teenage rebellion – as if the show is throwing a wild house party now that its old sibling has gone off to college. You want your synergised cross-franchise tie-in promotion? it teases, cheekily. Wait until you get a load of this!

And it works. Defiant is great fun. There’s an endearing charm to this cheeky subversiveness. The shot of Riker stunning Kira is brilliant enough, but then you get the wonderful reveal that Riker was wearing fake sideburns. Not a fake beard, mind you, but fake sideburns. It turns out that Will Riker’s transporter duplicate has gone full evil twin on us, right down to growing a villainous goatee. It’s gleefully ridiculous – much like the plot that features Will Riker’s transporter duplicate stealing the Defiant to wage a one-man war on Cardassia – but there’s an infectious energy to all this.

"My cheeks feel cold..."

“My cheeks feel cold…”

However, what’s really striking about Defiant is that Ronald D. Moore takes this blatantly ridiculous set-up and manages to craft an insightful little character drama. Thomas Riker may just be an echo of the original Riker, but he’s given his own agency and characterisation here. There’s something of a tragedy to Thomas Riker – the twin forced to live in the shadow of his more successful and popular sibling.

Indeed, Defiant repeatedly plays with the idea of self-image and ego. Thomas seems to measure himself against William (and explicitly does so at the episode’s climax), but it’s very clearly an idealised version of William. Recounting details of William’s last trip to Deep Space Nine, Thomas recalls, “The last time I was here, I was only able to spend a couple of hours at Quark’s, but by the time I left I had all of his latinum and a date with one of his dabo girls, so I thought I might try my luck again.”

His finger prints are all over this...

His finger prints are all over this…

However, there’s every indication that this wasn’t exactly what happened. After Riker recounts the story to Sisko, he is stopped by Dax in Ops. Dax offers a slightly different account of events. “I hope you’re not here for another loan. Don’t tell me you’ve forgotten who staked you three strips of latinum when your winning streak ran dry?” There’s a sense that William Riker might not measure up to Thomas’ vision of the man, making the fact that Thomas stands in the shadow of his twin all the more tragic.

Rewatching The Next Generation has given me a new appreciation of Frakes’ William T. Riker. William Riker frequently seems like a bit of a jerk with an ego, a character who doesn’t feel the need to be nice to anybody outside his circle of friends. He is very much an alpha male, but disguises his stubbornness and aggressiveness with charm. Thomas seems a little more insecure about himself, despite his ego. There’s a strange romance to Thomas, that Frakes brings out quite well. (His performance as Thomas-as-William is also wonderful, with a sense that Thomas is almost over-compensating.)

Where there's no Will, there's no way...

Where there’s no Will, there’s no way…

Indeed, Defiant stands out as one of Deep Space Nine‘s strangest loose ends. The fate of Thomas Riker has become one of the show’s most frequently queried dangling plot threads, perhaps second only to Bajor’s admission into the Federation. Comics and novels have explored the fate of the character. Even Jonathan Frakes himself laments the fact we never got closure:

I loved going over onto Deep Space Nine. I was one of its fans. I thought they were very underappreciated. But, you know, the doppelganger is a tried-and-true sci-fi theme. I was just disappointed that they left me in the Cardassian jail, where I’m apparently still sitting, rotting to hell.

However, it was not to be. Ronald D. Moore noted, “I don’t think we’ll see Tom again.” The Deep Space Nine Companion includes Thomas Riker on the list of storylines the team did not want to hear pitched for the fourth season.

"If only there were a third dimension the Defiant could manoeuvre in!"

“If only there were a third dimension the Defiant could manoeuvre in!”

It is interesting to ponder whether the lingering fascination with Thomas Riker is down to the fact that he was played by Jonathan Frakes or the character development in Defiant. Given the lack of the same interest in the continuing adventures of Lore or B4, it seems most likely that Ronald D. Moore’s script for Defiant was an important part of Tom Riker’s popularity. For a character who only appeared once on the show (and twice in the entire franchise) that’s quite an accomplishment.

Of course, Thomas Riker isn’t the only guest cast member who gets a bit of character development in Defiant. Gul Dukat appears for the second time this season, and he is presented as a much more heroic figure than we saw in Civil Defense. This portrayal of Dukat is more in keeping with the version seen in The Maquis. This Dukat wants peace and prosperity, and is willing to compromise to secure it. He isn’t blindly patriotic. He feels ashamed that he has to miss his son’s birthday to deal with this crisis.

A central command centre...

A central command centre…

This continues the development of Dukat into a truly multi-faceted character. He’s not a hero, or anything like it; but he’s also not quite a card-carrying villain. As Robert Hewitt Wolfe offered on Dukat’s attraction to Kira, it serves to make the character seem more real:

There are lots of reasons to show Dukat’s attraction to Kira aside from setting up a romance or “unrequited love.”  On one hand, it adds a certain depth to Dukat.  He’s a Gul, and the former commander of DS9, but he also fancies himself a ladies man.  He oppressed the Bajoran people for years yet he’s attracted to their women. He cares.  He loves.  He’s not such a bad guy, is he?

Or is he?  On the other hand, maybe I should have said “he oppressed the Bajoran people for years _and_ he’s attracted to their women.”  You have to ask yourself, was Dukat’s relationship with Ziyal’s mother “true love” or just another form of oppression?  We once refered to Dukat’s romantic tastes in a script as “ridgenose fever” (Cardassian soldier’s slang), though we later cut it out.  Is Dukat’s lust for Bajoran women just another manifestation of Cardassia’s lust for conquest?  He’s vile.  He’s creepy.  He _is_ a bad guy.

On the other hand… He has seven children.  He loves his daughter.

On the other hand… He cheated on his wife.  He was planning to kill Ziyal.

On the other hand…

On the other hand…

You’d have to be an octopus to keep this up for too long.

Frankly, I think this is the wonderful thing about Dukat (and Garak and for that matter Kira).  They’re complex, shaded characters who don’t fit easy labels like “good” or “evil.” Hopefully, as you learn more about them, your curiosity is piqued, not satisfied, and you just want to learn even more.

The characterisation of Gul Skrain Dukat is one of the most compelling facets of the middle seasons of Deep Space Nine, with the character being utter fascinating from the end of the second season through to the start of the sixth season of the show. He doesn’t feel like an arbitrary villain, he feels like a manipulative self-serving charmer who is not stupid or blindly evil. He seems tangible.

Dukat needs a stiff drink to help him process this plot...

Dukat needs a stiff drink to help him process this plot…

There are a whole host of other things that make Defiant fascinating viewing. For one thing, it continues the show’s portrayal of the Maquis as decidedly middle-class terrorists. Tom Riker is a former Starfleet officer who seems caught up in the romance of terrorism. “You’re really not cut out for this, are you?” Kira asks. “Being a terrorist, I mean. You’re not very good at it.” She is correct.

She explains that his tactics and approach are all wrong. “You’re acting more like a Starfleet officer who’s more interested in intelligence reports and Cardassian politics than in actually hurting Cardassians.” And she’s right. Riker isn’t interested in ending the Cardassian oppression of the colonists. “It’s not the mission you’re thinking about, is it, or even the colonists in the zone,” Kira suggests. “This is about you, isn’t it?” This about Tom Riker getting a chance to play the hero, acting out some grand romantic fantasy.

A cranky Kira is a terror for Ops...

A cranky Kira is a terror for Ops…

This is consistent with how Deep Space Nine approaches the Maquis. The Next Generation and Voyager tend to play into the romance of the movement; they acknowledge the motivations of the colonists and tend to suggest that maybe armed rebellion is justified or even righteous. Deep Space Nine is more cynical. The Maquis suggested that the colonists weren’t suited to this sort of conflict. Episodes like For the Cause and Blaze of Glory would suggest that many Maquis were motivated as much by fantasy as by necessity.

In a way, Defiant is an episode that could only really have been produced before 9/11. It’s an episode fascinated by the romantic narrative that exists around terrorism, the sort of strange fascination that led to the production of The High Ground on The Next Generation. There was an awkward trend towards “hero worship” of these sorts of terrorists in the eighties and nineties. Consider the large volume of funds that Americans contributed to the IRA, or even – at the most extreme – Jean-Paul Sartre’s infamous preface to Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth.

A commanding presence...

A commanding presence…

Writing in the wake of the 1984 Tehran hijacking, Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer noted:

Today, after Tehran, it is perhaps hard to remember this earlier romance. But it existed, in two forms. One celebrated the act itself. Jean Paul Sartre, for example, writing in defense of FLN terror during the Algerian War, said that “to shoot down a European is to kill two birds with one stone, to destroy an oppressor and the man he oppresses at the same time: there remains a dead man and a free man.” Any European — like any American today, even the humblest AID auditor — would do. Authenticity had its demands.

Few, however, were so tough-minded. To celebrate political murder as in itself an act of liberation was, to paraphrase Orwell, an idea so morally stupid that only the greatest of intellectuals could believe it. Hence the other, more modest school of apologist: it did not exalt terror, it merely excused it. The method was to look beyond the dead body of the victim to the “root causes” — oppression, desperation, frustation (lives there anyone without a reason to murder?) — that drove the killer. That sympathy, bred of an excess of understanding, was most evident in widespread toleration of Vietcong, IRA and PLO atrocities, among others.

This raises all manner of awkward philosophical and moral questions – particularly because it opens up the classic “was George Washington a terrorist?” debate.

Holding all the Card(assians)...

Holding all the Card(assians)…

Indeed, it seems reasonable to draw a connection between those sorts of romantic attitudes towards terrorist actions and collective nostalgia for the American Revolution. The American Revolution was, after all, a rebellion fought to liberate an oppressed people from tyranny – the narrative traditionally used to justify terrorist conduct. As Carol Berkin notes in the introduction to Revolutionary Mothers, the tradition view of the Revolution tends to romanticise the struggle:

Although the Revolution is acknowledged to be a “war”, it is both a quaint and harmless war, for there is much that is missing in the tales we tell: the violence on and off the battlefield, the families torn apart by political choices, the destruction of homes and crops, the cries of frightened children, the screams of women raped by soldiers, the weariness of a war-torn country, the sickly scent of death and dying in makeshift hospitals, the hunger, dislocation, and for many, both white colonists and Indians, the final exile from their homeland.

In an era of genocidal wars, terrorism, and heated debates over the meaning of patriotism, this romantic view of the American Revolution is especially appealing.

In many respects, Deep Space Nine plays up this disconnect. The Maquis tend to see themselves as waging a just and righteous war, ignoring the fact that they don’t seem to be well-suited to terrorism. In this context, it’s worth noting that Thomas Riker hijacks the Defiant to embark on his own version of Paul Revere’s famous “midnight ride”the subject of much myth-making itself.

Nothing to report...

Nothing to report…

Riker is seeking to announce the existence of an enemy force to an unsuspecting populace. While Riker clearly intends the journey to mirror the popular image of Revere’s journey, there are a number of interesting similarities to the true story. Like Revere, Riker is accompanied by two colleagues who are somewhat forgotten by the grander narrative. Like Revere, Riker is arrested by the authorities he is seeking to undermine. (Unlike Revere, Riker is not released to continue his journey.)

Riker is approaching this from a position of privilege. His ancestral home is not under siege from Cardassian authorities. He has no direct stake in the Maquis’ conflict. He grew up in Alaska. He is a Starfleet officer who really just wants an excuse to play the hero. Kira points this out to him, observing that he simply doesn’t have the mindset of a terrorist. Kira lived under Cardassian oppression. Kira knows what it feels like to hate and to rage. And it isn’t anything like what Riker is experiencing.

The beard is off...

The beard is off…

“The Maquis are terrorists and the only thing terrorists care about is attacking the enemy,” Kira explains. “I know. I was a terrorist. And if I’d had this ship then, I would’ve destroyed Deep Space Nine. I would’ve hit the Cardassians so hard they would have screamed for peace, but I certainly wouldn’t have gone flying off into the middle of Cardassia on some wild goose chase.”

(It is interesting to note that Kira might be exaggerating the Maquis’ ruthlessness here. Barring the terrorist bombing that announces their arrival on the scene, and a biological attack in For the Uniform, the Maquis generally seem quite ineffective. They tend to prefer raids to bombings, ship-to-ship stand-offs to insurgency. Even their last-ditch suicidal end-of-game borderline genocidal plot in Blaze of Glory is revealed as a feint.)

Whoever decided to let Dukat crack open the booze before that briefing was a genius...

Whoever decided to let Dukat crack open the booze before that briefing was a genius…

The Maquis never get a moment of pure unadulterated hatred and anger towards the Cardassians. They have limits and thresholds. There’s never a sense that they consider everything to be a legitimate target. No Maquis ever delivers a speech as raw and as brutal and as angry as Kira’s defense of her own morally ambiguous history in The Darkness and the Light. The Maquis are more like flies than mosquitoes, and it seems Sisko is more concerned about them (for personal reasons) than Starfleet.

The Maquis don’t seem to be terrorists in the same way the Bajoran Resistence were terrorists. They are predominantly middle-aged men playing at being cowboys. Tom Riker is really not that different from the other major Maquis characters developed over the course of Deep Space Nine, including Cal Hudson and the only recurring Maquis leader to appear on the show. Even the main Maquis cast members on Voyager are all former Starfleet types, rather than colonists who lived day-in day-out under oppression.

Looks like they'll be sending him to Riker's island...

Looks like they’ll be sending him to Riker’s island…

There’s a strange element of truth to this. Statistically, suicide bombers tend to be members of the middle class, rather than the working class. Terrorists in general are more likely to possess a relatively high level of education. In the context of Star Trek, it makes sense for so many to have attended Starfleet Academy, given how membership of Starfleet is treated as the default career path for a Federation citizen wanting to establish themselves. (Well, outside Deep Space Nine, at least.)

Defiant is also notable for how it makes a point to emphasise the series’ long-form continuity. Dukat’s character development continues, there’s a reference to Marta from The Abandoned, there’s Cardassian politics and Maquis schemes. There’s a sense that Defiant really exists as one part of a larger whole. Even the macguffin that Riker is chasing – the mysterious Obsidian Order armada – becomes a key plot point later in the season. There’s a sense that Defiant exists as a demonstration of what the series wants to be. Using Jonathan Frakes to lure viewers in while offering them undiluted Deep Space Nine is a daring bait-and-switch.

And so, the end is Nerys...

And so, the end is Nerys…

It is worth noting that – as with so many other plot threads that unfolded over the course of Deep Space Nine – the production team had little idea what they were actually going to do with that Cardassian fleet. It was just a thread that became useful later on. Deep Space Nine is frequently compared to J. Michael Straczynski’s Babylon 5, but the key difference between the shows is that Babylon 5 was a lot more set in stone, a lot more plotted. In contrast, Deep Space Nine was more improvisational, plotted by the seat of the writers’ pants.

(It’s worth noting that neither approach is inherently better. As great as it was to have a long-term plan, Straczynski’s Babylon 5 could feel a little flustered by changes made outside the creator’s direct control – Straczynski was not great at rolling with the punches. In contrast, Deep Space Nine would occasionally completely forget about things that probably should be important – Bajor! – but it generally got by okay from week-to-week.)

“We call this the Riker manoeuvre…”

Even if the plot involving the Cardassian fleet was not planned in advance, it fits surprisingly well with the revelations later in the season. Most obviously, the Obsidian Order’s knowledge about the Defiant’s cloaking device – on loan from the Romulans – makes perfect sense in hindsight. Deep Space Nine has a tendency to get quite lucky in retrospect, with many early plot points and character moments structured so that they fit reasonably well with later developments.

Defiant is a wonderful piece of work, and all the more effective for the fact that it is not what anybody would have been expecting.

You might be interested in our reviews of the third season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:

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9 Responses

  1. Very interesting review. This is one of my favourite ‘light’ episodes of the series, partly because I like Riker and Frakes always seems like a trooper – as you say he is the one who shows up on the spin offs. I admit I’m one of those fans who wanted to know what happened to Thomas Riker.

    The ‘middle class’ terrorism angle hadn’t occurred to me before but it is a fascinating and uncomfortable fit.

    • Frakes is massively underrated. I’ve gained a lot of appreciation for Riker on re-watching The Next Generation, if only because I think the character is a lot more complex than he seemed on the original viewing of the show. Plus, as you said, the guy is a Star Trek Trooper, and pretty awesome goodwill ambassador for the show. While Stewart seemed (understandably) quite happy to draw a line under an impressive body of work, Frakes always seemed eager to represent the franchise in just about any way possible. While I – along with most other Star Trek fans – really dislike These Are The Voyages… for any number of reasons, it feels oddly appropriate for Frakes as Riker to pull down the shutter on the 1987-2005 version of the franchise.

      The Maquis thing is something that – again – struck me on rewatching. That “romantic terrorist” thing was always a part of Eddington’s arc, but it really is there from the start. The Next Generation and Voyager seem genuinely sympathetic and compassionate towards the Maquis, but Deep Space Nine was always scathingly cynical. Not in a “they don’t have a point” sort of way, but in a “you can’t be a family-friendly terrorist” sort of way. Which was gutsy at the time, and even moreso in hindsight.

      (For examples of the difference in how the shows treated the Maquis: The Next Generation and Voyager treated “joining the Maquis” as the kind of thing you did if you had a legitimate grievance and a strong sense of right and wrong. Tom Paris was drummed out fairly quickly, Lon Suder was identified as an exception, and Ro Laren’s decision was treated as something to be respected. In contrast, Deep Space Nine presented “joining the Maquis” as the sort of thing that Starfleet officers do on a midlife crisis. Cal Hudson had lost his wife and was looking for a purpose; Tom Riker wanted to forge a unique identity; Michael Eddington wanted to be a hero. None of them were particularly righteous or selfless.)

      The Bajorans were really terrorists – bombing, killing civilians, willing to treat any Cardassian as a legitimate target, murdering collaborators in cold blood. The Maquis were played as the romantic ideal of terrorists – “if George Washington were a terrorist, he’d be THIS kind of terrorist.” The Next Generation and Voyager bought into that quite heavily, but Deep Space Nine actually had the guts to say “this approach’d make you be a pretty crappy terrorist.” Which is a perfectly justifiable, but something is deliberately provocative, and you’d never get away in a syndicated or network drama these days.

      I was actually a little worried about the scheduling of the Defiant review. I considered shifting the days around so that this post would not go out on September 11th, because it could seem rather cynical.

  2. So, Riker isn’t the IRA in space: he’s the Boston, New York or Chicago barkeep who raises and launders the money for their cause and promotes their cause in the neighborhood (in space). That angle had never occurred to me either, but I can see it now. (Ugh).

    While I agree that they probably wouldn’t have had the lobes to air this after 9/11, it still feels very relevant today. Look at how much we hear nowadays about Westerners crossing the Mediterranean to go fight for ISIL. (Or if you prefer the other side of the conflict, Americans who volunteer to fight in the IDF).

    • Yep. Indeed, the episode even became MORE relevant between the point where I wrote the review (I want to say June… ish) and the point where it was published. That ISIS stuff would probably have changed a bit of what I wrote.

      I hope it doesn’t ruin the episode for you. Oddly enough, I actually find Tom Riker a particularly sympathetic character. A lot of that has to do with the fact that he doesn’t go “full terrorist” and target civilians, and that he is incredibly inept managing a weapon of mass destruction. (The Defiant is a gun with engines, after all.) However, I suspect a lot of that has to do with re-watching The Next Generation for the first time in years and realising how much of a smug and entitled jerk William Riker is.

      I think Will Riker is a fascinating a multi-faceted character, but he’s probably the least likeable member of the Next Generation ensemble, if you look at him from outside the core cast of people he has to be nice towards. Will Riker is a guy who got settled and complacent, and learned to like it – but is also pretty consistently jerkish to anybody outside the senior staff. Which is part of the Executive Officer’s function, but I can see that being somewhat disenfranchising for a version of Riker of who hasn’t really grown into that role.

      Second Chances touches on this, but I can see Tom Riker looking at William and thinking “anything not to be that guy.” He makes stupid decisions, but primarily because he has learned where the non-stupid decisions take him and doesn’t like it. But it is a very different show after 9/11 and after ISIS.

    • No, being both a movie/sci-fi nerd and a politics/international relations nerd, this kind of thing doesn’t ruin the episode for me, quite the contrary.

      I don’t really have an opinion of Tom Riker, since this is the only episode I’ve seen him in (never connected with the TNG cast the way I did TOS and DS9, so I haven’t seen nearly as much of it). What I didn’t realize until you pointed it out was how EVERY Maquis character with any development has the same story as him – Starfleet officer moved to change his stripes by a romantic ideal.

      Also interesting: one of the only Federation members who actually DOES go “full terrorist” and target civilians in this conflict is… Sisko. Even if he didn’t kill anyone, he uproots the colonist population of an entire planet just to stop Eddington. It’s made even darker by the fact that he’s acting out of his own pride and frustration at least as much as out of any duty to bring down the Maquis. That, in its own way, was about as bold as making another of the main cast members (Kira) an unrepentant terrorist.

  3. Darren continues to use the American English term “Yep”. Pushing American English is indeed a great thing.

    • Well, I don’t consider myself to be “pushing” anything. I certainly have no agenda in my choice of “Yep” over “Yes”, beyond the fact that it captures the informal tone of conversation to which I aspire in the comments. (I think the posts are a bit more formal.)

  4. Dukat seems to be interested in peace here, right. But the private dialogue between him and Sisko about their boys ends on a surprisingly bitter note that always gives me chills and foreshadows a lot of what is to come.

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