the story: A rogue captain declares war on the Cardassians.
similar to: "The Doomsday Machine" (Original Series), "Defiant" (Deep Space Nine), "Equinox" (Voyager)
my thoughts: It's not at all uncommon for Star Trek to bring in a Starfleet guest character who's gone off the rails. It's one of the franchise's most notable tropes. What sets "Wounded" apart, other than the debut of the Cardassians, is how it ends up focusing on Miles O'Brien instead of someone from the main cast.
In contrast to his wedding in the preceding "Data's Day," O'Brien's appearance here gives him his first real chance at carrying a story, letting the viewer know just what kind of man he really is. It's the perfect way for a Next Generation fan, besides, to find a way into Deep Space Nine, because that's exactly the version of the character they're going to find. Almost two years to the day this episode originally aired, in fact, and it looks like a deliberate set-up to the third live action series, with O'Brien beginning a new career confronting Cardassians on a regular basis.
Whereas Picard was always known as the calmer counterpart to the more rash Kirk, even he seems pretty wild to the O'Brien we meet here. For someone who had been making the odd appearance in the series since "Encounter at Farpoint," the very first episode, it took a long time to find out who he was. Until now, he could just as easily have been another of the original series type of supporting character, familiar but still nowhere near as memorable as the main characters.
And he does it by being completely vulnerable, even admitting that he was wrong. That's just something you don't see in Star Trek all the time. Here is the franchise really breaking the mold, with the one character most capable of selling it.
The Cardassians you'll see here are almost exactly as they'd later appear, with some odd exceptions, including the uniforms. The series had tried so hard with the Ferengi to create a distinctive new threat, and here it appears almost effortless. The difference is astonishing.
As for the ostensible main plot of the episode, you can almost put it aside, as it so easily gives way to better elements. "The Wounded" is one of the more unique classics in franchise lore. It deserves to be spoken of in the same breath as "Balance of Terror." It's all but an answer to it.
criteria analysis: franchise - series - character - essential (all criteria met)
Colm Meaney (O'Brien)
Rosalind Chao (Keiko)