Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Deep Space Nine 2x8 "Necessary Evil"

rating: ****

the story: Odo works an investigation that reminds him of one he conducted years before, under Cardassian control of the station.

what it's all about: The series had pulled out some great work in the past, but "Necessary Evil" may mark the moment the series itself started to look great, with a story so deep, so essential to the nuances inherent in its premise, it's hard not to call such an episode a classic.

The scenes with Quark and his brother Rom happen to be some of the best material they'd had to this point, too, but the meat of "Evil" is the tense relationship between Odo and Kira, not so much in the present but the past, which actually intensifies their relationship in the present, paving the way for a series-long arc that gave so much poignancy to many episodes to come. 

As anyone who's ever watched an episode of Deep Space Nine knows, the eponymous station wasn't designed or created by Starfleet, but rather the Cardassians, who throughout the series and elsewhere in the franchise are easy to interpret as villains.  And yet, this was a series built to explore moral grey areas.  It's such an interesting detail for Odo's background that he worked as constable under the Cardassians before he did for the Bajorans and Starfleet, because it means his moral compass is not at all as clear-cut as you'd expect from a Star Trek character.  In fact, "Evil" serves as the first real statement on Odo's character the series had attempted ("A Man Alone," one of the very first episodes, worked quite well, but as more a study of bigotry than about Odo), and proves beyond doubt that this series was capable of great characterization, which was to become its hallmark.  You can know how easy it is to like anyone else in the franchise, particularly the original series, with all their quirky charm, but in Deep Space Nine characters become fully three-dimensional for the first time.

"Evil" also puts a strong focus on Kira, who had previously been featured in the standout "Progress" and "Duet" from the first season, textbook examples of moral ambiguities in their own right, and yet, since they focus on guest characters, their impact is ultimately muted to a certain extent.  "Evil" is so sensational because the focus, ultimately, is on Odo and Kira, who technically should be on opposite sides, both in the past and present, just going off of where they started out.  But as the title implies, the universe just isn't that simple.

For anyone who refuses to accept the relevance of such complicated storytelling in a franchise that is usually about as subtle as a rock, "Evil" probably can be summed up as a simple investigation (that's actually the title of an episode later in the series that doesn't quite pull off a similar impact) that doesn't really go anywhere.  Anyone looking for something deeper (who is the prime candidate for anyone reading my thoughts on Star Trek) need look no further than "Evil" to see just how deep Deep Space Nine really is.

"Duet" is usually called the best episode of the early seasons, but it's really "Necessary Evil."  It's not as flashy, but its impact and resonance is so much greater.

criteria analysis:
  • franchise - This is what it looks like when Star Trek goes truly deep.
  • series - This is what it looks like when Deep Space Nine finally discovers its true potential.
  • character - The first and arguably best look at the Odo/Kira relationship.
  • essential - Given all that sparkly talk above, this is an easy four-for-four.
notable guest-stars:
Max Grodenchik (Rom)
Marc Alaimo (Dukat)

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