Friday, November 18, 2016

Deep Space Nine 3x9 "Defiant"

rating: ****

the story: Thomas Riker returns and defects to the Maquis.

what it's all about: One of the most unique crossover episodes in all of franchise lore, the transporter duplicate Thomas Riker from Next Generation's "Second Chances" returns, having once and for all decided the course of his own destiny, and it's one of the great Maquis episodes.

The Maquis were created for Voyager, and set up in Next Generation's "Preemptive Strike" and Deep Space Nine's own two-part "The Maquis," from the previous season.  In a lot of ways, "Defiant" is exactly the same story, but improved a thousand-fold, addressing the problem of trying to tell a story like this with an entirely new character, and even restating Dukat's role in it.  This time, as with the rest of the third season, he's so well understood, "Defiant" is as much his episode as Riker's, and even Sisko's.  That it works for them plus Kira, it's an episode that fires on so many cylinders, of course it's a classic.  There's just no question about that.

Much like Next Generation's "Chain of Command Part 2," it's also a peak into Cardassian culture, as the crisis of Riker's hijacking the eponymous ship causes Dukat to miss a crucial birthday celebration.  Dukat musing on how his son will react is a classic moment in and of itself, and it's another moment you see an alien culture becomes fully three-dimensional, a depth that was fast becoming a trademark of the series thanks to material like this.  While Dukat expresses his incredulity over this and other alarming developments (some of which is set-up for later episodes, "Improbable Cause" and "The Die is Cast," which earlier Garak material had also worked toward; this was the true beginning of serialized storytelling in the series), Sisko is witness to all of this, demonstrating his grace under pressure, his command ability, and his willingness to cooperate with anyone.  If you ever wondered how he stacks up with the leads from other Star Treks, this is a good episode to watch.

But this is really Riker's episode, and Kira's.  In his previous appearance, Thomas is merely a reflection of what Will Riker used to be.  "Defiant" finds himself as his own person, with all the complications therein.  While he's once again grappling with the notions of legacy, this time he's taking an active role, making his own decisions, forging his own convictions.  But Kira questions him at every turn.  This is her reflecting on past lives, too.  She knows what this sort of thing looks like, and wonders if Riker is making these decisions out of conviction or desperation.  Which she knows about, too.  She helps guide him into harder decisions, brave ones.

It's a bold episode, completely indicative of the best of Deep Space Nine.

criteria analysis:
  • franchise - If this were the Avengers movies, this is a moment you'd really love.
  • series - But as much as it's relevant to the greater franchise, it's also important to the series.
  • character - Focuses on four different characters.
  • essential - Brilliantly.
notable guest-stars:
Jonathan Frakes (Thomas Riker)
Marc Alaimo (Dukat)
Tricia O'Neil


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