Friday, February 10, 2017

Deep Space Nine 5x13 "For the Uniform"

rating: ****

the story: Sisko finally nabs the renegade Eddington.

what it's all about: This is some of the boldest storytelling Star Trek ever did, and it follows some pretty basic templates, going all the way back to "The Doomsday Machine."  It's a simple story about revenge, but it also cracks the whole series open, all over again.

If "The Darkness and the Light" a few episodes earlier finally acknowledged that the Bajoran Resistance really was made up of terrorists, then "Uniform" finally admits that the Maquis are terrorists, too.  This is a huge leap, made possible because at this point, the Maquis over in Voyager have happily assimilated into Janeway's orthodox Starfleet crew (a fact that actually astonished fans to no end, fans who apparently had no idea they were watching idealistic storytelling), and thus there was no longer any reason to protect them.  Deep Space Nine's later Maquis episodes were probably the best Maquis episodes (except perhaps for "Preemptive Strike" over in Next Generation, with its shock betrayal of Picard by the lovably combative Ro Laren), and while "Defiant" was already an unlikely touchstone (it happened to feature the later adventures of Riker's transporter duplicate), it was Eddington's trilogy that really drove it home.

"Uniform" is a sequel to the fourth season episode "For the Cause," which was somewhat hampered by the fact that Sisko and the audience are swerved with a focus on Kasidy Yates (his freighter captain love interest) rather than Eddington, who to that point had been a somewhat familiar recurring character who'd been around for about two seasons without having really previously distinguished himself. Yet he became the second best Maquis defector, and arguably the best after the events of "Uniform."

This is the episode where Sisko first considers that the ends do justify the means.  This is the moral ambiguity of the series that seemed to repudiate the idealism of the franchise, which had been borne of a decade (the '60s) when the counterculture violently rejected relativism.  Later, and far more famously, Sisko lies to the Romulans to get them into the war, spending the entirety of "In the Pale Moonlight" trying to figure out how he feels about what he's done.

In "Uniform," he realizes the only way to stop Eddington is to play the same game he is, and see which of them has the guts to stick it out, basically a game of chicken.  Does this make Sisko a villain?  It's a fascinating new Star Trek template, although the same one Kirk always played when he refused to obey the strict guidelines of Starfleet's Prime Directive...

Besides all that, it's a hell of an experience.  At one point Eddington has sabotaged Sisko's ship, the Defiant, forcing everything to be done manually, and it's some of the best storytelling concerning the act of flying a starship I've ever seen, how everyone comes together (brilliant use of Nog, showcasing how valuable he really is in a Starfleet uniform) to pull it off. 

There's a feeling that this is a big deal throughout the episode, and for that reason alone, nailing the tone for an entire episode (Next Generation had this in "Best of Both Worlds," but really for that climactic moment Riker decides to fire on the Borg ship containing the assimilated Picard), which sets up the drama of the later Dominion War..."Uniform" also captures the end of the transition to the extended serialization that later characterizes the series.  It's a belated sequel that itself later has a sequel ("Blaze of Glory") late in the season, which later probably would've been done back-to-back-to-back (if not in Deep Space Nine then Enterprise, where three-part episodes became common in its final season).  In fact, if you can manage it, try and watch "Cause," "Uniform," and "Blaze" like that.  It'll enhance the impact of the trilogy, shake it loose of the fact that it otherwise seems lost in the run-up to the Dominion War.  In its own way, this is every bit reflective of the series at its best.

criteria analysis:
  • franchise - A classic trope - revenge! - revisited.
  • series - The Eddington adventures reach their climax.
  • character - Sisko at his commanding finest.
  • essential - If the original series had Harry Mudd and Next Generation had Moriarty, then Eddington is Deep Space Nine's unsung best villain, and here's exactly why.
notable guest-stars:
Ken Marshall (Eddington)
Aron Eisenberg (Nog)
Eric Pierpont

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