So, it probably would come to this at some point. Deep Space Nine started well after Star Trek the Next Generation got off the ground. The two series do have some connections here and there, but for the most part, they haven’t quite connected directly in a way that might be confusing to someone who hasn’t seen certain episodes. And then this one comes along, continuing a plot point from an episode that Jimmy Impossible and I, in our TNG rewatch, haven’t gotten to yet.
Fortunately, I remember the broad strokes of that one.
So, let’s start off with the basics: Kira is frazzled from working too much, so Bashir orders her to spend some time off at Quark’s until she has some fun. Now, I am sure there are lots of places KIra could have fun beyond Quark’s, but maybe Bashir isn’t that creative. Point is, while there by order of the station’s doctor, she runs into an unexpected person: Commander William Riker of the USS Enterprise. He’s on leave himself, passing through the area as he explains to Sisko later, and everyone on the station seems to know and like the guy. The feeling’s mutual…except for O’Brien for some reason.
Yeah, he tells O’Brien he has nothing to say to befuddled Irishman for reasons that Riker says O’Brien is well aware of. O’Brien just leaves a little confused.
Of course, there’s a good reason for all that. And it isn’t just because Jonathan Frakes has directed multiple episodes of Deep Space Nine and was probably an easy get for a guest star. No, the truth becomes clear when he gets a tour of the Defiant with Kira.
See, this isn’t William Riker. This is his transporter accident clone Thomas Riker. That becomes clear when he peals off part of his beard to show the Goatee of Evil. Of course, that comes after he stuns Kira with a phaser blast, beams in two Maquis members, and tricks Sisko and the others into letting the Defiant loose. Next stop: Cardassian space with the Defiant and its cloaking device.
Now, if this sounds like a set-up for some kind of big space battle between the Defiant and a bunch of Cardassian ships…um, not quite. Instead, it becomes more about a clash of personalities between KIra and Thomas Riker while Sisko ends up working with Gul Dukat to prevent a war between the Federation and the Cardassians.
Now, the Kira/Thomas stuff was important and all because Kira essentially recognizes that Thomas is still acting like a Starfleet officer, and Thomas’s whole reasons for doing anything is to prove, well, the Cardassians have a lot more ships than they’re letting on in a supposedly uninhabited planetary sector.
And…he turns out to be right.
The thing is…Gul Dukat doesn’t know that. That was one of the reasons I thought the Dukat/Sisko scenes were the real gold. Dukat has a son whose birthday party Dukat can’t attend because of this mess, and Sisko’s words of comfort fall short. The solution mostly comes about because Sisko and Dukat can negotiate a solution because, well, it turns out that the Obsidian Order have a whole lot of secret ships that not even the Central Command, Dukat’s organization, knew about.
That…could be a problem.
Sisko, by now, has learned enough about how Cardassians do things, and both men know what both Starfleet and the Cardassians needs to escape Sisko needs to get Kira and the Defiant back. He’s willing to share the scans of the shipyards the Obsidian Order is using with Dukat. He also arranges for Thomas to take the fall but not get the death penalty because Cardassian sentences are determined ahead of time. Dukat gets the ringleader, even if the other Maquis leave with Sisko, and he gets something on the Obsidian Order. Sisko gets Kira and his ship and a small moral victoy.
Thomas…goes out like a Starfleet officer. Kira convinces him to sacrifice himself for the others, and he agrees.
Now, what made this episode for me is how, after “Civil Defense” when Dukat was treated as a more villainous character, we see him as if not a friend then at least an ally of convenience. He and Sisko have some commonalities, and they also have the common enemy in the form of the Obsidian Order, the same group Garek apparently belonged to, and it sure is obvious Garek and Dukat hate each other anyway. But if even a smug guy with his finger usually on the pulse of all things Cardassian doesn’t know some things that are going on, well, that’s bound to be a problem in the long run.
Thomas Riker might have done a lot of people a favor this way.