May 30, 2023

Gabbing Geek

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Weekend Trek “In The Pale Moonlight”

Sisko makes a deal with the devil.

So, I heard about this episode.  I’ve been waiting for this episode.  I knew all about this episode, right down to how Sisko spends a lot of time addressing the camera directly in a way to implicate the viewer with what happened.

Damned if it still didn’t work out great.

Here’s the scenario:  Sisko realizes the war is going badly, and one way to turn the tide is to get the Romulans to enter the war on the side of the Federation and the Klingons…a statement that, as I type it out, makes me wonder what Worf would think of that development.  Regardless, the Romulans signed a non-aggressive pact with the Dominion, and Dominion ships routinely cross Romulan territory to attack the Federation.  Plus, Betazed fell, and that means the Dominion now has to deal with Lwaxana Troi, and that’s going to make something worse for somebody.

Now, the episode doesn’t play shy with the fact that what went down was not to Sisko’s liking for one reason or another.  He says as much in the opening minutes as he starts the personal log he will inevitably delete at the end of the episode.  It’s not a question of something going wrong.  It’s a question of what.

Basically, this is an episode that shows war tosses morality out the window.  Sisko wants the Romulans to join up.  He tries the various arguments, all good ones, out with Dax.  Dax in turn points out every flaw in the most Romulan way possible, and she isn’t wrong on any of them.  If Sisko wants the Romulans to sign on, he’ll need to play a little dirty.

That means going to Garek.

Now, Garek, former member of the Obsidian Order that he is, can get that job done.  He just needs reassurances that Sisko is willing to get his hands dirty this time.  Sisko says he is.  Is he really?  That’s a good question, but the episode suggests that Sisko maybe doesn’t stop and think about just how dirty those hands will get.  Maybe if he listened to how Garek was somewhat impressed when all the former associates he contacted that owed him favors all turned up dead–and Garek apparently used up every favor he had to do what he did in this episode–that maybe the guy who is impressed by the thoroughness of Dominion security should cause the Captain to think twice before proceeding any further.

He doesn’t.  Not really.  Cut a deal with the Klingons to get a top notch holographic forger?  Sure.  Bribe Quark to look the other way?  He’ll do it and hate himself for it.  Lie to a Romulan Senator to make it look like Weyoun and Damar are plotting against the Romulans?  Sisko can and will do all those things.

What he didn’t count on was Garek going ahead and murdering a bunch of people to get what he wanted.  Yes, the Romulans will join the war.  The Senator, who knew Sisko faked the evidence, is dead, but there was enough evidence involved to convince the Romulans back home that a half-destroyed message was real, and the Romulans are naturally suspicious of just about everyone, so they’ll probably disregard any Dominion protests.  The fellow who made the fake evidence is also dead, and that’s two people Sisko met plus the crew of the Senator’s ship.  He’ll beat on Garek, but eventually, he’ll realize he got exactly what he asked for.  He wanted the Romulans to join the war effort, and he didn’t care how.

Now this in and of itself may be surprising for any other Star Trek series.   But this is Deep Space Nine.  It routinely dealt with the more complex moral shades of gray that exist in the real world and not the idealistic world of most Trek series.  Garek’s general ruthlessness when let loose is a known commodity.  It shouldn’t even be that surprising that the simple tailor worked that far ahead to guarantee the results.  He doesn’t even fight back that hard when Sisko starts beating him up, stopping Sisko with only some well placed words.  Was it worth it to give up his self-respect to possibly win the war?

Sisko’s answer, addressed to the camera, is the shock.  Given everything that the audience knows about him and this universe, how idealistic it is, how he serves proudly and lives for that uniform, his conclusion is he can live with it.

That is some powerful stuff.  Would we expect Sisko to normally come to that conclusion?

Maybe, but I know Kirk, Picard, Janeway, and Archer probably wouldn’t.  Those characters wouldn’t work in that role.  Sisko does because Sisko is more of a soldier than the others.  Kirk is a cowboy adventurer.  Picard is an ambassador.  Janesway is an inflexible authority figure representing the ideals of Starfleet.  Archer is figuring out how all this works.  Each has their strengths that are needed in their respective shows.

Basically, only Ben Sisko could have made that decision and learned to live with it afterwards.

The Alpha Quadrant is better off for it.

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