The Future Will Be Carpeted: An Analysis of ‘Deep Space Nine (S5E23)’

“If you can’t have victory, sometimes, you just have to settle for revenge.”
    -- Michael Eddington

In the old days, it was an unspoken rule that television series lasted seven years. Oh sure, there were outliers. Gunsmoke lasted from the invention of the television until the eventual heat death of the universe. But for the most part, there were two milestones. The first was 100 episodes, which was the syndication barrier, ensuring that any show that made it would continue to be a cash cow long after its cancellation. The second was that seventh season, when a beloved institution would take its graceful bow and exit the stage.

It was assumed that DS9, despite being at best a cult success, would last its full seven seasons. By this week’s episode, in the end of season five, that endpoint was in sight. The writers knew they were going to finish on the war with the Dominion they’d been teasing since the end of season 2. As an aside, this was in stark contrast to TNG, which teased a war with the Romulans for seven seasons and never delivered. DS9 wasn’t going to make the same mistake. They knew that to have a suitably epic finish (with enough time for a few weird side quests), they were going to have to start tying up plot threads.

It was time for Michael Eddington’s curtain call. A quick refresher: Eddington was a security officer Starfleet placed on the station, because they specifically didn’t trust Odo to do the job. Incidentally, Eddington was the second attempt after the late, mercifully forgotten Lt. Primmin in season 1. While Primmin was merely annoying, Eddington turned out to be working for the Maquis all along. I’m not going to sling around the T-word either, since treason is largely in the eye of the beholder. (I think Garak said that.) The germane point was that Sisko believed Eddington specifically betrayed him, and thus Eddington took a rarefied place in the pantheon of Sisko’s rogues gallery.

Last time they tangled, Sisko pretty much committed a war crime to capture Eddington. That was before Cardassia joined the Dominion, and you can probably imagine what happened next. The Dominion utterly crushed the Maquis, which is a bit like swatting a fly with a quantum torpedo. I suspect the Founders would do that too (except Odo -- remember, he doesn’t step on ants). The Federation, after having assumed the Maquis was entirely annihilated, intercepts a communique to “Michael,” informing him that the missiles have been launched and will reach Cardassia in thirteen days. Apparently, the Maquis hasn’t quite gone gentle into that goodnight. Considering the fact that the Maquis had access to bio-weapons, we’re talking about a massive death toll that could set off a huge war.

But wait, it gets worse. Martok lets Sisko know that the Klingons were arming the Maquis. Yeah, that doesn’t sound like any recent history I can think of. Anyway, these armaments included a bunch of cloaking devices, so now they could be dealing with cloaked missiles loaded with biological weapons.

Sisko correctly deduces that the “Michael” in the message is Michael Eddington, currently serving time in a Federation prison that looks awfully familiar, because it was in Wrath of Khan. Sisko hatches a plan that strongly implies he rented the Eddie Murphy classic 48 Hrs the night before, since that’s the entirety of the plan. He gets Eddington out of prison to help him track down the missiles before the Alpha Quadrant is plunged into a war that will claim billions of lives. Along the way they learn a little about life, prejudice, and how to mess with a bar named Torchy’s. Okay, I made some of that up.

Eddington and Sisko have a lot of time in their runabout to get on each other’s nerves. Eddington isn’t shy about pointing out that Sisko’s beef isn’t because Eddington betrayed Starfleet, but because Eddington betrayed him. Sisko shoots back by pointing out Eddington’s juvenile desire to be a hero. Both guys have some pretty big flaws, and they’re pretty obvious to anyone looking. In the argument, Eddington brings up Cal Hudson. Remember him? He was Sisko’s pal (and played by certified badass Bernie Casey) who originally turned out to be Maquis in the second season two-parter that introduced them. Hudson, Eddington claims, forgave Sisko, but Sisko could never do the same. He’ll never get a chance either; Hudson was killed in a nameless skirmish against Cardassians.

Eddington does lead Sisko to the launch site for the missiles, where, presumably, a deactivation code can be sent. They find a slaughterhouse. The Maquis personnel who were there have been killed, their corpses left to rot, and the place is infested with Jem’Hadar. The two of them go Die Harding through the place until they come upon a hidden compartment where a group of survivors are hiding, including the woman in the message. Eddington embraces her and then proudly introduces her as Rebecca Sullivan. His wife.

The odd part of the scene is that Eddington is clearly proud when he does this, and it’s not the weird, paternal pride of a man showing off what a hot wife he has. It’s like he’s proud to be associated with Sisko. The man is his enemy, but he is a caliber of enemy that proves Eddington’s own worth. “If this is the kind of man it takes to bring me down,” he seems to say, “imagine what I must be.”

It turns out there never were any missiles. The message was a ruse, calculated to draw Starfleet’s interest and save the few holdouts in the base. No one was expecting the Jem’Hadar either, so nothing works perfectly. As Sisko and the Maquis flee the base, Eddington gets to die a hero, sacrificing himself so that the others can escape.

In the end, when Sisko is decompressing with Dax, neither one of them are quite sure what to make of Eddington. He was true to his beliefs, though not his oaths. He was willing to die to save the lives of others. Even Sisko’s hatred, which was once white hot, has cooled. Was Eddington really deserving of such loathing? Was he a bad man? A confused one? A hero? Villain?

The show itself is ambiguous. Every human being has the potential for heroism and villainy. We do great things and things we aren’t proud of. This acknowledges that duality in the form of what could have easily been a sneering bad guy. Eddington did go out well, though. If there’s a Sto-vo-kor, he made it.


Next up: Cardassians have some really weird security protocols.

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