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The Future Will Be Carpeted: An Analysis of ‘Deep Space Nine (S4E21)’

“Why is the Federation so obsessed with the Maquis? We’ve never harmed you. And yet, we’re constantly arrested and charged with terrorism. Starships chase us through the Badlands, and our supporters are harassed and ridiculed. Why? Because we’ve left the Federation, and that’s the one thing you can’t accept. Nobody leaves paradise. Everyone should want to be in the Federation! Hell, you even want the Cardassians to join. You’re only sending them replicators, because, one day, they can take their rightful place on the Federation Council. You know, in some ways, you’re even worse than the Borg. At least they tell you about their plans for assimilation. You’re more insidious. You assimilate people and they don’t even know it.”
     — Lt. Commander Michael Eddington

Eddington was practically a Chekhov’s Gun in human form. When he was introduced in the beginning of Season 3, he was sort of a do-over for the late, entirely unlamented Lt. Primmin, addressing the very valid concern of would Starfleet really allow the security of an important outpost be entirely run by an official of a foreign government? The answer, of course, is no and having another foil for a character as prickly as Odo is bound to bear some fruit.

The thing is, from the very beginning, there was something off about Eddington. Kenneth Marshall, who is probably most famous to genre fans from his starring role in the bizarre, 1982 swords-and-aliens flick Krull, imbues Eddington with a serpentine streak practically begging the viewer to attribute some treachery to his motives. In the early days of the internet (because, of course, my fellow Trekkers were one of the early adopters of the technology), fans were absolutely convinced Eddington was a Changeling infiltrator. The writers got wind and, in a feat of both petulance and intelligence, decided that would never be the case.

He was something, though. He absolutely had to be. Otherwise, the character was just sort of there, and Behr and company are far too good at their jobs for that to be the case. They brilliantly left the character to lie fallow for nearly two seasons, allowing him to become part of the background noise of DS9. They got us used to Eddington and even had him sabotage the Defiant (albeit under Starfleet orders) in the third season finale. They made him a traitor once so that we would know they wouldn’t, or couldn’t, make him one again.

The game goes seriously deep, too. I’ve talked a bit about the clandestine war taking place between a writer and their audience, and this episode is an excellent example. It plays with another concept I’ve also mentioned, which is the idea of the contract with the audience. In this case, if an episode is about finding a traitor, then there will be only one traitor to be found. Far more interesting, though, is if there are two.

Sisko’s relationship with Kasidy is going well enough that he does the thing most married men will do but refuse to admit: When Kasidy leaves the bed, Sisko swaps his pillow for hers so he can sleep with her scent for a little while longer. It’s the kind of thing that’s sweet when some people do it, and utterly terrifying when, say, a clown does it.

At a wardroom meeting, Eddington lays out the station’s business for the week. Twelve industrial replicators are passing through on their way to the Cardassian Union, and the station is going to need a bit of extra security. The real plot — or what we think is the real plot — starts post-meeting, when Eddington and Odo stay behind to discuss a sensitive matter with Sisko. Seems they have some compelling, if entirely circumstantial, evidence that Kasidy is a Maquis smuggler. Sisko initially dismisses it, but to his credit, he never loses his temper entirely. He listens to his men, especially Odo, who has proven time and again that he is good at his job.

Light surveillance leads to suspicious questions to finally having Worf tail her in the Defiant. Turns out, she is a Maquis smuggler. Before what will be her final run as a free woman, Sisko goes to her in the cargo bay and, in essence, begs her to go on vacation with him instead of on her rendezvous, but she doesn’t quite see what he’s driving at and he can’t tell her. Eddington begs off the mission, telling Sisko if there is a battle, he can’t guarantee Kasidy’s safety and doesn’t want the responsibility. Sisko agrees and takes command of the Defiant.

Which was the plan all along. Odo susses this out (Say it with me!) when Kasidy’s ship, the Xhosa, arrives and there’s no Maquis raider waiting, forcing it into a holding pattern. The Defiant decloaks, and Sisko gets the story from Kasidy — merely that there was supposed to be a ship waiting for the cargo — and Odo puts it together. The Maquis wanted the replicators, both for their intrinsic power and to keep them from Cardassian hands. Back on the station, Eddington has taken over, knocking Kira out with a phaser blast and absconding with the merchandise.

He contacts Sisko once, delivering the episode’s quote as a fantastic indictment against the Federation’s pretensions of Eden. It’s significant because until this point, it’s the worst thing anyone has said about utopia. There is something to it, too. The Federation is almost aggressively human, stripping other races of their values and substituting those of humanity. While I’m not so naive to think certain values are better than others — namely anything that reduces suffering is desirable while anything that increases it should be excised — this does have the troubling veneer of colonialism. Eddington’s strongest point is that the only reason the Maquis are so hated is that they are exercising the freedom of choice to leave. While this is an oversimplification, there’s something to it.

Ironically, Sisko being suckered by Eddington’s long con game could have been mitigated had he listened to Garak. Over in the b-plot, my favorite character utters the immortal line, “Paranoid is what they call people who imagine threats to their life. I have threats to my life.” He’s not wrong, and had Sisko been properly paranoid about the potential for Maquis interest in magic boxes that make anything being delivered to their sworn enemies, he might have been able to prevent it.

Garak, however, is distracted by the only other Cardassian on the station: Tora Ziyal, who, yes, is only half. A new actress (Tracy Middendorf, recognizable from tons of TV roles) plays her, and this is the second overall performer to tackle the role. She’s fine, but I will always prefer Cyia Batten’s original recipe Ziyal. Doesn’t hurt that “Return to Grace” is my favorite episode of the fourth season, and Batten’s Ziyal is a prominent player in it.

Garak is convinced that Ziyal wants him dead. Not an unreasonable assumption, either. He tortured her grandfather to death, and both her dad and her guardian/roommate despise him. Plus, you get the idea Garak has ensnared more than one victim in a honeytrap — actor Andrew Robinson played the character as pansexual, more than willing to use whatever was at his disposal to get his victim’s guard down. He does agree to a date in a holosuite — she has a program for a Cardassian sauna, which looks like a cave with an open vent to lava.

Garak arrives to their date with a concealed weapon, one he only reveals when he decides he won’t need it. The deciding factor is the second great speech of the episode, and one that really defines Ziyal’s character. She throws Garak’s sins in his face, as both Dukat and Kira have told her all about him. Garak, in his most endearing trait, solemnly agrees that he is not a man to be trusted. She points out that she spent five years in a hellish prison camp as the only half-Cardassian around. She doesn’t need company, but she would like it. You’d be a fool to turn down an invitation like that, and Garak’s no fool.

The A and B stories expertly play off each other with these themes of trust and love. Sisko never suspected a traitor, and he had two, including one in his own bed. Garak sees enemies in every shadow and was not prepared for a sweet and worldly girl looking for a friend. That’s the best kind of writing, where the characters don’t get what they expect, but find what they need.

Next up: My favorite Vorta.


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