An unusually absorbing episode that left me with no real ideas where it might go, and definitely one of the strongest that Deep Space Nine has produced thus far. ‘Defiant’ was basically a two-hand episode, centring upon Sisko and Major Kira, each of whom was paired with one of the episode’s two prominent guest stars, Gul Dukat and a very unexpected figure from elsewhere in the Star Trek mythos.
This latter was Jonathan Frakes, reprising – or so we initially thought – his part as Commander Will Riker from The Next Generation. Riker turns up in Quark’s,at the end of the open, most of which had been dedicated to the Major being overworked and being ordered to rest and relax.
There was certainly a degree of relaxation – if not quiet rest – in our favourite redhead’s absorption in the baby blue eyes of the visiting Commander, and she was happy enough to spend her off-duty hours showing around the ‘Defiant’, even after a disturbing encounter with Chief O’Brien, to whom Riker refused to speak (was there any TNG justification for that? I confess my ignorance). But the quasi-date took an unexpected turn when Commander Riker whipped out his phaser and shot the Major.
For the twist was that this was not Will Riker, but rather his transporter duplicate, Tom Riker, who’d appeared in a single TNG episode in the sixth season of that show. Lieutenant Riker was a new one on me, but his reality was explained with commendable brevity, and that was all I needed.
Tom Riker has joined the Maquis and intends using the ‘Defiant’ to attack the Cardassian Empire, in particular a ship-building base. He has the captive Kira on his back for the rest of the episode, trying to dissuade him from igniting the full-scale invasion and destruction of the Demilitarized Zone by Cardassia whilst over in the parallel strand, Sisko has offered himself to Gul Dukat (Marc Alaimo’s longest and deepest portrayal of the character to date) to halt the ‘Defiant’, and maybe prevent it (and Kira) from being utterly destroyed.
Riker’s plans, as Kira took some pains to point out, were not those of a terrorist (and she should know) but of a Starfleet Officer, concerned with tactics and intelligence, which have revealed the potential existence of the aforementioned shipbuilding base. Which is more that Dukat is aware of. He’s under the watchful eye of the Obsidian Order’s representative, Korianos, who, when Sisko sees that Riker’s plan is to give himself a clear run at the Orias System – supposedly a barren region – forbids any movement in that direction. It belongs to the Order, and any ship entering that system will be destroyed. Even if it is Cardassian.
There are obvious levels at work here, and everybody wants to know what’s in the Orias system, not least Dukat. And when it turns out that there are warships there – warships considerably faster and advanced than they should be, when the Obsidian Order are expressly forbidden military equipment…
This mystery remains for future episodes to explore (which I hope they do), but for now it’s Sisko’s opportunity to negotiate a settlement that won’t bring war down on everyone’s heads. In return for the ‘Defiant’s scans of the Orios System, Dukat will authorise the return of the ship, Kira and its crew to the Federation. One scapegoat however is required.
At the urging of Kira to be a Starfleet Officer one last time, Tom Riker agrees to surrender. Sisko has secured a sentence of life in a prison camp, as opposed to execution, and Kira promises they’ll get him out, for which enthusiasm she gets Riker’s tongue halfway down her throat. So it’s all settled, for now, though a quick peek establishes that Tom Riker never appeared again in the Star Trek universe…
As I said, a greatly gripping episode, especially in that the ending was neither fudged nor rushed. For once, the tension was allowed to ratchet itself up without undue and unnecessary cliffhanger danger, which made it all for the better, and the seeming rift between the Central Council and the Obsidian Order was left carefully unresolved, ready for further development when wanted.
As for the rest of the cast, most of them got one scene and one scene only, without fuss, and in natural settings that didn’t leave you feeling like they had seen shoe-horned into the episode just to fulfill their quota. Even though they had. If they can keep up this standard from hereon in (most weeks), Deep Space Nine will be a delight to watch.