Deep Space Nine: s05 e05 – The Assignment


The Birthday Party from Hell

I was dubious about the open to this episode, which was entirely trivial and personal for most of its length. Rom’s doing good work on Maintenance as part of the night shift but Quark is still determined to talk him down and out, Bashir has managed to kill Keiko’s precious plants by over-watering them whilst she’s on Bajor, doing a biological study in the Fire Caves. But Keiko don’t care, they’re only plants after all (warning signal). Because Keiko isn’t really Keiko. I mean, she is, physically, in every atom, but she’s been possessed, by a Pah (Pagh?)-Wraith, that can kill her in an instant. Unless, of course, Chief O’Brien follows her every instruction…

From those unprepossessing beginnings there followed quite a decent episode, as O’Brien reluctantly follows a course of quite comprehensive small-scale sabotage, with no idea what the purpose is, and no time to try to fight back. Every idea he has to try to overcome Wraith-Keiko takes too long to prevent her killing Keiko in retaliation (or threatening Molly), and Wraith-Keiko seems to have a supernatural ability to sense when O’Brien is about to crack and spill the beans.

Though it’s nice to see this attributed to Keiko’s consuming knowledge of her husband and how he’ll react.

The open also featured Rom, remember, and thankfully this is not the set-up for a B story. A technician’s illness sees the Ferengi temporarily upgraded to the swing-shift, which in turns allows Rom’s quite impressive mechanical skills, not to mention his speed, to O’Brien’s attention.

I’m afraid the Chief doesn’t exactly treat Rom well. First, he cons him into assisting the sabotage, under the guise of it being a secret assignment, then, when the work is spotted, he dobs Rom in to Odo, relying on the little Ferengi’s decency and loyalty to keep him silent.

And so it turns out to be Rom who provides the key to what is going on, which O’Brien has failed to see: their work is turning DS9 into a massive chroniton emitter, to be used against the Wormhole where it will kill all the Prophets: the Pah-Wraiths are False Prophets, driven from the Celestial Temple, and thirsty for revenge.

Which turns out to be all O’Brien needs to get a handle on things. He takes charge of things,steals a run about to fly Wraith-Keiko out towards the Wormhole but, just as the Wraith is about to celebrate success, directs the chroniton at her, killing the Wraith and freeing Keiko.

As for Rom, much offscreen explanations later, he gets his reward: permanent promotion to the day-shift. Quark is thrilled…

Ultimately, this was a simple and straightforward story. It served to introduce the Pah-Wraiths, who would become more prominent in future seasons. It was also quite a noticable ‘bottle’ story, its scenes confined to the station itself, or the familiar control room of a runabout, its guest stars being popular recurring characters. This was clearly to permit additional budget resources to be poured into the episode that would appear next (though it had actually been filmed before ‘The Assignment’ but scheduled after in light of the extensive post-production work required.

But beyond mentioning the well-ordered nice touches along the way, or the standard of acting from the two main guest stars (Rosalind Chao in particular was given the opportunity to shine),there’s not a lot to say about this week’s episode other than: well done.

3 thoughts on “Deep Space Nine: s05 e05 – The Assignment

  1. Good but not anything special. As you allude to, I think they had the elements and mood, but without taking any chances or having some major action, it’s an average episode with a standard plot.
    Easily the worst of the “Torture O’Brien” episodes for me, but that shows how they were consistently better in qualitycompared to other episode themes and recurring storylines(i.e. Mirror Universe, Ferengi episodes, Bajoran politics, Sisko as Emissary etc)

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