Deep Space Nine: s05 e13: For the Uniform

Nothing personal…

I knew in advance that this episode featured the return of Kenneth Marshall, former Security Chief Michael Eddington, now a Maquis leader. It’s a sequel to the Season 4 episode in which Eddington turned against Starfleet, and Sisko vowed to bring him in.

In essence, it’s a basic Police story, and indeed, for the back half of the episode, the show positions itself as a re-model of Les Miserables, with Sisko as Inspector Javert and Eddington as Valjean. Not having read the book, nor seen any adaptation of it, I can’t say whether the parallel is appropriate beyond the limited use made of it, but the episode was very much about Sisko’s obsession with the man who betrayed Starfleet and, more pertinently, betrayed him.

It was this aspect that raised the episode above its already strong and well-made status as an exciting adventure. At every stage, Eddington is ahead of Sisko: he out-thinks, out-anticipates, out-manoeuvres not just Sisko but also Captain Sanders of the Malinche, who is given the mission of replacing Sisko as Eddington’s hunter. Eddington is so far ahead of the game that he can comfortably create situations where Sisko is completely at his mercy, and forego the chance to kill his pursuer, because that’s not his, or the Maquis’s way.

And what makes the episode so strong is that Eddington is right. Sisko is obsessed with him. Eddington has beaten him, and Sisko’s pride won’t let him live with it.

Then there’s the fact that Eddington can defend his actions by reference to the genuine grievance the displaced colonists have at having their planets, their homes, handed over to the Cardassians, in an act of heavily-Kissingeresque realpolitik. Sisko counters with an accusation that might come from the situation of the Palestinians, and their Arab backers, that these victims are being kept in misery and destitution by the Maquis/PLO feeding them an impossible-to-realise dream of return, instead of letting them rebuild their lives realistically and escape their situation.

But Sisko is truly mad on this score, though he sees this as fulfilling his duty to Starfleet to bring in a traitor, ‘the’ traitor. And, unlike Les Miserables but in keeping with an ongoing series of which he is the hero, Javert captures and brings Valjean to justice.

This is where the use of the book becomes sophisticated. It’s a favourite of Eddington’s, from which Sisko discerns that the ex-Starfleet man sees himself as the hero, put upon but doing good, the protector. Quite cynically, in order to create circumstances in which Eddington’s self-image will force him to the sacrifice of surrender, Sisko steps entirely out of character and adopts the biogenetic tactics the Maquis are using: he explodes a bomb in the atmosphere of a Maquis colony planet, seeding its atmosphere with a chemical fatal to humans, just as Eddington has done to a Cardassian colony.

And, having revealed his ruthlessness, Sisko is able to manoeuvre Eddington into surrendering to prevent him repeating the attack with another world.

All of which Sisko does without Starfleet sanction.

It goes without saying that this is an horrific action, as cynical and dirty as any of Jack Bauer’s resorts to torture in 24. As Anthony Trollope was fond of saying, one cannot touch pitch without oneself being defiled, not that I expect for one second that DS9 will display any degree of concern about Sisko’s ruthlessness. Indeed, the close is all smugly congratulatory about his actions, and there’s a cheap payoff to the actual dilemma of the refugees of a poisoned planet destroyed in order to get one man: why, they and the displaced Cardassians will just swap planets and live happily ever after, a write-off that doesn’t survive a second’s thinking about the reality, or the morality, of such things.

It’s these moral considerations, no matter how little they’re expressed, that make this such a strong episode. Credit too for making Eddington a plausible hero, instead of a swivel-eyed fanatic with an obviously straw-cause, which would have dynamited everything the episode sought to do.

Thinking about it, although we’re clearly supposed to applaud Sisko – and the Producers wanted us to see his actions as something the more daredevil Kirk would have done but that Picard would have revolted against – the episode is actually genuinely subversive so far as what it says about Sisko and, ultimately, his vanity.

Strong stuff.

4 thoughts on “Deep Space Nine: s05 e13: For the Uniform

  1. Man, I’d forgotten almost all of the elements of this episode, until reading your review and the synopsis, started jogging my memory to some of them. Jammer in his reviews, (who I’m usually fairly close in agreement most of the time), gave it 3 out of 4. He hit on the same elements and some of the issues you did…
    I do remember Sisko’s obsessive pursuit becoming personal, but can’t remember much else. I definitely think DS9’s abandoning and under utilizing of the Maquis, along with Bajoran political and society episodes, was a major loss and missed opportunities…
    And it seems more relevant a topic as ever as an allegory of world politics, of war, refugees, etc…

  2. Normally, I’d agree with you entirely over the Maquis, but in view of what’s starting to brew, and how it effectively takesDS9 over until the end of the run, I wonder how well another major complication could have been integrated. Sometimes, you can have too much going on, and the effort to see all points of view detracts from the central core, or confuses. We’ll never know (unless we can get a boxset of the Earth 2 version of the show…)

    1. Very true. The introduction of the Dominion starting in season 3 gave the path the series was going to head down. But even up to this point over from season 3, it still felt like wasted opportunities to either flesh it out or wind up threads better. Especially compared to some of the stand alone episodes, not connected to any continued storyline. They could have furthered those plot lines, combined with a character episode for Dax, Bashir, etc. And I’m sure it’s not a spoiler, telling you that stand alone episodes continue on throughout the series…

      And the Bajoran political episodes being phased out did make sense. As they become more stable after a few years, there’s less conflict and issues that the Federation would need to stand over them. The writers built that up fairly well.

  3. Yeah. At the moment, I’m a bit like someone trying to analyse ‘Lord of the Rings’ when he’s only two-thirds of the way through ‘The Two Towers’.

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