With the season ending coming up fairly soon, and the momentous events planned for it, it was about time for a reminder of the political background against which the series has been operating since mid-season. There’s a war approaching, but we’ve been carrying on as if everything were normal for so long that the viewers needed a jab in the bum.
Thus there was a lot of exposition-heavy dialogue at the start of this episode, designed to bring the audience up to speed. There’s nothing new, except that the Maquis have been more or less wiped out, but at least we know where we stand.
But this is merely an adjunct to the real purpose of this episode, which was to complete the story of Michael Eddington: former Starfleet security chief on DS9, traitor to the Federation, Maquis leader, Federation prisoner.
An intercepted message from a Maquis remnant to ‘Michael’, refers to 30 cloaked missiles, fired at Cardassia as an act of revenge: like the shooting of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo, this is the first domino: an inevitable sequence of events will ensue, leading to total, Quadrant vs Quadrant war.
Sisko’s not having it, not on his watch. ‘Michael’, to him and everyone except one slightly dopey member of the audience, is obviously our man Eddington, and Sisko is determined to get him out of his cell and co-operating on stopping these missiles, whether he wants to or not.
Eddington doesn’t care. The one thing he was loyal to, that he believed in, his life’s goal, is dead and buried. If the Federation is about to go down in flames, he’s content to burn with it. Even when manacled and on board Sisko’s runabout, en route to the Badlands, he’s maintaining this nihilistic attitude, though when Sisko forces him to the helm whilst they’re under attack by two Jem’Hadar ships, he combines his Starfleet and Maquis training to get them out of there safely.
Much of the middle of the show is, effectively, a war of words, a battle of ideologies. If it’s meant as a final definition of Eddington’s character, then it fails: the man emerges as much an enigma as ever. But, unless we can come to a conclusion about whether the Maquis cause was good or bad, we will never decide to our satisfaction on whether Eddington was hero or villain or, more accurately, the precise balance between the two which was the real situation.
Instead, we get considerably more genuine insight into Sisko, a creature of ego, from Eddington, which I personally found pretty acute.
Our unlikely war buddies eventually track down the ‘launch site’ to fog-shrouded Athos IV, where they land. The place is crawling with Jem’Hadar,through whom they have to fight their way. Eddington, by now, ha had ample opportunities to shoot Sisko in the back, but has refrained from doing so because he knows one thing that Sisko doesn’t: it’s a con.
A great big, booming, impudent con. There is no lunch site, there are no missiles, war will not start today. Instead, it’s been a carefully planned ruse, to manipulate Sisko into freeing Eddington and bringing him here, to rescue a Maquis band that includes Eddington’s wife, Rebecca, and escape to start again.
At least there’s no War, not yet anyway. So Sisko does the humanitarian thing and co-operates. But the Jem’Hadar are the fly in the ointment. They weren’t meant to be here, they’re the tail-end of the chase. Sisko and Eddington form a rearguard as the others, including Rebecca, are sent on ahead. Straightway we know, and almost immediately Eddington is wounded, enough so that he has to stay behind, whilst Sisko gets the Wagon Train through… A glorious death in a lost cause, and who’s to say Michael Eddington wouldn’t have wanted it that way.
Yes, of course it’s a cliche ending, but perhaps because Eddington, to the end, was never quite defined, never pinned down and anatomised in full, it works. The man died for his beliefs, died to protect his wife: there is always something inherently noble about that.
Though it served as a necessary reminder of the political background, the episode’s real purpose was to end this thread, not just Eddington but the Maquis. It was felt that there were too many unresolved stories heading towards season 6, and one of them had to be seen off, and buried. The rest was lagniappe.
There was a B-story and an essentially comic one, about Nog establishing respect from the Klingons whilst he’s working security, but it was really not worth interrupting the A-story for, so I’m going to ignore it.