Deep Space Nine s05 e24: Empok Nor

Station in distress

Though I don’t remember anything at all of these few episodes I originally watched almost twenty years ago, this episode epitomises why I was so enthusiastic about Deep Space Nine when I had been basically ambivalent about what came before it. It’s an excellent drama, taut, tense, character-driven, and containing that indefinable sense of danger, as it at any moment it’s going to take a step that it can’t go back from. And though it’s ending does, as usual, reassert the status quo, it’s done in a manner that satisfies, and which arises directly from the nature of the protagonists.

In that respect, the episode was subliminally aided by its immediate predecessor, in which recurring character Michael Eddington was killed off, informing us that other recurring characters might not be entirely sacrosanct.

‘Empok Nor’ was essentially a Chief O’Brien solo, especially as no other member of the cast appeared outside the open or the close. Part of DS9 is breaking down and can neither be repaired nor replaced except by salvaging the equivalent equipment from its abandoned sister station, Empok Nor. O’Brien leads a team of two engineers, two security officers and Nog, fast becoming a very useful cadet. However, as Cardassian practice is to booby-trap abandoned stations, O’Brien also takes Garak, as a specialist booby-trap defuser.

There’s an interesting bit of foreshadowing needle on the way. Garak keeps prodding O’Brien over his war record, the hero of Settlik III, despite the ample evidence that O’Brien takes no pride in what he did, that he regards it as an act of war, necessary but not to be celebrated, and that it is part of his past: he is an Engineer, not a soldier. Garak at this point is just trying to get under O’Brien’s skin, and O’Brien is not letting him, truly.

Things change once the party arrives at Empok Nor. Garak defuses the booby-traps, allowing everyone to get on with the salvage, but there’s an unexpected line of defence: two fanatical Cardassian soldiers, released from stasis. They detach and blow up the runabout, leaving the Federation party stranded, and begin stalking them.

What’s worse is that they are under the influence of a psychotropic drug enhancing their xenophobia. Before we learn this, we see Garak accidentally put his hand on some seemingly innocuous blue slime that appears too merely be evidence of Empok Nor’s decaying state (the station, a duplicate of DS9, or Terek Nor as it was, hangs symbolically at an angle in space).

The Cardassian soldiers kill two of the crew. Garak goes off to hunt them, killing each in turn. He’s getting increasingly into it, in fact he’s contaminated by the drug, as is evidenced when he kills the last remaining security officer himself. And it takes all his restraint to keep himself from killing Nog, who he needs to lure O’Brien into a trap.

Because that’s what Garak wants. An opponent he regards as worthy of him, an opponent he wants to see as as much a killer as himself, and to break O’Brien down to his level. In order to protect the last remaining crew member under his charge, O’Brien has to enter into personal combat with Garak, combat he’s going to lose.

But, and I’m not criticizing the episode for this because it was the only possible and character-faithful outcome, O’Brien beats Garak by being what he is: an Engineer. An impromptu trap, an impromptu bomb. It was the perfect response to the set-up, and the perfect ending to an episode that, rather than be an old-style ‘Let’s all dump on Miles’, instead showed the Chief in all his settled qualities.

Garak survives, the drug neutralised, a couple of ribs broken, severely chastened. O’Brien will testify, at the autopsy, that Garak was not in control of himself. The final line, delivered with a lack of emotional energy that was ideally suited to the downbeat close, had Garak musing that had he been any closer to the explosion, it would have killed him, and O’Brien’s almost shy rejoinder that that was actually the intention.

A sober note on which to close another very strong episode. Only two more left in a very good series, and them I’m back in unknown territory again.  Seasons 6 and 7 are already ready, locked and loaded. Another year of this…


A Lycanthrope in Wolfe’s Clothing: Gene Wolfe’s ‘There Are Doors’

This is a most unusual book from Wolfe, and one I’ve always found difficult to fathom. It’s written in the third person, yet it so closely depicts the headspace of its central character, a man called Green, that it is a typically Wolfean first person unreliable narrator narrative twisted only slightly. It is as subjective an experience as anything by Severian or Latro, except that where those two gentleman’s issues were with memory, There Are Doors complicates itself by having a hero who is a nobody: deliberately so.
The meat of the story is relatively straightforward. We begin with Green enjoying a love affair with Lara Morgan, who has been living with him for a couple of days. Abruptly, she leaves him, leaving behind a cryptic letter of explanation that refers to passing through doors: not necessarily doors as such, but which lead somewhere else, which can only be left by backing out, immediately.
But Green is in love with Lara, and only wants to be reunited with her, in some way, not even necessarily as resumed lovers. He goes through a door and finds himself in a different world, the world Lara comes from, and in which she’s regarded as a goddess.
It’s a familiar world in many ways, perhaps a bit less further advanced, though Green never provides us with enough of a clear picture to decide on how, or even if, these worlds are related. It takes him a long while to understand what is referred to only obliquely for much of the way, which is that the biggest difference between these worlds is that on Lara’s world, men can only have sex once. Something in the act of sex destroys their immune system, and they die within a couple of days.
Is this real? Though by the end of the book, Wolfe appears to confirm this is so, from Lara’s own mouth after many attempts to avoid the truth, I am still unsure. Despite it’s faux-objectivity, this is still Green’s story, out of his head, and we learn fairly quickly that, in his own world, he is a quite recent mental patient, for an undefined period.
The uncertainty is further emphasised by the disjointed, incoherent portrayal we are given of Lara’s world. Green moves from place to place in dream-like fashion, rarely conscious of transitions from place to place. People he encounters keep coming and going, in different roles, with little logic. Green constantly doubts what he is seeing, feeling or experiencing, constantly making up possible explanations for what is happening to him whose common characteristic is only that what he is going through is unreal.
The deliberately flat single name further emphasises that he is a nonentity, without character, perception, ability or understanding. The centre of this book is a void, by design, and the book has to function without a centre. And, no matter how fantastic things become on Lara’s World, Green remains unphased by it, too dull to ever be properly surprised.
After a lengthy sojourn in Lara’s World, he returns to his own world, where he is a salesman. His four to five days there have amounted to just over a month at home. Without ever once convincing as an overly-enlightened and generous employer, the store insist on his not returning to work until he’s got a Doctor’s note confirming he’s fit to do so, and when he winds up back in mental hospital, they blithely cover all his expenses, with an open cheque-book.
Green returns to being a salesman for years, improves his standings, his income, his neighbourhood, but still returns to Lara’s World via his favourite Italian Restaurant, which seems to exist in ‘both’ worlds.
Once back, he prevents the overthrow of the Government by Bill North, a confusing violent character who’s also a Visitor from Green’s world, and who is a figure of outright male violence. This enables him to meet the Goddess Lara both there and here, where she’s supposed to be his Doctor’s secretary, which is how the relationship – somewhat unethically, if true – supposedly began.
But Green has become an analyst, become the figure that many of Wolfe’s central protagonists will become, sorting impressions and facts and constructing theories based upon them, which leads to Lara admitting the ‘truth’. And why has a goddess deigned to have sex with such a nobody as Green? Because, in a moment that shines through as real and authenticated, she wanted to have sex with someone who would not die as a consequence of that act of love-making.
Is this true? Is any of this true? Is this one of Gene Wolfe’s most complex games, existing only in the mind of his deliberately colourless hero, who by definition, if he can create this level of complex system, can be anything but colourless?
I don’t know. Maybe next time I will discover a clue that doesn’t have at least four edges. There Are Doors is not a book to encourage repeated reading because Green is so dull. But it is perhaps built on sand that shifts more than anything we have read so far…

At Last…

… I’m online, and on-laptop for that matter. Starting last night, when I logged off, and continuing all this morning until literally minutes ago, I have been blocked from several planned activities by the unbelievable slowness of a Windows 10 update.

Seriously, I have climbed Lakeland fells in the time this update has taken to progress, more than one, and I am not talking about the Latrigg’s and Black Fells of this world. It has been horrendously slow and has threatened to derail certain plans I had for today by delaying me for so long.

And for what? You tell me: I just cancelled the big fancy stuff about what they’ve done for me, especially as the shit about making it easier for me to connect to my (non-existent) smart phone. I rely on the things I have been unable to do so far to help keep me just about sane.

Until now, I haven’t had a bad word to say about Windows 10: it’s given me no problems (Dell crappy laptops is another thing,don’t get me started) but this is a serious p*******r.

Heads must roll for this, or at least kneecaps.

An hour of Radio One

I haven’t listened to Radio One for an hour’s stretch – actually, nearly ninety minutes – since I can’t remember which decade. Long, long ago, I decided that it was not offering anything desirable to a man of my generation and that it was no longer playing any music aimed at someone like me.

This afternoon, after doing a mini-shift to pay back the time allowed me on Friday evening, I went straight round the corner to the Barbers, where I had to wait over an hour just to get into the chair.

An hour of Radio One, of somebody called Greg James. An hour of nothing but dance music, barring one quasi-rock song, with varying degrees of tune to it, but not what you’d call music, not really, it’s just noise. An hour of being my mother and father, except that I was aware I was thinking exactly the same things they thought fifty years ago, and that I was not saying them aloud.

But I was thinking them loudly.

Never again. I’ll have to find another Barbers, for reasons other than the music I hasten to add, though it is a factor. I don’t want to replay the past that much, certainly not the bits where I have to move over to the other side of the ride.

Whatever happened to Mark’n’Lard?

American Gothic e05: Dead to the World

There are a number of reasons why American Gothic was cancelled after only one season, and I’ll be getting to those further down the line. But I wonder if, underlying them, there wasn’t a certain degree of queasiness at the depths into which the show could sink. There’s a lousiness to Sheriff Lucas Buck, a festering sickness to his machinations. Gary Cole was doing an incredibly good job in letting both aspects of Buck – the external, hail-fellow-well-met, town benefactor and the evil bastard – show simultaneously.

American Gothic is about corruption. It’s about trying to corrupt the decency of a ten year old boy, to turn him as evil, ruthless and conscienceless as his biological father, a man who acts not only out of the desire to do everything he wants to do, but who appears to wish to taint everything and everyone around him, just for the unholy pleasure of him.

I take it back, that’s a phenomenal performance by Cole, and to achieve it it requires some bloody good writing, and a willingness to put sick and twisted situations into play, in a subterranean manner, by implication rather than direct showing.

‘Dead to the World’ was a multi-strand episode, spinning three stories across each other effortlessly. It began with a flashback, ten years, to Deputy Buck picking up his girlfriend, Nurse Holly Gallagher, for the hospital, late at night. Holly G has stolen a file for Lucas, on a new baby, Caleb Temple. Unfortunately for her, she realises just why Buck has been so interested in this baby that has nothing to do with him. She also gets mad at how she’s been manipulated and promises to expose Buck, tell all of Trinity about him. So he drives her car off the bridge, into the river.

That’s confident story-telling for you. There’s no mystery here, the episode makes plain what it’s about. Except in one respect.

We move to Caleb next. He and his best friend Boone are practicing archery for the contest at the fair. Both are using pretty basic equipment, both are good but Boone’s better. Which is where Sheriff Buck steps in. Caleb doesn’t want anything to do with him, he’s naturally suspicious of the man, finds him creepy and a little bit oily in his constant attempts to insinuate himself into Caleb’s life (it’s one realistic flaw in Buck that he, like many people, doesn’t quite know how to talk to children: he comes over as ever so slightly patronising).

Buck’s determined that Caleb will win. He taunts him into killing a crow, which Caleb instantly regrets, he replaces Caleb’s bow with a lightweight, deluxe model, he sets out to drive a wedge between him and Boone. In the end it fails: Caleb wants to win, as does Boone, but the latter innocently as good, and if young Chris Fennell isn’t as good as Lucas Black, he’s still good enough to sell that as natural.

So Caleb, in mid-contest, hands back Lucas’s gear. He can still win it with a bull’s eye off his last shot, but falls short. Boone wins, Buck’s frustrated, the boys are still mates.

The third element of this episode centres upon Deputy Ben Healy. He’s out visiting a family. The implication of domestic violence is laid out immediately, though she’s too scared to confirm it. Or maybe there’s another reason. It’s allowed to slip out in passing but this isn’t any ordinary family: cabinet-maker Waylon Flood is second husband to Barbara Joy, and stepfather to Benji. Ben is Benji’s father.

Waylon’s one of these upfront bastards, a junior league Lucas Buck without the breadth of evil. He’s a nasty, stinking, small-minded little brute, throws his fists around, petty tyrant and always super-confident that he is right and ain’t no-one gonna mess with him. Ben’s not out for a fight but he still gets kicked in the balls, smacked in the face and punched in the stomach.

Ben’s determined to handle this himself, especially after Dr Matt warns him of the psychological damage this could all do to Benji, growing up with this as his role model. Ben rejects Buck’s offer to help and confronts Waylon again in his workshop, openly accusing him of cowardice, prepared to fight. But Waylon backs down. Ben isn’t aware but Buck has pulled up outside. Waylon starts to sweat, promises there won’t be no further trouble. Damn right there won’t. Believing he’s made his point, Ben leaves. Waylon’s still trembling. Buck returns, looks at Waylon. He backs off, stumbles, brings down a heap of stacked wood, knocks him off balance. His arm falls onto the bandsaw…

The speed with which it’s done is another American Gothic trademark. The show’s masterful at the slow creation of tension and the abrupt crash that jerks the viewer out of their seat.

But the main strand tonight is all about Gail, and all about Holly G. Miss Emory is still investigating Caleb’s birth and his Mama’s suicide and visits the Gallagher home to speak to her old schoolfriend, the attending nurse. Only then does she learn that Holly is dead, from ten years past, from mum Janice, a fluttery sort of woman, a beautician, selling makeovers, make yourself perfect.

The Sheriff confirms the details of the tragedy. Despite copious efforts with divers, the body was never found. Gail promptly heads for the bridge, hires two guys to help her. The diver finds the car immediately, only fifteen feet down, and T.J. (a fine bit of continuity from last week) winches it up. There’s no body inside. And the driver’s seat is set too far back for Holly to have  reached the pedals…

Janice is taking Gail’s attempts to find out just what happened as an attack on her. And for good reason. By a slightly dodgy contrivance, Gail discovers Janice is paying for a Sanatorium: Holly G is alive. And well, in body, but not in mind. She doesn’t recognise Gail is concerned only about if her boyfriend is there. Her boyfriend is: Lucas Buck appears out of nowhere yet again. Four minutes without oxygen has led to brain damage. Holly G lives, but all her abilities, all the potential her mother worshipped in her, is dead, and Janice can’t bear to see what’s not perfection.

And then we’re given a perfect example of just how effective Lucas Buck can be. Confronted with Gail’s accusations, and especially that he was driving, he conducts his own version of Show Not Tell. He drives Gail’s car to the bridge, to demonstrate. We immediately fear he’s going to try to disappear her too, but no, Buck’s more subtle than that. He knows the road so well he could drive it blind, and closes his eyes. He starts to go faster, telling Gail about how he broke up with Holly G that night, how she couldn’t take it, how she grabbed at the wheel and he lost control.

Just like a panicky Gail is grabbing at the wheel. On the bridge, the car slews. But this time Buck brakes before going through the fence. Leaving Gail with a perfect cover story she cannot counter. Not to mention a forceful kiss from the Sheriff.

Janice’s refusal to accept her damaged daughter is a final nasty touch in an episode of nasty touches. Gail tries to break through Janice’s shell, remind her that her daughter is alive, and would rather be home, but Janice’s fear surrounds her, she backs away.

Which makes the little scene that almost closes out the episode all the more effective in stinging the audience’s heart. Janice has brought Holly G home to her own room. Holly’s in her nurse’s uniform, Janice is reading to her from a text book, three vital signs. She names two, asks Holly G to give her the third. Smiling happily, Holly says, “Lucas Buck.” After a moment of immobility, Janice beamingly replies, “That’s right, blood pressure.” And she folds her arms round her dughter, telling her that she’s perfect.

And it is perfect. It’s a small moment, there in the dark, a miniature suggestion that it might be possible to get people to be brave, to now allow themselves to fall into the shallow courses Lucas Buck has dug for them. No more than that, not spelled out, for us to read for ourselves.

In contrast to the final scene, Buck in a hot tub, Selena teasing him with hot candlewax. Buck genuinely can’t understand why Caleb rejected the chance to be a winner. Stupid game. It’s not over, it’s along way from over.

Uncollected Thoughts: Crisis on Earth-X

The TV promo

Where there are four DC Universe TV shows appearing on the same network, you’re going to get crossovers, especially as three of those shows are practically incestuous to begin with, having spun-off each other.

Last year, the crossover was spread over four consecutive nights, with each of the shows retaining their own identity and concerns for the most part against the background of invasion by distinctly unconvincing CGI aliens. It was fun, but most of that came in the last part, when everybody got together for a mass superhero brawl.

This year, it went a whole lot better. Firstly, the four-parter was stripped over only two nights, in blocks of two hours (for which Arrow shot forward three days),which maintained the momentum far more successfully, and secondly it went out under its own title, Crisis on Earth-X, and played as a distinct, four part mini-series, which worked fantastically.

The title alone had a nostalgic ring for veterans like me. Ever since the first JLA/JSA team-up back in 1963, Crisis has been the DC got-to title for big events. And Crisis on Earth-X is personally significant to me because that was the title of Justice League of America 107, all those years ago, my gateway back into reading comics.

The mini-series borrowed the same principle but built its story upon a colossal twist. This further forward in time, their Hitler has died (in 1994) and a new Fuhrer is in charge, supported by a female General. The Fuhrer is an expert archer with a mainly green leather costume, the General is a superstrong, flying, blonde-tressed Aryan type: yes, it’s the Earth-X Oliver Queen and Kara Danvers Queen – his wife!

And supporting this unlovely pair of versions, we have the Reverse-Flash, still wearing Harrison Wells’ face and, if we don’t have enough allusions to early series, another expert Archer called Prometheus, under whose mask is… Colin Donnell, aka Tommy Merlin.

The main thrust of the story is that Super-X-girl is dying due to some form of radiation poisoning and needs a new heart – that of Kara Danvers. As she’s going to be on Earth-1, attending Barry and Iris’s wedding, our villains bust in on the ceremony (does anyone have any objections? Pouf: Minister is vapourised).

The wisdom of trying this on just when the Church is crammed packed with the superheroes of four whole series may be questionable but not to Green-X-Arrow: in fact, the show is heavy with speeches, from him, from Super-X-girl and even from poor Tommy (before he chucks a cyanide capsule down his throat after being captured) wholeheartedly espousing Fascist ideology, and despising the heroes and, by extension, all the other 52 worlds of the Multiverse, as weak, deserving only of serving their betters.

It’s horribly contemporary, though nobody makes that connection outside the audience, and the F-word is never used, though Nazi is bandied around with comfortable ease. But this strength through purity, contempt for the weak, the poor, the non-Aryans: tell me that doesn’t ring a bell with a lot of what we see around us.

The Comics promo

I particularly liked the way that each show abandoned its individual identity in favour of the four episodes going out as Crisis on Earth-X. This was particularly welcome in the case of Supergirl, which I’ve given up watching.

Generally, there was a common core cast of the principals and a couple of essential supporting characters, with the other supporting players having only relatively limited roles, in passing. For instance, Kara brought her sister Alex with her to the big wedding (whereupon Alex copped off with Sarah Lance at the rehearsal), and Oliver Queen brought Felicity.

The Flash got the best of it, but then the story was mainly taking place in Central City and was built around Barry and Iris’s wedding, so having the full cast play through was pretty much a given. And whilst only Sarah, Mick, Jax and Professor Stein went to the wedding, the positioning of Legends of Tomorrow as the close-out show again ensured the rest of the Legends got a good look-in too.

There were more than a couple of surprises along the way. Russell Tovey turned up for the back half as a Concentration Camp victim on Earth-X, imprisoned for being gay but, as advertised, he’s also a superhero, the solar-powered The Ray. Though the Ray is actually from Earth-1, once the whole thing was done, he went back to Earth-X to continue the good fight, but his lover (from Earth-X) decided to stay on Earth-1 for a bit. His lover was captain Cold, the Earth-X version, Wentworth Miller enjoying subtly camping things up as ‘Leo’ Snart, his interactions with Dominic Purcell a total delight.

And despite the vapourised Minster, Barry and Iris did get married at the end. They’d had the ceremony, all they needed was the Licenced Minister, so Barry speed-snatched John Diggle out of Star City.

Not to be outdone, having rather loudly turned down his proposal in part 1, because she did not want to get married, Felicity had a sudden change of heart, and got Dig to tie her and Ollie’s knot too. Aww!

But there was one thing I didn’t expect, not in itself but especially not in a more or less self-contained mini-series with only a minor degree of relevance to each show’s ongoing plotlines. I rigorously avoid spoilers, so I have had no idea where the Legends plot of Professor Stein and Jax trying to separate themselves as Firestorm, to enable the former to return to his wife, daughter and grandson, was going to lead. Was Victor Garber leaving? He is the first name in the credits, after all.

So the cliffhanger for part 3 was that he and Jax had separated to speed up what needed to be done to get everyone home to Earth-1, but they were all being attacked by machine-gunning Nazis, and Stein made a run for the lever he needed to pull, and was shot. In the back.

In the final episode, he made the final effort and pulled the lever, but at the cost of another bullet. So he was rushed back to the medbay on the Waverider, and his physical suffering fed back to Jax, but it rapidly became very clear, that Martin Stein should be dead from his wounds, that he would be if he wasn’t sustaining himself on Jax’s life-force, and that Jax would die alongside him. So Stein refused to drag Jax in with him. And he died.

It was a shock and it was felt by everyone. Next week’s Legends is the Fall Finale and I’m eager to see where they go with this now: I mean, Stein could ‘survive’ as a ghostly voice in Jax’s ear, as Firestorm, or maybe Franz Drameh is out of the series two, and depending on the reaction to Russell Tovey, I’m guessing on the Ray joining the Legends before the season is over.

But this was really a surprise, even if it did turn the last part into Two Weddings and a Funeral (I’m sorry, but the producers were angling for that, obviously).

Speaking of Supergirl, I didn’t see anything to suggest I’m missing anything, and with the exception of Sarah helping Alex get over her separation from Maggie (and I don’t mean by that that her… head was turned by a lesbian one night stand, you filthy-minded sods), there was nothing to do with ongoing continuity there: Kara/Melissa Benoist was in it for the mini-series story only, and thank the TV Gods for that.

So, a palpable hit by being almost purely superhero geek from start to finish. Keep this format for 2018 and, as one who has recently watched Justice League on the big screen, take a bloody big dose of Crisis and inject into everyone who will have anything to do with the sequel: this is how you do it, you pompous bastards!

The nostalgia…

Deep Space Nine s05 e23: Blaze of Glory

Which man is in control here?

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.