Deep Space Nine: s05 e08 – Things Past

A change of visual style for Terok Nor

…and they woke up, and it had all been a dream.

That’s not the explanation given at the end of this historical episode, but the idea that this week’s story is the result of a kind of telepathic matrix forced onto Messrs Sisko, Dax and Garak by Odo is merely a quasi-gobbledy-gook scientific rationalisation of what is, when you come down to it, a dream. But a dream of historical events, a dream that digs into Odo’s character, and one that deserves a little more credit than I’m going to give it today.

I was less impressed than I might have been with ‘Things Past’, in which the aforementioned quartet found themselves projected back seven years, to DS9 when it was still Terok Nor, and still under Cardassian occupation and Gul Dukat. The show is built around the revelation about Odo’s past that comes near the end, and is the catalyst for Odo’s mind releasing its subconscious control of everyone,and waking up, and it was such a pity that the open gave the game away so clearly and so quickly.

The set-up is the return of our quartet from an Historical Convention on Bajor, about the Occupation, where Garak’s attempts at putting the Cardassian point of view have not gone down well. Odo, however, has gone down a storm:  the Bajorans see him as fair, wise, reliable, the servant of justice, not the Cardassians. Odo seems reluctant to acknowledge his reputation.

From that point, the rest of the episode became utterly predictable. Our quartet  ‘wake up’ on Terok Nor, supposedly nine years ago, when the security chief was a Cardassian named Thrax. It’s an odd set-up: our heroes are dressed for the time but see each other as they are, whilst everybody around them sees them as the Bajorans they are supposed to be.

From Odo’s nervous-growing-into-desperate behaviour, added to the fact that it’s soon proved that this story is taking place seven years ago, after Thrax has left Terok Nor, spills the beans quite comprehensively, but the dictates of the story demand that none out of Sisko, Dax or Garak makes the connection that is screamingly obvious. This is compounded by the discovery that Thrax is a shape-shifter, at a time before the discovery of the Wormhole, when there is only one shape-shifter in the entire  Alpha Quadrant.

I hate the ones where everybody has to be so completely dumb for it to work.

The story turns upon the fact that Suusko, Dax and Garak have been projected into the identities of three innocent Bajorans, accused of and executed for the attempted assassination of Gul Dukat. Thrax/Odo decides that the evidence, collateral as it is, is sufficient, but Odo/Odo knows that he was wrong in the past, because he refused to investigate deeper, that he was too much concerned with the preservation of order – which was brought about by Occupation and threatened by Resistance – than with justice.

Once Odo re-witnesses the executions, having fully acknowledged to himself his guilt, he releases the others and everyone wakes up. Odo now has to confront the trashing of his otherwise impeccable reputation, and the disappointment of Major Kira, who demands to know if this was the only time. Odo cannot do better than to say he hopes so.

A potentially powerful episode undone by its inability to shield any of its twists and turns.

Of relatively minor interest, the ‘explanation’ was intended to foreshadow the soon-to-come revelation that Odo isn’t quite as much the forever-Solid he’s supposed to have become, whilst Marc Alaimo’s presence enabled the writers to illuminate more of his character as the ‘protector’ of the Bajorans under his ‘care’, and an astonishingly arrogant display of ‘fatherliness’. No wonder Dax belted him round the back of the head first chance she got.

Sadly, though I know I would have watched this episode back then, I have absolutely no recollection of it. Next week, however…