Retro Review: Blaze of GloryPosted by Michelle - 31/01/14 at 06:01 pm
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Season: 05 Episode: 23 (s05e23)
Original US airdate: 05/12/1997
When the Maquis claim to have launched cloaked missiles at Cardassia, Sisko tries to avert a war by recruiting Eddington to deactivate the weapons en route.
Plot Summary: Martok interrupts Sisko’s dinner with Jake and Nog to deliver a message intercepted from a suspected Maquis agent, which informs Michael Eddington that lethal cloaked missiles have been launched against Cardassia. Because of Cardassia’s alliance with the Dominion, Sisko fears it will mean war for the Federation unless he can stop the missiles, yet he can find no alternative but to ask Eddington for help tracking them. Though Eddington refuses, Sisko puts him under restraints and takes him in a runabout to the Badlands to find the launch site. Though Eddington initially says he has nothing left to live for, he helps Sisko avoid Jem’Hadar warships and directs the runabout to the secret launch site, warning that if Sisko doesn’t kill him, he’ll have to kill Sisko once the missiles are deactivated. Meanwhile, back on the station, Quark causes trouble predicting doom in the coming war, and Nog — whose friendship with Jake is strained now that they’re both adults — tries to force Martok and the other Klingons to treat him with respect, which they begin to do only after Nog threatens to have Martok arrested for disturbing the peace. After a dangerous chase, Sisko’s runabout arrives at Athos IV, where Eddington saves Sisko from Jem’Hadar attackers, then finds many Maquis corpses near the coordinates of the launch site. Inside the base, Sisko is astonished to discover more than a dozen people but no console to launch weapons. These are the final survivors of the Maquis, and they never had any missiles; the message about the launch was intended to lure Sisko so that Eddington could rescue his wife, Rebecca, and the remaining Maquis. More Jem’Hadar arrive and Eddington sacrifices his life so that the others can escape to the runabout.
Analysis: Thus do the Maquis disappear from Star Trek, not with a bang but a whimper. There are still some Federation dissidents on Voyager, and for a time those ex-rebels will make proclamations about “thinking like a Maquis” whenever Janeway insists on obeying the Prime Directive even so far from home, but in the end, “thinking like a Maquis” will come to mean abandoning long-held principles for a quick fix – certainly not putting the needs of the many ahead of the needs of the few or the one. In the end, it’s also hard to guess how much of what Eddington says in “Blaze of Glory” reflects what he and the Maquis truly believe; for nearly all of “Blaze of Glory,” Eddington plays a role, trying to force Sisko to take him on what Sisko believes to be a mission to rescue the Alpha Quadrant, yet Eddington knows to be a mission to save a handful of his onetime colleagues and friends. It’s not a bad episode – Sisko and Eddington have always generated sparks together, and the pacing and tension are well-developed, since we know the threat of a Dominion attack is real and will probably happen sooner rather than later. But all the problems with the Maquis, who were dreamed up as a way to create tension on Voyager and never properly addressed as Federation dissidents, get knocked aside to make room for foes so big and bad that little problems like treaties dismissing the rights of citizens seem trivial. Through the whole of the Dominion War, we’re treated to a vision of Starfleet and the Federation as shining beacons of fairness and freedom, and we’re never again asked to ponder the institutional problems of a progressive society so deeply entangled with military concerns.
When we first met the Maquis via Sisko’s friend Cal Hudson – who is eulogized by Sisko as well as Eddington in “Blaze of Glory” – they were quite sympathetic. We’d seen the Federation abandon the citizens of the Demilitarized Zone in a compromise with Cardassia that nobody believed would create a lasting peace, since we’d repeatedly watched the Cardassians break their word. We watched Starfleet officers come to the conclusion that they couldn’t let onetime Federation citizens be abused and ultimately slaughtered in the name of that ill-thought treaty. Though we were told that some joined the Maquis out of personal dissatisfaction – Tom Paris, B’Elanna Torres, Lon Suder, who weren’t deeply committed to better conditions in the DMZ so much as they were pissed off at Starfleet – several characters of deep conviction, including not only Hudson and Eddington but Ro Laren, Tom Riker, Chakotay, believed that a great wrong had been committed and couldn’t stand by while the Federation did nothing. Most of the Maquis whom Picard encountered were former Starfleet officers who believed that the terms of the peace with Cardassia violated the rights of Federation citizens. They were a challenge to the superiority of Starfleet, which often smugly treated the Klingon and Romulan Empires, the Orion Syndicate, the Ferengi Alliance, and all non-Federation worlds with condescension no matter how prosperous or content their citizens might have seemed. I’m not certain that even Spock would have insisted on the needs of the many outweighing the needs of the few when the minority was getting all but wiped out. Sisko always told Eddington that it didn’t have to be that way, that the Maquis could have abandoned their settlements and moved to Federation planets, but as someone who never abandoned his New Orleans roots, he should have known it was not that simple.
And if Sisko is still trying to convince himself otherwise, he could just ask Kira, who not only has had the awful experience of uprooting fellow Bajorans from a moon to make way for an energy plant but who knows what it’s like to try to get Cardassians to stop torturing and abusing people ostensibly under their care. It’s a glaring problem that Sisko rushes off on this mission without having a serious conversation about the Maquis problem with his first officer, who understands Eddington and the Maquis in a way a Starfleet captain never will. Nor does Sisko speak to Kasidy, whose absence in this episode seriously weakens her as a character in the franchise. Sisko is in love with her, yet he doesn’t trust her enough to ask where and how the Maquis could have obtained cloaked weapons and where they might be hidden? Is he protecting Kasidy from having to admit greater involvement, or himself from being hurt by her again? In either case, it leaves a big hole when no one thinks to ask what she might know. The debate about the morality of the Maquis could be the catalyst for wonderful character development on DS9 and Voyager both; these are substantive problems, particularly given the presence of Bajorans on both the station and the exiled starship, since Kira has explained that a lot of Bajorans sympathize with the Maquis struggle against Cardassia and we know that both Eddington and Yates worked closely with Bajorans. Instead, the Maquis largely serve as plot devices, misfits and murderers who are taken in by the outlaw group rather than struggling together with a moral sense of obligation. Voyager‘s Doctor offers a diagnosis in “Meld” that most of the Maquis suffer from an excess of adrenaline.
We’re even told that Eddington joined out of a martyr complex, a desire to be the Canadian Jean Valjean, rather than out of principle. He may resent Starfleet for being slow to promote him, but we got no indication of hatred for its principles a few years ago when he was forced to accept Odo as his superior. Why the change? Like Chakotay, Eddington says that he didn’t always appreciate the value of working the soil and eating food grown with his own hands, and like Chakotay, we’ve more than once seen him compromise principles for heroics. If being a Maquis means what Chakotay and Eddington both suggest more than once, protecting one’s own tribe at the expense of others, then it’s very nearly the opposite of the Vulcan philosophies that are so closely associated with Star Trek, not obsessing over personal grievances when the universe is so big, thinking of oneself and one’s people as part of a much larger community. There’s a fine line between placing the needs of the many ahead of the needs of the few versus being dismissive of minority concerns. There’s also a fine line between infinite diversity in infinite combinations and letting the lowest common denominator set standards for everyone. Eddington rightly points out all the ways in which the Federation has failed the Maquis, but what does he believe should have occurred instead? A war with Cardassia that would have cost millions of lives? That’s what Picard was trying to avoid back when he pushed for the treaty to leave the settlements in the Demilitarized Zone. Now that we know the war is inevitable, it’s easier to agree with Eddington, but if it really had been possible to sacrifice the homes of a few thousand citizens to gain a lasting peace for millions, it’s easy to understand why the Federation would choose to do so.
We never find out what happens to Eddington’s wife and the rest of the people Sisko rescues. Likely they’re saved only to go to the same sort of prison where Eddington was languishing at the start of “Blaze of Glory,” assuming they’re the same survivors to whom Chakotay refers in Voyager‘s “Hunters.” If so, it’s a waste of people so resourceful that they were able to hide from both Starfleet and the Cardassians. If Sisko was smart, he’d put them all into training to fight the Jem’Hadar, who are now Cardassia’s allies and thus Starfleet’s enemies. After refusing to accept Federation amnesty, the Maquis are willing to turn to Starfleet to save the few of them who are left from the Dominion, meaning they never really considered Starfleet their enemy, only an obstacle to their goals. Since there’s no longer a struggle over the planets in the DMZ, Starfleet should use their skills and knowledge, and accept their radical viewpoints as a necessary challenge to the conservative mindset that made them a problem in the first place. We don’t learn their fates in canon, but those among the rebels who have ideals and principles, who don’t just want to challenge authority and get into fights, could offer much-needed insight into why Starfleet officers so often get caught sitting around a conference table debating tried-and-true ideas while the Borg, the Remans, or the Dominion threaten their existence.
Tags: Retro Review