The AdversaryBy Michelle Erica Green
Posted at January 12, 2004 - 11:12 PM GMT
See Also: 'The Adversary' Episode Guide
Just after Sisko's promotion to captain, a Federation ambassador orders him to take the Defiant to an unstable system of disputed claim which could trigger a war with the Klingons. Paranoia about changeling interference runs rampant, as the crew looks for saboteurs, suspecting first Eddington and later Bashir of being Dominion operatives. Blood tests, given to all crewmembers, reveal that the Doctor is not a changeling, but later Bashir shapeshifts and threatens Dax.
It turns out that the Ambassador was kidnapped on the way to Risa and replaced by a changeling, who assumes Odo's shape in the engine room, leaving a confused O'Brien to sort out who's who...unsuccessfully. As Sisko and Kira prepare to self-destruct the ship, Odo kills the changeling, thus becoming the first of his people ever to murder another. War and catastrophe are averted, but the crew now knows how easily the Dominion can manipulate them not only into intergalactic conflict, but into not trusting one another.
This is one of those episodes where now, thinking about it afterwards, I can blow holes in the plot, but while I was watching it, I was completely caught up. Give the director a big hand. And the writing was tight and sustained the mood perfectly: all my complaints have to do with the kinds of junk they've pulled all season, like having everyone off the station at once, and having Sisko fail to check with headquarters to find out whether he should really take the word of one ambassador...is it only to US that these people have "bad guy" written all over them? Boy does the Federation need a new management team.
I must admit that the suspense in this episode was heightened for me by all the false internet rumors about it. The show really milked those to the max - I sat patiently waiting for Eddington to shapeshift, and was pleasantly delighted when he turned out to be just a normal human idiot. I laughed out loud when he started talking to Sisko about rank, and the way everyone looked at him when Sisko said "sabotage" was lovely - especially since he didn't do it. The level of paranoia throughout was well-sustained. When Bashir wasn't what we thought he was, and then when he was what we thought he wasn't, both came as powerful surprises. So did the fact that the Federation had another major unstable political situation leading to a war, like the Cardassian war, that no one ever mentioned before, but that's a complaint for later...
The blood test made me squeamish. It just seemed to gross somehow, even though we all have them all the time in this century - and the changelings really seemed scary for once, like the shape-shifting Terminator, a noose that drops out of nowhere or a knife that pops out of a hand. Even the system-crashing worms were icky and unnerving. (What is it with worms and Fleetwide conspiracies? And WHY do people go to Risa when they continually get kidnapped by Evil Aliens en route, like the ambassador here and Geordi on TNG?) Anyway, the effects in this episode were terrific.
And the characterization was pretty consistently good. I thought the opening scene was very well done, although I can't believed they didn't trot out SOME admiral to promote Sisko - seemed almost disrespectful, although it was touching to see Jake do the honors. It's been a tense year and most of the happy hugging scenes (the Bajoran ritual, Bashir's award nomination) have seemed strained and phony; this one seemed right on. Admittedly O'Brien, who had one of the worst episodes in the history of Trek, got the most thankless line, calling Sisko the best captain in Starfleet. I'm not a Picard worshipper, but considering that O'Brien's served under some pretty tough acts to follow - Maxwell as well as the French guy - I found that statement a bit extravagant.
And the chief looked goofy and incompetent with all the creaking noises, then he looked guilty as hell sitting there with Dax unconscious, and he failed the James T. Kirk/Garth of Izar test when he was confronted with two Odos in the engine room...if you can't call for security backup, you stun them both, and later you can sort out who's who. Dax was out for most of the episode...but hey, Quark was out for most of the episode, and that worked to its advantage!
Kira had some wonderful moments, with the Bolian and with Sisko. For once I didn't roll by eyes during an auto-destruct sequence, maybe because they haven't done it to death on this show, but I think it was because Sisko and Kira both looked so overwhelmed and so committed. (I love the idea of her and Bashir grilling Dax and Yates.) But this was Sisko's episode--first they made him a captain, the they made him act like one. Despite all my complaints with this season, I'm feeling like there's hope.
Michelle Erica Green reviews 'Enterprise' episodes for the Trek Nation, for which she is also a news writer. An archive of her work can be found at The Little Review.