Written by Jeri Taylor, Stuart Charno, Sara B. Cooper, Cy Chermak, David Carren, J. Larry Carroll, Joe Menosky, and Ronald D. Moore
Directed by Chip Chalmers
Looking back, the clues were all there during the fourth season that Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was already in development. In Data’s Day we had more development of the character of Miles O’Brien (Colm Meaney), who would go on to be a Deep Space Nine main character. This next episode continues the trend of developing O’Brien’s character more, as well as introducing viewers to the Cardassian race.
The Cardassians seem to pick up right where the Romulans and Klingons leave off. In this case, a Cardassian vessel encounters the Enterprise and fires upon it completely unprovoked. Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) contacts the captain of that vessel and learns that another Federation ship recently destroyed a Cardassian space station, ending a treaty that had kept the peace between the two.
Since Picard has had no communique from Starfleet on the end to the provisions of the treaty, he convinces Gul Macet (portrayed by Marc Alaimo) to come aboard the Enterprise to help in the search for what he believes is a renegade Starfleet vessel.
O’Brien comes into play when it is learned that the renegade Captain is Benjamin Maxwell (portrayed by Bob Gunton), with whom O’Brien once served during a time of conflict between the Cardassians and Federation. Having had bad experiences with Cardassians during the war, O’Brien is initially cold to the visiting delegation. However, after a while he begins to realize that the war is over and many of the Cardassians are simply pawns in the conflict just as he was.
Before the Enterprise can reach the Phoenix (Maxwell’s ship), the renegade Captain destroys both a Cardassian warship and an unarmed cargo transport.
This episode functions well on a variety of levels. Besides the build-up for Deep Space Nine, there is a good story here about a Captain who can’t let go of the war. His memories of Cardassian brutality – especially to his own family – make it impossible for him to deal with this race on peaceful terms. Although his suspicions may be well-founded, going off on a killing spree of Cardassians on his own accord will surely reignite the tenuous peace that exists.
Colm Meaney’s performance as O’Brien is top-notch. For the first time we see battle-scars on him from his time against the Cardassians. Up until now he has been pretty much a likable background character, but here we begin to see that the smiling exterior covers someone very troubled by events in his past. Meaney makes me believe both sides of the O’Brien character. He also comes off as a very intelligent man, as he’s able to work through quite a bit of the psychology on his own while talking with one of the visiting Cardassians.
Marc Alaimo is excellent as Gul Macet. It’s no surprise that the producers tap him to be a regular on Deep Space Nine as the Cardassian Gul Dukat. He’s menacing and arrogant, but without becoming a villainous caricature. When challenged by Picard at the end of the episode, he feigns innocence while at the same time giving the feeling that he knows more than he’s letting on.
My only complaint is that the Cardassians seem to have been such a prominent problem for the Federation up until this point, I can’t understand why there wasn’t something with them prior to this. I can believe that the war with them ended prior to the beginning of this series since O’Brien is operating the transporter in the first episode, Encounter at Farpoint, but they should have at least made an appearance before now. It would have been nice to see what side they came in on during the conflict with The Borg.
This episode also sets the stage for continuing uneasiness – and at times, all out war – between the Federation and the Cardassians. It is nice because it doesn’t hammer us with everything we need to know right off the bat about this race. Gradually over time in both Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine we will learn more and more about this race. This episode, however, sets the tone for all that will come in the future involving them.