"Behind the Lines"
Airdate: October 20, 1997
126 of 173 produced
126 of 173 aired
Captain Sisko adjusts to a new role behind the scenes in the Dominion War. Meanwhile, Kira finds herself at odds with Odo, as he explores his nature with the female Founder.
Tsk, tsk, Odo. This is how Changeling Herpes gets spread.
Matthew: DS9 episodes have frequently been "a tale of two plots." At times, my overall rating hinges on sort of averaging how successful two unrelated plots are in tandem. That will definitely be the case here, since the two plots are really only related by the characters inhabiting the same universe, and having once been on the same show. So to start, the good news: the station plot is excellent here. It's a nice return to form after "Sons and Daughters." Kira's resistance cell does interesting things, and they precipitate some fun scenes between our dynamic duo of Dukat and Weyoun. I think the mine plot was pretty technobabble heavy, but the confrontation between Kira and Odo was more than worth it. I really appreciate the writers essentially having Odo sell out his friends in order to pursue his dream of belonging (of course, whether this is consistent with past or future story lines is a separate question). It raises the stakes nicely for the characters, and really had me wanting to see the next episode.
Kevin: I really liked the way the resistance unfolds. There's the sharp political writing of Moore at work here, and it contrasts nicely with some other stuff we've gotten with the Resistance during the Occupation. Kira and, by extension, the Resistance were apparently much more interesting in simply hurting the Cardassians until they went away, but didn't really have a long term goal other than lashing out, so the surgical precision of starting a bar fight is a nice touch. It gives the new Resistance some teeth since they seem organized and goal-oriented enough to actually be a threat. Even having Rom as the linchpin of the operation felt organic, given his previous work. Also, the "keep smiling" terse exchange between Dukat and Weyoun was just gold. I could watch that scene on loop for days.
Matthew: I found the B plot less compelling, mainly because it did a lot of telling and precious little showing. I found the phaser coil thing a bit precious (partially because of the acting, especially the second time around). I liked the basic idea of changing Sisko's role, because it appealed to my desire for realism - would they necessarily keep a particular crew together over time in a war situation? The dynamic is interesting - can Sisko take the broader view and not just be emotionally involved with his crew? But it is a tricky one to do well because it removes us as viewers from the action. I feel like the only way to effectively dramatize it is to have something bad happen while he is not in command. Instead, the Defiant crew takes care of some medium-importance plot stuff, all off screen. It was all just kind of weird and unsatisfying. One small note, but it sticks in my craw: I dislike it when someone on a show indicates that their crew is "the best." They can't all be the best. At least say "to me they're the best."
Kevin: I felt much the same way you felt when I first watched this episode. I like the idea of Sisko being promoted. It makes sense. I also agree that a lot of Sisko staring out the window did drag the episode a little. They needed to find a way to give the mission more than general utility, so we could have felt the tension along with Sisko. The scenes aren't bad certainly, but they do drag a little.
Matthew: To say more about the Odo plot - I think what I like best about it is that it returns Odo to being "other." Some stories have made him too chummy, too human, in the same way other "transitioning" characters have in past Trek tales (e.g. Data, the Doctor). When Odo seems not to care about the main thrust of the plot that the other characters care about, it really sends an unsettling message to the viewer, in a good way. I also liked Quark's scene - it was short, but it underscored nicely his unique position. He has no ideological stake in the war, but prefers commerce under one regime over the other. On another Ferengi note, Rom was much less annoying that usual.
Kevin: The plot here comes as close as you can to given some dramatic heft to the "otherness" of the Founders. I think they laid enough ground work in previous episodes to show his conflicted desires around the Founders that this pays off. I like they made his omission conscious, not merely distracted. It really ups the stakes that he wasn't simply partying too hard, and it sets up the two-parter that finishes the opening arc of the season really well.
Matthew: Rene Auberjonois is the star here, in tandem with Salome Jens. I enjoyed Jens' dismissive take on "solids," and thought it was really neat how Auberjonois slowly but surely started to give off the same vibe (with one exception, he seemed too concerned during the planning scene with the resistance cell, but I'll put that on writing and editing).
Kevin: Yeah, DS9 has faltered (cough Prophets cough) when trying to portray the ineffable, but I really liked his transition. Despite happening in an episode, it doesn't feel forced. I also really like Jens' apparent sincerity that Odo is more important than the Alpha Quadrant.
Matthew: I found Terry Farrell somewhat lackluster in her scenes as commander, especially her phaser coil speech. Avery Brooks' rendition of the same was ham with a side of cheese, but at least that kind of fit the tone of such a thing. On the Starfleet plot, I think the standout is Barry Jenner as Admiral Ross. I liked seeing him mildly rebuke Sisko for running himself ragged and staying too connected with his former crew.
Kevin: I wondered if it was a skill issue or she was giving it an off feel on purpose, to underscore Sisko's ill-ease. Totally agree on Ross. Until this episode, he was still, "Hey, isn't that the doofus Lieutenant that was Carl's boss on Family Matters?" He really has a weary dedication that suits the bureaucrat he's playing, and it may be partly a uniform FINALLY designed to flatter men of his age and physique, but he had a real air of authority.
Matthew: The CGI version of DS9 is really shaping up. It looks more detailed than the model, which is unusual, since the Starbase (which is a model re-use) clearly has loads of detail. Either way, the show is using its visual resources really well, and it adds to the feel of the universe.
Kevin: If nothing else, I will always appreciate the well populated backgrounds on the establishing shots for both places. It really adds credibility. Also, especially in the barroom brawl scene, there extras just everywhere, which given how much work even mock-ups of that make up have be is really an achievement.
Matthew: I know it's going to seem like I'm hating on the phaser coil thing... but I thought the way they manufactured the models left something to be desired: weight. Some actors did better than others carrying them with the look of weight, but when they were put down, it was clear that they only weighed a pound or two. They should have put some lead weights in them or something to aid both the actors and the sets.
Matthew: This one is a borderline show for me. Neither plot is bad, and the station plot is definitely above average. But the dual structure means neither one really gets to breathe. Given that space, it would probably be a 4 on both ends. So I'm going to call it a 3. A good, solid, entertaining show that could have been more.
Kevin: Yeah, either focusing on just the station, or tightening the bolts on the Sisko plot, this could have been a four, but I agree with the 3, for a total of 6. I am thoroughly entertained by this episode though. It really sets some stakes for the forthcoming two-part closer to the arc.