Overview – The Defiant is on its way home after a successful escort mission when they receive a distress call from Captain Lisa Cusak of the USS Olympia, which was on an eight year long exploration mission of the Beta Quadrant. The Defiant is able to open communications with her, and while they travel at the highest speed possible, the crew take turns talking to her to keep her company. Meanwhile, back on Deep Space Nine, Quark concocts a plan that will keep Odo distracted while he arranges a highly profitable (and illegal) venture for him.
Score: 8/10 – Leading up to the Season 6 finale, we have a strong character-driven episode that is all about heart and friendship while being very light on the action. No problem with that for me, as there needs to be a balance of these things. We are given a real treat in the main story as Captain Sisko and his crew rush to save Captain Cusak. Cusak is a very unique character in that for the entire episode we only hear her voice. This makes for a unique and special experience that only adds to the story. Captain Cusak starts to bond with the crew, and is instrumental in helping the likes of Sisko, Bashir, and O’Brien deal with the impact that the Dominion War has been having on them personally. For Sisko, it is dealing with the mixing of his professional and personal life with Kassidy Yates. Bashir is isolating himself from his friends with his work, and O’Brien is feeling distanced from his friends because of the war. She quickly becomes close to the crew, which makes the ending that much more bitter sweet. When the Defiant finally reaches the planet she is stranded on, she has succumbed to the inhospitable atmosphere and is unconscious. When they arrive at her location, they learn that she has been dead for several years. The energy barrier around the planet threw her communications forward into time and when the Defiant responded, it sent their messages back in time. This leads to a very emotional wake that gives some foreshadowing to the tragedy that will take place in the next episode. The secondary story is much more light-hearted, and while it has nothing to do with the main plot, it is still entertaining and gives the characters left on the station (Quark, Odo, Kira, and Jake) something to do. It has humor and fun while furthering Odo and Kira’s relationship. Jake is mostly a way of Quark explaining his actions, but it still works for his character. The side story adds some levity to the tone of the episode and provides some nice balance.
Relevance – 3 points. A point scored here for referring to how Odo and Kira’s relationship started. Quark tries to convince Odo to celebrate the one month anniversary of their first date to help distract the security chief so he can score a big deal. We also reference the episode where Quark comforted Odo when Kira was together with Shakaar, giving Quark a reason to be upset over Odo once again ruing his plans. I am also scoring a point for the foreshadowing of Jadzia’s death. During the funeral service for Captain Cusak we have O’Brien mentioning that the day will come when one of them will no longer be around. The scene cuts to Worf and Jadzia at this point. A nice (or sad) omen of things to come.
Continuity – 2 points. Character continuity is solid here. I get seeing Odo, in his own way, giving Quark this one (and only one) victory as a way of thanking Quark for helping him get together with Kira. The reasons that everyone had for being disconnected are legit and make sense. Universe continuity also checks out here. I do think I will have to deduct a point in story continuity here. It struck me as odd that when Sisko learned that Cusak was the captain of the USS Olympia that somebody would have done some research into the ship and figured out that the ship left on its mission more than 8 years ago, which could have added a whole new dimension to the story. Still, it’s a minor oversight that does not diminish the impact of the story, just takes a point away.
Character Development – 3 points. It’s hard not to give full marks here, even though most people are just getting a bit of polish. Sisko and Kassidy go through a bit of a rough patch, O’Brien realises that the war has caused him to push his friends away and rectifies it. Much of the development, however, is in the secondary story with Quark and Odo. While Quark is about to make the biggest deal in his life, Odo finds out about it. Normally, Odo would use that as an excuse to arrest Quark. This time, however, he recognizes that Quark has assisted Odo a lot, and so he allows Quark this one victory. It adds a new layer to this rivalry/relationship.
Social Commentary – 2 points. Hard times can gradually cause even the best of relationships to falter and erode. The Dominion War has done this to our crew, and Cusak helps them to see this. It is hard to see it at times, and usually happens as an unintended coping or survival strategy. Learning how to reconnect with those around you is important, and it was very fitting that Lisa Cusak, in her last act, is able to help our heroes do this.
Cool Stuff – 1 point. As good as this episode is, I really don’t see a whole lot of “cool” stuff in it. Yes, it is entertaining and really gives us a lot to think about, but there is little that really wows us. Again, this is not a knock on how good this episode is. I do want to give a point to the character of Captain Lisa Cusak who we never see but know her by the sound of her voice. She worked her way into the hearts of the Defiant’s crew and into the fans and was an impactful character.
Rank – Captain (19 points). Such a unique episode that tells a fascinating story. Not seeing Captain Cusak is an effective story-telling tool. We also have an entertaining side story that gives us another fun chapter in the Odo-Quark feud. Definitely a special episode.
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