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Overview – Newly promoted Captain Sisko takes his crew on a mission to determine if the Tzenkethi, a race that Sisko had fought against in a brutal war, are causing trouble again. As they take the Defiant towards Tzenkethi territory, Chief O’Brien discovers signs of sabotage, and it soon becomes apparent that it is one of the crew. When the saboteur is discovered to be a Changeling, the stakes are raised, and Sisko’s first mission as captain might be his last.
Score: 8/10 – The second season ended with the Dominion making a big entrance. The opener for Season 3 gave us the Defiant and entrenched the Dominion as being the enemy. Throughout the season the Dominion would rear their heads now and then. In an almost perfect season-ender, we see them take their actions to the next level and really give Sisko a run for his money. The pace in this episode is quite good, never giving us much down time, but not rushing things either. We might have been able to build the suspense a little better at the beginning with O’Brien hearing something in engineering, but there was enough guessing that kept us on our toes. I liked how the changeling was discovered about midway through the episode, and then it became about how paranoid the crew became. It showed just how devious they could be. The writers brought in enough characters (Ambassador Krajensky, Eddington, the Bolian security officer) to give us some false leads to follow, and at times the changeling could have been any of them. It made the episode exciting to watch. Most importantly, this episode drives home the idea that the Dominion mean business. They are not here to mess around. A very successful and effective outing to round out a really good season.
Relevance – 3 points. Sisko finally gets the long overdue promotion and becomes a captain. That is worth a point here. This episode also serves as a turning point for the Dominion storyline. While the Dominion have been a problem since the end of season 2, they were mostly just doing some basic meddling, mostly focused on gathering intelligence and trying to get Odo back. There is also the fact that when Odo accidentally kills the other changeling, he sets in motion a series of events that will culminate in the final episode of Season 4. There is also the use of blood tests to determine if someone is a changeling, and naturally the changeling finds a way around it. This is a very important episode for DS9’s overall story.
Continuity – 3 points. Character continuity is very well done here. In addition to how the crew react to a changeling being any one of them, there are a couple finer detail moments in the promotion party at the start of the episode that I would like to point out. First, I thought it was excellent that they had Jake put Sisko’s fourth rank pip on his uniform. I always appreciated how they used Jake sparingly in the show and had him appear in realistic ways and not just be shoe-horned in. This is a good example of that. Second, when they are singing “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow”, watch Odo. He is taken a bit off guard and is looking to others to see what he should do. A perfect response. Story line, everything works well. It is a great mystery story that is told well. Universe continuity is also kept intact here. Once again we are given the “No changeling has ever harmed another” line, and when Odo accidentally kills his kinsman, he is devastated.
Character Development – 3 points. This episode starts as a Sisko tale. We see his promotion (and the last of his full head of hair), learn about his experiences in the Tzenkethi war, and see him being willing to destroy the Defiant to prevent another war. However, halfway through the story, the Changeling is revealed, and in the last several minutes of the episode we see Odo become a key player. As mentioned, the consequences of his actions will severely affect his character, and we see the beginning of it here.
Social Commentary – 2 points. In this episode the crew must think on the fly to find the changeling. This de-evolves into paranoia as suspicion runs rampant with the notion that anyone could be the saboteur. This can be a parallel for ourselves as well. As bad things happen and stress builds, we must work together to be victorious. When we start suspecting each other and distrust is common, success starts to slip away.
Cool Stuff – 2 points. One point for featuring the death of a changeling. Unlike what happened to Odo’s mirror-universe counterpart, here we see the changeling collapse into black powder. I am giving a second point for the effects of the changeling during the chase sequences. They really go a long way to build the story as well as the capabilities of a changeling.
Rank- Admiral (21 points). Since the Dominion is an integral part of DS9’s story, this episode needed to be strong, and strong it is. While it does not reach the level of energy and excitement of future episodes, it takes the right step from what has come before. A well done episode and a worthy end to a worthy season.
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