Thursday, August 22, 2013

DS9: In The Pale Moonlight

Sometimes I forget that there's a war going on in Season 6 of DS9. They talk about casualties and troops and Dominion ships. We sometimes see Jem'Hadar wandering around with their Vorta. Klingon ships occasionally dock and talk about their victories. Otherwise though, most of these wartime episodes are pretty much like any other DS9 episode. And, really, that's ok with me. I love the regular episodes.

Then you get a rude awakening with "In The Pale Moonlight." Suddenly Sisko's getting casualty reports every other day. They're constantly talking about how they're losing the war, how hopeless it all seems, how the entire war effort often seems to rest on Sisko's shoulders.

This episode comes on the heels of two pretty disturbing ones. "Wrongs Darker Than Death Or Night" features Kira uncovering her mother's secret past as Gul Dukat's concubine during the Bajoran occupation. Then, the Michael Dorn directed episode "Inquisition" is creepy and atmospheric in its telling of Bashir's interrogation at the hands of a villainous internal affairs agent. I suppose I was in kind of a dark and depressed mood by the time "In The Pale Moonlight" came up in the queue.

Dude, quit looking at me. Just pretend I'm not here. 
This one is all about Sisko's morally ambiguous choice to enlist Garak's help in bringing the Romulans into the Dominion war. I love the idea for this episode. I love Garak's role in all of it, Quark's delight/Bashir's righteous disgust in Sisko's actions, and the cheeky Romulans themselves. There's something about it though, that just isn't working for me. I think it partly comes from Sisko's Captain's Log segments. Throughout the episode, he tells his story to the computer because he can't really tell anyone else. But, in an artsy move (that they've actually done before on DS9), Avery Brooks is monologuing right into the camera. This should serve to bring the audience in but it just doesn't work for me. It pushes me away.
Dude, seriously. This is not ok.
This episode is lauded as one of the most effectively dramatic in DS9 and the darkest in all of Star Trek. But I can't really see it that way. DS9 is already a morally ambiguous show. It's all shades of grey and it has been for the better part of six seasons. Sisko isn't Picard or even Kirk. This isn't the first time he's toed the line between good and bad. Remember the time he wasted an entire planet to get one guy? His ethical freakout straight into the camera over whether the ends justify the means just seems to be coming out of nowhere. And as for this being the darkest episode of Trek--let's not forget that time Archer straight-up Jack Bauer-style tortured a guy in an airlock. How about Picard's admission at the end of Chain of Command. Or the time Janeway literally killed one of her own officers (ignoring his pleas to her to let him live) to get two of them back. Heck, what about the time Kirk split into two guys and one of them tried to rape Yeoman Rand.
Oh, come on! 
As I said, there's a lot to love about this episode. I just think there's a little too much put on it. And, aside from the mytharc advancement, I think both "Wrongs Darker Than Death Or Night" and "Inquisition" are more worth the watch.


  1. I agree that from a cinematic point, both "WDttDoR" and "Inq" are more engaging...but both of those episodes are tinged with a kind of uncertainty that invokes doubt in the viewer...and while both episodes have some minor impact or carry-overs later, they don't serve the function that "ItPM" does, and instead of dwelling on characterization, I think viewing DS9 episodes in the context of a continuing narrative is better than approaching it like other Trek series (which have more "stand-alone" episodes than not).

    This DS9 episode, imo, is one of the best attempts at showing character because it brings both Garak and Sisko into a relationship that forces both to sacrifice. For Sisko, he must believe what he is doing to save the Alpha Quadrant is worth putting faith in someone whose past is riddled with lies/evasions. Garak, though gray his character is, makes it apparent in this episode that he takes any chance he can get (however immoral) to complete a project he believes in--this episode illuminates how ruthless Garak can be.

    Sure, the monologues/log entries are often praised, and one reason why I rewatch this episode, but I don't enjoy the viewing because it is all about Sisko's struggle--I enjoy it because the story draws a distinction between risky military patriotism and the ways that seemingly-neutral third parties can deceptively steer those efforts towards goals that are mutually beneficial.

    Given a choice, though, I'd watch "Inq," simply because I like the "Matrix" vibe.

  2. I can certainly understand you're point of view on this episode, but I do disagree In the Pale Moonlight pulled me in a lot more than the other episodes mentioned.

    But I'm writing this comment to ask a question: What episode did Janeway kill one officer in order to save two others?

  3. For some reason, this episode really works for me. I welcomed its change of perspective, and although the monologue bits reach epic theatrical proportions in some spots- there's just something about it that held me in. It furthered my appreciation for the depth of both Sisko's and Garak's characters, and it also made me really wish I could see Avery Brooks on stage!


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