Monday, December 19, 2011

The Crime In The Season's End Comes From "The Adversary!"

The Good: Wonderful idea, tension, clever, great character work, acting, end
The Bad: Obvious Culmination
The Basics: Tight and terrifying, "The Adversary" is a trip into armageddon with great acting and an intriguing plot.

It's hard to say anything bad about "The Adversary," which ends the third season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. While the season could have been titled "The Dominion Advance," when the season ends, we know the Dominion is HERE! "The Adversary" remains as one of the best season finales the Star Trek franchise ever had.

When Commander Benjamin Sisko receives his long-overdue promotion to Captain, it is a cause to celebrate on Deep Space Nine. However, the celebration does not last long as a visiting ambassador reveals the Defiant's next mission is to a neighboring civilization's space. It seems there has been a coup on the Tzenkathy Homeworld and there is some concern that the Tzenkathy might initiate a war with the Federation, a fear that escalates as the Defiant nears their space and the crew learns of the destruction of a Federation colony on the border. The situation goes from bad to worse when the ambassador turns out to be a Changeling and the Defiant is commandeered by him.

"The Adversary" is the obvious culmination of the repeated Changeling line "No Changeling has ever harmed another" introduced in the earlier episodes of the third season (most notably "Heart Of Stone" and "The Die Is Cast"). While it seems the direction and end of the episode might be anticipated, it is no less extraordinary when it occurs.

The only other real strike against the episode is the introduction of the Tzenkathy. The Tzenkathy represent another race that the Federation was apparently in conflict with for some years in the relatively recent past. This becomes difficult to "buy" when one considers that in the Star Trek universe's recent past we've been asked to accept that the Federation was in military conflict with the Cardassians and the Tzenkathy and the most militarily advanced ships were either used for exploration (i.e. the Enterprise) or were scrapped (the Defiant). However, once we overcome this somewhat minor intellectual obstacle, the episode is wonderful. Only a real geek would worry about such minutia.

What does shine through in this episode is the character development. For the first time, Odo is put in open combat with another Changeling and as a result his skills are tested and his mood becomes severely agitated. Odo's hunt for the Changeling infiltrator leads him to several wry developments that belay his inner conflict over his people.

The mood in "The Adversary" is perfectly created, beginning with a joyous occasion and quickly degenerating into suspicion and outright paranoia. This episode does what a suspense show ought to and it does it very well. Here we become emotionally vested in the outcome and when one of our regular crewmembers is replaced by the shapeshifter, we become concerned because real jeopardy is established. The tension throughout this piece is high and wonderful. When it seems that anyone aboard may have been replaced by the Changeling, the episode becomes all about asking "who can we really trust here?" The answer is not terribly peppy.

Even better than the tension is the acting. Avery Brooks continues to define Sisko as a no-nonsense, reasonable man with strong deductive powers. Here he lends his personal integrity to the character to help expand the limits of what we see as Sisko's character in his willingness to protect the Federation. Similarly, Kenneth Marshall, who plays Eddington, has a chance to add a wry sadness to the lieutenant commander and he rises to the occasion admirably. Here we see him as more than simply the monolithic security chief brought in to second guess Odo.

The real stars here are Lawrence Pressman and Rene Auberjonois. Pressman is perfect to use as an acting foil to Rene as he says everything in a big, meaningful way, which contrasts Rene's more quiet, but stern delivery. Pressman moves in a fluid way that convinces us instantly that he is not a "solid," but a Changeling and that he reveals this talent only when the Changeling is revealed is genius. Rene does a great job once again making Odo both introverted and important and in "The Adversary," he guides his character through a difficult decision in a way that makes Odo completely believable.

While this episode hinges on a few understandings of what the Changeling Threat is, it tends to be explained well enough that even people who are not fans of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine will find something to to enjoy and that is the great acting, wonderful tension and the exciting ride this episode offers. And, if for nothing else, the episode is made terrifying by the implications of the last line and that's worth it alone! Part of the essential Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

[Knowing that VHS is essentially a dead medium, it's worth looking into Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - The Complete Third Season on DVD, which is also a better economical choice than buying the VHS. Read my review of the breakout season by clicking here!


For other Star Trek episode, DVD or movie reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2011, 2007, 2003 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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