Friday, December 2, 2011

An Old Favorite Returns . . . With A Vengeance: "Defiant"

The Good: Good acting, Wonderful story, Decent character development, Nice special effects
The Bad: Part was never followed up on . . .
The Basics: A forty minute chase makes a great political/military thriller that returns Thomas Riker to the Trek universe; “Defiant” is fast-paced and suspenseful.

In Star Trek: The Next Generation, there were several duplicates: Data had an evil twin named Lore, LaForge was impersonated on Risa ("The Mind's Eye") and in one of the series' weirder episodes, a transporter duplicate of Will Riker was discovered on an alien planet. In "Second Chances," Will Riker's transporter twin is found on an abandoned outpost and he takes the name Thomas and heads off into the great unknown aboard another ship.

"Defiant" then resumes Tom Riker's story when Riker appears on Deep Space Nine and promptly hijacks the starship Defiant for use by the Maquis. With a Maquis crew and an abducted Major Kira aboard, the most heavily armed starship in the quadrant heads deep into Cardassian space on a mission of destruction. Commander Sisko journeys to Cardassia with Gul Dukat to attempt to capture the Defiant. Riker reveals a hidden shipyard as his target and it soon becomes clear that even Dukat may not be able to save Riker and the ship.

The strength of "Defiant" is easily in its fast-paced menace. This is an episode that moves right along. Moreover, it's politically intriguing as it balances the various elements within the Cardassian Union - the Central Command and the Obsidian Order - with the Federation and the Maquis. Here we learn more about the division between the Obsidian Order and the military and the alleged build up of ships in the Orias Sector becomes very important a few episodes down the line. And that's what makes Star Trek Deep Space Nine great, there are consequences.

While Star Trek: The Next Generation was content to create a duplicate of Riker and send him on his merry way, this program uses that. And intelligently. As Gul Dukat notes, who would believe the story of transporter replication? And the consequences of Riker's actions here are quickly realized.

This is an episode that explored - quite well - the nature of war and the consequences of it. As Dukat and Sisko work to stop Tom Riker, they bring in elements of their lives and we learn more about both characters. Add to that, Tom Riker's character takes a reasonable leap forward. It makes sense that Riker would join the Maquis and more than that, the resolution to the problem makes sense as well.

The acting here is excellent. Marc Alaimo plays Dukat with an added element of family duty, something he has not done previously and he plays his love for his son quite well. He balances his slippery Cardassian political strategy with a remarkable amount of humanism. Avery Brooks plays off him well here, keeping cool and remarkably dispassionate. Indeed, his final solution is almost Cardassian in its meticulous precision.

The pair worth watching is Riker and Kira. Nana Visitor plays Kira as . . . sexually confused, unsure of her relationship with Vedek Bareil and now Tom Riker. She knows she is attracted, but not sure how to act upon it. Visitor infuses Kira with passion, anger and a sense of loyalty that make her character strong in this episode. Jonathan Frakes reprises Tom Riker well, making Tom easily distinguishable from Will Riker. Frakes is energetic and charismatic as Tom and he pulls the role off well.

If for no other reason, this episode is worth seeing for its special effects. The Cardassian ships and the Defiant look great here.

Fans of Star Trek: The Next Generation will enjoy this episode for a sense of continuance to the Tom Riker character while those who are not familiar with either of the series' will find much of the jargon and specific allusions confusing. While this is essentially the beginning of an important arc in the Star Trek Deep Space Nine story, it also assumes the viewer knows a bit of the backstory, especially about the Cardassians, the Maquis and Tom Riker. Part of the essential Deep Space Nine, "Defiant" follows an important loose end left from Star Trek: The Next Generation and opens an important new chapter in the Star Trek universe.

[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 set 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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