Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Torment And Battles Rule Star Trek: Deep Space Nine When "The Die Is Cast!"

The Good: Special effects, Character, Acting, Plot
The Bad: None.
The Basics: When a belligerent fleet moves in on the Dominion homeworld, Garak tortures Odo for information as part of his redemption.

When last we saw our heroes on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Odo had been captured by the Tal'Shiar and Garak had rejoined his mentor, Enabren Tain. It was "Improbable Cause" (reviewed here!) and that episode held the viewers’ attention and made us hunger for the next part. "The Die Is Cast" concludes the story in a way that is intense, action-packed and intriguing.

Bashir dines with O'Brien, noting the contrast between his usual lunches with Garak and the Chief when O'Brien is called to Ops. Once there, a Romulan and Cardassian fleet decloaks and it immediately travels through the wormhole on a mission to destroy the Founders. Eager to recover Odo and Garak, Sisko defies orders by following the enemy fleet into the Gamma Quadrant. Aboard the Romulan flagship, Garak and Tain reacquaint themselves as the fleet heads toward the Founder's homeworld. Tain decides to test his former protege by giving him an assignment: Garak must interrogate Odo to learn more about the Founders. Garak then sets to torturing Odo as the fleet moves into position.

"The Die Is Cast" is truly the turning point in the story of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Tying up the loose ends of what the Cardassians were up to in previous episodes, "The Die Is Cast" solidifies their motivation . . . and their fate. It puts the priority on the Dominion Threat and as a result, we see their menace for the first time in vivid detail. It's one of the best executed plots of the entire series.

What the episode does best is maintain suspense. This is an episode that moves and even when the action is not moving, there is the feeling of tension. While the Fleet moves into position with menace and anticipation, the Defiant is trapped powerless in Dominion space and there's a consistent threat portrayed throughout.

But the real magic here is in the characters. While Sisko does his best to avoid disobeying orders, he manages to portray the conflict and his resolve well. The best character work takes place on the alien setting of the Romulan warbird. Odo and Garak, Enabren Tain and the Romulan Colonel Lovok all have wonderful character arcs. The mysterious Lovok easily takes a place in the pantheon of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine as one of the most cunning adversaries to ever grace the series.

Tain has a wonderful arc as Lovok reveals the entire invasion plan was his idea. Tain has a wonderfully treacherous mind with a great deal of cunning that comes through extraordinarily easily. He is fleshed out with an air of casual cruelty and deviousness. Tain's gentle demeanor conflicts greatly with his genocidal plans making for an intriguing villain. Working with Tain is Garak and seeing the former spy turned tailor back in the role that it is insinuated he always had is a wonderful thing. Garak here steps over the line of mysterious character into outright villain and he does so without going over the top. In the process, he maintains his cunning attitude which ultimately makes him completely believable. Seeing Garak in his element is great.

The character that moves the farthest forward, however, is Odo. Under the torment of Garak, Odo will reveal his deepest desire and the biggest secret he has harbored. It is a compelling scene and it justifies the verbal chess match presented early in the episode. Odo here is weakened and wounded in a way we have never seen him. The closest incident is in the first season's "The Forsaken." Since then we've never witnessed him breaking down and here, as a part of Garak's torture, it is far more horrible than in that past episode.

The acting in "The Die Is Cast" is wonderful. Andrew Robinson wonderfully portrays Garak as cunning and cruel, using his perfect sarcastic tone to make Garak vivid and dangerous. Robinson is great and clever in changing how we see this usually benign character. Rene Auberjonois gives a similarly great performance; making Odo hurt and wounded is a new direction for him and he pulls it off admirably. The final scene of the episode, between Garak and Odo is so magnificently portrayed by Robinson and Auberjonois that it sells the episode and seals it in a way that two lesser actors would not have been able to pull off.

In the end, "The Die Is Cast" is a perfect episode when combined with its predecessor, "Improbable Cause." It's a great science fiction story that is motivated by character and dominated by great acting. The special effects here are great and it's unfortunate that this was never presented on the big screen. Worthwhile to anyone who enjoys a good story. 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 reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2011, 2008, 2003 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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