The Good: Humorous, Good character work, Intriguing plot
The Bad: Simplistic villain, Somewhat lame concept
The Basics: A simple barter story takes a turn for the interesting when a weird scientist seeks immortality and Kai Winn gets into dangerous negotiations with the Dominion.
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine tends to work best out of the Star Trek series' because it was not afraid to be serialized. It was an adult show that required an adult commitment to it week after week. As a result, entire seasons were used to build concepts and ideas and the result is a body of work that feels like it is moving at the pace of a series of current events. By this point in the series, near the end of the fifth season, the Dominion Threat has become a constant menace and it seems that war is inevitable. "In The Cards" is the penultimate episode of the fifth season and it alludes to the end with a series of events that seem somewhat mundane at first, but more significant in the near future.
When Weyoun, the Vorta ambassador from the Dominion, visits Deep Space Nine, his purpose appears to be negotiations with Bajor. He and Kai Winn discuss the possibility of a non-aggression pact. While they try to hammer out the details of such an agreement, Jake Sisko finds himself concerned about his father. Sisko has become increasingly depressed as the Dominion Menace weighs down on him. Jake sees an auction for a baseball card as the opportunity to cheer him up. When he loses the bid to a scientist interested in other items in the same lot, Jake engages in a series of trades with Dr. Giger for the card, but not before they arouse the suspicions of Weyoun.
"In The Cards" is a disarming, pleasant little episode that seems to fill a necessary gap in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. It is both a silly little story of bartering - which was done back in "Progress" (reviewed here!) and will be revisited in "Treachery, Faith, And The Great River" - and a chance to establish several important plot events. While the baseball card ultimately becomes unimportant to the series, the meeting of Jake Sisko and Weyoun is significant. Jake and Weyoun will interact over several of the upcoming episodes and as a result, seeing their first meeting here opens up the ability for straightforward interactions later on. As well, the non-aggression pact that Kai Winn is mulling over here comes into play in the season finale.
What doesn't make sense is the use of Kai Winn for the negotiations. First Minister Shakaar is the leader of Bajor and as a result, it is inappropriate for Winn to be engaged in any sort of negotiations on behalf of Bajor. Logistically, it is a problem that is significantly smaller than the lame concept of the a-plot. The whole "one character goes through a chain of bartering" plot is becoming a Hollywood standard and it is somewhat disappointing to see Star Trek: Deep Space Nine sink into such an overdone, pathetic plot. For what it is worth, "In The Cards" does it well by combining the overdone Hollywood plot with sensible character motivation, a quirky scientific plot and balancing it with a strong, compelling b-plot.
Ultimately, it is the characters that make "In The Cards" work. Dr. Giger, whose quest it to achieve immortality using a cellular recreation device, is one of the weirdest guest characters in any Star Trek series. His segments are funny and make the viewer smile. Nog's appearances for the bidding and bartering help flesh out his already interesting character, by reconnecting him with his Ferengi roots that he had appeared to abandon. Even Captain Sisko's brief appearances here are worthwhile; establishing Sisko as reluctant to see the place he has come to love threatened.
Even Jake Sisko is an interesting character in "In The Cards." He is genuinely trying to do something decent and his love for his father here seems much more mature and adult than the clingy, needy love he has in "The Visitor" (reviewed here!). It is a refreshing bit of character growth. Weyoun is established once again as shifty, devious and clever. His work in this episode seems to be to manipulate Winn and he does it quite well.
The episode's real strength is in the character growth of Kai Winn. Here she defers her judgment to Sisko and it's refreshing to see her attempt to trust the Emissary her faith holds in such high regard. Playing Winn, an essentially villainous character, off Weyoun, who comes across as a more likable adversary, is genius and the apparent justification for Winn handling political negotiations that should be outside her realm.
Winn is adeptly acted once again by Louise Fletcher and it is a pleasure to see her. She is eloquent and quietly menacing as Winn, a contrast to Jeffery Combs' slick and obviously devious Weyoun. Combs and Fletcher play off one another with expert acting grace and that makes the episode stronger than the simple bridge episode it might otherwise appear to be.
Part of the essential Star Trek: Deep Space Nine for the introduction of the non-aggression pact idea and the meeting of Weyoun and Jake, "In The Cards" is too insular to be enjoyed by anyone but fans of Star Trek or a simple barter story. It is family friendly, but the intricacies and overall importance of the episode are lost out of context. Of course, I would argue that it is worth becoming a fan of the series to be able to enjoy such quality episodes when you finally get to them.
[Knowing that VHS is essentially a dead medium, it's worth looking into Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - The Complete Fifth Season on DVD, which is also a better economical choice than buying the VHS. Read my review of the perfect season by clicking here!
For other Star Trek reviews, please visit my index page on the subject by clicking here!
© 2012, 2007, 2003 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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