Monday, April 2, 2012

Captain Sisko Changes The Course Of The Dominion War "In The Pale Moonlight"

The Good: Interesting character study, Good plot progression, Great acting
The Bad: Narrative technique is a little obvious.
The Basics: In one of the best, game-changing, episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Captain Sisko works to get the Romulans into the Dominion War.

Everyone I know seems to like “In The Pale Moonlight” better than I do. I like the episode, but virtually everyone else I know puts it in their Top Ten Episodes Of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. It does not quite make it there for me. In part, this is because the very first time I saw the episode, I called the last shot/line and I felt a little cheated. Despite the narrative technique, this is a remarkably straightforward episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. While it is good, it is not the most replayable episode of the series and not the most compelling story in the franchise.

What “In The Pale Moonlight” does, however, is once and for all present Star Trek: Deep Space Nine as the story of the death of Gene Roddenberry’s dream. With the Dominion War going horribly for the Federation and Klingons, Captain Benjamin Sisko abandons his principles for what he believes to be the greater good (survival of the Alpha Quadrant, not under Dominion rule). That type of decision was one Roddenberry studiously avoided and the fact that he never produced a show where the stakes were raised to high to illustrate how he would have had the heroes escape their fate is an unfortunate one. As it is, writers Peter Allan Fields and Michael Taylor do a fine job at showing how far humans will go to survive and “In The Pale Moonlight” holds up for the realism of that. I, like many Star Trek: Deep Space Nine fans, find it engaging to have a cold, hard reality trounce the idealistic world.

Another week of casualty reports comes in an when Captain Sisko posts it, he becomes frustrated seeing how his crew is affected. At that moment, Sisko determines that he must change the course of the war and he knows that the best way to do that is to find a way to bring the Romulans into the war. After a talk with Dax that convinces him that the Romulans will only end their Non-Aggression Pact with the Dominion if it is in their own self interest, Sisko turns to Garak to try to produce evidence that the Dominion is planning to betray the Romulans.

Sisko helps to spring Tolar, a hologram forgery artist, from a Klingon prison and he and Garak get to work on creating a program that will convince Senator Vreenak of Romulus that the Dominion is secretly planning to turn on the Romulan Empire. When Tolar stabs Quark, Sisko begins to have serious misgivings about the entire enterprise. But the Dominion invades Betazed and with the fall of Betazed and the heart of the Federation exposed, Sisko sees no other alternatives, but completing the attempt to bring the Romulans into the war on the side of the Federation and Klingons.

“In The Pale Moonlight” has a lot going for it and all other factors aside, it is solidly entertaining. The episode illustrates, as Sisko notes within the episode, how good intentions and a noble cause may be achieved through the most ignoble means. Sisko wants to save lives and his character is central to “In The Pale Moonlight.” His personal sense of responsibility weighs upon him and that is largely what motivates him in “In The Pale Moonlight.” In fact, that sense of responsibility is largely what makes the episode work. At the climax of the episode, Sisko does not relax or celebrate. Instead, he moves on to the next task involved with trying to win the war and that speaks to his devotion.

The odd pairing of Sisko and Garak in “In The Pale Moonlight” works exceptionally well. Sisko is straight-laced and Garak is his usual obfuscating self. The much-alluded to relationship between Garak and Romulus actually plays into the episode in an interesting way and Garak once again establishes that while he is willing to serve the Federation, he is not at all a good guy. “In The Pale Moonlight” cashes in all of Garak’s favors and given how his backstory is littered with dead bodies and (presumably) favors that can be cashed in, that Garak gives up so much to try to bring the Romulans into the war is extraordinary.

As always, Andrew Robinson is impressive as Garak. Robinson emotes well, especially when he tells Sisko of how the Dominion killed most of his friends who were working on getting the optolithic data rod. He also manages to make Garak sound perfectly reasonable at the climax of the episode where he tells Sisko the score. “In The Pale Moonlight” might be Sisko’s bold attempt to save the galaxy, but it is also Garak’s chance to do some serious housecleaning and developing the episode so that Garak has something entirely different going on from Sisko’s motives is very cool. Robinson sells the individualist nature of Garak, making him seem entirely vital on his own.

Avery Brooks plays Sisko well in “In The Pale Moonlight,” though truth be told his performance is nothing viewers have not seen from him before. In fact, from the moment Stephen McHattie arrives as Vreenak, McHattie overshadows Brooks. McHattie does cool irony exceptionally well and as Vreenak, he is cold, cool and strangely reasonable.

While there is more that could be said about “In The Pale Moonlight,” it would be hard to do without massive spoilers. “In The Pale Moonlight” is one of the episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine that is easier to enjoy and wrap your mind around after the fact, than going in knowing what it is all about. It is worth seeing and is 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 Sixth Season on DVD, which is also a better economical choice than buying the VHS. Read my review of the penultimate season by clicking here!

For other works with Stephen McHattie, be sure to visit my reviews of:
Watchmen: Under The Hood
The Fountain
A History Of Violence
The X-Files - "Nesei" / "731"


For other Star Trek reviews, please check out my Star Trek Review Index Page for an organized listing of all the episodes and films I have reviewed!

© 2012 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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