WARNING: This article has spoilers for DS9's "Defiant" inside. Anyone compromising the security of these spoilers will be held over for trial. So there. In brief:Whew! This was probably the best of the season so far, folks; it's about time!

I've got a couple of nitpicks (of course :-) ), but "Defiant" is only the second or third show this season I've really liked. More after a quick bit of summary. [NOTE: This summary mentions *the* major plot twist of the show.]

Brief Summary: Tom Riker, masquerading as brother Will, steals the Defiant and heads into Cardassian space with it, forcing Sisko to help the Cardassians find his own ship.

"Defiant", for the first time, dealt with some of the _implications_ of having this Kill-o-Zap warship hanging around the station -- both within and outside the Federation. That alone helped pay for the price of admission; Riker was mostly gravy. (In fact, one of the few objections I have to the show is that it featured Riker; not that this is a problem, but that they felt it necessary to do so because it's sweeps month.)

Beginning at the beginning, then, the teaser was great fun. We've had at least one "O'Brien has a hard day" teasers [back in "Babel"], and it's only fair to give Kira one, too. :-) I got the definite feeling, in fact, that Bashir had something like this planned for *months*, just awaiting the right moment. [There might have been something other than altruism, too; surely Kira won't be so quick to snap when she knows Bashir could prescribe this *again*...]

Riker's unexpected appearance worked fine, and there was certainly no reason to suspect he was anything other than who he said he was (unless, of course, you'd seen the previews or read anything in the newspapers...). As evidence of that, Lisa wondered out loud whether this was occurring before or after "Generations" -- I refrained from commenting at the time. :-)

The lead-in to the theft of the Defiant also worked, at least mostly. We did see some reasonable signs of security precautions around the Defiant, so there wasn't a strong case of "everybody plays dumb so that Tom can get away". There was a minor nitpick, though -- it seems from what we saw that Tom just strolled onto the ship with a concealed phaser. Aren't the airlock security programs supposed to catch things like that? I seem to recall a major plot point hanging on that fact back in "Captive Pursuit"... Ah, well; in any case, things mostly seemed to make sense.

Then, we had the big revelation: Riker's sideburns are removable! :-) Er ... sorry. What I mean is, it's not Will, but Tom. Since I'd been spoiled beforehand, that fact was no great surprise to me -- but what did come as a surprise for the rest of the show was how different Frakes seems without those sideburns. Frakes also did a good job playing Tom-as-not-Will, and deserves a lot of the credit for that, but just that one slight visual change made a vast difference as well. Most peculiar.

After that, we had the combination of two factors that made "The Maquis" such a strong two-parter last year: the Maquis themselves, and Gul Dukat. Both were very much up to snuff; Dukat seemed less canny a strategist than usual (excluding "Civil Defense", which appears to bear no relation to anything in this show; what, you want continuity?), but given how rattled he was all show by the double whammy of Korinas breathing down his throat and Riker laying waste about him, that's understandable. The Sisko/Dukat conversations, while not *quite* up to the level we saw in "The Maquis", were definitely one of the strengths of the show, as always.

[Speaking of "Civil Defense", though ... you'd think that after the stunt Dukat pulled there, Sisko would not be quite so warm 'n' friendly to Dukat even after Dukat's put in a bad position this week. Maybe he's just a forgiving guy. Maybe we'll never see fallout from the previous show. Ah, well.]

One intriguing bit of backstory that came out of all this, as well, was the news that Sisko was in charge of the shipyard that built the Defiant. Silly, you say? I don't agree; he had to be doing *something* between Wolf-359 and taking over DS9, and if he helped BUILD the Defiant it would help explain why Starfleet was so amazingly willing to let him have it and keep it this year. I don't know if that line was a quick throwaway to justify Sisko going to Cardassia this show or meant to have more thought behind it, but I think it seals a plot question rather than creating one.

Once Sisko reached Cardassia, we hit another nitpick and a lot more plot twists. I'll take care of the nitpick first, since it's really the only other thing I disliked:

I don't buy that the Defiant still has a cloak. At all. More specifically, the Romulans were (rightfully!) paranoid enough about it that they only gave it to them to find the Founders *and* only with T'Rul along to keep it company. Given that we've seen no sign of her, it strikes me as a very convenient claim to say that "oh, yes, we've still got it; we just haven't used it lately." I don't swallow it. I'm prepared to live with it for the sake of the story in this instance, but I don't like it at all.

The rest of the Cardassia plot was beautifully written and executed, though. I liked the continuing Central Command vs. Obsidian Order thread we saw here, I liked the continued humanization of Dukat (to a point; much further than this and he won't be convincing as a manipulative bastard any more), and I liked liked *liked* Korinas. A lot.

Okay ... actually, I didn't like Korinas; she scared the daylights out of me. :-) I very much liked the way the character was done, however -- and Tricia O'Neil may have outdone Rachel Garrett in terms of a memorable character this time. I want to see this one back -- soon. (But not too close to me ... brr.)

As for the Tom/Kira side of the plot, it also worked pretty well. This was very much reminiscent of some of the Sisko/Hudson scenes in "The Maquis" -- but given the circumstances, that's partly unavoidable, and I'm betting the rest was intentional. The fact that we had Kira the former terrorist lecturing Tom the terrorist wannabe was also put to *very* smart use here; I certainly bought into what she was saying, which worried me. :-) Tom's plan, while ill-conceived and impractical, seems so *utterly* Riker a move that it made perfect sense for the character.

And the ending? Worked for me, for a nice change of pace. As usual, it seemed a bit too brief, but not by much -- since this story really was, in many ways, a Tom Riker-centered piece rather than any of the regulars, it makes some sense to end the show right after Tom leaves the spotlight. I'm satisfied: both with it and with the implications of the scans he made. (Boy, won't Dukat be pissed if it turns out Tom never got close enough to get hard data? The death sentence might get rethought, even. :-) )

About the only other annoyance I had with the whole thing was the emphasis on Kira's attraction to Tom Riker, and that may be an offshoot of my whole exasperation with the way Kira's been handled this year. I suppose I should be glad it wasn't Odo this time. (And her "but I'm involved with someone" definitely prompted a "oh, nice of you to remember it NOW!" response from this corner.)

All in all, then, I liked "Defiant" a bundle. I've a few minor nitpicks, but that's really all they are. This is the sort of story I hope we see more of from Ron Moore now that he's settled in, not "The Search".

So, a few short takes:

-- I've decided that something about Avery Brooks's delivery this year has changed for the worse. I know that everyone's attempting to make the character more "vibrant" somehow; but to me, all it's doing is making him stilted. His "we've heard from all these monitoring stations, NO DEFIANT!" line, for instance, fell completely flat for me. Give me back the old Sisko!

-- Cardassia might be a smaller empire than we'd really thought. Certainly, if Dukat can control everything from one room on Cardassia Prime, it can't take long for messages to travel from the planet to anywhere in Cardassia; and we know that it's taken days or weeks to get messages from Earth to the Enterprise at times, when they're out on the Federation's fringes. One wonders...

-- Best Dukat line all show: "-- but someone has to pay for what's happened here, and I don't want that someone to be ME!" Hee.

-- Oh, my, but the Defiant's battles with the Cardassian ships were fun to watch. Nice staging, nice effects ... everything. (On the other hand, the effects got very glitch-ridden when the Defiant pulled up alongside the final ship to surrender; oops.)

That's about it. Wrapping up, then:

Plot: A few holes, but a solid premise and a neat idea. Plot Handling: Definitely strong. I was pretty much riveted. Characters/Acting: Solid. OVERALL: Call it a 9.5; excellent work.

NEXT WEEK: The Loooooove Station. Ooch, but this one looks like it's gonna hurt...

Tim Lynch (Harvard-Westlake School, Science Dept.) "This is about you, isn't it? You and that other Will Riker out there -- the one with your face, your name, your career." -- Kira Copyright 1994, Timothy W. Lynch. All rights reserved, but feel free to ask... This article is explicitly prohibited from being used in any off-net compilation without due attribution and *express written consent of the author*. Walnut Creek and other CD-ROM distributors, take note.

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