WARNING: This article contains heavy spoiler information for DS9's "Necessary Evil". If you have not seen the show, you are heavily advised to avoid this article.
In a word: Wow. Utterly breathtaking.
Let's put it this way: when the only thing I can find to complain about is Rom's ten-second Ferengi squeal lasting too long, the show is extremely good. And even that squeal didn't bug me until a second viewing.
"Necessary Evil", I think, is going to be this season's "Duet". All the intricacies, all the characters, all the interplay -- everything about it fit neatly into place, and worked like a charm. I can't say enough about it.
For starters, let's go with the characters. Quark, after lots of shows this season where I thought he was going wrong ("Rules of Acquisition" to some extent, "Invasive Procedures", even bits of "The Siege"), was portrayed in his portions of the show exactly as I've always thought he should be. This Quark was smooth, polished, confident, and utterly slimy. The dialogue in the teaser set the stage for the rest of the episode: it not only flowed, but it hummed. The atmosphere seemed halfway between old '40s mysteries and gothic horror, and worked just fine as that cross.
As for Rom, well, I never thought I'd admit to liking a show that had so much of Rom in it, but I did. Quark's disillusionment about how much Rom is capable of was a scream. What's more, Rom's obsession about Quark dying and Rom getting the bar was a great dose of gallows-humor, complementing the very bleak nature of the show otherwise. (Of course, he wasn't completely on the ball -- it took him a few sentences to realize that when Odo mentioned a motive for murder that he meant him. Heh.)
Then, of course, we have Odo. Or, more accurately, perhaps it would be better to say both Odo's -- the past and the present. The two really are very different characters, and it was thrilling to see how well Rene Auberjonois pulled the difference off. Whereas the Odo we're used to is crusty and cynical, the old Odo started out as somewhat halting, somewhat tentative, and an almost defeated person. The Odo we know would have no qualms whatsoever about simply staring at you until you told him what he wanted to know; this Odo had problems looking almost anyone in the eye, at least until he took on the mantle of investigator to the fullest. The point really came home, for me, that Odo has managed to define himself very clearly by his job and his role on the station: as the justice-seeker and the outsider, just as he was years earlier. Everything was just so well-played, and so well represented, that I was very, very impressed.
It was interesting to see how much of Odo's life was bound up into Vatrik's murder. Even before we had a name, that was clear when Rom said to Odo that the box was found in the chemist's shop. I don't think I can recall a single time before now that Odo has been outright shocked by something, but this was one of them -- and it was very striking, I must say.
The rest of the present-day stuff worked just as well. Sisko had only a very small involvement, but it worked: his good cop/bad cop routine surrounding Rom used the whole Jake/Nog connection to a wonderful end. As for his other scene, I ended up being impressed because I hadn't guessed what was going on yet: Sisko and I said "blackmail" back to Odo in unison. I very much like it when a show can keep me guessing this much. Beyond that, most of the rest of the present-day scenes were simply rounding out the plot, until the ending, which I'll get to later.
Then, we have the past -- not only of Odo and of Kira, but of the station. The transformation of the station from its normal state to the Cardassian era was, in some ways, as striking and as momentous as the switching of the Enterprises in "Yesterday's Enterprise". It was the same set, and the same station -- but everything felt wrong somehow. The entire place felt different; it felt, as it should, like a military prison camp rather than a space station. James Conway is to be commended for his direction here, as are all those involved in redoing the set. What's more, Conway is to be lauded very highly for the intercuts in between past and present -- the
thematic links were so strong as to feel effortless.
While Odo has changed a lot, it's clear that Gul Dukat hasn't changed a bit from those years. As I've said before, the beauty of watching Dukat is that one never knows what's true and what isn't -- everything sounds true, but only a fraction of it actually is. We've seen it in every show Dukat's appeared in this season, and I've no doubt that we'll continue to see it. In this case, though, even after it's all over we don't know.
For instance, there's Dukat's "my superiors would want me to execute ten Bajorans at random" comment. Was that the absolute truth -- and did he in fact execute ten when Odo came up empty? Was it actually him who would choose to execute the Bajorans? Was the entire claim a lie? It's just not clear and never will be.
I love that in a villain.
Another wonderful unresolved element here is in the killing of Ches'saro. Odo immediately comes to the conclusion that Mrs. Vatrik was responsible for Ches'saro's death because she was worried about being exposed. That's entirely possible, but there's another option worth considering, namely this:
Kira's cohorts found the name Ches'saro very quickly, suspecting he was a collaborator. It's entirely possible, since the underground knew about the list and now knew Ches'saro's name was on it, that the former underground was responsible for his death and not Mrs. Vatrik. I'm not sure which way I lean on that score, but it's a lovely little ambiguity.
As for the truth behind Vatrik's killing, I'll have to say this: Kira had me fooled. As with Dukat's lies, Kira's lies worked because they were mostly true, and I fell for it just as much as Odo did. In fact, one could argue that I fell for it more, because I had the other history of the character that Odo, at the time, did not. The final realization of what's gone between them, coupled with the implication that their relationship will change, and not for the better, was a shock. If this isn't followed up, I will be extremely upset -- but given DS9's history so far, my bet is that it will be. (Of course, the Quark issue in "Invasive Procedures" shows that they don't always manage it.) I couldn't have been more awestruck by the closing scene -- absolutely beautiful.
I think I've probably covered all the major points, so here are a few small ones before I go:
-- It was great seeing lots of "firsts" for Odo: the first "Constable" reference, the first meeting with Quark, and so on. In fact, the Quark/Odo interaction really sets the stage for everything else we've seen between them.
-- Katherine Moffat did a much better job here than in TNG's "The Game" two years ago. While her character was not a strenuous role to play, playing it wrong could have seriously hurt the show, and Moffat did a fine job.
-- Odo's opening log was priceless. In particular, I loved the reference to the "compulsion to keep records, and lists, and files" humans have. Given the current brouhaha over the Packwood diaries in Washington, Odo seems to, once again, have human nature analyzed pretty well. (I also loved his complete lack of caring about how it worked, both for humorous effect at the start and for much grimmer effect later as he broods.)
-- "Otherwise, their records would overrun all known civilization." Who let Odo into my apartment? :-) :-)
-- There were tons of parallels between the past and present station, but one that struck me in particular was the laughing kids vs. the kids waiting for their father to return from the mines. I don't know why that image stuck in particular, but it did.
So, overall, everything was breathtaking. "Necessary Evil" is the best DS9 of the season, so far -- a perfect 10. Here's to many more.
Sisko gets a love story.
Tim Lynch (Harvard-Westlake School, Science Dept.)
"My own very adequate memory not being good enough for Starfleet, I am pleased to put my voice to this official record of this day. Everything's under control. End log."