WARNING: This article contains spoiler information for DS9's "The Maquis, Part I" -- avoid at all costs unless you're comfortable being exposed to that information.
In brief: Quite good, despite one or two big flaws.
I'll get to the flaws in due course, however, because for the most part this show was quite engrossing.
To begin with, I'm quite sure this is a show that will provoke a lot of discussion (or arguing, more likely) about who is taking the correct position. Which is more important: stopping the war that seems about to start, or protecting the colonists? Is peace worth "firing on your own people", as both Kira and Bashir referred to it? Cal and Kira clearly believe that the colonists come first, Dukat clearly (well, as clearly as he ever makes anything known) thinks peace comes first, and Sisko is caught in the middle, but seems to be leaning towards peace being more crucial.
I haven't figured out where I stand yet, though I'm leaning with Sisko; but that's not the point. The point is that this is a question that, at least from what we've seen, isn't going to have any easy answers. That's almost always a sign of a meaty show that will be worth watching again for new slants on things, and I can't support it strongly enough.
Let me get the flaws out of the way early, then. The first one is a plot flaw, that occurs in the final thirty seconds or so of the show. Yet again, Our Heroes act like morons in beaming down en masse into a situation
they know is likely to be hostile. People can talk all they like about "dramatic necessity", but in a situation where people normally behave intelligently (which everyone did up until that point), having everyone suddenly say "hey, let's beam down and get captured!" is just plain dumb. Of course, this could change if we find out next week that they rigged something up with the computer to beam them back immediately with a single command or something, but I have rather severe doubts that this will be the case.
The other flaw is in the Quark/Sakonna scenes -- or rather, it is the Quark/Sakonna scenes. They are, quite simply, appallingly boring. I came extremely close to getting up and taking a bathroom break during those scenes -- and that's something I never, ever do. There was nothing in those scenes that needed doing so far as I could see, except perhaps the point that Sakonna was buying weapons; and we surely didn't need a sixth of the show taken up with Quark slavering. Ick.
Apart from that, though, this first part of "The Maquis" was superb -- close to the level of the opening two parts of this season's starting trilogy, in fact. As with "The Homecoming" and "The Circle", I felt as if I was watching events unfold that the characters were powerless to stop, as though they were experiencing it rather than following a script. That takes some doing, and I'm delighted to say they managed it.
What was truly refreshing to see, in addition, was a script in which every major regular that got screen time (besides Quark) was used about as intelligently as they could be for the show's needs. For instance:
-- O'Brien, while being extremely bright, is also not leaping to conclusions, but insisting in the face of a lot of pressure that he needs time to figure out what's going on. He's also quick to defend the Federation from Odo's scoffing later, which is very appropriate for him.
-- Odo is fairly smart as far as security goes (except for the kidnapping, perhaps, but we don't know yet how well-organized the Maquis is on the station); but more to the point here, his annoyance over having his hands
"tied" by Fed rules of conduct is absolutely in line with his law-and-order personality. With "say what you like -- it was safer then" [referring to the Cardassian occupation], Odo summed up a lot of his passions, and gave me a case of the jitters at the same time.
-- Kira doesn't get all that much to say, but argues her case about the Cardassians vs. the colonists quite persuasively. Her perspective is both more limited and more focused than Sisko's, for obvious reasons -- and I got both of those quite clearly when she argued with him.
-- Dax, gods be praised, actually behaved like a crack science officer! Not only was she professional as possible when the Bok'nor first had problems (not even finishing a sentence before acting on her findings, for instance), but she figured out quite quickly what the likely response was. Considering the number of times that this alleged brilliant mind has been stuck saying "what do you mean" to O'Brien or others as they come up with brilliant points, it was amazingly refreshing to see this.
-- Bashir got so little time that it's not really possible to say whether he was true to character or not, but he certainly didn't seem false to it.
Then, there's Sisko, for whom this was probably the best show since the season opener. Sisko was every bit the commander caught in a bind here, but was so expertly written and expertly acted that you'd think Avery Brooks was stuck with the situation himself! In particular, his absolute stone-facedness when confronted with Dukat stood in stark contrast to his more relaxed attitude around, say, Hudson (at least early on). Sisko seems about as torn as we've ever seen him -- you can tell that he doesn't want war or to have to fire on the colonists. But it looks like he'll be stuck, and it's going to be a gripping ride to see how he deals with it.
The Sisko/Dukat scenes were far and away the grandest scenes of the entire show. I'm beginning to think that I'd watch a show with no one but those two characters in it -- the second act had only them, after all, and was
absolutely spectacular. Dukat was, at least in theory, coming in good faith -- but his willingness to simply show up in Sisko's quarters without any word was a little eerie, and Sisko was more than justified in wondering where Jake was. Brr. The trade of philosophies (sort of) and of tirades in the runabout was marvelous, as was the bantering about how much Dukat did or didn't know about the runabout's controls. (Cardassians have photographic memories; hmm. That might help explain some of Garak's more peculiar miracles...) Dukat was, as always, extremely difficult to figure out -- even now, I'm sure he has something up his sleeve beyond stopping the Maquis, but I'd be hard-pressed to tell you what. He's a snake, but he's a snake who can come across as the wronged party while simultaneously sinking his fangs into your throat -- and that makes him DS9's best villain, by a landslide.
Beyond that, it was interesting to see the cross-series continuity being built. TNG's "Journey's End" had left me with the impression that it was only the colony on that episode that had refused to leave, but in retrospect it's entirely possible that their settlement set off a wave of outcry all across the demilitarized zone which forced both sides to allow other colonies to stay. Gul Evek seemed a very consistent character -- not particularly trustworthy, but at least in theory not particularly warlike either. As for the first mention of the Badlands towards the close, I definitely smell "Voyager" setup ... which is fine as long as it's done tastefully.
Then, there's Cal Hudson. Although I liked a great deal of what he had to say and do (I'm not sure how much I agreed with, but that's a different issue), sometimes Bernie Casey didn't quite pull off the role. He was magnificent early on, particularly in his first conversations with Sisko -- but later, after Samuels' body is brought back, he seemed a little bit, well, scripted. His rejoinders to Sisko were good (such as "well, that'll help a LOT" when Sisko refers to high-level complaints), but his broader points sounded like someone reciting rather than someone arguing from the heart. That made it a little difficult to get into the scene, though Sisko was forceful enough to carry all those scenes through. I've liked a lot of Casey's past work, and I think he can still work here -- but somehow the delivery just seemed a little stilted at times.
It's tough to completely evaluate "The Maquis, Part I", since it is, after all, only half a story -- but I'd place bets that very few people who saw this half will miss the second. It was gripping, it was timely (since the "if one side cheats, do we?" question is virtually ageless in diplomacy), and it was damned good.
So, a few short takes and then the wrapup:
-- The Sisko/Dukat scenes had so much good dialogue that quote-getters may have just doubled their inventory. I particularly liked "Education is power; joy is vulnerability." myself as Dukat's motto, along with his swearing on the lives of his children. (Of course, we don't know he actually has any children...)
-- After the conversation Sisko and Hudson had about their days in New Berlin, I am absolutely dying to see a picture of Sisko in Liederhosen. :-) :-)
-- It seemed a bit odd that the two highest ranking officers along the Cardassian border were two Commanders, at least to me.
-- Kira's and Dax's conversation at the start was excellent, but I've noticed that when the two are talking together they're usually talking about men. That seems a little off-kilter; do any two men on the series always talk about women to each other? The scene was great in itself; it just seems a trifle odd in context, that's all.
-- Unlike Gul Toran in "Profit and Loss", it does make sense that Dukat could get around the station unseen; as he says, he was in charge of it for years. Here, I don't have a problem.
That should about cover it. "The Maquis, Part I" may not have been an absolutely top-notch episode, but it was more than watchable. Definitely worth seeing.
So, wrapping up:
Plot: Terrific. Except for the use of the Stupid Ray (to quote Dave Barry) on the characters at the very end, downright wonderful.
Plot Handling: Cut out the Quark/Sakonna scenes and it's almost perfect; those scenes, however, were glacial.
Characterization: Ehhh on Quark, unclear on Hudson, and top-notch on everyone else, especially Dukat.
OVERALL: Call it a 9. Nice job.
Friend, foe, or friend? Tough to tell these days...
Tim Lynch (Harvard-Westlake School, Science Dept.)
"You two aren't, I mean..."
[laughter] "Oh, no. She may not be Curzon, but she is Dax."
"Yes ... that would be extremely ... strange."
-- Hudson and Sisko