WARNING: This article contains heavy spoiler information for DS9's "The Maquis, Part II". You probably don't want to read any further unless you've seen the show.
In brief: were it not for Bernie Casey, this show would've been damn near perfect. As it is, it's still quite good.
Even Casey got better as the show went on, though that might well be because he had less and less screen time. :-)
Part one of "The Maquis" opened all sorts of questions with no easy answers; part two made the characters, for the most part, take the answers at hand, and they weren't easy. Firing on Federation citizens had to hurt (well, at least hurt the four Starfleeters that were acting; I doubt Dukat minded that much), and it's a major credit to the show that not only did we see it, but that the situation led almost inevitably to it. Sisko had no choice, and he knew it -- and it hurt to watch.
The one major problem I had with it was Bernie Casey. As in part one, the lines made sense; and as in part one, a lot of his shorter statements struck home; but when he had long passages of dialogue, something went wrong. His delivery just didn't work for the role he was called upon to play -- it was too sing-song, too rhythmic. (Avery Brooks does the same sort of thing, but is a lot less obvious about it.) As such, scenes like the opening one in the teaser, while still strong, were a good deal weaker than they could have been with a different actor in the role. (Picture, say, Howard Rollins. Brr.)
Despite that, I still felt a lot of the anguish we were seeing between Sisko and Cal Hudson. Although many of the lines didn't quite work due to delivery, both had excellent body language throughout, and Sisko held up his
end of every scene and more. (In particular, his "you don't want peace, Cal; you want revenge" hit hard, despite the fact that it's an almost inevitable line in something like this.) It was easy to see that Sisko really didn't want to believe how far his friend had crossed over, and it was also visible (though not as clearly) that Cal felt completely in the right and downright betrayed by Sisko's refusal to cross over with him. Cal's "I hope not -- I truly hope not" response to Sisko's insistence that the raid on the weapons depot would be intercepted is a good example; he didn't want to hurt Sisko, but he certainly wasn't going to let him get in the way.
Another nice bit of imagery in the situation the two of them faced was the continued references to Cal's uniform (which he wore in every scene but the final one last episode, and which he never wore this time). From Cal's
statement that it had gotten too tight, to Sisko's message that "I still have his uniform", to Cal's final phasering of it as the battle lines were drawn, it was a symbol of everything Cal used to be, and everything Sisko wanted him to stay true to. Very nice work there.
Most of the other guest characters were quite good as well. Admiral Nechayev seemed a bit less sympathetic than usual (which is saying a lot, given how unsympathetic she usually is :-) ), but that was surely by design, so that it would set up Sisko's speech -- and it was certainly recognizable as Nechayev.
Legate Parn, while only present for one scene, was absolutely marvelous to watch as well, almost rivaling Dukat (though not managing it). His whole web of deceit to Sisko cemented something I've been thinking for a while -- namely, that a good SF analogue to the Cardassians are Dune's Harkonnens. Plans within plans within plans, and deception at every turn typify both; but always for a purpose, and always with the belief that it was necessary. Very nice indeed. [Sisko's response right after he left wasn't bad, either.]
Even Sakonna was tolerable this time -- although she was still one of the weak links of the show, her scene with Quark about "the price of peace" was orders of magnitude better than any scene she was in last time around. She seemed a Vulcan who was unsure of her loyalties, which is rare -- but not unheard of.
Then, there's Dukat. I thought about it last week, but now I'm sure of it; I'd definitely watch a show devoted solely to Sisko and Dukat. Either alone is quite good, as Dukat's scene taunting his captors showed rather nicely -- but together, they're absolute magic. Sisko's nailing Dukat to the wall with Parn's statements about him ["...that if the Maquis did not execute you, that the Central Command would -- after a comforting trial, I'm sure"] had me wincing in sympathy for Dukat, and it was one of the few times we've seen Dukat react in any substantive way at all. It was magnificent, as was Dukat's disappointment when Sisko wouldn't gun Hudson down. ("I thought you were strong, Commander; you're not. You're a fool -- a sentimental fool." Ouch.) There is a bond developing between these two in some ways, and it's one I hope we get to see developed more as time goes on; I know I'd watch every minute with absolutely undivided attention.
Before this turns into the "rave about Sisko and Dukat" festival, however, I should talk about other aspects of the show. :-) As I said last week, "The Maquis" had a sense of events overtaking the characters and running the show, much as happened in the opening story arc this season. However, this time, unlike "The Siege", the conclusion kept it that way. I felt events rushing towards a conclusion as the show itself was concluding, but never did I feel that there were convenient outs, or that an easy route was taken. There were no easy routes here, and that was made quite clear all the way through. That sort of show takes guts to write, and I'm very pleased to see the creators of DS9 [who helped write the show] not decide to back down when the situation with the characters gets rough.
It's tough to say much more about the show. Virtually everything worked. For instance:
-- Sisko's speech after talking to Nechayev. Although the second half of it was a bit overstated, the initial point about "the trouble is EARTH" with all its attendant explanation was remarkably well done. It suggests that the
Federation is no longer in touch with what's really going on along the borders; are we going to see a shakeup high up at some point?
-- The rescue of Dukat -- great action sequence, and Sisko's message to Hudson through Amaros blew me through the back wall.
-- The staff meeting, also great. Kira and Dukat had a very ... interesting way of playing off each other, particularly with her comment about what Bajorans could do with all the weapons Sakonna obtained.
-- The Xepolite intercept. Dukat may be a snake, but he has one hell of a command presence. Yow.
-- Sisko on Volan Three, delivering the Federation ultimatum. The bluster was revealing, but the phasering of the uniform was the capper here.
Then, there's the final interception of the Maquis. The one bit of it I wasn't thrilled with was having the runabouts entirely run by major characters; hell, even the Maquis had more sense than that, and they're more
desperate. However, I can live with it, given that both sides were trying relatively hard not to kill each other. And the action sequence was, to be blunt, phenomenal on all counts.
I was a little surprised they left Hudson alive, but not at all surprised that the Maquis is still around. That might have been an easy out; as it is, there's still trouble in the demilitarized zone, and the problem is with the putative good guys. This is something Sisko might be stuck working with for a while.
Lastly, while the final scene was good, I think it could have ended half a line sooner than it did. Sisko's reaction to Kira's "you prevented a war" was nice, but I'd have ended it with "did I?", myself, rather than continuing on. Still, that's getting seriously picky.
"The Maquis" is one of the best two-part stories to come out of any Trek, past or present. There was no letting up, no lessening of tension, and no fake ways out; this was the only resolution to a bad situation, with no guarantee the situation won't get bad again. Frustrating as hell, but extremely true to life. I like it; I like it a LOT.
So, wrapping up:
Plot: Nicely tight. I'm not fond of having an entirely regular-crewed attack, but other than that it's terrific.
Plot Handling: I'm still shaking four days later; let's leave it at that.
Characterization: Sakonna was still a bit weak, and Bernie Casey never quite got Cal Hudson right, but everyone else was stellar, especially Dukat.
OVERALL: 9.5. Bravo, people; bravo.
Garak runs into some trouble with his brain...
Tim Lynch (Harvard-Westlake School, Science Dept.)
"The trouble is EARTH. On Earth, there is no poverty, no crime, no war. You look out the window of Starfleet Headquarters and you see Paradise -- well, it's easy to be a saint in Paradise."