Welcome back to Underrated Trek, where I take a special look at Star Trek episodes that I love…which may not be the most popular or even liked by most. I once did a list of Top 50 Trek episodes and in an honorable mention article included one or two that were eyebrow raising since no one really though they were good. This was one of them.I want to like this episode…but it’s so boring! Since I have briefly mentioned this one in passing but never done a full review for it, let’s take a closer look. This is:
Of course we met Thomas Riker in “Second Chances” on TNG, and a follow up on DS9 seemed like a fantastic idea. However….
Kiara is stressed out, and relaxing at Quark’s when she runs into Wil Riker from The Enterprise. After spending time together, she agrees to show him The Defiant. Once on board he stuns Kira and takes the ship.
After informing Dukat that they believe Riker is a Marquis sympathizer, and The Defiant is headed straight for Cardassian space. Sisko agrees that the best way to handle the situation is to cooperate with a Cardassian operation to hunt Riker down.
Riker is taking The Defiant to a secret shipbuilding facility. Dukat, not realizing what is there, wants his forces to intercept but his Obsidian Order observer warns him that all ships will be destroyed. Riker is surprised by the overwhelming forces en route, and Kira points out he isn’t a terrorist he’s trying to be a hero. Sisko works out a deal with Dukat in exchange for sensor readings to allow Riker to surrender the ship and be sentenced to a labor camp for the rest of his life.
Jonathan Frakes, of course! The only Star Trek regular to appear in all the spin-off shows (sorry to say as far as Enterprise is concerned). Tricia O’Neil is the Obsidian Order observer and she portrayed Rachel Garrett in “Yesterday’s Enterprise” and Kurak in “Suspicions”
Episode Pro’s :
The first act is simply wonderful. It looks like it’s gonna be a simple Kira story (by the way Kira, NEVER snap at the doctor) and then Riker appears. His scenes are great and his reversal when he steal The Defiant is shocking. Now when this episode aired in the days before internet spoilers I had no idea what the plot was, and was genuinely surprised at the end of the act when Tom’s real identity is revealed. Nicely done.
Aside from act one the other good part of the episode is the talk Kira has with Riker. She notes that he isn’t acting like a real terrorist, and basically makes the point he is doing all this because of that other Wil Riker. The one with his name and his career, he’s trying to be a hero and make a name for himself that stands away from Will. It makes sense Riker would feel the need to do something to make a name for himself, i just wish it had been expanded on. It never really gets addressed again. While the episode isn’t the Kira episode we were fooled into thinking it would be, by the end it isn’t really about Tom either. It actually becomes about Dukat and Sisko.
At this point in DS9 they were trying to humanize Dukat, rather than have him be the monster he would later become. And I like it, we get a nice moment when Dukat talks about how the incident has caused him to miss his son’s birthday. He regrets that his son has to grow up knowing that his father missed his birthday because of a rogue Starfleet officer stole a Federation vessel and used it to invade his home. And how he would remember with anger, as sad as that is. Nice character moment.
Episode Con’s :
The big is one is how the episode ends up. As I said, the first act was fantastic. But then it was as if the writers just didn’t know what to do next. It’s all talking and despite the huge battle promised in the episode, nothing happens except Riker standing down and surrendering. Boring. As I noted it becomes more about Sisko and Dukat at the Cardassian operation center. A lot of the dialogue in this episode is setting up a future episode, “The Die is Cast”, which is fine if you watch them in order. However that makes this a weak standalone episodes since the mystery of why The Obsidian Order is so protective of that sector is never revealed and the episode end is kinda dull. Course this is a regular problem with a serialized series like DS9, but if you’re gonna have a special guest star like Riker you gotta realize you’re gonna bring in fans who don’t normally watch.
One point never explained is why Tom Riker, portraying Will, was so rude to O’Brien in that first act. It was so that O’Brien didn’t figure out it wasn’t Will Riker and tip his hand. But the dialogue explaining that was cut. And we never find out if Will Riker ever found out about these events, wonder what he and Troi thought about it?
This episode explores one aspect of DS9 I have never talked about, The Marquis, and the truth is I never really liked that arc. Something about the idea of Starfleet officers going rogue just seemed wrong in Trek. Of course that’s probably why the creators did it, and carried the idea over to Voyager, but it never worked for me and I was always glad it would kind of get forgotten by the end as more important plot threads took hold. If you don’t know the whole story it involved discontented Starfleet officers who organized with colonists against the Cardassian occupation of their homes in the Demilitarized Zone after their colonies were ceded to the Cardassians. It ended with The Dominion slaughtering them, and they basically vanished. This episode is basically a part of that arc, as I noted planting seeds for later episodes.
Of course despite Kira’s promise to rescue him at the end, Thomas Riker would never appear again one screen (and the romantic chemistry they had is quickly forgotten) even though Jonathan Frakes felt that he should have. He did appear in non cannon material.
Fast Forward Moment:
I love the scene where Sisko and Odo are recounting who Thomas Riker is. They needed it for those unaware but for those of us who saw the TNG episode it’s unnecessary and kind of pointless. The best part is when Dukat says “it’s a wonderful story, why am I listening to it?” By the way how did Sisko and Odo figure out it was Tom, it’s never shown. Did they call the Enterprise to find out what the heck was going on and have Picard say “Uh, Will’s right here guys!”?
Final Thoughts:Strong start with a very weak finish, every time I watch it I feel like saying “Wait, that’s it?”