Mark Watches ‘The Next Generation’: S04E12 – The Wounded

In the twelfth episode of the fourth season of The Next Generation, one of O’Brien’s past superior officers forces him to rethink his role in a major battle. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.

Trigger Warning: For discussion of war, death, genocide.

Holy shit, season four of this show is KNOCKING IT OUT OF THE PARK.

Keiko and O’Brien

Oh, I’m just so pleased that we got to see more of this couple. IT WAS A PLEASANT SURPRISE. Can we have more of Keiko in the future? Oh my god, DOMESTIC AUs AS CANON, THIS IS SO PERFECT.

I was already going to love this episode just based on that first scene between these two alone. THIS IS CANON.


There’s a reason I enjoy “The Wounded” as much as I do that’s not necessarily an obvious justification. I appreciate that this episode can show how someone in Starfleet can be horribly flawed, that they can be wrong, and that this organization is willing to hold them accountable. Part of the tension in this episode comes from never knowing if Captain Maxwell really did kill all these Cardassians on purpose. I dreaded the inevitable confrontation between him and Picard because all the evidence pointed to an uncomfortable reality.

Of course, this was made a billion times more complicated by the political background of the war between the Cardassians and the Federation. But it’s a personal story because O’Brien’s own flawed perception of events is all over this episode. We get the sense very early on that he despises the Cardassians, and from what little information we have on them, it seems like he’s justified in hating them. But is he? How much of that justification is due to a limited perception of reality? How much of Captain Maxwell’s perception of the Cardassians’ behavior is tarnished by his negative experience with them?

The willingness to explore these questions makes this a much more satisfying episode than it could have been, and I am deeply appreciative of that.

The Cardassians

EXCELLENT COSTUME/MAKE-UP DESIGN, Next Generation. I was so impressed! While the show doesn’t often stray from humanoid species, the Cardassians look utterly non-human. It’s great, especially when you consider that the undertone of this episode is one of juxtaposition. How different are the Cardassians than us? How does their difference play into the perception of everything that they do? There’s a clever metaphor for racism within this, but thankfully, the show doesn’t go so far into this that it ends up feeling messy and distracting. But there are subtextual ideas here about race and culture that inform the conflict we see.

On top of that, there’s an undeniable fear between these two parties. After having been at war for so long, both sides are nervous. I’m thankful, then, that we get an idea what either party feels like. We know why O’Brien and Picard are hesitant, and yet we also see both of them examine the reasons why they think of the Cardassians as they do. The same goes for Gul Macet, who is given a whole lot more depth than I expected. These two cultures are getting to a point where they’re tiring of war, despite being so very good at it. I mean, look how easily everyone slips into being enemies here. The Cardassians deeply distrust everyone here, just as Worf and Riker do. It’s much more simple for these groups to behave that way than to challenge themselves otherwise.

But the story in “The Wounded” is simply not that black and white.

Captain Maxwell

There’s something horrifying about Maxwell that unnerved me while I was watching this episode. Despite that this aired in early 1991, I was reminded of all the war hawks after September 11th that plagued the airwaves and how similar it seemed to Maxwell. I came of age in a time when people regularly pushed for war on American television, despite poor evidence that it was necessary for domestic or foreign policy. (I’m staunchly anti-war regardless, but we won’t get into that now.) I thought about people like Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz and I saw elements of Captain Benjamin Maxwell. While I think there was a lot more war profiteering going on in the examples I gave, I still couldn’t help but think: what if they truly believed they were right?

That’s at the center of Maxwell’s justification for the murder of over 700 Cardassians. He is so convinced that the Cardassians are gearing up for war that he believes he is creating peace. The notion is exposed for absurdity throughout the episode because… shit, y’all, THERE IS NOTHING PEACEFUL ABOUT MURDER. There is no endgame to come of this that involves peace. The Cardassians will try to retaliate, this conflict will be escalated, and NO ONE WINS. It’s a perpetual cycle of violence. That being said? It’s clear that if no one would have stopped Captain Malcolm, he would have continued on his little journey of genocide. His goal was to wipe out the Cardassians, nothing more. How would that possibly result in peace?

And then the writers have to go and make this EVEN WORSE when, in the final moments, we find out that Maxwell was actually right the whole time. Here’s what I dig about this: at no point does Picard suggest that Maxwell was being moral or ethical. The murder of the Cardassians by his hand is deplorable. Yet this episode sets up a future conflict anyway, one I actually think the show will re-visit at some point. How could they not? The Cardassians are too ripe for another story, and I think the end of this episode proves that to us. What are the Cardassians preparing for?

All in all, this was another fantastic episode of this season, which stands at 12/12. Y E S. I’m so happy that this show has gotten as great as it has.

The video for “The Wounded” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

Mark Links Stuff

– The Mark Does Stuff Tour 2015 is now live and includes dates across the U.S. this summer and fall Check the full list of events on my Tour Dates / Appearances page.
– My Master Schedule is updated for the near and distant future for most projects, so please check it often. My next Double Features for Mark Watches will be the remainder of The Legend of Korra, series 8 of Doctor Who, and Kings. On Mark Reads, Diane Duane’s Young Wizards series will replace the Emelan books.
- Mark Does Stuff is on Facebook! I’ve got a community page up that I’m running. Guaranteed shenanigans!

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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