In the thirteenth episode of the fifth season of Deep Space Nine, Sisko obsesses over catching an old enemy. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of colonization, terrorism.
Sometimes, I don’t think I feel what the writers of this show want me to feel about the Maquis. Deep Space Nine has been a lot more nuanced about than the other shows, but even here, I’m expected sometimes (maybe???) to sympathize with and support Sisko over Eddington. On the one hand, I get that. Eddington betrayed everyone, and I certainly don’t like his politics sometimes. The problem that the writers have created with the Maquis is that they’ve written a clear colonization narrative, but then they expect us to feel for the other side.
Sort of. And I’m going to say that a few times because this episode might be a shift in terms of serialized storytelling for Deep Space Nine, but I can’t quite tell. See, Sisko is portrayed as obsessive throughout this episode, and it’s not really a subtle thing. Once the script likens him to Javert from Les Miserables, it got stuck in my head, and on one level, I completely understood why that comparison existed. In the grand scheme of things, Eddington is a small fish in a big pond, and Sisko’s pursuit is absurd and risky. We understand it, of course, because Eddington is abrasive and cocky. Plus, I’m sure that many of us can recognize just how infuriating it is to be betrayed like this. It sucks!
Yet even from the beginning, I felt distracted by “For the Uniform” because Eddington’s behavior – while flawed and annoying – still had a justification. The people displaced by Federation policy have a fair grievance. To simply blame their predicament on their refusal to just give up and move to the resettlement area is bogus, and I was almost offended that Sisko, of all people, would make that kind of statement. How can you ask people to give up their homes and just move somewhere else without some kind of pushback? But that’s the whole problem with how the Maquis are often handled; somehow, I’m supposed to ignore this or accept the futility of political resistance, and I just can’t.
But for the sake of discussion, if we push past this, there’s still a lot here that I do appreciate. I love a good cat-and-mouse game, and watching Eddington outsmart Sisko and the rest of Starfleet is a treat, not because I like them but because it’s such a fantastic way to build tension. We assume that eventually, Sisko will get one step ahead. So how does he do that? How can he catch Eddington when Starfleet has rescinded their confidence in Sisko? And is it reckless of him to pursue Eddington, even when DS9 is the closest station to the latest of Eddington’s attacks?
What I’m hoping for Deep Space Nine is that this episode marks a change in what the writers are willing to do with their characters. Now, I don’t want to suggest that DS9 has avoided morally grey characterizations or stories; it’s far more gritty than the rest of the Star Trek canon. Which is a very good thing! This show goes so much further than the others, and it often makes the audience deeply unsettled in the process. Yet in the end, the station’s characters are the good ones, and the enemies are largely the villains. “For the Uniform” blurs that line horribly, and the complication that arrives because of it feels exciting and refreshing.
I don’t see there being any heroes here. Eddington gases a planet to force the Cardassians to evacuate it, and in doing so, he shoots a rescue freighter to force Sisko into a moral choice. What if he’d killed the Cardassians on that freighter? Would that have been a moral act to murder people you view as colonizers? Granted, Eddington insists that the Maquis are not killers, yet he almost became one. He assumed (correctly, I should state) that Sisko wouldn’t allow the freighter to crash, that he would abandon the lead on Eddington to save them.
Yet I expected Sisko to reverse this technique on Eddington with a bluff. I truly believed that those torpedoes were fake, that it was all an illusion to trick Eddington into surrendering. And it wasn’t. At all. Sisko poisoned the atmosphere of a planet full of Maquis, and he did so gleefully. He even speaks of the fact that he played right into Eddington’s Javert/Valjean narrative. But outside of this vendetta, is Sisko the hero? Or Eddington? They both poisoned planets. They both risked other people’s lives to get what they wanted. And Sisko did something without the permission of Starfleet, y’all.
So, here’s my question: is this sort of pragmatism going to become a part of Deep Space Nine? I’m okay with it if it is, and it’s not like it’s wildly out of character for Sisko to behave this way. He’s bent the rules plenty of times before, you know? But that’s what I speak of when I say that I don’t know what the writers want me to feel. If I’m meant to celebrate Sisko’s victory, I’m not sure if I want to. If this is a shift in the stories Deep Space Nine tells… that’s a different matter altogether.
Regardless, I really liked this episode.
The video for “For the Uniform” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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