In the fifteenth episode of the fifth season of Deep Space Nine, everything is a disaster. DISASTER AS ENTERTAINMENT. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of phobias, specifically claustrophobia.
Well, this is a different show now, and EVERYTHING CHANGED IN A SINGLE EPISODE. What an achievement, y’all, and I’m still astounded that five seasons into this show, there’s still room for Deep Space Nine to grow, to shock, and to satisfy. LET’S TALK.
Facing Your Fears
The second half of this arc is somehow even more tense than the first one, and the brilliant (and frightening) scenes in captivity are a huge part of that. The sequences in the internment camp rely on the inevitable and the unknown. It was only a matter of time before Worf couldn’t fight back; it was only a matter of time before someone discovered what Garak was up to. And then what? Would Worf be executed? Or Garak? I had this quiet terror that since Tain had died in “In Purgatory’s Shadow,” that meant that Garak was finally disposable. An awful thought, I know! But a major part of his story had just ended, and so I wondered if that meant that Garak would be done, too. Maybe that was entirely in my own head, and maybe not a single writer ever intended me to worry about this. But I couldn’t help it.
And then the fears got worse: “By Inferno’s Light” reveals that Garak suffers from claustrophobia, making his sacrifice all the more meaningful. There’s a strong suggestion that he gained this phobia due to a traumatic experience, but the show moves on from the reveal to deal with the logistics of it. How can the only person able to program the transmitter complete his job if he’s terrified of small spaces? Andrew Robinson, for what it’s worth, portrays Garak beautifully here. It’s a scary thing to watch because of the logistical issue, but I also found it to be one of the most vulnerable moments in Garak’s history on this show, one that he couldn’t hide from anyone.
And yet he still did it. Incredible. INCREDIBLE.
How did all of this happen? HOW?
First, let me just acknowledge that I did not pick up on any of the foreshadowing or, in the case of Dukat, any of the OUTRIGHT HINTS as to what Cardassia was about to do. In hindsight, I can’t question this twist at all. It makes so much sense that it now seems ridiculously obvious. Of course Cardassia was going to seek power by allying with the Dominion! It allowed them to turn against the Klingon Empire, to stop their inevitable doom due to their decline in power, and most importantly, Dukat could return to glory. Oh my god, IT’S SO OBVIOUS.
And it’s an astounding twist, so much so that, as Jadzia states here, everything feels like a dream. Indeed, it’s a surreal turn of events, one I should have seen but didn’t. It’s also amazing to me how quickly this changes the dynamic of the show. There’s very little chance that the remainder of season 5 won’t consistently address the Dominion threat. It was bad enough that the Dominion had entered the Alpha Quadrant, but they now had a massive, powerful ally in the Cardassians? Who, I might add, already have a complicated relationship with literally everyone else.
The terrible possibilities seemed endless, and the writers exploited this over the course of “By Inferno’s Light.” They have Dukat promise to take back Deep Space Nine, and then THEY FOLLOW UP ON IT WITHIN THE SAME EPISODE. There’s an inevitability to the suspense here, given how much things escalate in such a short span of time. No one suspected the Julian amidst them was a Changeling; they had to wait an ungodly amount of time for reinforcements to arrive; and they all knew that there wasn’t a chance in the world that they’d defeat the Dominion if they attacked. Thus, the writers give us no hope. It’s all doom and gloom, SO GUESS WHAT. I WAS VERY NERVOUS WATCHING THIS.
I was also furious with Gul Dukat. What a horrible person, y’all. When it was revealed that the Julian Changeling was going to detonate a bomb in Bajor’s sun and wipe out the whole planet, all of DS9, and the assembled fleet, I was horrified. Yet I was even more so when Dukat was calm and casual about Sisko and his team figuring out the plot. It doesn’t matter how often Sisko had risked his own life to save Dukat’s. Forget what anyone did for this monster! He was ready to murder them all. INCLUDING HIS DAUGHTER. All for what? Temporary power? You better believe this is going to be temporary. I don’t think for a second that Dukat will be allowed to have much power at all under the Dominion rule. My guess is that this is going to backfire on him rather quickly. (My guess is also based on wishful thinking, I admit that.) Here’s the thing: I don’t trust the Dominion, and I cannot believe why Dukat does. He’s smarter than that (UNFORTUNATELY), and yet, he sees a quick way to power. How is that possibly going to work out for him in the end? What happens when the Cardassians conquer everything they want? Does Dukat imagine that they’ll just leave him alone?
No. They’ll turn to him next. My gods, what a huge disaster. AND I CAN’T WAIT TO WATCH MORE.
The video for “By Inferno’s Light” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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