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Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine 2-08: Necessary Evil

Episode:28|Writer:Peter Allan Fields|Air Date:14-Nov-1993

Today on Sci-Fi Adventures, I'm writing about Deep Space Nine's Necessary Evil, by writer Peter Allan Fields and director James L. Conway. I'm mentioning those names because they happen to be the same ones you'll find in the credits for season one's Duet, which is maybe the best episode so far. In fact looking at the other stories they'd later work on separately (Way of the Warrior, For the Cause, In the Pale Moonlight for instance) it seems like neither of them really understood how to make a bad episode.

Though I did watch an episode of The Orville that Conway directed a few weeks back... and my research for that reminded me he did that episode of Next Gen where Wesley Crusher falls into a flower bed and is given a death sentence. And then dies. R.I.P. Wesley. Or maybe he doesn't, I don't want to spoil it.

But if you continue past this point you will find a huge variety of SPOILERS for Necessary Evil and perhaps a couple of earlier Trek episodes as well. It's a detective story based around a couple of mysteries, so you might want to be more careful with this one if you haven't seen it before/in a while.



The episode begins on a dark and stormy night, which is unusual for a series set on a space station.

It's soon revealed that Quark's here on Bajor to visit this woman, meaning that the station's bartender has visited more alien worlds so far this season than most of the Starfleet officers. "I didn't kill him, you know," is the first thing she says, smiling more than you'd expect for someone with a gigantic spiral hanging off one ear. It's not quite the traditional Bajoran earring you'd expect, which is a hint that she's not quite a traditional Bajoran. Another clue is when she says "Say what you will about the Cardassians, at least they could keep the power on." I bet she appreciated how her oppressors kept the trains running on time as well. But the power being off does explain why the room's lit by an excessive number of candles.

It turns out that this femme fatale called Quark halfway across the star system because she needs a favour. Her husband kept a strongbox in the wall of their shop on the space station and she'd like him to retrieve it for her. She can't go and get it herself because she couldn't stand being in the shop where he husband was murdered... or maybe she's trying to avoid Odo. The deal is that he gets her the worthless box and she gets him some latinum and as always her... personal gratitude. Quark's all about the personal gratitude, so accepts and somehow makes his exit through the sliding doors despite the power being off. Then a mysterious man walks out of the shadows!

I have to admit, this wasn't the most intriguing of teasers for me. It's very film noir, it sets up a bunch of mysteries and it treats Quark as a person instead of a punchline, but it could use more of a hook.


ACT ONE


Whoa, there's steps on the promenade? How did I not notice that until episode 28?

Act one starts with Odo shutting his office down for the night, while we hear his very first daily security log as a voice over. He starts by whining that humans have a compulsion to keep records and lists and files to the point where they're at risk of overrunning all known civilisation, while he considers his memory to be good enough. And it probably is quite good considering he can shapeshift into extra duplicates of creatures and objects. But this new security log gives the hard-boiled detective a chance to add his narration to the drama... which he decides not to take, simply saying "Everything's under control," and then ending the recording.

I'm still kind of surprised that a space station has opening hours, but it's not the first time we've seen them close down for the night. I guess alien ships must all plan their trips so they arrive during Bajoran daylight hours.

But once Odo's gone to bed bucket, Quark and Rom sneak down the empty street to get the box. They spend about a minute hanging around out here, discussing how they need to get the lock open in less than 25 seconds or they'll be seen. Fortunately, it's the same lock that Quark uses on his storeroom, so Rom can get it open in 10! Plot twist: Rom's actually not a total idiot... though he is dumb enough to let slip he's been breaking into Quark's storeroom. This is much more like the character I'm familiar with than the asshole who's been showing up until now.

Quark goes to burn the wall panel off, but the glare would draw attention so Rom figures he's got a better way to take care of this as well. Again he's proving his intelligence... while shining a bright torch around.

A few drops of magnasite burn the bolts off in a cool practical effect, and they earn themselves a stylish 'camera in the wall' shot for their trouble. Don't ask why the inside of the wall is glowing.

They actually drop in some continuity here as well, with Rom mentioning that he used this trick to get into Quark's vault to deposit their profits while he was in the Gamma Quadrant in Rules of Acquisition. It's an interesting idea, having events in one episode influence events in a later one; they should try that more often.

Of course, the first thing they do when they get the box is cut it open with a laser. But there really isn't anything valuable inside, just a piece of paper. Rom suggests it might be a treasure map, but it's just a list of names written in Bajoran. Still, Quark's not about to put it back without taking a picture, so he sends Rom out to get a camera, probably saving his life...

...because the sinister guy from the teaser comes in and murders Quark's stunt double! Once again the weapon scanners on the promenade prove to be useless.

They should've made this the teaser! It's got comedy, the mystery of why the two of them were getting a box out of a wall, and a shocking cliffhanger ending. It's also got Quark facing his murderer and accepting his death like a bad ass. But did Quark really get Tasha Yar'd? Stay tuned to find out.


ACT TWO


No he didn't.

We finally get some Starfleet characters by act two, as Bashir races to save Quark's life. He also yells for someone to get him an "anti-grav lift", despite making a big deal about them not working on the station in Melora. So much for continuity. Turns out that Quark was shot with a 'compressed tetryon beam' weapon because they're not detected by the scanners, so if you ever want to assassinate someone on DS9, that's the gun to go for. Except maybe not, as it didn't work. I wonder if the gun's anything like the compression teryon beam weapon Picard was shot in the chest with in the Next Gen episode Tapestry, because he wasn't killed either.

Sisko needs answers out of Rom, so he and Odo switch to doing a good cop/bad cop routine so smoothly I didn't even realise that's what they were doing at first.

But I caught on that something was up when Sisko started standing up for Rom because he's a friend of the family.

Odo doesn't think Rom's as stupid as he looks, despite his protestations to the contrary, and points out that it wouldn't be the first time he'd attempted to kill Quark to inherit the bar. So Rom soon caves and spills everything about the list.

Turns out that the box had been hidden in that wall for a long time now, long enough for it to have been put there when the place was a chemist shop and the station was a Cardassian mining outpost orbiting occupied Bajor (though no one mentions the name 'Terok Nor'). This gets Odo thinking back to the first time he visited the shop, during the Cardassian occupation when the station was all miserable and smoky.

And Gul Dukat was in command!

By the look of the place it feels to me like this scene must have happened at least a decade ago, but it's only been five years. This scene would've taken place around season two of Next Gen, before they'd switched to the new uniforms, but after Riker had grown a beard.

We learn that this is where Dukat and Odo first met, though Dukat had seen him two years earlier at the Bajoran Center for Science performing the 'Cardassian Neck Trick'. We learned about how he grew up in a lab and entertained people with his shapeshifting back in The Forsaken, but this is the first mention of the Neck Trick. One of the guls was impressed and wanted to send Odo out to entertain the troops, but Dukat feels he's might be more useful in another role: a detective. Sure he's had no training and the only experience he has is with solving petty disputes between Bajorans, but people will talk to him in a way they wouldn't talk to a Cardassian.

The scene does a good job at hinting at Odo's dislike for what the Cardassians are doing here, before he comes right out and says "There's very little justice in the Cardassian occupation of Bajor" straight to Dukat's face. But the shop owner's been murdered, and Dukat's going to have ten random Bajorans rounded up and executed for the crime if Odo can't figure out who did it, so it seems like the only moral option for him here is to be his investigator. It's... a necessary evil.

So the two of them go down to Odo's new office to visit their one witness... and it's Mrs. Vaatrik, the woman from the teaser! She's still dressed fancier than most Bajorans even here, though she's wearing a much more traditional earring. Odo's pretty different though; you can see how he didn't have much self-confidence at this point by the way he's currently staring at the floor.

Odo's security office isn't a 100% match to how it looked in the pilot episode before it was upgraded, it still has the doors at the back amongst other things, but they've definitely made an effort to make it seem like it is.

EmissaryNecessary Evil
The computer panels on the sides are gone, for one thing, replaced with the old hexagonal lights (with some bars across them for extra moodiness). Sadly they didn't give him a door with 'Odo Investigations' written across the glass though.

Mrs. Vaatrik has a pretty good idea who murdered her husband, which is helpful. He'd apparently been having an affair with a girl who'd come on board a couple of weeks ago and she presumes she must have killed him in a jealous rage. Odo notices that she doesn't seem all that upset about this though. He's a good observer of people by nature, he has to be for his shapeshifting (not that he's good enough to properly imitate humanoids yet), and she's not showing any signs of having been crying. This catches her off guard a little, though she's sticking to her story.

She doesn't know who this other woman is but she could point him out to him, so the two of them go for a walk.

The promenade has been tweaked a little as well, though they haven't gone as far as removing all the improvements to the second floor; they've just turned off the new fluorescent lights running around the outside so it's harder to tell. The fence dividing the promenade helps too, as it kind of draws the eye. I'm surprised that even half the promenade would be for the Bajorans though, as I assumed this would've been the shiny clean Cardassian section of the station, with the Bajorans stuck on the outer ring next to the ore processing facilities in the pylons.

By the way, this is almost the same shot as the start of act one, showing Odo standing in front of his security office. It's been dark both times but it was a much friendlier kind of darkness the first time.

Vaatrick finally finds the woman she suspects of killing her husband and it's revealed to be... Kira Nerys! Wow, what are the odds that his very first case involved his present day best friend?

Cut to the present day, which is suddenly looking very bright by comparison. I wouldn't be surprised if the colours were a shade warmer than usual as well.

Kira reveals they haven't found any trace of the attempted murderer or his attempted murder weapon yet so they're going to let ships leave the station again. She wonders if this has something to do with Vaatrik and it looks like she might want to say something else, but then she walks off instead.


ACT THREE


There's those computer panels on the wall of the security office I was talking about earlier. It's like the camera's lingering on them on purpose so that we recognise they weren't in the flashbacks.

Odo starts the third act with another log entry, but his narration's gotten a lot more noir by this point. The assault on Quark has opened a five-year-old murder case he's never solved, but maybe by talking to Rom he'll get some clues. Though this does mean talking to Rom, who seems preoccupied with the idea of his brother dying and him getting the bar (he's still got a bit of asshole Rom in there).

He gets Rom to think about the past, about the Bajoran names on the paper from the box, and the guy manages to remember a couple of letters... which he reads out in English. Well, I suppose the Bajorans would have a similar set of sounds in their alphabet, with names like Kira Nerys. First name on the list is something like 'Ches'so', but that's all Odo gets out of him.

So he lets him go and runs into Kira outside. They have a bit of a chat about how they never talked about her time on the station back then, despite the fact her saved her from being executed. He tells her that she was innocent of the crime he was investigating and even though that wouldn't have mattered to the Cardassians it mattered to him. Then it cuts back to the past again.

Man, there's those steps again. I must have been blind to not notice them.

There's been no stylish Arrow transitions to move between present day and flashbacks in the episode, but they have been cutting from like to like (past Kira to present day Kira for instance). In this case, they've gotten a bit cleverer with it, cutting from a scene that starts with kids playing happily to a scene with their five-years-ago doppelgangers leaning miserable on a fence. There's almost a minute between these two shots though so they didn't make it so obvious that it becomes cheesy.

It was a smart move to tie to present day and past scenes together like this because they've done such a good job redressing the sets and changing the look that you might not even realise it's the same place at first. Babylon 5 has the opposite problem for me, as it always takes me a while to work out if a scene's taking place in the commander's office, or somewhere else that just happens to have the same floor and walls.

Kira's got a bit of a different look five years ago as well. Turns out that she didn't have short hair as a resistance fighter; she only cut it off once the Cardassians were gone.

Odo and Kira's first meeting doesn't start off great as he gives her the wrong idea of what he's there for, saying "A pretty girl like you shouldn't be eating alone," and she doesn't much like his actual reason for being there either. She denies murdering Mr. Vaatrik, and denies they were even in love with each other, which throws Odo off a little.

She claims to have been at the bar last night during the time the murder took place, looking for work from Quark, as it's better than working in the mines. He figures out from her hands she's never spent time in the mines, but then she never claimed she had. It seems that the Bajorans are actually allowed to come and from the station more freely than I would've expected, though she's not planning to leave soon... not as long as Odo's planning to stop her anyway.

Before he leaves, she tells them that "Everyone has to choose sides, Constable," giving him his nickname!

There's absolutely zero transition this time as the episode just jumps right to Mrs. Vaatrik's mansion on Bajor in the present day. Odo's here to ask her about the list, but she claims ignorance and he didn't see the teaser so he can't know for sure that she was the one who hired Quark. Though she does seem very interested when he reveals that Quark's not quite dead yet.

He's on his way out when he suddenly pulls a Columbo and says "Oh, there was one other thing." Apparently writer Peter Allan Fields scripted a few Columbo episodes uncredited, so he either threw that in deliberately or he'd just got into the habit.

Turns out that when she was surrounded by candles in the teaser it had nothing to do with a problem in the power grid, it was because she couldn't pay the power bill. But she suddenly came into the cash to transfer funds to the power company this morning. She claims that a friend loaned her the money, but he's married so she'd rather not give him the name.


ACT FOUR


It never really occurred to me before, but of course Odo would've been wearing a different outfit when he worked for the Cardassians. His brown costume is a Bajoran uniform, not a DS9/Terok Nor uniform. He must have made the switch not long before Emissary.

Odo learns from Kira that their best match for 'Ches'so' drowned in his pond last night and Odo feels responsible because he mentioned the name to Mrs. Vaatrik yesterday. He also told her Quark was alive so he gets a security officer over to the infirmary, then flashes back to his and Quark's first meeting.

Quark's happy to see him, as he's heard about his awesome Cardassian Neck Trick and thinks it could go over big in his bar, but Odo ignores that, along with all his other attempts to tempt him, and gets straight into checking Kira's alibi. Quark does his best to throw Odo off her trail, but all his innuendos make it clear that the story he's telling is coming right from his own sexual fantasies, and doesn't match what Odo already knows about her. Caught in a lie, Quark immediately folds and admits she paid him for an alibi.

Suddenly Dukat's right there behind him! He heard enough to know that someone's got a broken alibi, but he didn't hear the name. And he really would appreciate Odo getting him a name.

Cut to the present day where Odo finds Sisko and Dax sitting at a table in Quark's. She's left it pretty late, but Dax has finally made an appearance in this episode before the credits rolled. Sisko mentions that Odo looks like he's lost his best friend, which he sort of has in a way. Not Quark though, he's lying in stable condition in the infirmary.

Odo reveals that he's assembled his own copy of the list from "the Vaatrik woman's" communication records, by looking at names she's suddenly started calling over the last two days but not before. Every one of them has transferred 100,000 Bajoran litas to her account, and I think that may be the first time we've ever heard of what the Bajoran unit of currency is. He finds it interesting that they all came out of the occupation with so much money to give; it's definitely starting to seem like she's blackmailing collaborators.

Mrs. Vaatrik's sinister agent is still on board though and has apparently overheard the conversation, so now he knows that his choice to shoot Quark has really gotten his employer in the shit. If he'd just taken the list from him and given him the money there wouldn't have been a problem. Or if he'd learned how to open locks and break into walls, they never would've needed Quark in the first place!


ACT FIVE


There's a nice view of the season two promenade for you.

Odo starts his log voiceover again, talking about how no one ever had to teach him the 'justice trick'. It's a racial memory he supposes, the only clue he has to what his people are like. Also he doesn't care how appropriate these thoughts are for a Starfleet log, he's gonna say what he likes. It's his moody narration now.

Now we're back in the flashback again, with Odo interrogating Kira. She admits that she paid Quark for an alibi, but it doesn't make her a killer. She starts telling another lie but Odo catches her immediately because of the way her face changes, so she again talks to him about taking sides. He claims to be the outsider, on no one's side, and that he only cares about justice.

Kira tells him that she works for the underground and was busy setting off a bomb in ore processing when Mr. Vaatrick was murdered. So she didn't kill him, but she's not quite innocent, and if he tells Dukat the truth about the crime she did commit she'll be executed anyway. She's gambling that he only cares about the case he's been given and he won't feel the need to bring her to justice for an attack against something he considers to be unjust.

Suddenly Dukat again! The guy's always right behind them whenever something interesting's being said. He didn't hear Kira's confession though, so Odo simply says she didn't do it, and that he knows that that Dukat knows that he's not lying. He's honestly convinced that she's not the killer and Dukat accepts that.

It's funny how much tension they manage to wring out of this scene despite the fact that Kira a: already told us she wasn't executed during one of the present day scenes, and b: wasn't a ghost when she said it.

Back in the present day, Quark's assassin arrives in the infirmary to give his murder another go, putting the lone security officer off guard with flowers.

Oops, he had a hidden knife! I guess this is why they often have two officers guarding people in movies, in case one falls for the flowers trick. I don't know how complete the list on Memory Alpha is, but according to the 'Bajoran Militia casualties' page, this guy is the only Bajoran officer to have been killed on the station so far besides Li Nalas. In fact, there's a chance he's the first ever dead beigeshirt, assuming the one on the rescue mission in The Circle made it back alive.

The killer goes over to Quark's bed, turns off all the monitors, and then sticks a big fluffy pillow over his face while he's unconscious. Hang on, what?

Everyone knows that pillows in this series are triangular pieces of sponge. Where did he get the one comfortable pillow on the station from?

Anyway, he attempts to murder the unconscious Quark a second time, only this time Rom's around to catch him in the act! He heroically screams a high pitched Ferengi scream then gets thrown into a rack of miscellaneous medical supplies. Fortunately Odo heard him and he runs in to apprehend the agent and tell Rom to shut up already, while another security officer flicks Quark's switches back on. The officer then goes and checks on his dead buddy on the floor, which surprised me. He's fallen off screen so I figured he would've been forgotten already.

Odo tells Rom that he's saved his brother and he's a hero, and Rom likes the sound of that... right until he realises he won't get the bar now. Then the screaming starts again. And Quark's just conscious enough to smile.

Mrs. Vaatrik is brought to the station (wearing yet another costume) and claims that she's never seen her shadowy agent before. But they've got records of her calling him and paying him money, so that doesn't fly and she's locked up in a cell next to him... by the woman she wrongfully accused of having an affair with her husband.

She's still adamant she didn't kill him, but that's okay as Odo knows she didn't. The reason he looked like he'd lost his best friend earlier is that he'd figured out that Kira's a much better liar than he'd given her credit for. If Vaatrik's husband had a list of collaborators then he was likely a collaborator too, which certainly puts a different spin on Mrs. Vaatrik's line about the Cardassians keeping the power on if she was one of the people getting money from them to pay the bills. Which means that the only person with motive to kill him would be a member of the Bajoran underground... Kira.

In private Kira admits that her colleague had been given the task of sabotaging the ore processor, while she had the job of finding Mr. Vaatrik's list of the Bajorans selling them out. Dukat was using him as his link to the other collaborators and wanted to keep as far away from the situation as possible, which is why he brought Odo in to investigate instead. Kira never found the list as Mr. Vaatrik caught her, which meant she had to kill him in self-defence then lie about it. Another necessary evil.

Odo's not mad that she lied to him back then and it's so obvious that a Bajoran court wouldn't give a damn about the murder now that the characters don't even mention it, but he's a little annoyed by the fact that she never told him the truth. She was worried it'd hurt their friendship if he knew, but he says that it doesn't have to... though he may never be able to trust her the same way again. The end.

But what happened to those 10 random Bajorans they were going to execute if Odo didn't solve the crime? I guess I'll just assume that Dukat had a change of heart and let them off because he's such a nice bloke.


CONCLUSION

Necessary Evil is the answer to the question: 'What if Deep Space Nice was action a moody noir detective series, complete with narration, about a shapeshifter who never shifts his shape?' And it turned out to be a pretty good answer, in my opinion. Many other people have an even higher opinion of it, but I was somewhat inoculated against its charms this time as I'm not a huge fan of mystery stories and I remembered all of its secrets.

But even without the mystery of who's guilty of what and why it still works as a 'what were they all like before the series?' flashback episode, that shows us the first time that Odo met Dukat, Quark and Kira, and what they were all up to during the occupation. It's a fairly unique concept for Star Trek as none of the other series had its characters living through such interesting times. Plus it means that Dukat turns up, which on its own makes this one of the best episodes so far. It also means that we get to see Kira working as a resistance operative and learn how Odo ended up on the path to getting that beige uniform. It's not a huge surprise it didn't involve a whole lot of training, considering how terrible he often is at his job. Though to be fair Odo is actually pretty competent here for a change. Sure one of his two cases involved someone sneaking a gun past the sensors to murder Quark again and the other took him five years to solve, but he got there in the end!

It's a little weird that the flashbacks are from just five years ago though (three and a half years before Emissary) as the station looks almost unrecognisable. They've done a great job here of transforming the sets into the miserable smokey shopping centre hub of a labour camp, bringing out their maximum fascist oppressiveness, and making the present day season two DS9 look as cosy as Next Gen's Enterprise by comparison. After almost 30 episodes of people mentioning how terrible the Cardassian occupation was we're finally getting a glimpse of it through Odo's eyes and it looks pretty damn grim. We can be sure that he's a reliable narrator as well because he's got a fantastic memory (he told us so in his narration). Though he didn't quite remember the upper floor of the promenade right.

It's also a little weird that the episode keeps you guessing who it's actually about, as it starts off as a Quark story, brings Odo in after the first act, and doesn't give away that Kira's a big part of it until the end of act two. But it's a good thing that Quark passed the episode on, as none of the evil he does is necessary, while Odo and Kira both have good reasons for their actions. In the flashbacks we see how Odo was forced into pursuing justice by people he considered unjust because otherwise the innocent were going to die. And they story shows that despite his attempt to stay out of it, he did choose a side in his own way, well enough to keep the respect of the Bajorans throughout the next few years. The story is about secret collaborators being murdered or blackmailed, while he openly worked for the Cardassians and still kept his job afterwards!

Kira, on the other hand, murdered a collaborator to avoid being captured. But this reveal comes off as pretty trivial, as we knew she killed a whole lot of people during her time in the resistance and she's already faced the consequences for it: a cushy job and a nice uniform. Plus Odo's not about to complain that she lied to him to save her life while he was working for the Cardassians. He seems much more bothered by the fact she was cruel enough to leave him with a case unsolved and that she's a much better liar than he knew. They're still friends after this, but he can't trust her in quite the same way now, at least not until the next episode.

Overall I wouldn't say that Necessary Evil is one of my personal all-time favourite episodes but it's definitely made it into the top five out of what I've rewatched so far. The series has been at its best when it's had Cardassians being sneaky and this continues that pattern. It's not an essential piece of the overall story, but it gives us some interesting backstory and quality character moments, and I have to admit it was kind of satisfying to see someone shoot Quark after he made me sit through Rules of Acquisition.



COMING SOON
Deep Space Nine will return with Second Sight. But next on Sci-Fi Adventures I'll be writing about Babylon 5's Hunter, Prey.

Comments are good, I welcome them.

2 comments:

  1. I'll bet you have to buy feather pillows from the same station black market that sells compressed tetryon beam guns because they're on Odo's no-murder-weapons list.

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    Replies
    1. Nothing about this sounds implausible. Quark must do a lot of business selling people the weapons they'll attempt to kill him with.

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