"Empok Nor" Plot Summary:
When the station's plasma manifold fails, O'Brien tells Sisko that the best hope for a replacement is to find another. He suggests salvaging the one from Empok Nor, an abandoned Cardassian station identical in design to Terok Nor, now Deep Space Nine.
O'Brien leads a team to the abandoned station and lets Garak, the only Cardassian aboard, disable the security field. But Garak comes into contact with a mysterious substance that begins to affect his physiology, and when he turns on the power, two cryogenic chambers in the infirmary begin to thaw their occupants. When Nog witnesses the runabout leaving the docking clamps and blowing up, the crew know they have problems.
One away team is murdered by one of the Cardassians from stasis, who was apparently infected with a psychogenic drug that made him violent. Another team is threatened, but rescued by Garak - who then murders the surviving member. O'Brien realizes that Garak has been affected by the same psychogenic drug which affected the dead Cardassians, and tells Nog - the only surviving Starfleet officer - that their first order of business is to get rid of Garak.
Garak challenges O'Brien to single combat, a chance to relive his days as a soldier killing Cardassians; he takes Nog as a hostage to force the confrontation. The two fight in hand-to-hand combat, but O'Brien rigs a weapon to explode at his signal and knocks Garak out, thus enabling him to finish the salvage operation and signal the station for help. Bashir treats Garak's condition, the plasma manifold is saved, Garak apologizes to the widow of the man he killed, and nobody is punished.
A mediocre haunted house tale with a twist by having one of the main players as the murderer. I very much liked seeing O'Brien in command, and his ongoing reiteration that he's an engineer, not a soldier. Less impressive was Garak's turn as a psychopath...mostly because we've seen Garak as a psychopath under the influence of Cardassian devices before, in "The Wire." The ending was exceedingly frustrating because of the apparent lack of consequence - O'Brien didn't seem upset about the people who died under his command, Garak didn't get in any trouble at all - but it wasn't a bad character episode while it lasted.
The plot was predictable: the moment we learned the Cardassians had been infected with a psychogenic drug, it was all too easy to figure out that that green glop which fell on Garak at the beginning of the salvage mission probably infected him as well. And when O'Brien put together two teams consisting of characters we'd never seen before, it was very obvious we were never going to see them again! Garak's discussion with O'Brien about how many Cardassians he killed sounded familiar too, very much like Marritza's with Kira in the much better episode "Duet," so I found the moral about war being hell rather tired. The use of the Cardassian game Kotra as metaphor was a cliche also, very reminiscent of the way chess was used in Classic Trek episodes.
Still, this was a strong outing for Andrew Robinson as Garak - a fairly understated performance where he could have gone completely over the top. The fight scenes were hokey, but Colm Meaney and Aron Eisenberg acquitted themselves well, and I enjoyed the directing, which made full use of horror-movie conventions to cover for the unremarkable writing.
Deep Space Nine Reviews