Deeds Done in Darkness
"In the Pale Moonlight" Plot Summary:
Sisko tries to record his personal log and can't even remember what day it is, he's had such a horrible couple of weeks. Two weeks previously when he posted a casualty list, he and Dax realized that the Dominion had taken to pursuing Federation ships into Romulan space and destroying them there because they knew there would be no consequences. Sisko believes that the Romulan non-aggression pact with the Dominion is costing too many lives, and makes it his personal duty to bring the Romulans into the war on the Federation's side. Dax points out that having two bitter rivals fighting one another is wonderful for the Romulans, and adds that they won't enter the war without some proof of duplicity on the part of the Dominion.
Sisko asks Garak to see whether he can obtain any classified Cardassian documents about a potential Dominion invasion of Romulan space, but everyone Garak contacts ends up dead. The Dominion invades Betazed in a surprise invasion, giving them a base from which they could attack Vulcan, Alpha Centauri, and many other vital systems. Sisko decides stronger measures are needed, and when Garak hatches a plan to forge a Dominion plot against the Romulans to convince them, Sisko goes along with it. He gets the Klingons to release a forger friend of Garak's and agrees to negotiate for a Cardassian optic data rod, even though that requires giving biometric gel - which can be used for biogenic weapons or genetic experiments - to a criminal trader.
Garak tells Sisko that they need to convince V'reemak, a Tal'Shiar member who helped negotiate the pact between the Romulans and the Dominion. Garak knows that V'reemak is returning home from a mission and could be persuaded to stop at DS9, which Sisko arranges. While Garak searches the Romulan ship for information about the Dominion, Sisko shows V'reemak a holorecording forged on a Cardassian data rod by Garak's friend (who has since been arrested for stabbing Quark over a Dabo girl). In the recording, Damar and Weyoun discuss the most likely means of invading Romulus. The Romulan can tell at once that Sisko's Romulan ale is fake and realizes quickly that the information on the data rod is as well. He leaves in a rage, but his ship blows up before it reaches Romulus. Sisko knows that Garak must have planted a bomb on the shuttle, but the Romulans think the Dominion blew it up - and that the data rod is the genuine article, with inconsistencies caused by the explosion rather than a forged recording - and declare war against the Dominion.
Sisko punches Garak, but the tailor points out that a dead criminal, a dead Romulan agent, and a guilty conscience are a very small price to pay for Romulan allies in a war that has killed thousands of Federation citizens. Sisko deplores his recent lying, bribing, accessory-to-murder behavior but says the worst part is that he agrees: it's a small price to pay for the safety of the Alpha Quadrant. He says he can live with it, and erases his log.
Last week we discovered that the Federation had a top-secret, above-the-law security division, and this week we discovered that even moral, upstanding Benjamin Sisko is not dishonest, sleazy behavior when there's a war to be won. What IS the Federation coming to?
I must say that I think the flashback-via-diary structure for this episode was a mistake, because I had a really hard time not laughing at Avery Brooks' earnest, emotional monologues in Sisko's personal logs. He was impressive lamenting the great loss of life from the ongoing war with the Dominion, which has not seemed nearly immediate enough of late, but that long rant at the end about his bad behavior, which was fully sanctioned and condoned by Starfleet? Give me a break - I have to believe Sisko was upset because Garak was a cleverer saboteur than he was himself, not because he played nasty. If he was really feeling guilty about the dead enemy agent and the man the Klingons were going to execute anyway, his skin isn't nearly tough enough for him to be a captain during wartime. Garak wasn't even amoral in this episode as he so often is - his decisions were quite effective as he plotted to get the maximum Federation protection with the fewest lives lost. I thought the twist at the end was going to be that he was up to something far more personal and nefarious, not that he was trying to shoulder the responsibility for something he thought Sisko might not want to do himself.
Really I'm not sure why Garak didn't let Sisko in on the whole plan from the beginning - a captain who's willing to risk trading in biogenic weapons surely wouldn't have had THAT many qualms about the death of one Romulan operative. From a suspense standpoint, however, the decision worked. I liked getting to see Sisko harried even if a bit preachy, and I'm delighted that the Romulans are on our side for the time being even if I miss them as bad guys. I do wonder whether anyone in the Federation did anything about the fact that the Romulans had stolen the top-secret prototype ship from Voyager's "Message in a Bottle" - a situation which the holographic Doctor surely relayed to Starfleet when he made contact. Those Rommies are definitely not to be trusted, and they've already seen one secret Starfleet weapon. Yeah, I like cross-series consistency, what can I say? At least this show's maintaining intra-series consistency, and Sisko's been great all season.
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