Tony Wilkins reviews one of the pivotal episodes of DS9’s story. WARNING: Spoilers!
A mysterious Cardassian signal from the Gamma Quadrant found to be from Enabran Tain, the former head of the shadowy Obsidian Order, leads Garek and Worf through the wormhole to trace it’s origins. Instead what they find is the start of a series of events that will reshape the Gamma Quadrant.
“In Purgatory’s Shadow” is one of the pivotal episodes of Deep Space Nine. It marks the start of the events that will lead to the Dominion War that will dominate the show’s final two seasons and give fans some of best action sequences and most gripping drama Star Trek has ever seen. On it’s own too the episode offers twists, turns and thrills so let’s delve in to “In Purgatory’s Shadow”. Harking back to the first time I saw this episode I was thrilled with the teaser where we see Garek trying to steal a Runabout only to be thwarted by none other than Dr Bashir. I thought this was a wonderful point in their relationship whereby after five years of trying to convince the good doctor that not everybody is as enlightened as the Federation Garek himself would bare witness to Dr Bashir learning when to trust him and when not to. I loved it and Garek too admits how impressed he is. Unfortunately of course in hindsight we now know that this wasn’t Dr Bashir at all but one of the founders. It made sense but it ruined the fun of seeing Bashir become a bit more of the spy we have always wanted him to be. On the note of Bashir being replaced by a changeling I know this is a polarizing plot point for a lot of people since we learn that for a certain number of previous episodes it was never Bashir. I personally thought this was a good angle but the only problem I have with it is that Odo never caught on with this changeling when we have seen him recognise others in the past. This must have been a very good changeling.
Garek and Worf have some of the best scenes in this episode and I think it’s largely due to the setting. There’s something about being taken off the station and put in the cramp confines of a Runabout that brings out the most enjoyable moments for me. We saw it many times throughout the series such as with Sisko and Dukat when they were investigating the Maquis and then Sisko again but with Eddington hunting for missile silos in the badlands. It’s as if putting them in that tiny ship allows the viewer to block out everything else and focus on these two individuals. In this episode I loved how Garek proves he can even manipulate the otherwise stoic Worf to disobeying Sisko’s orders about crossing in to Dominion space. I did love the line Worf had before they set off when Sisko asks if he was joking about killing Garek at the first sign of betrayal to which Worf replies, “We shall see.” I will admit even now I wonder if Worf was joking or not.
And now, as General Chang put it during Kirk’s trial, we come to the quintessential devil in these matters; Dukat. I have said it many times; Marc Alaimo as Gul Dukat was one of the best casting choices in all of Star Trek. The man was born to play Dukat and I honestly don’t think there is a Dukat story or even a scene that I don’t like. He is just such a thrilling character and while his role is downplayed a little in this episode perhaps to increase the surprise that will come in the next episode he still has some wonderful scenes. I found this episode sad however in that having given everything up for his daughter Ziyal that he now finds himself having to abandon her on the station knowing his plans will call for DS9’s eventual destruction. Worse still it’s because she loves one of his sworn enemies. It was also sad to see how his relationship with Kira takes a turn for the worse because of the situation although both these relationships will be rectified quite quickly.
The real tease of this episode is the Dominion fleet that Worf detects and everything points to a full on invasion of the Alpha Quadrant. Of course this turns out to not be entirely true but it was nevertheless exciting. Continuity is always a highly sought after prize amongst Trekkies and I have to give this episode credit for mentioning the losses Starfleet has taken to the Klingons and the Borg in the previous year. In by doing this Sisko is of course referring to the Borg incursion we see in “Star Trek: First Contact”. The plan to seal the wormhole was not as thrilling a plot point however. We all knew it would fail because we still had Worf and Garek in the Gamma Quadrant and they stumble across the real Bashir too so that’s three characters that would be trapped there. Also we knew that the writers weren’t finished with the celestial temple story so there was more to be told there. This was a classic case of Trek writers trying to mislead the viewers forgetting that Trekkies know the universe and the order of things.
So now let’s move on to the internment camp. I was really pleased that this episode went some way to explain what happened to a handful of surivors from the Cardassian and Romulan fleet that attacked the founders in the previous season. Again it helped expand the continuity of the series establishing the show as a bigger story. As much as it was shocking to find out Bashir had been replaced by a changeling it was also great surprise to see the real General Martok technically for the first time. This is another thing we have to be thankful to this episode for as it gave us yet another character that would become well loved by fans. One scene I have always found intriguing was Tain’s death scene. I always knew that Tain and Garek had a pseudo father/son relationship but I don’t believe that what they were talking about was true. I personally think it was more of a final chance for two great spymasters to exercise their talent for deception one last time. That’s what I believe anyway and I would never want a final answer on it either way. I prefer the mystery.
This was definitely one of DS9’s best if purely for the fact that it sets up so many plot points for the future. A lot happens in this episode but as a credit to the writing and direction it doesn’t feel constricted or forced together as happens in so many other pivotal episodes of shows such as this.
Thanks for reading…