Defiant (Deep Space Nine)
The A-Story: A rogue Starfleet officer takes a ship into Cardassian space to uncover a sinister plot. Starfleet and the Cardiassians must work together to prevent a new war.
Oops, not that episode.
I’ve seen both “The Wounded” and “Defiant” many times, but I’m not sure why it never occurred to me until writing this how very similar both stories are. Right down to the having Marc Alaimo basically playing the same role in both stories!
(Dukat: Oh if I shave this goatee no one will not it’s still me!)
Of course the twist here is that Jonathan Frakes plays the “Maxwell” character. It would have been far better and more impactful had Frakes actually played the “real” Riker, but instead we get the Riker doppelgänger Thomas, who were first met in TNG’s season 6 episode “Second Chances.” He’s Riker but he isn’t but he is. It’s complicated.
(So convenient that both Rikers would shaved their beards in the exact way, despite one of them being alone for many years)
I mean don’t get me wrong, it’s cool to see Frakes play Riker again, but the episode leans too heavily on him without the emotional weight it would have had if Will Riker been the turncoat. Honestly I preferred Bob Gunton’s tortured Maxwell to Riker. I still enjoy the cat and mouse aspect of “Defiant,” especially as it is an homage to one of my favorite movies “Fail Safe,” but I found “The Wounded” tells the same story better than “Defiant.”
I think a significant reason why is the struggle O’brien had with how to handle his former captain’s actions had more impact than analogous story in “Defiant.” In the DS9 episode, O’brien’s role in the story is Major Kira’s. As a former freedom fighter against the Cardassians, Kira struggles with agreeing to a certain extent with Riker, as O’brien did with Maxwell. But ultimately both Kira and O’brien see through the real reasons for their respective adversary’s actions. For Riker, it’s his need to be a hero, but when trying to equate what he is doing with what Kira did in the Occupation, she reminds him that “terrorists don’t get to be heroes.” For Maxwell it was revenge for his family dying at the hands of the Cardiassians. Both create interesting motivations for these flawed men, but I found the connection between Maxwell and O’brien to be stronger, culminating in the fantastic scene between the two men in the image above. With Kira and Riker, they barely know each other, despite the writers trying to make Kira attracted to Tom which is just, ugh. Like, come on now! I just don’t buy that part of the story, and it reeks of an all male writing room thinking “oh of course the strong-willed Kira would go weak in the knees for Riker!”
I mean, urgh:
The Kira I know would not have been fooled by that slimeball.
But as O’brien and Maxwell’s connection makes for a better story, I will say that I enjoyed the Sisko and Dukat dynamic a lot more than Picard and Macet. Because these two already have a history, their part of the story has a lot more going on than in “The Wounded.” And this episode also sets up the eventual build-up of an Obsidian Order fleet that we will see play out a later on in the season.
KIRA: You’re really not cut out for this, are you? Being a terrorist, I mean. You’re not very good at it.
KIRA: You’re acting more like a Starfleet officer who’s more interested in intelligence reports and Cardassian politics than in actually hurting Cardassians. You have one of the most powerful ships in this quadrant under your command. Why aren’t you out attacking every Cardassian outpost along the border?
RIKER: Because these stakes here are far greater than border outposts.
KIRA: Not for the Maquis, there’re not, because the Maquis are terrorists and the only thing terrorists care about is attacking the enemy. I know. I was a terrorist. And if I’d had this ship then, I would’ve destroyed Deep Space Nine. I would’ve hit the Cardassians so hard they would have screamed for peace, but I certainly wouldn’t have gone flying off into the middle of Cardassia on some wild goose chase.
RIKER: I guess we’re different kinds of terrorists.
KIRA: No, you’re trying to be a hero. Terrorists don’t get to be heroes.
RIKER: We’ll see.
So, what do y’all think?