As a season finale, The Adversary seems a bit underwhelming. At this time last season we’d just been introduced to the Dominion via the Jem’Hadar, and our crew ended S2 hunkering down and preparing for the onslaught they knew would be coming. Since then we’ve discovered that the Founders of the Dominion are changelings like Odo, and that our constable feels a pull to return to the Great Link that binds his people. We’ve also seen the Dominion manipulate and wipe out the Romulan and Cardassian fleets in preparation for war, so you’d be forgiven for thinking that the third season finale might pick up that thread.
But The Adversary moves the ongoing plot forward only slightly, at least on the surface. It’s a locked-room action hour with implications that only become clear at the end, and on the whole it feels like something that could have slotted into any position in the season. I certainly don’t intend here to disparage locked-room action hours, because this is a pretty good one, our crew trapped inside the Defiant with a Founder who can look like any of them. It just feels slighter than it probably should.
We begin with a promotion – Commander Sisko is now Captain Sisko, with a fourth pip on his collar. The whole gang is there, including Security Officer Eddington, whose entire role in this episode is to play red herring. He’s been around a while, but in the background, and this story conspicuously gives him a lot more to do, which is suspicious right away. More suspiciously, he is chosen to be part of Sisko’s first mission as captain: to calm down unrest on the planet of the Tzenkethi, an alien race we have never heard of.
So Sisko and his team of forty-seven – including Kira, O’Brien, Dax, Bashir, Eddington and Admiral Krajensky, who sent them on this mission in the first place – head out in the Defiant. But it isn’t long before they discover that things are not what they seem. The ship is infested with organic-looking machines that take control of all of the systems, arming weapons and hurtling toward the Tzenkethi homeworld, and just as soon as the crew starts to suspect something, Krajensky reveals himself as a changeling. So now they have an enemy who can look like anyone and squeeze through any opening, and they’re on a ship that is on a war heading with the Tzenkethi, with no way to stop it.
The cat-and-mouse game that follows is fun, especially the sequence in which the changeling, disguised as Bashir, takes blood samples from each of the crew and tries to frame Eddington. He’s an effective red herring – I thought, for just a moment, that he might also be a changeling spy – but any lingering suspicions are dashed quickly. Sisko and Kira initiate the self-destruct sequence to save the Tzenkethi and prevent a war, but it is Odo who finishes things, fighting hand to hand with the changeling and finally killing him.
And this, as I am sure you’ve figured out, is where things get significant. No changeling has ever harmed another, as we are repeatedly reminded. So now Odo has crossed a line that his people hold sacred, and I’m sure there will be repercussions. More than that, before the changeling dies, he tells Odo that his people are everywhere, possibly disguised as anyone. It’s chilling, and I’m sure it chills Odo even more now that he has killed one of his own. Retribiution could come from anywhere.
And that’s how it ends. I’m invested in this ongoing story, but I’m not sure that The Adversary, all by itself, would fill me with an unquenchable need to watch season four. It’s good, don’t get me wrong, and I understand the long-term ripple effect it will likely have. But as a season finale, it doesn’t bring the business the way I expected it would. Maybe that’s me, and I should temper my expectations. But Star Trek has met them on more than one occasion. The Adversary is fine, but if I had to wait three months for the next installment, I would have wanted more from this one.
This is the last time that Siddig El Fadil will be credited under that name for playing Julian Bashir. He’ll be Alexander Siddig starting with the next episode, although he will use his real name for directing credits.
Apparently the big morph-y fistfight near the end of this episode was extremely difficult to shoot. Rene Auberjonois and guest actor Lawrence Pressman each had to film the fight separately, matching each other’s movements perfectly, to allow for the morphing effect.
Finally I have finished season three! I started it on May 11, so it’s taken more than two months to get through it, with all the life breaks I have been taking. Thanks for your patience, everyone. I expect season four will go a lot more quickly.
Tomorrow, Worf arrives to shake up DS9 as season four begins with The Way of the Warrior. Onward!