Tough choices and personal demons are explored in the episode that originally aired on April 15, 1998. This is In The Pale Moonlight.
Captain’s Personal Log Stardate 517…517…4…errr… 51721.3
In order to ensure their future victory, Captain Sisko must decide how best to convince the Romulan’s to join the Federation in the war against the Dominion, even if it means using nefarious means to do so.
Captain Sisko sits in his quarters recording his log about the recent events. Justifying his actions he begins the story of how he convinced the Romulans to join them in the battle against the Dominion. He soon recalls that, after the loss of the USS Cairo and Jadzia’s friend Leslie Wong by the Jem’Hadar in Romulan space, Sisko realized that he must find a way to bring the reclusive Empire into the war, by any means necessary.
After discussing the matter with Jadzia, Sisko realizes that there is no way the Romulan Star Empire will join with the Federation against the Dominion without ‘proof’ that the Dominion plans to take over the Romulan’s territory. To get that ‘proof’, Sisko turns to a most unexpected person, Elim Garak.
Elim is shocked at Sisko’s request and informs the Captain that gathering such information is not a simple effort, in fact, it will use up every resource he has left on Cardassia. He warns Sisko that it will be a very messy, very bloody business and Sisko retorts that it already has been. Garak agrees to help. Sisko’s decision to partner with Garak is reinforced when they learn that Betazed has been taken over by the Dominion, setting their enemy up with a key position in the quadrant.
Visiting his new co-conspirator, Sisko learns that everyone Garak has contacted has lost their lives within a few days of talking with the tailor. Garak suggests that they manufacture the evidence they need instead of just looking for it in the Cardassian files. Garak suggests that they invite Romulan Senator Vreenak to the station to discuss the matter with them showing the Senator evidence that the Dominion is planning an invasion of Romulus. The evidence, a holo recording of key members of the Dominion discussing the matter, the catch, the forger they need, one Grathon Tolar, is currently in a Klingon prison.
Sisko arranges for the forgers release and they soon begin working on the necessary forgery. Soon Tolar becomes a liability when the Forger attempts to kill Quark. Working with the bartender, Sisko manages to convince Quark to drop charges by bribing the Ferengi. Quark notes the 98th rule of acquisition, Every Man Has His Price.
Sisko begins to doubt his morality and, just as he is about to give up, another casualty list arrives on his desk. Pushing aside his morals, he drives forward and begins work on getting a genuine optolithic data rod which is necessary for the ruse. The further catch, their contact needs 200 liters of bio-mimetic gel, something that is a controlled substance in the Federation. Sisko meets with Bashir and orders the Doctor to package the gel and deliver it to the the cargo bay. Bashir reluctantly obeys and the plan continues on.
In the holosuites, Sisko and Garak view the hologram depicting the Dominion’s plans to take over the Romulus. Recording the program onto the datarod, Sisko and Garak make it clear that the forger doesn’t get to leave until the program convinces the Romulan Senator of the Dominion’s plans. Even though Star Fleet has given their blessing, Sisko still has his doubts if he is doing the right thing.
After full security measures are in place, Sisko conducts his clandestine meeting with Ambassador Vreenak who seems to know much more about Sisko than Sisko knows about Vreenak. It is immediately clear that Vreenak has no care for the Federation and repeatedly makes it known. Sharing a drink with the Ambassador, Sisko reveals his intel about the Dominions plans. Taking Vreenak to the holosuites, Sisko shows him the evidence. Vreenak asks to examine the rod while Sisko waited for the results. For what felt like a lifetime, Vreenak finally finishes his investigation and, much to Sisko’s dismay, declares the hologram a fake.
Just when all is thought lost, Sisko learns that Vreenak’s shuttle has been destroyed and that the Romulan Star Empire believes it to be the work of the Dominion. Furious, Sisko heads to Garak’s and assaults the tailor. It seems that Garak planted a bomb on the Ambassador’s shuttle in order to guarantee that the Romulans enter the war. Garak reassures Sisko that when the Tal Shiar investigate the explosion, they will find the fake rod and believe it to be the reason Vreenak was killed. Garak reminds Sisko that the reason why the Captain came to the Tailor was because Sisko would not get his hands dirty.
Not long after, The Romulan Empire declares war against the Dominion and all it cost was the lives of a forger, a Romulan Senator and the self respect of a Star Fleet Officer. This is something that Sisko can live with as long as it ensures the safety of the Alpha Quadrant.
Computer, erase that entire personal log.
Is this a ‘Good’ Episode:
This is another great example of just how different Deep Space Nine is to any other incarnation of Star Trek so far, especially The Next Generation. While the crew of the Enterprise (any of them) never really faced a situation this weighty (I mean, the Federation is literally on the edge of losing a war), I don’t believe for a moment that Picard or even Kirk would have gone to the lengths Sisko did to ensure the future of the Federation. In fact, if it had been Picard in this situation, he would have tried to use his negotiation skills only to find that the Romulans had no interest in peace. In many ways this really shows how so many of Picard’s old friends had become ‘corrupt’ Admirals that he would later have to deal with. Each one of them probably had to make a choice that forced them to step through a similar door Sisko did, in order to preserve the Federation as a whole. The think is, I have to wonder why Section 31 hadn’t already done this very thing…
Personally, this is one of my all time favorite episodes. From the way it is presented as a personal log to the revelation that Sisko is far from the perfect Star Fleet Captain we are so used to, is a testament as to how much Deep Space Nine has evolved the franchise since the original series. Sure, DS9 has it’s faults but it is also responsible for fleshing out a ton of the franchises universe.
The two leads in this one are tremendous. Avery Brooks and Andrew Robinson dominate the screen in one of the few times Sisko and Garak directly interact with each other. I have to say, it is amazing how much we know about a character who only appeared in 33 of the 173 episodes aired. This is itself is a testament of not only Robinson’s abilities as an actor but in the abilities of the writers to create such a fully formed support character.
Overall, A solid episode that does in fact have ramifications for the rest of the series, not only on the galaxy but on Sisko himself.
Gleanings and Cool Bits:
- We learn that Romulan Ale is called Kali-Fal.
- Betazed falling to the Dominion is mentioned in this episode but is oddly not really referenced in any of the STNG films that take place after this one. In fact you would think that it would have been mentioned in either Insurrection or Nemesis at some point with Troi’s family being from there but it seems no one really cares about the Betazoids and their strange naked weddings.
- We see the new Romulan shuttle in action that looks like a cross between a Cylon ship and Boba Fett’s helmet…
Thanks for reading the Retro TV Review, I look forward to discussing the rest of the series with you, one episode at a time every Monday, Wednesday and Friday! Next Review: Ferengi Love Songs
If you would like to read more reviews I have a weekly series called Key Movies Of My Life that comes out every Thursday and for more retro TV goodness check out the rest of the Retro TV Reviews here.
As always, please feel free to comment below and share your experiences with these episodes as well. If you just happened by, tell me what you think! Don’t Forget To Follow me if you like the blog!
Late To The Game 3/19/2022 (Originally published 1/17/2020)
Special Thanks to Memory Alpha as they are one of the best sources for details on Star Trek information available. Although I have a pretty deep knowledge on the subject, they have proven invaluable as a regular resource.
“Star Trek and all related marks, logos and characters are solely owned by CBS Studios Inc. This fan production is not endorsed by, sponsored by, nor affiliated with CBS, Paramount Pictures, or any other Star Trek franchise, and is a non-commercial fan-made production intended for recreational use. No commercial exhibition or distribution is permitted. No alleged independent rights will be asserted against CBS or Paramount Pictures.”