There’s a bit of conventional wisdom that holds that like ‘Next Generation’ itself, the ‘Star Trek’ shows of that era generally don’t “get good” until their third season. Now, that’s something of an oversimplification to be sure, but unlike the “even good, odd bad” lens through which the movies are often viewed, this one has a kernel of truth at its heart. In the case of ‘Deep Space Nine’, it’s true that the show didn’t really find its footing until season three, but the second season was overall a very strong one. Certainly moreseo than year two of ‘TNG’, and so much so that it might actually have broken the pattern had it not been for a weird mid-season slump in which the show turned out a number of almost aggressively mediocre episodes. ‘The Maquis’, however, came as the season was entering the homestretch, and boy was that a strong stretch! In fact, moreso than the third season, the last third of the second season (beginning with this episode) is arguably where ‘Deep Space Nine’ really started to find itself.
As is often the case on ‘Deep Space Nine’, the material is elevated not just by the cast but by the guest cast. The standout guest star here has got to be Marc Alaimo, who is – as always – a delight as Dukat. Perhaps moreso than any other character on the show, Dukat is the one you love to hate and hate to love. In fact, starting with ‘The Maquis’ and continuing right up until his “re-villaining” at the outset of the Dominion War, the writers spent years humanizing the character. It’s something they ultimately tried to walk back, feeling that they’d gone too far in making Dukat likable and sympathetic, but the fact that the character did in fact thrive in those shades of grey is a testament to the undeniable charm that Alaimo brought to the role.
The other major guest star is Bernie Casey as Cal Hudson. Unlike Alaimo, Casey is a decidedly mixed bag. To be sure, he’s far from bad, but his performance is fairly boilerplate when he’s railing against the Cardassians and Federation policy in the DMZ. Where he really shines, though, is in his “old friend” scenes with Sisko. Casey and Avery Brooks have incredible chemistry, and I can’t help but wish we’d seen more of it prior to Hudson’s not-entirely-surprising betrayal.
There is, however, the small matter of Kira. Though she’ll be more active in subsequent Maquis stories, she’s given virtually nothing to do here. And that’s a real shame, not just because Nana Visitor is an outstanding performer but because (as we are reminded late in the episode) out of the main case, Kira is perhaps the best equipped to understand where the Maquis are coming from and what they’ve been dealing with. Frankly, it’s shocking that of all the characters to sideline in the episode that introduced the Maquis as, essentially, rebels with a very sympathetic cause, the writers chose the one whose entire history is defined by precisely what the Maquis are fighting against.
On top of all this, ‘The Maquis’ also represented a turning point of sorts for ‘Deep Space Nine’. But more on that next time…
Until then, feel free to jump into the comments and let us know what you thought of ‘The Maquis, Part I’. And of course, make sure to check back in two weeks when we wrap up this two-parter with our coverage of ‘The Maquis, Part II’!