Review: Deep Space Nine “For the Uniform” (S5E13)

Spoiler alert!  This episode may be 20 years old, but some people are still discovering it for the first time.  Be warned – I’m not holding back any information in this review.

I recently re-watched “For the Uniform”, the 13th episode of Deep Space Nine’s fifth season.   I remember really liking this episode when I first watched it, but how does it hold up 20 years later?

5.5/10

The Good: Action-packed episode with well-executed teamwork

The Bad: The tense moments on the bridge are undermined by the lighthearted ending

The Plot

Sisko is hot on the trails of former security chief Michael Eddington, who betrayed him a couple of seasons ago and joined the Maquis (a freedom fighting group that fights both Cardassians and the Federation).  He finds out that Eddington is using bio-weapons to displace Cardassians from former human settlements, and decides to defy orders to finally bring him in.

Episode Background

As mentioned in the plot summary, Eddington was brought onto the show in the third season, installed by Starfleet pretty much because they no longer trusted Odo, a Changeling, to be in charge of station security.  Eventually Eddington betrayed the crew of DS9 and defected to the Maquis; ostensibly he was working for them the entire time, but I don’t think it was ever made clear where his loyalties were from the beginning.

After his defection, this is (I’m almost certain) his first appearance on the show.  Sisko is portrayed in this episode as being slightly obsessed with finding Eddington, and compared to Inspector Javert in Les Miserables (by Eddington himself, who sees himself as Valjean).

What else happens?

In order to catch Eddington, Sisko elects to use a similar tactic to Eddington: he poisons the atmosphere of a planet in order to lure Eddington out into the open.  He positions this as a direct response to Eddington’s attack on a Cardassian world, which was poisoned earlier in the episode.  I should note that the poison in both cases was only harmful to the opposite species, so at the end of the episode Cardassian and Human settlers just swap planets in quasi-O’Henry moment.

To spell it out, everyone is shocked when Eddington uses some sort of bio-weapon to make a planet uninhabitable for at least 50 years for Cardassians.  Everyone is really shocked about the development, and luckily none of those innocent people are killed during the evacuation.  Time passes and the crew is stumped on how to catch him.

So Sisko decides to load up some torpedoes and do the same thing to a Maquis planet.  Everyone is assuming he’s bluffing, and do a collective double-take when he actually gives the order to fire.  They do it, and the Maquis planet is made uninhabitable to humans for 50 years.

Eddington turns himself and his bio-weapons in when he’s convinced Sisko is going to continue to poison Maquis planets.  The settlers on each world swap places, and everyone is happy.

Character Implications

At the end of the episode, seemingly the characters are acting like it’s just any other day.  Sisko is perfectly fine being the “villain” of the story, and brushes off committing crazy acts of war against an entire planet by saying he “forgot” to clear it with Starfleet.

But knowing what he does in an upcoming episode (“In the Pale Moonlight”), it’s actually really cool to see the seeds of his actions start here.  This is a great character beat to show that Sisko is not Picard, and he’s not Kirk.  He’s willing to take some big gambles to get the job done.

But also brushed over are the crew’s reaction to his order.  I have two reactions to this series of events: 1) I’m surprised that no one did anything other than stare blankly at Sisko.  If this was TNG, Worf would be relieving the Captain of his duties.  2) On the other hand, the crew knows this is an important mission and are willing to trust the captain’s judgment.  This goes a long way to establishing what kind of trust Sisko engenders in his crew, even if some of his orders are questionable.

Does the episode hold up?

Yes, but…

Yes, it holds up because the action is great and well-paced.  But…there are some holes.  We haven’t really been given the chance to see how obsessed Sisko is at finding Eddington.  They throw in a line about him being on a planet for 8 months looking for him but that’s about it?  I don’t remember any previous mentions of Eddington since the defection.

Yes, it holds up because the idea of the crew working together to make the Defiant simply run was really cool.  It gave you some insight into how a starship actually operates when you push a button to make it go, and how reliant they are on the technology – but at the same time, how resilient they can be.  But…I really hated that holo-communication thing.  Neat idea in concept, but I thought they were better off with audio-communication.

I also really didn’t like how it was neatly wrapped up at the end of the episode.  I’m using this term a lot, but the poisoning of atmospheres was trivialized by simply having the colonists swap planets.  It really undermined the shocked looks on the faces of the crew when Sisko said to “Fire, damn you!”

I mean, if the end result was that the colonists were going to be fine, just another planet over, why was there any hesitation in carrying out the order?  Dax and Sisko were joking about it at the end of the episode.  The music cue at the end was bright and uplifting – the writers wanted you to feel good about the victory.  I certainly didn’t think it was a moral victory, and am disappointed there was no follow-through from anyone.

Overall Rating

I give this episode a 5.5/10.  It definitely has highlights, but the negative points I mentioned kept bringing it down a few notches.

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