"In the Pale Moonlight" 
Season Six, Episode 19
Teleplay by Michael Taylor
Story by Peter Allan Fields
Directed by Victor Lobl
Music by David Bell
Main Cast:
Avery Brooks as Captain Benjamin Sisko
Rene Auberjonois as Odo
Michael Dorn as Lt Cmdr Worf
Terry Farrell as Lt Cmdr Jadzia Dax
Cirroc Lofton as Jake Sisko
Colm Meaney as Chief Miles O'Brien
Armin Shimerman as Quark
Alexander Siddig as Dr Julian Bashir
Nana Visitor as Major Kira Nerys

Guest Stars:
Andrew J. Robinson as Garak
Jeffrey Combs as Weyoun
Casey Biggs as Damar
Howard Shangraw as Tolar
Stephen McHattie as Senator Vreenak


Realising that the only way for the Federation to possibly win the war with the Dominion, Sisko becomes obsessed with trying to bring to Romulans into the war on the side of the Federation. He enlists the help of Garak, but soon finds himself in the very centre of a web of deceit, treachery and murder -- for which he is responsible...

I was expecting big things from this episode given it's reputation as one of the finest DS9 episodes ever produced. I'm glad to say I wasn't disappointed. I do, however, wonder what can I say about In the Pale Moonlight that hasn't been said better elsewhere. But, I daresay I'll manage to tailor up a few comments (OK, that was a dreadful pun! I do apologise!). 

I'm impressed. Very impressed. While In the Pale Moonlight may not rate as the best DS9 episode ever, it's certainly in the top ten. My initial impression was, "wow! That's what I call drama!". Intelligent, gripping and darkly intense, this is probably the most effective "war" episode to date, featuring a brilliant script, outstanding performances and stunning directing all of which come together seamlessly to produce a rather outstanding hour of drama. It's good DS9 - moreover it's good television. 

First of all, I must complement Michael Taylor for turning in what is, along with Far Beyond the Stars, possibly the best-written script of the season. It's always a pleasure to see the ever-reliable Peter Allan Fields in the credits (I was despondent when he left at the end of the second season), but Mr Taylor's work seems a little more inconistent; he's gone from writing the tour de force The Visitor (quite possibly Trek's finest hour) to the comparatively mediocre Things Past to the dreadful Resurrection. Alas he's back in fine form, so I guess I ought not complain! In the Pale Moonlight is well-crafted and beautifully-written; much of the dialogue sparkles (indeed, narrowing down a quote for above wasn't an easy task). There's an almost, dare I say it, Shakespearean quality to much of it - in spite of a clunky teaser where a conversation about the death of Dax's friend veers into a discussion of the Romulans that cries of exposition. But that's really a minor glip that does nothing to tarnish the rest of the episode. 

But what is a good script without good actors to bring it to life? I thought Avery Brooks did a marvellous job and I must say that all the bitching about his acting is both unfair and unwarranted. He maybe does try a bit too hard in one or two instances (the maniacal flapping of arms is a big no-no) but he also binds the entire episode together with a compelling, engaging performance. Not only does he effectively convey a tortured, disillusioned man willing to resort to desperate measures, but his peformance brims with energy, fire and passion. The "personal log recording" device could easily have fallen flat, but remains effective and insightful, containing one or two of the episode's best scenes. While Victor Lobl's tight, kinetic directing and David Bell's menacingly striking score no doubt help, I believe it is Brooks who brings these sequences to life, which could have fallen flat with a lesser actor. You know, I actually think if they had written this as a one man show, without the flashbacks, Avery would have been able to pull it off. An interesting thought. Ocassionally I do sometimes feel Avery's "style" is more suited to stage than television, but he's without doubt a wonderful actor, and in my opinion he demonstrates that here. Credit where credit is due. 

Speaking of credit, kudos are also in order for the rest of cast, notably Andrew Robinson for providing such excellent support. I often have mixed feelings toward Garak, and feel that since his past was clarified in the third season climax Improbable Cause/The Die is Cast he's been a bit of a hanger-on, as if the writers had nothing more to do with his character but didn't want to write him out. I would rather the writers have a need and specific purpose and direction for a character than just keeping them for window dressing - and Garak's involvement in the show, since the aforementioned episodes, has been peripheral at best (take the war arc for instance). 

Andrew Robinson is a brilliant actor and deserves more substantial material - although I'm not among those that think he should join the main cast - what we'd end up with are a multitude of "token character appearances" such as we receive with Quark, most of which are merely padding. In the Pale Moonlight is one of the most effective showcases for the character in years; there's none of the usual tiresome "Garak padding", and for once the character is put to excellent use. Behind his deceptively harmless, even effeminate (I've never quite understood the significance of this streak!) demeanour is a cold, calculating, merciless man capable of going to any lengths to achieve his aim. 

Forget all the trivial "tailor" banter, here we get a chilling glimpse of an Obsidian Order operative to whom murder is just a part of the job. We need more Garak material like this, and Robinson rises to the occasion, delivering a marvellous performance (even though I was worried his eyes were going to pop out at one stage!). Stephen McHattie is also marvellous as Senator Vreenak - truly, this guy is the quintessential Romulan. I also greatly enjoyed Terry Farrell's turn at "playing" a Romulan. You go, girl! 

Briefly, Victor Lobl's directing: very strong, self-assured and striking. He keeps everything moving splendidly and some scenes are exceptionally well-directed; such as Sisko's learning of Vreenak's death and storming down to Garak's shop - that really got the pulse racing! The closing shot of Sisko turning away from the camera and deleting the log entry was very memorable. What's left to say? In the Pale Moonlight was an superb character piece for Sisko (who's rapidly becoming - if not become - DS9's most interesting character). There are also long-term plot developments; the Romulans have joined the war and it seems to me that Sisko may have begun to pay off his "penance" from the Prophets. All very compelling stuff. 

As much as I enjoyed this episode, however, I'm going to go on record as saying that I wouldn't want DS9 to be like this every week. Unlike a number of people, I don't watch DS9 for it's "war" and I certainly don't think the series is, or should be, about war. The war should not be the primary focus of the series, but rather a backdrop which allows the writers to explore how it affects the characters. Sometimes I wish we'd see -- not more of the war -- but more affect upon the characters, but apart from that, I think the writers have handled things rather well this season. I'm glad that DS9 still has it's "eclectic" feel and the combination of drama, comedy, good character work and character relationships is why I watch DS9. So as much as I loved "In the Pale Moonlight", I'm very glad that the entire season hasn't been as dark and grim; the little comedy pieces, though much maligned by some, bring balance to the series. I like that balance. Which, I guess leads me onto my next review, the controversial His Way..

But first, I have great pleasure in awarding In the Pale Moonlight a whopping 10 out of 10. Excellent work.

Rating: 10

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