Episode 5.8: Things Past

I greatly enjoy the episodes with an Occupation era theme. The Occupation is, without a doubt, horrifying and unjust. In the face of that tyranny, heroic an beautiful actions were taken. But even this most extreme of periods is not black and white. Garak advocating for a positive view on the Occupation foreshadows Odo being cast as the villain. Garak broaches the reality that even something like the Occupation has moments of grey. Seeing only perfect heroes and villains is a form of extremist thinking that gets into our heads very easily. It can be yet another path to create barriers between us. In that mysterious way, our failures are a path toward bringing us together, if we choose to take it. Kira and Odo experience that at the end of this episode. Leading up to that point, Odo is gradually forced to face one of his own demons.

Though he was highly respected, Odo carries a shame with him; a moral failing. At this early point in Odo’s life, he is making a very naïve mistake; a mistake which cost the life of 3 innocent Bajorans. The Thrax-Odo character has equated justice with the rule of law. He doesn’t seek out innocence; instead he simply assumes circumstantial guilty. The truth that Odo learned because of this mistake was that the rule of law is secondary to justice; law is a consequence of justice. This view of law and justice being equal is, I think, an extremely simplistic view. It’s a view held by a person who has yet to appreciate the nuance life has in store for us. The Thrax-Odo character, stubbornly, only sees life through this simple lens. He doesn’t care about the socio-political ramifications of the Resistance. He doesn’t care that those Resistance fighters must break the law to bring justice. All he sees are law-breakers. He actually thinks that Bajorans accepting the Occupation would result in more justice.

Like the theme of this episode, it is my experience that such simple viewpoints lead to horrible behavior from those who hold them. I see this quite regularly in my faith tradition. Fundamentalist Christian viewpoints try to force simple truths out of highly complex, nuanced situations. It’s almost like there’s a fear that if the world can’t be made simple, then truth doesn’t exist. Personally, I find the opposite to be true; if someone claims a very simple thing, I’m highly skeptical. My career is in research in public health (I’m a biostatistician); nearly nothing I think about on a daily basis is simple. Everything requires deep thinking to understand the nuance and draw helpful inferences. I have similar experiences in my spiritual life and in my relationships with spiritually-inclined people. Nearly nothing in faith is simple.

A couple comments on Dukat and Quark, since we get a good look at their Occupation-era selves. Dukat is at the height of his power and the height of his hypocrisy. Dukat wants to “help” the Bajorans (increase rations), but he’ll only ever do so as long as they remain in their servile place. He feeds his ego off his power trips. He is correct that he is a complicated man, though. He honestly thinks that his viewpoints are beneficial to the Bajorans. Dax exploits his arrogance and self-absorption to escape. Quark is also in a height, in a different sense. He isn’t yet burdened by Odo or the Federation’s rules, so he is more confident in the illicit side of his business. He can run the establishment he wants and under-pay his staff like he wants. A little freer hand in being the kind of Ferengi he wants to be.

I want to end with the final scene of the episode. The end of this episode mirrors strongly the end of Necessary Evil (Ep. 2.8), but the roles are reversed. In this episode, Odo is forced to admit the wrongs he committed during the Occupation; in Necessary Evil, Kira does the admitting. Both scenes have an unanswered question left hanging. Even the shot is similar, with each of them standing on opposite sides of Odo’s desk. Both episodes have a moment where one of them is unsure they can trust the other anymore. I think this pairing of episodes is extremely powerful. No one escaped the Occupation without stains upon their soul, even the good guys. They each have to forgive the other to restore that trust. It’s humbling to be so vulnerable before someone you care about. Humbling to realize that we all fall short of our own internal code. These episodes bind them together because they have share the experience of compromising their morality during the Occupation. Admitting that failure requires vulnerability, and vulnerability leads to bonding. This seems so counter-intuitive, yet it is true. This is a deep mystery of life and utterly fantastic.

Random Thoughts: 1) Odo “not being as solid as he thinks” foreshadows Odo regaining his shapeshifting ability (The Begotten, Ep. 5.12). 2) Odo is the most incapacitated throughout the episode. This is a hint that he is the link between them all. 3) I like how the technobabble part of the episode leads the crew to nowhere. This isn’t some technical problem. It’s an emotional problem with Odo that requires an emotional solution. 4) I think Dax puts on a fantastic show of being a scared Bajoran girl for Dukat. Manipulates his pride. 5) The Bajoran signal is very elegant and simple. Nice touch. 6) Garak: “It’s only a hobby.” I love that man’s retorts.  7) Kurtwood Smith plays Thrax.  Another excellent actor in a guest role.  His big role has been playing a lead character in That 70’s Show.  He was also in a season of 24.  He’s also done a couple different Star Trek roles.

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~ by Joshua Black on March 29, 2018.

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