Episode 5.13: For the Uniform

This episode is one of the thematically iconic DS9 episodes. This episode throws the Roddenberry paradise down in tatters and questions the benevolent purpose of the Federation. To preserve the ideals of the Federation, Sisko must poison a planet’s atmosphere and manipulate a man into surrendering himself through the threat of violence to Federation citizens. Sisko betrays foundational ethics of the Federation! But consider who Eddington and the Maquis are. He maroons a man on an ice world, giving him a slow death. Eddington has intimate knowledge of Starfleet systems and efficiently disabled two starships. The Maquis, with little hesitation, used biological weapons of mass destruction against two planets! All the while, Eddington hypocritically claims the Maquis are not killers! Which path is worse? To allow Eddington to continue his terror campaign, killing innocent lives, or for Sisko to betray his oath and attack Federation citizens? The normal Federation method won’t work! This is what Sanders and the Malinche represent. Eddington, the Maquis, cannot be beat by the standard Federation method.

Sisko and Eddington renew their debate on the Federation’s facade of neoliberal inclusivity regarding the colonists; this episode is the second in the “Eddington Triology” (the first was For The Cause, Ep. 4.22; the last is Blaze of Glory, Ep. 5.23). The more I think about the DS9 criticism of the Roddenberry Paradise, the deeper and more nuanced it becomes. In their first major debate in this episode, Eddington asserts the Federation ignored the colonists desires, and sold them to the Cardassians. The Federation would only defend their own if it served the needs of the Federation core worlds. Sisko points out that the colonists had options with resettlement, and the Maquis sold them a lie on the hope of returning to their old life. Their debate is over how the more inclusive a society becomes, the less the needs of any individual should matter. To the Federation, the colonists need to get in line and accept that their worlds needed to be sacrificed to preserve the higher order between empires. The colonists, on the other hand, had their soveriegnty ripped from them and were forced to bend their will to the powerful Federation. The benevolance of the Federation seems, at best, conditional and, at worst, a lie.

Sisko, in the end, is forced to adopt the absurd position of betraying every tenant of his oath in order to protect the Federation. He attacks Federation citizens using a weapon of mass destruction! In their final debate, Eddington is appalled at Sisko’s vendetta. Sisko justifies his obsession by thinking it’s all “for the uniform.” A cause higher than himself. He tells Dax that he has to play the villain, but I think Sisko’s rage and his vendetta are real. Eddington betrayed more than just Sisko’s trust, and there is a deep core of Sisko that cannot abide that. As Eddington points out at the end, Sisko would break his own oath because Eddington broke an oath. The absurdity of where Sisko has to go to “beat” Eddington is beautifully clear. Which brings me back to the dilemma of Sisko. Is it worse to allow Eddington to continue his campaign, or for Sisko to betray his oath? There is no good answer to the dilemma, which demonstrates the impossibility of Roddenberry’s neoliberal, perfectly inclusive, conflict-free paradise.

The use of Les Miserables as analogy is fantastic, and I see similiarties to Picard. For Picard, he was Captain Ahab where the Borg was his White Whale (from Moby Dick). Sisko is Javert while Eddington is his Valjean. Both captains have a deep seated obsession with something that threatens the foundations of the Federation. Both captains are personally injured by their obession. The Borg and Eddington challenge the Federation from eerily similar perspectives. The Borg would destroy paradise by stripping away individuality and forcing assimilation; the Federation would then cease to exist. Eddington would destroy paradise by fracturing the Federation into a million different individual needs, dividing a nation so that it cannot stand united; the Federation would then cease to exist. Both captains struggle to preserve what they see as the honorable Federation. For Picard and the Borg, the social commentary was heavy-handed and without nuance; diversity and inclusivity are good. What DS9 does with the Maquis storylines and Sisko’s moral compromise is elegantly ask, “When the Federation doesn’t care for it’s minority citizens, how far away is that from being just like the Borg?” For Sisko and Eddington, the social commentary criticises elevation of the majority view as the predominant view in a society and challenges the notion that democracy (the majority) should always win out. This is why I love DS9.

Random Thoughts: 1) Shockingly, Eddington only appears in 9 total episodes. This is his penultimate. 2) Eric Pierpoint, the actor who plays Captain Sanders, appeared in TNG, DS9, VOY, and ENT. Prior to the airing of Discovery last year, he had appeared in all of the modern Star Trek shows. 3) The holocommunicator is a neat addition to the show, and I wish they had used it more. Nice touch that this was unaffected by the cascade virus, since it was added after Eddington would have installed the virus. 4) I like how Odo reminds Sisko that Eddington was there because they didn’t trust the shapeshifter… 5) I love seeing Sisko’s raw emotion during the punching bag scene. 6) Cobalt diselenide could exist as cobalt(IV), I guess. 6) This is Nog’s first combat situation; combat later becomes central to his character development. 7) When the Defiant leaves DS9, the crew is overly specific on ship commands. This is meant to show they are being more manual with the controls while the computer is down. 8) I found a major discontinuity. When describing the limitations, O’Brien tells Sisko that there are no transporters available. Yet when Sisko is faced with the dilemma of chasing Eddington or saving the Cardassian freighter, he asks about transporter range. 9) The fact that the Federation and Cardassian colonists have to switch planets is fantastic and poetic. 10) The moment when Sisko says he must become the villain and force Eddington to surrender was so very delicious for me. It just hammers home how much DS9 criticizes the idea of a future utopia.  11) Changeling-Bashir Watch:  He doesn’t appear in this episode…

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~ by Joshua Black on May 9, 2018.

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