Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: The Wire   Rewatch 
September 13, 2015 3:32 PM - Season 2, Episode 22 - Subscribe

In which we learn much more about Garak.

Garak Garak Garak Garak!
posted by Solomon (34 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I am amused by the idea that Sisko yelled at an admiral so hard he strained his neck.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 6:27 PM on September 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


I love this episode. When evaluating the stories he tells, it's important to remember that they're all true - especially the lies.

Garak's complaints about the station: too cold, too bright, make me wonder about the Cardassian homeworld and why they were attracted to conquering the relatively temperate and well-lit Bajor.

The story he tells, of becoming so frustrated interrogating Bajoran kids that he turns them loose with a pile of latinum, is tantalizingly plausible. So too is his career in the military,or his attempted framing of his friend. All are probably partly true.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:55 PM on September 13, 2015 [3 favorites]

why they were attracted to conquering the relatively temperate and well-lit Bajor.

My understanding is that the Kardies planet is incredibly resource-poor and Bajor gave them the chance to mine for materials.
posted by drezdn at 8:53 AM on September 14, 2015

I'm also guessing that Julian isn't a huge fan of Gabriel García Márquez, either.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 9:47 AM on September 14, 2015

Bashir actually gets useful stuff to do in this one, for a change, and really demonstrates what a stand-up guy he can be. Though, does doctor/patient confidentiality just not exist in the Federation?

The Garak/Bashir relationship is so interesting and the scene where Garak admits that lunch with Bashir is the highlight of his week, which simultaneously means he resents and maybe even despises Bashir, is so so good.

("Oh no you need more pleasure pheromones or you'll die" seems like the setup for some sexy times to me, but on this occasion, Star Trek didn't go there.)
posted by chaiminda at 1:31 PM on September 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

I was observing to friends that Garak is the most gay-coded character I've seen this side of Edward Everett Horton and Tony Randall, and they seemed surprised. I guess my POV is colored by decades of queer studies reading... but anyway this is a great episode and the first of many glimpses into Garak's past.
posted by thetortoise at 1:55 PM on September 14, 2015 [2 favorites]

this is a Rewatch, spoilers abound!

quora: Was the station's resident Cardassian, Elim Garak, meant to be gay?

Is Garak gay?
I've seen the Is Garak Gay argument going on for a long time and never had any real impression either way until I saw the final episode of Season 5
The Toast: Deep Space Nine: The Gayest Star Trek
“Gay” is obviously a loaded term, but Deep Space Nine is really into queer politicking.

Even if you don’t like any Star Trek series, or sci-fi in general, there are still things to capture your attention in Deep Space Nine. The glistening, utopic hope of previous incarnations is replaced with a run-down, post-industrial surrounding. Military figures work alongside freedom fighters and form dark alliances with sometimes-enemies against mutual adversaries. Lots of wonderfully queer things happen in the space in between.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 2:15 PM on September 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

Andrew Robinson intentionally played Garak as attracted to Bashir. I wish they'd done more with that, especially since his relationship with Ziyal is somehow simultaneously boring and creepy.

Instead, the show seemed determined to push the Bashir/O'Brien bromance which always seemed sort of sad to me. It puts marriages and friendships into weird opposing categories: Miles loves Keiko but really LIKES Bashir. Miles works on his marriage with Keiko but has fun with Bashir. It's depressingly 50's.
posted by chaiminda at 2:35 PM on September 14, 2015 [4 favorites]

The Toast: Deep Space Nine: The Gayest Star Trek

aaaahhhh more proof that someone at The Toast has written literally everything I would ever write (it wouldn't surprise me if the space opera starring dogs I was working on when I was 9 is now a novel by someone on the Toast and it's awesome)

Star Trek heteronormativity bothers me the most when it comes to Trills and changelings. It makes no sense for them to reproduce human binary gender, but they usually do.
posted by thetortoise at 2:39 PM on September 14, 2015 [3 favorites]

I enjoyed that article, but I think Voyager is in the running for Gayest Trek.

I hope if they ever make a new Trek show they will be a bit more adventurous. They mention male characters that get pregnant on DS9--one of those as a main character would be great. And obviously all Trills are queer, and there is much canon evidence to support that from TNG and DS9--they just never say it outright.
posted by chaiminda at 2:44 PM on September 14, 2015 [2 favorites]

Didn't Andrew Robinson once say that he played every role as gay unless the script explicitly indicated that the character was straight? Or was that another actor?
posted by oh yeah! at 3:01 PM on September 14, 2015

This is the first DS9 episode to really focus on a recurring character, and it's something the show will build on until the absolute peak with "It's Only a Paper Moon" with the focus on Nog and Vic Fontaine and no B-plot. There were times when I would get a bit frustrated with that (gah what an absolute waste for Kira and Odo and Sisko to have like one line apiece in some episodes), but I'm totally on board for this one, because Garak makes everything great.

the scene where Garak admits that lunch with Bashir is the highlight of his week, which simultaneously means he resents and maybe even despises Bashir, is so so good.

Yeah, Bashir has some good qualities but can often be as annoying as hell, and it seems completely realistic that Garak would have those sort of mixed feelings about him.

I've mentioned it before, but I like the scene where Bashir and Dax are just hanging out and discussing her plant, with no lame flirting, is really nice to see.
posted by creepygirl at 3:24 PM on September 14, 2015 [2 favorites]

Yeah, Bashir has some good qualities but can often be as annoying as hell, and it seems completely realistic that Garak would have those sort of mixed feelings about him.

And along with being arrogant and painfully naive, he's an inferior human! I think there's an element of xenophobia in the relationship. Garak can never completely respect Bashir and Bashir can never completely trust Garak because of their respective cultures. But they're fascinated by each other anyway.
posted by chaiminda at 4:28 PM on September 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

This week's episode was all about reading! Julian reads a book, Garak reads Julian, and Jadzia has a problem with her bush!
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 6:02 AM on September 15, 2015 [2 favorites]

Julian reads a book, Garak reads Julian, and Jadzia has a problem with her bush!

Riker winks.
posted by drezdn at 6:53 AM on September 15, 2015

Ignoring my own guideline, I read the comments on the AV Club recap, and one of the commenters pointed out that all of Garak's stories about why he was exiled (and I recall, his quip about the Cardassian Finance Ministry later on) share a common element: he put his own feelings or goals above those of Cardassia, and that's why he was banished.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:13 AM on September 15, 2015 [3 favorites]

Because Garak is probably my favorite character on the show (no wait! It's Quark! no wait! It's ..!), I assume the best in terms of his intentions. I think the first story he told, that he destroyed the shuttle, was meant to test Bashir's loyalty or principles. The second story, that he let some children go in a moment of "weakness" is probably mostly accurate. The last story, that he and "Elim" were in a race to betray each other perhaps reflect that he has always been torn between serving the Obsidian Order and Cardassia loyally ("Elim") and following his nascent sense of decency ("Garak"). The shuttle destruction story was what "Elim" would do and the letting children go story was what "Garak" would do. Maybe neither story actually happened, but he was banished from Cardassia because he wavered between being "Elim" and "Garak" - Cardassia is clearly an authoritarian society. I suppose a queer reading of Garak's character would also be supported by these metaphors of double identities.
posted by Slothrop at 6:14 AM on September 16, 2015 [6 favorites]

It's been many years, but IIRC somewhere toward the end of the series one of the DS9 writing staff (possibly Behr) did an online fan chat or an interview or something where they said the writers thought of Garak as bisexual and that it was possible Garak and Dukat had had a sexual history when they were young and that was where some of their enmity came from. As I write that out it sounds kind of unlikely (Garak and Dukat? Really?) but I am like 80% certain that's what whomever-it-was said.

It puts marriages and friendships into weird opposing categories: Miles loves Keiko but really LIKES Bashir. Miles works on his marriage with Keiko but has fun with Bashir. It's depressingly 50's.

That seems like a very negative spin to put on it. I think O'Brien passionately loves his wife but it's a challenging relationship, and he has easier friendship with Bashir. I don't think that that sort of thing is rare, or bad.

Marriage is often going to be a lot more complicated than a friendship. In a marriage you're planning for a future together and picking up somebody's messes around the house and dealing with their most private problems. In the O'Brien household they've got a kid to argue about and resentments about Keiko putting her botany career on hold for the sake of Miles. Bashir eventually makes it clear that he loves Ezri but likes O'Brien more, but O'Brien isn't willing to go there. As close as his friendship is with Bashir, his marriage matters more to him. (There's also a feeling that even comparing his marriage to Keiko and his friendship with Bashir kind of creeps O'Brien out. I think of some level O'Brien never stopped thinking of Bashir as this arrogant, annoying kid, as much as he may love the guy.)

I've said this before, but I really like that the O'Brien marriage is so fractious but so worthwhile. I'm sure not suggesting people should stay together if they're miserable, but too often marriages are depicted as either purely wonderful or terrible, and sometimes you can be with somebody who drives you nuts but they are still the one for you. O'Brien and Keiko have a solid thing going on despite being very different people, and they both work to maintain it. Sometimes a love is strong enough that it's worth all the scraps.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 2:08 PM on September 16, 2015

I agree that it's great to see a married couple with normal issues depicted on television. I just feel like 90% of the O'Briens' issues are based on stereotypes of het couples that feel super dated, especially for a show that takes place several hundred years in the future. Of course a marriage is going to be more intense and less fun than a friendship, but I hardly see any fun at all in the O'Briens' relationship. And it would be different if Keiko had her own BFF with whom she had wacky adventures, but she seems pretty dedicated to her career and raising babies--worthwhile things, but she doesn't get to have a favorite holodeck program or anything else in her life that isn't strictly business. Luckily, the other women on the show aren't like that, so I assume that's more because the writers didn't wind up depicting her personal life rather than that they assumed that married women don't have them.

Garak/Dukat is horrifying and no.
posted by chaiminda at 2:57 PM on September 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

Not much to add to what's already been written, except that if you like Garak, you should read A Stitch In Time--Garak's autobiography, written by the actor himself, Andrew J. Robinson. It's based on a monologue that Robinson used to deliver at cons, and it's quite good.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:20 PM on September 16, 2015 [2 favorites]

I think Garak as a character peaked with these early episodes. The writers weren't able to sustain his air of desperation, the sense that he's capable of anything. Nor were they able to explain/explore him in a satisfying way, largely because 90s network TV had less room both for moral complication and for queerness. I always felt that he stopped being mysterious and became the local Mysterious Guy; the implied spycraft became less Tinker Tailor and more Danger Man. (There are exceptions, like "In the Pale Moonlight," but I have other issues with that episode.)

In this episode Robinson feels like he's squirming out of the template of Star Trek acting and into something really raw and amazing. There are a lot of DS9 cast members I love, but when it comes to what they do when they're pushed into the red, it's all him.

Enabran Tain cast such a shadow over my memory of the show that I was surprised, rewatching it recently, to realize that Paul Dooley only appeared in four episodes and only has a few scenes with Robinson (and none in "The Wire").

(Come to think of it, Bashir and Garak had similar relationships with their fathers -- both Tain and Richard Bashir were liars who molded and manipulated their sons. I wonder if that wasn't something they saw instinctively in each other, and part of why they connected.)
posted by thesmallmachine at 6:27 PM on September 16, 2015 [2 favorites]

It is too bad we never saw Keiko's friends or found out much about her life outside of her marriage and her job as a teacher. That was a missed opportunity. But Keiko was a pretty rich character and the show had a LOT of characters to fit in to the story. Maybe the writers never thought of getting into the rest of her life, or maybe they did but just never got to it.

It wouldn't surprise me too much, given what we know of Keiko's personality, if she never did find friends on DS9. She never wanted to be there, so maybe she didn't want to put down roots beyond her teaching.

I just realized something about the O'Brien marriage. (SPOILER AHEAD:) Keiko is a strong, smart and rather scrappy lady. Not unlike Kira, in those regards. Suddenly it makes sense to me why O'Brien developed awkward feelings for Kira while she was staying with the O'Briens! That whole plot just felt forced at the time, but it clicks for me now why Miles would feel like that. (Why Kira would feel anything in return is a whole other question, but if Miles likes women with some real grit, Kira's a natural!)

Thesmallmachine, I'm really surprised you'd say it was downhill for Garak from here. To me, this feels like the episode where the writers really kicked out the jams and showed that the character was really, really dark and complicated. Everything after this builds on this episode, but we still have a lot to learn about him and we haven't seen how dark he can go. He hasn't even tortured Odo yet!

I don't think we can really say that 90s TV held the character back. This show is often compared to Battlestar Galactica, with people claiming that the later show got much darker than Trek could ever go. I'm not so sure about that. How much darker than Garak CAN you go? I'd argue he's at least as dark as anybody on BSG. I mean, he literally tortures Odo, almost to the point of death, and it's clearly agonizing for Garak but he does it. We're watching Odo, a beloved character, suffer at Garak's hands and even then we can't quite hate Garak for it because we know how desperate he is to be redeemed in the eyes of his people and go home. That's at least as ghastly as anything BSG ever did!
posted by Ursula Hitler at 8:53 PM on September 16, 2015

I think we see quite a few moments if the O'Briens being happy together and being passionate about each other. To the extent that their marriage seems like a throwback (which it totally isn't , Keiko has her own shit going on), it's probably because Miles is written as a throwback. He's drawn like a solider who was shaped by actual fighting in a way that most officers we see in the Trek universe never really experienced.

Even the happiest marriages are work. The point is the work is (more than) worth it. And even in the happiest marriage, you sometimes still really want your partner to bugger off and go play with their friend.

For my money, the O'Briens are one of the most accurately drawn couples I've ever seen on TV.
posted by dry white toast at 6:45 AM on September 17, 2015

I'll revise my "downhill for Garak" line: I feel like he was at his best from "The Wire" to "In Purgatory's Shadow," which in my mind was in the first half of the show, but in fact is totally in the second.
posted by thesmallmachine at 8:21 AM on September 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

I don't think their marriage is unrealistic. I think it's a "walking marital cliche factory," as trekkiefeminist puts it. Looking forward to discussing some of the episodes that actually center on this relationship!
posted by chaiminda at 11:58 AM on September 17, 2015

I'll revise my "downhill for Garak" line: I feel like he was at his best from "The Wire" to "In Purgatory's Shadow," which in my mind was in the first half of the show, but in fact is totally in the second.

I always thought Garak's character was a bit risk for a Trek show. Someone who tortured people for a living, and enjoyed it. And who lied. Garak, Dukat and Damar were all risky, actually. All dark, dangerous characters. Complex and relatable. Not your average cardboard cut-out villain. And certainly not Roddenberry-esque. For the Roddenberry fans, we have Quark: craven, straightforward and a bit of comic relief.

Plus how can we not love scenes like these:

"In the Pale Moonlight."
Sisko: "Who's watching Tolar?"
Garak: "I've locked him in his quarters. I've also left him with the distinct impression that if he attempts to force the door open, it may explode."
Sisko: "I hope that's just an impression!"
Garak: "It's... best not to dwell on such minutiae."

And "The Way of the Warrior":
Quark: "I want you to try something for me. Take a sip of this."
Garak: "What is it?"
Quark: "A human drink. It's called 'root beer.'"
Garak: "Uh, I don't know..."
Quark: "Come on, aren't you just a little bit curious?"
[Garak sighs, takes a sip and gags]
Quark: "What do you think?"
Garak: "GAH! It's vile!"
Quark: "I know. It's so bubbly, and cloying, and happy."
Garak: "Just like the Federation."
Quark: "But you know what's really frightening? If you drink enough of it, you begin to like it."
Garak: "It's insidious!"
Quark: "Just like the Federation."
Garak: "Do you think they'll be able to save us?"
Quark: "I hope so."
posted by zarq at 1:11 PM on September 17, 2015 [8 favorites]

For the Roddenberry fans, we have Quark: craven, straightforward and a bit of comic relief.

Quark is basically Harry Mudd upgraded to a main character. (Not a complaint, just an observation.)
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 2:45 PM on September 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Garak: "It's... best not to dwell on such minutiae."

I loved this line so much, it's become part of the repertoire of running jokes between me and Mr. creepygirl:

Mr. creepygirl: "Holy crap. How many chocolate bars did you buy at Chocopolis?"
Me: "It's best not to dwell on such minutiae."
posted by creepygirl at 7:32 PM on September 17, 2015 [3 favorites]

Oh, and my favorite Garak scene, from Improbable Cause:

Bashir: Have you ever heard the story about the boy who cried wolf?
Garak: No.
Bashir: It's a children's story about a young shepherd boy who gets lonely while tending his flock. So he cries out to the villagers that a wolf is attacking the sheep. The people come running, but of course there's no wolf. He claims that it's run away, and the villagers praise him for his vigilance.
Garak: Clever lad! Charming story.
Bashir: I'm not finished. The next day the boy does it again, and the next too, and on the fourth day a wolf really comes. The boy cries out at the top of his lungs, but the villagers ignore him and the boy and his flock are gobbled up.
Garak: Well that's a little graphic for children, wouldn't you say?
Bashir: But the point is, if you lie all the time, nobody's going to believe you even when you're telling the truth.
Garak: Are you sure that's the point, Doctor?
Bashir: Of course. What else could it be?
Garak: That you should never tell the same lie twice.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 7:57 PM on September 17, 2015 [9 favorites]

A little late, but someone made a tumblr post comparing this episode with Amok Time--I guess The Wire contains a lot of visual and plot references to the TOS episode.
posted by chaiminda at 3:31 AM on September 18, 2015

I wasn't seeing any obvious parallels in the episodes, or at least none that struck me as deliberate. But the fight scene gifs made me wonder... does this episode square with Bashir's later reveal as a genetic superman? Having not seen this episode in a few years, I can't say. But that website and the gifs suggest that Garak really roughs up Bashir, almost strangling him!

Of course it's likely Bashir would pull his punches so he wouldn't hurt Garak or give away his own superman-hood, but allowing himself to get strangled is taking it way too far! At the same time, does the show ever specify how Cardassian strength relates to human? (Here's a fun forum post conjecturing on the strength of the various Trek aliens, but it's just fan speculation.) Is Garak strong enough that he'd be as strong as an augmented human? Does Bashir's augmentation mostly affect his mind and things like reflexes, but not his strength? Even after his augmentation was revealed, I can't recall him demonstrating super strength.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 5:57 AM on September 18, 2015

As far as I know, strength is never one of the characteristics specifically called out as having been enhanced. Memory alpha says:
The focus of his "enhancements" were to increase his mental abilities and as such, his IQ jumped five points a day for over two weeks. Further treatments led to improvements in his hand-eye coordination, reflexes, vision, stamina, height, and weight.
So there's definitely physical aspects to the modifications he was given, but I don't think he has super-strength. If I had to guess I'd put his strength as "remarkably good for someone who doesn't lift weights", but that's personal conjecture.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 12:57 PM on September 18, 2015

Thanks, VMOW! That would seem to square with my memories. I wonder if Bashir's parents decided to skip the super strength because it would make Bashir easier to spot as an Augment. Or maybe the super strength was a pricey extra!
posted by Ursula Hitler at 3:59 PM on September 18, 2015

The direction of this episode is fantastic - the scene where Garak tells Bashir the 2nd story (I did something worse, I let them go) with the camera following Garak as he moves erratically around the room is just stunning.

This is one of the best episodes of the show.

Also re gay Garak - Andrew Robinson once said he thought of and played Garak as bisexual.
posted by marienbad at 3:33 PM on October 21, 2015

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