Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: The Die is Cast   Rewatch 
December 9, 2015 8:26 AM - Season 3, Episode 21 - Subscribe

Garak reluctantly tortures Odo for information to prove his loyalty to his former mentor, Enabran Tain, as a joint Tal Shiar / Obsidian Order attack on the Founders in the Omarian Nebula is underway without Starfleet's involvement.

Trivia (Cribbed from here.)
* First episode with Ira Steven Behr as Executive Producer. One of the major changes he made to the series was that action sequences, specifically space battles, had to be shown on-screen more often and not just referred to, as TNG had repeatedly done. As the episode budget of DS9 shows could now accommodate more extensive battle sequences than TNG could do during its series run, starship fights became more commonplace in later seasons – especially during major Dominion War episodes. This episode marks the first signs of this change, as it features the biggest on-screen battle in Star Trek history up to that point (the Battle of the Omarion Nebula.)

* Several references to Julius Caesar in these two episodes. The title "The Die is Cast" is taken from the words reportedly spoken by Caesar in 49 BC as he led a legion of troops across the Rubicon River — an illegal act that effectively ignited the Great Roman Civil War. Garak also quotes Shakespeare's Caesar to Tain ("I'm afraid the fault, dear Tain, is not in our stars but in ourselves"). And Garak and Bashir had discussed Caesar in "Improbable Cause":
Garak: "I knew Brutus was going to kill Caesar in the first act, but Caesar didn't figure it out until the knife is in his back."
Bashir: "That's what makes it a tragedy. Caesar couldn't conceive that his best friend would plot to kill him."
Garak: "Tragedy is not the word I'd use. Farce would be more appropriate. Supposedly, this man is supposed to be the leader of a great empire, a brilliant military tactician, and yet he can't see what's going on under his own nose."

* As with Garak's quick, almost reflexive killing of Entek and Tekeny Ghemor's warning to Kira not to trust him in "Second Skin", the writers saw this episode as another chance to remind viewers that Garak wasn't a typical good-guy, that he was in fact capable of committing knowingly nefarious actions. Behr, "We wanted to show what he's capable of, even if he doesn't want to do it. Could you torture someone, if you had to? Garak can do it."

* Visual effects supervisor Gary Hutzel was instructed to come up with a way to do the battle scene without going over-budget. His solution was to create transparencies of the models of the Romulan warbirds and the Cardassian ships, and to use those transparencies in the background. Coupled with the fact that they were in the background, Hutzel ensured that the camera never lingered on one of them too long, so as to ensure viewers didn't spot the effect.

* The shot where the USS Defiant destroys a Jem'Hadar fighter and then flies through the debris took 4 days to film.

* Writer Ronald D. Moore, director David Livingston, composer Dennis McCarthy and actor Rene Auberjonois were all extremely proud of the scene where Garak tortures Odo. Livingston: "I think the scene is the best in the episode. It's very intense, very dramatic, very powerful;" McCarthyL "I had to express the horror of what Garak was doing to Odo and yet still put some shred of humanity into the music to show that Garak was suffering too, because Garak was having a hard time doing this. It was an opportunity to get very atonal musically. I don't believe that we ever heard a major chord on that show;" and Auberjonois: "I felt like some character from King Lear. The acting method I used was very Shakespearian."

* First time we’ve seen the Founders replacing folks in the Alpha Quadrant for their own purposes. Won't be the last.

* First appearance of Michael Eddington since the two-part season premiere.

* Last episode of the series with a clean-shaven Sisko.

Garak: "Tell me, what else am I feeling? I've never been psychoanalysed by a Romulan before. This is a fascinating experience."
Lovok: "You are a practiced liar, Mister Garak, but I am a practiced observer. And I can assure you, I am going to be observing you very closely."
Garak: "Oh, really, Odo. You really must stop reading those human crime novels Chief O'Brien gives you. It's poisoning your thinking."
Garak: "I'm afraid the fault, dear Tain, is not in our stars but in ourselves."
Tain: "What?"
Garak: "Just something I learned from Doctor Bashir."
Odo [Heavily sarcastic]: "Oh no! You're going to torture me, aren't you? How I've been dreading this! Please have mercy Garak!"
Odo: "I just read the report that you wrote and I wanted to thank you."
Garak: "Me? For what?"
Odo: "For not mentioning my desire to return to my people."
Garak: "I consider the entire conversation as something best forgotten."
Odo: "As do I. Quark has expressed an interest in renting this space if you're not going to be using it."
Garak: "Oh?"
Odo: He mentioned something about an Argelian massage facility."
Garak: "Unfortunately I don't think Commander Sisko will approve of such an interesting facility on the Promenade."
Odo: "I tend to agree. But do I think he would approve of a tailor's shop."
Garak: "Do you know what the sad part is, Odo? I'm a very good tailor."
Odo: "Garak, I was thinking that you and I should have breakfast together sometime."
Garak: "Why, Constable, I thought you didn't eat.
Odo: "I don't."
posted by zarq (11 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
"Do you know what the sad part is, Odo? I'm a very good tailor."
Robinson's line read on that is just... *mm.* It's as if that is THE moment when this character coalesces. Maybe even peaks.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 9:44 AM on December 9, 2015 [12 favorites]

This is the episode where Garak gets everything he's been pining for. He's back! Effectively reinstated in the Obsidian Order, working for the mentor he clearly worships and who respects him in kind: Enabran Tain.

But when he's ordered to torture Odo, something that in his past life he would have done without hesitation, he hesitated. He's clearly horrified that he's going to have to torture Odo, whom he knows doesn't deserve to be mistreated, and what's more, he's horrified that he's horrified. We've seen this in him before. It was sort of foreshadowed in "The Wire", at the end of last season, when a furious Garak tells Bashir:

Garak: "It was the eve of the Cardassian withdrawal. Elim and I were interrogating five Bajorans. Not one of them was older than fourteen. They were children, Doctor... They knew nothing. They lived in bombed-out rooms and scrounged for food on the streets. They were filthy and they stank. The room was freezing cold... the air was like ice... and suddenly, the whole exercise seemed utterly meaningless. All I wanted was a hot bath and a good meal. So I let them go. [pause] I gave them whatever latinum I had in my pockets, opened the door, and flung them back into the street! Elim couldn't believe his eyes. He thought I'd gone insane."
Bashir: "You took pity on those children. There's nothing wrong with that."
Garak: "No! I was a fool. I should've finished the interrogation and turned them over to the troops for execution. But because I was chilly and my stomach was growling, I failed in my duty, and destroyed everything I had worked for."
Bashir: "And so they exiled you."
Garak: "That's right. Elim was executed and I was left to live out my days with nothing to look forward to but having lunch with you."

During that scene, you can hear the same notes of self-loathing and horror in Garak's voice.

A hell of a performance by Robinson.
posted by zarq at 10:22 AM on December 9, 2015 [10 favorites]

Man, this episode. I put it on right after the last one, and loved it just as much as every other time.

I appreciated the way they played the Dominion, here: they would already pose a legitimate threat to the Alpha Quadrant based on their slightly higher technological base and their enormous shipbuilding resources, but those things aren't the real problem. The real problem is that they're so *smart*, and so good at manipulating humanoid races. When Tain has his meltdown on the bridge, I feel for him: they played him masterfully, and it really is the end of all his hopes and dreams.

I appreciated that, especially out of Trek. I feel like the Dominion is a great existential threat to the Federation than the Borg. The Borg are zombies - on an individual level, they don't even really know what they're doing. The Dominion is cagey, clever and leverages every advantage that it has.

The torture scene was definitely something to be proud of, too. It's disturbing to watch, disturbing to hear their tones of voice. When Garak begs Odo to just lie, it's absolutely heartbreaking.

Such great stuff all around.
posted by mordax at 7:37 PM on December 9, 2015 [5 favorites]

Such a great episode, in no small part because it takes a huge risk in having Garak torture Odo and thereby rendering Garak permanently unsympathetic, but the actors totally nail it, especially Andrew Robinson, who builds on his many-layered characterization and absolutely sells the idea that Garak may have done much more harm to himself in the process, and further hints at what his unforgiveable sin against Tain, the Obsidian Order, and Cardassia may have been: that he decided at some point or in a particular situation that the end didn't justify the means. That he decided the opposite in this particular instance is down to a number of things, including not quite trusting that Odo would have told everything relevant about the Founders (and, as we eventually find out, and is reinforced in further seasons, Odo's loyalties are similarly conflicted to a much greater degree than he's previously revealed); also, Tain cannily manipulates Garak into doing something that he still very much doesn't want to do. I think I may want to rewatch "The Wire" yet again to see if it confirms my suspicion that his self-medication via the wire had as much or more to do with some lingering sense of guilt or shame over his past actions than it did with the loneliness of exile. (For someone who's lonely, and for an intelligence operative whose stock in trade depends on getting people to trust him, he sure spends a lot of time warning people not to trust him, even/especially Bashir.) Of course, a lot of the credit for selling the torture scene also goes to Rene Auberjonois; I was quite struck by how they did his makeup as he physically deteriorated--the dark eye pits reminded me of many of Terry Gilliam's animated illustrations for Monty Python, although of course there was nothing remotely amusing about this.

A few other notes about the episode:

- It's interesting how Bashir tries to engage O'Brien in a discussion about contemporary theater, as if it were the sort of topic that he and Garak would enjoy hashing out; both Alexander Siddig and Andrew Robinson are theater directors as well as actors.

- The admiral that Sisko talks to was played by the actor who also played the Starfleet commander-in-chief in Star Trek VI; he's also the only Starfleet admiral that we see in operations gold in the 24th century.

- Eddington tampering with the Defiant's operations in order to interfere with a plan of Sisko's? I'm sure that will never happen again (cough, cough).

- And, finally, this quote from "Lovok" (with Odo):

"The Tal Shiar and the Obsidian Order are both ruthless, efficient organizations, a definite threat to us."
"But not after today?"
"No. After today, the only threat remaining to us from the Alpha Quadrant are the Klingons and the Federation. And I doubt either of them will be a threat for much longer."

posted by Halloween Jack at 2:44 PM on December 10, 2015 [4 favorites]

Something else that I meant to point out earlier: One of the more striking things about DS9 and in particular the Dominion-centered episodes is how, in the mid-to-late nineties, they introduced so many plot points that would become extremely relevant to public policy and military strategy post-9/11; here, in particular, you not only have an exploration of the ethics and efficacy of torture, but also the stunning failure of supposedly powerful and skilled intelligence services not only in finding out some basic facts about their opponents but also in keeping from being infiltrated and betrayed at the highest levels. We'll see more of this relevance in later episodes.
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:16 PM on December 11, 2015 [7 favorites]

Halloween Jack - yes, I think one of the things that I enjoy about DS9 is the eerie (and sad) parallels to our current geopolitics. As you point out, in this episode it is the failure of intelligence, of which torture is a kind of symptom. In other episodes, the futility of empire and occupation is explored or the danger, but also sustaining power, of religion to a society is examined.

I'm glad also that you mentioned Odo's makeup - that was quite striking to me, as well. I think those visuals helped amplify the power of the torture scenes beyond the usual Star Trek emotional registers.

Lastly, Andrew Robinson! Amazing! I loved the quote above "Do you know what the sad part is, Odo? I'm a very good tailor."
posted by Slothrop at 4:02 PM on December 11, 2015 [3 favorites]

I'm glad also that you mentioned Odo's makeup - that was quite striking to me, as well. I think those visuals helped amplify the power of the torture scenes beyond the usual Star Trek emotional registers.

That make-up was incredible. I agree with Halloween Jack about the eyes (and, honestly, those Gilliam Monty Python cut-outs always creeped me out more than amused me anyway). I think the little flaps of 'uniform' tatter were pretty effective too - reminded me of that little flap of skin in the neck of Griffin Dunne's rotting corpse/ghost in An American Werewolf in London.

Great episode. I knew Odo and Garak would get back to DS9 somehow, but I didn't see the twist of it all being a Founder trap, or the Lovak reveal coming.
posted by oh yeah! at 8:50 PM on December 11, 2015 [2 favorites]

You guys beat me to it, pointing out how ahead of its time this show was when it came to the issues we would all be grappling with post 9-11. This was an era when torture, if it was shown at all on TV, would be represented by the bad guys tying our hero to a chair and slapping him around. TNG dared to go REALLY dark when Picard was tortured and this show took it even darker, asking us to sympathize not just with the torture victim, but with the torturer too. This episode has Garak behave in horrifying ways, but we see the toll it takes on him and we know how desperate he is to escape exile and rejoin his people. He behaves like a monster, but in the end, like Odo, we are ready to forgive him. This show had conflicted torturers, heroic terrorists and arguments about security theater... all stuff that was unheard of on TV, pre-2001.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 1:32 AM on December 12, 2015 [2 favorites]

Along with The Siege, Three Kings, and Starship Troopers, DS9 is one of those amazing pieces of '90s media that, without realizing it, provide better commentary on a post-9/11 world than most things produced after 2001.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 2:41 PM on December 12, 2015 [6 favorites]

This events of this episode are really the first domino in the major events that shape the rest of the series. The destruction of the Obsidian Order leads to the fall of the Cardassian Military Government, the Klingon invasion, the momentary end of peace between the Klingons and the Federation, the Cardassian alliance with the Dominion, etc. It basically sets the tone for the rest of the series.

Another post 9/11 theme DS9 touches on extensively: the "good guys" (the Federation) not actually being seen as liberators when they arrive on the scene.
posted by dry white toast at 12:13 AM on December 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

I appreciate how Garak tells Odo that they're close friends and to use his creativity, right before torturing him. He's clearly trying to get Odo's attention -- they're not close friends, Odo would be the first to notice this -- and he's asking him to lie, to get this over with.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:50 PM on December 20, 2023

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