Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: The Assignment   Rewatch 
April 17, 2016 10:47 AM - Season 5, Episode 5 - Subscribe

A new enemy appears on DS9, with a familiar face, and O'Brien has to figure out not only what they want, but why.

From Memory Alpha:

- This was the first episode to mention the Pah-wraiths, the demons of Bajoran religion who are the enemies of the Prophets. However, although this episode represents the first time the Pah-wraiths are mentioned, the origin of the concept can actually be dated back to the first season episode "The Nagus". While developing "The Assignment", René Echevarria was trying to come up with a concept that would tie into the Deep Space Nine mythology. He didn't want the being who possesses Keiko to simply be some random entity, but rather something that would fit into the overall scheme of the show. Ultimately, he suggested that perhaps the aliens in the wormhole weren't all good, and that there were in fact some evil members of the race. Echevarria however had no idea that four years previously, Robert Hewitt Wolfe had come up with exactly the same idea. In the episode "The Nagus", Sisko and Jake are supposed to visit the "Fire Caverns" on Bajor, and there was a line in the original teleplay where Sisko is told jokingly to "watch out for the Pagh-wraiths." The Pagh-wraiths were Wolfe's idea and were supposedly little goblin creatures that lived in the Fire Caves, having been cast out of the wormhole and given corporeal form. It was only when Echevarria was trying to find some connection between "The Assignment" and previous episodes that Wolfe returned to his old Pagh-wraiths concept. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion) Of course the Pah-wraiths went on to play a huge role in future Deep Space Nine storylines, especially towards the end of the seventh season.

- Nana Visitor (Kira Nerys) does not appear in this episode because she went into early labor during production. This is the first episode of the series in which she does not appear. Originally, the party in the O'Brien's was going to be a Bajoran holiday presided over by Kira, but when producers discovered she was unavailable, they did a quick rewrite of the scene and turned it into a birthday party, while also ensuring to explain Kira's absence.

- Colm Meaney enjoyed the episode. He commented: "That was great. Roz's performance in that, I thought, was spectacular. It was the first time she really had an opportunity to do her thing. You got to see her range in way you hadn't before, playing Keiko and the alien horror. From my end of it, it was good writing, good drama. It was a solid idea to have Miles do something against his will, to have him be coerced. It was a good episode, very strong".

"Culpable deniability. I understand. Don't worry about me, chief. My lips are sealed. Nobody will get anything out of me. Not even my name."
"Rom, everybody on the station knows your name."
(confused) "Right." (a pause) But I won't confirm it."

- Rom and O'Brien

"For the first forty minutes it was like pulling teeth even getting him to admit his name."

- Odo, after interrogating Rom
posted by Halloween Jack (8 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
The Rom bit about not revealing his name was hilarious. Rom's quasi-B-story in this episode was really great. It's easy for a show to forget about such a minor character as Rom, so it was nice to see steady evolution for him as he becomes a station engineer.

I actually really liked the episode overall, even though I am not a fan of "O'Brien in the grinder" episodes. Something about this one worked really well. There was, to me, a huge plot hole in this one, though - it seems really wacky to spend lots of time establishing a major antagonistic race that can shapeshift and assume anyone's identity and then do an alien possession episode where that race, the Founders, is neither mentioned nor suspected. It would have been nice if the Chief could have somehow suspected that Keiko was a Changeling and then discarded that assumption because of some sort of reasoning built into the story or his exposition or something...
posted by Slothrop at 11:42 AM on April 17, 2016 [3 favorites]


They have done it again: yet another good episode!!

The set-up at the start with Julian and Miles discussing Keiko's plants works well to set it up for when she returns, and then to find out it's not Keiko but some alien entity possessing her is a nice twist (especially on first watch.)

Rosalind Chao (as mentioned in the Meaney quote in the FPP) really does well here: we are so used to seeing the nice side of her, and it must be tiring for her to play the syrupy Keiko all the time, so to see her do a whole range of emotions and actions is lovely. The death thing was a bit sorta funny, kinda overacted, but I guess they wanted to emphasise the evilness of the pagh-wraith, so her death was meant to look shocking to O'Brien.

You really feel for O'Brien in this one: there are a whole load of scenes which highlight just how nasty the Pagh-wraith is: Keiko falling from the balcony, her "trust" conversation, the bit where she is brushing Molly's hair and tags is and Molly says "ow, that hurts, mummy." For O'Brien watching and caught in a bind, this must have been agonising.

The whole Rom B plot is pretty good, although having Rom act daft when he is moved to the swing shift doesn't fit with his technical abilities, and came off as a bit daft, but he got some good limes and scenes. The part where he is in the holding cell and talking to O'Brien, and he asks about why they are doing the alterations so the station will become like a giant deflector dish was good, and following that, when he susses out that no-one else knows were both nice parts that developed both plot and character.

The interaction between Quark and Rom was also very good: Quark is only in a couple of scenes, but he is great in them, and the way he says "what next, coffee and orange juice" when Rom is ordering breakfast is a funny line.

The direction worked well too, as mostly it is shots of O'Brien, and how to make it work when it is so focussed like that is tricky, but I felt it gave it a feeling of intimacy - we are there with O'Brien, sharing his suffering.

Overall, this is probably one of the best O'Brien must suffer episodes. I am also glad it wasn't a Founder: I like that they have this big new enemy, but I also want episodes in the classic Trek vein, and this was more like one of the, with the new monster-of-the-week.

Edit: this is surely the first use of the tag "spaceexorcism" on Fanfare!
posted by marienbad at 12:11 PM on April 17, 2016 [4 favorites]


I agree that Chao is great in this episode, and props to Meaney for recognizing that, but it's also a reflection on how Keiko is usually (as marienbad says above) "syrupy" that she has to be possessed by an alien demon to get a bit of an edge. It reminds me of how Voyager's Seven of Nine was written with this very stilted general affect, and how people thought that it was purely because of Jeri Ryan's acting skills (or lack thereof) until they did the episode "Body and Soul", in which the Doctor/EMH has to hide in Seven's Borg implants and similarly possesses her, and you get to see how good Ryan's acting chops really are.

I also like Rom's sort-of-B-story bits; there's a part that I didn't quote where O'Brien in effect asks Rom to play dumb, and Rom says something like, I'm Quark's brother, I know the part.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:57 AM on April 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


(Thinking about it, there are also other VOY episodes where Ryan gets to act with a bit more range, although at least one of them, "Infinite Regress", is likewise an episode in which Seven is "possessed".)
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:26 AM on April 18, 2016


I can't believe we're just now being introduced to the Pah-wraiths! So much of the stuff that stuck with me from my original DS9 viewing as a kid/teenager happens in these final 3 seasons.

Because all this stuff happens to O'Brien, I can't help but think what his actions looked like to the other crew members. Just another day at the office? O'Brien acting weird and suspicious? Did he get himself replaced by another replica?
posted by 2ht at 1:38 PM on April 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


"Syrupy" is just about the last word I would use to describe Keiko! (Well, DS9-era Keiko, anyway.) The O'Briens have plenty of genuinely tense fights, and Keiko has strong opinions and doesn't keep things to herself. One of the things I've always liked about the depiction of their marriage is that we can see it's not easy, they have serious, ongoing disagreements, but it's worthwhile anyway. They're not perfect for each other, but they choose to make it work.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 6:26 PM on April 18, 2016 [4 favorites]


One major plot hole in this episode: near the beginning, the Pah-wraith warns O'Brien not to come up with techno schemes to incapacitate Keiko, as the wraith could kill Keiko faster than any of those could have an effect. And during O'Brien's "test" mission he questions the computer about how long various methods would take to induce unconsciousness, but even the fastest — a phaser on stun — would take 0.9 seconds, still too long.

But then, the Pah-wraith makes Keiko throw herself over the upper level promenade railing, and after the fall she's unconscious. All O'Brien has to do at that point is insist that Bashir keep her that way, and he can tell everyone what's going on and they have as much time as they need to figure out how to expel the wraith.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 6:08 PM on July 7, 2017


Yes this is an enjoyable episode, but I agree with DevilsAdvocate that there are some plot holes here and there. We can maybe assume that Keiko remains secretly conscious after the fall, but it seems unlikely. Also, Chief O'Brien could simply call anyone on his communicator and tell them what's going on, his manner of trying to contact Sisko was needlessly obvious. In fact, if he'd simply chosen to get the computer to tell him where Keiko was before finding Sisko he could have avoided the fall.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 1:30 AM on February 5


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