Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Honor Among Thieves   Rewatch 
August 22, 2016 2:33 PM - Season 6, Episode 15 - Subscribe

The FBIStarfleet Intelligence sends Donnie BrascoO'Brien to infiltrate the MafiaOrion Syndicate to find who's been leaking information to them, but is he getting in too deep?

Every time I try to get out of Memory Alpha, they keep pulling me back in!:

- Philip Kim's original idea for this episode was a comic story involving Jake saving the life of the daughter of the Orion Syndicate's leader, and, due to his actions, Jake is befriended by a number of high-ranking Syndicate members. At first, he loves it, with his new friends able to get him anything he wants whenever he wants. However, Jake and Nog have a small argument on the Promenade and the next day, Jake discovers that Nog is in the Infirmary after suffering a nasty beating. At this point, Jake realizes he's into something he can't control, and he goes to his father for help. The comic element of the story was to come from the fact that while Jake is trying to extricate himself from the Syndicate, Quark is trying to work his way into it, so he decides to become Jake's new best friend. Ultimately however, it turns out that the whole situation with the daughter had been set up by a member of the organization trying to usurp power for himself.

- Charles Hallahan was originally cast in the role of Liam Bilby, but sadly passed away several days before principal photography began. Nick Tate, who initially lost the role to Hallahan, agreed to do it in his memory. However, despite Tate's excellent performance, the loss of Hallahan was something which Ira Steven Behr feels hurt the episode; "We wanted to put Colm Meaney against another actor and just let them hold the screen for forty-two minutes, and within this science fiction setting make you care about the humanity of these people. That was the intent. It was a fragile thing. The episode's success was totally dependent on that relationship. If the relationship sinks, then the whole episode sinks. If the relationship is okay, then the whole episode is okay. And I think that's what we had. We had okay." Behr's comments stem from the fact that when Hallahan was in the role, the Bilby/O'Brien relationship was going to be very much a father/son relationship, mainly due to the physical similarities between Hallahan and Meaney (same build, same height, same color hair etc.) but with Tate, it was felt such that a relationship wouldn't work (no one could imagine Tate as Meaney's father), so it was changed to a simple friendship, which Behr feels damaged the emotional core of the narrative; "I still have trouble watching the show because I still always see Charlie in it. As a character, O'Brien is so genuine and so trustworthy, and there's no guile in him. And for me, Charlie was the perfect guy to play Bilby, because he had what O'Brien has. It would have been reflections of two guys who were a lot alike, and Charlie would have broken your heart." (People may remember Hallahan as the station crew member in John Carpenter's version of The Thing whose chest, post-assimilation, opened up to chomp off the hands of someone attempting CPR, followed by two versions of his head separating from the body and sprouting spider-like legs.)

- René Echevarria was a little disappointed with how this show turned out; "I'm not sure we found a level to this that made it truly an O'Brien show, or even truly a Deep Space Nine show. The story's a little familiar. Every television detective series has done a story about a crime fighter going undercover, getting involved, and coming to respect the code of the bad guy. So it wasn't a resounding success for me. But O'Brien is our Everyman, and if O'Brien can find himself sympathizing with a gangster-thug-killer, then anyone should be able to."

- Though Worf, Dax, Bashir, Leeta, and Quark visited Risa (in Season Five's "Let He Who Is Without Sin...") around the same time Bilby claims Raimus persuaded a Starfleet officer working at Risa's weather control station to become an operative for the Syndicate, there is no indication that this character was ever seen on-screen in the earlier episode.

- Gelnon was the Vorta who commanded the Jem'Hadar team who commandeered the USS Defiant in the previous episode "One Little Ship".

"Hey, what do you make of that, Chester? I've found me an honest man. Must be my lucky day."

- Bilby, to his cat while talking to O'Brien in his apartment

"You're telling me that the Orion Syndicate is working for the Dominion?"
"Opens up a lot of possibilities, doesn't it?"
"None of them very pleasant."

- Chadwick, when O'Brien tells him Raimus is working with Gelnon, a Vorta
posted by Halloween Jack (12 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
The episode doesn't work because the viewer has no reason to care about Bilby. The writers blame having to recast the role, but it's not the actor's fault the script wasn't strong enough. Bilby kills a man, but we're supposed to sympathize with him because he talks about his wife and kids?

The Godfather did it with Micheal, Goodfellas did it with Henry, and The Sopranos would do it with Tony. But that takes longer than a single episode of a TV show. The writers were hoping the chemistry between Colm Meaney and the guest actor would be so strong that it would sell the premise. But that is beyond what DS9 is capable of. The closest the show got was "Waltz", and that took 5.5 seasons to come to.

So it's bizarre that O'Brien would be motivated to knock out Chadwick. My only explanation is that O'Brien has been away from Bashir for so long that he is frustrated and horny and needs to take it out on someone.
posted by riruro at 4:13 PM on August 22, 2016 [4 favorites]


This episode never did much for me, although IIRC it does offer up another confirmation that same-sex stuff is no big deal in Trek-land, when Bilby is trying to hook O'Brien up with some companionship and he casually says something like, "Oh, so you don't like women, maybe. Maybe a man..?" But other than that eyebrow-raising five seconds I mostly remember thinking this played like somebody had watched Wiseguy and they were doing a so-so job trying to do Vinnie Teranova in space.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 4:28 PM on August 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


Philip Kim's original idea for this episode was a comic story involving Jake saving the life of the daughter of the Orion Syndicate's leader, and, due to his actions, Jake is befriended by a number of high-ranking Syndicate members. At first, he loves it, with his new friends able to get him anything he wants whenever he wants. However, Jake and Nog have a small argument on the Promenade and the next day, Jake discovers that Nog is in the Infirmary after suffering a nasty beating.

This would have been almost exactly the same as the Simpsons episode "Bart the Murderer."

Though Worf, Dax, Bashir, Leeta, and Quark visited Risa (in Season Five's "Let He Who Is Without Sin...") around the same time Bilby claims Raimus persuaded a Starfleet officer working at Risa's weather control station to become an operative for the Syndicate, there is no indication that this character was ever seen on-screen in the earlier episode.

Maybe Worf blew his cover somehow! THAT should've been the hook for the episode.

The episode doesn't work because the viewer has no reason to care about Bilby.

Just wait 'til Season 7's sequel to this episode, "Prodigal Daughter," after which you'll regard this one as almost "Waltz"-esque by comparison.

The main reason I like this one is that I think it is THE closest look we ever get at the Orion Syndicate (with the possible exception of some ENT episodes I've forgotten). They did a fine job with that from a world-building point of view. But only the hardcore nerds would have that much interest.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 4:41 PM on August 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


My favorite part of this episode is when the turbolift gets stuck and Jadzia hops out, turns around, and helps Worf out.

I liked seeing the seedier side of the galaxy.
posted by 2ht at 4:56 PM on August 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


This episode didn't do much for me - but I sure am glad they didn't try the original story idea around Jake. Six seasons in, he's not a kid anymore, watching him being that immature would have been painful.
posted by oh yeah! at 6:50 PM on August 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


I wasn't too thrilled by this episode myself. It's not even like they had to match or even be in the same ballpark as Scorsese or Coppola; one of the reasons why I referenced Donnie Brasco, besides the fact that the plots broadly resemble each other and that that movie came out almost exactly a year before this episode, is that the movie is a nifty little mobster tale in its own right, even within the undercover-infiltrator-gangster subgenre. (Pacino, in particular, is great in a role that's almost the exact opposite of Michael Corleone in a lot of ways; there's a scene near the end that's almost heartbreaking in a very quiet way.) But, as riruro notes above, the episode doesn't really sell Bilby's relationship with O'Brien well enough to make it work.

I have a couple of ideas that could have helped sell the episode. One is that O'Brien could have used some of the incidents from his past--I'm thinking about "Tribunal" and "Hard Time", as well as Setlik III from "The Wounded" in TNG--to establish himself as a former Starfleet non-commissioned officer who got burned out on the service and the Federation and wants more than what a cashless society can give him. This could turn into O'Brien getting into the role so much that he starts to question his loyalty to Starfleet for real and wonder why he was willing to endure so much suffering when even Nog outranked him now. Of course, there's his family, but he's felt alienated from them before; this could similarly have been amplified with the scene with the prostitute, if O'Brien had had a chance to talk to her in private. He tells her that he's got a family that he hasn't seen for a while and that he still wants to be faithful to his wife, and she tells him that she has a family that doesn't know what she does, and that everyone deserves a little private corner of themselves that they don't have to share with anyone.

Similarly, the "Starfleet mole" subplot could have been reworked to more explicitly reference "Let He Who Is Without Sin...", in that O'Brien gradually realizes that they're talking about that incident, and he simply refuses to believe that Worf is the traitor, and finds out that it's really Chadwick, who then makes a play to recruit O'Brien. Chadwick tells O'Brien that he read the report that the genetically-engineered savants prepared in "Statistical Probabilities" and that he thinks that not only is the Orion Syndicate the only organization in the quadrant that can deal with the Dominion, but that it's best prepared to form the heart of the resistance after the Dominion takes over. He could appeal to O'Brien to do it for his family, and even appeal to his history with the Cardassians that the Syndicate could supplant the Cardassians as the Dominion's viceroys in the quadrant. Referencing these past episodes could have made up for the relative brevity of this story, especially if it planted the seeds for the idea that O'Brien may have been seriously tempted by the offer(s).
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:28 PM on August 22, 2016 [7 favorites]


I love it, Jack, but I suspect the DS9 writers wouldn't have wanted to sully O'Brien's character that much. After the episode, he'd go back to the station and have a little flicker of resentment inside from then on. From what they've said about him, the writers seem to have been attached to the notion of him being "the everyman" of the crew—the one who can be relied on to be relatable to viewers when stuff gets crazy. I'm not saying they're wrong to prioritize having such a character (I'm rewatching TOS right now and it's good that they had McCoy), but I do think that at this late point in the series, it might have been good to (boldly) go in a new direction with the character.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 4:56 AM on August 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


Oh, great-looking cat, though.
posted by oh yeah! at 5:05 AM on August 23, 2016 [3 favorites]


I loved this episode but (1) I'm a sucker for these types of stories, and (2) looking at lists of best and worst episodes of trek it seems I have a low bar for it, as I love episodes people think are rubbish! Maybe I am just dumb or something lol.

There are obviously issues here, as have been raised by in the above comments, but I can gloss over them and just enjoy this. I like Bilby, I find the idea that he is down on his luck and caught up in the Orion stuff believable - I have known people who have gotten caught up in things and it has meant they have been separated from their family and friends for periods when they wished they didn't have to be.

I like Jack's idea above though - in the episode, when the weather control on Risa thing came up, I had forgotten about that, and it came as a shock and I felt it should have been examined further and played with more - I like Jack's idea that it is Chadwick (or someone else who is able to put the blame where they want it to fall.)
posted by marienbad at 5:59 AM on September 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


It was an okay episode except for the fact that it wasn't DS9. Like, it was very paint by number as a spy thriller but tonally it didn't really work with what was going on in this season, it didn't really fit with O'Brien's character at all, and compared to all of the other times that our heroes take actions that are outside of their morality or villains appearing sympathetic while doing horrible things, O'Brien kind of liking Bilby is so negligible that it's almost laughable. It managed to seem less like Star Trek than a holosuite episode, and those are pretty much an excuse for the show to be a different genre for an episode.
posted by dinty_moore at 2:26 PM on January 9, 2017 [1 favorite]


Just remember, family, that’s the most important thing

You know what the most important thing is, is family

It’s important to remember what the most important thing is: family
posted by DoctorFedora at 6:03 AM on August 3, 2018


(Mrs. Fedora pantomimed a “spreading it on too thick” motion a couple times when Billby was talking about family, which is the most important thing)
posted by DoctorFedora at 6:04 AM on August 3, 2018 [1 favorite]


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