Star Trek: Deep Space Nine ‘In The Pale Moonlight’ Series 6 Episode 19. Original Airdate 15th April 1998, directed by Victor Lobol, story by Peter Allan Fields and teleplay by Michael Taylor.
When you think of Star Trek as a whole, you probably think of the optimism, bright colours and overall peaceful ethos. Not the dark realities of both leading and being a front line trooper in war. The latter is touched upon well in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’s ‘The Seige of AR – 558’ and the former is covered near perfectly in this majestic 42-carat jewel in Star Trek’s crown, ‘In The Pale Moonlight’.
Taking its title from Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman (from the line “Have you ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight?”), The framing device of Captain Sisko dictating his log is genius in its execution. In the hands of a less capable actor, simply delivering a soliloquy might flounder. But Avery Brooks is far from an incapable actor. Simple things like his hand gestures, the manner he portrayed his inner conflict by pacing the room and above all, his delivery kept me enraptured every time I have seen this episode. Even in 801 episodes and 13 films, Star Trek has rarely delved into the territory of the soliloquy. It being in the opening shot simply grabs the viewer’s attention from the off.
Then I must bring your attention to the Captain as he slowly undresses his uniform during this sequence. While this might go unnoticed, he starts off delivering it in full Starfleet everyday garb and as we get to the crux of the story of how Romulus got involved in the Dominion War, he is down to his vest. This is a subtle, but nonetheless beautiful piece of direction, a visual metaphor for Sisko becoming more and more open with us the viewers as the log in the episode goes on, and one which makes me toast every time to the titan of excellence that is this episode.
One of my favourite Science Fiction films is Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. This is primarily because like the Star Trek and Star Wars universes, it has a near unfathomable depth. The glass of clearly Romulan Ale (another superb piece of storytelling, Sisko toasts us with the species’ own signature drink) is a glass from the 1982 film. A superb touch.
Now I have discussed the wrap around, it would be unfair not to give the same treatment to the filling of the sandwich. Thankfully, Avery Brooks is as great in the rest as he is in the wrap around. The performance as the mournful Captain once Senator Vreenak uncovers the deception is S Tier acting (there’s a reason the ‘ITS A FAKEEEEEEEEEE’ meme has endured so long. Even that line which could easily be delivered ham fisted, is actually pivotal).
Probably owing to the fact he both had to endure a lengthy process to get his Quark prosthetics on and off and he was also playing Principal Snyder in Buffy the Vampire Slayer with regularity at the time. So Quarks has I think just a single scene. I’m slowly binging Buffy right now, so I’m looking for an episode where he’s in it a lot and I’ll know which was being filmed when this was. Armin Shimmerman manages in his one scene to completely own it with his great performance of a frankly wronged Quark who then immediately seizes the opportunity to cash in and restore his faith in the rule of Acquisition.
Speaking of great performances, Andrew Robinson gives us a great turn as Garak. While I’m not particularly fond of it being an obvious stunt double as he takes Sisko’s stage punch toward the end, he has a fair bit of exposition. He sells every line of his dialogue masterfully and in the space of just over 40 minutes, thanks to this, we are keenly aware of the matter of why the Romulans went from a non-aggression pact with the Dominion to becoming a key Ally to the Starfleet side.
Finally, it would be remiss of me to not mention the sheer quality of this episode’s writing. It is quite the heavy task to create an in depth and overall, intriguing piece to add to Star Trek’s hefty lore. The writers simply did it here. Every line is quotable, I can just re watch this episode at any time and it is just as fresh as in its premiere in 1998. To quote Charles ‘Trip’ Tucker III in Enterprise’s ‘Broken Bow’: ‘that ain’t small potatoes!’
On the off chance you cannot tell, I one hundred per cent recommend you give ‘In The Pale Moonlight’ the watch it deserves so richly. Every facet that is Star Trek (of any series) is present here. In plentiful supply. From Terry Farrell giving one of her last great performances channelling a Romulan to Avery Brook’s acting, the writing, even the stage direction. All are above S Tier. In my mind, this belongs in the rarefied atmosphere of Star Trek episodes such as ‘City on the Edge of Forever’, ‘Best of Both Worlds’, ‘Chain of Command’, ‘Way of the Warrior’, ‘Scorpion’ and ‘In A Mirror Darkly’.
All but one of those are two parters too. So, I’ll leave you with the question of ‘does the fact this is a single part bottle episode nudge it that little bit higher’?
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