In the Pale Moonlight
"In the Pale Moonlight" is the 143rd episode of the American science fiction television series Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, the 19th of the sixth season. It originally aired on April 15, 1998, in broadcast syndication.
|"In the Pale Moonlight"|
|Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode|
|Episode no.||Season 6|
|Directed by||Victor Lobl|
|Story by||Peter Allan Fields|
|Teleplay by||Michael Taylor|
|Featured music||David Bell|
|Cinematography by||Jonathan West|
|Editing by||Michael Westmore, Jr.|
|Original air date||April 15, 1998|
|Running time||45 minutes|
The episode received Nielsen ratings of 4.8 points corresponding to nearly 4.7 million viewers.
Captain Benjamin Sisko (Avery Brooks), conflicted over events of the last two weeks, recounts his experiences in a personal log entry, the details of which are revealed in flashbacks. The losses suffered by the Federation in the war with the Dominion are taking their toll, with Sisko noting that whenever a casualty list is posted at least one of his officers spots the name of a friend or loved one. A major advantage the Dominion has is their non-aggression pact with the Romulans, who are allowing the Dominion free passage through their territory. Sisko decides that in order for the Federation and its allies to win the war, he must bring the Romulans in on their side no matter what.
Sisko enlists the help of former Cardassian spy Elim Garak (Andrew Robinson) to obtain intelligence from Cardassia, assuming the Dominion must be considering a conquest of Romulus eventually, but all of Garak's contacts end up dead shortly after communicating with him. Garak instead suggests they forge a recording of Dominion leaders discussing a surprise attack. Hesitant, but driven forward by the Dominion's recent conquest of Betazed, Sisko obtains permission from Starfleet to proceed.
On Garak's request, Sisko secures the release of a forger named Grathon Tolar (Howard Shangraw) from a Klingon prison. Then, in order to obtain an authentic Cardassian secure data rod, he is forced to trade a large quantity of bio-mimetic gel, a rare, dangerous, and highly regulated material. Dr. Bashir (Alexander Siddig) strongly objects, and relents only when Sisko orders him unequivocally; providing the doctor with the orders in writing, the doctor still vows to lodge a formal complaint. Matters are complicated when Tolar stabs Quark (Armin Shimerman) in an altercation while drunk. To keep Tolar out of trouble, he bribes Quark and convinces Odo (René Auberjonois) to drop the matter. At this point, Sisko recognizes the legal and ethical compromises he is making but presses on knowing it is for the greater good.
Tolar creates a holographic record of a Dominion meeting between Damar (Casey Biggs) and Weyoun (Jeffrey Combs) discussing plans involving the invasion of the Romulan Empire. Meanwhile, on Garak's advice, Sisko invites Vreenak (Stephen McHattie), an influential Romulan senator, to Deep Space Nine in secret. Sisko shows Vreenak the recording and gives him the data rod, but the senator discovers the forgery and departs, furious and vowing to expose the deception. As Sisko faces the possibility that his actions may actually force the Romulans to join with the Dominion once Vreenak returns to the Empire, he learns that Vreenak's ship was destroyed en route.
Sisko angrily confronts Garak, who admits he planted a bomb on Vreenak's ship in case the forgery was not accepted. Garak also admits he killed Tolar in order to keep his work secret. Garak maintains that when the Romulans scan the wreckage and find the rod, any imperfections will be attributed to damage from the explosion, and thus the recording will implicate the Dominion as planned. Garak asserts that Sisko included him in the plan to do the things that Sisko was unwilling to do. Garak also states that Sisko can ease his conscience with the knowledge that the Alpha Quadrant may have been saved at the cost of the life of one Romulan senator, one criminal and the self respect of one Starfleet officer, which he calls a bargain.
Subsequently, the Romulans join with the Federation and declare war against the Dominion, quickly striking at nearby Dominion outposts. At the end of his log entry, Sisko admits that Garak was right about a guilty conscience being a small price to pay, and states, somewhat uncertainly, that he can live with his decision for the good of the Alpha Quadrant. He then orders the computer to delete the entire personal log.
The episode has origins in a discussion the writing staff had about the Vietnam War, which quickly moved onto the Watergate scandal. They began working on an idea in which Jake Sisko discovered some incriminating information regarding Shakaar, the leader of the Bajoran Government. If revealed, it would bring down the Government, and so at a time of war, Captain Sisko would be forced to prevent his son from revealing the information. At this point, the episode was called "Patriot". The plot quickly evolved to become information on Sisko instead. Writer Michael Taylor wrote a screenplay which saw Jake Sisko attempting to interview Garak, but following the evasiveness of the Cardassian, he realises that something is amiss. Captain Sisko tells him to back off Garak, but Jake's investigation reveals that the duo were attempting to bring the Romulans into the war against the Dominion. The Captain tells his son that he would prevent the publishing of the story, but the writing team didn't buy into the conflict between those characters.
Ronald D. Moore began working with Taylor to revise the screenplay, dropping Jake from the plot entirely. They were having trouble with the pacing of the story, but Moore realised while drinking late at night that it would work if it was told in flashbacks. He pitched the idea the following morning, and it was accepted by the writing team. The screenplay was entirely re-written. Taylor called the final version "brilliant" but admitted that it had mostly been written by Moore. Moore explained that the story needed something of weight in order to push Sisko along. The writing team discussed having the Dominion take one of the well known planets of the Federation. Vulcan was considered, but it was felt to be too important and so Betazed was chosen instead. Ira Steven Behr added the final line of the episode, "I can live with it", as a reference to the 1962 film The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. The title of the episode came from the line in the 1989 "Batman" film, "Have you ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight?".
Direction and castingEdit
Director Victor Lobl also planned out the mannerisms shown by Brooks as Sisko where he talks directly to the camera. He praised the actor, saying that he delivered exactly what Lobl's written direction had described. All of those sequences were shot almost in direct continuity to ensure that the audience believed that it was a single log recording. Lobl had those filmed very tightly, and so there were not many options available in editing as only two angles were filmed for those sequences. The script had called for Sisko to get more and more drunk during those sequences as he descends into the flashbacks; Lobl had expected the studio to pull that idea before filming but they did not. Lobl also had Sisko begin to remove various parts of his uniform at the same time, which he felt demonstrated that the character was baring his soul about the story.
"In the Pale Moonlight" featured several recurring characters and actors, with Combs as Weyoun, Biggs as Damar and Robinson as Garak. Joining them was McHattie, portraying Ambassador Vreenak. He made a second appearance in the Star Trek franchise in the Star Trek: Enterprise episode "The Xindi" as an alien foreman.
Executive producer Rick Berman said that when creating Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, he had to obey the rules as set out by franchise creator Gene Roddenberry, and compared the normal Starfleet officers to that of Boy Scouts. Berman suggested that "In the Pale Moonlight" was the exception. Taylor said that the episode "pushes the boundaries in a realistic way". In an interview in 2011, when talking about "In the Pale Moonlight", Robinson compared Starfleet to Americans in general. He said "we're not really willing to take the consequences of our actions, and sometimes we have to do very dirty things, and we have to hurt people, and we pretend that that doesn't exist, that Americans would never do that. We dealt with issues like that and I don't think... you know... the other shows really went as far as we did."
"In the Pale Moonlight" was first broadcast on April 15, 1998, in broadcast syndication. It received Nielsen ratings of 4.8 percent, placing it in 14th place overall in its timeslot. Among first-run syndication series, it was placed second for the week behind Xena: Warrior Princess but ahead of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. This was higher than the share received by "Inquisition", broadcast in the week prior with a 4.7 percent share and "His Way" in the week afterwards with 4.3 percent.
Fan and critical receptionEdit
"In the Pale Moonlight" has been one of the best received episodes of the series by fans. A survey conducted by Sci Fi Magazine at the end of the series placed the episode as the fan's favourite, while members of the Official Star Trek Fan Club have ranked it among the top ten. Jay Garmon at TechRepublic listed it as the best episode of the series in 2012, describing it when Deep Space Nine' stood apart from the other series in the franchise and "found a whole new layer of storytelling, depth, and relevance". Charlie Jane Anders listed "In the Pale Moonlight" as the seventh best episode of the entire franchise, in a list of the top 100 episodes for io9 in 2014, having placed it in the same position in a top ten of the franchise in 2011. Lexi Watson ranked "In the Pale Moonlight" in first place out of the whole franchise for Digital Spy in 2016, saying "Do [Sisko's] good intentions matter? Does the end always justify the means? Everyone will take something different from this episode and ultimately there may not be a right answer. You don't get that on Downton Abbey."
Most critics also responded positively to the episode. The review of the VHS release in Dreamwatch magazine describe the episode as "probably the strongest of the season" and among the best episodes of Deep Space Nine. It called the plot "original", "daring" and "unexpected". Frank M. Robinson in his 1999 book, Science Fiction of the 20th Century, describes "In the Pale Moonlight" as "Captain Sisko is forced to betray his ideals to save the lives of millions on a galactic scale at the cost of one petty criminal and one ambassador of an unfriendly nation. On the surface, no contest but Brooks (Sisko) played the role with depth and feeling unusual in a science-fiction series." He added that the TV Guide magazine had described it as one of the best dramatic episodes of the season. Keith DeCandido reviewed the episode for Tor.com, giving it a rating of ten out of ten. He called the fall of Betazed a "masterstroke" because it made the viewer invested in the conflict. He praised the suffering Sisko had for doing what he did, and said that both Brooks and Robinson were "at their best" with two "bravura performances".
Zack Handlen, in his review for The A.V. Club, suggested that the most shocking aspect of "In the Pale Moonlight" was that Sisko's actions were not shocking but only provided a twist. He said that the script "never overplays Sisko's deepening sense of crisis", and avoided presenting any choices as right or wrong. "In the Pale Moonlight" was included in a list of the top ten moments of the franchise prior to 2009's Star Trek. He said "As Sisko gives up his principles slowly, one by one, in order to make his plan work, you expect Trek's simple moral verities to prevail. It is dumbfounding, and chilling, when they don't."
However, Mark Jones and Lance Parkin said in Beyond the Final Frontier: An Unauthorised Review of Star Trek that the episode was "good" but "not half as shocking and dangerous as some fans would have you believe". They suggested that similar ideas were used on a number of police procedurals, and were the standard on Mission: Impossible.
In 2016, Radio Times ranked the Sisko's deletion of his logs the 27th greatest moment of all Star Trek film and television. They note this as case where Sisko gives up his principles, and note it as an example of the moral complexities presented in the show; he tries to weigh his actions against the goal of a victory in the Dominion war.
In 2017, Space.com rated "In the Pale Moonlight" as the 5th best Star Trek episode overall out of its 700+ episodes, behind "The Measure of a Man" (#1), "The Trouble with Tribbles" (#2), "The Menagerie"(#3), and "The Best of Both Worlds" (#4). In 2016, The Hollywood Reporter ranked this episode as the #1 best of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
In 2009, Time Magazine rated "In the Pale Moonlight " as one of the top ten moments of Star Trek. They call it "chilling" as Sisko slowly gives up his principles as the war gets more desperate. In 2016, The Washington Post ranked "In the Pale Moonlight" the 4th best episode of all Star Trek.
In June 2019, it was rated the fifth best episode of almost 760 Star Trek episodes produced up to that time, by Screen Rant. Io9 ranked it as the seventh best episode of all Star Trek episodes up to 2011. In 2015, Geek.com rated the moment when the Romulans announce to Sisko they determined the data rod was a fake, the 13th best moment in all Star Trek.
Home media releaseEdit
"In the Pale Moonlight" was released as part of a two-episode VHS release in the United Kingdom in November 1998. The other episode featured on the tape was "His Way". It was released on DVD as part of the season six box set on November 4, 2003. It is also featured on the Star Trek Fan Collective – Captain's Log DVD box set as one of three Deep Space Nine Episodes featured. This was released on July 24, 2007.
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