In the Pale Moonlight

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"In the Pale Moonlight"
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode
Episode no. Season 6
Episode 19
Directed by Victor Lobl
Teleplay by Michael Taylor
Story by Peter Allan Fields
Produced by
Featured music David Bell
Cinematography by Jonathan West
Editing by Michael Westmore, Jr.
Production code 543
Original air date April 15, 1998 (1998-04-15)
Running time 45 minutes
Guest actors
Episode chronology
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List of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episodes

"In the Pale Moonlight" is the nineteenth episode of the sixth season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and the 143rd episode of the show overall.

Sick of the losses the Federation is taking in the war, Sisko enlists Garak's help in getting the Romulans to join the Federation against the Dominion. Sisko soon learns that in order to save the Federation, he must violate the values for which it stands.


Captain Sisko, worried over events of the last two weeks, recites an entry into his personal log which is revealed as flashbacks. Sisko, deeply troubled, says to himself, as he begins the log, that he needs to talk about what has happened to put it into perspective and regrets that he can't even talk to his closest friend and confidant Jadzia Dax as the whole matter is classified and a secret. He realizes that the war with the Dominion has been costly for the Federation and its allies. Presented with a bad situation that is expected to turn worse, he concludes that the only chance for success is to bring the neutral Romulan Empire to their side.

To do this, Sisko plots with former Cardassian spy Garak to obtain evidence of Dominion plans to invade the Romulan Empire, but Garak's allies are killed before they find that information. Lacking other legitimate methods, Garak offers an alternative solution: forging a recording of Dominion officials planning to conquer the Romulan Empire, which would then be encoded onto a Cardassian data rod. The data would then be given to the Romulans as evidence to provoke them to war.

Hesitant of the plan but driven forward by the Dominion's recent conquest of Betazed, Sisko gets authorization from Starfleet Command for the plan and as he laments, that was the easy part. Then, Sisko allows Garak to continue and assists him by securing the release of a criminal forger with a talent for holographic programming named Grathon Tolar from a Klingon prison where he faces execution as well as providing a large quantity of rare bio-mimetic gel to trade for an authentic data rod. Sisko's actions are questioned by Dr. Bashir, as the gel is extremely dangerous and can be used to make biological weapons, but Sisko refuses to discuss the details. The Doctor only complies when Sisko directly orders his cooperation and consequently provides a copy of the orders in writing. Bashir, in turn, asserts his privilege as Chief of Medical staff and says he will file an official protest.

Matters become more complicated when Tolar attacks and injures Quark during an altercation in the bar. It emerges that Tolar, in a drunken state, tried to dance/flirt with one of Quark's hostesses. She refused and Tolar tried to assault her. Quark came to the woman's aide and was stabbed as a result. Sisko buys Quark's silence with an expensive bribe and gets Odo to drop the issue, stating that it's a sensitive matter concerning Starfleet Security.

Once Tolar has created a convincing holographic record of a Dominion meeting between Damar and Weyoun discussing plans involving a Romulan attack, Sisko invites Vreenak, an influential Romulan senator, to Deep Space Nine in secret. Sisko shows Vreenak the recording and gives him the data rod to verify its authenticity.

However, Sisko discovers shortly afterwards that Vreenak has recognized the recording as a fake, after which Vreenak quickly departs the station. As Sisko prepares to face the possibility that his actions may 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 goes to Garak and assaults him, and Garak admits he planted a bomb on Vreenak's ship as an assurance that his plan would work; when the Romulans scan the wreckage, they will find the data rod, and attribute any signs of forgery to damage from the destruction. This evidence would be enough to implicate the Dominion, with Dominion protests of innocence only serving to further convince the Romulans of their guilt.

Garak admits that while Tolar could create the hologram, the quality of the work was sub par. As such, he killed him and presumably neatly disposed of the remains, in order to keep his work secret. Garak argues to Sisko that the Alpha Quadrant has been saved at the small cost of "the life of one Romulan senator, one criminal, and the self-respect of one Starfleet officer," which, considering all circumstances, is "a bargain." Garak's plan unfolds as he intended and the Romulans join with the Federation against the Dominion. At the end of the flashbacks, Sisko admits that Garak was right, and states that he can live with his decision for the better of the Alpha Quadrant. Repeating that he can live with his decision, he then orders the computer to delete the log entry.


According to the 1999 book, Science Fiction of the 20th Century by author Frank M. Robinson, "...'In the Pale Moonlight'--was mentioned by TV Guide as one of the best dramatic shows of the season. In it, 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."[1]


  1. ^ Robinson, Frank M., Science Fiction of the 20th Century. Portland: Collector's Press, 1999. Pg.240.

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