In the Pale Moonlight
|"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|
"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.
The title comes from a saying that "in the pale moonlight" is where one dances with the devil.
Captain Benjamin Sisko (Avery Brooks), worried over events of the last two weeks, recites an entry into his personal log, the events of which are revealed in flashbacks. He says the whole matter is classified and a secret, which he cannot discuss with anyone. He explains that he realized that the only way for the Federation and its allies to win the war with the Dominion is to bring the neutral Romulans to their side. He enlists the help of former Cardassian spy Elim Garak (Andrew Robinson) to obtain Dominion plans to invade the Romulan Empire, but Garak's allies are killed before they find that information. Garak offers an alternative solution: forging a recording of Dominion officials. This 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 obtains permission from Starfleet for the plan to go ahead.
Sisko allows Garak to continue and secures the release of a forger named Grathon Tolar (Howard Shangraw) from a Klingon prison, as well as providing a large quantity of bio-mimetic gel, a rare and highly regulated material, from Dr. Julian Bashir (Alexander Siddig) to trade for an authentic data rod. Dr. Bashir only provides the gel grudgingly after being ordered to do so by Capt. Sisko and filing a formal protest, risking the exposure of the entire plan. Matters become even more complicated when Tolar attacks and injures Quark (Armin Shimerman) during an altercation in which Tolar had drunkenly tried to assault one of Quark's hostesses, and Quark came to the woman's aid and was stabbed as a result. Sisko buys Quark's silence with an expensive bribe and gets Odo (René Auberjonois) to drop the issue, claiming it was a sensitive matter concerning Starfleet security. Tolar creates a holographic record of a Dominion meeting between Damar (Casey Biggs) and Weyoun (Jeffrey Combs) discussing plans involving the Romulan invasion. Meanwhile, 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. The Romulan easily determines that the recording is fake and quickly departs the station. As Sisko prepares to face 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 as an assurance that the plan would work. Garak also admits he killed Tolar in order to keep his work secret. Garak maintains that when the Romulans scan the wreckage, they will find the data rod and attribute any signs of forgery to damage from the explosion. This evidence would be enough to implicate the Dominion, with Dominion protests of innocence only serving to further convince the Romulans of their guilt, as the Romulans would have done the same thing. Garak reminds Sisko that he had been included in this plan to do the things that Sisko wasn't capable of doing. 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 is a bargain.
Subsequently, the Romulans join with the Federation against the Dominion and quickly start striking at nearby Dominion outposts. At the end of the flashbacks, Sisko admits that Garak was right about a guilty conscience being a small price to pay, and that he can live with his decision for the good of the Alpha Quadrant races. He then orders the computer to delete the entire log entry.
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 casting
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. In the 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 reception
"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.
Home media release
"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.
- Erdmann & Block 2000, p. 556.
- Erdmann & Block 2000, p. 557.
- Erdmann & Block 2000, p. 558.
- Jones & Parkin 2003, p. 253.
- DeCandido, Keith (October 17, 2014). "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch: "In the Pale Moonlight"". Tor.com. Retrieved June 7, 2016.
- Erdmann & Block 2000, p. 555.
- Rossi, Marcelo (May 18, 2011). "Andy Robinson Interview – Inside Star Trek Magazine". StarTrek.com. Retrieved June 7, 2016.
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- Garmon, Jay (May 17, 2012). "The five best Deep Space Nine episodes of all time!". TechRepublic. Retrieved June 7, 2016.
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- "Reviews". Dreamwatch (51): 77. November 1998.
- Robinson 1999, p. 240.
- Handlen, Zack (December 19, 2013). "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: "In The Pale Moonlight"". The A.V. Club. Retrieved June 7, 2016.
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- Erdmann, Terry J.; Block, Paula M. (2000). Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion. New York: Pocket Books. ISBN 978-0-671-50106-8.
- Jones, Mark; Parkin, Lance (2003). Beyond the Final Frontier: An Unauthorised Review of Star Trek. London: Contender. ISBN 978-1-84357-080-6.
- Robinson, Frank M. (1999). Science Fiction of the 20th Century. Portland: Collector's Press. ISBN 978-1-888-05430-9.
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