Rewatching ST:TNG after a 20-year break.
This episode introduces the Cardassians, who years ago attacked Picard on the Stargazer when he approached them during a diplomatic mission. Worf grumbles that the Cardassians have no honor. Indeed, during the teaser they attack the Enterprise.
Still, Picard listens to Gul Macet’s complaint: a Federation starship has attacked an unarmed science station. Starfleet orders Picard to keep the peace at all costs, and Picard invites Macet aboard to observe the investigation.
Chief O’Brien plays a pivotal role; not only in the pleasant domestic scenes with his new wife, but also, having served under Captain Maxwell in battles against the Cardassians, he offers insights on why Maxwell might have gone rogue.
It’s a bit predictable that of Macet’s two aides, the bright-eyed nervous one will try to be friendly (and get rebuffed) and the swarthy scowling one will try to spy (and get caught). This plot would have worked perfectly well with the Romulans or the Talarians (“Suddenly Human“), but I can appreciate that, because we have no idea what to expect from Cardassians, Gul Macet’s actions seem thoughtful and individual, rather like Picard’s.
Bob Gunton portrays the rogue captain as earnest and charming, which shows us why he earned the respect of a good man like O’Brian. Gunton played Juan Peron in Evita on Broadway in 1979 and Sweeney Todd in the 1990 revival, and his charisma shows.
This episode earns face-palms when Picard foolishly leaves Maxwell in charge of his ship, and when O’Brien conveniently beams himself through the Rutledge’s shields. But the climax — a soldier and his former captain singing one last war song together — is powerful.