The Maquis trace their origins to the TNG episode, “Journey’s End.” That’s the one where the writers decided to do an allegory for Native Americans by having actual Native Americans. That’s one of my pet peeves in sci-fi, and it’s best summed up by Tyler Durden: “Sticking feathers up your butt does not make you a chicken.” If you’re going to do an allegory -- which is the laziest kind of writing, and my first published story was one, so I speak from experience -- you have to change things up/disguise them a little bit. That’s why District 9 justifiably rubbed a lot of people the wrong way: you can’t do an apartheid allegory set in South Africa.
Anyway, there was a section of space, settled by both Federation and Cardassians, and when the treaty ending the war drew the border down the middle, Federation citizens ended up on the Cardassian side, and Cardassians ended up on the Federation side. The Native Americans were one of the unlucky ones. The plot of that episode centered around the Federation wanting to relocate the Native Americans to the Federation side of the border. They didn’t want to go, and the eventual solution was to just leave everyone where they were and allow each government to rule their new alien citizens.
Then, the Enterprise f--ked off into space.
At its best, TNG was about possibility. DS9 is about consequence. This elegant solution -- in fact that episode is framed as a happy ending -- creates the one enemy that will inspire Ben Sisko to go full on supervillain. Not that anyone knew this at the time. You could argue that Starfleet was naive and the Cardassians cynical, but it didn’t seem like this was the goal. The consequence of this treaty is that, now, instead of a giant, shooting war between two great Alpha Quadrant powers, now there’s a sub rosa shooting war between two collections of backwoods hicks. The crew of DS9 doesn’t know this until a Cardassian freighter gets blown up right off one of the docking pylons in a daring act of sabotage. To the crew’s credit, they remember the Bajoran Trilogy and assume that if a Cardassian vessel was destroyed, it might be smuggling weapons.
While Cardassian Central Command is silent, and Bajor prepares for the very real possibility of reprisal, Gul Dukat just appears on the station. Seriously. Sisko walks into his quarters, and there’s Dukat sitting in the dark. Sisko understandably takes this as a threat and has Kira locate Jake immediately. One of my favorite parts of Dukat’s character -- and there are a lot, as I love the magnificent bastard -- is that he honestly seems to buy his own bulls--t. He acts astonished when Sisko takes this late-night visit as anything other than one colleague reaching out to another and swears that he would never do anything to harm Sisko’s son. Dude. You were sitting in the dark in another person’s quarters. That’s, at best, stalker behavior.
Dukat wants to show Sisko something, so they grab a runabout and fly out to the Demilitarized Zone (which I will henceforth refer to as the DMZ. Avery Brooks overpronounces every syllable of that one, and I would rather not type it, thank you). Upon arrival, they instantly come across two Cardassian shuttles outfitted with Galor-class phaser banks (Galor-class ships are the standard Cardassian ship-of-the-line, and yes, I knew this without having to look it up, and yes, I’ve totally kissed a girl before.) attacking a Federation cargo ship. Dukat orders them to stand down, even giving them his security code. The Cardassians ignore them, then, all of a sudden, a Federation ship -- really nothing more than another retrofitted freighter -- blows both Cardassians out of the sky with some photon torpedoes(!). The big question now is, what are these civilian vessels doing with military grade weapons? That would be like if I started launching hellfire missiles off the back of my Honda Civic, which considering how many times I’ve seen the Fast and the Furious movies, is not outside the realm of possibility.
They head down to one of the colonies and find a meeting going on between Federation colonists (led by Tony Plana, perhaps most famous as Jefe from Three Amigos), Cardassian colonists, and the two representatives from the respective governments: Gul Evek (last seen in Playing God, when he was supremely unhelpful with the vole outbreak) and Commander Cal Hudson (Bernie Casey, yes that Bernie Casey), an old friend of Sisko’s. Both sides believe that the governments are funneling weapons to their people in the hopes that this secret war will be won. It’s pretty unlikely the Federation would do this. As though to exonerate the Federation (Our heroes won’t be getting really gray for another season or two.), there is a Vulcan on DS9 trying to buy weapons from Quark in a subplot I’m barely going to mention. In the meeting, tensions explode when it’s revealed that the saboteur of that Cardassian freighter in the beginning has been captured by the Cardassians, made a full confession, then committed suicide in his cell. No one believes the suicide story -- even Dukat thinks it’s stupid, albeit for a very Cardassian reason: “A good interrogator doesn’t allow his subject to die; you lose the advantage.”
With Sisko’s eyes opened, he returns to the station. Kira pleads the case for the colonists, while the group trying to buy weapons abducts Dukat. Just before Sisko, Kira, and Bashir leave on a rescue mission, they get a message. A group called the Maquis based in the DMZ is taking credit for the kidnapping. Our heroes track the Maquis to a section of space called the Badlands, known for frequent and violent plasma storms, which ends up touching off the plot for Voyager in a year. They beam down onto a planet and instantly get captured by a Maquis ambush. In the final gut punch, the man leading these rebels is Ben Sisko’s old pal, Cal Hudson.
This is the beginning of why the Maquis really irk Sisko. It’s not just that they’re Federation citizens and personnel committing acts of terrorism -- though that’s a big part -- it’s that they seduced a friend of his with their cause, mildly French name, and loose-fitting fashions. The early part of the episode establishes the friendship between the two men (along with Curzon Dax, of course). Both are widowers, and while the loss of Jennifer turned Sisko into the the greatest officer Starfleet will ever see, it seems the loss of Gretchen Hudson set Cal adrift. He needed a cause, and in his defense, he found possibly a worthy one. We know the Cardassians are brutal, Machiavellian schemers, so the idea that they’re supplying their side is not farfetched. Does that justify the actions of the Maquis? Maybe Part 2 will give us a definitive answer.
Just kidding, it totally doesn’t. Let’s hear it for narrative complexity!
Next up: More Maquis!