The crew has spent the entire episode hunting down a rogue Federation captain who’s waging a one-man war against the Cardassians. They catch him on the verge of claiming another victim. Time for a giant space battle, right?
More like time for a supporting character to upstage the main cast by singing an old Irish folk song with the villain.
Up to this point, “The Wounded” wasn’t really such a good episode. The Cardassians, introduced here for the first time, are not yet showing their full potential as villains. We’ve spent a lot of time watching battles between dots on radar screens as Data explains the epic space battle that the show’s budget doesn’t allow it to show us. Captain Maxwell doesn’t come across as likeable or particularly unlikeable in his confrontation with Picard, just kind of bland. Even the background we’re getting about O’Brien’s wartime experiences, in a long monologue delivered to a former enemy, isn’t as moving as it’s intended to be. When O’Brien beams over to his former captain’s ship to convince him not to make the biggest mistake in his life, we’re expecting him to do exactly what everyone in this episode has been doing ad nauseum up to this point: talk, talk, talk. Instead, they sit down and sing a song that was loved by one of their fallen comrades and by the time they’re done it’s all over.
Good Star Trek episodes usually don’t have a battle at the end. The crew normally finds some way of coming to terms with the bad guy and prevail peacefully. What makes this scene great is that it’s so unexpected. Part of that is the content of the scene, and part of it is the fact that there isn’t a main character in sight — O’Brien, at this point, is just a recurring guest star who only got a first name a few weeks earlier, yet for the first time ever the day is saved without any assistance from a series regular. It was unprecedented. If you’re wondering when Colm Meaney got his job on Deep Space 9, it was right here.