1.05: “Babel”

Honestly, I am a sucker for episodes that deal with language issues in Star Trek. It’s prime territory for worldbuilding and politics, as well as presenting some ready-made conflicts. This was also unusual for DS9 so far in every single plot tying directly into the A plot, with very little in the way of personal subplots, and while the episode itself was relatively strong, the lack of character stuff just makes it a lot less memorable for me.

The subplot with Captain Jaheel, for instance, was…kinda boring? It felt like they wanted something to add a more action-y, ticking time bomb element, because, you know, the issue of no one being able to communicate with one another or their technology and also dying wasn’t dramatic enough. There are some hints of the drama you can explore there already in Sisko and Jake’s interactions even after Jake falls ill; I would have liked to see the story allowed to stand on its own with the main characters.

Similarly, we don’t get much of O’Brien after he falls ill, which is a shame, because he makes a really interesting point of view character in the early episodes. Previous Treks have had the Federation treating its exploration mission in a way that can come uncomfortably close to manifest destiny, and one of the central conflicts of Deep Space Nine is pushing back on that. The show establishes this in the very first episode, when Kira shuts down Bashir’s waxing romantic about the frontier with a blunt reminder that millions of people already live on his “frontier”. O’Brien’s work makes that conflict into a very real, physical thing, with the Federation and the Bajorans trying to use existing Cardassian technology in ways that it wasn’t intended to be used.

That makes it interesting that the device, initially being identified as Cardassian sabotage of the Federation, turns out to be an old piece of Bajoran Resistance sabotage instead. The Bajorans have been using Cardassian technology for their own ends for decades, so at least having someone make that connection would have been interesting. And that, in turn, makes it noticeable that O’Brien doesn’t have any Bajorans on his team, or, for that matter, anyone else at all, apparently? LEARN TO DELEGATE, CHIEF. Even if he hadn’t come down with an engineered virus that put him out of commission, he’d still have to sleep sometime.

…and with that, actually, we come full circle to my criticism that seeing more of O’Brien outside of serving as a plot device would have been interesting. It’s not entirely shocking that his instinct would be to do everything himself; he’s been a transporter tech on the Enterprise for several years now, and suddenly he’s in a more supervisory role. I mentioned last week that the conflict between Miles and Keiko felt very realistic in spite of the sci-fi trappings, and I think they lost an opportunity for something similar in this episode, with Miles still trying to do everything himself.

Has Julian begun to get his life right?

Bashir is significantly less irritating in this episode than he’s been so far, in no small part because he’s entirely focused on doing actual medical work. As I noted earlier, one of the only things that makes him bearable early on is that he’s genuinely good at his job.

On the one hand, it seems like a missed opportunity that they never explicitly draw the line between Dax’s musing about how different a woman’s experience of the world is from a man’s, and Bashir’s behavior towards her in the past few episodes. On the other hand, given that it seemed like we were supposed to consider said behavior relatively harmless, perhaps even endearing, maybe that’s for the best.

So many workplace issues

FIRST OF ALL:

Sisko: No need to ask how you’re doing.
Kira: Chasing after ghosts.
Sisko: You have twelve hours to catch one.
Kira: And then?
Sisko: People start dying.

Like, obviously we, the audience, know that he’s referring to the rapid progression of the virus, but Kira wasn’t in the scene where Bashir explains that to Sisko. Without that context, it definitely sounds like he’s just gonna start straight-up killing people, right?

Further:

  • OK, if the nurse who asks the aphasic Jake “what’s wrong?”, and seems to be waiting for a verbal answer is indicative of the level of help to be expected, it makes a bit more sense that O’Brien’s not delegating.
  • This is all I can imagine when Quark and Odo are the only people in Ops.
  • I get that it was a manpower issue, but the constant shots of Sisko just…passed out over the computer in Ops in the background while Odo and Quark are working is weirdly hilarious.
  • KIRA YOU CAN’T JUST KIDNAP A DUDE AND PUT HIM TO WORK, WHY IS EVERYONE ON THIS STATION SUCH A MESS

Horniness rankings

Almost no one was horny this week and I’m frankly bewildered by it. That said, Quark’s dedication to trolling Odo borders on horniness and I find it absolutely delightful.

2 thoughts on “1.05: “Babel”

  1. My favorite part about the A plot of this episode was always the scene when Bashir succumbs to the virus and the words on his computer screen have become gibberish. That was a nice touch and a little above and beyond what one had a right to expect. (Look, I may have an unhealthy level of knowledge about the Rick Sternbach and Michael Okuda process for developing these graphics based on a few too many obsessive adolescent reads of The Star Trek: The Next Generation Technical Manual.) Besides that I can’t get too into it. “Virus-cripples-the-crew” and “disaster cripple the ship” plots were a TNG trope and even this show did a variation on both themes much more effectively years later with “Civil Defense” and “The Quickening.”

    Also the last line/shot as Sisko gags on the coffee may have been the closest any Star Trek ever came to a 1980s sitcom fade-out ending. My mind actually filled in a laugh track.

    I would give Quark a few horny points for the episode, less for trolling Odo (OK, for that too) and more for being in charge of ops and loving that he’s one of the only people on the station who can actually get anything done.

    The Sisko/Jake relationship – like the Sisko/Nog one – is more earned than any other parental or family connection in any Star Trek I’ve seen. Now that I’m thinking about it I guess the only real point of comparison for series regulars would be Beverly and Wesley Crusher on TNG (and intermittently Worf/Alexander), neither of which work the same way, for different reasons. Fundamentally I think it’s down to Avery Brooks and Cirroc Lofton working really hard to create an authentic father-son dynamic that just connects up very nicely. It suddenly makes me mad that Jake and Sisko didn’t have a solid farewell scene at the end of the series (or did they? I remember Sisko’s farewell with Kasidy but not one with Jake).

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