So, the main plot of this one, with two civilizations who’ve just made peace, and destroyed the devastating biological weapons they’ve been using, but also believe they must eliminate anyone who might have sufficient knowledge to recreate them, is decent. These particular aliens and their war aren’t mentioned again after this episode, but meditations around peace, and what it costs to achieve it, and who pays that price, are consistent themes throughout the show as it continues.
The character stuff, though, is where its strengths really lie, despite how annoying I tend to find early-show Bashir. In fact, I actually find him a bit more tolerable in this one than I did at many points in the first season? Possibly because earlier on, I often felt as if the show expected me to find his lack of boundaries charming, whereas in this one, it feels a lot more like the show is acknowledging that yes, he can in fact be Way Too Much.
(He gave Dax his DIARIES, oh my GOD, Julian, I know you have no chill but seriously???? Her admitting that she never actually read them was both hilariously anticlimactic compared to what Bashir was probably hoping for and also entirely appropriate and mature.)
Of course, the times early on in the show’s run when I have had that feeling — that the show did not find Julian’s behavior nearly as irritating as I did — it’s pretty much always been during his interactions with Jadzia. With other characters — O’Brien in particular, in no small part because Colm Meaney does a spectacular job of playing O’Brien’s low-key dislike of Julian — the narrative doesn’t feel like it’s indulging Julian nearly as much. Maybe I’m not giving the show enough credit, but given the frequent use, in 90s sitcoms/romcoms, of the “not taking no for an answer and slowly wearing down a girl’s resistance until she goes out with you is sweet and romantic” trope, the simplest explanation seems, to me, to be that they were trying to do the same thing with Julian and Jadzia.
All of which I bring up because apparently the original script for this one had it centered on Bashir and Dax instead of Bashir and O’Brien. Which, okay, it actually would have made a bit more sense for the people working on how to destroy this biological weapon to be the station’s medical and science officers rather than its medical officer and its chief of operations, but…oh my LORD I might have ended up throwing things. The writers decided that they didn’t really have anyplace new to take the Jadzia-Julian dynamic and swapped her for O’Brien instead, and thank goodness for that.
Anyway, I really like even though this is really where the Bashir-O’Brien friendship begins, it’s something that still develops more gradually, over time. (And, as with most of the past instances where I’ve found Bashir tolerable, it’s involved him actually being good at his job and proving to be someone O’Brien can actually rely on.)
“You’re suggesting someone tampered with this recording?”
I really love that, when Keiko comes to Sisko with her doubts about the veracity of the footage they’ve been shown, he listens to her and takes her seriously. She’s not written off as being stuck in the “bargaining” stage of grief; everyone acknowledges that, even if it may seem unlikely, the possibility exists that there’s more going on than meets the eye. As with Sisko listening to a dabo girl who came to him about Quark’s sexual harassment, it took me some time to realize exactly what I found so strange and wonderful — the fact that the default assumption for Starfleet seems to be “the people around you know what they are talking about, and you should believe them when they tell you something is wrong”. I thought I’d read something about this recently, and it turns out it was this lovely essay by Nicasio Andres Reed:
The reason it’s so strange that Lt. Barclay or Chief O’Brien or Kes take their inexplicable experiences to their respective captains is that it’s strange to realize they do this because they expect to be believed. And they expect to be believed because that’s Star Trek’s baseline assumption: these are people who will not deny each other’s subjective realities. They’ll try their damnedest to believe each other, even when it gets weird. In more than 750 episodes of Star Trek, it is vanishingly rare for a plot to hinge on a crew member being automatically disbelieved or shunned.
Just, whew, having spent a lot of time and energy trying to get men to listen to me and take me seriously when I talk about something I know a lot about — and I’m a middle-class white woman whose workplaces have generally been pretty good about diversity issues! — it’s so friggin’ refreshing to see Sisko just…listen to people and take them seriously. And, from the other side of the issue, Bashir and O’Brien are in agreement that their best chance is to find someplace to hole up while they wait for Sisko to rescue them; they trust entirely that he will do so.
Having said that
After all of that, the ending, with O’Brien saying that he does drink coffee in the afternoon, was…weird? I felt like it was meant to be a sitcom-style moment and it just ended up being kind of jarring? Personally, my theory is that he didn’t on the Enterprise, but now he is dealing with Station On Fire Trash Can and has upped his caffeine consumption accordingly. Memory Alpha pointed out that in the TNG episode “Rascals”, the O’Briens drink coffee together after putting Molly to bed, and that “that was, of course, an unusually stressful evening, as Keiko had just been physically transformed into a pre-adolescent,” which IMO supports my theory.
(As does a thing I read somewhere about raktajino being a blend of coffee and liqueur, which would explain why the senior staff on DS9 drink so much of it, because, again: Station On Fire Trash Can.)
- The scene with the senior staff watching the video was devastating. Kira’s face in particular — despite not being particularly close to either of them, she still considers Bashir and O’Brien friends at this point. Just — the absolute weariness and sorrow on her face, as someone who’s far too used to losing friends and had, perhaps, been starting to think maybe that would happen less — oof.
- Quark actually being decent and drinking to O’Brien and Bashir’s memory was a really nice moment? As was the way that both Kira and, to a lesser extent, Quark himself were very uncomfortable with the situation.
- “Women! That’s all you ever think about!” “Not quite.” Yeah, O’Brien, he also thinks about men a lot, too, come on.
- When Bashir tells Keiko that “when two people face death together, it creates a bond”, Keiko is definitely wondering if he’s trying to say that she has two husbands now.
There isn’t really a lot of horniness in this episode, but I do want to call attention to the fact that Bashir talks about his ex’s feet. First of all, ballet dancers do not have “dainty” feet; career dancers’ feet can get pretty gnarly, actually. Though I will grant the possibility that by the 24th century, care for some of the worst issues dancers have with their feet has evolved, we’re still probably talking about a lot of calluses.
But more importantly, my mother and I got a lot of laughs out of that while watching this, and basically my main takeaway from this episode is that Bashir has a foot thing, and now you all have to think about that, too. You’re welcome.