2.14: “Whispers”

This one is solid! It’s an interesting mystery, and the twist is solid. I just…have some trouble getting into it, for some reason. I love the concept, and I think it’s well done, but I just never really connect with it. So this is a relatively short post, since I find I just don’t have much to say about it.

I’ve mentioned the critic Angelica Jade Bastién previously, who’s great in general but whose writing on Deep Space Nine I always adore; she ranks this one among the show’s best episodes, and touches on what I do like about it: “Taking inspiration from films like The Parallax View and Invasion of the Body Snatchers, “Whispers” creates a miasma of dread that builds to a gut punch of a surprise ending.” Y’all, I friggin’ love a good miasma of dread. And I think this episode does that build — the general sense of something being off that slowly escalates into full-on wrongness — pretty nicely.

Hell, I also love a good “sleeper agent in so deep they don’t know themselves starts to suspect something is wrong” story — see Boomer in the early-00’s Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek: Discovery‘s Ash Tyler/Voq, and the twist on that story that DS9 later does with “Second Skin”, in which Kira wakes up on Cardassia and is informed that she’s a Cardassian agent who’s been under deep cover. Upon reflection, maybe part of my not connecting with “Whispers” is that it’s only one episode, and I am all about the gradual building of atmospheric tension. The ending also feels a bit rushed — maybe as a two-parter, this would have worked more for me.

Part of my trouble connecting to it besides, I think, is that it’s such a tight point of view. Which makes sense, to some extent; showing other characters questioning O’Brien would likely make it too clear that there’s something wrong with him, not with them. But I also generally tend to feel that if I can’t enjoy a story when I already know the ending, it’s probably not that strong a story, so.

Things I enjoyed

  • Rosalind Chao does a really fantastic job playing Keiko’s general unease, and oof, the more I think about the whole story the more I’m like “holy crap, that must have been so disturbing and creepy for her, more of Keiko’s POV please”. Like, I would really love a follow-up episode that just shows everyone else’s discomfort and concern. And/or what’s going on with the real O’Brien in the meantime.
  • Bashir and O’Brien’s banter is a friggin’ delight. I love that, even though the two of them are starting to be friends, O’Brien is still easily annoyed by Julian’s nonsense.
  • GRUMPY MOLLY!!! Goodness, that child is just so stinkin’ cute.
  • KIRA’S YELLING IN HER LOG ENTRIES. Bless her.

Also, I was disproportionately amused by the fact that, when O’Brien discovers he’s locked out of certain logs, the computer says to “contact station commander for assistance”. Like. Is that a standard Starfleet thing, that you take tech support/account permissions stuff straight to the top? Even better, is it a leftover Cardassian protocol? I really hope so, because the possibility that Dukat’s duties included station tech support is even more hilarious to me than it being a Starfleet thing.

Horniness rankings

  1. Replicant Miles, for Keiko 🙁

One thought on “2.14: “Whispers”

  1. Man, I love this episode. I don’t think it does a thing wrong. It starts off strongly with the extremely unusual (unprecedented?) in medias res opening with flashback narrative structure and grows in menace and mystery from the jump. I remember vividly watching this for the first time (I was… 14? ugh, let’s not dwell on that) and not calling the twist at all and being truly startled by it, especially as it ends with Replicant O’Brien’s tragic death expressing his love for Keiko.

    One of my other favorite things is how the episode’s director gives us reaction shots of Sisko and Bashir after O’Brien leaves a scene – we’re not meant to know what they’re thinking, but it’s obvious that they’re mystified and suspicious and mistrustful. It plays beautifully and resonates more strongly on repeat views when you already know the twist.

    I agree, as with several second season entries, this could have worked effectively as a multi-episode arc, in the background of several stories perhaps. (How interesting would it have been to find out later that Replicant O’Brien was the one to accompany Sisko in “Paradise” or the one to give Jake career advice in “Shadowplay”. After all, Changeling Bashir did brain surgery on Sisko in “Rapture” later in the show, so…)

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