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.
- Replicant Miles, for Keiko 🙁