Hello! I hope you are all safe and healthy, and that you’re taking care of yourselves and each other. Things are a bit hectic for me, in part because, you know, *gestures vaguely at the world* but also because I am about to start a new job and will be moving nearly a thousand miles this weekend! So thank you for bearing with me while I attempt to get back into normal operating procedure around here. Be safe, don’t hoard food or toilet paper, and wash your hands.
With all of that out of the way, let’s get on with this week’s episode!
Synopsis: Bashir’s anxieties about his impending thirtieth birthday take on new significance when he’s telepathically attacked by an intruder.
As you all know, I am a sucker for pretty much anything involving Garak, or really almost any Cardassian ever. And yet…I mean, this is a solid episode! Just, it’s definitely among the less interesting of his episodes. Though having said that, with every subsequent rewatch, I’ve enjoyed it a bit more, so who knows, maybe in a few years I’ll be a lot less lukewarm on it.
I do think it’s interesting that this is the second time this season Garak has shown up primarily as a simulated figure in someone’s mind; his appearance in part two of the season premier was in the mental simulation the Founders were running on the crew. And in that one, as I mentioned at the time, Garak seemed to serve the role of suggesting to the crew that something was off about this situation, to make them doubt. He plays that role again here, I think, of the voice suggesting that all isn’t what it seems. For all his teasing Bashir about how “you still don’t trust me”, the entire course of their relationship has involved a lot of Garak — well, look, I find the phrase “playing hard-to-get” kind of gross, but also, when the shoe fits…
Bashir: Still the man of mystery?
Garak: Oh, you wouldn’t have me any other way.
What I am saying is that, when Bashir’s subconscious needed to give him a mystery that he wouldn’t give up on solving, it makes perfect sense that it would put it in the shape of Garak.
Speaking of Bashir not giving up
Over the entire course of the show, Bashir is, in my book, the character who changes and grows the most, with a lot of his initial naivete and arrogance tempered — if not beaten out of him entirely — by everything he witnesses and experiences during his time on the station.
I feel like this exchange, towards the end, is really striking, and provides some really interesting insight into the character:
Lethean: Now it’s time to make things easy on yourself.
Bashir: You mean just give up? I don’t think so.
Lethean: Why not? Isn’t that what you’ve always done?
A huge part of growing up, of maturing, is knowing when to let things go (“when to walk away”, as Garak will say to Bashir in a later episode). This reveal that secretly, perhaps even unconsciously, Bashir thinks of himself as a quitter, suspects that he’s just too weak or undisciplined to see things through, is fascinating to me — in no small part because as someone with ADHD, I’ve spent a lot of time beating myself up for being “undisciplined”, for not being able to commit to anything or stick with it, for not “living up to my potential”. The possibility that he’s been overcompensating makes his earlier obnoxious behavior a bit more understandable (if no less irritating).
That this is then tied in with his relationship with Jadzia, and the fact that he’s accepted that she’s not interested in him as a romantic/sexual prospect, and moreover that he’s truly grateful to have her for a friend instead, is also a pretty nice touch. As those of you who’ve been here from the start know, perhaps my least favorite thing about the first season is Bashir’s behavior towards Jadzia; it really is a lovely sign of how he’s maturing that he explicitly says that “I do have feelings for her, but the important thing is she’s my friend.”
(It’s also sort of funny/annoying but in the way where it’s embarrassingly relatable, now that I’m in my mid-thirties, to see Bashir’s minor existential crisis over turning 30. Garak’s puzzled “And that’s considered…bad?” is delightful, bless him.)
Big ups on the production values
Apparently they won an Emmy for the makeup in this episode — and not without reason! The changes to Bashir’s makeup over the course of the episode are really cool. That said, my main thoughts on the makeup are largely quite shallow:
- Middle-aged Julian’s eyeliner looks fantastic. I mean.
- While the makeup is impressive — I love the gradual changes from one scene to the next — they entirely failed to anticipate that Alexander Siddig would age like a fine wine.
- There are several shots in the last few scenes where I keep getting distracted by the fact that the makeup on Andrew Robinson’s neck needs to be touched up.
In addition to the makeup, though, the set design/lighting is really cool. The darker lighting and the emptiness of the station in Julian’s dream combine to make it feel alien even as it’s still familiar, in that way that places in dreams can be. And scary! The station is much eerier, creepier, throughout the episode — in fact, after Bashir has begun to solve the problem, gone back to the Infirmary, as he’s regaining his confidence, he explicitly says to the Lethean that “You don’t look half as threatening in normal light.”
- Garak and Bashir remain absurdly horny for one another.
- Also, the scene with Sisko in Bashir’s mind has done nothing to dissuade me from my theory that Julian has a low-key crush on Sisko. Which, relatable.
2 thoughts on “3.18: “Distant Voices””
I didn’t actually find this episode very enthralling, maybe because the script solves its own central mystery at less than the halfway mark, and the rest is kind of a parlor game of figuring out which characters the episode is going to link to specific aspects of Bashir’s personality. Not that that’s not entertaining (and it gives the actors a chance to play outside of type, which is always fun), but I just didn’t think it was that interesting from a dramatic standpoint. I did have the sense that the big mid-episode reveal actually was a good place to put that, because if they’d saved that for a climax it would have been pretty lame – besides which, everyone likely would have figured it out for themselves by then.
Why does the episode make O’Brien a manifestation of Bashir’s doubts and fears? Given that Bashir looks up to O’Brien, that hit me as an odd choice. I guess they needed someone to do it and it would have made even less sense for it to be one of the others.
As a Bashir character study, though, it works really well, and it’s great to see the writers picking up specifically on some of the more problematic points of his character in season 1 and having Julian address them head-on.
Although – maybe this hit me because I just turned 40 – having Bashir channel angst about turning 30 struck me as a strange and not very realistic thing. I don’t remember Trek ever explicitly stating an average human lifespan in the 24th (or 23rd) centuries, but it’s clear from a lot of context that most people live longer and healthier lives than they did in the 20th or 21st centuries. Keiko’s mother is 100 in season 2, Picard, other than his parietal lobe, is “at or above Starfleet standard” for health at what must be 85+ in “Picard” (I’ve only gotten to episode 3, though)… it just doesn’t strike me that turning 30 would be that big a deal to people who reasonably expect to live to 100. Then again – maybe extended space travel is harder on the human body. Mark Jameson is 85 in “Too Short a Season” and he plays it like he’s 120 (granted, he does suffer from a degenerative medical condition). Anyway, they’re trying to meet the audience where they are, and that’s fine, but it always hit me as weird that Bashir would freak out about turning 30. I mean, I didn’t enjoy turning 40 at all, so I get where they’re coming from.
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