Synopsis: Bashir and O’Brien find themselves at odds when they’re captured by a group of Jem’Hadar who ask for the doctor’s help. Struggling to adjust to life on the station, Worf clashes with Odo over security matters.
This one’s…fine? It’s solid, just not particularly remarkable. It doesn’t help that O’Brien is one of the characters about whom I generally have the least to say, or that I really dislike some things about the way his and Bashir’s relationship is written (more on that shortly).
Something that frustrates me, I think, is that, while I enjoy that the conflict comes straight out of the characters — once the issue of the Jem’Hadar attempting to break themselves of their addiction becomes clear, it also becomes clear that Bashir and O’Brien are going to be in conflict over it. My issue, I think, is that there’s…really no questioning, never any doubts by either of them along the way about their respective positions — except for the ending, arguably, where the two of them aren’t feeling quite as secure in their friendship as they were at the beginning. Even then, though within a few episodes they’ll be back to normal. Granted, I’m pretty much on Bashir’s side on the question of whether the morally right thing to do was to help the Jem’Hadar, so perhaps that’s coloring my viewpoint here, but it’s disappointing not to see any real depth to O’Brien’s position especially — his line that “they’re killers, that’s all they know how to do” is just a straight-up echo of his line in season two’s “Cardassians” that “‘gentle’ was bred out of these Cardassians a long time ago”. Deep Space Nine is frequently comfortable with forcing its characters to reexamine themselves, their positions, their beliefs; the show distinguished itself, even prided itself, on taking a different approach to Star Trek, questioning some of the things that the franchise had taken for granted. So it’s a shame that the “everyman” character, who was intended as an audience stand-in, has apparently not changed or grown much in the past two years, that he’s just declaring a different race to be cold-blooded killing machines.
It’s especially jarring in comparison to the B plot, which is literally about a TNG character trying to adjust to the different environment that is DS9. Sisko literally tells Worf that he’s going to need to get used to the fact that things on the station are less black and white than they may have seemed on the Enterprise, that there are “shades of gray”. That’s a striking message, and one that’s fairly central to the show as a whole, so it’s strange to not really examine it in the A plot — once the conflict of “Bashir wants to help the Jem’Hadar, O’Brien wants to escape and let them die” is established, there’s really no further depth or shading provided to the story, nothing new revealed about the characters.
I sound like I dislike this episode a lot more than I do, I think! I enjoy it well enough, but I think it pulled some of its punches, and that it could’ve been a lot stronger.
The B plot
This is…pretty predictable, really, but I also appreciate that Worf doesn’t immediately fit seamlessly into the crew, that it takes time for him to really find — or make — a place for himself among them. So of course he falls back on what he’s familiar with, security work, never mind that it’s no longer his domain.
I also find Sisko’s interactions with Worf interesting — I’ve said before that Sisko strikes me as very good at reading people, at knowing the best approach to take with someone. Following his conversations with Worf in “The Way of the Warrior“, when Sisko deliberately drew parallels between Worf’s feelings of aimlessness and ambivalence about remaining in Starfleet and his own a few years ago, when the series began, I can’t help but think Sisko is saying what he wishes someone could have told him when he first arrived at the station.
On the subject of Sisko and Worf’s interactions, I found Sisko’s remarks about Quark really striking — I mentioned early on in this blog that I really enjoy the evolution of his relationship to the Ferengi on the station. There’s not much made of it directly apart from when Quark confronts him in “The Jem’Hadar“, but that confrontation marks a real change in Sisko’s thinking, and I just find it…really lovely that he takes Quark’s words there to heart, that he really reconsiders his own beliefs and behavior and comes to respect their culture, even as he continues to disagree with many of that culture’s precepts.
Returning to the A plot and my issues with the Bashir-O’Brien friendship more generally
OK, so: I actually like a lot about the way that O’Brien and Bashir’s friendship develops over the course of the show, from O’Brien barely being able to tolerate Bashir’s presence at the beginning to their being best friends by the end.
But good lord, do I loathe the way the show sets up that friendship and the O’Briens’ marriage as somehow being in competition with one another. It’s played for laughs, and even some people in the fandom seem to think it’s cute, and I just cannot friggin’ stand it. Once Keiko is back on the station regularly, there’s a whole storyline in one episode where, like, Miles can’t so much as stop off at Quark’s for a beer after a shift, let alone take a few hours now and then to go hang out in the holosuite with Bashir, and it’s just…so weird and not at all how a healthy relatinoship works? Especially combined with his ridiculous jealousy in “Fascination” over her having made a (male) friend on her expedition. It’s just such a weird, gross image of marriage, straight out of the worst kind of dull sitcom, where apparently neither partner is allowed to have hobbies or friends or a life outside of the house, and it does none of the characters involved any favors.
And that’s before I’ve even gotten into the “no homo but I wish my wife was more like you” jokes, which also do no one any favors, particularly given that the whole reason Garak and Bashir have fewer one-on-one scenes as the show goes on, and Bashir and O’Brien have more, was specifically in an attempt to discourage the Garak/Bashir shippers. I do, however, appreciate that the fandom’s response to this was to start shipping Bashir and O’Brien, even if I’m not personally into said ship, because I am very much into doing things out of spite, particularly when the person being spited is Rick Berman.
(You will definitely hear more from me on Berman-era Star Trek‘s dreadful record on LGBTQ+ issues, but it may start as early as next post, because the show forcing her into a relationship with Garak solely as a desperate attempt to no-homo Garak is just one item on my very long TORA ZIYAL DESERVED BETTER list.)
Or, less seriously: JUST LET THE O’BRIENS HAVE A WEIRD LITTLE POLYCULE WITH BASHIR AND GARAK, AND ALSO LATER KIRA AND SHAKAAR. It’s amazing how many problems would be solved with more bisexuality and polyamory; I’ve been saying it for years and TV just continues to not listen.
Some other notes
- “Word gets around in a place like this. It’s one of the things you’ll have to get used to.” LOL Sisko trying to tactfully explain to Worf that everyone on the station lives for drama.
- Worf grimly observing that Gowron would’ve simply declared victory in the attempted invasion of Cardassia, regardless of what actually happened, was, uh…way too real. Also consistent, having just watched “Unification” last night, with his “rewriting history” to downplay the Federation’s role in his accession, which was interesting. (Has he already been replaced by a changeling at this point?)
- Is Sisko tinkering with that clock thing from “Dramatis Personae” when Worf comes to see him at the end? That’s interesting.
- So Odo was just planning to…infiltrate a smuggling ring? How long was that going to take, exactly? Is it normal for him to just, like, disappear for a while doing this kind of thing?
- At the beginning, Bashir’s drinking something that kind of looks like it’s in a mason jar, and I find the mere idea of that weirdly entertaining.
Very little horniness in this one, actually? I mean, apart from the whole “no homo but why can’t my wife be more like you” vibes in O’Brien and Bashir’s early interaction, which, ugh.