Episode 5.2: The Ship

•January 14, 2018 • Leave a Comment

This episode is one of the more tragic episodes of DS9, and foreshadows the tragedy in episodes that arise during the Dominion War. There are plenty of extra characters at the start of the episode, which to any Trek fan, should be an indicator that folks are going to start dying. All told, there were 5 Federation deaths, one dead Founder, and an entire crew of Jem’Hadar dead by suicide. This series of deaths were perpetrated by a simple lack of trust between the Vorta Kilana and Sisko. They are both steeped in a cold war mentality where they don’t trust each other at all. The other side is the enemy, never to be given an inch. This is made even more tragic when I realized there were past episodes, history for the characters, that had shown the ability of both sides to cooperate. Most prominently, in To The Death (Ep. 4.23), uneasy tensions were established and Federation/Dominion teams were integrated together. Also in Hippocratic Oath (Ep. 4.4), a partial alliance was established, though only Sisko would have known of that. But this mission in The Ship (Ep. 5.2) was different. Both sides had something immense to gain: a dying Founder for the Dominion and a massive intelligence find for the Federation. Had even either side shown a smidge of trust, it could have lead to a tense exchange where both sides got what they needed. And no one would have died.

Trust is such a difficult thing cultivate, even on a personal level. The moment we identify someone as “the other”, we tragically lose a certain ability to trust them. Trust entails risk, and Sisko wasn’t willing to allow that risk to his crew. But I think this episode tries to speak against that narrative. Trust also entails strength. Had Kilana and Sisko trusted each other, fewer people would have died, and both sides would have achieved a great victory. I’m not saying it would have been an easy decision; clearly the Dominion has attacked the Federation through subversion and deception. But to categorically distrust “the other” only leads the two sides spiraling away from each other, further and further from trust. Each small act of trust, which requires vulnerability, brings sides towards each other.

The other major theme in this episode is on the ethics of command. Sisko is making on-the-fly decisions that affect his crew and ultimately kills some of them. He’s juggling their safety, their mental well being, and the value of the salvage. After the initial moment when the Jem’Hadar attack, Sisko has the opportunity to give away his salvage for the safety of the crew. He decided to keep the ship at increasing cost to his crew (the mental well being of the command crew and the life of Muñiz). Once he has a moment to reflect after the mission, he struggles with whether the decisions he made, whether the people who died, were worth the intelligence gained from the ship. This is the burden of command. He was forced to weigh the value of individual lives against the long term value the Jem’Hadar technology could provide. And he’s forced to weigh these things in real-time, without the opportunity to reflect. Hindsight is a double edged sword for Sisko. He can learn from his mistakes, but he can’t berate himself for making the decisions he did on the information he had.

Random Thoughts: 1) The action in this episode is ramped up (“Worf, you’re on point!”). Action gets woven into the storylines more and more. 2) I appreciate that the runabout crew wasn’t just a bunch of humans that died. They put time into making some of them aliens, to have them be more than throwaway characters. That certainly added to the emotional moment at the end when Sisko is reflecting on their deaths. 3) The bit with Odo, Quark, and Bashir was an amusing sidebar on the station. 4) Muñiz calls O’Brien “Jefe”, which is an affectionate Spanish term for “Chief”. 5) The Vorta Kilana is way too peppy in her first scene, in an effort to distract Sisko and put him at ease. It backfires. 6) The Dominion continues to show it has a lot of information on the key individuals in the Federation, such as Sisko. Kilana’s personal knowledge of Sisko is extensive (just likey Weyoun). 7) I like how Worf injects truth into Muñiz’s situation. He will die, and denying that will only prevent him from preparing for death. The Klingon way, when done well, is to not shy away from the reality of death. That is what O’Brien was doing with Muñiz, and Worf saw that as a dishonor to Muñiz. Worf also wasn’t simply saying platitudes. He shows up with O’Brien to mourn Muñiz’s passing. 8) If it isn’t clear yet, the Klingons are a deeply spiritual people. Worf sees Muñiz as having the spirit of a warrior that will pass into the afterlife. 9) Sisko intentionally gives his command crew specific tasks to help control their rattled nerves and fear. Specifically with O’Brien, he needs him to use his talent to help all of them, not give emotional support to one of them. More burdens of command. 10) This ship will be used again in A Time to Stand (Ep. 6.1) and Rocks and Shoals (Ep. 6.2). 11) BOOM! Un-named runabout down! I looked online for folks who tried to identify the name of this one, but it can’t be deduced, as far as I can tell.

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Episode 5.1: Apocalypse Rising

•January 7, 2018 • Leave a Comment

Since the finale of Season 4 (Broken Link, Ep. 4.26), there has been all out war between the Federation and the Klingons. Up until that point, they had some skirmishes (like that which caused Worf’s trial in Rules of Engagement, Ep. 4.18) but mostly it was the Klingons attacking the Cardassians. The dispute over the Archanis System was the red line the Klingons crossed. In many ways, this line needed to be crossed. The Klingons needed to know that the Federation wasn’t simply political enablers, easily pushed over by aggressors. To be staunch allies, the Klingons needed to test the mettle of the Federation. By the end of the episode, a ceasefire is restored, and I’m grateful for this. The Dominion makes clear invasions into the Alpha Quadrant in Season 5 (By Inferno’s Light, Ep. 5.15). I think the season is much better focused on them as the enemy, and not in a conflict between the Klingons and the Federation. I like the clarity of the Dominion as an enemy, and I enjoy the balance that forms between the Klingons and the Federation as wartime allies.

I think Dukat’s role here is extremely important. He has been fighting total war for months now. He needs help to defeat them, and an alliance with Sisko furthers that goal. His people gradually losing the war is one of many factors that leads to him forming the alliance with the Dominion later in this season. I think that the Federation’s non-intervention policy with the Cardassian-Klingon war sows fertile ground for Dukat’s deal. With this mission, Dukat is that uneasy ally that’s needed. Compared to Sisko’s crew, he’s uncivilized. He opts for disruptors over Worf’s ability to lie. But this is an uncivilized mission, and his temperament is needed to get them all the way to Ty’Gokor. The need for “uncivilized” actions will continue to grow.

Odo was lied to. He was treated as a solid by the Great Link when he was manipulated for the advantage of the Changelings. They tried to steal his core identity. In the beginning of the episode, Odo is in Quark’s mesmerized by a liquid (clear symbolism there) and fascinated by the simplicity of the bubbles. He’s searching out anything to give him even simple meaning in life, as his work has become flat for him. But Odo isn’t just his ability to shapeshift. His deductive skills are renowned. It was a tremendously subtle thing to notice that Changeling-Martok’s actions were dishonorable while Gowron was acting in complete honor. He had to meld his knowledge of two separate cultures to make that deduction. The whole episode (and the end of Broken Link, Ep. 4.26) lead the viewer to think that Gowron was the Changeling. That was actually never challenged until Odo did. Changeling-Martok was fooling the viewer as much as he was fooling the crew in stoking their suspicion of Gowron. After Changeling-Martok was killed, Gowron further shows his honor by recognizing Odo’s ability and seeking a ceasefire with the Federation. Gowron is finally convinced that the threat from the Dominion can come from within, and they desire the Alpha Quadrant powers destroy each other. At the end of the episode, Odo wishes to keep his old face, a symbol of him accepting his Changeling past alongside his solid future.

There’s another big advantage of making the Klingons allies again; this allows the writers to really flesh out the honor and glory culture of the Klingons. As enemies, the writers would be much less likely to show them in a good light. As wartime allies, true respect forms between the Federation crew and various Klingons (mostly Worf, Martok, Gowron). The Klingons are like that friend you don’t totally get, but the passion they exude seeps into you, and you learn to respect their foreign qualities. In his training session, Worf clearly portrays the goodness of Klingon culture. They speak and walk proudly, they are confident in their words, and they challenge each others’ insults, keeping each other in check. They revel in challenges, as Worf looked forward to the songs if they succeed in their mission. Their first test to enter into a prestigous warrior society is whether they can celebrate well or not! Their commitment and dedication to tradition, each other, and honor cannot be overstated. Watching this episode (and Way of the Warrior, Ep. 4.1) a second time reveals how dishonorable Changeling-Martok was acting, and it is in stark contrast to Klingon culture.

Random Thoughts: 1) Dukat is heavily decorated for his actions against the Klingons. This is internal to his crew, I think, as he’s a rebel against even his own government. I absolutely love his face when Kira tells him that O’Brien is the father of her child. 2) Dukat wanting a holopic as payment was pretty funny. 3) Kira and Bashir have a moment where they discuss the baby, and Kira tells Julian “This is all your fault!” This is a nod to Alexander Siddig being the actual father of Nana Vistor’s baby. I think at one point before Kira gives birth (I’m not sure when), Nana Visitor gives birth. She ended up wearing a pregnant suit to finish the storyline they developed for her. 4) Bashir talks with both Kira and Jake about the danger of the mission. His advice: Walk tall, even in the face of adversity. 5) Utterly random, but the cups they used to drink the bloodwine were familiar to me. I used those same cups at my high school steakhouse job (Ponderosa) in the food preparation area. 6) The fight between Gowron and Worf was well done and enjoyable. 7) So many disruptors used to kill the Changeling. Awesome. 8) I love how Gowron is dismissive of the Federation suggestion to talk. A similar theme is seen with the Maquis. This attitude will not help the Federation deal with the Dominion. The Klingon way will be the way that succeeds. 9) The title of the episode, Apocalypse Rising, foreshadows the theme of the rest of the season. The war is building.

Season 4 Summary

•December 24, 2017 • Leave a Comment

The grand narrative of Season 4 revolves around two cold wars the Federation is embroiled in. One with the Klingons and the other with the Dominion. This turns out to be actually a single cold war with the Dominion, as the Klingons have been manipulated by the Founders (Apocalypse Rising, Ep. 5.1). There is a lot more direct contact with Dominion forces in this season. In Hippocratic Oath (Ep. 4.4), Starship Down (Ep. 4.7), and To The Death (Ep. 4.23), there is direct contact/conflict with Jem’Hadar. The coup in the mid-season two-parter, Homefront/Paradise Lost (Ep. 4.11/12), is instigated by the Founders. Klingon episodes occur throughout the season, some specifically for Worf (Sons of Mogh, Ep. 4.15) or include conflict with the Klingons (Rules of Engagement, Ep. 4.18). This season brings in these new themes and focuses less on past ones. There are fewer episodes focusing on the Bajoran people, fewer where the crew is struggling with the station itself, and none where the Cardassians are the aggressors. The Federation paradise is falling apart, and the grand narrative of this season is building to that crescendo in Call to Arm (Ep. 5.26) where paradise finally collapses and the crew abandon the station. An additional recurring theme to this season is that the Federation paradise teeters close to failure, or in some cases has already failed (For The Cause, Ep. 4.22).

I really enjoyed many of the single episodes this season. I think the range and depth of stories that are being told are incredible. Stories range from comedic episodes (Our Man Bashir, Ep. 4.10) to introspection on faith (Accession, Ep. 4.17) to institutionalized cruelty (Hard Time, Ep. 4.19). The Quickening (Ep. 4.24) is extremely well constructed. The Blight is a horrific disease that resists even attempts to research it, and Julian is both a failure and a hero at the end. I’ve said before that one of the components of DS9 that I like is how there is a range of characters who enable a diverse set of stories. This season is full of character-focused, thematic episodes. There are episodes on manhood (Jake, The Visitor, Ep. 4.3), same-sex relationships (Dax, Rejoined, Ep. 4.6), honor in the face of power (Worf, The Sword of Kahless, Ep. 4.9), humor (Quark, Little Green Men, Ep. 4.8 and Bashir, Our Man Bashir, Ep.4.10), crises of faith (Kira, Starship Down, Ep. 4.7 and Sisko, Accession, Ep. 4.17), unbridled cruelty (O’Brien, Hard Time, Ep. 4.19), compassion (Bashir, The Quickening, Ep. 4.24), and identity (Odo, Broken Link, Ep. 4.26). I’m slightly disappointed that Kira played a smaller role this season. Her major episodes were shared with Dukat, and some of her best moments are nestled within episodes (Starship Down, Ep. 4.7). However, I have to end this on a very high note. My favorite character, Bashir, got some excellent screen time this season. Many the best Bashir-centric episodes. In fact, I love all four of the Bashir tagged episodes this season.

I’ve waffled back and forth on whether I should declare a favorite season or not. On one hand, there are clearly broad multi-season frameworks: Seasons 1-2 feature the crew on the frontier; Seasons 3-5 feature a cold war period; and Seasons 6-7 focus on the Dominion War. There are clear transitions from one season to the next associated with the season finales. However, on the other hand, these frameworks aren’t confined to the respective seasons. I like the frontier stories for what they are, I like the war stories for what they are, and it’s hard to compare them. But, that all said, I do feel like Season 4 is an extremely amazing season. There is coherence to the season with the cold wars, and there are some outstanding single episodes. And Season 5, in my memory, is equally strong.

Random Thoughts: 1) Favorite episode of the season: The Quickening (Ep. 2.24). Honorable mention: Our Man Bashir (Ep. 4.10). 2) I cruised through Season 4 in half a year. 3) I decided to count the episodes as if Way of the Warrior (Ep. 4.1) was worth two episodes. That keeps all the numerical values in line with a 26 episode season. 4) In the next season, they close off the cold war with the Klingons fairly quickly. I like this, as it focuses the remaining pre-war episodes on the Dominion and opens up the strengthening alliance between the Federation and the Klingons.

Episode 4.26: Broken Link

•December 22, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Ever since the end of last season (The Adversary, Ep. 3.26), there has been a general limbo regarding Odo’s contact with his people. Odo did the unthinkable, killed a fellow Changeling, and the Founders weren’t sure what to do with that. They didn’t know how to deliver justice. They have only known how to impose order. Odo had renounced his people, and sought no contact with them. But in this episode, that lingering tension snaps, and Odo is plunged into a life or death situation. As a viewer, I actually had no idea there was this lingering tension that Odo’s actions from The Adversary (Ep. 3.26) were going to return. The subtleties were there, but I didn’t catch them the first time.  But this is a hallmark of DS9, where past episodes instigate plots of future episodes. In this case, Odo’s actions result in him being stripped of his identity. Or so Odo believes. The first half of next season has plenty of character growth for Odo, where he learns he is more than his physical ability to change shape.

In many ways, Odo is the mature Changeling. Where the Founders seek to impose order on the cosmos, Odo seeks to bring justice to the cosmos. It’s entirely fitting that Odo desires judgement from his people. He broke the most sacred of laws, one that has never been broken before. To Odo, the Founders are the only ones who can render judgement upon him, as they are the only ones who would have any authority over matters of being a Changeling. To him, whether he receives real justice or not is a meaningless question; Founder judgement is the only justice possible. Further, I find the Founders, the Female Changeling in particular, oversimplify Odo’s rejection of them. The Female Changeling thinks Odo has rejected his people because Odo has latent feelings for Kira. Since Kira has become involved with Shakaar, she thinks Odo would quickly return. But Odo’s rejection of the Founders is much more mature than an infatuation with a woman. Odo has rejected the Founder’s desire for order. Rather, Odo seeks justice, which is the wiser older brother of order. It is exceedingly ironic that Odo seeks justice from the Founders, but is given order: he is forced into a solid state, unable to shapeshift. Was that what Odo really wanted, as the Female Changeling implied? Probably not. They misinterpreted Odo’s more complex feelings regarding humanoids, misinterpreting his friendship with them for idolization of them. This punishment for Odo is hard on him, but I think the most punishing event for Odo was to have those brief moments in the Great Link, where he had understanding of his people and his longing to be home fulfilled…only to have that snatched away again.

The rest of the crew have some standard reactions to Odo’s illness, and I wanted to catalog them as quintessential character moments. Bashir is his usual medical self, even seeking Dr. Mora’s assistance. Kira is concerned as a friend, offering moral and physical support to Odo; she also knows him intimately enough to bring him a criminal activity report to distract him. Sisko is commanding and firm, unwilling to leave Odo alone with the Founders. Worf has a kinship with Odo, so he defends Odo’s desire for privacy. Garak offers all he knows how to offer: intrigue and distraction. And Quark. Quark only has one interaction, but so much is summed up in it. Quark makes a jest at Odo, but implies that Odo needs to return safe. Odo, for his part, acknowledges that Quark would be successful in running the station without Odo present and promises to return.

The episode closes with some major implications for next season. The Dominion covert operations have focused primarily on the Federation and the Klingons during Season 4. They have done their best to produce a powder keg that would lead to war between the Federation and the Klingons. Other attempts to light that powder keg have failed (Paradise Lost, Ep. 4.12). To push it over the edge, the Founders plant the idea in Odo’s head that Gowron is a Changeling. The writers have done a good job of making Gowron look like a warmongering Klingon, but as I alluded to in Way of the Warrior (Ep. 4.1), Gowron is a perfectly consistent Klingon. The Founders let slip the visions of Gowron, so that Odo acts on them. This is all fully addressed in the opener for next season, Apocalypse Rising (Ep. 5.1).

I think Garak’s motivations here get a special nod. His motivation is to look for Enabran Tain, his father. I do think he cares for Odo, but he was also not going to pass up the opportunity to speak to the Founders about survivors from the failed attack on the Founders’ old homeworld (The Die is Cast, Ep. 3.21). His attempts to take control of the Defiant were an emotional reaction to the news of no survivors and the insulting way the Female Changeling referred to his race. Thankfully, Worf isn’t an idiot.

Random Thoughts: 1) There is clearly now more incidental character development happening in spare moments during episodes. Kira sneezing. The male crew talking about feeling naked without a cloak (and Jadzia mocks them). O’Brien relating a story of Kira and Keiko talking about him. Bashir nearly throwing a rock into the sea of Changelings. Here at the end of Season 4, the show has matured enough to have these much smaller moments for the characters. 2) Garak’s imprisonment last 6 months. He next shows up in Things Past (Ep. 5.8), which can be assumed was 6 months later. 3) The episode is bracketed by interactions with Aroya. In the beginning, this is foreshadowing. Odo complains about being involved in “humanoid” mating rituals. By the end of the episode, he is a humanoid. Her second encounter brings the episode full circle. 4) Odo’s characterization that our mating rituals are “convoluted” is so very right. 5) After 4 years of collecting data, Bashir knows a thing or two about Changelings. 6) Innuendos, half-truths, and bald-faced lies! 7) Poor O’Brien. This isn’t even an “O’Brien must suffer” episode, and he gets attacked by a Jem’Hadar. 8) The Female Changeling’s words against Cardassia are also foreshadowing events to come. Cardassia as Garak knows it will die. Many times. 9) The new Founder homeworld is much less interesting than the old one. There is a very spartan piece of land. No garden to shapeshift in. The Founders are in defensive mode, with no opportunity for frivolities. 10) Worf totally thrashes Garak.  11) This episode is a hinge point for the plot that ends the series.  The series ends with the Founders having been infected by a virus created by Section 31 (an organization yet to be revealed in DS9).  Odo was infected with a dormant version of this virus in Homefront (Ep. 4.11).  His entrance into the Great Link in this episode infects the rest of the Founders with the Section 31 virus.  This is a different virus from the one the Founders gave him.  So for the past three episodes (since To the Death, Ep. 4.23), Odo had two viruses in him.

Episode 4.25: Body Parts

•December 20, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Brunt sees Quark as an affront to Ferengi Society. Past actions for Quark come back to haunt him. In Family Business (Ep. 2.23), he protected his mother and allowed her to continue to make profit. In Bar Association (Ep. 4.16), he agreed to a union’s demands. In both of these, Quark’s behavior was satisfying to the viewer. However, both of these directly broke Ferengi law. Stronger than law, these broke sacredly held Ferengi customs. Even here, Brunt is horrified that Quark would allow such reprehensible things as vacation time. The more Quark acts as a respectable human would, the more outcast he is from his homeland. Brunt cleverly puts Quark into a no-win scenario. Either he is forced to break a contract or he dies. How Ferengi is Quark? Is he willing to die to stay a Ferengi in his heart? Would breaking the contract mean he’s not a Ferengi? I think it’s easy to forget that Quark is very much a Ferengi. Profit is his primary concern, with oo-mox as a distant second. Quark has all of our emotional “human” frailties. He’s afraid. He’s prideful. Both of these are in opposition here. Quark, like any typical human, is rooted in his identity. His identity is a profit-seeking Ferengi who will do (almost) anything to get a slip of latinum. The only way to live is to surrender that identity. To live, he would have to break his sacred Rules. Quark sees either choice as a complete surrender. But that’s where he’s wrong.

I think there are some interesting parallels here between Quark’s attitude toward the rules and a rigid, legalistic approach to religion. The Rules are truly sacred to Quark. But his vision (and I do consider it a Ferengi version of a sacred vision) challenges him with the notion that the Rules can be fluid. Being a Ferengi isn’t about following the Rules of Acquisition! Being Ferengi is about acquiring profit. The rules may facilitate the acquisition of profit, but it isn’t strictly following the Rules that makes one a Ferengi at heart. Faith can have similar overtones. I have come to realize that my sacred text isn’t a list of things to do and not do. I’m not a Christian because I act in a way consistent with a specific interpretation of scripture. Scripture is a collection of texts that enable me to become more fully a follower of Christ by teaching me wisdom from those who had intimate encounters with the divine. Scripture doesn’t define me as a person of faith; it enables my faith to be acted out.

By the end of the episode, Quark does the unthinkable and breaks a Rule (specifically, Rule 17). In doing so, he fundamentally retains his Ferengi-ness because he can continue to seek profit. In fact, he leverages his remaining assets (his community) to rebuild. That realization, that moment when Quark realizes he isn’t destitute, is fantastic. Earlier, Quark was disparages the value of community to Rom. Rom had to put the value of community in terms that Quark would understand; they were assets that Brunt couldn’t take away. Quark’s community values him in that quirky, human sort of way. That community exists fundamentally because Quark helped shape it. For a decade now(starting before Emissary, Ep. 1.1), his bar has been a fixture on the promenade and the place where station denizens, from all walks (Federation, Bajoran, Traveler, Priest, Officer, Shopkeeper…), come to relax and forget the heavy things of life. They won’t leave Quark when Quark needs them.

As I understand it, the side plot exists because of a desire to work in Nana Visitor’s pregnancy to the show. Many shows will simply try to hide the fact that an actor is pregnant. They’ll wear billowy, but not obviously so, outfits. They’ll often sit behind a table. Only have close up shots. Here, the writers decided to not hide it and rather work it into the story. Now, it’s easier to do this in Sci Fi (Kira literally had the child transported into her womb, with no other social consequences to the character), but I strongly applaud them for doing so. This storyline will persist through a portion of next season (Kira gives birth in The Begotten, Ep. 5.12), and it’ll open up some interesting plots (such as O’Brien’s confusion at being attracted to Kira).  The father of the baby is Alexander Siddig (Bashir).

Random Thoughts: 1) I think it’s really important to note that Quark deviates from Ferengi society in other ways too. He has compassion for the oppressed. Long before the Federation arrived, Quark was helping Bajorans survive and smuggle them off Terok Nor. Brunt’s accusation that Quark is a philanthropist is quite correct. It just doesn’t mean Quark isn’t a Ferengi. 2) I couldn’t decide if Garak would have actually gone through with killing Quark or if Garak was toying with Quark. I’ve always held that there is a professional, mutual respect between Garak and Quark. I think Garak is impressed that Quark would come to him and go as far as he did. But…Garak seemed really into it. The delight in his eyes when he said Quark would never see it coming was delicious. 3) This episode is a quintessential DS9 consequences episode. Earlier events created this episode. 4) Two clear foreshadowing events here. O’Brien is worried about his pregnant wife in the Gamma Quadrant. Rom tries to convince Quark of the value of community. Also, when Quark announces he’s dying, the entire bar falls silent, indicating the concern the station community has for Quark. 5) Obviously mentioned, Rule of Acquisition #17. Also Rule #239. 6) I like how Bashir breaks the news to O’Brien that Kira will carry his child to term. Excruciatingly slow and with Sisko there as a yes-man. 7) Quark owes debts to his mother (hilarious!), an uncle, and his cousin Gaila. The one with the moon. 8) I like Quark’s appeal to Brunt: “We aren’t Klingons. We’re businessmen.” 9) If it wasn’t obvious, Max Grodénchik plays both Rom and Grand Nagus Gint. 10) The final interaction between Quark and Brunt is excellent. Quark threatens Brunt if Brunt ever returns to the bar. Brunt revels in his duty of confiscating everything Quark has and leaving behind the black mark. That mark will stay until Ferengi Love Songs (Ep. 5.20), when Quark gets his license reinstated. 11) Possibly the best moment ever. When Morn arrives at the end of the episode, he brings his own chair and immediately sits at the bar.

Interlude: Julian Bashir

•December 18, 2017 • Leave a Comment

I wanted to wait until the most recent episode, The Quickening (Ep. 4.24), before I wrote about Bashir (my favorite character) because I believe this episode is the Julian-est of all episodes. Julian is a romantic, in the sense that he has an idealized view of reality (not in the sense of romantic love). Romantics are more driven by the way life should be rather than the way life is around them. The strength of the romantic is that they live as if the ideal they aspire to is just around the corner. That all society needs to do is simply start living it. They refuse to be satisfied with anything less than that ideal, and they have a passionate drive to see the world “put to right”. In The Quickening (Ep. 4.24) and Hippocratic Oath (Ep. 4.4), Julian ignores what is conventional wisdom in his efforts to heal those he sees as afflicted. In both episodes, he tries to help individuals who are systematically, generationally afflicted with medical disorders that cause them harm. They are oppressed by a stronger power that inflicted the disorder. And Julian has hopes to break the yoke that oppresses these two peoples. His idealism, his vision that no one should live a diminished life, is what makes him a great doctor and keeps him from giving up. In Hippocratic Oath (Ep. 4.4), he fails; in The Quickening (Ep. 4.24), his perseverance helps him succeed. I think Our Man Bashir (Ep. 4.10) is also Julian being a romantic. He took his idealism so seriously in that episode that he was willing to destroy the world, himself, and Garak in an effort to save everyone in the holosuite.

Core to Julian’s personality is his relationship with Miles Edward O’Brien. This is a beautiful relationship. They have fun together (darts, holosuite), commiserate their pain (drinking and singing over Julian’s being snubbed, Explorers, Ep. 3.22), they fight together (basically all of the Dominion War), they support each other in tragedy (Hard Time, Ep. 4.19), they will follow each other into hell (Extreme Measures, Ep. 7.23), and they have a falling out (Hippocratic Oath, Ep. 4.4). The fact that they grow into friends is fantastic. They 1) start with Julian annoying Miles (Storyteller, Ep. 1.14), 2) have a turning point where they respect each other (Armageddon Game, Ep. 2.13), 3) reach a point where Miles says he “doesn’t hate” Julian (Explorers, Ep. 3.22), 4) find they miss spending time together (Accession, Ep. 4.17), to finally 5) being willing to die together (Extreme Measures, Ep. 7.23). It is this progression that I just love. Life is a journey, one we all experience communally. I think seeing them experience a changing and maturing relationship is a great reflection of that journey we all experience.

Julian’s naiveté in the early seasons (seen by Julian’s interactions with Miles and with the Bajorans) lets the character grow into maturity by the final seasons. I think seeing this process was important for me. Something I’ve come to think about and ponder in my own life the past few years is my journey toward maturity. Perhaps it was my upbringing, but I’ve always felt like I need to be perfect already. In very few situations in my life did I feel permission to grow into something. In most areas of my life, particularly in the workplace but also with some of my religious experiences, I feel a strong sense that I need to have everything already figured out. Seeing Julian grow from an immature person into someone with (more) wisdom and experience is edifying to me and my journey. It gives my journey toward maturity legitimacy to see it mirrored in art.

Julian’s romantic love journey is not a main aspect of the character, but I have to have a few sentences on it. He’s the awkward, smart male on the station. Of course I connect with him. I don’t think Julian at all knows who he’s looking for. He’s just a lonely guy who feels a need for companionship, as most of us do. His pursuits in the early seasons are for women that do not complement him. Personally, I don’t’ think Julian complements Jadzia either, who we are shown could have ended up with Julian through alternate timelines (The Visitor, Ep. 4.3) and realities (the Mirror Universe). His major love interest in the middle seasons, Leeta, is a better fit. She is an intelligent, passionate woman and is a bit less adventurous and sparky than Jadzia. Ezri and Julian are much stronger partners, I think. Along with being intelligent and passionate, Ezri has a wellspring of compassion that matches Julian’s. It truly is a pity to me that we didn’t see more of their relationship.

Random Thoughts: 1) I consider myself a romantic of this idealized variety. I am constantly seeing the world as it should be. I hope my active life reflects this, that I’m not just inside my own head, and that I strive always for the world we are supposed to have. 2) I tried to speak about Julian’s love life in “complement” terms. I really wanted to avoid language that was akin to “Jadzia wasn’t the right woman for Julian.” The best relationships aren’t created by asking “Who fits me?” That’s self-centered. In my opinion, it’s more about “Who do we become together?” 3) I also like how little elements of Miles and Julian’s relationship are fit into episodes all over the series. Small moments of them bantering or supporting each other. I get a strong “everyday life” feel for their friendship from those moments.

Episode 4.24: The Quickening

•December 16, 2017 • Leave a Comment

This is one of my favorite episodes. I can’t even come up with a good intro; I just want to jump straight into it.

The brutality of the Blight is shocking. The Dominion created a disease the causes physical, emotional, and cultural distress upon these people. These people are wracked with immense physical pain. They suffer sudden, unexpected deaths of their loved ones. Culturally, the society loses people at all stages of life, and they cannot create or maintain cultural institutions. Yet there are enough people who survive to childbearing age that the society can continue to limp along. It doesn’t end here. Efforts to cure the disease have all lead to failure, which further demoralizes the people. In fact, trying to cure the disease causes yet more pain. The only way to find how to cure it is to use advanced medicine. However, advanced medicine, and the EM fields it creates, accelerates the progress of the disease and inflicts immense agony in the person. Think of it: the disease prevents society from advancing; it’s stops just short of ending the society by allowing some procreation; and the cure cannot be researched due to the agony advanced medicine creates. It’s a perfect trap that keeps this society swirling around this moment when the Dominion broke them. The solution Julian inadvertently finds, which is a vaccine, not a cure, is quite poetic, I think. The disease is a generational disease. The effects go far beyond any individual in the society. The vaccine is also generational and goes beyond the individual who is inoculated with it. Those alive will not see relief, but their children, their society and future are preserved. The ending wraps up tragedy and beauty and leaves the viewer holding this tense ball of contradicting emotions. Perfect.

This episode leans into Julian’s idealism and romanticism, and it portrays a very positive consequence of that romanticism. In the runabout at the beginning, Julian is waxing philosophic about exploring the universe (a clear nod to his romantic philosophy). That transitions into him believing he can cure this disease in a week. Arrogance or idealism? I contend both. Julian is undeterred. He sees an insurmountable problem (this society has struggled with this disease for 200 years) but is willing to throw himself into the thick of that society’s pain. His idealism fuels his passion and determination. But lets be honest…finished in a week? Immense arrogance. Jadzia is the perfect companion here. She offers wisdom that can only come from 300 years of life. Her line: “It may be arrogant to think that. But it is more arrogant to think there is no cure because you couldn’t find one.” This spurs Julian and keeps him grounded. Stops him from descending into a swirling vortex of depression. That moment leads to perseverance. He settles into a more humble posture of simply helping Ekoria through her pregnancy and helping her give birth. Simple doctor stuff. Without his care, Ekoria would never have made it to term. Julian never would have known his cure was actually a vaccine. He refused to give up on the core principles of medicine: do no harm, reduce pain, and help the patient in their desires. That idealism…that refusal to surrender…initiates, fuels, and finishes Julian’s role in helping this society out of it’s trap.

Given the tragedy this society has suffered, they should be completely broken, bitter, and emotionally destroyed. Much of Julian and Jadzia’s interactions see these elements. They are broken, committing suicide with the help of Travean. They are bitter, scoffing at Julian’s offers of help. They are emotionally destroyed, exhausted from the cycle of pain. Yet hope burns in these people. In a darkness where there should be no hope, a flame persists. Ekoria carries this child and adamantly refuses to surrender to despair at her child’s future. She has a similar idealistic attitude as Julian does. Even after Julian’s failure in his clinic, she still has hope in him. What else can she cling to? Hope is most powerful in the darkness of despair. In her last moments, Ekoria sees her child is free from the Blight. Her own dedication and perseverance in seeing her child be born is the lynchpin of this story. Trevean, also, is an absolutely fantastic character. He isn’t a monster who reveres death. His own philosophy as a healer is in alignment with Julian’s, and Julian learns from him, I think. Trevean works to reduce the pain of his patients and do no harm. The suffering of his people weighs on him. His compassion for his people has become woven together with the daily suffering he sees. The look on his face when Julian shows him the baby free of the Blight is fantastic. His own hope, dead from years of seeing suffering, bursts forth, and he tenderly accepts the task of creating the vaccine and distributing it. In that moment, his compassion is separated from suffering, and instead becomes woven together with hope.

This story, with the elements of the Blight, Julian’s idealism, and the alien characters, is a powerful story of hope. These flames of hope are so difficult to snuff out. That should tell us something. Hope does not easily die because there is a mystical truth and reality to it. Hope isn’t a delusion. If it was, it would be so easily dispelled. Hope is a universal human experience, transcending culture, and an experience that can bind us together. Finding that seed of hope that we commonly share has the potential to end strife between us, to break tribalism. In our darkest moments, may we remember the flames of hope.

Random Thoughts: 1) There are three things, that it seems to me, are universal human experiences. Faith, hope, and love. May these be used to bind us ever closer and combat the forces that seek to drive us apart. 2) We’ve seen over several episodes this season that the Dominion has immense skill at genetic manipulation. This is crucial to their power. 3) Both of the two guest actors were fantastic. Ellen Wheeler, who played Ekoria, was primarily a soap opera actress, and won an Emmy for that work. Jaques André, who portrayed Trevean, had some solid starring performances and was a guest actor on many projects throughout his career. 4) The intro with Odo, Quark, and Worf was hilarious. I love it when Worf gets livid at Quark. And I love seeing Odo in the background enjoying it. 5) I liked the matte painting of the devastated world. 6) Trevean initially sees naiveté in Julian, like so many characters do. For Trevean, there’s also the element of him fiercely defending his people from suffering. That includes suffering caused by false hope. 6) Julian gives us a bit of insight into why he’s a healer. He wants to drive off death for another day. 7) In the moment where Julian is in despair trying to save Epran, Dax can only get through to him by calling him “Doctor”, appealing to his professionalism. 8) After the tragedy at the clinic, Julian’s humility is shown by him willing using very old techniques, like creating a salve in a flask. 9) Ekoria dying within moments of her child being born is absolutely tragic. But equally poignant and poetic.