Episode 2.14: Whispers

When I opened this episode up to watch, I didn’t realize this episode appears this early in the series!  This is another brilliant sci-fi premise that is executed flawlessly, in my opinion.  The intrigue is the center of this episode, with some interesting insight into what it means to be alive.  I think they did a fantastic job of showing O’Brien as the normal character, and the rest of the crew as the ones displaying oddities.  Reality is that O’Brien is the “afflicted” one.  This episode turns out to be somewhat of a mirror to Dramatis Personae (Ep. 1.18); in that episode, the entire crew (sans Odo and Quark) was afflicted with a behavior altering telepathic infection.  There is some excellent insight into O’Brien as well; the episode gives a deep look into his personal life and psyche.

The construction of the intrigue is quite well done.  It starts with the coffee: Jamaican blend, double strong, double sweet.  The coffee is a literary element meant to maintain consistency across the scenes, and like last episode (Armageddon Game, Ep. 2.13), it shows us that this man is the O’Brien we would expect; nothing out of the ordinary here.  The crew does their best to try to figure out where the flaw is in the clone, but none of them are subtle enough.  For example, Quark’s interrogation of O’Brien sees Quark fail to remember a Rule of Acquisition; this is not the usual Quark!  It’s no wonder O’Brien is deeply suspicious.  The major failing of the crew is that they showed a lack of trust in O’Brien.  This is a fundamental attribute with which O’Brien judges his relationships (again, see previous episode).  By the end, the viewer has seen a very real Miles O’Brien contrasted with a very disingenuous crew.  The reveal at the end was well protected.

Some brilliant philosophical questions are raised by this episode.  What does it take to be sentient?  The further we delve into genetic manipulation and artificial intelligence, the more important this question becomes.  This clone was nearly entirely identical to O’Brien (plus a bit of secret programming that never got activated by the Paradas}.  He was O’Brien by every measure.  He was physically O’Brien; he had the memories of O’Brien; he loved Keiko as much as O’Brien.  There was nothing the crew could do to discern whether he was a clone or not.  Does that make him O’Brien?  This is very similar to the philosophical thought experiment of the Ship of Theseus.  If there is nothing to distinguish the clone from the original, then the clone should have as much right to the O’Brien name as the original.  However, the original O’Brien has something the clone doesn’t: continuity.  The original was continually O’Brien, which could give him a stronger claim.

In a real life context, this is a fascinating topic.  If someone could somehow clone me down to the exact atom, would that new person be fundamentally me by every measure?  Are my memories (and my personality and my hopes and my…) simply the specific arrangement of atoms in my cranium?  Or is there something more than my physical nature that gives me my me-ness?  I’ve always fallen on the side that who I am, fundamentally, is more than the arrangement of atoms in my person.  My sentience is a combination of my physical self and my soulish self; to disrupt either would destroy me.  Equally, to reconstruct me, both would need to be present.  And I feel like the claim that we are only a physical existence would require substantial evidence.  The one thing any of us can be truly confident of (at least on a philosophical level) is that we have consciousness; having physical bodies is an easy step beyond that.  To attempt to backtrack from a joint nonphysical/physical existence to demonstrating only that second, dependent piece exists seems like a monumental claim.  One of the great triumphs of sci-fi is how these kinds of questions get raised in the minds of the viewers.  Or maybe just my mind…

Random Thoughts:  1) Admiral Rollman is Susan Bay, the wife of Leonard Nimoy.  Same as in Past Prologue (Ep. 1.3).  2) It’s a nice sci-fi touch that the Paradans have an odor that changes with mood.  3) Bashir and O’Brien banter a bit for the first time; friendship in full swing!  4) Rosalind Chao really delivers a suitably awkward kiss to the clone; I love how stiff she is.  5) Reference to the racquetball game from Rivals (Ep. 2.11).  6) The Dominion and the Founders are foreshadowed here.  O’Brien fears the upper levels of Starfleet have become infiltrated; something that will come to pass in Season 4.

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~ by Joshua Black on June 16, 2016.

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