Episode 3.18: Distant Voices

In this episode, I like the premise, the setting, and the regrets that Bashir must face.  But unfortunately, I don’t think the episode is executed very well.  The symbolism of the characters and station are too obvious.  Bashir even names every symbolic element at some point.  The viewer isn’t given the opportunity to discern it, nor can they impart their own impressions and feelings on what the elements of the episode mean.  The episode doesn’t really draw the viewer in; rather, it exposits to the viewer what the writer intended.  Overall, an episode with nice elements, but it doesn’t come together in the way that really strikes me.  But there is one part of this episode that really got me thinking.

I do quite like the regrets that Julian must face at the end of the episode.  Perhaps the best, most subtle symbolism is that Ops is a birthday party for Julian, and this is where he will die if he doesn’t resist Altovar.  At the beginning of the episode, this is how Julian feels; his life has begun the march toward death with his 30th birthday.  For most of us, this birthday (or our 30s in general) are when we start to face how our choices have affected our life course.  Altovar tries to paint Julian’s choices as times when Julian gave up.  However, it is Julian’s maturity that sees the lies in Altovar’s words.  Such wisdom comes as we get older.

Altovar brings up three regrets in Julian’s life; three moments where his life changed dramatically.  Eerily, these mirror major choices in my own life; all three choices I hadn’t made yet when I watched DS9 the first time.  One of the first major life choices we face is our career.  Julian can see how rewarding and beneficial his career choice as a doctor is.  I think we all have these kinds of regrets; ones where we envision how our lives would have turned out had we had different careers.  I’ve always wondered how I would have turned out if I had followed a career in diplomacy instead of a science career.  Next, Altovar finds a moment when Julian did sell himself short.  Astutely, Julian sees that, while he did purposely incorrectly answer, it would not have changed his life path.  DS9 is exactly where Julian wanted to be.  Lastly, Julian has to face that he gave up on pursuing Jadzia.  He did so to ensure they maintained a strong friendship.  What’s sadly ironic is that had it not been for Worf, Jadzia would have ended up with Julian (I know this is something that Ezri says, but I can’t recall or find the episode reference).  But Julian stopped pursuing Jadzia out of respect and honor.  What binds these together, for Julian and for me as I see myself in him, is how life could have been different at each step.  The myriad of possibilities can haunt us, especially if we dwell too much on how life now is not as we had hoped and see what could have been with rose-colored glasses.  But Julian has grown in his maturity and wisdom.  He rebuts Altovar knowing that our failures in life are as important as our successes to who we become.  The wise man knows that all experiences shape who we are.

Random Thoughts:  1) For the record: Quark=fears; Dax=confidence; Odo=suspicion; O’Brien=doubt; Kira=strength; Sisko=skill; Garak=mental damage.  2) An excellent element is how Julian ages with the death of each of his personality attributes.  3) I really liked the visual effect of the chair flying out of the darkness.  Lighting and angle both made it appear out of nowhere.  4) The Cardassian mystery novel foreshadows the mystery that Julian faces in his own mind.  5) I find Julian and Garak’s meal as perfectly banal in the pre-credits teaser.  6) Once again, Quark acts as a conduit for the episode’s conflict, though not the direct instigator.  7) Julian’s purposeful failure in his medical exam returns with a new purpose when we learn he is genetically engineered (I think episode, Dr. Bashir, I Presume, Ep. 5.16).  I actually like how it’s framed here as a regret or insecurity.  This is a much more relatable way to use that part of his past.  8) Garak’s respect for Julian rises dramatically here; Garak directly calls Julian strong.  He also respects how Julian’s unconscious mind cast Garak as the villain.  “There’s hope for you yet, doctor.”  9) I love the confidence with which Julian says, “…but I am a great doctor!”  10) Preganglionic fibers and postganglionic nerves are nothing alike.  Nice use of that reality, to use it as a moment when Bashir purposely failed.  11) This episode won an Emmy for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Makeup for a Series.

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~ by Joshua Black on March 26, 2017.

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