Episode 4.4: Hippocratic Oath

All meaningful relationships get tested at some point, and Bashir and O’Brien’s relationship is put under the strongest strain seen in the series. This episode has many similarities to Armageddon Game (Ep. 2.13). In that episode, the friendship has a positive watershed moment; here the two can hardly look at each other at the end. But the similarities are striking. In both, Bashir and O’Brien are isolated and cut off from the rest of the crew. They are in a combat situation, and though O’Brien is technically the junior crewmember, he attempts to take command. O’Brien sharply ignores the contribution Julian could have to the situation. Two key differences though. First, Julian attempts (and fails) to assert command over Miles by pulling rank. Miles had a choice; he chose to not trust Julian’s judgement in a combat situation and disobey orders. In combat, Miles feels completely superior to his friend. By doing so, he condemned the Jem’Hadar death. His defense is that he acted to save him and Julian. Second, by the end of the episode, neither has come to appreciate the contribution or viewpoint of the other. Near the end, O’Brien takes a command tone with Bashir, which Bashir promptly ignores. Only by physical violence, destruction of Bashir’s work, is the impasse broken. Ironically, at the end, it is Goran’Agar who connects with both O’Brien and Bashir, where the two cannot connect with each other. Goran’Agar turns to O’Brien to explain the duty of a commander, while Goran’Agar is able to trust Bashir and convince him of the sincerity of the Jem’Hadar need.

The debate between O’Brien and Bashir sparks a strong discussion on how to view an enemy. O’Brien sees only killers; his experience on the battlefield gives him authority in recognizing that. In his words, the Jem’Hadar act in their own self interest; why didn’t they ask for help instead of demand it? To Miles, the situation is simple. Julian sees a much more complex situation. This is their chance to start a revolution in the Jem’Hadar! Julian’s idealism is strong and (to me) appealing. Where Miles sees killers, Julian sees slaves to White. Julian is hopeful that when freed, these slaves would follow the same path as Goran’Agar. It was Goran’Agar’s compassion to his injured soldier that turns Julian’s toward the humanitarian nature of their plight. Miles’s best contribution is how neither him nor Julian know how the other Jem’Hadar would react off the White. He fears not all of them would react like Goran’Agar, by becoming civilized and honorable. What if they become unchained marauders instead of an honorable species?

It’s a very strong trait in humans to be suspicious of an enemy. It takes tremendous fortitude to see an enemy as something other than a faceless entity. The DS9 producers were very clever to give the Jem’Hadar actual faces; this allows them to take on human characteristics and leads to much more complex storylines, such as this one. I feel like O’Brien reacts how most of us would react to an enemy. Hit them where it hurts the most and look out for ourselves. Julian takes the more compassionate, though more dangerous, path. He has sympathy for his enemy. Perhaps they are not villains; rather they might be slaves to their villainous master. He posits that it is the White that keeps the Jem’Hadar acting as they do and under the will of the Founders. O’Brien’s path is safer, but has no room for change (the Jem’Hadar will always be the enemy) nor room for compassion for an enemy. Bashir’s path is filled with hope for a better future, yet is naïve and would have deadly consequences for being wrong. I love the ambiguity that is left at the end of the episode. Would they have become honorable? It isn’t clear cut, as even Goran’Agar retained his adoration for the Founders. The White is how the Vorta control them, not the Founders.

Despite the battered friendship, Bashir takes the first step toward reconciliation, by already implying to O’Brien that he wants to continue to see him for darts. It was Bashir who initiated the friendship, and it is Bashir who fights to keep it alive. Good friendships are strengthened by these strained times, by persevering through and seeking reconciliation. Bashir doesn’t seek to assign blame; he can remain friends with someone whom he disagrees. This is another hallmark of a strong friendship.

Worf’s subplot seems fairly orthogonal to the main storyline. Differences between TNG and DS9 are explicitly woven in. Worf struggles with the fact that security on a station is a much more fluid and ambiguous affair compared to a starship. In fact, Worf’s rigid sense of right and wrong forced Odo to settle for the little fish in the smuggling ring. Quark’s shade of grey is how his actions aren’t that bad, and by using him, Odo is able to address bigger, more systematic criminal enterprises. Quark’s presence also has larger positive effects; Quark remaining on the station in Emissary (Ep. 1.1) is a cornerstone for restarting commerce and life on the Promenade. Worf is learning that the rules don’t define what is right and wrong on DS9. In fact, his approach seems so amateurish compared to Odo that Quark mocks Worf in the opening scene. That would have more sting though had Worf not so easily barged in on Quark to arrest him. Worf also blunders through the command structure on DS9. He goes over Odo’s head to Sisko and bungles a sting; Odo rightfully is livid at Worf’s interference.

Random Thoughts: 1) I don’t think it’s the right use of the literary term, but I would say this episode and Armageddon Game (Ep. 2.13) are foils of each other. Bashir’s growth in confidence over the last two seasons is clear through his actions in this episode. 2) The actor who plays Goran’Agar has a smattering of TV guest appearances, including several on Star Trek. In DS9, he also played Tosk from Captive Pursuit (Ep. 1.6). 3) I like the scientific components here as well. Goran’Agar speaks of his withdraw from the White so simply, and Bashir’s research mind sees many more possibilities. 4) I think that O’Brien lives because of Bashir’s compassion. Goran’Agar would not have saved them at the runabout had he not formed a bond with Bashir. 5) The Jem’Hadar very quickly size up the two and the runabout. Both Bashir and O’Brien are evaluated both as targets and as assets. We also get insight into how Dominion society is structured. The Jem’Hadar revere the Founders as gods, though they are controlled through the Vorta; these are two chains the Founders have to control the Jem’Hadar. 6) I love how Worf’s dialogue is written sometimes: “I remain vigilant.” 7) Bashir and O’Brien have a robust friendship at the start. Bashir is platonically mocking O’Brien (“You wish Kieko were a man?”). 8) This is the first direct mention of the White and its purpose (i.e. control). 9) The Jem’Hadar child from The Abandoned (3.6) is referenced. 10) Sisko is seen working on the clock from Dramatis Personae (Ep. 1.18).


~ by Joshua Black on June 24, 2017.

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