Episode 4.24: The Quickening

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.

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~ by Joshua Black on December 16, 2017.

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