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Overview – Bashir and Dax find themselves on a planet in the Gamma Quadrant where the inhabitants are suffering from a deadly plague engineered by the Dominion. Bashir accepts the challenge of curing the disease, which he soon learns is much more difficult than he originally anticipated. As he races against the odds, he learns more about his own limitations than anything else.
Score: 8/10 – Bashir finally gets knocked down a few pegs in this episode (directed by Rene Auberjonois). No matter what he does, the people on this planet are dying and Bashir cannot seem to save them. This episode starts off with a lot of humor as the main characters deal with Quark’s attempt to include merchandising and advertising for his bar (I dare you to not think of the jingle for Quark’s when reading this). It is one of my favourite funny scenes in all of Star Trek, and it gives us a good laugh that we will sorely need, as the story quickly falls down a dark hole with little hope and relief until the end. Bashir, who is used to being able to do whatever he sets his mind to, gets a strong dose of reality when he comes across a disease that he cannot cure. Indeed, even in the solution he finds it is only a vaccine for the next generation and does not do anything for those already infected by the disease. It is a powerful and tragic tale that leaves us on a bit of a bittersweet ending. Alexander Siddig shines in this episode. With the exception of Dax and Kira (to a far lesser extent), Bashir is the show. Everyone else on the cast is either in the humorous opening scene or the somberly reflective closing scene.
Relevance – 2 points. Tal Shiar chairman Koval will question Julian about this incident in the seventh season. That scores a point here. The opening scene follows up on Quark’s desire to produce merchandising, something he brings up with Sisko in the final episode of the second season “The Jem’Hadar”. That’s enough for a second point.
Continuity – 3 points. No problems with any part of continuity. The plague is a devilish insight to the resources and resolve of the Dominion. The characters respond exactly as we would think they would. While Bashir arrogantly swoops in, thinking that he will save this people from doom, he learns his own limitations. Dax, meanwhile, offers realistic support, blending compassion and hope with realism and logic. Story wise, all goes as it should and tells us a heart-breaking tale of failure and bittersweet hope for the future.
Character Development – 2 points. Bashir gets all the attention, and as I mentioned earlier, it humbles the brilliant doctor like nothing else has to this point. He discovers his own arrogance and hubris when he discovers that the Dominion beat him with their genetically engineered plague. When the hope dies with the people he is desperate to save, he stubbornly moves forward. At this point, hopes of being the knight in shining armor are gone, and he just cannot give up until he has tried all he can. Since so much focus is on him, there is really little room for anyone else to receive development, and so be it. While it does not score a full 3 point in this section, it is a fantastic insight into the character of Doctor Bashir that, for me at least, takes one of the largest and most necessary steps into making this character more real. In doing so, it pushes Bashir farther towards the beloved character he would ultimately become.
Social Commentary – 3 points. I suppose this is Bashir’s version of the Kobayashi Maru scenario. No matter what Bashir does, he is unable to cure the people. Instead, he must settle for vaccinating the unborn and thereby saving the society in the long run. As he faces his own limitations, we learn that how we face our own weaknesses is often more important than the outcomes. Sometimes we have to strip away our pride and accept whatever meager positives we can muster. It is not a pleasant experience, but it is one that we all must face. After the trial is over, we regroup and move forward, taking what we have learned, and grow from the failures.
Cool Stuff – 2 points. A point is scored for the fun opening sequence. As I said before, it is one of the funniest Trek moments and is very necessary for the much darker tone of the following acts. I also scored a point for the insidious disease that the Dominion released upon the poor Teplan people. Meant to mirror the AIDS epidemic, the disease more than adequately conveys the despair found in these difficult to control diseases.
Rank – Captain (20 points). Such a somber and telling story. Auberjonois did a fantastic job of directing this episode, and Siddig shines brighter than he ever has up to this point as Doctor Bashir. The sadness at the situation of the Teplan people is authentic, and this is definitely not a “feel-good” episode. The bittersweet ending is a sad reminder of our own limitations, and that the good guys don’t always get the win that we think they should. Definitely give this episode a viewing. Bring some tissues.
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