Star Trek Deep Space Nine: Babel

O'Brien confides in Kira.
O'Brien: Who has time for sleep? I'd settle for five minutes of peace and quiet.

Terrorist leftovers from the war create a tasty new virulent plague which slowly attacks the core DS9 team. Will our cast ever speak sensibly again? Will they be blown to pieces? Will coffee ever return to its natural state, or does it just taste like that near the wormhole? Join us as we investigate...

The actors must have had a blast with this one! This is the first episode with what really amounts to a single plot–it's sort of tough to have too many, when your characters can't communicate with each other. Most DS9 episodes have several overlapping levels. The minor sub-plot, the nervous alien pilot with the really long whiskers, gets quickly wrapped into the major, and demonstrates some severe weaknesses of the station along the way.

Be careful what you wish for. Poor O'Brien really ought to get a team, or at least an assistant. He's overwhelmed. The station's desperate for repairs to pretty much everything, but especially the replicators; he's only one man, though, and the Cardassian damage is far too extensive. Without at least a buddy to watch him, it's almost guaranteed he's going to trip something. And he does: a Bajoran revenge virus which causes exciting aphasia, fever and death from its victims. The case sounds plausible: how many land mines have people accidentally stepped on, and died from? In the end, he spends most of the episode on his back–but I don't think it's very restful.

Aphasia is another issue, though. As far as I know it's usually caused by tissue damage or a neurological disorder. Are there real viruses which cause aphasia? A disease that affects the mind then causes fever and death seems somewhat plausible, however.

Quark's secret–his way around the troublesome and long-delayed replicator repairs which are destroying his business–winds up becoming the avenue by which the virus is spread.

Jello Odo reforms, catching our Anti-Hero at work.
The Bajoran scientist, Surmak, has clearly prospered and doesn't want to risk their position by re-addressing the past. How many are like that, down on the surface, trying to pretend the war hasn't happened? Kira's desperate act of kidnapping the scientist came off as perfectly natural. I was feeling quite desperate as member after member of our command team was struck by the virus.

Odo's desperation at being the only member of the command team able to coordinate efforts to save the station is also palpable. What's with our Constable and leadership? He seems willing to take the leadership of whoever shows up and doesn't want to take any himself. I was surprised at the end that he didn't tell Odo the reward for his help was not being prosecuted for theft and misuse of Federation property – but I'm betting that'll come up some day. I think Quark steals the episode, really, but Sisko continues to do a masterful job as leader. Almost too action-packed, but the cast pulls it off. Might not stand rewatching though.

Overall, four and a half mysterious virus-spreading replicator leech devices.

The weird small leech replicator gadget that spreads the Bajoran booby trap.

Bits and pieces:

As always, Odo and Quark give great banter.

The running coffee joke. Starfleet's characters have had love/hate affairs with the replicators, with gourmets always preferring the real thing.

The station seems to have kind of lax security, considering how many groups are on it. Does nobody here have to take off their shoes and shuffle through a radioactive machine? How I long for the future.

Armin Shimerman teleporting Odo. Again, the deadpan teasing, and then the quirky smile. The actor really ought to play Pan in A Midsummer Night's Dream. Makes me want to rub his ears…

By and large the actors were fairly convincing with delivering the aphasic lines. Fairly. I think I caught Terry Farrell and Avery Brooks trying not to laugh.

Of course once the deed is done, Quark immediately asks for payment. I must be part Ferengi; I'd be concerned too, after a near-death experience.

How would the virus have affected someone using American Sign Language? I had the same question when I watched Buffy's "Hush" episode. Worth speculating about...

Quotables:

Odo: Tell me, Quark, am I mistaken or is business a little slow today?
Quark: Slow? It's been almost nonexistent for the past three days.
Odo: Who knows, if things don't improve you may be forced to close down.
Quark: You'd like that, wouldn't you?
Odo: Let's just say, without you around my job would be considerably easier.
Quark: Without me around, you'd be forced to find some other, poor innocent to persecute. Think about that while you sit here gloating at my misfortune.

Sisko: Well, Quark, I see even you couldn't weasel your way clear of this one.
Quark: You underestimate the Ferengi immune system, Commander. I'm merely here visiting my less fortunate customers to make sure they're not faking the illness to avoid paying their bills.
Sisko: No one's that devious.
Quark: I am.

Kira: Listen, Surmak. I have a station full of dying people, and you are the closest thing there is to an expert on this virus.
Surmak: I sympathise, Major. But I don't think I can help you.
Kira: All right. Then how about helping yourself?
Surmak: Meaning what?
Kira: Meaning I've been infected with your virus, Doctor. So now you're infected too.

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