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Star Trek Deep Space Nine: Hippocratic Oath

Bashir: "We are dealing with a complex situation here."
O'Brien: "No, it is not complex. It is simple."

By nature I love brevity: DS9 continues to make use of the pairing of O'Brien and Bashir, here delivering an interesting character study of both men. But it's also a far more unlikely character study of the Jem'Hadar.

Let me start by laying out the situation. O'Brien and Bashir are made to crash land on a remote planet in the Gamma Quadrant on their way home from a bio-survey of Merik III. When they exit the runabout, they are captured by a squad of Jem'Hadar soldiers. The Jem'Hadar First, Goran'Agar, initially intends to kill them both, but decides not to when Bashir reveals he is a doctor. It turns out Goran'Agar crash-landed on the planet three years ago, and when he ran out of Ketracel-White, he discovered that he was no longer addicted to the drug. Now he wants Bashir to figure out how to free his other soldiers from their addictions to the White.

Obviously, Bashir and O'Brien have very different reactions to this situation. Bashir wants to help Goran'Agar to cure his men, and O'Brien simply wants to escape and leave the Jem'Hadar to fend for themselves. Both of these approaches are so very in character for the two.

One of Bashir's defining characteristics is his arrogance, as we all know. But his arrogance is channeled by the redeeming parts of his character: his kindness and charity, and his overwhelming optimism about the world. This is what makes him such an interesting character to watch, and his response to Goran'Agar's plight is right in line with it. Not only is he kind and generous enough to want to help the Jem'Hadar, he is arrogant enough to believe that he is capable of doing it, and he is optimistic enough to believe that the Jem'Hadar will respond to their freedom in a constructive way.

In stark contrast to this is O'Brien's harsh, down-to-earth realism. This conflicts with all of Bashir's relevant traits in such a way as to give him the opposite viewpoint. Part of this is that O'Brien was once a soldier. As the Federation edges ever closer to open war with the Dominion, his warrior instincts are coming back to the forefront of his mind, and he approaches any situation involving the enemy from a soldier's perspective. And O'Brien's soldier's perspective tells him that nothing good will come out of a situation like this, one way or the other. It tells him that they need to get out as quickly as possible to avoid worse consequences.

But this is not the only set of conflicting values that 'Hippocratic Oath' presents us with. The other one, at least in this main story, is between Goran'Agar and his soldiers, represented by Second Arak'Taral. Goran'Agar's experience of slowly discovering that his core beliefs about himself are now wrong has made him disillusioned about all he has been taught. He is questioning all of his beliefs that he was given by the Founders and the Vorta. Even his gods have fallen in his eyes. The problem is that, as a Jem'Hadar, his entire worldview has been shaped by them, and reinforced by all his Jem'Hadar brethren who believe the same way. At the end of the day, he is still a Jem'Hadar. Can he separate himself from the Ketracel-White? Yes. But can he escape the influence of the Founders and the Vorta? No, it turns out he cannot. They are his gods, impersonal and distant though they may be. And he cannot bring himself to disbelieve everything he has believed for his entire life.

But his efforts to leave the shadow of the Dominion put him at odds with Arak'Taral and the rest of his men, who are still addicted to the White and thus still buy in almost completely to the worldview they have been programmed with. To question these ideals is perceived as weak to their eyes, and weakness is to be expunged. Only the strong are of worth, because worth is derived entirely from one's service to the Founders. If you can't serve the Founders anymore because you are weak, it is better that you are dead. But they are willing to follow Goran'Agar to some extent, because he is their First and that is the order of things. As the White disappears, this willingness slowly goes too, along with their sanity.

All these clashing perspectives come to a head in the conclusion. Bashir, true to form, wants to stay and try and finish his work. But his arrogant optimism is still tempered by reality, so O'Brien removes his last reason for being optimistic. Was he right to do so? The episode doesn't say. Certainly, Bashir's perspective is portrayed as naive, even though it was legitimately dealt with. But O'Brien is wrong, too - this is a much more complex situation than his perspective will allow. This is one of the things I love about DS9: its readiness to not give you all the answers and to allow you to draw your own conclusions.

There's a 'B' plot here, to drive home the point about complexity and shades of gray. I don't have a lot to say about it, except that it uses Worf well. Fans will be used to seeing Worf alongside the TNG crew, and on TNG terms. 'Hippocratic Oath' cements the reality that Worf, and by extension the fans, will have to learn to play by DS9's rules here. It's good to have Worf take a few episodes to learn this, and it makes sense on both an in-universe and a real-world level. Simple judgments, such as Worf's initial assessment of Odo, are no longer necessarily accurate. We are dealing, as Bashir aptly puts it, with a complex situation here. Good and evil aren't black-and-white anymore. Welcome to DS9, Worf.

Strange New Worlds:

The planet is never given a name. It is uninhabited and in the Gamma Quadrant somewhere between the wormhole and Merik III. It orbits a red giant, but there is an unexpectedly high concentration of chlorophyll in the plants. It is never made clear whether the planet was actually responsible for Goran'Agar's freedom from White addiction.

New Life and New Civilizations:

The mercenary Worf is after, Regana Tosh, is a Markalian. This, as far as I can find, is the first canonical mention of the species' name, although members of it appeared many times before this episode.


-I love the new theme equally to the old one. This one suits the show DS9 is becoming better, and the old one suited the first few seasons.

-Worf never calls Quark by name in this episode, referring to him only as 'the Ferengi bartender.'

-After taking a prominent role in 'The Visitor,' Cirroc Lofton's Jake Sisko does not appear in this episode.

-This is the first mention of Ketracel-White by name.

-Goran'Agar is played by Scott MacDonald, who has had a few other Trek roles. His most famous was Dolim in Enterprise Season Three. I'll get there eventually in my reviews of Enterprise so we can talk about him.

-This is the third DS9 episode directed by Rene Auberjonois, after Season 3's 'Prophet Motive' and 'Family Business.'


O'Brien: "Why can't she be more like..."
Bashir: "More like?"
O'Brien: "Well, a man. More like a man."
Bashir: "So... you wish... Keiko was a man."
O'Brien: "I wish I was on this trip with someone else, that's what I wish."

Bashir: "I'm just surprised."
Goran'Agar: "Surprised that a Jem'Hadar soldier would want something more than the life of a slave? You know nothing about the Jem'Hadar, except that you fear us."

Wounded Jem'Hadar: "You know the rule. If the death of one will make the rest stronger, then he dies."
Goran'Agar: "We came here to be free of the Vorta. It is time to stop living by their rules."

Goran'Agar: "I have fought against races that believe in mythical beings who guide their destinies and await them after death. They call them gods. The Founders are like gods to the Jem'Hadar. But our gods never talk to us, and they don't wait for us after death. They only want us to fight for them and to die for them."

Arak'Taral: "If being free of White means becoming like you, I don't want to be cured."

Goran'Agar: "You are a soldier?"
O'Brien: "I have been."
Goran'Agar: "Then you explain."
O'Brien: "He's their commander. They trusted him. He can't leave them."

Worf: "When I served aboard the Enterprise, I always knew who were my allies and who were my enemies."
Sisko: "Let's just say DS9 has more shades of gray, and Quark definitely is a shade of gray."

O'Brien: "I'm sorry I had to destroy your work."
Bashir: "You didn't have to, Chief. You had a choice, and you chose to disobey orders, override my judgement, and condemn those men to death."
O'Brien: "Yes I did. Because I thought it was the only way to save your life. Whatever else you may think of who I am and what I did, at least try to understand that."

5 out of 6 clashing perspectives.

CoramDeo thinks he won the Powerball. Pshoooo.

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