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Star Trek Deep Space Nine: Inquisition

"When push comes to shove, are we willing to sacrifice our principles in order to survive?"

No one expects the Star Trek Inquisition!

Look, I had to make the joke at least once.

Somewhat unusual for this show, we only had one storyline that we focused on the entire time. There was no B-plot. We didn't even really split the A-plot between multiple people or point of views. We couldn't without giving the big twist away. So, instead we get to spend the entire episode with Bashir and living this experience with him, which you know that I will absolutely never complain about.

Staying solely with Bashir was also the best way that they could have told this story, especially you are dealing with ideas of memory and what it is that we choose to remember and what it is that we choose to forget. Really, introducing the idea of engramatic dissociation is the only way to even remotely believably entertain the idea that maybe Sloan was right in his witch hunt against Bashir. Because we know Bashir and we know what kind of person he is. We've seen all of the situations that Sloan used as evidence and we've seen the reasoning behind the decisions that he made in those moments.

But what if? What if we were just as blindsided by the truth as Bashir himself? I gasped when he was transported aboard a Dominion ship and welcomed by Weyoun as an ally. I had expected his sudden transportation was due to Sisko stepping in and not letting one of his officers just disappear. Something to let someone other than Sloan look into the evidence and declare Bashir innocent. Not confirmation that Sloan was right.

Weyoun had me fooled. The scones with jam were an excellent touch, as was his rationale for why Bashir flipped. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, after all. The idea that Sloan was actually the spy made sense and felt clever as well. Going back to the scones, Sloan would have been able to relay that order to Weyoun very easily.

And then, of course, we got the true twist of the episode. Bashir really needs to avoid medical conferences. They only end in him getting kidnapped and placed under severe mental strain. It made Sloan significantly more interesting, though, as well as what he represents.

The moral question of the episode was summed up very clearly and neatly in the last two scenes. Is there room for an organization with unlimited power, no oversight, and very little regard for human rights in a society that holds those same rights as intrinsic ideals? Do the ends of protecting such a society justify the means of some threats just disappearing quietly without any kind of legal process or protection?

This episode first aired in 1998, three years before 9/11 and the Patriot Act in the US, four years before a place like Guantanamo Bay opened. I really wish that I could have experienced this episode before those events because it, to me, completely colors the way that I view the episode and the questions posed. I'm too young to even really remember a world prior to all of that.

I'm sure that the episode was controversial, though, if only because it does so clearly and deliberately pull the world and society of the Federation away from Gene Roddenberry's original utopia. Something like Section 31 has no place in a utopian world, after all. It's something that has a place in Cardassian society. It's expected to exist there. So the echo Bashir: what does that make the Federation? Can they claim that moral high road? Are they really any better?

Sisko, and the episode, doesn't quite give us an answer. And maybe there isn't a clearcut answer here. Maybe it would have been the easy way out to provide one. But it looks like we'll have more chances to examine the issue again. After all, Bashir gets to finally be a spy.

Random Thoughts

The events of five episodes were referenced as evidence for Bashir being the spy: "Doctor Bashir, I Presume," "Hippocratic Oath," "In Purgatory's Shadow," "By Inferno's Light," and "Statistical Probabilities."

Michael Dorn directed this episode.

The Section 31 uniforms at the end gave me strong Sith Empire vibes. I loved them.

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An Honest Fangirl loves video games, horror movies, and superheroes, and occasionally manages to put words together in a coherent and pleasing manner.

2 comments:

Victoria Grossack said...

Yes, this episode is another reason why DS9 is considered so much darker than the other Star Treks. You're right; there is no B story, but it never occurred to me before that it was impossible for there to be a B story. There's so much to the A story that I never missed the usual B story.

Odo was right in that all great empires have a dark force of this kind. I like the bland name, Section 31, for a section of a document. Seems much more anonymous and less threatening than the "Obsidian Order" - but could be far more effective as a result.

magritte said...

One of the things that really impressed me when I rewatched DS9 is how relevant it seemed for a show more than 20 years old, and your comment about it airing before 9/11 is just one example. Battlestar Galactica went further with the provocative New Caprica episodes dealing with occupation and resistance movements, but DS9 was prescient rather than topical.

I think the willingness of DS9 to suggest all is not completely perfect in paradise is one of the reasons it's my favorite Star Trek: it's just more convincing and believable.