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Star Trek Deep Space Nine: Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges

Bashir: "Then I shall endeavor to become more cynical with each passing day, look gift horses square in the mouth, and find clouds in every silver lining."
Garak: "If only you meant it."

By nature I love brevity: Before we swing into the big grand finale, the writers of DS9 take us on one last deviously plotted and devastating trip down the rabbit hole of Section 31 with our hero Julian Bashir. It's careful, clever, and a really solid way to solidify the journey Bashir has been on throughout the series.

Julian Bashir is a good man. He's immensely talented, capable of great things, and utterly willing to do the right thing when it counts. And that's why he's like a magnet for people who want to exploit those very qualities. It's an age-old story, of the good man whose commitment to good only makes him a better tool for evil men.

Think about how Bashir started the series, as an idealist ready to face the rugged frontier armed only with his principles. In his first scene, he was immediately met with a rude awakening when that baby-faced idealism came face to face with reality in the form of Kira. This has been a consistent theme of Bashir stories, whether he's doing frontier medicine or scampering across the galaxy on an adventure with Miles. He almost always has to make a decision when his principles become apparently at odds with the reality of his situation. That facet of Bashir's story is compounded whenever he gets involved with the spy business. Because for all that Bashir is principled and naive, he's also fascinated by games. Even with repeated warnings — Sisko makes sure to tell him here that 'this isn't a game' — he's unable to stop himself from playing along, up to a certain point. He flirts with Garak. He investigates when he knows he shouldn't. And now he's mixed up with Section 31. It always gets him into situations where there is no easy principled answer.

Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges is an episode that perfectly encapsulates this arc for Bashir. Using Senator Cretak, whose devotion to Romulus and dedication to forging peace in the Quadrant we've come to respect, and corrupting Ross, up to this point one of our few good admirals, Ron Moore deftly spins a web that catches Bashir exactly where Sloan wants him. Our beloved young doctor may be a hapless participant, easily manipulated, throughout the whole episode, but he faces an important choice by the end nonetheless.

Sloan tells Bashir that he's a good man who will play along with the game up to a point, and then he can be counted on to do the predictable 'right thing' in the end. Section 31 chose him because he was easy to predict. Because, as Sloan puts, it, he's the sort of man that 31 exists to protect, the sort of man that can sleep at night. But as Garak urged at the beginning of the episode, it's exactly this quality that also makes Bashir naive. It makes him susceptible. It means he can be used. Garak's point was that Bashir ought to be more cynical. The thing is that it's exactly that lack of cynicism that makes him both a good man and a manipulatable one. So Bashir ends the episode unsettled and unable to sleep, wondering whether his idealism is worth it in the end. He doesn't report Sloan's visit to Odo, because he's not sure whether he should continue to try and be the way he has always believed he ought to be. The idealism is finally starting to crack.

It's stories like these that make Deep Space Nine the most worthwhile Trek series for me. I love the stories where we actually get to see what happens when the unstoppable ideal of the Federation's perfect paradise meets the immovable object of all that real world ambiguity that you're bound to find when you push out far enough into the final frontier.

Strange New Worlds:

We visit Romulus here, a planet that is often talked about in Star Trek but rarely visited. A glimpse of Romulus can also be seen in TNG's 'The Defector,' and the matte painting used here was first used to represent the planet in the TNG two-parter 'Unification.'

New Life and New Civilizations:

Bashir tells us that Tuvan Syndrome is a genetic disease that affects Romulans, Vulcans, and Rigelians. Rigelians have been known to share some genetic similarities to Romulans and Vulcans since TOS' 'Journey to Babel.'


-This is the last episode of Deep Space Nine directed by veteran Trek director David Livingston, previously responsible for the beloved 'The Visitor,' among other important episodes.

-The U.S.S. Bellerophon, which appears here, is an Intrepid-class ship, same as the Voyager. The episode was filmed on Voyager's standing sets, which you can tell because Neelix converted the replicator wall of the ship into a galley early on in that show. The galley appears in this set despite the fact that this modification is not standard.

-Senator Cretak is played here by Adrienne Barbeau, best known to me as the voice of Catwoman from Batman: The Animated Series. Megan Cole, who played her in previous episodes, wasn't available to reprise the role.

-I love the little detail about Ross having never drunk Romulan Ale, which is now legal in light of the alliance with Romulus. It really sells that he's such a straight shooter in a subtle way before the rug is pulled at the end.

-Koval is interested in the Teplan blight virus, which Dr. Bashir was able to inoculate children against in 'The Quickening.' Here it's referred to as the Quickening virus.


Sloan: "Let's make a deal, Doctor. I'll spare you the 'ends justify the means' speech and you spare me the 'we must do what's right' speech."
Interesting that we hear both these speeches in the end of the episode, only it's Ross who gives the 'ends justify the means.'

Bashir: "It's a pleasure to meet you."
Koval: "Why?"
Bashir: "Well, you've got me there. It's just a simple form of expression, I suppose."
Koval: "And like most human expressions, completely devoid of meaning."

Bashir: "Is that what we've become? A 24th century Rome, driven by nothing other than the certainty that Caesar can do no wrong?"

5 out of 6 pretend cartographers.
CoramDeo is 150-200% satisfied with this review.

1 comment:

  1. This episode, and others like it, is why Deep Space Nine is my favorite too. Thanks, CoramDeo.


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