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Star Trek Deep Space Nine: Extreme Measures

“Well, setting aside all the legal and ethical issues involved...”

Deep Space Nine's perennial BFF's, Miles O'Brien and Julian Bashir, get to go on one last adventure together as they enter the land of 'that trope where one character enters another character's dreamscape.'

Oh, and Odo might die.

As Deep Space Nine enters the final countdown to its big finale, the cast and crew begin to tidily tie some remaining loose threads together, put some big ticking clocks in motion (if that's not a mixed metaphor), and – most importantly – celebrate one last round of Hijinx for Team BashBrien. Or possibly Team JuLiles. I don't know, do they have an official couple name? Never mind, that's not important right now.

Obviously, the Capital B, Capital I, 'Big Issue' that they have to take care of here is that of Odo's imminent death. For the last few episodes, it's been becoming clearer and clearer that Odo is comprehensively circling that great cosmic drain. And while I don't think anyone either watching or making this seriously believed that they would ever kill Odo off, they did do an impressive job of at least hinting in that direction.

Which is a good opportunity to give a shout out to Rene Auberjonois's makeup effects during the opening scenes of the episode, which are just wonderful. The skill with which they handled the seamless transition between what's 'apparently' clothes disintegrating into what's 'apparently' flesh disintegrating was very, very well handled. Also, probably not something they spend a lot of time teaching you how to do in special effect makeup school.

Speaking of the opening sequences of this episode, they underline the best creative decision that the episode made. Namely, to completely drop almost every other aspect of the current, massive, galaxy spanning plotline and focus entirely on just three characters. We get the pre-titles sequence of Odo and Kira's tearful goodbye in the sick bay in order to establish the stakes for just how dire his situation is. Then we get a moment with Sisko, Kira, and Garak which essentially just says, 'Well, all that other stuff with Breen weapons and what not is still going on, so we're going to go deal with that off screen for a bit.' And then, for every practical purpose, nobody but Julian, Miles, and Sloan exist for the rest of the run time.

Sure, we get a brief look in from Sisko and Ezri a bit later in order to facilitate the 'not really back in the real world' fake out, but there's no denying that this episode essentially has three characters of any importance. No more. No less.

For a single installment in the middle of an eight (or nine, or ten, depending on how you like to count them) episode saga, this is astonishingly intimate.

Which circles me back to my initial statement. Given that the production crew needed to craft an episode in which the characters track down and obtain the cure to the disease that's killing Odo, the producers made the wonderful choice to frame that quest through the lens of Miles and Julian's friendship. Complete with the bittersweet knowledge (on our part if not theirs) that this was going to be their last opportunity to romp.

That's why the centerpiece of the episode isn't curing Odo. Nor is it even finding the cure to Odo's disease. The heart of this episode is two best friends sitting in a hallway, not quite allowing themselves to admit that they both like one another more than they do their wives. If you have a best friend like the one I have – and you're very lucky if you do – then that seemingly frivolous conversation hits. It hits hard.

OK, yes, hypothetical pedantic responder. I know that Ezri isn't Julian's wife, merely an incipient romantic interest. My point still stands. For what it's worth, I could never get that invested in Bashir and Ezri as a couple. I suspect it's just a question of them not getting enough time to develop it.

In any case, I've danced around it long enough. It's time to talk about William Sadler.

I'm just going to lay my cards on the table on this issue. I adore William Sadler. He's one of my favorite actors, and he's always great in everything. If there was a big fire, and I had to choose between saving either him or Robert Duvall, I think my soul would literally flee my body. And then of course I'd pledge it to some sort of passing demon on the condition that they both got to live.

I might have given this more than a passing thought...

In any case, Luther Sloan, Agent of Section 31, nefarious doer of sinister deeds, gets to go out here in a blaze of glory and every single beat of it works. In an effort to contain my inclination to valorize every single thing that William Sadler does as if it was an epic Viking poem, maybe let's just bullet point the best parts.

- The effortless way that Sloan conveys surprise at being captured by the force field, fear at not knowing what Julian intends to do, and cocky arrogance to keep Julian off footed all at the exact same time is just a master class in character work.

- The decision to have the first 'Sloan' that Julian and Miles meet in his rapidly dying brain be his better nature, who only wants to meet with all of the people he loved in the world and apologize for not having been a better person was a massively unexpected and touching scripting choice. And the subtle variations that William Sadler brings to the different internal aspects of Sloan's personality never stop being impressive.

- Somehow, even though he's actively in the middle of killing Odo at the time, you can never really shake the feeling that Sloan really believes that he's doing the right thing. The good thing. The heroic sacrifice of his own soul for the sake of the greater good. That's a really interesting place for him to be coming from.

- There is almost no trope that brings me more unfiltered joy than the old 'Oh no, he has a poison tooth capsule!' bit. Yeah, I know that in this case it was a 'neural implant.' But let's be real. It was the old 'Oh no, he has a poison tooth capsule!' bit. And I freaking loved it.

Bits and pieces:

-- It is a truth universally acknowledged that a genre series in possession of good fortune must eventually do that episode where someone important is unconscious and so other characters must find a technobabble explanation for entering their mind and wandering around the dreamscape of their thoughts. Which will inevitably be constructed of the already standing regular sets from the program for both psychological and cost saving reasons.

-- Having just typed that, now I really want to see it happen to Mr. Darcy.

-- It turns out that Quark's has shockingly poor security. Not surprising, after everything.

-- So, now Odo's cured. And more importantly, the good guys know what the cure is. I can't imagine that will play into the final episodes. No, ma'am.

-- No Gul Dukat. No Kai Winn. No Klingon political drama. Not even a glimpse of Cardassia. Even Garak is basically here just to say 'Uh, it seems clear that you're not going to need Kira this week, so I'll just take her away now, ok? Thanks 'byeeeee.' Like I said, this is very intentionally intimate. Sure, probably at least partially for budgetary reasons, but it's still an effective choice.

-- Which is not to trivialize the very lovely continuity in the opening sequence in which Odo lists one of the reasons that he wants Kira to leave as his remembering that she'd had to watch Vedik Bareil die in that same room. That was a nice detail.

-- They did a pretty good job seeding 'Tale of Two Cities' and how far into it Julian had gotten so that it could trigger his realization about still being in the Matrix Sloan's mind later on. It's an obvious gag in these scenarios, but they handled it pretty well.

-- The season overall did a really clever trick here in which Julian and Miles decided not to tell Sisko that Section 31 had created the disease a few episodes ago solely so that they could tell him in the beginning of this one, thus bringing up to speed any viewers who might have missed the previous two episodes. They're figuring out how to do serialized storytelling while we watch.

-- It was sweet that they nailed the 'Julian only survived because Miles insisted on coming with and was therefore there to tell him when he had to stop.' moment. Sigh. Who would ever have expected back in season one that the friendship between these two would become such a wonderful thing.


Odo: "I don’t want the last thing I see to be pain in your eyes."

Bashir: "I’m disappointed in you, Sloan. You don’t normally wield such a blunt instrument.”

Bashir: "Remember these? Romulan Mind Probes. They’re not the most pleasant of devices. But they’re very efficient."
Sloan: "They’re also illegal in the Federation."
Bashir: "Oh, I hope you can appreciate the irony in that statement."

Sloan: "In death I can finally step out of the shadows and prove to myself that I existed. That I lived."

Guard: "You’re in a restricted area."
Miles: "I thought we were in the cerebellum."

Julian: "This is older than I am."
Miles: "I’m drinking with a child."

A quiet character piece before the storm of the last few episodes really breaks that not only saves Odo, discovers the cure to the Founders' plague, and put a bow on the ongoing Section 31 storyline. It also tells a really touching story about how great it is to just hang out with your best friend. Even if it is for one last time. And you both might die at any moment. Still. Friendship. Am I right?

Four out of four tributes to William Sadler. Who is still alive, and long may he be.

Mikey Heinrich is, among other things, a freelance writer, retired firefighter, and roughly 78% water. You can find more of his work at the 42nd Vizsla. If you'd like to see his raw notes for this and other reviews, you can find them at What Was Mikey Thinking.


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