Deep Space 9 s1e05: ‘Babel’


Not about him

This blog comes a little later than usual, between being caught at the end of my shift and the earlier deadline created by GMT coming back. Fortunately, this was not a particularly complex episode of DS9 to talk about.

I was a little bit surprised to see the show go to a simple adventure story so early in the season, with little done so far to delve into the characters. Dr Bashir and Dax are still fairly void of character, whilst Quark hasn’t yet been developed beyond being Odo’s personal Enemy of the People.

The open suggested something centring on Chief O’Brian, rushing from pillar to post, dealing with all sorts of maintenance work and getting more and more knackered. However, this was just the lead-in to his repair of the Command Replicators, which inadvertently triggered a bomb smuggled aboard by the Bajoran Underground.

This bomb was not your crude, threaten-to-explode object, though we did get a dice-with-deadline threat of exactly that nature to give us an all-action wrap-up. No, quite cleverly, it spread a virus, an ultimately lethal virus that came within hours of finishing off people, but which first rendered them useless and incapable, by scrambling the neurolinks that enabled them to understand and be understand.

Progressively the entire complement of the station except Odo and Quark, who were forced to cooperate, began to speak and hear and read gibberish. It was still very English gibberish, made up of real words in unusual orders, and in the early part of the episode, it sometimes sounded like poetic metaphor, an effect that I’m sure was deliberate.

Thanks to Quark siphoning off a crew replicator to keep his bar going, everybody was effected, one after another. The infection ccount mounted, the number of comprehensible people dropped dramatically. Bashir was making no headway on an antidote, whilst Kira proved the most effective, tracking down an associate of the deceased virus’s creator and kidnapping him from Bajor via the teleporter, to perform a miracle.

Which, despite his having been merely a medical assistant to a genius creator, the good Doctor Surmak – after a five second scan of Bashir’s notes – doped out the antidote in a manner that was rather too easy, and, frankly, perfunctory.

Since that made for a non-visual conclusion, the episode decided to add some bang to its buck by having one panicked ship’s captain determined to break the station-wide quarantine by blasting off. Since Sisko wasn’t releasing the mooring clamps, the impasse rapidly led to chaos, fire and the danger of an explosion that would wreck half the docking ring until Odo, in the very nick of time, manually released the clamps, enabling the ship to shoot off into space to go Boom.

After that, we got about thirty seconds of coda to welcome O’Brian back to the land of the living and land him in it again, with another busted replicator giving Sisko a mugful of crappy coffee.

Not, therefore, a distinguished or even particularly individual episode, and certain without any depth. ‘Babel’ was enjoyable but insignificant, it’s one good point being the ingenious nature of the virus. Such a shame that a stronger story couldn’t have been built around it to match.

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