To be truthful, I didn’t particularly enjoy this latest episode of DS9. It seemed entirely too predictable from the start and whilst the ending contained a twist I hadn’t foreseen, and which was a bit smarter than I was giving the episode credit for, overall this was just a self-contained story, of no moment before or after its broadcast, but which played with things that would normally have wider-ranging effects.
‘Whispers’ was an O’Brien-centric episode which seemed strange scheduling immediately after an O’Brien-centric episode. It set the tone by starting at the end: O’Brien on the run from the station, from something disturbing that was treated in nebulous but portentous tones: in short, we were in for paranoia.
The episode itself was primarily an extended flashback as the Chief records his side of things against fatalistic overtones of ‘who will they ever allow to hear this?’ It was designed to point one way, and I duly fell for it.
Basically, O’Brien has been off-station among the Paradas in the Gamma Quadrant, agreeing extremely stringent security protocols for forthcoming peace talks on DS9 with the rebel forces in their Civil War. But once back, the Chief finds everybody behaving suspiciously, unnaturally around him. It starts with Keiko and Molly but it encompasses everyone. And he’s being pushed around to prevent him doing his normal jobs: an exceptionally lengthy physical with Bashir, a repair job that may be deliberate sabotage.
It builds up in his mind. A conspiracy, by whom and for what he can’t see, but everyone is against him.
So far this is clearly Paranoia 101, which is why I mentally downgraded the episode. A red herring trail had been paid in a throwaway line about Paradan body odour: some sort of gassing, clearly. O’Brien’s been affected somehow. What was dispiriting was that I knew the episode would have no after-effect, no carry-over. Early Nineties drama series, self-contained episodes, capable of being shown in practically any order. I’ve made that comparison several times already, to DS9‘s detriment, and knowing that this intense paranoia would vanish immediately next week, I couldn’t help but be dismissive.
I was, of course, wrong, and the programme was a lot smarter than that, but too late to change my now well-fixed attitude. O’Brien flees, is pursued, finds his way to Parada 2 and an underground rebel base where Sisko and Co are meeting with the rebels: but it is O’Brien who is wrong. The Chief is already there, just being released from abduction. The one we’ve followed is a replicant, created to destroy the peace talks. Everyonewas acting strangley towards ‘him’ because he was the wrong one out.
The replicant is shot and killed. It was incredibly detailed, so well-programmed that it not only passed an extended physical, it genuinely thought it was Miles O’Brien. It says Keiko’s name. It’s last words are, “Tell her… I love…”
I should be applauding this episode for taking me in so well. That so rarely happens and I love being misled, but for once it didn’t work. It only reinforced my depression over the insular nature of this episode. It won’t have any bearings, not even temporarily, on future relationships because the proper O’Brien wasn’t even on the station. That’s an aspect of series drama I really don’t miss.