Deep Space Nine: s04e04 – Hippocratic Oath


Unnatural allies
Unnatural allies

Once more unto the 24th Century, dear friends, to the Space Station Deep Space Nine, lying between Bajor and the Wormhole into the Gamma Quadrant, for another A/B episode.

As the title indicates, the A story belongs to Doctor Julian Bashir, or rather to he and his good friend Chief Miles O’Brien, who find themselves at odds when on a mission in the Gamma Quadrant, enough so to disrupt their weekly darts game (though not, I wager, their ongoing friendship).

Meanwhile, the B story concerns itself with Worf’s attempts to adjust to life on DS9 as opposed to the Enterprise, and it is here we will start, simply because it is the B story, and thus simpler.

Basically, Worf’s years as a Security Officer prove difficult to leave behind. He can see Quark doing a deal with a smuggler in illegal crystals, and he can see Security Chief Odo doing bugger all about it, apparently. Despite being warned off by Sisko, Worf can’t let it lie and interrupts the transaction to arrest both. What he doesn’t know is that Odo was disguised as the payment, intending on infiltrating the smuggling ring and bringing the whole organisation down, only now he has to settle for the middleman.

Odo omits this unfortunate disruption from his report to Sisko, but the overly honest Worf shops himself, and is rather surprised to discover Sisko knows already. There are few secrets on DS9. This sets up a rather metafictional ending, in which Sisko compares the clear-cut black and white nature of Starship life with the rather more complex one of DS9 and it’s shades of grey, one of which is definitely Quark.

This may be me being cynical, but I read a sly dig at TNG into that which, despite my obvious preference for DS9, I found unnecessary.

To the A story: this was a rather more complex affair than I first anticipated it being, and, other than its traditional fence-sitting ending, was more substantial and considerably more significant than I expected. Bashir and O’Brien have been on a mission in the Gamma Quadrant, which they’ve completed ahead of schedule but are diverted from their return by emissions that suggest a possible ship crash. Instead, their Runabout is shot down and they are captured by a party of Jem’Hadar.

But it’s not what it seems. Astonishingly, their leader, Goran’Agar, is free from the addiction to ketracel-white, genetically bred into the Jem’Hadar and used by the Dominion to control them. Four years previously, he was the sole survivor of a crash on this planet, expecting to die in agony once his supply ran out, but instead surviving.

Not only that, Goran’Agar has begun to display independent thought, compassion, the desire for freedom and freedom from the inbred urge to kill, stomp, batter and puncheminaface!

He has led his men away from the Dominion, to the exact place, to free them from both addiction and slavery. Bashir, as a doctor, must help them. They have five days supply left.

Bashir, as a Doctor, helps willingly. He sees great possibilities: if the Jem’Hadar can be ‘cured’, they can develop like Goran’Agar, removing them as a threat, removing them as a Dominion weapon. O’Brien, in contrast, thinks like a soldier: you do not help to strengthen the enemy against your own side, and there is also the possibility that once the Dominion control is removed, the Jem’Hadar boys will set up to kill of their own free will, for the fun of it.

Nature versus nurture, genetics versus free will, optimism versus pessimism, with their fellow horsemen, idealism and cynicism. Goran’Agar supports Bashir’s contentions, but his second-in-command despises how he has become weak, soft, inferior and if this is the result of doing without ketracel-white, he’s for a re-up right now.

This equivocation is the A story’s one great weakness. It’s a drama series with an underlying commitment to the status quo, so the story won’t allow itself to come down to one side or another, just as it ultimately won’t allow the fundamental difference of opinion between Bashir and O’Brien – and their contrasting actions – to disrupt their friendship. Their actions won’t have consequences.

So: Bashir can’t find evidence of a curative and ultimately posits Goran’Agar’s release from the drug as a genetic freak, he is effectively a mutant, never addicted to begin with; Bashir has to pull rank to order O’Brien to cooperate, but O’Brien disobeys and pulls off an escape; Bashir starts getting somewhere on a theory and insists on staying whilst O’Brien escapes the planet, but O’Brien basically blows Bashir’s equipment and experiment to buggery to force his hand; Goran’Agar releases them but refuses to escape because he owes it to his men to give them a swift death, not the lingering one of cold turkey, which the Chief understands where the Doctor doesn’t; and the two cannot see eye-to-eye on the way home, even as Bashir refuses to bring O’Brien up on charges for refusing to obey a superior officer.

It’s still a very good story, but I can’t help wishing for a twenty year roll-forward, as I have in the past, to an era where the inevitable implications of such a clash of views would be followed through and not brushed under the table.

And while I’m at it, I’ll complain that the sun should not go down at night, but have the courage of its convictions and stay up late. Sigh.

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2 thoughts on “Deep Space Nine: s04e04 – Hippocratic Oath

  1. You’re probably right at the shot at TNG and starship shows, but it might have been just to help illustrate the point to fans that came in just to see Worf. But it’s so very much true, DS9 went more places, for being a stationary show, than TNG ever did “exploring” the unknown.

    Another solid episode, though I seem to remember more about the B plot than details from the main story…

  2. I’m starting to have mild issues with the whole A story/B story set-up, especially where the B story is as slight as this in comparison. They’re a bit too obviously engineered to give the rest of the cast something to do whilst the featured one or two handle the A story, and I’m finding they detract/distract a little too much, especially from powerful A stories.

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