I’ve been a wee bit critical of some of the past few episode’s plotlines. Many of them felt kinda dumb or half-baked, stories done to give the audience something dramatic but that felt like it was done at least a little for the sake of drama. That largely applies to those episode where characters go on missions that make no sense. The dramatic stakes are high if, say, Worf and Dax go on a dangerous mission together and one of them gets hurt. Yes, those are pretty big stakes, but they seem like the sort of stakes that didn’t have to happen if anyone in that universe put some thought into what they were doing.
But then this episode came along and actually used some of those seemingly dumb decisions into a new light that actually acknowledges how dumb those moments were.
So, here’s the situation: a Starfleet officer named Luther Sloan is on Deep Space Nine, conducting interviews with the crew for reasons unknown. Bashir seems to be up next, and the episode is told entirely from his perspective. It’s an episode that starts ordinarily enough when he helps O’Brien after yet another kayaking injury, but then he finds himself getting summoned after what should have been a good night’s sleep off to an interview with the mysterious Sloan. The first round seems to go OK, but all of the command crew are confined to their quarters, and while Sloan does consent to send Bashir a breakfast that he otherwise wasn’t getting thanks to a busted replicator, he instead ends up with Worf’s GAGH!, and while it probably isn’t spelled with all caps and an exclamation point, that’s what Jimmy and I do for the Next Generation chats, and I hate to skip a half-assed joke just because I am discussing a different Star Trek series.
But then the twist: Sloan thinks Bashir is a Dominion spy owing to his time in that prison camp. From there, he sites how Bashir lied about how he was genetically enhanced. Oh, and then there was Bashir’s attempt to work with other genetically enhanced people in a plan that ended when they decided the best way to fight the Dominion was to surrender, a plan Bashir initially backed.
As soon as Sloan brought that up, I remembered how dumb that was to me at the time I watched that episode. It felt false to me that Bashir would believe something that flew in the face of everything he would have witnessed in his time at the station. Was he not paying attention? Well, even if he wasn’t, someone working behind the scenes for the show sure was. Having this moment, among others, thrown back in Bashir’s face was highly satisfying for me.
The bottom line is, between all these questionable decisions and actions, Sloan believes that Bashir is suffering from a disassociated mind or some such, meaning he was broken by the Dominion to become a spy, but the break is so deep even Bashir himself is generally not aware of it. Cut off from most of his friends and on his own, with Sisko being the only one on hand and even he’s starting to show signs of doubt, it sure does seem as if he can’t get anyone to believe him. Really, the only who seems absolutely certain that he’s innocent is himself.
Man, Sisko’s wavering is kinda scary.
Oh, and then Weyoun beams Bashir out with the exact same story Sloan had. Bashir is rescued by the Defiant in short order, but now no one there believes he’s innocent. Even O’Brien…who is completely lacking an injury he sustained at the start of the episode. From there, yeah, Bashir realizes the whole thing was a trick. He was on a holodeck, sleep and food deprived, as part of an elaborate test by Sloan.
Or a job interview. Sloan works for Section 31, the part of Starfleet that does the sort of thing the Tal Shiar or the Obsidian Order does for the Romulans and Cardassians, respectively. They were there from the beginning, and they did what Starfleet had to do to save lives and keep Federation citizens free. These just weren’t the sort of things that the Federation or Sterfleet wants to advertise. These are people who get their hands dirty so Starfleet doesn’t have to.
Bashir, obviously, wants nothing to do with them.
Sloan thinks he’ll change his mind.
And Sisko, later, after confirming there is no official word on whether or not Section 31 exists, tells Bashir that he should say “yes” next time.
If this episode is full of references to Bashir’s past actions, it even ends with one as Odo notes how much Bashir wants to play spy. As for me, I was impressed at how much the normally episodic universe of Star Trek turned out something that references past episodes this effectively and in a way I was not expecting. And those Section 31 people…well, it’s always good to know that even the good guys have their dirty players.