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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – The Quickening (Review)

This February and March (and a little bit of April), we’re taking a look at the 1995 to 1996 season of Star Trek, including Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager. Check back daily for the latest review.

Somehow, it happened. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine went from a show that could barely produce one good Bashir episode in a season to a series that could crank out three great Bashir episodes within the same production year.

The fourth season of Deep Space Nine is a fantastic season of television, even allowing for the episodes that don’t quite work (Sons of Mogh, Rules of Engagement) and those that fall completely apart (Shattered Mirror, The Muse). There any number of ways of measuring this success: the ease with which Worf has been integrated into the ensemble; the very high average quality of the individual episodes; the skill with which the production team navigated the introduction of the Klingon plot threads at the suggestion of the studio.

Paradise lost.

Paradise lost.

These are all perfect valid barometres of the season’s success. As is the most obvious indicator: the season is fun to watch and largely holds up on rewatch. However, the simple fact that Deep Space Nine could produce three great centring around Julian Bashir over the course of a single season speaks to how far the production team had come. After all, the studio had repeatedly asked the staff to write Bashir out of the show, convinced that fans were not responding to the station’s chief medical officer.

The Quickening is the third and final “good Bashir episode” of the fourth season, and it demonstrates just how important Bashir is to the fabric and framework of Deep Space Nine. Bashir represents Deep Space Nine‘s esoteric utopianism.

Bashir determination...

Bashir determination…

What is most remarkable about Julian Bashir as a character is the fact that he is the protagonist who feels least at home on Deep Space Nine. Bashir is smart and well-educated, eager and professional. He graduated near the very top of his class, and boasted in Emissary about having his choice of assignments. Allowing that Dax joined the staff at Sisko’s request, Bashir is pretty much the only member of the ensemble who is on Deep Space Nine entirely by his own choice. Given that the station is very much an island of misfit toys, that makes him an odd fit in his own way.

Bashir is a character who would fit more comfortably among the casts of Star Trek: The Next Generation or Star Trek: Voyager. Although Terry Farrell had originally planned to cross over to The Next Generation for Birthright, Part I, the character of Julian Bashir was a much better fit to join the cast of the Enterprise. Bashir is a character who feels like he would get along perfectly with Riker or Geordi, who is probably the only member of the Deep Space Nine cast who could compete to be at the very top of his chosen profession.

Quark's IS fun!

Quark’s IS fun!

Deep Space Nine has always had an awkward relationship with Bashir. There are points at which the writing staff have struggled to define him. Episodes like The Passenger and Melora struggled to find a unique voice for the character, while Distant Voices struggled to find a way to make the character as dysfunctional as many of his co-stars. In the early years of the show, the strongest Bashir-centric episodes frequently threw Bashir together with another member of the cast for contrast; The Wire and Armageddon Game come to mind.

The awkward relationship that Deep Space Nine has with Julian Bashir makes a certain amount of sense, if Bashir can be seen to represent the aesthetic and tone of The Next Generation. Over its first three years, Deep Space Nine worked phenomenally hard to distinguish itself from its sister series. The writing staff struggled to find a unique approach to the shared universe, a distinctive voice that was unambiguously different from what has come before. Bashir was the kind of character who embodied the aesthetic that Deep Space Nine was struggling against.

A blight on his people...

A blight on his people…

It is no coincidence that the show began to get more comfortable with Bashir at the same time that it made peace with the legacy of The Next Generation. The third season found Deep Space Nine standing alone for the first time, outside the shadow of what came before. The fourth season has seen Deep Space Nine become the driving force of the shared universe and establish itself as the more mature and distinguished Star Trek show on the airwaves. The show had matured. It had made peace with itself, and the larger franchise.

However, there is still something tentative about the Bashir episodes during the fourth seasons. As with The Wire and Armageddon Game, the first two Bashir episodes are two-handers. Even the pairings overlap; Bashir teams up with O’Brien in Armageddon Game and Hippocratic Oath, while teaming up with Garak in The Wire and Our Man Bashir. In both Hippocratic Oath and Our Man Bashir, Bashir embodies the purest Star Trek idealism, which throws him into conflict with his more cynical co-stars.

"Let's see what's out there..."

“Let’s see what’s out there…”

One of the most common recurring criticisms of Deep Space Nine suggests that the show is too cynical to be considered Star Trek. After all, utopian idealism is considered an essential part of the franchise, one that distinguishes Star Trek from a whole host of post-apocalyptic or paranoid science fiction. Bill Joy recalls the optimism that distinguished Star Trek for him as a child:

Thursday nights my parents went bowling, and we kids stayed home alone. It was the night of Gene Roddenberry’s original Star Trek, and the program made a big impression on me. I came to accept its notion that humans had a future in space, Western-style, with big heroes and adventures. Roddenberry’s vision of the centuries to come was one with strong moral values, embodied in codes like the Prime Directive: to not interfere in the development of less technologically advanced civilizations. This had an incredible appeal to me; ethical humans, not robots, dominated this future, and I took Roddenberry’s dream as part of my own.

There is something innately romantic about a future where mankind manages to survive another three hundred or four hundred years, let alone a future where mankind actually prospers. Pop culture is so saturated with destruction and apocalypse that something really resonates about Gene Roddenberry’s dream of a future where “there will be no hunger, there will be no greed and all the children will know how to read.” That means a lot to people.

"See, I even found a good use for the device Garak used to torture Odo!"

“See, I even found a good use for the device Garak used to torture Odo!”

It is certainly an ideal worth fighting for, and one that stands in stark contrast to the visions of the future that populate science-fiction. As a result, it is easier to see why the seemingly more cynical Deep Space Nine would be more polarising among fans. After all, the questions and criticisms that Deep Space Nine broaches about the Star Trek universe are frequently read as a rejection of Roddenberry’s idealism. It is an extremist position to suggest that “Deep Space Nine is not Star Trek”, but it is certainly not unheard of.

This is particularly important at this point in the run of Deep Space Nine. From its inception, Deep Space Nine had been a show about how conflict is inevitable between different cultures. With episodes like The Way of the Warrior and To the Death, the fourth season made it quite clear that Deep Space Nine was in the process of transition of transitioning to a show about war. Majel Barrett Roddenberry, the widow of Gene Roddenberry, would vocally criticise the Dominion War in a letter to the Star Trek Communicator.

Death becomes her.

Death becomes her.

The stock argument is that Deep Space Nine is a show that rejects utopianism, that attempts to inject dystopian ideas into the larger Star Trek framework. In the more extreme version of this argument, Deep Space Nine is presented as the serpent in the Garden of Eden, chipping away at the foundations of a franchise that everybody loves. Writers Paula M. Block & Terry J. Erdmann have talked about the difficulty pitching books and merchandise around the series because a vocal section of the fandom considers it to be “too dark.”

These feel like very shallow readings of Deep Space Nine. It is true that Deep Space Nine has a more complicated relationship with the franchise’s utopianism than any other Star Trek spin-off, but that does not mean that the franchise rejects optimism or idealism out of hand. Instead, Deep Space Nine simply looks for those virtues in very different places; it dares to ask whether the utopia proposed in the other Star Trek shows could really be considered a utopia or even if it makes any fundamental sense.

"Well, he did flag this to Sisko back in The Jem'Hadar."

“Well, he did flag this to Sisko back in The Jem’Hadar.”

After all, the utopianism of Star Trek and The Next Generation is rooted in one fundamental concept; the elimination of scarcity. Star Trek and The Next Generation presuppose that people are perfectly capable of getting along with one another when all things are equal and everybody has access to everything that they need. In the Star Trek universe, this is largely provided through the replicator, a magic device that effectively allows everybody to have anything at anytime.

There is an argument that the utopian future of Star Trek is build upon technological determinism, that idea that mankind can effectively invent their way out of their current problems. To be clear, this is not inherently ridiculous or childish. Given that so many wars are fought over natural resources, it seems a perfectly reasonable observation that making more resources available would make it easier to get along. And making that argument is itself a political point. It embraces some form of redistribution of wealth or state obligation to provide for its citizens.

"Okay. Serious face."

“Okay. Serious face.”

This idea is not foolish or stupid or worthless. It has intrinsic value. Indeed, studies suggest that more and more Americans are embracing these concepts of social justice, believing that the state does have a stronger obligation to provide for its citizens needs. However, that does not mean that the ideal is perfect or beyond question. After all, there are questions about how the state is supposed to provide for its citizens when it doesn’t have replicators. More than that, it is also worth asking where the line is drawn with regards to state power in that situation.

These are long-standing questions that exist around the edges of Star Trek‘s utopian ideal. The Measure of a Man articulated concerns about the limits imposed on such a state long before anybody even dreamed of Deep Space Nine, and it is considered a classic. David A. Goodman has confessed to being frustrated with the early years of Star Trek: Enterprise for completely avoiding the question of how mankind came together in harmony in the years before the replicator miraculously eliminated hunger and need.

Brought to heal...

Brought to heal…

What Deep Space Nine does is to ask about what happens to these utopian ideals when these unspoken assumptions are taken away. What happens on a planet that actually has resource scarcity following a horrific occupation? What happens when there is disagreement with a party who will not compromise? Lauren Davis argues that Deep Space Nine largely worked in contrast to the other shows:

Deep Space Nine called into question this human exceptionalism. “Well, it’s easy to be a saint in paradise,” Benjamin Sisko says in the second season. Deep Space Nine takes the world of Star Trek and expands it into a universe, asking “What is it really like to live in a Federation outpost?” It showed the Federation at war, not from the relative comfort of a starship, where skirmishes are the norm, but closer to the front during a persistent, devastating war. And it gave the Federation bigger warts, warts that were harder to ignore. The lauded diplomacy and problem-solving of The Next Generation couldn’t help the Maquis, colonists who revolted after their homes were ceded to the Cardassians. The revelation of the secretive Section 31—which appears in Star Trek Into Darkness—was chilling, even after viewers had grown accustomed to DS9’s grittier Star Trek. Deep Space Nine was about the price of paradise, and it succeeds in large part because we as viewers already knew what paradise looked like.

This is not a bad read on Deep Space Nine, arguing that the show is best approached in the context of the larger franchise and that it most definitely is Star Trek because its central philosophical arguments are all framed in relation to the assumptions spinning out of the larger shows. However, it is possible to accept all of that and still argue that Deep Space Nine is simply too dark to properly count as “real” Star Trek.

"On the other hand, property prices are probably quite reasonable here, right?"

“On the other hand, property prices are probably quite reasonable here, right?”

What is particularly interesting about Deep Space Nine is what happens when the production team are allowed to strip away those underlying assumptions about the larger Star Trek universe. What happens when war does happen within the context of the shared Star Trek universe? What if there are ideological disagreements that cannot be reasoned out because people are not emotionless robots? What happens if you strip away the sort of safety and security that was taken for granted within the framework of the original Star Trek?

The unspoken assumption is that Deep Space Nine is somehow not Star Trek for daring to ask these hypothetical questions about this hypothetical universe. The objections rarely seem directed at the answers themselves, but rather towards the questions that Deep Space Nine dared to ask in the first place. Somehow, the implication is that Deep Space Nine is wrong to challenge these unspoken assumptions at all. The logic seems easy to follow: Star Trek is a future where conflict simply does not occur, therefore Deep Space Nine is wrong to ask how it would respond.

"Well, he has come a long way since he was willing to justify an entire culture suffering based on the Prime Directive in Battle Lines."

“Well, he has come a long way since he was willing to justify an entire culture suffering based on the Prime Directive in Battle Lines.”

However, in spite of the fact that Deep Space Nine is willing to ask these questions, its answers are generally quite optimistic. Time and again, Deep Space Nine confronts its characters with the worst of all possible worlds; time and again, they persevere. For all that the “O’Brien must suffer” episodes are rooted on putting O’Brien through hell, they are all grounded in an inherently optimistic premise; O’Brien will always come out the other side. O’Brien will always survive. O’Brien will always endure. O’Brien will always go home to his family and feel loved.

Deep Space Nine is certainly more cynical than the other Star Trek spin-offs. It is more wary of power and authority. The show asks about the kind of military and political machinery that would be necessary to run the utopia featured in the show. It dares to wonder what dangers might come with entrusting such an organisation with that sort of authority. While episodes like Homefront and Paradise Lost are cynical about Starfleet structures, they remain optimistic about people. Deep Space Nine puts its faith in people like Sisko more than institutions like Starfleet.

He's not there, man.

“You weren’t there, man.”

It is worth comparing and contrasting Deep Space Nine to the show’s spiritual successor, Ronald D. Moore’s revival of Battlestar Galactica. Working on Battlestar Galactica, Moore pushes his own cynicism and skepticism about human nature to its extremes. The worlds of Deep Space Nine and Battlestar Galactica are similar in many respects; they are both hostile and cruel, while still subject to forces that operate beyond the mortal plain. However, the biggest difference is how the characters react to the horrors around them.

The characters of Deep Space Nine are moral beacons; they refuse to be ground down by the horrors around them. Barring Sisko’s compromise in In the Pale Moonlight and his implicit endorsement of Worf’s murder of Gowran in Tacking into the Wind, the characters on Deep Space Nine manage to hold their heads pretty high. The crew are horrified by the existence of Section 31 in Inquisition and unanimously reject the attempted genocide of the Founders in Extreme Measures. In contrast, the characters of Battlestar Galactica compromise readily.

"Yep. You're definitely pregnant."

“Yep. You’re definitely pregnant.”

Deep Space Nine is humanist. It doesn’t take this humanism for granted; it is not the default. However, Deep Space Nine has faith. It is possible for characters to falter and fail, but it is also possible for them to pick themselves up and rectify their past mistakes. On Deep Space Nine, strength does not come from avoiding failure, but from correcting it. Deep Space Nine believes in redemption; it believes that Odo can make things right after his betrayal in Behind the Lines, and that characters like Garak and Damar can settle their debts fairly.

This is the difference between The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine, in a nutshell. The Next Generation believes that it is possible to build a world where people no longer falter; Deep Space Nine believes that a person should be judged by what happens after they trip up. The Next Generation believes that utopia is a destination that can be reached and maintained; Deep Space Nine believes that it is a journey that is long and winding. It is a tough journey, but everyday it gets a little bit easier.

Baby pictures.

Baby pictures.

This is The Quickening in a nutshell. The contrast is quite clear, with The Quickening featuring the show’s most Next Generation cast member in a script written by a former Next Generation staffer. Naren Shankar was a veteran of The Next Generation, who opted not to continue on with the franchise; he was drafted in to write the script when Ira Steven Behr could not find the time. However, his initial draft was heavily rewritten by René Echevarria, despite the fact that Shankar’s name remains on the finished product.

In some respects, that sums up The Quickening perfectly. It is a story written by a veteran of The Next Generation and starring the series regular who would most comfortably fit on The Next Generation, given a polish by the writing team on Deep Space Nine. It is easy to imagine The Quickening playing out as an episode of The Next Generation, with the Enterprise arriving at a strange new planet and fighting a deadly disease before warping off into the distance assuming that everybody lived happily ever after.

A sick sense of medicine.

A sick sense of medicine.

The trick with The Quickening is that everybody doesn’t live happily ever after. One of Echevarria’s biggest revisions to the episode was the title. According to the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, Shankaar had originally titled his script “The Healing Touch”:

The title, however, had to go. “Naren’s title gave away that somehow Bashir would solve this problem,” says René Echevarria. It was Echevarria who came up with the new title after he noted the double meaning of the word “quicken.” “Then the disease becomes active, it ‘quickens’,” he explains. “And, of course, ‘to quicken’ also means ‘to come alive’, and that’s what the show ultimately is about. It’s a neat word, because it means both things. Bashir does heals them; the children will not have the disease.”

As such, The Quickening serves to demonstrate the differences between The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine. On The Next Generation, the cure would be guaranteed. Crusher and Picard could figure out a way to help the inhabitants and continuing on their way. Deep Space Nine makes no such assumption.

A Quark of fate.

A Quark of fate.

In fact, about half-way through the episode, Bashir messes up horrible. Far from saving the people who came to him looking for help, Bashir is accidentally responsible for all of their deaths. A room full of people die in agony as a result of a miscalculation. The script for The Quickening makes it clear that this is not Bashir’s fault. “There’s no way you could’ve known it was because of our instruments,” Dax assures him. When Bashir blames himself, she chides him. “That’s not fair.”

Deep Space Nine suggests that the universe is not fair. It is chaotic and random. Fortune is arbitrary; it is our response to our fortune that defines us. In the wake of those terrible deaths, Bashir is ready to dismiss his mission as a failure. Bashir is ready to warp away towards the next story, having learned a vitally important lesson at the expense of all the people who suffered and died in his care. “There is no cure. The Dominion made sure of that. But I was so arrogant I thought I could find one in a week.”

He's toast.

He’s toast.

Bashir thinks he has hit upon the moral of the story. If that is the case, then it is a fairly bleak moral. If Deep Space Nine genuinely believed that pain and suffering were inevitable and unavoidable, then it would deserve all the accusations and criticism thrown at it. Bashir’s cynicism and nihilism reflects a common strain of criticism against Deep Space Nine, a reading of the show that suggests this is simply what Star Trek looks like when it goes “grim-dark.” However, The Quickening makes it clear that this is a shallow reading.

Bashir is wrong. The Quickening has a strong moral core that extends beyond the nihilism of suggesting that the response to trauma is “never try.” Instead, the moral core suggests that only proper reaction to tragedy is “try harder.” Dax is presented as the voice of reason in all of this, allowed to call Bashir out on his incorrect interpretation of the episode’s central theme. “Maybe it was arrogant to think that. But it’s even more arrogant to think there isn’t a cure just because you couldn’t find it.”

"If techno-babble can't save you, I'm all out of ideas."

“If techno-babble can’t save you, I’m all out of ideas.”

Inspired by Dax’s observation and through the faith placed in him by a patient, Bashir decides not to warp away. Bashir decides to stay. Instead of spending an arbitrary one-week period trying to cure the deadly disease, he commits to fixing the problem. Bashir spends at least a few weeks (maybe more) investigating and exploring the problem. The Quickening unfolds over an extended period of time. Of course, in reality, the story still takes forty-five minutes to unfold, but Echevarria’s script stretches time in a way that few Star Trek episodes are willing to do.

This is a narrative technique that Echevarria honed during his time working on Deep Space Nine. His script for Explorers also took place over an extended period of time. It is a very relaxed way to structure a television story, sacrificing tension and deadlines for a sense of scale and scope. Despite the fact that the extended periods of time erode the immediacy and the tension of the plot, both Explorers and The Quickening feel noticeably larger for the fact that they are willing to incorporate such gaps into their narrative.

Patient patients.

Patient patients.

In a way, this is the core of Deep Space Nine. The show is set on a space station, so it is very much a television series about how people cannot just run away from their problems by traveling to another world or another star system. Deep Space Nine is a show about characters who are stuck in the same place for an extended period of time, forced to confront and work through their problems. Deep Space Nine is a show that is very much about how the response to and recovery from trauma can be as difficult (and important as) surviving the trauma itself.

In the end, Bashir does manage to cure the disease. Still, there is a caveat. Bashir cannot help those currently living with the illness. Instead, he develops a vaccine that might be used to help the next generation of children grow up free from the infection. The current generation will still live with the horror of their disease, but their children will live a better life. In many respects, this is one of the central themes of Deep Space Nine. The show returns time and time again to the idea of incremental progress; history repeats itself, but maybe people can learn from that.

"I can't cure it. Ego... I mean, ergo... it's uncurable."

“I can’t cure it. Ego… I mean, ergo… it’s incurable.”

Deep Space Nine seems to suggest that history moves in familiar arcs, a theme heavily and consistently reinforced across the fourth season. Empires rise and fall, the strong prey on the weak, conflict happens. That is perhaps a more cynical perspective than most would expect from Star Trek. However, Deep Space Nine retains some small sense of optimism. Maybe people can come through trauma and break the cycle of violence. Maybe Kira can take Ziyal away from Dukat’s war in Return to Grace and maybe Ziyal and Garak can be friends in For the Cause.

This is a recurring idea across the run of Deep Space Nine. However, it is very much embodied in The Quickening. The episode makes repeated reference to mural that was painted by a deceased artist. The mural painted this world as it once was, as a utopian paradise. “Two centuries ago, we were no different from you,” Trevean warns Bashir. “We built vast cities, travelled to neighbouring worlds. We believed nothing was beyond our abilities. We even thought we could resist the Dominion.” However, that society has been allowed to rot and decay.



When Bashir does eventually visit that mural, he discovers that it is decayed and eroding. The pain is faded and worn. Paradise is not just a romantic ideal, it is an image that is slipping from memory. Paradise has been allowed to slip away. Perhaps this is Echevarria commenting on the loss of the sixties utopian ideals that informed so much of the original Star Trek, a romantic notion of what the future might have been that had been chipped away during the nineties. A dream can die if it is not properly maintained.

Deep Space Nine is a show about attempting to recover paradise, about hoping that tomorrow might be better than today. While the other Star Trek shows take that idea for granted, Deep Space Nine suggests that it takes real work and effort to maintain that ideal. Maybe, if we try hard enough, things can be better. That sounds like a very Star Trek philosophy, regardless of what Deep Space Nine critics might argue about the show’s cynical world view. The Quickening showcases the series’ unique (and even esoteric) idealism.

Carry on.

Carry on.

This unique idealism is reflected in the character of Julian Bashir. While the show takes a while to figure out how best to approach the character, it never erodes his fundamental decency. Bashir never really ceases to be the idealist among the crew, which makes him the perfect focal point for episodes like Inter Arma Silent Leges. However, Deep Space Nine declines to make Bashir the butt of the joke or to treat him as a cruel punchline. Bashir’s optimism is never allowed to ebb away.

This is the key to the best Bashir episodes, and something that the show has figured out at this point. The fourth season is able to produce three fantastic Bashir-centric episodes because it is willing to embrace the character’s idealism. In both Hippocratic Oath and Our Man Bashir, the character is thrown into conflict with a more cynical colleague. In both cases, Bashir is ultimately vindicated by his unwillingness to compromise. Even in The Quickening, Bashir is able to do the right thing once he can look past his own ego and expectations.

"I just died in your arms tonight..."

“I just died in your arms tonight…”

Bashir is a hero. In some ways, he is a flawed hero. Bashir can be short-sighted and arrogant, self-centred and oblivious. However, Bashir has a fundamental faith in people and in the universe that is frequently and repeatedly rewarded. Indeed, Inter Arma Silent Leges is really the only episode where Bashir’s optimism is thoroughly routed and cynically exploited. However, that is very much the exception that proves the rule. While a more cynical show would dismiss Bashir’s hopefulness as a weakness, Deep Space Nine seems to suggest it is his greatest strength.

The Quickening is a fantastically produced episode of television. It is directed by actor Rene Auberjonois, who is directing his second Bashir-centric episode of the season. In terms of sheer technical mechanics, The Quickening is a much more audacious piece of work than Hippocratic Oath. The bulk of the show unfolds in an extensive outdoor set, with Auberjonois attempting to provide a sense of scale and grandeur to the fallen society on a dying world. Auberjonois does great work, particularly at communicating the scope of this tragedy.

A fallen world...

A fallen world…

Auberjonois has acknowledged the production of the episode was something of a challenge, but he remains proud of his work in bringing it to life. In particular, he cites that wonderful shot that tracks Bashir and Dax as they beam down providing a sense of the world into which they have arrived:

So I, in my own fledgling way, tried to conceive of shots that would have a sweeping sense so that the audience would get to see where we were, that it wasn’t just on a back lot somewhere – we went to this incredible rocket launching-testing place and they built this town, really, down a ravine and then they did all these matte paintings above it. The only place I had any trouble convincing them was in the first shot when Dax and Bashir transport down onto the planet, I wanted to see them transport and have them walk and have the camera move and see the entire town spread out in front of us. And that cost a lot of money and required a very special camera and they resisted that, but with Jonathan West’s help, our wonderful cinematographer, we convinced them that it was really stupid to do it any other way than that, if we didn’t do it that way then we might as well shoot it on a soundstage because the magic of it would not be there. To see them actually physically walk and then to watch the whole place open up in front of us made the audience – on a very subliminal level, even if they don’t pay attention to things like that – made them know that they were seeing it really happen in front of them. And so that dictated the rest of they way we filmed it, and Jonathan did his – I think his best work of the season in that show.

The Quickening is fairly low key, considering the stakes. It has a pondorous and reflective quality to it. Auberjonois’ direction helps a great deal, avoiding forced melodrama in favour of a more patient and considerate approach to the material. The Quickening is a contemplative meditation on death and dying, without excessive drama.

Bedside manner.

Bedside manner.

John Eaves surpasses himself in rendering the matte illustrations of the Teplan homeworld. Those establishing shots are absolutely beautiful, and a reminder of the sort of artistry that is increasingly squeezed out in the contemporary era of computer-generated imagery. While computer-generated artistry can be beautiful, it is rarely as stylised as Eaves’ illustrations. It is difficult to imagine any of the computer-generated backgrounds from Enterprise competing with the visuals here. Eaves makes Teplan look like a fallen world.

The Quickening continues the fourth season’s return to form.

14 Responses

  1. I think one of the thins this episode does so well is how there is no real villain beside the Dominion. It would have been very easy to make Trevean a hostile adversary to Bashir, but instead Trevean becomes somewhat sympathetic. The audience comes to understand why he is doing what he is doing, which stands in contrast to TNG or Voyager in which there was usually an arbitrary bad guy. Episodes like Transfigurations or Homestead come to mind.

    • That’s a very good point. There is no antagonist beyond the disease itself, and the episode affords its guest cast the freedom to their opinion and perspective on how to deal with that. (That said, I don’t mind the arbitrary bad guy in Transfigurations, if only because the arbitrary bad guy is what allows the episode to function as a better metaphor for LGBTQ than The Outcast, even if that intention was not explicit; although I think his script for The Offspring suggests Echevarria was at least aware of his themes.)

  2. It’s true. Even the victories on BSG had a taint of cynicism to them. Possibly the most uplifting scene was that of Adama adding a “1” to the population count in celebration of a birth…which he forces the mother to undergo in lieu of a much-justified abortion. Olmos was a huge fan of that scene, which befits his character, but it made me squirm.

    The overarching message is that humans never change, they we are trapped in a vicious cycle of “commercialism, decadence, technology run amok” which destroys itself again and again. (And then they expected us to sit through a prequel.) 😛

    Sorry to go on a tangent. I don’t have much to say about The Quickening because it’s so good. DS9 always had the edge when it comes to performances and direction.

    • Rewatching the fourth season of DS9 has given me a new appreciation for the show’s direction. There is a tendency when talking about television (particularly “classic” television) to downplay the role of director because of the differences between the role a director plays on a feature film as compared to on an episodic television series. In particular, I’m very fond of the work done by LeVar Burton, David Livingston, Cliff Bole and James Conway on the 1995 to 1996 season of Star Trek.

  3. Hippocratic Oath and The Quickening would make a perfect double-bill; in both cases, Bashir is trying to cure someone of something inflicted on them by the Dominion and both are directed by Rene Auberjoinois. And in both episodes, Bashir ultimately fails. He doesn’t cure the Jem’Hadar of their addiction to Ketracel White, and his solution to the blight is something that will only pay off in the long-term that he won’t live to see.

    I think Bashir would still find a way to piss some of the TNG cast off, like he initially did with O’Brien and Worf. I agree that his high ideals would make him a perfect Enterprise crewmember, but I can imagine a similar conversation between he and Picard or Riker like there was with Ensign Mendon in A Matter of Honour. It would not be that difficult for Mendon’s dialogue to be given to Bashir. And on Voyager, he surely would have functioned as that show’s Harry Kim.

    Because Majel Barrett was critical of the Dominion War, I wonder if that’s why Lwaxana Troi vanished from the series. Lauren Davis says Section 31 appeared in Star Trek Into Darkness; is that true, or did she mean Inquisition? Did you mean incurable Darren when you said uncurable? Do you think the bit with Quark is intrusive in such a dramatic episode, or just trying to crowbar the entire cast into The Quickening? I wonder if Bashir’s way of combating the blight would work on the Vidiian Phage? But I don’t know for sure since the Phage was not a biological weapon, at least not as far as we know.

    • Good spot on the in/uncurable error. Corrected!

      It’s actually interesting that you should mention the Harry Kim comparison. I’ve been watching DS9 and Voyager side-by-side, and that occurred to me quite recently. Kim is basically Bashir as he was itnroduced; young by-the-book and overeager. Of course, there’s a huge difference in (a.) how the writing staff treat the character, and (b.) the level of talent between Siddig El Fadil and Garrett Wang.

      I seem to recall Section 31 appearing in Into Darkness. The hub attacked by Noel Clarke is explicitly stated by the headquarters of Section 31.

      And the opening is transparently about crowbarring the cast into the episode. (See: Odo and Quark in the teaser to Through the Looking Glass, or the opening Deep Space Nine scene of … Nor the Battle to the Strong.) But it’s a good gag, to the point that I frequently remember the scene without any connection to the actual episode. I can’t place it, and it almost feels like it was a “day in the life of the station” digital short.

      • Garrett Wang felt he was underserved by the writing staff but I doubt very much he would have had the acting chops to carry it off anyway. He manages to make Harry Kim too immature like in Resolutions which was made round about the same time as The Quickening.

        Thanks for the Section 31 info Darren. It’s nice to know that shadowy organisation didn’t die with DS9.

        I think all the Trek shows are guilty of wedging the entire cast into a scene if they play no actual part in an episode, but on DS9 it’s especially noticeable. Nor the Battle to the Strong must be one of the most blatant examples as they all talk about a new Raktajno Quark’s invented that then segues into a discussion about the difference between mothers and fathers.

      • Yep. I think it’s more obvious on DS9 than TNG or Voyager because DS9 had a fondness for the plot device of sending two characters off into a dangerous situation together far away from the station. Bashir and O’Brien in The Storyteller or Armageddon Games, Dax and Odo in Shadowplay, Sisko and Quark in The Jem’Hadar, Bashir and Dax in The Quickening, Bashir and Jake in … Nor the Battle to the Strong. In most cases, the show will feature a secondary plot on the station, but occasionally it won’t. On TNG and Voyager, those kinds of episodes tended to have a built-in b-plot with the Enterprise or Voyager mounting a rescue mission. Understandably, a station-based show had fewer options. (Which, to be fair, generally meant more time spent with the two characters in question, which was a good thing.)

  4. I love the scene with Quark in the very beginning – it is hilarious, and to me it feels like the quintessential DS9-comedy scene. For that very reason I completely concur with your problems to localize it in the series, Darren.

    I wonder if the cure in the end is not a blessing in disguise. Won’t people envy the disease-free new generation? “Children of Men” comes to my mind here. And: Will the elder live long enough to educate the next generation (a general problem which was not really addressed…. And although I guess it is no real intereference as the disease itself was already an interference and the people at last had warp capability long time ago, I would have liked to hear some mention of the Prime Directive. I guess TNG 1st or 2nd season would have seen Picard not interfere… (or, as you suggest, find the cure and be the magician from outer space).

    One quibble I still have at this point in the series is with Siddig El Fadil’s acting. It may sometimes be related to his accent, but it often feels stiff, forced, unnatural, scripted. Especially in the first runabout scene. Later on in the episode it gets a lot better. I feel that all scenes where he has to personify the series bible character description fall flat.
    Regarding Bashir as a character though, I find this to be an amazing episode, too. But no less great was Dax’ role (and her point against Bashir’s real arrogance) in this. It/they all really worked amazingly well together.

    • I actually like Siddig’s acting. It’s very theatrical, but it’s a style that really suits Star Trek. Then, I also adore Brooks’ polarising style as well. But I don’t think the Bashir-centric episodes in this season would work as well without Siddig’s very proper stage acting. (Incidentally, I always thought that was why he worked so well with Meaney. Meaney is one of the most naturalistic Star Trek leads, so you get a nice contrast between the two.)

      • I like Siddig in later seasons. Brooks was alway great – despite some people dissing him as a failure. He is bit crazy – but that fits perfectly the role.

        Still a great point about the contrast between Siddig and Meaney – it mirrors their role perfectly well. Especially considering that Bashir is like a stand-in for the (no less theatrical) perfect Picard-Starfleet.

      • That’s a good point about Bashir as Picard. He’s certainly the most TNG-esque of the major DS9 characters. (Even Worf!)

  5. A simple concept, perhaps, but still a fantastic episode nonetheless. The script doesn’t transcend 90s Trek-but it is a remarkably polished and well-written piece of science fiction. Naren Shankar really makes you feel the plight of the planet’s inhabitants, and Bashir’s arrogance was also very nicely handled-proof that Bashir is indeed one of DS9’s most interesting characters, and that the genetic engineering thing was unnecessary.

    • Yep. It’s a really great underrated little episode. (And a nice capstone on season four’s recurring “hey we got Bashir to work, suckers!” motif.)

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