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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Extreme Measures (Review)

Extreme Measures is the closest thing to a standalone story within this epic ten-part conclusion to Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

All of the other episodes carry over plot threads and subplots that either develop existing narratives or set-up future twists. This is true even of the more self-contained chapters: When It Rains… and Tacking Into the Wind are something of a two-parter in the middle of the arc, but they pick up in the wake of The Changing Face of Evil; although The Dogs of War has a self-contained subplot focusing on the Ferengi, it deals with baggage from Extreme Measures while setting up What You Leave Behind.

“Well, Miles. If you think it’ll make the episode go easier.”

In contrast, Extreme Measures is practically a bottle show. With the exception of a short one-scene appearance from Garak, Extreme Measures is devoid of the recurring guest stars that populate this final run of episodes. Although Damar and Martok are mentioned, neither Casey Biggs nor J.G. Hertzler appear. Perhaps glad of a week off before his double duty on The Dogs of War, Jeffrey Combs is entirely absent. There is no guest appearance from Louise Fletcher, Marc Alaimo, James Darren, Barry Jenner or Salome Jens.

Indeed, Extreme Measures is very precisely focused on the single story that it wants to tell. Most episodes in this final stretch of the final season have at least two or three plots running through them: Penumbra focuses on the loss of Worf, on Sisko’s retirement plans, on Damar’s growing unease; When It Rains… features the plotting of Dukat and Winn, the development of Damar’s rebellion, and the threat to the Alliance posed by Gowron; The Dogs of War witnesses Ferengi succession, the plan for the invasion of Cardassia, the implosion of Damar’s rebellion.

Journey to the Centre of Sloan’s Mind.

There is so much happening across these ten episodes that it feels strange that Extreme Measures can effectively call a timeout on these recurring plot threads. There are references to the Breen weapon and the Cardassian rebellion, to the ascension of Chancellor Martok and to Bashir’s lingering attraction to Ezri. However, Extreme Measures is an episode without a b-plot or a c-plot. The episode is driven entirely by its primary narrative, the story of how Julian Bashir and Miles O’Brien embark on one last adventure together.

There is something surreal, and almost endearing, about the fact that Deep Space Nine feels comfortable taking time out from its most ambitious experiment with serialisation to make the journey to the centre of Sloan’s mind.

“Julian, are you sure you haven’t been watching too much Star Trek: Voyager?”

To be fair, Extreme Measures is rather different from the episode that the production team had planned, on a number of different levels. Before embarking on this bold attempt to construct a long-form story, the production team had mapped out rough arcs for this sprawling ten episode conclusion to Deep Space Nine. Although the writers did not have time to plot all the particulars before beginning the scripting process, the production staff had a very rough idea of where they wanted the story to go and the beats that they wanted to hit along the way.

Of course, these ideas were prone to revision and reimagining as the writer began structuring them into episodes of television. Certain plot developments had to be moved and restructured; for example, the wedding between Sisko and Yates was moved from the episode that would become Strange Bedfellows to the episode that would become ‘Til Death Do Us Part. Other plots ran shorter than the writing staff had hoped; for example, Dukat was awkwardly written out of the arc in When It Rains…, because the team had covered most of his arc a lot quicker than expected.

“Really, this is my Star Trek swansong?”

However, as the arc continued, these issues compounded. Part of this was undoubtedly down to the ripple effect, where small changes made early in the process led to larger changes down the line. However, part of this was also down to the fact that, while the production team had a clear sense of where they were starting from and where they were finishing, they had not paid as much attention to the finer details of the stories in between. There is a sense that When It Rains…, Tacking Into the Wind and Extreme Measures were largely improvised.

These middle episodes deviated substantially from the original plan. The writing staff had not originally planned to blind Dukat in When It Rains…, and Ronald D. Moore had not originally planned to kill off the character of Gowron in Tacking Into the Wind. However, some of the biggest changes to the flow of these three episodes (and to Extreme Measures in particular) derived from a change that writer René Echevarria made on the fly while writing When It Rains…, a change that had a major impact on how Tacking Into the Wind and Extreme Measures would unfold.

“Sorry. Explain the plot to me again. One more time.”

As René Echevarria explains in The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, Odo originally had a very different character arc running through these three episodes:

“When I began working on When It Rains…, the idea we’d plotted out was that Odo would learn that Section 31 had used him to give the disease to the Founders. But he was not going to get sick, just as Typhoid Mary never got sick. She just spread the disease. But as I got into it, I began thinking, ‘So what? So you find out something that’s happened in the past. There’s nothing to be done about it.’ And I was a good fifteen, twenty pages in when I made the realisation that Odo had to get sick. Ron already was working on Tacking Into the Wind, and when I told him, he flipped his gourd. He said, ‘No! You’ll ruin everything!'” Echevarria laughs. “But we hashed it out, and he agreed that in order for this to be an ongoing storyline that mattered, Odo needed to get sick.”

Which meant that Odo would go with Kira on her mission – and get sick while he was out there – and Bashir would have to be the one to follow up on Section 31 and to find a cure. “We had to make that choice,” says Moore. “Odo couldn’t serve both stories.”

This was a smart choice. The dynamic between Kira and Odo enriches When It Rains… and heightens the climax of Tacking Into the Wind. The opening scene with Kira and Odo might be the best scene in Extreme Measures.

Kira doesn’t flake under pressure.

That said, this choice meant that Extreme Measures had to be hastily reconceptualised. The original plan had been for Odo to track down Section 31 and hold them to account for the virus affecting the Great Link, while Bashir worked hard on finding a cure. However, the decision to have Odo suffer from the infection in When It Rains… and Tacking Into the Wind meant that Odo was in no position to embark upon a manhunt in the middle of this sprawling climactic arc. Even if Bashir could cure Odo, there was no room left to tell that story before the end of the series.

As such, the writers had to rework the basic idea from scratch. Bashir would wind up being the character who chased down Section 31, while also working on a cure for the disease. On one level, this makes a certain amount of sense; Bashir had been the focal character of both Inquisition and Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges, and a lot of the tension of these episodes came from juxtaposing Bashir’s optimism and idealism against the sheer unrelenting cynicism of Luther Sloan. Still, it would be hard to justify Bashir abandoning Odo to embark on an adventure, even to save him.

A lot of people had this reaction to the episode.

This issue was compounded by other factors. Understandably, these final ten episodes cost a lot of money to produce. Deep Space Nine had a sprawling ensemble, and the production team had tried to pay its respects to as many of these characters as possible; What You Leave Behind features more than twenty credited guest stars, even beyond the regular cast. The production team used a wide variety of sets to give the story an epic scope; some of which had been used before and some of which were built specifically for the episodes in question.

The introduction of the Breen as major players in Penumbra meant that that the production team needed more costumes and new ship designs. These final ten episodes featured an impressive array of special effects work, particularly with the Second Battle of Chin’toka in The Changing Face of Evil. The production standards on the Berman era Star Trek shows were always top notch, but this final run of Deep Space Nine episodes generated considerable strain on the resources available.

“Sorry, have to dart.”

As Ronald D. Moore conceded to The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, these budgetary concerns meant that the writing staff’s original plans for Extreme Measures had to be toned down:

“The first thought was that Bashir and O’Brien would leave the station for their pursuit. Bashir was going to come up with a clue and they would leave at the end of my episode. It’s be something like, ‘The answer’s over there, Miles – on Planet X.’ And then in the following episode they’d be off the station on that adventure. But by this time, the budgets were getting out of hand and we had to save money. We already had all these sets up: Dominion headquarters and the Defiant and the caves. All this stuff was cramming our soundstages, so we would have had to rent another one. It just wasn’t possible. We made the decision to lure Section 31 to the station instead.”

The production team had inventively skirted around these budgetary issues before; for example, by using the standing sets from Star Trek: Voyager for Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges. Still, budget is a production reality.

“Boy, you’re think we’d have more stylish virtual reality goggles by now.”
“Well, at least you can wear these on your forehead.”

To be fair, there are points when these ten episodes clearly buckle under the constraints of a television budget. Most notably, a lot of the climactic space battles in What You Leave Behind are cobbled together from a variety of preexisting materials. The combat itself is sampled from episodes like Call to Arms, Tears of the Prophets, and Sacrifice of Angels. The inserts are borrowed from other sources, like Star Trek: Generations and even a quick snippet from The Dogs of War. The Sao Paolo is clearly visible as the Defiant at several points in the episode.

Even within Extreme Measures, there are obvious examples of the production team trying to save the budget. Most obviously, the inside of Sloan’s mind just happens to look exactly like Deep Space Nine so that the production teams does not need to budget for new sets. This is a technique that Star Trek has used repeatedly to save budget. Episodes like The Tholian Web, Where Silence Has Lease, Empok Nor and Context is for Kings all unfold in locations identical to standing sets in order to avoid having to build new surroundings.

“You are not a-Sloan… I am here with you… Although we’re far apart…”

In fact, the Star Trek franchise has a long history of suggesting psychological spaces that also reflect the standing sets; Data’s dreams in Birthright, Part I, Bashir’s mind in Distant Voices. It is practically a given that the inside of Sloan’s mind would look like Deep Space Nine. “Why Deep Space Nine?” O’Brien asks at one point. “I’m just wondering why the inside of your head looks like our space station?” Sloan responds, “I wanted you to feel at home. Comfortable.” He elaborates, “I thought it was the decent thing to do.”

However, the issue is not the use of these sets to save the budget, because that is unavoidable. The issue is the laziness employed by writers David Weddle and Bradley Thompson in explaining the use of these standing sets to save the budget. Sloan’s friendliness seems disingenuous, in large part because it seems like he would want to spend his last few minutes in surroundings that are “comfortable” to him. More than that, even when Sloan turns actively hostile towards O’Brien and Bashir, the sets still look familiar and recognisable; these sets are the Defiant sets.

“You know, I never realised how much I missed the Defiant.”

It might have been more interesting, and would certainly have been more creative, to suggest that the experience of wading into Sloan’s brain is entirely subjective to O’Brien and Bashir. After all, the pair have to process this external stimuli into something that makes sense to them. What if the familiar surroundings are not created by Sloan, but are instead suggested by O’Brien and Bashir to help them comprehend what is happening? Extreme Measures is decidedly unambitious and uninventive for an episode about Bashir and O’Brien infiltrating Sloan’s brain.

Then again, this is to be expected. Extreme Measures is credited to David Weddle and Bradley Thompson, the two weakest writers on the Deep Space Nine writing staff; Weddle and Thompson are responsible for messes like The Assignment, Sons and Daughters and The Reckoning. However, Extreme Measures is a particular poor fit for the duo. Weddle and Thompson have no real skill at handling ridiculous sci-fi conceits. The duo botched the zany b-movie homage in One Little Ship and fumbled the sci-fi-driven “O’Brien must suffer” plot of Time’s Orphan.

A wife well lived.

Extreme Measures is built upon the idea of O’Brien and Bashir breaking into the brain of a high-level secret agent and trying to escape with some vital information. It should be absurd, it should be ridiculous, it should be outlandish. Instead, Extreme Measures just plods along the path of least resistance. As Ronald D. Moore conceded, the production team were quite disappointed with how Extreme Measures turned out:

I wasn’t too happy with it either. It’s one of those shows that sounded good in the development stage when we were laying out the arc, but just never came into focus when it went into production. Initially, our thought was to have Odo going into Sloan’s mind and having a surreal adventure where he eventually ran into Doctor Mora and learned that it was his own “father” who created the changeling disease. Unable to really mine this concept for all it was worth, we junked it and decided to make one final Bashir and O’Brien adventure, but I think maybe we were closer with the original idea.

One of the interesting aspects of the Bashir-centric episodes in the seventh season is how neatly they dove-tail back to earlier Bashir-centric stories. In many ways, Chrysalis is a clever and thoughtful update of Melora. In contrast, Extreme Measures feels like the reheated leftovers of disappointing early-season Bashir-centric narratives, the lame pseudo-psychology thrills of episodes like The Passenger or Distant Voices.

“You know, he’s a lot more leather-clad than I imagined.”

As goofy as the episode’s central premise might be, a lot of the problems with Extreme Measures are boil down to the particulars of how the episode was written. At a script level, Extreme Measures is a plodding, clumsy and lazy piece of work. It takes Extreme Measures almost twenty minutes to hit the central plot. It is possible to get almost half-way through the episode before Bashir casually suggests taking a trip inside the brain of Luther Sloan. It is possible to watch a significant portion of Extreme Measures without hitting the meat of the story.

That is not good plotting, particularly because “journey to the centre of Sloan’s mind!” is such a ridiculous concept that it needs to be embraced wholeheartedly. The episode needs to seed this development earlier in the story, so it doesn’t arrive as a zany swerve in the middle of a much more serious narrative. The opening scenes of Extreme Measures are about a daring and dangerous counter-intelligence operation, with Bashir planning to catch the metaphorical tiger by the tail. This is gritty high-stakes drama. Twenty minutes later, it is a fifties sci-fi b-movie.

“You know, for the supposedly gritty Star Trek, we sure do some crazy stuff to fill up the season order.”

The pacing of Extreme Measures is clumsy, at the best of times. In particular, the opening acts of the episode are burdened with reams of awkward exposition in which Bashir and O’Brien outline the finer details of their subplots in When It Rains… and Tacking Into the Wind, just in case the audience had tuned in without catching the previous two episodes. However, the exposition also sets up Extreme Measures as a gritty story about desperate measures, rather than laying the groundwork for the central “journey to the centre of Sloan’s mind!” plot.

There is a lot of redundancy in the episode’s dialogue, with the characters over-explaining what has happened and what will happen. When O’Brien finds Bashir unable to sleep, he tries to coax his friend to rest. “I’ve had enough,” O’Brien states. “Have you?” Bashir agrees, “Sure. Let’s sleep lightly tonight. Section 31 may still fall for the trap and show up.” That is a really clumsy exposition dump, given that both Bashir and O’Brien have spent the better part of the last two episodes setting up this exact plot. This repeated boasting about their secret plan is disconcerting.

It was the best of times…

Indeed, the weird dissonance between the story that Extreme Measures sets up and the story that Extreme Measures delivers creates a thematic lacuna. There are any number of interesting ideas baked into the premise of Extreme Measures, but these are largely ignored because the episode is eagerly racing towards the “journey to the centre of Sloan’s mind!” plot that takes up the bulk of the second half. It is a frustrating bait-and-switch, because the bait looks much more appetising.

Extreme Measures might be the seventh episode in this sprawling ten-part finale, but it is also the third episode in a loose triptych about the relationship between Julian Bashir and Section 31. Bashir discovered Section 31 in Inquisition, when he found himself under investigation as a potential traitor. Bashir was then played by Section 31 in Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges, his basic decency manipulated to serve their objectives. As such, Extreme Measures finds Bashir brushing up against the organisation one last time before the curtain comes down.

Bashir hits the bullseye.

Early in the episode, O’Brien stumbles across Bashir playing darts. Bashir is fuming, enraged by the very existence of Section 31. He is practically ranting and raving about the secretive cabal. “This organisation, this thing that’s slithered its way into the heart of the Federation, has to be destroyed,” he warns O’Brien. Of course, Bashir’s anger is entirely justifiable; Bashir is the embodiment of Roddenberry’s utopian idealism on Deep Space Nine, so Section 31 is an affront to him.

However, the scene is suffocatingly heavy-handed. In plot terms, it exists to set up the episode’s climax, where Bashir is so consumed by his desire to dismantle Section 31 that he almost allows himself to become trapped inside Sloan’s brain. “Listen to me,” O’Brien warns Bashir. “He wants us to die with him. If we die, Odo dies too!” Bashir’s earlier outrage about Section 31 exists largely to sell the plot dynamics of that specific moment. It is clumsy and transparent storytelling, the easiest way for the script to justify this tension.

“Wait, you mean I’m not invited to Vic’s after the war ends?”

This is all the more frustrating because there is some potentially interesting material here. In particular, the plot of Extreme Measures finds Bashir using “a Romulan memory scanner” on Sloan, which is a rather direct callback to Koval’s use of a similar device on Bashir in Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges. The use of such a device is morally questionable at best. Sisko seems upset at being implicated in its use on Sloan. “Since they’re illegal in the Federation, I’ll assume that’s another reason you didn’t come to me.”

The use of such coercion is interesting in thematic terms, in large part because it amounts to torture. Bashir is the most ethical and upstanding member of the Deep Space Nine ensemble, something that the show has repeated acknowledged in scripts like In the Pale Moonlight or Inter Arma Enim Leges. As such, Bashir’s use of this device upon a captive in his care should be a big deal, no matter what the circumstances. Sisko or Worf probably wouldn’t bat an eyelid at coercing information from Sloan, but Bashir is supposed to be the most idealistic crew member.

“I have some probing questions.”

Extreme Measures glibly shrugs off the implications of this sequence. “Remember these?” Bashir taunts the incapacitated Sloan. “Romulan mind probes? They’re not the most pleasant of devices, but they’re very efficient.” Sloan squirms. “They’re also illegal in the Federation,” he protests. Bashir responds with a smirk. “Oh, I hope you can appreciate the irony of that statement,” the good doctor wryly observes as he prepares to use the devices on his unwilling subject.

This should be a big moment. In effect, Bashir is endorsing the same utilitarian ethics employed by Section 31, the idea that the greater good can be used to justify moral transgressions. In that moment, Bashir becomes something equivalent to Sloan. Of course, Bashir and Sloan have diametrically opposed ideas of “the greater good”, but the use of the Romulan mind probe represents a clear moral line that both characters are willing to cross. Does this mean that Sloan was right about Bashir all along, that he saw something of himself in the seemingly innocent doctor?

“You know, Starfleet’s probably going to ask us a lot of uncomfortable questions about your weird fascination with near-braindead bodies.”

These are big and provocative questions, but Extreme Measures has no interest in answering them. The episode never seems particularly uncomfortable with the idea that Bashir is willing to compromise his ideals in order to protect them from Section 31. These devices serve plot rather than theme, providing a gateway by which O’Brien and Bashir might journey to the centre of Sloan’s mind. Extreme Measures is completely disinterested in any of the moral implications of any of this.

Indeed, even Sloan gets over the use of the devices when Bashir and O’Brien enter his subconscious. At a family gathering, Sloan raises a toast to Bashir. “Doctor, you’ve been a beacon of light to me,” he explains. “You’re living proof that ideology is a poor substitute for kindness and decency, and that at the end of the day, it’s our actions, not our beliefs, that define who we are. What we are.” This is a familiar refrain on Deep Space Nine, mirroring Kira’s comments on ethics in By Inferno’s Light. Of course, it glosses over the horror of Bashir’s latest actions.

“Chief, why does Bashir keep using ‘Bareil’ as a verb?”

Extreme Measures fumbles the ball when it comes to providing closure to the dangling plot thread focusing on Section 31. Although the episode provides lots of exposition about the plot to exterminate the Founders, Extreme Measures is structured in such a way as to avoid any discussion of what that actually means. One of the central narrative tensions of Section 31 is the organisation’s relationship to Starfleet and the Federation, with the Star Trek franchise often using the cabal as a way to keep Starfleet’s hands clean.

There is a tendency to treat Section 31 as an organisation external to Starfleet and the Federation, as an independent body that operates without supervision or authorisation. This characterisation dates back to the introduction of the organisation in Inquisition. After all, there was really no need to reveal that Luther Sloan didn’t work for Starfleet Intelligence, other than to insulate Starfleet from any of Sloan’s sins. This interpretation of the organisation carries over to later stories like Affliction, Divergence and Star Trek Into Darkness.

Sloan’s Daft Punk audition was going well.

To be fair, later episodes of Deep Space Nine have acknowledged that Section 31’s autonomy amounts to little more than plausible deniability; this was a major thematic and plot point in Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges. There are a few brief moments when Extreme Measures brushes up against this idea. “Genocide,” Sisko gasps in the teaser. “Committed by people who call themselves Federation citizens.” Later, Bashir bitterly estimates how many people must have been complicit in the plot to infect Odo.

“I kept thinking just how many people had to be involved in the conspiracy to infect him with the disease,” Bashir admits to O’Brien. “Computer experts, doctors, security officers, admirals, clerks. In the end, I came up with at least seventy-three people.” There is a clear implication that at least Starfleet Medical, if not Starfleet Command, are willing collaborators in this attempt to commit genocide to protect the Federation from the Dominion. However, Extreme Measures never bothers to develop this rich thematic vein.

“To be fair, you did almost enable a gigantic Dominion fleet to storm the Alpha Quadrant last year, so maybe a little less of the ‘genocide’ talk, eh?”

Instead, The Dogs of War finds itself shouldering the burden of this dramatic revelation in Odo’s justifiably angry confrontations with Bashir and Sisko. When Bashir tries to tell Odo that Section 31 is not officially part of the Federation, Odo is having none of it. “Don’t split hairs with me, doctor,” he states. When Odo confronts Sisko, Sisko responds, “The Federation Council considered giving the Founders the cure, then they decided against it.” Odo replies, “Then they’re abetting genocide.” It is a convincing argument.

Odo offers the final word on Section 31 early in The Dogs of War, ruminating on the Federation’s complicity in attempted genocide. “Interesting, isn’t it?” Odo ponders. “The Federation claims to abhor Section 31’s tactics, but when they need the dirty work done, they look the other way. It’s a tidy little arrangement, wouldn’t you say?” That is a damning indictment of the relationship between Section 31 and the Federation, one that dismantles any suggestion that Section 31 is truly “rogue.”

His Odo self again.

However, that discussion feels like it belongs in Extreme Measures. After all, Extreme Measures marks the last appearance of Luther Sloan and the last point at which Section 31 is a potent force in the on-going narrative of Deep Space Nine. Odo’s arguments with Bashir and Sisko are thematically important, but they are also largely redundant at the point in the story. It feels like a massive cop out that Extreme Measures can avoid this discussion in favour of a fairly generic runaround that just happens to take place inside the head of a guest star.

To be fair, it could be argued that Extreme Measures is more interested in giving Julian Bashir and Miles O’Brien one last “hurrah!” before the series draws to a close with What You Leave Behind. This makes a certain amount of sense, given that their friendship has been one of the strongest core relationships on the series across the past seven seasons. O’Brien and Bashir have a compelling dynamic, working together to support otherwise light episodes like The Storyteller or Armageddon Game.

“Hm. He has a winning strategy for the Alamo.”

After all, the relationship between Bashir and O’Brien was very important to everybody working on Deep Space Nine. When Michael Piller asked Ira Steven Behr to return to Star Trek, he asked to be allowed to create a real friendship between the two characters. Many people who worked on the show would argue that Bashir and O’Brien are the best friends in the history of Star Trek. As Alexander Siddig reflected in Crew Dossier: Miles O’Brien:

It’s been said, by even the producers, that O’Brien and Bashir are the only real friendship that’s ever happened on Star Trek. These two really are friends. It’s not like some kind of odd couple scenario, like Spock and Kirk. It’s a real friendship. These people talk about inane things, and I think that’s been really refreshing.

It is telling that, while various characters get their own flashbacks in What You Leave Behind, Bashir and O’Brien both share a flashback together. More than any two characters in the history of the franchise, Bashir and O’Brien seem like regular people who have a friendship that is not rooted in their work. Perhaps Kirk and McCoy come close, but even when they drink together they don’t seem to end up singing Jerusalem.

“No, Julian. Garak never says he misses you.”

Extreme Measures gets to coast on a lot of the goodwill that exists towards Bashir and O’Brien. After all, it is hard to imagine the production team halting the massive ten-episode closing arc for a story focusing on any other combination of characters. It could reasonably be argued that O’Brien’s involvement in the plot is arbitrary at best. The short appearance from Andrew Robinson in the teaser to Extreme Measures hints at a more appropriate combination. Garak would seem to be the Deep Space Nine character best suited to handle Sloan.

Still, Colm Meaney and Alexander Siddig play well off one another. The best moments in Extreme Measures are smaller character moments, such as the sequence of O’Brien and Bashir bickering in a turbolift that seems to be in free fall. “You mean we can let go?” Bashir asks. O’Brien shrugs. “I don’t see why not,” he offers. There is a pause. “Well?” O’Brien presses. “Well what?” Bashir responds. “You first.” O’Brien is having none of this. “Oh, no,” O’Brien counters. “This little trip wasn’t my idea.” It is a wonderfully small and very human moment, amid everything else.

Guy talk.

That said, a lot of the drama between Bashir and O’Brien feels somewhat familiar. There is a sense that Extreme Measures has nothing new to say about the dynamic or the relationship, beyond the fact that these two characters make an interesting team. Even the episode’s central conversation, as the two rest against a wall recovering from phaser blasts, feels like it is covering old ground. As O’Brien regrets not leaving a note for Keiko, he concedes that Keiko has always worried that he liked Bashir more.

“That’s ridiculous,” Bashir chuckles. Then, he adds, “Well maybe you do, a bit more.” This riles O’Brien. “What?” he demands. “Are you crazy? She’s my wife. I love her.” Bashir nods. “Of course you love her, she’s your wife,” he agrees. “I’m just saying maybe you like me a bit more, that’s all.” It is a cute beat, but it feels old hat for O’Brien and Bashir. It evokes their conversation from Hippocratic Oath, where O’Brien reflected that Bashir understood him better than Keiko. “See, you understand. Now, why can’t she see that? Why can’t she be more like–?”

The light at the end.

Interestingly, this sequence generated some tension behind the scenes. Ira Steven Behr recalls being summoned down to the set to deal with Colm Meaney’s complaints about the dialogue:

But there was an episode, it’s tough y’know ‘cos memory’s not strong. It was a Section 31 episode, I remember that much, and all I remember was Bashir and O’Brien thought they were gonna die again and they get into this discussion that I’d written about how Bashir saying to O’Brien that he loved his wife, but he liked Bashir more.

It was one of the few times I got called down to the set because Colm was pissed off, he didn’t want to do it – neither one of them wanted to do it – and we got into this whole thing about the difference about friendship and love. That’s my Colm story. He felt he wanted to be true to Keiko, but at the end of the day, they played it and it was great.

It is a very cute story, and one that suggests a dynamic between the actors that mirrors the dynamic between the characters. Nevertheless, it feels like Extreme Measures adds very little to the characterisation of Bashir and O’Brien.

Going by the book on this one.

Once again, it feels like Extreme Measures fumbles the ball and passes the buck to a later episode. In What You Leave Behind, O’Brien announces that he is moving back to Earth after the end of the Dominion War. However, he only tells Bashir before they mount the final invasion of Cardassian space. As a result, the character beat gets lost in the shuffle. It is squeezed into an episode that is already overstuffed, and there is never enough time to properly process what this means for Bashir and O’Brien.

It feels like that discussion should take place in Extreme Measures, perhaps in the place of the awkward conversation about whether O’Brien loves his wife more than he likes Bashir. It would serve as closure to the dynamic between Bashir and O’Brien, much like Tacking Into the Wind had brought closure to the long-running relationship between Worf and the Klingon Empire. It would add some powerful subtext to the dynamic between O’Brien and Bashir in The Dogs of War and What You Leave Behind, but it also make O’Brien’s departure a big deal.

The sleep of the morally ambiguous.

Extreme Measures is a mess of an episode, in large part because it has no idea what it is trying to do beyond hitting a collection of plot points necessary to move the arc forward. If Tacking Into the Wind is the perfect demonstration of the potential of serialised storytelling, then Extreme Measures serves as a cautionary tale. Tacking Into the Wind weaves years of storytelling together into a satisfying narrative, while Extreme Measures is so preoccupied in hitting those plot beats that it leaves a lot of the heavy lifting to be done by the episodes around it.

If Tacking Into the Wind is the strongest episode of this ambitious and sprawling ten-episode conclusion, then Extreme Measures is the weakest. The best that can be said about the episode is that it doesn’t derail the entire ten-parter, but that is a fairly low bar to clear.

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4 Responses

  1. Shortly after DS9 finished its run, there were a few comments online to the effect that what really ought to have happened in the final episode was that Bashir and O’Brien should have gotten together as a couple, but Star Trek was much too conservative & timid a show to depict a homosexual relationship.

    It really feels like the writers of “Extreme Measures” are very awkwardly skirting the question of whether or not Bashir and O’Brien loved each other. The friendship between Bashir and O’Brien always felt a lot more real than the relationship between O’Brien and Keiko. That’s probably because Julian and Miles were given seven seasons of DS9 to gradually become friends, whereas the very first time we met Keiko in TNG she’s already engaged to Miles and the wedding is right around the corner, so we never got to see them become a couple and fall in love. There’s also the problem that Keiko wasn’t a regular character on DS9, only appearing a few times season, usually in the “O’Brien must suffer” stories, which if you watched those in isolation would lead you to believe that they had the most unlucky, tragedy-prone marriage in the universe.

    DS9 is obviously a product of its time, and it is understandable that in the late 1990s, when there was a much greater stigma against homosexuality in the real world, you’d have two characters who are supposedly living in an enlightened future nevertheless tip-toeing around the gay elephant in the room. I guess that almost two decades later this aspect inevitably feels rather dated, much in the same way that Star Trek’s approach to female characters in the 1990s has also not aged especially well.

    Two episodes later, when O’Brien goes back to Earth with Keiko and their children, and Bashir stays on DS9, hooking up with Ezri Dax, it feels quite like this is being done not because it makes all that much sense, but because that’s how male television characters in the 1990s were supposed to be written.

    I honestly don’t know if O’Brien and Bashir were really in love. Maybe they just had a very deep platonic friendship. I guess it’s open to interpretation by the viewers.

    • I’d be the first to advocate for the inclusion of a homosexual relationship in Berman era Star Trek. In fact, I think I vent my frustrations about that in Chimera.

      At the same time, I’m not sure that relationship should be O’Brien and Bashir. I think it’s possible for two people to love one another without that love being sexual or even romantic. I buy O’Brien and Bashir as friends, perhaps even the truest friends in the Star Trek canon. While the writers over-egged the “O’Brien loves Bashir more than Keiko” pudding, I know that these dynamics (even jokingly) do come into play with these sorts of relationships. I think that having two men who love each other, without that love being romantic and sexual, is something that should be acknowledged more in popular culture.

  2. In the Wardroom, Sloan saying “You are a beacon of light to me, Doctor” struck me as so purple as to be sarcasm about Bashir’s actions which led to Sloan’s death. Sloan is the type of character to use these words as a knife, and Bashir is the type of character to misread them as unironic praise.

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