Thursday, December 22, 2011

Dr. Bashir Lets Ethics Get In The Way Of Violence With His "Hippocratic Oath."

The Good: Good ethical dilemma, Nice acting, Realistic characterization
The Bad: Part of the resolution
The Basics: When Dr. Bashir and O'Brien are captured by the Jem'Hadar, Bashir sees a chance to do good works while O'Brien seeks only escape.

Just when regular viewers of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine were becoming convinced that the show had eliminated all conflict between its main characters, new conflicts began to erupt. The first of these is a serious disagreement between Dr. Bashir and Chief O'Brien, whose friendship took quite a bit to get off the ground in the first place.

When Dr. Bashir and O'Brien crash on a distant jungle world, they are instantly taken prisoner by a group of Jem'Hadar. They are about to be executed when Bashir reveals he is a doctor and their lives are spared. The Jem'Hadar leader, a philosopher named Goran'Agar, tells Bashir that he is no longer dependent on the isogenic enzyme Ketracel White that all Jem'Hadar are genetically addicted to. Bashir, astounded, is given the mission of saving Goran'Agar's men from the drug before they become withdrawal crazed and kill each other and the Federation officers. O'Brien, seeing a potential weakness to exploit to use to escape comes into conflict with Bashir's sense of professionalism which dictates that he ought to help these Jem'Hadar break their addition and leave the Dominion.

What "Hippocratic Oath" does very well is illustrate the integrity both Dr. Bashir and Chief O'Brien have. Despite the fact that their methods are diametrically opposed in this episode, it is clear that both have a deep love of the Federation. Dr. Bashir's professional ethics are highlighted here as we see him actually do something that has to do with medicine! What a novel idea! O'Brien illustrates explicitly for one of the few times in the series his military training and intellect. Both characters have equal time to shine.

Add to the pair, Goran'Agar. Instantly this character comes alive as someone who is special, unique. Throughout the episode, the viewer is attracted to Goran'Agar, convinced there is more to his story that is not being revealed. Alas, his secrets are compelling and it's hard to watch the episode and not figure that he is a Founder in disguise. Sad to say, the writers chose nothing so obvious. It's a testament to the writers that Goran'Agar remains interesting up until the moment we see him last.

What brings us back to this episode in addition to the character work is the acting. Here Colm Meany gives a wonderful performance which, for a change, does not involve him being tortured excessively. It's refreshing to see that he still has it in him to wow us with a performance that does not depend on him twisting his face in various expressions of pain. Here, Meany "sells us" on the idea that O'Brien could be a commando and it works. Meany's more physical performance contrasts nicely with Scott MacDonald's more cerebral appearance as Goran'Agar. The producers had a sense of irony here: MacDonald played Tosk in the first season episode "Captive Pursuit" where O'Brien risked his career to save the hunted creature. MacDonald's performance here is quite different and he hold his own with a great number more lines and a more subtle performance than as Tosk.

Even better is Alexander Siddig. That's Siddig El Fadil, but one will note in the fourth season, he changed his name in the opening credits to Alexander Siddig. Go figure. Regardless of his name, here he provides an intense performance as a scientist on a mission. Bashir's determination is almost never explored in the series and here Siddig gives a great spot of acting maintaining a series of exhausted and focused facial expressions throughout the episode. His acting in the episode's final scene is great.

The only thing that does not make a lot of sense is the end, not the final scene but the one that precedes it. That Bashir and O'Brien survive the episode seems awfully convenient. Then again, I suppose reasonably we could not expect them to kill off two castmembers. Still . . .

This episode will appeal to anyone who likes a scientific mystery or is looking to learn more about the villainous army of the Dominion. Part of the essential Star Trek: Deep Space Nine for the sheer amount of information it provides on the Jem'Hadar, "Hippocratic Oath" is a suspenseful episode that keeps the viewer enthralled.

[Knowing that VHS is essentially a dead medium, it's worth looking into Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - The Complete Fourth Season on DVD, which is also a better economical choice than buying the VHS. Read my review of the turnaround season by clicking here!


For other Star Trek episode, DVD set or movie reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2011, 2007, 2003 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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