Sunday, February 12, 2012

Presumably Human: “Dr. Bashir, I Presume” Surprises!

The Good: Surprise, Good acting, Intriguing character work
The Bad: Quickly repetitive, Fails to capitalize on serialization
The Basics: When Dr. Bashir undergoes intense scrutiny for a great honor, his deepest, most shameful secret is brought to light in “Dr. Bashir, I Presume.”

For Star Trek: Deep Space Nine to endure and keep elements of character interesting, the writers came up with many surprises. Here someone would join the Maquis, there someone would die and the regulars, they tried not to keep them regular. When the title "Dr. Bashir, I Presume" was first announced, many fans of the Star Trek universe thought the writers would be doing an intriguing character study of Bashir (a la Picard's Post-Borg healing process in Star Trek The Next Generation's "Family," reviewed here!). Fans, however, were denied an immediate episode where the effects of Dr. Bashir's capture by the Dominion were explored. Instead, Bashir's enigmatic past is finally revealed and the surprise that comes to light is . . . well, worth it.

When Dr. Louis Zimmerman, the creator of the Emergency Medical Hologram (Star Trek Voyager's Doctor), arrives on Deep Space Nine, he has stunning news; he wants Dr. Bashir to be the template of a long-term medical hologram. In his zeal for the best possible program, Zimmerman conducts extensive interviews of the crew of the station and, against Bashir's wishes, invites Bashir's estranged parents to join the process. After a particularly vigorous father/son argument, Bashir's father walks in on a test of the Bashir hologram and reveals - inadvertently - to Zimmerman the secret Bashir has been hiding for his entire life.

If you want to fully enjoy "Dr. Bashir, I Presume," it is important not to read the back of the video tape box nor discuss with anyone else who is a fan of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine that you are watching the episode. Why? Both will ruin the surprise of the episode and that is a serious detraction to enjoying the episode the first time around.

So, once you've seen the episode, why would you want to watch it again? Outside of the subplot where Rom is working up the courage to tell Leeta how he feels about her and Zimmerman's infatuation with the Dabo girl, seeing the Bashir family dynamic is refreshing in the Star Trek universe. It's nice to see a relationship that is not so clean as so many of the Trek relationships are. Here things are messy between Bashir and his father. Bashir and his mother seem more disconnected than openly angry. But the male Bashir's openly fight and it is nice to see that even though so many problems will be fixed by the 24th Century, family will always be a pain in the butt.

Indeed, the relationship between Bashir and his father is one that makes Bashir seem ultimately the most human character on Deep Space Nine, if only for this episode. While O'Brien usually fills that niche, Bashir here takes it over becoming frustrated with Zimmerman for going behind his back, becoming furious at his father for tipping his hand and ultimately feeling dejected for having his private life made so very public.

The b-plot with Rom and Leeta is fun, but fairly obvious and it does nothing to push the envelope with either character. Instead, this is seen as the logical conclusion to previously made remarks by Rom and Leeta and by the end of the episode, the viewer has the feeling of "It's about time" more than anything.

While Robert Picardo brings a great deal of dignity and energy to the role of Dr. Zimmerman, he is upstaged ultimately by Alexander Siddig. Siddig does an excellent job emoting through Bashir and making the viewer instantly believe in the various conflicts resonating within the character. With an amazing grasp of vocal tones and body movements, Siddig takes the viewer on a journey that transforms how we view his character. Fortunately, we ultimately see that the journey is just beginning for Bashir and that is refreshing.

"Dr. Bashir, I Presume" is great for anyone who likes a good ethical debate or a good family drama, so long as they have some tolerance for some scientific jargon. Fortunately, the episode does avoid it for the most part, making it quite accessible to any adult. Part of the essential Star Trek: Deep Space Nine for the new direction it takes the Bashir character arc in.

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


For other Star Trek reviews, please be sure to visit my index page on the subject for an organized listing!

© 2012, 2007, 2003 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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