Saturday, March 31, 2012

"Inquisition" Finds Doctor Bashir On The Wrong End Of An Intelligence Investigation!

The Good: Character development, Acting, Direction
The Bad: Somewhat overdone plot technique
The Basics: When Doctor Bashir is detained by StarFleet Intelligence, he finds himself surprisingly alone in a terrible situation.

One of the truly wonderful elements of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is the fact that almost every significant episode is followed-up on later in the series. As a result, few important events happen in a vacuum and the show builds characters whose actions actually have consequences. In the case of Doctor Bashir, much was made in the sixth season about the character changes that resulted from “Doctor Bashir, I Presume” (reviewed here!). What the writers of the episode “Inquisition” were smart enough to do was refocus the character on the missing weeks that preceded that episode. Before “Doctor Bashir, I Presume,” it was revealed in “In Purgatory’s Shadow” (reviewed here!) that Doctor Bashir had been held captive by the Dominion for months. “Inquisition” attempts to look at what might have happened in those months and it turns into a very engrossing character study of Julian Bashir.

“Inquisition” is difficult to write a no-spoilers review of because the purpose of the episode is to reveal a new (to the viewer) organization. That revelation, however, does not come until the last act and I’ve opted to not spoil it, even in reviewing an episode that is over a decade old! That said, “Inquisition” only truly falls down in that the narrative technique is a bit obvious to genre fans.

Doctor Bashir is headed to Casperia Prime after setting O’Brien’s kayaking injury when he awakens very tired for his trip to discover that he is not going. Deputy Director Sloan from StarFleet Intelligence arrives on the station to lock it down for a suspected security violation. Bashir is interviewed by Sloan, who is very casual and friendly, so Bashir thinks little of it. He returns to his quarters where he suspects someone has been going through his possessions and where his breakfast order arrives (only it is the wrong one, he is given Worf’s gagh!). O’Brien manages to get a message to Bashir, warning him to watch out.

The Chief’s message is timely; Bashir is taken back to meet with Sloan moments later. The next conversation is hardly civil. Instead, Sloan accuses Bashir of being a sleeper agent for the Dominion. Casting doubt with his fellow officers and confining him to the brig, Sloan has a viable theory that Bashir was intended to escape the Dominion internment camp so he could be activated later. Though Sisko takes up Bashir’s cause, a jailbreak of Bashir by Dominion forces make things look quite grim for the doctor.

Sloan asks an amazingly good question, as well as provides a theory that bugged a lot of viewers of the episodes involving Dr. Bashir’s experience at the internment camp. Because Bashir was gone for so very long, it is hard for viewers to imagine that they know all about his experience. In fact, unlike something like Captain Picard being tortured in Star Trek: The Next Generation’s “Chain Of Command, Part II” (reviewed here!), there are no scenes that show analysis of the experience Bashir had (save O’Brien making the offhanded remark that the replacement Bashir was much more friendly than the real one). So, when Sloan begins to postulate that Doctor Bashir was broken by the Dominion and reprogrammed to be a super spy, it’s an intriguing hypothesis.

Moreover, Sloan’s position allows him to ask several questions that have likely been bugging viewers for quite some time. It is Sloan who points out that there was no good reason for the Dominion to leave the Runabout in orbit of the internment camp . . . unless they wanted Bashir, Worf, Martok and Garak to escape. And Sloan rightly points out that it was pretty irresponsible to give untrained civilians deeply classified strategic information, like Bashir provided to the genetically-enhanced visitors in “Statistical Probabilities” (reviewed here!). Fortunately, while the minute errors in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine are called attention to, “Inquisition” goes somewhere productive with the exploration of the plot inconsistencies.

Fortunately, Doctor Bashir is a ridiculously smart character. Even though the viewer is likely to figure out something is wrong with Sloan and the situation well before Bashir does, the clues Bashir uses to outsmart Sloan make for an episode that is entertaining time and time again. Bashir is smart and, as Sisko points out, has made several troubling decisions in his career. This makes Bashir a logical target for StarFleet Intelligence, which makes the whole scenario a sensible one whose reality the viewer may (mostly) buy into. Unfortunately, the sophisticated genre viewer will know something is wrong with the reality of the episode the moment Bashir wakes up tired.

That said, “Inquisition” makes a decent character study of Doctor Bashir and it expands the Star Trek universe well when the organization that Sloan truly represents is uncovered. While many Star Trek purists loathe the idea of Sloan’s organization, I fall in the same camp as Odo, who says that it just makes basic sense. Barring that, I like the idea specifically for Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, because the overwhelming theme of the series is that “dreams die.” Gene Rodenberry had an amazing, idealistic vision with Star Trek that was fully realized in the early seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation. I hardly find it contradictory that viewers could both love that vision and enjoy watching it collapse. “Inquisition” is a significant part of tearing apart the idyllic façade of the Star Trek universe.

Much of the episode hinges on the performances of Alexander Siddig and William Sadler. Both Sadler – who was cast for the episode when producers originally considered Martin Sheen for the role! – and Siddig El Fadil have the ability to play willful and strong and that makes much of “Inquisition” a pleasure to watch. It is fun to watch two people argue about something the viewer cares about (in this case Star Trek: Deep Space Nine continuity and Dr. Bashir) when the argument is well-presented. In “Inquisition,” Siddig El Fadil is also able to do a great job of appearing confused enough for realism and determined enough to make the viewer want to believe. He plays well off Jeffrey Combs, whose brief appearance as Weyoun is almost enough to make viewers question Bashir’s sanity!

In the end, though, “Inquisition” is a simple episode and it introduces a new element to the Star Trek universe and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine storyline that enhances the feeling that the characters (specifically Bashir, in this case) will have something to do and new directions to develop in even after the final episode. I like that and it makes “Inquisition” worth returning to.

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


For other Star Trek reviews, please visit my Star Trek Review Index Page for an organized listing!

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