Tuesday, May 22, 2012

“Extreme Measures” Finds Bashir Taking On The Federation’s Most Insidious Adversary!

The Good: Decent character work, Great acting, Engaging plot
The Bad: Somewhat predictable plot elements.
The Basics: To cure Odo, Bashir takes “Extreme Measures” by taking on Section 31 with O’Brien!

Sometimes, the writers and producers of a work get the wrong impression of their own work based on their originally-conceived notions. With Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’s final arc, the best example of this happening is the episode “Extreme Measures.” “Extreme Measures” is, apparently, viewed as something of a disappointment by the show’s writers, who abruptly changed the episode from an Odo and Kira episode to a Bashir and O’Brien episode. The thing is, that change makes “Extreme Measures” work surprisingly well. As so many other characters and arcs were being put to rest, “Extreme Measures” becomes the swan song for the friendship between O’Brien and Bashir and it caps off Star Trek’s best-portrayed friendship magnificently well.

In fact, the only real problem with “Extreme Measures” is that it insults the intelligence of the viewers. The plot, which has reality-bending aspects, is extended one scene too far and as a result, viewers are led to believe an obvious falsehood. The problem is, savvy viewers are not going to fall for it because it is one of the oldest tricks in the science fiction writer’s books. If the writers have anything to feel ashamed about “Extreme Measures” for, it is that.

With a Breen energy dampening weapon in his possession, O’Brien begins to work on engineering a defense against the weapon that has brought the Federation and Romulans to their knees. After Kira and Garak leave to rejoin Damar’s resistance within Dominion territory, O’Brien admits to Sisko that the search for a cure to Odo’s degenerative illness has led him and Bashir to Section 31. Knowing that Section 31 will not give up its secrets easily, Sisko tacitly condones Bashir’s plan to capture a member of Section 31 and use illegal Romulan mind probes to get the information they need. Bashir is unsurprised, then, when Deputy Director Sloan appears to try to stop Bashir.

Bashir’s attempt to get the information from Sloan leads the Section 31 operative to activate a suicide implant. With Sloan on the verge of death, Bashir and O’Brien feel compelled to enter the wounded intelligence officer’s mind to extract the information they want . . . at any cost!

“Extreme Measures” is an appropriately surreal adventure episode that plays around with some of the conventions of a reality-bending adventure. More often, though, “Extreme Measures” conforms to the established sense of reversals and parameters one expects from a story involving conscious people running around inside someone’s subconscious. And “Extreme Measures” does it on a television show budget. For what this sort of thing could look like, be sure to visit my review of The Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus (here!).

As it is, though, “Extreme Measures” does what it sets out to do in a very entertaining way. With Odo rapidly dying and having even more difficulty retaining his form, there is a sense of urgency to the episode. And the “ticking clock” aspect of “Extreme Measures” only gets deeper when Sloan prepares himself for death. As Sloan’s brain functions shut down, the environment for Bashir and O’Brien becomes more and more dangerous. That is a nice touch.

“Extreme Measures” quickly becomes about Sloane, Bashir and O’Brien and they take on qualities that are very much like the traditional models of the Ego (O’Brien), Super Ego (Sloan) and Id (Bashir). As Sloan – in his own mind – fights to resist Bashir’s assaults based on his demand for information, O’Brien works to interpret the environment and keep Julian focused. Sloan’s resistance is, of course, a delaying tactic. He has a highly disciplined mind and he is dead-set on preventing his secrets from falling into the hands of Bashir. Bashir, for his part, is appropriately focused on his own wants – in this case his unceasing desire to get the information he feels Sloan must have in order to save the life of Odo.

The triangle issues in “Extreme Measures” work very well because the actors playing the roles are each superb performers, acting at the top of their game. William Sadler is given far more range in “Extreme Measures” than he was in the prior episodes he was in. Here, he plays the familiar cold and calculating Sloan, as well as a loving, humanistic Sloan with a dizzying sense of reinvention moment by moment. Never once, though, does his performance seem erratic or in any way sloppy. He pulls off the complex aspects of Sloan’s personality with precision and efficiency.

Sadler’s performance is played off of by both Colm Meany and Alexander Siddig. Meany and Siddig bring back the whole feeling of a buddy adventure throughout “Extreme Measures” and in this episode, fans are finally rewarded with the reticent O’Brien finally admitting the depth of his feelings for Bashir. That scene, which could have been campy, at the very least, comes across in “Extreme Measures” as a refreshing revelation. Fans have figured it, but just as Bashir seems grateful to hear the words, the fans are likely to enjoy O’Brien speaking them to Bashir as well.

Ultimately, “Extreme Measures” puts Bashir and O’Brien in a bad situation that their friendship helps them get out of, making it a decent ending for the on-screen friendship between the characters. It fits the final arc well and it moves Odo toward his character’s end. And none of that would have been possible had the writers gone with their original plan!

[Knowing that the season is a much better investment, it's worth looking into Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - The Complete Seventh Season on DVD, which provides the full story for the conclusion to the series. Read my review of the final season by clicking here!

For other works with William Sadler, be sure to visit my reviews of:
“Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges”


For other Star Trek episode, DVD or season reviews, be sure to visit my Star Trek Review Index Page!

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