Saturday, May 12, 2012

Political Intrigue Dominates Star Trek: Deep Space Nine With “Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges!”

The Good: Great acting, Decent plot, Interesting character work.
The Bad: A little predictable in some of the reversals, Could use a little more on the character front for me.
The Basics: Dr. Bashir goes along with Deputy Director Sloane’s attempt to spy upon the Romulan government in “Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges.”

Long character arcs and a real sense of an ongoing, universal story, are two of the real hallmarks of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. As a fan of the series, it is hard for me not to love how long Star Trek: Deep Space Nine took to build up some of its storylines and character arcs. While the series actually left a number of stories unresolved or open ended, the writers did quite a bit to finish many of the main plotlines. But, with many of the characters, there was a sense that the characters still had growth potential long after the series ended. Doctor Bashir is one of those characters who seemed like they would have a story well beyond the end of the series. Part of the reason one might feel there would be more to him is “Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges.”

“Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges” is the final episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine that has any ability to stand on its own as the final arc is one long series of episodes that tells a single story. Deeply integrated with the overall Dominion War plotline, though, “Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges” marks the return of Deputy Director Sloan from “Inquisition” (reviewed here!). While some might debate the merits of Section 31, “Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges” puts Doctor Bashir in the very center of one of their operations. On his own and in peril, “Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges” hints that Bashir might well have a real future as a spy, even if he deplores the methods of Section 31.

Doctor Julian Bashir is preparing to attend a medical conference on Romulus when he is visited by Deputy Director Sloan of Section 31. Surprised, Bashir learns that Sloan wants him for a mission for the Federation’s most secret intelligence gathering organization. Sloan wants Bashir to observe the Romulan leadership in order to better understand what type of a threat the Romulans might be following the Dominion War. After Sloan leaves, Bashir reports to Sisko and is surprised when Admiral Ross advises them to learn what they can about Section 31 by performing the mission Sloane is asking him to. When the U.S.S. Bellerophon departs Deep Space Nine, Ross, Bashir, the Romulan attaché Cretak and Sloan – under an assumed name – are aboard.

Sloan’s objective soon becomes clear: he wants Bashir to determine if the head of the Tal Shiar, Koval, suffers from Tuvan Syndrome. If Koval were to ascend to the leadership of the Romulan Government, instead of Cretak – who is a Federation ally – it could be problematic for StarFleet and the Federation. At the conference, Koval makes an uncharacteristic introduction of himself to Bashir, while inquiring about the Dominion biological weapon known as the Quickening. After diagnosing Koval, Bashir learns that Sloan is looking to assassinate Koval. Unable to turn to anyone else, Bashir enlists Cretak to help him flush out Sloan’s Romulan contact and in the process, he puts both of them in danger, drawing fire from the highest levels of the Romulan government!

“Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges” has a minor continuity issue with “Unification, Part II” (reviewed here!), which first introduced the character of Neral. Recast with Hal Landon Jr. in the role, Neral looks like he aged about fifty years in the course of the five years between “Unification II” and “Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges.” And it’s not like Norman Large, who originated the role, was not still alive and working to play the Proconsul turned Praetor!

That said, “Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges” is an engaging and sufficiently complex political thriller that puts Doctor Bashir in a position where Sloan has him influencing interstellar politics. The Romulan leadership is characterized as especially fragile in “Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges” and that actually sets up Star Trek: Nemesis (reviewed here!) surprisingly well. Unfortunately, like the dangling character Sela, Star Trek: Nemesis fails to directly utilize information presented in “Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges.”

What “Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges” does manage to do, is advance the characters of Bashir, Sloan and, surprisingly, Admiral Ross. Admiral Ross has been characterized before this as a pretty straightforward StarFleet admiral, one of the undeniable “good guys” of Federation politics. “Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges” takes him out of the action and leads to a scene between him and Bashir that paints him in a very different light and makes a fairly white bread background character into an engaging StarFleet hero. Sloan, on the other hand, appears to develop, but “Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges” better reinforces his initial murky characterization of a man who will do anything for the Federation.

Bashir, of course, is something of a delight to watch in “Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges.” Finally experiencing the political intrigue he has long sought, Bashir now finds himself hip-deep in Romulans, espionage and mystery. “Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges” gives Bashir the chance to seriously explore something he has had a recreational passion for up until now. The result is an intriguing direction for the character where he comes to learn the full significance of being an intelligence operative and what it means to protect the Federation. This makes for an intriguing arc for Bashir and sets up his final arc of the series exceptionally well.

On the acting front, “Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges” gives Alexander Siddig a fertile field of great performers to play off of. Opening his part in the episode opposite Andrew Robinson, Siddig deftly plays off William Sadler (Sloan), John Fleck (Koval) and Adrienne Barbau (the recast Cretak). He is exceptionally good no matter who he is playing off and he makes Bashir feel magnetic and vital in a way that some Bashir episodes fail to.

In the end, “Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges” is a part of the essential Star Trek: Deep Space Nine because of how it makes the alliance with the Romulans feel appropriately fragile and puts one member of the crew, Bashir, in the position to affect interstellar history.

[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 John Fleck, be sure to visit my reviews of:
Weeds - Season 6
“The Search, Part 1”
“The Homecoming”
Babylon 5 - “The Gathering”
Star Trek: The Next Generation “The Mind’s Eye”


Check out how this episode stacks up against others by visiting my Star Trek Review Index Page where the reviews are organized by rating!

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