Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Babel   Rewatch 
May 5, 2015 10:54 PM - Season 1, Episode 5 - Subscribe

A deadly aphasia virus hits DS9. Kira tries to track down an antidote.

--
O'Brien: "'Fix the replicators, chief!' 'My console's offline, chief!' Should've transferred to a cargo drone. No people, no complaints."
--


Themes / Of Note (Mild Spoilers)
* Echoes of the Cardassian Occupation and Bajoran Resistance Movement
* Quark cites an “old Ferengi saying” that you should never ask when you can take. The Rules of Acquisition haven't yet been created on the show.
* Character development: Sisko and Jake's relationship (Possibly the first parent/child interaction in any incarnation of Trek that’s purely positive.)
* Character development: Odo and Quark's relationship
* Character development: Kira's new role, which again puts her at odds with the former Bajoran Resistant Movement.
* Offhand Mention That Will Become A Thing Later: Jake says he's been hanging out with Nog.
* O'Brien dealing with the malfunctioning station.

Notes (mostly cribbed from here)
* The episode title is (obviously) a reference to the biblical Tower of Babel
* Babel has its roots in TNG's problem-of-the-week style episodes.
* This episode contains two references from the animated television series Ren and Stimpy. The first reference used was in the name of the Bajoran, Surmak Ren, who was named after the co-main character "Ren Höek." The second reference was made in the name of the Cardassian Gul Spumco, who was named after Spümcø, the animation studio responsible for the Ren and Stimpy series. A third Ren and Stimpy reference would appear two episodes later, in "Q-Less", in the name of the planet Hoek IV, which was again named after "Ren Höek." Ira Steven Behr chose to show episodes of The Ren and Stimpy Show to improve relations between the writers.
* The scene where Sisko goes into the infirmary to find Jake has come down with the aphasia virus was extremely important to actor Avery Brooks because it was the first scene to establish the 'physical' intimacy between father and son -- an aspect of the characters' onscreen relationship that was initiated by Brooks himself; "It wasn't a thematic element. I don't have any trouble being physical with my children. That's a part of my nature, as opposed to something they wrote about Sisko and Jake. The first day I met Cirroc, I hugged him. And I hug him every time I see him."
* This episode is a favorite of actor Armin Shimerman as he feels it is here that he really began to get a handle on the character of Quark. Speaking of the moment when Quark is left in charge of Ops, and is clearly loving the situation, Shimerman comments that he realized "Ah, this is the character, this guy who likes to have a good time, who enjoys life and who feels that no problem is insurmountable. And that fun-loving spirit and delight became ingrained in my character at that moment."
* After he repaired the replicator at the beginning of the episode O'Brien ordered his coffee "black, double sweet" which is consistent with his coffee order in TNG's "Rascals".

--
Quark: "I'll beam you over."
Odo: "You?"
Quark: "Relax. I served on a Ferengi freighter for eight years."
Odo: "All right."
Quark: "I must have witnessed the procedure hundreds of times!"
Odo: "WITNESSED?! You mean to say you never handled the controls yourself?"
Quark: "Energizing!" *waves*
--
posted by zarq (16 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Flame the dark true, salt way link, complete strike, limits victory, frosted wake, simple hesitation.
posted by Servo5678 at 4:31 AM on May 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


Purple monkey dishwasher!!
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 5:15 AM on May 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


I mostly remember this episode as having introduced me to the concept of aphasia and recognizing "hey, that one DS9 episode with the language disease was based on this!" a few years later when taking a psychology class that covered actual language disorders like real-world aphasia.
posted by Kosh at 7:31 AM on May 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


I love this episode - the aphasia was particularly striking to me when I first watched it, and it's a lot of fun seeing everyone act the hell out of nonsense phrases.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 12:10 PM on May 6, 2015


I was relieved that Odo was not shown to be the only one who couldn't get the virus, the way Data could save the Enterprise when everyone got a virus because he's an android.

I kept wondering why they didn't try gestures more--would the virus affect your ability to use sign language? What about nodding yes or no or shrugging? Drawing pictures?

Once the doctor announced it was airborne, why not give people masks? Just assume, "nah, we're screwed, why bother"?

The episode ended on a sitcom-worthy note, though, with the Captain bellowing at O'Brien about his coffee. Might was well put a "wah-waaah" trombone in there.
posted by emjaybee at 3:45 PM on May 6, 2015


How did Odo keep his job as "constable" after working for the Cardassians?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 6:48 PM on May 6, 2015


My perception (and I'm not specifically watching along now, but I've seen DS9 more than once) is that Odo had to enforce some crappy laws under the Cardassians, but at least he enforced them fairly, which counts for a lot. If you want to reduce it to D&D alignment terms, Odo is, at least initially, pretty thoroughly Lawful Neutral, which lets him work productively with either the Lawful Evil Cardassians or the generally Lawful Good Federation.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:32 PM on May 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


More important than the federation, he had the respect of the Bajorans under the occupation. It still sucked, but Terok Nor was better for Bajorans with Odo running security than it had been before he was around. Odo was fair - the Bajorans knew they had a shot with him. That respect kept him in his position during the transitionary period.

Whether that's realistic, I'm not sure. It would have been easy for him to have been vilified even with that fairness, but that's the justification given.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 11:47 PM on May 6, 2015 [3 favorites]


Whether that's realistic, I'm not sure. It would have been easy for him to have been vilified even with that fairness, but that's the justification given.

Seems realistic enough to me, considering how visibly different he is. And Odo has at least one speech where he emphasizes that neither side could really "claim" him.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 5:33 AM on May 7, 2015


How did Odo keep his job as "constable" after working for the Cardassians?

Looking ahead somewhat, S2:E8 "Necessary Evil" is, in part, an attempt to answer that question by looking at how he started working for the Cardassians and some of the moral quandaries involved. The short of it is, as already said, that he developed a reputation for integrity and fairness (realistically or not).
posted by cjelli at 8:20 AM on May 7, 2015


For years, YEARS when working on complicated projects I would occasionally let out a sigh and exclaim wearily "Glass lunch judge a bin to let it!"
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 10:52 AM on May 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


I love the scene with Quark trying to get money from people who were ill.

One thing that I can't figure out though - do the aphasic individuals know that they're aphasic? O'Brien didn't seem to have much clue, but Dax did.

Are the two women talking in the background when Sisko goes to see Jake after Kira leaves the station talking sense to one another, or are they trying to talk while aphasic?
posted by Solomon at 2:32 PM on May 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think that there's a disconnect between what they are thinking and what comes out of their mouths, but they don't hear it. So O'Brien thinks he is saying exactly what he means. Dax figures it out quicker because she saw it happening with O'Brien first.
posted by 2ht at 6:48 PM on May 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


This could almost be a TNG script, if it weren't for the Bajoran resistance being responsible for the virus.

Besides no one wearing masks, I'm slightly annoyed by how the illness doesn't hit people like Bashir and Sisko until it is convenient for ramping up the tension. Otherwise, I really dig the show dealing with an aphasia outbreak on the station.
posted by drezdn at 8:17 AM on May 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


More important than the federation, he had the respect of the Bajorans under the occupation. It still sucked, but Terok Nor was better for Bajorans with Odo running security than it had been before he was around. Odo was fair - the Bajorans knew they had a shot with him. That respect kept him in his position during the transitionary period.

Whether that's realistic, I'm not sure.


It's actually very realistic.

I used to work for a nonprofit that specialized in assisting countries going through transitions, such as the end of a war or the collapse of a dictatorship, and one huge area of work in those contexts was reforming public institutions like police forces, the judiciary, etc.. I say 'refoming' precisely because the collapse of the previous political regime doesn't mean that every single position associated with that regime suddenly becomes vacant.

Nor should they. Imagine the chaos it would create to come into a country recovering from trauma and say "ok, everyone who has ever been trained as a policeman in this country can't do it anymore!" At first blush it might seem to make sense - this is a corrupt institution so let's get rid of it altogether! - but it's just not workable in reality. You can't run a country with a force of 100% green, inexperienced cops, for example.

So, the best practice is to instead vet the people in those roles, and only remove those who are corrupt or abusive. Then you get into reforming structures, creating oversight, continuing education, other crap like that. Odo is actually a perfect example of this approach working well, because he had the experience of the resident lowlifes that a newly placed officer wouldn't have had.

I am posting this now because I ought to be writing about political development of actual Earth-based societies in 2015 and I don't wanna
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:48 PM on May 21, 2015 [7 favorites]


This one is worth watching purely for Quark and Odo. Shimerman's intonations, when Quark is clearly having the time of his life running Ops, sound like Bugs Bunny. In response, Odo goes "why.... you...!" sounding just like Yosemite Sam for a moment.
posted by zadcat at 6:45 PM on July 20, 2015


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