Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Life Support   Rewatch 
November 11, 2015 7:47 AM - Season 3, Episode 13 - Subscribe

A fatally-injured Vedek Bareil struggles to stay alive long enough to complete the most important act of his career. Jake goes on a disastrous double date with Nog.

Trivia Cribbed from here.

* The Bajoran-Cardassian Treaty is signed during this episode.

* First DS9 episode aired since Star Trek: Voyager premiered.

* The original pitch was based on the 1818 Mary Shelley novel "Frankenstein," with Bashir in the role of Dr. Victor Frankenstein. The story concerned a Federation ambassador involved in peace negotiations with the Romulans whose shuttle is damaged and who dies in the sickbay on Deep Space 9. However, the treaty negotiations are at a pivotal moment, so Bashir is able to figure out a way to "re-animate" the ambassador's brain, essentially bringing him back to life. However, over the course of the episode, he begins to go mad, and in the last scene, Bashir is forced to allow him to die once again. The reason this idea was scrapped was that the producers felt that the audience wouldn't have much empathy with a character who they'd only just been introduced to. According to Ronald D. Moore, "we were trying to make it a Bashir show, but in reality, everything focused on the ambassador, and nobody cared about him."

* The solution to the problem of audience apathy was to make the ambassador a character whom the audience knew and cared about. The producers considered changing the role to O'Brien, who was rumored to want to leave the show to concentrate on film work, but actor Colm Meaney assured them he had no intentions of leaving. As such, they changed it to Vedek Bareil, mainly because they weren't happy with how the Bareil-Kira relationship was going, and because they weren't sure where the Bareil character was heading.

* Although the producers were happy with both the A-story and the B-story as individual stories, they were not happy with their combination in this episode. According to Ira Steven Behr, after viewing the first set of dailies which included scenes from both stories, the producers were beyond shocked, and a feeling swept through the room like, "What the hell have we done?" The decision to have a grim A-story and a humorous B-story was Ronald D. Moore's, who explains, "I said to everyone, 'This is such a grim episode, we should have a light B-story, maybe let Jake and Nog do some fun stuff.' It sounded great in concept, and I enjoyed writing the scenes, but, man, such a mistake!"

* After this episode aired, the producers received an extremely angry email from a group calling themselves 'The Friends of Vedek Bareil. which protested the death. The email included pictures of a memorial service the group had held for him.

* "The date scene is treated as if the audience should find it hilarious – “ha! look at those wacky Ferengi!” However, it doesn’t work that way. Nog’s conduct here – belittling his companion and demanding she serve his needs in a humiliating way – feels like a scene from an abusive relationship."

* "Maybe if the hour hadn’t spent a quarter of its time teaching Jake a valuable lesson about tolerating bigotry, it might have been more successful."
posted by zarq (17 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Bareil thinks the office has changed Kai Opaka. In this episode, Opaka promises Kira, as Bareil is dying, that Opaka will make sure that Bajor never forgets Bareil. Within three months, Opaka is taking credit for Bareil's work on the treaty. Bareil, in addition to being boring as hell, is a terrible judge of character. (Also Opaka breaking her promise is not the objectively worst thing she's ever done, but pisses me off as much as some of the more horrible things. There's something sacrosanct to me about deathbed promises.)

Nog: the commentary lays out just how misogynistic his behavior is, and how problematic the framing is, so I won't rehash the details of it. But I will say that I think the show is being disingenous by framing this kind of awful behavior as part of Nog's culture and then having Nog join Starfleet with absolutely no culture shock whatsover.

Nog behaves abominably here, and in a later episode, ON THE TRIP TO STARFLEET ACADEMY, he tricks a human woman (in the 1940's, so she doesn't know from Ferengi and what gets them off) into giving him oomax. But no one from Starfleet ever tells him he has to treat women with dignity. He never fucks up and does anything sexist at the Academy, or later as a cadet or officer.

The show can't have it both ways. Either Nog CAN turn off the sexism like a switch (in which case the "tolerance" advice to Jake was woefully off the mark), or Nog can't (and the show failed miserably to show the problems he'd run into.)

Of all of the show's faults, the thoughtless treatment of sexism (played for lulz more often than not) is the one that rankles the most, and the one that makes the show seem the most dated to me. It also makes it hard for me to relate to some of the characters. Nog's shitty treatment of women meant that I didn't care about him in the slightest until about Season 6, when he'd dialed back the aggressiveness and only dealt with women on a professional basis.

I've said this in the Buffy rewatch threads, that watching them simultaneously is interesting, because Buffy tried to address sexism in an intelligent fashion, but was clueless when it came to race. DS9 has some really insightful stuff to say about race, but often failed badly when it came to sexism. I kind of wish Armin Shimerman could have carried suggestions for improvement back and forth between the two writers' groups during the time when DS9 and Buffy overlapped.
posted by creepygirl at 11:48 AM on November 11, 2015 [12 favorites]

creepygirl -- I think you mean Kai Winn, not Kai Opaka. (The prophets forgive your trespass, child.)
posted by nathan_teske at 3:05 PM on November 11, 2015 [11 favorites]

Gah, yes. I meant Winn, thanks.
posted by creepygirl at 3:30 PM on November 11, 2015

Yeah, this is not a strong episode, even though it is pretty foundational in establishing Winn's character. It is rather surprising that she actually acknowledges as much uncertainty she does in front of Sisko. Certainly, the Winn we know from later in the series would never admit to such a degree of weakness.

The less said about the Jake/Nog plot, the better.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 4:13 PM on November 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

Poor Nerys, though.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 4:26 PM on November 11, 2015

Whatever we may think of the execution, I get what they were going for in the Jake/Nog plot. Other cultures have ideas that may be abhorrent to us, and it can be hard to know where to draw the line between accepting differences and tolerating intolerable stuff. I don't think Sisko is telling Jake that Nog's behavior is right, just that it's how Ferengis see things and the bond Jake has with Nog is strong enough to survive Nog being a jerk sometimes. I think it's meant to bookend the episode in the first season where Sisko is ready to forbid Jake from being friends with Nog. Sisko's come to see that Nog and Jake are good for each other, no matter how much they scrap.

Nog is still a kid at this point, and (like his father) he grew much more nuanced and admirable as the show went on. (And a lot of Nog's growth probably comes from being best friends with a hu-mon who called him on his BS.) I suspect that they wouldn't let him into Starfleet Academy if he had attitudes like this about women, he had to prove to them that he was Starfleet material. So along with the emotional growth we do see from him in the series, I think it's safe to assume that this super-sexist stuff didn't last either. Nog is being a creep here, but his sexism is supposed to be objectionable.

It's kind of odd that they almost killed O'Brien because they'd heard rumors Meaney was ready to leave. It seems like a backwards way to do it. Why not ask him if the rumors are true, THEN if you find out he's leaving, base an episode around that? (And Jesus, how grim would that episode have been? Keiko trying to keep it together while Bashir is stuck turning his friend into a cyborg-zombie.)
posted by Ursula Hitler at 5:22 PM on November 11, 2015

I'd chalk up a lot of Nog's behavior to a young man trying on different personas as he matures and figures out what sort of person he wants to be as an adult. Deliberately obnoxious behavior that's different from that of his primary role models (Rom is respectful of women, if more than a bit shy, and Quark tends to treat non-Ferengi women well, or at least respectfully) and bound to provoke even his best friend? Welcome to adolescent males everywhere. This isn't the last time Nog and Jake will come into conflict as a result of their growing up and becoming adults, especially after Nog joins Starfleet.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:14 PM on November 11, 2015 [2 favorites]

I just remembered that in The Visitor we see an adult Nog who notes that he was a lot more popular with women once he asked them to stop chewing his food, his wry tone suggesting that he was rather embarrassed about the whole thing. That was an alternate timeline, but I think it fits with the idea that the Nog we see here is a far cry from the Nog at the end of the show.

I think Nog got these sexist attitudes from his dad and Quark, but while they said it I don't think Rom and Quark truly believed this stuff. Quark is kind of a hypocrite, in the sense that when pressed he will fall back on Ferengi tradition and say that women should go naked and they can't do business and all that stuff, but in his daily life he seems to respect women. I never got the impression he thought of Dax or Kira as inferior, he clearly found Dax's strength attractive and he was (understandably) intimidated by Kira. He's very progressive for a Ferengi, but he likes to think of himself as a traditionalist. He pays lip service to the old ways and when (for instance) his mother challenges gender norms, he reverts to the old, sexist ideas of his culture. But Nog has grown up without women in his life and he's probably heard his dad and Quark parroting the old ways with nothing to challenge it. So the dopey kid thinks that's how it really works, that women should be treated as lesser beings. He has to go out and mix it up with other cultures to figure things out.

In hindsight, it's too bad we never saw Nog have a serious girlfriend when he was older. It would have been interesting to see how he treated women when he was grown up. I strongly suspect he would have been much more respectful, but we never got to see that.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 6:51 PM on November 11, 2015 [4 favorites]

I think I spaced on some of the treaty negotiation points. Did Winn agree to the concession that all Cardassian property left on Bajor belonged to Cardassia? Wouldn't that include DS9?
posted by oh yeah! at 5:22 AM on November 12, 2015

The question of Cardassian property on Bajor was already settled during the earlier armistice negotiations. It was a trap that Bareil identified and advised Winn to ignore.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 9:10 AM on November 12, 2015 [2 favorites]

Also, since zarq linked to the AV Club review (which is a really good series in and of itself), allow me to highlight one of the hidden gems of AVC, Rappin_Jake_Sisko with his take on the episode.
posted by Halloween Jack at 4:36 PM on November 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'd missed that Nog's oo-mox thing happened on the way to Starfleet Academy. So... I dunno. That kind of voids what I said before about how they wouldn't let him with attitudes like that. But presumably they taught him that stuff had no place in Starfleet.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 2:19 PM on November 13, 2015

But presumably they taught him that stuff had no place in Starfleet.

The same Starfleet Academy that Jim "screw anything that moves" Kirk graduated from?
posted by zarq at 2:22 PM on November 13, 2015

Well, this was a century or so later.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 3:16 PM on November 13, 2015

The same Starfleet Academy that Jim "screw anything that moves" Kirk graduated from?

The dude-bro-ification of Kirk is more of a Nu-Trek issue though, really. TOS Kirk wasn't contemptuous of women, 1960's base misogyny level aside - halfway through S3 of the TOS re-watch, most of his flings have been either 1) genuine love affairs with tragic endings 2) affairs caused by alien mind control 3) Kirk seducing someone as a tactic to defeat the alien threat. I think the idea of Kirk being a playboy is something that we've built up from nostalgia/shared pop culture than from canon.

Anyway, not a fan of the running joke of Ferengi misogyny.
posted by oh yeah! at 8:43 AM on November 14, 2015 [3 favorites]

Anyway, not a fan of the running joke of Ferengi misogyny.

I always felt like the joke, such as it was, was very much on the Ferengi. The sexism fit with their many other flaws. They were like a whole planet of Herb Tarleks.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 2:13 AM on November 15, 2015

I always felt like the joke, such as it was, was very much on the Ferengi. The sexism fit with their many other flaws. They were like a whole planet of Herb Tarleks.

I think it's the 'pot calling the kettle black' element of it all that skeeves me out. It was the TNG writers who started the joke, and considering how terribly they treated Marina Sirtis, how they fired Gates McFadden at the end of S1 for speaking out about the sexist treatment of her character, etc., it was pretty hypocritical for them to make overt sexism one of the major traits of their new alien baddies. It doesn't bother me as much on DS9, since the Ferengi characters became fully developed characters rather than walk-on plot devices, and Armin Shimerman can make nearly anything work. But, you know, fruit of the poisoned tree and all.
posted by oh yeah! at 5:59 AM on November 15, 2015 [2 favorites]

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