Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: The Quickening   Rewatch 
March 24, 2016 6:56 AM - Season 4, Episode 24 - Subscribe

The doctor faces a resident evil to rid a planet of a plague sent by the Dominion.


"Come to Quark's, Quark's is fun, come right now, don't walk run!"
- Quark's jingle

- Worf to Quark

"Trevean was right. There is no cure. The Dominion made sure of that. But I was so arrogant, I thought I could find one in a week!"

"Maybe it was arrogant to think that. But it's even more arrogant to think there isn't a cure just because you couldn't find it."
- Bashir and Jadzia Dax


* The concept for this episode originated with Ira Steven Behr after watching the 1995 Michael Hoffman film Restoration. The theme of the movie, and the idea that Behr wanted to bring to the world of Deep Space Nine, was what would happen when an inherently moral doctor is placed in a situation he is unable to control. This led Behr to propose that Bashir should be placed in the middle of a planet-wide epidemic, and no matter how hard he tries, he simply cannot come up with a cure. Also on Behr's mind was the fact that Gregg Duffy Long, an office assistant, had just died of AIDS. According to Behr, "My wife Laura works closely with AIDS Project Los Angeles, and the whole AIDS thing was on all of our minds, so we just wanted to come up with a disease that breaks your heart." Because he was too busy himself, Behr hired Naren Shankar to write the teleplay, although Shankar ultimately decided to drop the AIDS metaphor; "I didn't give the sense that the people were outcasts or pariahs, which is how AIDS patients are often perceived." (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, pp. 342-343)

* The name of Kukalaka was chosen by René Echevarria. However, it came from a mistake on his part. According to Echevarria, he thought Kukalaka was the name of his best friend's invisible childhood friend, but after the friend saw the episode, he informed Echevarria that Kukalaka was actually the name of a cat belonging to an ex-girlfriend of his. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, p. 344)

* Trevean is an anagram for "veteran" and Ekorio (the original name of Ekoria) is an anagram for "rookie". These names were created by Naren Shankar, who noted, "Small things like that help me to focus when I'm creating characterization." (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, p. 343)

* Most of the later-stage disfiguring caused by the Teplan blight was done in post-production by multilayer compositing under the supervision of Gary Hutzel. This meant that on-set, rather than elaborate make-up, actors had dots attached to their faces which allowed their motion to be recorded precisely and which could then be replicated exactly in a computer. This was an early form of the type of sophisticated motion capture software and motion capture suits that are used regularly today. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, p. 344-345)

* This episode is a favorite of Alexander Siddig's. He commented, "This story was a lesson in abject arrogance and how blinding it can be. Prior to this episode, Bashir had only succeeded. He always won. He always got his man. So it was very interesting for him not to be able to do that." Ira Steven Behr agrees with Siddig's appraisal; "it was a horror story basically. It's about this genetically engineered plague and the hubris of a doctor who thought that he could just come in and be a hero." (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, p. 344)

* Terry Farrell also thought the episode was exceptional, commenting that it was: "a good one to work on because I was thinking about the AIDS metaphor while we were shooting it. I felt like we had a touch of reality in that episode. Sid was so good. Bashir's ego was really driven to cure that disease. I thought it was interesting that Dax was a step back and more realistic than Bashir. She thought you should do everything you can, but, at the day's end, felt you had to let it go a little bit so you had the strength to come back the next day and be fresh enough to try again. It was a great show, probably one of our best". (The Official Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Magazine Vol. 18)

* Ira Behr was also fond of this episode, commenting, "A lot of things really came together in 'The Quickening'. I mean, the sets were unbelievable. The production values did not let us down. So much of it worked!" (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, p. 343)

* When asked which DS9 episode he contributed to was his favorite, René Echevarria named "The Quickening" as a close second behind "The Visitor".
posted by Slothrop (12 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Obviously this is a rewatch; I just forgot to put the "rewatch" tag on.
posted by Slothrop at 6:56 AM on March 24, 2016

I remember liking Bashir a lot when I was a kid/teenager watching the show, but on rewatch it really is striking how boring and vanilla he is. This is a really good episode on a lot of levels. But you could insert any actor here, tell them they're playing a brilliant, arrogant doctor, and I think it turns out the same. Siddig is a good actor, it's just that there's not much depth to Bashir.

Just to drive home how boring he is, the background we get on the character in this episode is that he was inspired to become a doctor when he was a young child and wanted to keep his teddy bear from being thrown out. And he still has the bear. That's not bad, it's a little more creative than the cliche sick/dying parent, but it's just so darned... vanilla.

Of course, there's a lot of character development to come in future seasons.

Things I liked about the episode...

It wasn't a perfect, happy, slap a bow on top sort of ending.

They acknowledged that the crew can't always fly in and save the day in an hour, then move on. Both of these things are very anti-TNG and signs of what DS9 is becoming.

The planet's acceptance and reverence for death felt very original and alien.

We got a glimpse into how awful the Dominion is, and a possible future for the Federation if they lose the war.
posted by 2ht at 7:27 AM on March 24, 2016 [2 favorites]

Yeah, I was pretty happy to see them subvert the trope that Trek itself was largely responsible for creating, that of the crew coming to a plague-ridden planet and curing a disease that had lasted for some time within a matter of hours or days. That sort of giddy optimism may have seemed more appropriate in the sixties, with the relatively recent success of the polio vaccine and the strides taken toward eradicating smallpox, but the rise of AIDS, as well as the lack of a cure for cancer and other diseases, had led to the revision of that hopefulness, with TNG coming up with not one but two variations on Alzheimer disease, Bendii Syndrome (which affected Sarek) and Irumodic Syndrome (the future Picard), and ENT with Pa'Nar Syndrome, which was explicitly meant as a metaphor for AIDS. And, of course, Bashir, who literally is a genius doctor and had already come up with solutions for the "harvester" biological weapon and nearly cured the Jem'Hadar of their ketracel white addiction (and would come up with other miracle cures in the future) needed the hubris.

Also, those mugs that were in the Quark's ads? Paramount/Viacom used to sell those; I probably still have mine around somewhere.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:17 PM on March 24, 2016 [2 favorites]

I love Jadzia's quote above so much, because it was pretty much what I was yelling at the screen the first time I heard Bashir utter those words.

When Bashir got into a self-righteous snit about Trevean, Mr. creepygirl was so annoyed that he yelled out "IT'S CALLED A HOSPICE, YOU ASS!" At first I thought, well, maybe Bashir was too sheltered by the marvels of Federation medicine, but then I remembered that Starfleet has a large exploration component and has a lot of contact with non-Federation worlds at varying levels of technology. And there are still lots of incurable diseases on TNG and DS9. So surely Starfleet Medical training must involve some education about the history of medicine, about more primitive worlds' medical practices, and end-of-life treatment decisions. So jumping in and immediately assuming the worst of Trevean was pretty dickish.

Maybe this was just a bland episode, or a bland writer, because I thought Trevean was pretty bland. He's doesn't have the advantages of genetic engineering or a Starfleet Medical education. He's survived this disease longer than most, devoted his life to easing suffering as best he can. I would have liked a little insight into what kept him persevering in such a difficult situation for years.
posted by creepygirl at 9:17 PM on March 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

Also, those mugs that were in the Quark's ads? Paramount/Viacom used to sell those; I probably still have mine around somewhere.

!!! Did they sing?

Quark's reaction to his own ad is so great.

Maybe this was just a bland episode, or a bland writer, because I thought Trevean was pretty bland.

I'm inclined to chalk it up to the directing. It's a good story idea, and Trevean's characterization was effective IMO inasmuch as you weren't entirely sure whether he'd developed a bit of megalomania or not--i.e. I'm sure we were supposed to wonder how much of a Kevorkian he was gonna turn out to be. But yes, he should have seemed a little more invested in the proceedings. And some moments of Siddig's performance felt surprisingly awkward considering what a good actor he is.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 2:54 AM on March 25, 2016

I think this episode was in some ways designed to be the antithesis of everything all the other Treks had been. As mentioned in the post, Behr wanted to do something AIDS related in the sense of how the disease kills (or did at the time) and this disease is a vicious killer like AIDS was back then. It also shows how evil the Founders really are: next time you see Salome Jens as the Founder woman, remember this episode, and what they did to these people. This is what Star Fleet/ the Federation is up against, an organisation that will genetically engineer a disease to destroy a people who refuse to come under their jurisdiction.

The quote from Dax to Bashir - again this seems like an attack on all the other Treks as that was pretty much how they had worked up until then.

I am not sure where all the hate for Bashir is coming from, he is a British genius doctor, fresh out of medical school and the Starfleet Academy, he can't help what he is as none of us can. I like the way he fails in this, it really is a change for the character (and for any Star Trek Doctor pretty much) and I think it helps him grow as the series progresses. To complain that he is vanilla seems a little unfair on him to be honest, what do you want? How would you have written him? I do wonder if part of it is because he is British, and has that twee posh British accent.
posted by marienbad at 8:31 AM on March 25, 2016

It's not exactly hate toward Bashir. I still like the character, love the actor. And it's definitely not his accent. He's just sort of a boring character to this point.

We're in season 4 and how would we define him? Smart. Ambitious. Incredible doctor. That's about it. His most compelling back stories are that he was one question away from being top of his class, and he still has his stuffed animal from when he was a kid.

When we first met him, he had a huge sense of adventure and wanted to be a frontier doctor. That never amounted to a whole lot (although you could make the case that this episode is finally the culmination of that).

He was sort of a wannabe womanizer, but that went away because it came across sort of creepy.

He is good as a foil for other people. Bashir & O'Brien and Bashir & Garak are two of the best pairings from the entirety of Star Trek. On his own, though? Eh.

I say all this knowing that there are a lot of revelations about him yet to come. He has some good episodes in the next few seasons. But after almost 4 complete seasons, I don't see him as a very compelling character.
posted by 2ht at 9:10 AM on March 25, 2016 [3 favorites]

Did they sing?

Sadly, no.

Also, I think that, even though initially Bashir wasn't really a Mary Sue, unlike Wesley on TNG (for those who don't know, "Wesley" was Gene Roddenberry's middle name), he had some Mary Sue-like aspects to him, being very idealistic and brilliant and a hit with the ladies except for Dax, and so forth. And there was a lot of pushback from the fans, and the writers started to try to put a few edges on him, and make him more tolerable generally; he doesn't get to "cure" Melora of something that isn't really a disability (there's still the whole skeevy aspect of him romancing a patient, but anyway), and in "The Wire" he can't simply science the shit out of the problem, but needs to engage with Garak's personality and past, which is complex, to say the least. It still won't be until next season that the writers manage to put it all together and come up with a solution to the problem, although I think that it's certainly worth it when they do.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:29 AM on March 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

Obviously this is a rewatch; I just forgot to put the "rewatch" tag on.
posted by Slothrop at 9:56 AM on March 24 [+] [!]

A mod can add it, if you contact them.

I enjoyed this episode -- I haven't been a fan of Bashir for all the reasons 2ht described, so I like it when the show puts him in real distress/failure, it makes him much more sympathetic.
posted by oh yeah! at 2:18 PM on March 25, 2016

I'm rewatching DS9 now (in addition to the ongoing TNG rewatch) and just hit this one last night. I do not remember seeing it in original run.

Man... it hits very differently in 2021 than it would have in 2016 or 1996.
posted by hanov3r at 11:04 AM on March 22, 2021 [4 favorites]

The scene at the end resonates similarly to an iconic scene from a mid-2000s post-apocalyptic film (spoilers).

There’s a lot to like in this one. We get to see Bashir at his worst – and at his best. Similarly, of all the “Unfriendly backwater class-M planet in distress” epsidoes, this one did a better-than-normal job at introducing deep, interesting characters, and actually set the stakes for just how fucked things were on the planet.

That being said, I don’t think I’ve seen another episode of Trek that was quite ripped-from-the-headlines like this one was. Trevean is a thinly-veiled metaphor for Jack Kevorkian, who was on trial around the time that this episode aired. Beyond that, the episode’s treatment of hospice care is pretty shocking by modern standards – perhaps they could have sold the idea that palliative care was outrageous to Future Space Doctor Bashir in the 25th-century, but honestly, it came across as though the writers in 1996 found it outrageous as well. (Given the general judgmental attitude, I was half expecting Trevean to be revealed as a changeling)

The AIDS metaphors were pretty loud too (such as the “quickening of HIV into AIDS). In 1996, we were learning that AZT was an okay-ish treatment for adults, but very much not a cure – however, we also quickly learned that it was extremely effective at preventing mother-to-child transmission. Just like Bashir’s vaccine.

This episode also, once again, places Dax into a meaningless supporting character role. Sigh.

Finally, yes – this was extremely difficult to watch in 2021, and if you’re doing a rewatch, I’d recommend skipping it for now.
posted by schmod at 5:43 AM on May 5, 2021

You should also not watch it in 2022. Watching an episode that blends together a pandemic and a pregnancy storyline the day after we learn SCOTUS is about to overturn Roe may get added to my run of lifetime-worst media consumption choices.
posted by athenasbanquet at 6:11 AM on May 4, 2022

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