Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Doctor Bashir, I Presume?   Rewatch 
May 28, 2016 11:05 AM - Season 5, Episode 16 - Subscribe

It's doctor versus doctor versus holo-doctor in an epic smug-off, as Voyager's Dr. Lewis Zimmerman (Robert Picardo) drops by DS9. But soon he's causing trouble for Dr. Bashir's career...and Rom's love life.

Memory Alpha, I presume?:

- The idea of making Bashir genetically engineered was a last minute decision. As Ira Steven Behr explains, "at the time we were working on "In Purgatory's Shadow" and "By Inferno's Light", we had no idea that Bashir was going to turn out to be genetically engineered. So even though it was the very next episode..."

- In explaining any potential continuity problems between the revelation that Bashir is genetically enhanced and the previously established behavior and personality of the character, Ronald D. Moore explained, "It really explained a lot about the character to me. He'd had some strange jigs and jags in his profile over the course of the first four seasons. We have this guy with a lot of arrogance, who almost became a tennis player, who has all these different tales of why and when he went to medical school, and why he didn't become valedictorian of his class, and who has something about his past on Earth that he doesn't want to talk about. When Odo was going to Earth in "Homefront", he asked Bashir 'Is there anybody you want me to look up?' and Bashir says 'I have nobody there I want to talk to.' There was something in this guy's back-story that was interesting, And it suddenly all made sense if this was a guy who'd been genetically engineered to be very, very smart but who'd had to hide it all his life."

- Although it may not seem apparent to viewers initially, this episode is another example of Ira Steven Behr's re-examination of Gene Roddenberry's twenty-fourth century utopia. Comments in episodes like "The Maquis, Part II", "The Jem'Hadar", "Paradise Lost", "For the Cause" and "Nor the Battle to the Strong" had served to darken Roddenberry's vision of the perfect harmonious Federation and an Earth where no problems exist. This episode's example of a darkened ideology is to be found in the character of Richard Bashir. According to Ronald D. Moore, "The Federation is a very nice place to live. But that doesn't mean you can't be a loser and you can't screw up. In the twenty-fourth century, everybody seems to have a job, and everybody's taken care of and everybody has food. But there are people who are just not going to make it. And Bashir's dad is like that, the kind of guy who's always posturing himself as a success, but never has succeeded at anything."

- When Admiral Bennett reminds Bashir of the risks of genetic engineering by referencing the Eugenics Wars, he referred to it as having occurred "two hundred years ago." However, established continuity suggests that he is about 200 years off. Ronald D. Moore comments: "This is my personal screw-up. When I was writing that speech, I was thinking about Khan and somehow his dialog from "Wrath" started floating through my brain: "On Earth... 200 years ago... I was a Prince..." The number 200 just stuck in my head and I put it in the script without making the necessary adjustment for the fact that "Wrath" took place almost a hundred years prior to "Dr. Bashir."


"Why is everyone so worried about holograms taking over the universe?"

- Lewis Zimmerman


"You've never had a child. You don't know what it's like to watch your son... to watch him fall a little further behind every day. You know he's trying, but something's holding him back. You don't know what it's like to stay up every night worrying that maybe it's your fault; maybe you did something wrong during the pregnancy, and maybe you weren't careful enough. Or maybe there's something wrong with you; maybe you passed on a genetic defect without even knowing it."
"Amsha..."
"No, this is important. You can condemn us for what we did; you can say it's illegal or immoral or whatever you want to say. But you have to understand that we didn't do it because we were ashamed. But because you were our son. And we loved you."

- Amsha and Richard Bashir, explaining to Julian why they had him genetically enhanced
posted by CheesesOfBrazil (7 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
And it suddenly all made sense if this was a guy who'd been genetically engineered to be very, very smart but who'd had to hide it all his life.

Every time I watch the series over again - and it's already been a number of times, hence my minimal participation here - it's been through the lens of "Doctor Bashir, genetically enhanced human, is just dicking with everybody." Pretending he can't do [whatever plot critical task]. I think of it sort of like the discussion Bill gives in the second Kill Bill film, about how Clark Kent is Superman's commentary on what regular people are like.

Although it may not seem apparent to viewers initially, this episode is another example of Ira Steven Behr's re-examination of Gene Roddenberry's twenty-fourth century utopia.

I thought everything to do with the good doctor was pretty blatant on that score, but well conceived. Genetic engineering in the Federation felt like a huge cultural blind spot - I discussed this earlier with regard to Starfleet treatment of the Jem'Hadar in general - and I liked that. It flowed from actual Roddenberry-rooted TOS lore, and DS9 approached it in a good way, IIRC. (My only real complaint was that other stellar empires shouldn't have the same biases - there's no reason not to see Romulan super soldiers or something.)
posted by mordax at 2:20 PM on May 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


I love this episode, in part because it comes right after the two-parter in which it was revealed that "Bashir" had actually been a changeling for some weeks, and now we get the true nature of the real real Bashir (surprising revelations about the various characters, with the revelations sometimes turning out to be false, is a recurrent theme in the show), along with a holographic copy of Bashir who's the reason for that revelation, and in part because it's one of those rarities in fiction: a retcon that actually works. Even some of the things that are more reasonably attributed to "actor still settling into the role" work a bit better as "genetic superman pretending to be a mundane." Example: in the first season, Siddig would sometimes practically make his eyes pop out of his head when he was being enthusiastic or surprised about something--say, when he meets, Garak, or Data--that just seems comically exaggerated; now, you can say that, well, that's how non-enhanced people seem like to Bashir, and so that's how he imitated them before he got better at it. Also, the infamous "preganglionic fiber" mistake, which makes sense as Bashir deliberately blowing the question to avoid sticking out, or his not particularly wanting to win the Carrington Award.

And the other great thing about it is that it has a bigger subtext that goes beyond just finding an explanation for the little bits in a character's backstory that don't make sense, and that's the subtext of abuse--that something was done to Julian when he was a kid that he had no choice or control over, and that it became a secret that he could never admit to anyone, and that drove a wedge between him and his parents, to the point that he changed his name. Siddig does an excellent job with this, both with the scenes with Bashir's parents and with O'Brien. It might seem weird that Bashir has this reaction toward a treatment that ostensibly improved him, but on some level he still seems to relate to the pre-enhancement Jules. There's an interesting parallel (probably enhanced by the presence of Robert Picardo) to Seven of Nine on Voyager; one of the keys to her personality is that she stopped developing emotionally at the age she was assimilated, which was seven, not much older than Jules when he was enhanced. (There's also an interesting question regarding Bashir's mirror universe double; was he genetically enhanced? He seems to function at an average level, at least, so maybe Jules wasn't as developmentally disabled as both Bashir and his parents think. If he was, then mirror-Bashir's belligerence could be better explained as his acting out his anger more.)

I also liked the B story a lot; speaking of parallels, Rom's certainly someone who's quite gifted and had his confidence severely undercut by emotional abuse (and Quark probably thinks he's doing Rom a favor by reminding him of how things went with his ex-wife), and for another, Dr. Zimmerman's sort of latching onto Leeta and trying to win her affection by offering her a job has some unpleasant parallels to the EMH on Voyager similarly getting a crush on Seven and doing things like painting a holodeck doppelganger of her in the nude. (In fairness, this was occasionally addressed on VOY, such as the episode in which the EMH was temporarily downloaded into Seven, so suddenly he understands what it's like to actually have a body, which isn't his, but... anyway, Seven calls him on some of his behavior.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:40 PM on May 28, 2016 [3 favorites]


The first thing I want to say is the speech his mum gives, that is quoted in the OP, is fantastic, it turns everything on its head after all of Bashir's ranting about what happened to him, and his anger at his dad (and parents.) It really hits home how they must have felt, what it must have been like for them, and all through we are watching Bashir, it is all sort of through his lens.

The moment when they tell the Holo-Bashir about what they did is great, and the line at the end of the scene ("who were those people?) is classic. As mentioned above, the scene with Bashir and O'Brien is great, where he explains what happened, what was done to him: it is another step in their ongoing bromance, and it works well: O'Brien is the one Bashir talks to as O'Brien is the one who accidentally finds out (along with the Doctor of course.)

I am not a fan, generally, of retconning stuff, but this did sorta work, and I agree with Halloween Jack that it casts some of his earlier behaviour in a new light.

The B plot was interesting, although Leeta isn't given much agency in this, she just seems to sorta go along with things, which was a shame. It would have been better if, rather than just playing it as "inept romantic comedy Rom can't tell the woman he loves that he loves her" they had made Leeta more vocal about things. Maybe she goes for dinner with the doctor and tells him there is someone she likes, and Rom overhears, but he lacks confidence, so Leeta forces the issue somehow, similar to how Dax did with Worf. Obviously they are very different characters, but isn't Leeta studying something? The jokes about "I hired you for your brains" also seem a bit lame nowadays, but I guess at the time they flew more. (Also as trek is loved by nerdy fanbois, who probably lack social skills and so on, again it is gonna fly with them.)

The way the episode is structured works nicely, and directorially it is nothing special, but it isn't flat and dull either.
posted by marienbad at 6:21 AM on May 29, 2016 [1 favorite]


To me, one of the really "nailed-it" moments of this one, in terms of acting and directing, is the scene with Bashir and his parents in Sisko's office. The tension is palpable; it's almost harder to watch than the Garak torturing Odo scene.

Another thing I think was the right choice in this episode was giving Quark back some of his despicableness. On average, his character's arc skews toward honor and redemption as the seasons go by, so it's nice for the show to remember now and then that he's a pig.

Genetic engineering in the Federation felt like a huge cultural blind spot - I discussed this earlier with regard to Starfleet treatment of the Jem'Hadar in general - and I liked that. It flowed from actual Roddenberry-rooted TOS lore, and DS9 approached it in a good way, IIRC. (My only real complaint was that other stellar empires shouldn't have the same biases - there's no reason not to see Romulan super soldiers or something.)

Romulans are probably too full of themselves to admit the possibility that their species could be improved. But yes. It's really kind of impressive that this one episode could so quickly and effectively introduce such a major bias, and resultant policy, in Starfleet. Though FWIW, a couple of episodes of TNG touched on distaste for the whole genetic engineering concept. The Memory Alpha page on genetic engineering explores the connections between those earlier episodes and this one.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 7:19 AM on May 29, 2016 [1 favorite]


"Vulcan love slave part 2 - The Revenge" - I know what you mean, CheesesOfBrazil
posted by marienbad at 2:06 PM on May 29, 2016


I'm at kind of an odd point in this re-watch, in that it is actually my first watch, so a lot of the recaps/analyses/discussion can't help but be spoilers. It would have been nice to have been surprised by the Changling-Bashir reveal, or Tain being Garak's father, or this episode's new twist - but I don't know what I would have gotten out of trying to marathon the entire show on my own without any outside reference & discussion, so, it's a trade-off. I'm still several episodes behind on a few shows that have wrapped up for the year/forever, but if I can plow through them tomorrow I think I'm going to binge through the rest of season 5-7 over the next week so I can get to the end without any more reveals.
posted by oh yeah! at 2:18 PM on May 29, 2016


Don't binge TOO fast, oh yeah!-- IMO season six is DS9 at its finest, and should be savored.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 2:44 PM on May 29, 2016 [2 favorites]


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