Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Statistical Probabilities   Rewatch 
August 1, 2016 12:56 PM - Season 6, Episode 9 - Subscribe

Bashir gets a visit from The Dream Teamthe Jack Pack, a group of genetically-enhanced savants who are capable of rapid and stunningly accurate assessments of the Dominion threat. But what does he do when they predict that the Federation will lose the war?

Did you know that Memory Alpha has a page on this episode well if you knew that already then why haven't you read it hmmm HMMM?!?

- The story line was based on Isaac Asimov's classic Foundation Trilogy. Asimov based his work on issues raised in Edward Gibbon's The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, and the basic plot involves a scientist (Hari Seldon) who develops a branch of mathematics known as psychohistory which he uses to calculate that galactic civilization is doomed to fall, leading to 30,000 years of darkness and barbarism. Seldon, terrified at this prospect, takes action to attempt to minimize the oncoming "dark ages" to only 1,000 years, but his plan fails to foresee that the actions of a single individual could render his predictions invalid. Psychohistory is based upon mass action, and it can only predict the future when dealing with large groups, predicting trends in large masses of people, which is why Seldon fails to take into account the actions of individuals – when it gets down to individual people, the variables become so vast as to be impossible to calculate, so the predictions become unstable. In the novels, a character called The Mule, who has psychic abilities, becomes intimately involved in events, and directly influences their outcome, something which Seldon's psychohistory could never have predicted. This is exactly what happens in the episode: the savants make large scale predictions based upon mass action, but they fail to take into account the actions of one single individual, who comes to directly affect everything they have predicted.

- The character of Jack is based upon Dean Moriarty (who was based on Neal Cassady), one of the main characters of the 1951 Jack Kerouac novel On the Road, a wannabe philosopher who talks a mile a minute.

- Of his scene speaking the Vorta language, Jeffrey Combs commented "That was very strange. I had to work hard too for that very tiny little bit. It's very hard to speak a language that's totally made up, and yet keep the cadence and sensibility of an actual line in English. Because what they did is they played it once in English and then they replayed it in Vortanese (or whatever it is), and I had to really concentrate to get that the way I worded it. They gave me syllabic words, and it was up to me to break it down into the phraseology that I did. It's interesting how the brain works. I really, really had to hang in there and run it by rote. It's easy to memorize words and phrases and strings of thought when it's your native language, but when it's a nonsensical group of syllables, it takes a lot more brain juice to make it seem very easy and conversational".

- This is one of Alexander Siddig's favorite episodes; "People ask, 'Was that a comedy or a drama?' "Statistical Probabilities" was like that, not quite one thing or the other. The humor came out of the misery and angst captured by those wonderful actors. And I enjoyed the fact that Bashir served as a kind of pinball throughout that show. He was just battered about." Siddig also admires the episode for its political engagement; "The episode touched on a couple of political issues in terms of whether or not you can incarcerate people like this. I think the commentary that came out of Bashir's mouth was right and called attention to the fact that double standards happen in society. We do put good people away, like the Japanese-Americans placed in internment camps during World War II. The group in this episode seemed like lovely people, and Bashir showed some vulnerability in the fact that he understood their plight. They might not have been misfits if they had not been put away for such a long time."

- Faith Salie, who played Sarina, is a panelist on NPR’s Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me! Her Amazon author page says, "She attended Oxford University on a Rhodes scholarship, and while her fellow scholars went on to become governors and Pulitzer Prize winners, she landed on a Star Trek collectible trading card worth hundreds of cents."

"There are rules, don't talk with your mouth full, don't open an airlock when somebody is inside it, and don't lie about your genetic status!"

- Jack

"It's not our place to decide who lives and who dies! We're not gods!"
"Maybe not, but we're the next best thing."

- Bashir and Jack
posted by Halloween Jack (10 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The short-lived "Jack Pack" of DS9 action figures failed to sell well, partly because collectors were underwhelmed by the Sarina figure's "Inert Stare!" function, but mainly because the Jack figure had a perpetual motion machine inside the torso piece. The box kept falling off of store shelves.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 7:17 AM on August 2, 2016 [3 favorites]

Siddig's right, this one is perched on a weird edge between comedy and drama. The Jack Pack are so dark and sad and creepy, but they're ridiculous too. They're pitiful, but funny, and you also have this feeling like they could be dangerous. Bashir is a bleeding heart at the best of times, but to be confronted with these nightmare versions of himself, people who never had the breaks he did and suffered for it... that's heavy.

It would have been interesting to see a Flowers for Algernon episode with Bashir, where his enhancements break down somehow and he becomes the guy he would have been without them. I have a hunch he was a good person, and somehow I think he was maybe not quite as slow as his parents worried. (I don't know why I'd think that. Maybe the way Bashir seemed to resent the enhancements, and the way his dad had such obviously frustrated ambitions. I just get this feeling he was a little below average, but maybe he could have coped.) An episode like that could have made the point that he still had something worthwhile to contribute even without the super smarts, that his goodness at least is an innate part of him even if he'd never been modified. We did see Sarina later get the ability to speak only for that to fade, but her situation was just tragic and there was nothing but loss going on there.

As a chronic planner and worrier, I find myself sometimes thinking about this episode. I'm always trying to work out what's going to happen in life, or I'll worry myself half to death over bad things that might happen... and all that fretting is pointless really. Life is so random, it's very difficult to accurately predict anything. (The only law life seems to consistently follow is Murphy's law. But you can't really predict all the WAYS in which everything will go wrong.)
posted by Ursula Hitler at 3:19 PM on August 2, 2016 [3 favorites]

UH, one of the things that I've speculated about before is that the Bashir of the Mirror Universe is unenhanced Bashir; he seems like generally an angry guy, but isn't impaired in any obvious way. It would have been interesting for our Bashir to have met him (which he didn't get to do during his own trip to the MU) and worked out some of his resentments regarding his enhancements; we also could have found out why Mirror-Bashir generally seems to have a bug up his ass. It probably would have made for a better episode than trying to turn Bareil into a sexy rogue.

I also tend to worry about stuff that's not under my control, and I completely understand the impulse to take the "safe" option, even if it's not a great one, rather than risk losing everything.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:09 AM on August 3, 2016 [3 favorites]

This I must share: Bashir examines little Crewman Jackalope. (Fortunately Bashir's daffy grin suggest Crewman Jackalope is in the prime of health.)
posted by Ursula Hitler at 1:23 PM on August 5, 2016 [3 favorites]

This is a strange episode. Frankly I found Jack to be a bit annoying, but I think he was written and played to be that way. The idea that Starfleet would give them access to confidential material so they could analyse it seemed a bit off, and the whole Foundation thing was a touch heavily laid on. When they were talking about it, it was almost as if the passage had been lifted wholesale.

I did like the idea of how it examines things, which is better, 2 billion deaths and surrender or 900 billion and defeat, although I did find this figure to be a little high - I assume it means all casualties, not just humans?

The best thing about this episode is the subtext that even the strangest and weirdest among us have something to offer and should not be written off.
posted by marienbad at 2:27 PM on August 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

This was the best of DS9’s critiquing Roddenberry’s utopia, because it was a reasonable extension of what had been established with “Space Seed” and Wrath of Khan. I initially wondered why the patients’ therapist was a Starfleet officer. Does every psychologist hold a Starfleet commission? But it quickly dawned on me that Starfleet has taken custody of these people because they are considered a threat to the Federation. It makes sense that in an upcoming episode, we’ll learn Bashir is under surveillance.

Jack demonstrated a quite the Khanish personality (which the writers made clear with his “we’re the next best thing [to gods]” line). He had that same superiority and overconfidence, both in his calculations and scheme to hand info to the Dominion. But while Khan wanted power, Jack really just wanted to feel useful. This was his way of finally being able to contribute to society. He was clearly jealous of Bashir’s ability to do something productive with his life. Now jack can one-up him by saving more lives that Dr. Bashir ever could. Not that Starfleet will see it that way.

Also, Damar in his new role is sumtin’. When he was first officer on a disgraced gul’s transport, I bet he never imagined he would one day rise to be Cardassia’s puppet leader. I liked how the actor could deliver that boastful kind of fascist speech, but without a bit of confidence.

Finally, why in the hell is Bashir recommending the Federation hand the Dominion the planet that will allow them to produce ketracel-white? So what if the Dominion launches a huge offense to take the planet? It’d be their last. Starfleet won the last huge battle, and this time they’d have the advantage of playing defense.

Had Bashir been in the Soviet Union during WWII, he would have recommended letting the Axis pass through Stalingrad. “Comrade, the Nazis really want that Caucasus oil. If we put up resistance, they’ll just launch a huge attack with over a million men. The whole city will be destroyed! We should allow them to march through and concentrate our forces elsewhere.” Hopefully, Stalin would have had him executed.
posted by riruro at 3:41 PM on August 9, 2016

Jack, like the rest of these Augments, is kind of childlike in many ways. It's true, he had the seeds of another Khan in him, he's creepily arrogant and he says a few things to suggest he might be capable of violence. But unlike Khan, he's not bad at heart. He doesn't want to rule the universe, he's more like a desperately insecure nerdy kid who just wants somebody to listen to all of his brilliant ideas. When he feels like he may actually have something useful to offer he drops the smartass defensiveness and gets really engaged. Lauren seems like quite the femme fatale, but she's really more like a kid playing seductress. She thinks every man is in love with her, and she doesn't quite seem to understand how sexy works. She comes on so strong she creeps people out. Patrick, of course, is basically a big brilliant toddler, while poor Sarina spend her whole life as the new kid in school who is too shy to talk.

It's an interesting reversal, really. People who are disabled by being too smart. They only show up for two shows, but it's an unforgettable pair of episodes.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 4:18 PM on August 9, 2016

Memory Alpha might say that Jack was based on Dean Moriarty, but all I could see was a distracting attempt at 12-Monkeys-Brad-Pitt, which was irritating in an episode I otherwise really enjoyed.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:39 PM on May 26, 2020

So a few things occurred to me watching this episode - the total 900 billion casualty figure always sort of makes me wonder what the total population of the UFP is actually like. I mean, most Trek problems seem to revolve around plants with a _total_ population smaller than like the Quad Cities, so either there's a few million of those 300k planets or there are some whales out there we never hear about.

Also, one of the general complaints about the Federation's ban on augments was that - well c'mon you mean to tell me the Cardassians or Klingons or Romulans wouldn't have augmented their soldiers?!??! And isn't that what the Founders did to the Jem'Hadar? Ok they're not portrayed as brilliant geniuses, but their military strategy seems to be solid, and they're more than match for a Klingon in hand to hand battle.

Every time I watch this I sort of half expect Sarina to have at least _one_ line, but either I miss it every time or no her whole interaction with the world is some general inertness. Then I remember that I'm getting ahead of myself.
posted by Kyol at 6:50 AM on February 15, 2022

> Finally, why in the hell is Bashir recommending the Federation hand the Dominion the planet that will allow them to produce ketracel-white? So what if the Dominion launches a huge offense to take the planet? It’d be their last. Starfleet won the last huge battle, and this time they’d have the advantage of playing defense.

My read was this: Starfleet won the last battle, but they're pretty weakened. They expect there to be a pretty big gap between securing the ketracel-white planet and actually having meaningful production of white, so they hope to re-build their forces and still be able to attack before the Dominion actually gets any White from the place.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 12:25 PM on June 25

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