Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Inquisition   Rewatch 
September 1, 2016 3:38 AM - Season 6, Episode 18 - Subscribe

It's "Inquisition"! / What a show / Yes "Inquisition" / Here we go:

Those who abjure geekery can only do so because Memory Alpha is committing geekery on their behalf:

- This episode began life as a comic show about bureaucracy and paperwork, or, as Bradley Thompson puts it, "dealing with the Department of Motor Vehicles on a Sunday. Bashir went to a planet to do something really nice, like saving the lives of everyone on the whole planet. He parked his runabout in orbit, and when he finished doing this wonderful thing, he found out that he had been towed and he had a parking ticket! So he had to go up against the bureaucracy. It was the ultimate genetically engineered Human against the ultimate bureaucratic red tape." Thompson and David Weddle had the idea to do the show as a humorous version of the 1925 Franz Kafka novel The Trial, but when they pitched it to Ira Steven Behr, he immediately reformulated it into an episode involving a covert organization within Starfleet who decide Bashir is a Dominion spy and interrogate him by means of an elaborate holodeck program. As Thompson says "it stopped being a romp and became a nightmare."

- This episode marks the first appearance of Luther Sloan (William Sadler) on the series. It also introduces Section 31 to Star Trek. The idea for Section 31 was Ira Steven Behr's and was the culmination of his attempts to look into the darker aspects of the utopia created by Gene Roddenberry, to look under the surface of the idyllic Federation to see if everything was really as perfect as it appeared to be. Section 31 was [...] a covert organization within Starfleet who could be said to be the "weasels under the coffee table" to which Behr referred in relation to "The Maquis, Part II". As Behr explains, "Why is Earth a paradise in the twenty-fourth century? Well, maybe it's because there's someone watching over it and doing the nasty stuff that no one wants to talk about." The very idea that such an organization as Section 31 could exist within Starfleet would have been completely alien to Gene Roddenberry's original vision, and as such, Section 31 represents one of Deep Space Nine's most controversial ideas, provoking debate among many fans of both The Original Series and The Next Generation.

- The producers originally considered casting Martin Sheen as Sloan, but they ultimately chose William Sadler. According to Ira Behr, "We needed someone who had real power as an actor, who could keep you from jumping to a final conclusion about his character."

- Section 31 later appeared in Star Trek: Enterprise and Star Trek Into Darkness.


"I won't deny that Doctor Bashir has made some...questionable decisions in his career, but that's a long way from convincing me he's a traitor. Now so far, your case is based on circumstantial evidence and speculation."
"What other kind of case can I make against a man who covers his tracks so well?"
"That's a circular argument and you know it!"

- Sisko and Sloan


"How many lives do you suppose you've saved in your medical career?"
"What has that got to do with anything?"
"Hundreds? Thousands? Do you suppose those people give a damn that you lied to get in Starfleet Medical? I doubt it. We deal with threats to the Federation that jeopardize its very survival. If you knew how many lives we've saved, I think you'd agree that the ends do justify the means. I'm not afraid of bending the rules every once in a while if the situation warrants it. And I don't think you are either. In time you will agree with me."

- Sloan and Bashir


"I can't believe the Federation condones this kind of activity."
"Personally, I find it hard to believe they wouldn't. Every other great power has a unit like Section 31. The Romulans have the Tal Shiar, the Cardassians had the Obsidian Order..."
"But what does that say about us? When push comes to shove, are we willing to sacrifice our principles in order to survive?"
"I wish I had an answer for you, Doctor."

- Bashir, Odo, and Sisko
posted by CheesesOfBrazil (8 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
I love this episode, not only because it explicitly references a number of previous episodes (and furthers the illusion that this was planned as part of Bashir's character arc all along, even though we know that that wasn't actually the case), and brings in Section 31, which quickly became an important (and much debated among the fans) part of the canon, even getting its own four-part novel series, but also works as its own tightly-plotted detail-packed story even before the last-act reveal.

Everything up to that point seems to indicate a Starfleet that, while not sanctioning torture of the sort that, say, the Cardassians would use (the earlier episode "Tribunal" shows O'Brien undergoing that, and acts as a neat counterpoint to this one), has some pretty effective interrogation techniques: "mixing up" Bashir's breakfast with Worf's to make him hungry, or Sloan changing up his manner toward Bashir (and also doing a Columbo with his "one last thing" question). There's also a building paranoia in the details: Bashir noticing things having been moved in his quarters, or the running security officers. If I had to complain about anything, it was that Chandler apparently wasn't real, as her pale skin and eyes, combed-back dark hair, and absolutely flat demeanor suggested that she might be a more-human-looking reverse-engineered Soong-type android.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:23 AM on September 1, 2016 [2 favorites]


Everything up to that point seems to indicate a Starfleet that [...] has some pretty effective interrogation techniques: "mixing up" Bashir's breakfast with Worf's to make him hungry, or Sloan changing up his manner toward Bashir (and also doing a Columbo with his "one last thing" question).

Good observation. It's always nice to see a villainous Internal Affairs-type group that displays real competence. I remember when I first saw this one, I was struck by that: we'd expect Starfleet to have much more psychologically-advanced techniques than whatever, say, Klingon Intelligence would use (painstiks, I assume).

If I had to complain about anything, it was that Chandler apparently wasn't real, as her pale skin and eyes, combed-back dark hair, and absolutely flat demeanor suggested that she might be a more-human-looking reverse-engineered Soong-type android.

She totally still could have been and this is now totally my headcanon. You bet your britches that if Section 31 ever got their hands on Soong (or Bruce Maddox), they'd have built themselves at least one Six Million Credit Humanoid.

I love this episode mainly because of William Sadler, as my tags might suggest. He might well be on my top ten list of favorite actors ever—certainly in the top three of favorite character actors—and this might be my favorite performance of his, even factoring in his subsequent DS9 appearances. He is so good at being scary, oily, cagey, and even genuine. When he grins, you want to grin back, but also run and hide.

If I had to complain about anything, it would be Sloan's outfit after the big reveal. Everything up to that point felt so gritty and plausible, and then they went and gave him that Lesser James Bond Villain getup. But whatev, it's sci-fi.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 9:42 AM on September 1, 2016 [1 favorite]


BTW, forgot to mention it in the post, but when Sloan expresses incredulity about the Dominion just leaving the runabout unattended at Internment Camp 371, he is doing what TV Tropes, as near as I can figure, calls leaning on the Fourth Wall.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 9:01 AM on September 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


There is so much leaning on the fourth wall in DS9; almost the entire episode takes place on a holodeck, and there's even commentary at the end on Bashir's penchant for holodeck spy scenarios. In "Our Man Bashir", you had Garak, a real spy, providing metacommentary on how unrealistic the scenario was, and it wouldn't have been out of place to have had him be the one behind the deception in this episode, or had him working with Section 31, or both. (He does play a prominent part in the next episode, which is another "how far would you go beyond stated Federation ideals and ethics to win the war" episode, and also has its own fourth-wall-leaning in the way that it's narrated...) Plus the show possibly being a creation of Benny Russell, plus Sisko turning Eddington's Les Miserables LARPing back on him.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:27 PM on September 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


Section 31 also played a role in four episodes of the fourth season of Star Trek: Enterprise, and was mentioned in the movie Star Trek Into Darkness. (In the film, the archive that was bombed in London is noted as belonging to Section 31.)
posted by zarq at 2:36 PM on September 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


The Dominion War has resulted in some special circumstances for DS9
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:11 PM on September 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


Finally starting to catch up on the re-watch after being away for the holiday.

I don't know about this one. Good acting and directing and all, but think the existence of Section 31 is a step too far into anti-utopian Trek for me. And while I will suspend disbelief for all sorts of sf technobabble nonsense, the idea of a super-secret shadowy human (humanoid?) organization that actually manages to stay completely secret for centuries is a hard sell.
posted by oh yeah! at 8:11 PM on September 9, 2016


You know when would have been a good time to bring up section 31? Three episodes ago, when O'Brien was doing his spy thing. All of Bashir's friends get to be spies, just not him.

Section 31 does fit with the general theme of this season, but I do agree that it's hard to integrate into the larger Trek universe.

I like how the tension slowly ramps up during this episode. The building paranoia that Halloween Jack describes - and for once, all of the ways that Sloan was getting to Bashir were low tech. There was no need to release a gas or some sort of mood-destabilizing ray when they could just switch up the food and make it seem like an honest mistake. The five vs. seven days being used as some sort of trump card. And even Sloan's reaction when he finds out his was wrong being essentially a shrug - it doesn't matter that he nearly ruined a man's life, on to the next mission.
posted by dinty_moore at 3:03 PM on January 9, 2017


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