the story: Bashir is attacked, and then finds himself aging rapidly.
what it's all about: One of the most famous Star Trek tropes is a character aging (or de-aging) rapidly, which began all the way in the original series episode "The Deadly Years," and can be found in every TV incarnation, sometimes with the variant of simply seeing a main character in an aged state. Most of the time this involves atypically horrible prosthetics that are not the least convincing. "Distant Voices," unfortunately, continues that trend, too.
What's worse is that it nearly undermines a character who had really started to come into his own, Bashir suddenly seeming a lot more mature than when we first met him. This is a whole episode that deals with the same issues as a number of vital B-stories elsewhere in the season, but in a metaphorical sense, having a birthday and feeling the years creeping upward. The worst thing about it is that it exposes the limits of an otherwise impeccable actor, Alexander Siddig, especially by the time Bashir is an enfeebled old man; Siddig doesn't seem to have figured out what to do other than stammer a lot more. No one wants to tell an actor that it's not enough to convincingly portray the physical aspects of such a state but also to come up with a voice to match it. In the classic episode "The Visitor," Tony Todd plays an equally aged character with considerably more grace. That's just the next season, Sid.
But if that sort of thing doesn't bother you, the story does sort of preview a far better episode later in the season, "Facets," in which Dax's previous hosts are embodied by the main characters so Jadzia can meet them. I don't mean to spoil "Distant Voices" for you, but everything ends up being inside of Bashir's head. That's actually the best part of the episode.
This is one of those episodes that could just as easily have occurred in the first season, when random sci-fi plots happened all the time, rather than in the third, when the series had really come into its own. You'll be happy to know it's also the last time this season such an episode occurs. The rest of it matches or exceeds the average quality that would come to define Deep Space Nine as a whole.
- franchise - General Trek fans will probably get a kick out of it.
series- But more specified ones probably won't. character- I'm convinced it's not a good Bashir episode. essential- I don't think anyone would argue that this is a great one by any means.