Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Deep Space Nine 5x16 "Doctor Bashir, I Presume?"

rating: ****

the story: Dark secrets about Bashir's past are revealed.

what it's all about: A string of eight brilliant episodes concludes with this one, in which another effort of the third season comes to fruition: the redemption of Bashir, who in his original boy wonder incarnation was just this side of Wesley Crusher (Next Generation) in his obnoxiousness.  There was a new world weariness to the character in the third season that finally began to ground him, but otherwise he was the least developed character of a series filled to bursting with well-developed characters.  That it took until the fifth season to finally crack him wide open has the interesting side effect of fans just as easily rejecting as embracing the revelations of "Doctor Bashir, I Presume?" but I think they fit the character perfectly.

It was always Bashir's overeagerness and pride that defined him, in the early seasons, as if he wasn't trying to prove himself to others as much as, well, himself.  Turns out that was exactly the case.  When he was a child his parents took it upon themselves to genetically enhance Bashir, so that he would be the impressive boy they wanted.  He did prove to be impressive, as he would point out every chance he got later, but was it really Bashir boasting so much as him trying to convince himself that these were his achievements and not merely the result of what his parents did to him?

Genetic enhancements had played a part of the franchise previously, of course, and quite famously so, in the guise of Khan, whose defining turn in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan was another miraculous turnaround in franchise lore, helping redeem the "it" factor of Star Trek after the less-inspiring Motion Picture (and not to mention cancellation of the original series after an ignominiously brief three season run).  "Presume" references Khan as the reason the Federation outlawed genetic enhancements because of their inherent unreliability (later Bashir meets products of that unreliability who are more quirky than menacing, in "Statistical Probabilities").  It's the first time the franchise addresses Khan's nature, and as a result fleshes out a part of the mythology nicely.

Besides all that, two other elements help the episode stand out.  One is Rom completing his journey to becoming his own man when he professes his love to dabo girl Leeta (completing journeys begun, you guessed it, in the third season).  It's a nice contrast to the doubt Bashir experiences throughout the episode, and a feel-good ending in an episode that needed one.

There's also one of the niftier franchise crossover moments when the creator of Voyager's Emergency Medical Hologram, who happens to look just like him and as such is also played by Robert Picardo, becomes the reason why Bashir's secrets are exposed when he shows up at the station looking to build a new holographic doctor, modeled after Bashir.  (Would you believe he ends up choosing Andy Dick instead?  Look no further than Voyager's hugely delightful "Message in a Bottle" to see for yourself!) 

Eight episodes in which the producers in effect looked back at the fruitful period in the second season where they had hard looks at the franchise at large to see what could be applied to Deep Space Nine, material like "Blood Oath" (which brought back three original series Klingons and actors) and "Crossover" (a follow-up to "Mirror, Mirror"), in which the future of the series finally came into focus, and character work became stronger than ever, starting with "The Ascent" and ending with "Presume."  It may be the single greatest creative stretch in franchise history.

criteria analysis:
  • franchise - Finally explains what went wrong with Khan.
  • series - A moment general fans can really appreciate Deep Space Nine.
  • character - Bashir's best story to this point in the series.
  • essential - Hard to see anyone arguing you shouldn't watch this one, even if you disagree with my conclusions.
notable guest-stars:
Robert Picardo (Lewis Zimmerman)
Max Grodenchik (Rom)
Chase Masterson (Leeta)
Brian George

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