Saturday, October 29, 2011

3-13. Life Support.

Vedek Bareil (Philip Anglim) chooses
to risk his life for his principles.


Kai Winn (Louise Fletcher) and Vedek Bareil (Philip Anglim) are on their way to top secret negotiations with the Cardassians when their shuttle suffers a serious accident. Deep Space 9's security and medical teams are able to evacuate the shuttle, and most of the passengers are only lightly injured.  With one serious exception: Bareil.

Bashir is able to revive and stabilize the Vedek, but Medical Technobabble means that there are problems with Bareil's bloodflow. Bashir wants to put him in stasis until a medical solution can be found, but Bareil insists on remaining conscious, urgent about the need for him to participate in the negotations. He doesn't want to die - but if he must risk himself to grant Bajor a chance of lasting peace with the Cardassians, then he will.

As Bareil's organs begin to fail, it becomes ever more clear that if he insists on lasting through the negotiations, he will not survive. Unless Bashir can get Kai Winn to order him into stasis, Vedek Bareil's death is inevitable...


Commander Sisko: With Kira, Winn, and Bashir all invested in and emotional about the situation, Sisko acts as the level head in the room. When Bareil is unconscious, his only hope of recovery a procedure that will make his brain part machine, Sisko reminds Bashir that they should consider what Bareil would wish. When Winn attempts to deal with the Cardassian Legate, only to find herself outclassed both mentally and politically, Sisko goes to her aid in clarifying the question of Bajoran prisoners and acts as a sounding board when she tries to figure out what the Cardassians are up to with a seemingly benign demand.

Major Kira: Most of the episode puts her in a supporting role, thrust into the unlikely position of backing up Kai Winn in keeping Bareil alive, no matter what. Still, Nana Visitor gets several fine scenes. One that stands out is fast and mostly nonverbal. When Bareil wakes up from having positronic implants put into his brain to keep him functioning, Kira grabs his hand. Bareil tells her that her touch feels "like a memory of a touch," rather than like an actual one. The pain in her reaction is superbly acted. More showy, but just as outstanding, is the final scene of the episode, in which Kira claims the story's heart with a stunning monologue. It really is a shame that they never give Emmys for acting to outer space science fiction series, because Visitor's work is more deserving than many winners have been.

Dr. Bashir: Another excellent episode for Bashir, who has gone from the series' weakest link to one of its strongest. He is very focused on the welfare of his patient, trying desperately to convince Bareil to allow himself to be put into stasis. When Bareil's sense of duty makes him push himself into a risky experimental treatment to help with the negotiations, it isn't long before he begins to deteriorate. Bashir tries to appeal to Winn, asking her to tell Bareil that his help is no longer needed. Winn refuses - and when she lets slip that her reasons lie at least partly in her desire to have a scapegoat if the talks fail, Bashir lambastes her for her cowardice.

Jake/Nog: A (very ill-advised) comedy "B" plot shows Jake and Nog on a double-date. This exposes the vast cultural differences between humans and Ferengi, with Jake appalled when Nog insists on treating his date like a servant girl. The fallout forces Jake to admit that there are areas in which they are very different, leading to the first serious conversation between the two friends about their cultures.

Vedek Bareil: Has pushed Winn to entering negotiations with the Cardassian government, to try to establish a lasting peace. Bareil has been very much the leader in this effort, to the point that Winn fears the negotiations can't continue wtihout him. When we see the bedridden Bareil "advising" Winn about the negotiations, it is clear that he is the real power, at least in this area (and likely in others). Winn makes occasional protests, but bows to his suggestions at every turn. Realizing that he is needed to make these negotiations successful, he puts his people above himself one last time, even knowing the dangers to his health as he does so.

Kai Winn: This is the first time we've seen Winn this season, and it's also the first look we've had of her as a leader. It's very clear, watching her and the Cardassian legate, that Winn is in over her head in the negotiations. It's clear to her, too. She may be a capable politician, but she isn't equipped to deal with the complexities of the pages upon pages of "legalisms" involved in treaty discussions. In this area - and probably in others - she uses Bareil as a crutch, drawing on his expertise to allow her to maintain the appearance of a leader. It will be interesting to see where her character arc goes now.


Another strong episode, offering some excellent character material. One thing I particularly enjoy about Deep Space 9 is that it's not afraid to create different character combinations. By this point, we expect that an appearance by Winn will mean flinty confrontations between her and Sisko or her and Kira. But this episode saves its Showdown with Winn scene for Bashir - a character with whom she has barely (if ever) interacted before.

It's also a major episode, involving the death of a recurring character and the first steps toward a peace treaty between Bajor and Cardassia. The treaty has potential to be intriguing, not least because it seems clear in the negotiation scenes that the Cardassians may have their own agenda. It could also be interesting to see how the people on Bajor may take this - it was only a few years ago that they were occupied, after all. Unless this is used as an excuse to sweep all the Bajoran/Cardassian conflict under the rug (which, from Deep Space 9, I doubt is the case), then this new "peace" could open up some wonderful narrative opportunities.

Or it could just be a way to shut down a running arc that's become inconvenient with the introduction of the Dominion. And if that's the case, then I'll be very annoyed.

While most of the material involving Bashir, Bareil, and Winn is well-executed, the episode suffers from the inclusion of a comedy "B" plot. The Jake/Nog scenes aren't bad in and of themselves. This would be a fine "B" plot for a lighter episode. But the comic tone of these scenes badly jars with the grimness surrounding it, and it creates a disconnect when we cut from Bashir's desperate attempts to save Bareil's life to Nog behaving with sexism that would put Archie Bunker to shame. The point about differing culture values isn't a bad one, the subplot itself works fine in isolation - It just belongs in a different episode.

The disconnect between the "A" plot and the "B" plot, combined with just a bit too much medical Techno Babble, keeps this from being quite the episode it might have been. But the character material is so good, and the performances so strong, that I still find this to be above-average - if short of the great episode it might have been.

Overall Rating: 7/10

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