Sunday, December 29, 2013

5-16. Doctor Bashir, I Presume.

Dr. Bashir is less than pleased by a reunion with his parents.


Dr. Bashir receives a visitor: Dr. Lewis Zimmerman (Robert Picardo), the man who created the Emergency Medical Hologram (in his own image, of course). Zimmerman's new project is to create a Long-Term Medical Hologram (LMH), to act as the doctor on assignments where assigning living medical staff would be impractical. Dr. Bashir's record has captured the attention of Starfleet, and he has been chosen as the template for this new program.

In order to make the holographic Bashir as human as possible, Zimmerman conducts a series of interviews with everyone who knows him. When Bashir requests that he not interview his parents, as they are "not close," Zimmerman says he understands - and then makes contacting them into a priority. Soon, Richard Bashir (Brian George) and his wife Amasha (Fadwa El Guindi) have come to the station, much to Bashir's annoyance.

More than simple family drama makes him reluctant to include his parents. The Bashir family has a secret: Genetic engineering, that transformed young Julian from a slow and uncoordinated child into a prodigy. This is against Starfleet law. If it's discovered, the older Bashirs will face a prison term - and Julian, the end of his Starfleet career!


Capt. Sisko: Though he can see the strain between Bashir and his parents, he doesn't pursue it, obviously considering it the doctor's own business. When he does learn Bashir's secret, he pulls the needed strings to strike a deal to save Bashir's career. 

Dr. Bashir: This episode doesn't so much fill in Bashir's background as upend everything we thought we knew about him. In a way, it makes sense: Bashir is too good at everything. He's a brilliant doctor, he's an athlete, he's a quick-thinker in situations dealing with espionage or escape. Heck, he even was able to carry back a generator single-handed after getting caught in a Klingon ambush. I almost wonder if the writing staff didn't look at how improbably capable he was and decide that, if they were going to tell a story dealing with genetic engineering, figured it would explain a few things. Alexander Siddig does well with Bashir's anxiety over his secret, and he's convincing in playing his resentment toward his parents, his father in particular.

O'Brien: Has enormous fun with the Bashir hologram, at one point getting a kick out of watching the incomplete program walk into a wall over and over. When Bashir's secret comes out, he is supportive, listening to his friend talk and trying to persuade him that this doesn't diminish his own achievements. "You're not a fraud. I don't care what enhancements your parents may have had done. Genetic recoding can't give you ambition, or a personality, or compassion, or any of the things that make a person truly human." At the end, when he recognizes that Bashir has been letting him win at darts all this time, he insists that his friend play properly - but once he sees what that means, he does insist on a small handicap.

Rom/Leeta: The forming of their relationship via middle school theatrics occupies the "B" plot - unfortunately. I'll grant that the Leeta and Rom characters are childlike enough that it isn't completely unconvincing when they have so much difficulty making their interest plain. But I still don't find it entertaining, and the entire thing sucks up a lot of screentime that could have been put to better use developing Bashir's story. Ah, well: At least they're firmly established as a couple now. I can only hope that the relationship itself is more enjoyable than this was.

Dr. Zimmerman: Voyager's Robert Picardo guest stars, not as the Doctor from that show but as his creator, Lewis Zimmerman. Picardo is a lot of fun, as always. His Zimmerman performance is also very distinct from his holo-doctor, as is made very visible in a scene in which the EMH is activated. Zimmerman is just as arrogant, but without the program's insecurity and with a healthy libido (which allows him to insert himself into the Leeta/Rom subplot). I would have preferred less of Zimmerman chasing after Leeta in favor of perhaps a scene of Zimmerman and Bashir talking after the secret is revealed - but he's a welcome guest star just the same.


Doctor Bashir, I Presume is a thoughtful episode, dealing with issues ranging from tension between an adult and his parents to genetic modification. It tackles the Star Trek universe's continuity, with Starfleet's prohibition of genetic modification turned around so that it is one of our regulars who is affected. It changes what we thought we knew about Dr. Bashir, and features good performances across the board. 

I think it says quite a lot for Deep Space 9 that I find this worthy effort to be one of the five weakest episodes of the current season.

My problem with this episode isn't really with what's there, at least not in the "A" plot. The scenes with Bashir and Zimmerman are entertaining, and the idea of creating a long-term holographic doctor makes sense, a way of building on the franchise's introduction of the Emergency Medical Hologram on Voyager. Alexander Siddig gives another fine performance, Colm Meaney provides reliable support as O'Brien once again shows his fundamental human decency, and guest stars Brian George and Fadwa El Guindi make Bashir's parents convincing, flawed but still relateable, human beings.

It feels like something is missing, though. The solution to Bashir's dilemma comes too easily, Sisko basically arranging for it offscreen. More drama could have been made of it, with the guest admiral of the week maybe demanding Bashir's resignation until Sisko is able to convince him otherwise. As it stands, the only price paid comes from a guest character we've never seen before. The actors do their best to sell that as a real consequence, but unless more is done with this down the road, it feels like it comes too easily.

I think one of the main reasons the "A" plot feels incomplete is the presence of the "B" plot. With every other scene cutting back to the Rom/Leeta/Zimmeran triangle, there's barely any time to give Bashir's situation the exploration it needs. The material with Bashir is substantial enough to demand the full episode, and writer Ronald D. Moore certainly is capable of giving it the focus it needs. The "B" plot just plain doesn't allow the time, and the comedy tone of the subplot clashes badly with the rest.

In a season of shows that have regularly ranged from very good to great, this one is merely "okay." The ideas are good, and I have hopes for good things to be done with the revelation about Bashir... but it's very obvious watching how much better an episode this should have been.

Overall Rating: 5/10.

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