Monday, September 29, 2014

6-9. Statistical Probabilities.

Calculating the outcome of the Dominion War.


Dr. Bashir has agreed to spend time with a very special group of psychiatric patients, four individuals whose minds were left disturbed after genetic engineering went wrong. The patients are: Jack (Tim Ransom), who is antisocial and violently hostile; Lauren (Hilary Shepard Turner), who attempts to seduce virtually any man she sees; Patrick (Michael Keenan), who possesses keen hearing and understanding of mechanical engineering but is emotionally like a small child; and Sarina (Faith C. Salie), who barely responds to the world around her.

Bashir's initial reaction is a mix of pity and horror. "There but for the grace of God go I," he tells his friends as they gather for dinner, waiting for an announced broadcast by the newly-christened Gul Damar (Casey Biggs). But when a peace proposal by Damar and Weyoun is also broadcast, the patients are able to see their manipulations just by observing them. They notice that Damar and Weyoun make a point of avoiding any mention of the Kabrel system, and tell Bashir that this system is what they want. Further research shows that control of the Kabrel system would allow the Dominion to manufacture ketracil white in the Alpha Quadrant, taking away one of Starfleet's few advantages.

This analysis proves valuable enough for Starfleet to furnish the group with more information. Bashir is delighted that his charges are finally being allowed to contribute in a valuable way. His delight soon turns to horror, however, as the group turns in their analysis of the Dominion War as a whole. Their projection? That a Starfleet victory is statistically impossible. The Federation is doomed, and there is only one option that will save hundreds of billions of lives on both sides:



Capt. Sisko: Refuses to accept that a mathematical formula can dictate the future. He insists that the calculations are based on "a series of assumptions," that couldn't possibly take into account every factor. He also adds: "Even if I knew with one hundred percent certainty what was going to happen, I wouldn't ask an entire generation of people to voluntarily give up their freedom... If we're going to lose, then we're going to go down fighting so that when our descendants rise up against the Dominion someday, they'll know what they're made of!"

Dr. Bashir: In A Time to Stand, Bashir expressed relief at no longer having to hide his abilities. His genetic engineering allows him to contribute in ways that would be impossible for most - So he understands the frustrations of these patients, who have been denied any chance to do anything meaningful with their lives. In normal circumstances, Bashir would understand without effort why Sisko and O'Brien can't accept his "surrender" recommendation - The Bashir who threw himself endlessly against the brick wall of a Dominion plague certainly would understand. But insulated with only fomulae, calculations, and a group of like-minded people he has bonded with a little too completely, he loses the pulse of the real world... At least, until he's abruptly wakened by drastic action from Jack.

O'Brien: It falls to O'Brien, the show's Everyman, to point out the obvious to Bashir. He and Sisko both fully comprehend the calculations. It's the conclusion that they can't accept, because you don't surrender just because a statistical analysis says that you should. When Bashir expresses confusion at this, unable to see how anyone could reasonably disagree with the recommendation, O'Brien snaps at him angrily: "I can see two possible explanations... Either I'm more feebleminded than you ever realized, or you're not as smart as you think you are!"

Weyoun/Damar: Bashir's group labels Damar "the pretender," a man playing king who isn't - and as Weyoun reminds him, he serves in this role only at the Dominion's pleasure. While Weyoun at least paid lip service to being an equal partner to Dukat, he makes no bones about treating Damar as an inferior. Part of that is likely a response to Dukat's failures in holding Deep Space 9, but part of that also has to do with the differences between the two men. Whatever else Dukat was guilty of, he was a born leader, charismatic and able to impose his will on others. Damar is more of a blunt instrument - a born "second-in-command," if you will - and Weyoun certainly recognizes his limitations. Besides, Damar doesn't even try to hide his disdain, so why should Weyoun do anything other than return the favor?


"We've grown too complacent about the Dominion. We may have driven them back into Cardassian space, but we haven't beaten them."

After a couple of episodes in which the Dominion threat was reduced to a background element, Statistical Probabilities reminds us that the war is still being waged, and that the outlook for the Federation remains bleak. Downright hopeless, if Bashir and the genetically engineered group's statistics can be believed.

Statistical Probabilities also provides some welcome follow-up to Doctor Bashir, I Presume. I was disappointed in that episode's pat, near conflict-free resolution to a complicated problem. This episode practically opens by having Jack call Bashir on it: "There are rules... And then, when you got caught, you cut a deal with Starfleet. You got yourself off the hook!"

As Bashir bonds so completely with these emotionally-damaged people who are nevertheless the only ones to truly understand what he's capable of, we also see that something is missing in his interactions with the other regulars. He always has to be less than he is to be "one of them." Being with others who can think as quickly as he can fills a need that has otherwise gone unfilled.  At the same time, the damage suffered by the members of this group shows what might have happened to Bashir, had his DNA resequencing been just a little less successful.

All of this works very well. For a good two-thirds of its running time, Statistical Probabilities was on track to be at least a "7" and probably an "8." But the last third stumbles. Bashir's internal conflict, having to accept continuing the fight when he knows the fight is mathematically hopeless, is interesting and involving. Seeing him torn between his old friends and his new friends, who share something with him the others could never understand, is also absorbing.

But all of that internal conflict is thrown aside for a manufactured third act crisis that never feels convincing. Bashir doesn't come to terms with the situation by himself; external factors force him to do so. My disappointment in that resolution costs the episode at least one full point, possibly two - Which still leaves it as a solid...

Overall Rating: 6/10.

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