Sunday, February 8, 2015

6-18. Inquisition.

Starfleet Intelligence Officer Sloan (William Sadler)
suspects Dr. Bashir of being a Dominion spy!


The station receives a very unwelcome visitor: Deputy Director Sloan (William Sadler) of the Department of Internal Affairs. Sloan is there to investigate reports of a traitor among the senior staff, someone who has spent months passing sensitive information to the Dominion. The entire command staff is relieved of duty and confined to quarters for the term of the investigation.

It soon becomes clear that Sloan has fixated on a single suspect: Dr. Bashir. His actual evidence is thin, based on a minor inconsistency in reports of Bashir's time in a Dominon prison camp. But as he twists every aspect of the doctor's record to fit the narrative of him as a spy, even his closest friends begin to have doubts. As Sloan voices the theory that he was programmed to be a spy without knowing it, Bashir begins to doubt himself.

That's when he is suddenly beamed aboard a Dominon warship, where Weyoun greets him with the warmth of an old, dear friend...


Capt. Sisko: As long as I remain in command, I will see Doctor Bashir whenever I please. Furthermore, from now on I will sit in on all interrogation sessions to make sure his rights are observed. Do I make myself clear? Sisko cooperates with Sloan's investigation - Right up to the point at which Sloan makes Bashir the subject of a witch hunt. He then insists on being part of every interrogation, acting as an advocate for his officer. Even so, Sloan's words start to make him doubt - Particularly when he reminds Sisko about Bashir's recommendation to surrender to the Dominion. Sisko doesn't think the doctor is lying... But he does find Sloan's theory, that he has been programmed to act as an unwitting spy, a plausible one.

Dr. Bashir: As Sloan's implications and insinuations persist, and even Sisko begins to voice doubts, Bashir begins to doubt himself a little. His protestations of innocence sound a little less definitive, a little more like denial of the possibility that the Dominion "broke" him when he was their prisoner. It is only when he sees Weyoun, who practically repeats Sloan's statements verbatim, that he begins to realize the truth. Alexander Siddig gives another excellent performance, and his scenes opposite William Sadler crackle with tension as these two very strong personalities don't so much verbally fence as box, each circling around the other at vulnerable points, each doing his utmost to draw blood.

Weyoun: Appears only briefly, beaming Bashir onto his ship and trying to convince him of the same thing Sloan believes - That he is a Dominion agent, repressing memories of being an agent. Weyoun pleasantly tells Bashir of their many meetings, all of which follow the same pattern: "These little conversations of ours always follow the same pattern. You start out confused, then you get angry, then you deny everything until finally the walls inside your mind start to break down and you accept the truth." Then he offers refreshments - specifically, the very meal Bashir had earlier requested from Sloan. All of this leads Bashir to realize that Sloan must be the one working with Weyoun. It's uncharacteristic, in that Weyoun clearly overplays his hand... Until we learn that there's actually an entirely different game being played beneath the surface of this one.


Inquisition is the second Trek episode directed by Michael Dorn, after last season's outstanding In the Cards. This episode could not be more different than that one, but Dorn proves as adept at paranoid thriller as he was at comedy, and at this point is another Trek actor whose directorial outings are worth looking forward to.

The script, by Bradley Thompson and David Weddle, makes excellent use of continuity. Sloan appears to zero in on Bashir as a suspect in large part because of his genetic engineering, repeatedly noting that Bashir is only in Starfleet because he lied, and that he only confided in Sisko after he had already been found out. Some of the "evidence" Sloan provides include Bashir's recommendation to surrender to the Dominion, and (from early Season Four!) Bashir's efforts to help the Jem'Hadar unit that was trying to free itself of addiction to ketracil white. All of these past threads are brought together here, and they serve to strengthen the story by making it believable that Bashir's past behavior could be seen as suspect.

Another aspect of Deep Space 9 that is furthered by this episode is the series' willingness to hold up Gene Roddenberry's idealized Federation to the harsh light of human nature. In Season Two, we saw that the Maquis became rebels due to Starfleet's refusal to respond to Cardassian treaty violations. In Season Four, Sisko's mentor attempted a coup that would have turned the Federation into a police state in the name of security. Now we learn that Starfleet has its own secret police, in the mysterious Section 31, with Sloan fully authorized to detain Bashir until the end of the war without any real evidence against him. Sloan and his Section work as judge, jury, and executioner - and Bashir is quick to point out how rife such a system is for abuse.

As befits a series as regularly intelligence as this one, Section 31 are not presented as simple villains. In the final scene, as the station command staff discuss what has happened, not everyone is condemning their existence. Odo points out that every civilization has such an organization. Sisko admits that he has no answers as to whether such organiations are evil, or simply a necessary evil.

In the end, this is another excellent episode in an excellent season, and I look forward to seeing the questions raised here explored in future installments.

Overall Rating: 8/10.

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