|Sloan (William Sadler) prods Bashir |
into spying on the Romulans...
The alliance with the Romulans has led to an invited Starfleet presence at a medical conference on Romulus, with Dr. Bashir scheduled to chair a discussion about ketracel-white and to give a lecture about the Dominion biological weapon known as The Quickening. For Bashir, the conference is an important step in turning the alliance into a genuine friendship between the two powers. For others, it is an opportunity of an altogether different kind.
The night before Bashir leaves the station, he is visited by Sloan (William Sadler), the agent from Section 31 who attempted to recruit him once before. Sloan wants him to observe Koval (John Fleck), chairman of the Tal Shiar, the Romulan intelligence gathering service. Koval opposed the alliance with the Federation, and his rise in influence is seen as a threat to the war effort. There is a rumor that he has Tuvan Syndrome, a neurological disease - And with Bashir's genetically-enhanced senses, Sloan believes he can diagnose Koval through observation.
Sisko and Admiral Ross (Barry Jenner) encourage Bashir to play along, in hopes of exposing Section 31. But as the plan progresses, it becomes clear that Sloan has another agenda: Once Bashir confirms the diagnosis, Sloan will use that information to arrange an entirely "accidental" assassination!
Capt. Sisko: Is unsurprised that Sloan made contact with Bashir, and even less surprised that he was able to evade station security. Though he's inclined to be cautious about sharing information with Sloan, he agrees with Admiral Ross that this is an opportunity to get inside the shadow organization.
Dr. Bashir: Instantly troubled when Koval expresses interest in the Quickening - not in curing it, but in replicating it. In that moment, he is briefly persuaded to Sloan's point of view, that Koval must not come to power. When the agent's plans turn toward assassination, however, he simply will not stand by for that. This first prompts paranoia, as he fears he has no one he can trust. which in turn pushes him to an action that has every potential to backfire spectacularly .
Garak: Only in one scene, but it's a good one. When he notes the opportunity the conference provides to gather intelligence about the Romulans, Bashir protests that they're allies. Garak all but laughs at his naivete. "I'm disappointed hearing you mouthing the usual platitudes of peace and friendship regarding an implacable foe like the Romulans. But, I live in hope that one day you'll come to see this universe for what it truly is, rather than what you'd wish it to be."
Sloan: His first appearance comes immediately after the scene with Garak, almost as if the cynical tailor/spy had summoned him into being. Sloan does share many traits with the Cardassian: He can't pass up an opportunity to gather intelligence; he sees the worst in everyone around him; and he wholeheartedly embraces assassination as a useful tool, as long as the end result is to Starfleet's benefit. So why is Garak a friend and Sloan a foe? Maybe because Garak's worst deeds are behind him (though he remains remorseless about them). Maybe it's because Garak is a lot more charming and fun to be around. Either way, Sloan seems a reflection of Bashir's friend - The deeds he does now, Garak is fairly open about having done every bit as bad and worse in the past.
Sloan and Section 31 were introduced in last season's Inquisition, a very good episode that effectively tapped into a paranoid thriller vibe. That episode ended in a way that clearly demanded a follow-up, which we finally receive with Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges.
The idea of using the alliance with the Romulans to gather intelligence makes sense at this stage of the larger arc. Garak, Sloan, and Ross all clearly believe that this alliance will not long outlive the Dominion War - And they are almost certainly right, while optimistic and idealistic Bashir is almost certainly very wrong. I particularly enjoyed a scene that points out how the post-war balance of power will shift. With the Klingons and Cardassians devastated by two back-to-back conflicts, the Federation and the Romulans will be the dominant powers moving forward. Just as was true of the U. S. and Soviet Union in the waning days of World War II, we see the two superpowers angling for every post-war advantage they can get.
Ronald D. Moore's script moves quickly, with a couple of nicely unexpected turns along the way. The paranoid vibe of Inquisition returns as Bashir realizes that Sloan must have allies; cut off from the station, he has no one to trust and there's a distinct sense that he himself may be in danger.
There is just a little too much plot here for 45 minutes, leading to a rushed climax. Still, the way the situation is resolved is effective - It reflects the messiness of the situation, as "big picture" thinking leads to decisions that are morally questionable and that may lead to worse outcomes down the road... Not exactly unprecedented in the history of modern intelligence.
The ending also leaves the door open for a return appearance by Section 31 - Something I hope will happen, although with only ten episodes to go that may be asking too much.
Overall Rating: 8/10.
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