Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch: “The Quickening”

“The Quickening”
Written by Naren Shankar
Directed by Rene Auberjonois
Season 4, Episode 23
Production episode 40514-495
Original air date: May 20, 1996
Stardate: unknown

Station log: Sisko travels to the planet Zeist, and—

Whoops. Wrong The Quickening

Kira, Dax, and Bashir are doing a bio-survey of a planet in the Gamma Quadrant. En route, they get a distress call from a planet just outside Dominion territory. Dax and Bashir beam down to find a settlement that looks badly wrecked. A woman suffering from an obvious illness collapses in front of them. While Dax tries to find out where the local hospital is, Bashir treats her, and another local tells them to go away now while they still have the chance.

Dax trades her hair clip for a ride to the “hospital”—in truth a near-empty structure that doesn’t seem to have any actual facilities. It turns out that Trevean, the head of the hospital, is in truth running a hospice—and he helps death along by providing a poison once the Blight has quickened. Once the quickening happens, the person is all but dead.

Trevean explains that the Teplans used to be a spacefaring society, but they came up against the Dominion two hundred years ago. They had the Jem’Hadar destroy their world, and then they infected everyone on the world with the Blight. They’re born with it—Trevean shows them an infant with blue lesions. When the lesions turn red, the Blight has quickened, and they die, painfully and slowly.

Bashir and Dax offer to help, but Trevean refuses. However, a woman named Ekoria is curious about Bashir, as she’s never met a doctor. She’s also pregnant, due in two months.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: The Quickening

Their conversation is interrupted by Kira, who picks up the Jem’Hadar nearby. They’re on a routine patrol, but they’ll probably come by soon. Bashir and Dax ask to stay on the world, and Kira agrees, hiding the runabout in a nebula for a week. They beam down with a crapton of medical supplies. Ekoria lets them set up a clinic and lab in her home.

He starts scanning Ekoria’s blood, and eventually isolates the virus. To celebrate the breakthrough, Ekoria takes out the food she’d been saving for her death. She has a feeling she won’t need the feast.

Finding a volunteer who’s quickened is harder to do, as the Teplans have had people peddle miracle cures before. It never works. Even though Bashir isn’t asking for anything in return, even though he isn’t actually promising a cure, merely an attempt to find one, no one wants to aid him. Trevean in particular is dismissive of his efforts. Ekoria explains that after two centuries, the Teplans have lost all hope.

However, some are willing to dredge up hope: he gets a bunch of volunteers to give blood samples, enabling him to track the progress of the Blight. Bashir works tirelessly on treatments, though he hasn’t found a cure yet. Eventually, one of the patients crashes—the virus has mutated. Bashir realizes that the EM fields from their instruments causes the Blight to mutate. One patient dies, and another asks for Trevean, who arrives appalled at what Bashir has done. Everyone who volunteered dies.

Bashir castigates himself for being so arrogant as to think he could find a cure in a week. Dax points out that it’s even more arrogant to think that if he can’t cure it, nobody can.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: The Quickening

Then the final twist of the knife: Ekoria has quickened. She refuses to let Bashir apologize. He gave her hope, which she hasn’t had in ages.

Kira returns with the runabout, but Bashir insists on staying behind to to treat Ekoria, which he continues to do for a week. Trevean comes to visit her, concerned that she’s too weak to come to him. But she insists on staying with Bashir.

After two more weeks, Bashir is able to induce labor. Her son is born, and he doesn’t have the Blight. Bashir realizes that the placenta absorbed all the antigens he gave her. Bashir can’t cure anyone who has the disease, but he can vaccinate the next generation. He brings the child to Trevean, who is overwhelmed. He begs Bashir for instructions on how to create the vaccine, which Bashir happily provides. All the pregnant Teplans must be given the vaccine, an undertaking Trevean doesn’t consider a task, but a privilege.

Bashir returns to the station—and continues to work on curing the Blight. Sisko commends him on a job well done.

Can’t we just reverse the polarity? The Dominion, clever bastards that they are, created a virus that mutates when exposed to EM fields. Any technological attempt to cure it will only make it worse.

Don’t ask my opinion next time: You gotta wonder what Kira—the least scientifically minded person, y’know, ever—did in a nebula for a week…

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: The Quickening

The slug in your belly: Dax gets to act as Bashir’s nurse for at least the first week of his stay on the Teplan world, and also gets to be his reality check. When she heads back to the station, she jokes that she’s not sure Bashir will manage without her to translate. She also trades her hairclip for a ride to Trevean’s, thus allowing her to wear her hair down for most of the episode (which actually looks rather good).

Rules of Acquisition: Quark uploads advertisements for his bar to the replicators on both the station and the Defiant, thus earning him the wrath of Kira, Odo, and Worf.

Victory is life: The Teplans resisted the Dominion. The Dominion’s response was to condemn them to a lifetime of suffering both by physically destroying their world’s entire physical structure and to stick them with an incurable disease.

Keep your ears open: “If all your little advertisements aren’t purged from our systems by the time I get back from the Gamma Quadrant, I will come to Quark’s, and believe me, I will have fun.”

Kira, making it clear what she thinks of Quark’s ads.

Welcome aboard: The late great Michael Sarrazin, best known for They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?, plays Trevean. Dylan Haggerty plays Epran and Ellen Wheeler plays Ekoria.

Trivial matters: Ira Steven Behr was inspired to produce this episode by the AIDS epidemic (an office assistant, Gregg Duffy Long, had recently succumbed to the disease) and by the movie Restoration; the film puts an inherently moral doctor in a situation he can’t control. Behr didn’t have time to write the script himself, so he assigned the notion to Naren Shankar. Rene Echevarria did an uncredited rewrite.

This is the first mention of Bashir’s teddy bear Kukalaka. The bear will actually make the occasional appearance throughout the show’s run, notably in “In the Cards.” (Echevarria came up with the name, thinking it was the name of his best friend’s invisible childhood friend, but it was, in fact, the name of said best friend’s ex-girlfrind’s cat.)

The Teplans were mentioned in the novel Rising Son by S.D. Perry, when the Even Odds, a Gamma Quadrant pirate ship, discovers art from the time before the Blight.

Quark tried to convince Sisko to let him run ads on the station in “The Jem’Hadar.” Apparently this time he decided to try to get forgiveness rather than permission, and wound up with neither.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: The Quickening

Walk with the Prophets: “I cancelled my death for you.” I had absolutely no recollection of this episode, which is usually a bad sign. Upon finishing it, I realized that I had no recollection because I never watched the episode after the first time I saw it, and have no desire to ever watch it again.

This is not to say that the episode is bad. Exactly. We get a reminder of just how nasty-ass the Dominion can be, we get an episode in which our hero suffers setbacks and only manages to save the day partly, and…

Yeah, I got nothin’. This episode left me completely ungripped. It’s the same medical crisis story we’ve seen a thousand times before (a million if you watched House): doctor discovers disease, doctor offers to cure the disease, doctor has a breakthrough, doctor has a setback, doctor has a crisis of faith, doctor finds a cure. The story beats are as predictable as the phases of the moon, and the episode does absolutely nothing to enhance the experience. A hallmark of DS9 is that even the predictable, cliché plots are enhanced by good character work, but there’s none of that here. You could take this script and change not a single line of dialogue and it would work just as well as a TNG episode or an original series episode or a Stargate SG1 episode. (It only wouldn’t work as a Voyager episode because their doctor was a hologram.) Even the Kukalaka anecdote and the token resistance from Trevean are generic as hell. The latter does remarkably little to enhance the experience, as Michael Sarrazin pretty much sleepwalks through the part, and there’s no bite to his arguments with Bashir. It barely even registers as a conflict.

 

Warp factor rating: 5


Keith R.A. DeCandido next Star Trek book is The Klingon Art of War, which will be released soon. The book will debut at TrekTrax Atlanta 2014 from 25-27 April (a con that also features Arlene “T’Pring” Martel, Jeremy “Valtane” Roberts, and Felix “Twiki” Silla, as well as several folks from fan films), and goes on sale formally on the 6th of March. You can order it from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indie Bound, or direct from the publisher. Keith will be doing signings in New York City (at least) during May to promote the book.

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