Written by Pam Pietroforte and Rene Echevarria
Directed by Anson Williams
Season 6, Episode 9
Production number 40510-533
Original air date: November 22, 1997
Station log: Four genetically engineered people under the care of a Starfleet psychiatrist Lieutenant Karen Lowes have been brought to Deep Space 9 to work with Bashir. They were all genetically enhanced as kids and all placed in an institute. They’re also all a bit nutty: Jack talks a mile a minute, Lauren lounges about being flirtatious and sedcutive, Patrick is very childlike, and Sarina doesn’t talk at all. Jack at one point yanks Lauren’s padd away—she’s staring at Bashir’s service record, convinced that he’s in love with her—and jumps on it. When Lowes asks for the padd, he deliberately hands it to her cracked-side-down so it cuts her palm.
Bashir talks with them for a bit. Jack is hostile and motor-mouthed, making accusations, bouncing from topic to topic, and expressing very real (and very justified) resentment at the Federation’s treatment of genetically enhanced people—though it’s obvious that these four were not put away directly because of their enhancements but because of the effect the genetic engineering had on their ability to function.
After a dinner at the captain’s quarters, Bashir discusses the foursome, and the difficulties they’ve had. It’s interrupted by Jack, who has managed to gain access to the comm systems. Apparently there’s a high-pitched whine that only the four of them—and Bashir—can hear. Jack asks for help in getting rid of it or he’ll snap Sarina’s neck. O’Brien shows up and fixes the problem—which Patrick diagnoses just by listening—just as the latest propaganda speech from Damar is about to go live.
Bashir and O’Brien and the foursome all watch Damar’s speech, and Jack, Lauren, and Patrick—who have never heard of Damar before and are only vaguely aware of the political situation—immediately divine that Damar is a puppet, that he’s saying words he doesn’t want to say, that he’s sad, that he doesn’t sleep, that he recently killed someone close to him, and that he works for a dark knight he can’t control. O’Brien and Bashir are impressed to say the least.
Damar’s speech also included a call to the Federation to talk peace so that the hostilities can end. To that end, Weyoun and Damar are coming to DS9, with Sisko ordered to sit across the table and hear their proposal. The Dominion also wants the negotiations publicly broadcast to show that their desire for peace is genuine.
Bashir is thrilled because the “Jack Pack” can’t get enough about the war ever since they saw Damar’s speech, and the doctor is running out of material to give them. And it’s also got the foursome engaged in a project for the first time, and Bashir doesn’t want to lose that.
Kira meets Weyoun and Damar at the airlock. Kira advises Weyoun to not pull his we’re-all-friends-here act on Sisko as he’s not in the mood. Damar responds by snapping that they’re on a mission of peace, and he should damn well get in the mood, apparently missing the irony in stating that when he, very obviously, is not in the mood, either.
After the first session, the Jack Pack study the holographic recording of it. Weyoun offers to redefine the borders based on what people are currently holding, including the Dominion giving up several star systems. Jack, when listening to Weyoun speak in his native tongue rather than the translation (he learned the Vorta language that morning) notices that Weyoun is using a more passive voice than would be expected from someone making a request, and Patrick notices that they avoid looking at the Kabrel system. They obviously want the Kabrel system for something—and it’s Sarina who figures it out. There’s a chemical in the fungus on Kabrel I that can be used to manufacture ketracel-white, something the Dominion still can’t do in the Alpha Quadrant, apparently.
Bashir and the Jack Pack provide several projections and recommendations to Sisko. They say they should accept the proposal, even though it’ll allow the Dominion to produce white in the AQ, simply because the alternative would be for the Dominion to make a huge-ass push before they run out of existing white stores. If they let them have Kabrel, the allies can regroup and wait for the Romulans to enter the fight, which they predict will happen in a year or so. That will combine with tensions between the Cardassians and the Dominion erupting to make things better for the allies.
Sisko is impressed with their projections and agrees to suggest that Starfleet Command accept their recommendations. This is cause for celebration, and they throw an impromptu party. When O’Brien comes in to replace the power coupling, he makes Patrick cry, and then Lauren and Jack figure out that O’Brien misses Bashir because he’s spending so much time with them. They encourage Bashir to go play with O’Brien, which results in some serious teasing of O’Brien by Bashir. But they go ahead and play darts in Quark’s.
Starfleet Command is sufficiently impressed that they’ve decided to allow the Jack Pack access to classified information. However, they have already done a full projection, and there’s no way the allies can beat the Dominion. Bashir goes to Sisko with a recommendation that the Federation surrender.
Sisko is less than receptive to this notion, even when Bashir gives him the long-term projection that a rebellion will eventually overthrow the Dominion and a new Federation will be born. But Sisko is not willing to just roll over because a statistical analysis says he should. He wants the Jack Pack’s help in winning the war, not telling him how to lose it. Bashir is disgusted, as nine hundred billion people will die if the war continues, but Sisko won’t ask a generation of Alpha Quadrant denizens to give up their freedom voluntarily.
Bashir decides to show it to O’Brien, but he takes Sisko’s side and reminds Bashir that someone can disagree with him and not be an idiot. So Bashir decides to prove his point by playing dabo and losing his shirt and going on and on about how they can’t possibly win.
As expected, Starfleet Command rejects the recommendation. Jack refuses to let nine hundred billion people die—if they leak Starfleet’s troop movements to Weyoun, the Dominion can conquer the AQ in a matter of weeks, and only two billion people will die. That’s a lot of lives saved. When Bashir rejects this notion, Jack slugs him. When he wakes up, he’s tied to a chair, the computer’s voice interface is down, and the only person in the room with him is Sarina, who doesn’t talk. But Bashir convinces her that if they’re arrested and charged with treason, she’ll never see Jack, Patrick, or Lauren again.
Jack contacts Weyoun and calls for a meeting. Weyoun is intrigued to say the least. However, while the trio are en route, they’re intercepted by Bashir and a security guard. Meanwhile, Odo shows up at the cargo bay to inform Weyoun and Damar that there’s no meeting.
Sisko isn’t going to press charges, but they’re all going back to the Institute. Bashir points out that Jack’s entire plan to inform the Dominion was derailed because he didn’t anticipate Sarina freeing Bashir. And if he couldn’t see that, what else might they have missed?
O’Brien tries to cheer Bashir up a bit, and then Bashir goes to play dabo, promising Quark that he won’t cause a scene this time. He makes a really crazy bet and wins. The Jack Pack refuse to board their transport until Bashir says goodbye. Sarina actually smiles at him, Lauren gives him a big smooch, and Jack makes him promise to listen if they come up with a way to defeat the Dominion. (Patrick’s still just generally happy.)
The Sisko is of Bajor: Sisko is very tolerant of Bashir’s ramblings, and lets him go on at great length before reeling him back in, willing to take the time to learn exactly how the Jack Pack came by their projections. But he draws the line at surrender, and is unwilling to consider Bashir’s recommendation on that score.
Preservation of matter and energy is for wimps: When Odo finds Weyoun and Damar in the cargo bay, he interrupts Weyoun in mid-suck-up, sardonically saying, “I know, it’s an honor to be in my presence.”
Rules of Acquisition: Quark is less than thrilled with Bashir going all existential on his bar when he loses at dabo, but he’s even less thrilled when Bashir’s double down bet wins at the end.
Victory is life: The Dominion is talking peace in order to consolidate a long-term position in the Kabrel system. It’s unknown how the rest of the negotiations go—they were in the midst of it when Weyoun and Damar got Jack’s call—but given that the war’s gonna continue for another year and a half, my money’s on them not going all that well.
For Cardassia! This episode establishes that Damar has replaced Dukat as the figurehead leader of the Cardassian government. Unlike Dukat, he has accepted the title of “legate.” Weyoun is also making no bones about his subordinate role—where he was willing to string Dukat along and let him believe that he was an ally rather than a minion, Weyoun makes sure to remind Damar just who’s pulling his strings.
No sex, please, we’re Starfleet: Lauren spends the entire episode (except when she’s dancing with Bashir) lounging on a divan in various sultry positions, while rejecting Jack’s advances and making advances on Bashir, culminating in an impressive kiss at the end.
Keep your ears open: “There are rules, don’t talk with your mouth full, don’t open an airlock when somebody is inside it, and don’t lie about your genetic status!”
Jack, summing up the episode’s theme and establishing that he probably, at some point, opened an airlock when somebody was inside it.
Welcome aboard: Tim Ransom, Hilary Shepard Turner, Michael Keenan, and Faith C. Salie play the “Jack Pack.” All four will return in “Chrysalis” in the same roles. (Turner previously played the ill-fated Ensign Hoya in “The Ship.” Keenan played Maturin in TNG’s “Sub Rosa” and Hrothgar in Voyager’s “Heroes and Demons.”)
Jeannetta Arnette plays Loews, while recurring regulars Jeffrey Combs and Casey Biggs are back as Weyoun and Damar.
Trivial matters: This is the first of two DS9 episodes directed by Anson Williams, probably best known for playing “Potsie” Webber on Happy Days. Williams will also direct “It’s Only a Paper Moon.” He’d already directed two episodes of Voyager at this point and will direct two more.
Jack was based on the character of Dean Moriarty from the novel On the Road (who was in turn based on Neal Cassady). He quotes Shakespeare when he observes Damar, from both Henry IV Part 2 and Macbeth.
Sarina has gone on to become a recurring character in various Star Trek novels, including Zero Sum Game and the forthcoming Disavowed by David Mack, Plagues of Night and Raise the Dawn by David R. George III, and the recent miniseries The Fall.
The storyline for this episode was partly inspired by Isaac Asimov’s Foundation novels, and the concept of psychohistory. (Apropos of nothing, a Fantastic Four novel by the late Pierce Askegren that your humble rewatcher edited back in 1998 called Countdown to Chaos also made use of psychohistory as the Mad Thinker tried to bring about chaos by manipulating small events to eventually lead to a disaster.)
The waltz played during the celebration—to which Bashir and Lauren dance—is “The Blue Danube,” composed by Johann Strauss II.
Two of the group’s predictions—the Romulans entering the war and a rebellion forming among Cardassians—will come to pass, the former in “In the Pale Moonlight,” the latter in the final arc of the series.
The events of this episode will be referenced by Sloan of Section 31 in both “Inquisition” and “Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges.”
Walk with the Prophets: “There but for the grace of God.” A diverting little episode that shows us the dark side of illegal genetic manipulation. When you’re doing it in the equivalent of a back alley, sometimes stuff will go wrong. Bashir gets to see how his life might have turned out had his parents not found a good doctor to perform his enhancements.
Still, the episode isn’t quite all it could have been. Oh, there’s some great stuff here. I love watching the Jack Pack dissect Damar based solely on his propaganda speech, and later watching them take apart Weyoun and Damar’s presentation to Sisko. Hilary Shepard Turner and Michael Keenan are particularly strong. Tim Ransom is good at Jack’s manic affect, and his body language is truly spectacular, but there’s a disconnect between how he’s written—as menacing and dangerous—and how he’s performed. I honestly had totally forgotten that he was supposed to be scary and dangerous—notably seen in when he deliberately injures Lowes—because Ransom doesn’t really sell that element of his character.
Still, he sells the rest of it superbly, and the others do quite well, also, particularly Faith C. Salie, who does so much with facial expressions. We also get some great work from Casey Biggs, playing a Damar who is at once thrilled and depressed at where he is. His speech is halting, with none of Dukat’s charisma, and he’s obviously bitter about how he has come to this position of fleeting power. (This will continue to be a theme with the character…)
And the episode does a particularly good job of reminding us that Bashir is still viewed as something of an other by the folks on board, in particular by O’Brien reinforcing that Bashir stand further back from the dartboard.
But then there’s the discussion in Sisko’s quarters, which is the world’s biggest blown opportunity. Sure, Bashir is enhanced to make himself better, faster, stronger, but what about Vulcans and Klingons, who are stronger than humans in general? Or telepathic species or other species that do certain things better than humans? Why is it fair for Worf or Spock or Data to be in Starfleet, or at least be permitted to serve among humans? This is something Worf can speak to more specifically anyhow because of what happened when he was a kid, when his greater strength—and his lack of control over it—led to the death of another boy on Gault. That would’ve been the perfect thing for him to bring up in the conversation with Bashir.
The ending is very well done, as Bashir is reminded that projections are just that: projections. They’re very educated guesses, but they are still guesses, because the universe has way too many x-factors in it. Jack’s inability to predict Sarina’s betrayal is a nice illustration of that caveat. (And in fact the allies will win the war at least in part because of something that nobody in the Jack Pack can possibly be aware of: the Founders consider having Odo return to the Great Link to be of far greater import than winning the war.)
Warp factor rating: 7
Keith R.A. DeCandido reminds everyone that his Sleepy Hollow novel Children of the Revolution will be out this month, just in time for season 2 of the FOX TV show on which it’s based to debut. You can preorder the novel from the SleepyReads web site, or order it directly from Keith, who’ll also autograph it (and you can order a bunch of his other fiction at this link, too…).