Season Six, Episode 18
Written by Bradley Thompson & David Weddle
Directed by Michael Dorn
Music by Dennis McCarthy
Main Cast:
Avery Brooks as Captain Benjamin Sisko
Rene Auberjonois as Odo
Michael Dorn as Lt Cmdr Worf
Terry Farrell as Lt Cmdr Jadzia Dax
Cirroc Lofton as Jake Sisko
Colm Meaney as Chief Miles O'Brien
Armin Shimerman as Quark
Alexander Siddig as Dr Julian Bashir
Nana Visitor as Major Kira Nerys

Guest Stars:
William Sadler as Sloan
Jeffrey Combs as Weyoun


As Bashir heads off to a medical conference, the entire senior staff of DS9 are confined to their quarters -- an agent from Starfleet Internal affairs has arrived, claiming that one of them is a Dominion spy. The agent, Sloan, takes a particular interest in Bashir, eventually branding him a Dominion operative. Bashir denies it vehemently, but the evidence is pretty damning. Even he starts to suspect that he is some kind of sleeper spy when he is "rescued" by Weyoun, who welcomes him "home"...

Sometimes I regret my status as a "spoiler junkie", and this is perhaps a notable example. It tends to happen when episodes air in the US several months before the are released over here and when it comes to spoilers I really can't help myself! Most of the time foreknowledge doesn't hurt, but in this instance I knew right at the offset that this was all some holodeck illusion created by dodgy government agents. And as most of the episode built up to this twist I guess I really spoiled it for myself and on first viewing was left a wee bit underwhelmed. 

Part of the reason may have been because I was watching it with a roomful of friends, most of whom had imbibed a bit much beer (but not me, of course! ;-))! It would seem that conspiracy thrillers fall a bit flat under the influence. All those tense, dark scenes were slightly spoiled by the oh-so intelligent conversations around me, such as whether you pronounce scone as scoan (as Bashir was) or scone (as I would!). For some reason Weyoun's line "do you remember the first time I offered you scones?" brought about a wave of hilarity. And do you ever pick up on what someone is saying, and before they've finished a word you think they're about to say an altogether different word? Well, when Sisko was telling Bashir "Sloan had a son in Starfleet - he was a transport pilot...", I thought he was about to say "Sloan had a son in Starfleet - he was a transvestite"! Well, that would have certainly taken the episode into uncharted territory! :-) 

Anyway, upon re-watching Inquisition the next day, I put aside my vague feeling of disappointment at having known exactly how it would enfold - and the whole scone hilarity - and I enjoyed it a whole lot more. It's an effective little drama, which nicely builds up an eerie, unnerving atmosphere. There were lots of effective little touches - such as Bashir pacing his quarters, noticing his replicator is off-line and someone has apparently been snooping through his belongings, to the discomforting sight of Starfleet officers racing down the corridors with phasers. Even the bit where he is given the wrong breakfast (Worf's worms!) was surprisingly scary. 

The best thing about this episode, however, is the clever way it actually makes us question Bashir's innocence. Usually where this type of episode (ie, main character accused of murder/espionage, etc) fails is in the fact that we don't believe for a second that they are guilty! In that type of episode it's merely a question of how they prove their innocence. But with some really clever references to past episodes, Sloan's case against Bashir is very convincing! He makes some good points and at times I even began to wonder whether the writers were setting up a curve ball and that we'd learn that Bashir really was a spy! Of course, I quickly snapped back to reality and remembered that I already knew that wasn't the case! But very rarely does this type of show succeed in that respect, which makes this one a real cracker. 

The end result also offers a fascinating glimpse into the darker side of the Trek universe (yikes!) and an ending that suggests the story is far from over. The introduction of Section 31 is handled adeptly and poses some fascinating ethical implications when it comes to the covert operations of an intelligence agency that will go to morally dubious means to protect the security of the Federation. There's a brilliantly scripted conversation where Bashir tells Sloan (apparently a leader of this agency) that the ends do not justify the means. In response Sloan suggests that during his career Bashir may have saved thousands of lives - "do you suppose those people give a damn that you lied to get into Starfleet Medical?!" 

I do, however, have a couple of reservations about Section 31. For a start it obviously goes against Gene Roddenberry's "vision" of Starfleet. This isn't necessarily a bad thing (let's face it, folks, DS9's version of the future is a lot more believable and accessible than Roddenberry's) and shouldn't really be a problem if it's dealt with well enough. My main quibble, though, is this; we're now very late into DS9's run - indeed, had the show not been renewed for a seventh year we'd be heading towards its home run just now! But with just over a year to go it seems rather late to be introducing such a big new storyline. I would've thought the writers have more than enough the juggle right now! Just a thought, but I do have great faith in these people (after all, they created this show that we all enjoy so much!). 

Plot implications aside, I'll move onto execution. The script was perhaps a little wordy, but much of it was well-written all the same (following Sons and Daughters and One Little Ship this was one of Bradley Thompson and David Weddle's more impressive efforts) And as budget busters go, this one was pretty tight. We had some nice performances - William Sadler was particularly impressive as Sloan. I do hope we'll be seeing him again. Jeffrey Combs also does some good work as Weyoun and whilst not his best performance, Alexander Siddig generally does a solid job in an episode similar to the "O'Brien torture episode" formula, supplanting the good doctor in his place. 

As for directing, Michael Dorn generally holds it together quite nicely, but while a lot of it is nicely shot there were also some scenes which I felt were unnecessarily lacklustre. The camera work seemed too slow when it should have been fast and furious to try and evoke a sense of fast-moving, chaotic confusion that is necessary for this type of "paranoia" show. But since it's only his second effort - and indeed, his first "serious" outing following the quirky In the Cards - I'll let him off the hook. There were certainly sparks of potential and with a little more work I think Dorn could well join the likes of David Livingston, Avery Brooks and Allan Kroeker. 

But you know what the best thing about this episode is? The way it strings together events of past episodes in a way that seems completely logical and even adds to those past encounters. For instance, Bashir's decision to help the Jem'Hadar in Hippocratic Oath is turned against him, as is the time he was captured by the Dominion and replaced by a Changeling. There are also references to his having lied about his genetic enhancement (Doctor Bashir, I Presume?) and following his work with the "Jack Pack" in Statistical Probablilities, his recommendation that Starfleet surrenders to the Dominion! It all just flows so seamlessly. Impressive stuff. 

On the whole, I liked Inquisition - an episode which grows on you the more you watch it. What will come of Section 31 we'll have to wait and see, but Inquisition does a marvellous job building a convincing case against Bashir and forcing even him to question his motives. This type of show is difficult to pull off, and as such this one counts as a resounding success.      

Rating: 8

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