"Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges" 
Season Seven, Episode 16
Written by Ronald D Moore
Directed by David Livingston
Music by Dennis McCarthy
Main Cast:
Avery Brooks as Captain Benjamin Sisko
Rene Auberjonois as Odo
Nicole deBoer as Lt Ezri Dax
Michael Dorn as Lt Cmdr Worf
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 Colonel Kira Nerys

Guest Stars:
William Sadler as Sloan
Andrew J Robinson as Garak
Adrienne Barbeau as Cretak
John Fleck as Koval
Barry Jenner as Admiral Ross
Hal Landon as Neral  


On the eve of Bashir's departure for a conference on Romulus, he's visited by Sloan, the agent of Section 31, the secret and extremist branch operating within Starfleet. Sloan has an assignment for Bashir. He is to gather information on the Romulan leadership, essentially spying on an ally. Bashir reports this to Sisko, who after consulting with Admiral Ross, advises Bashir to play along with Sloan in the hope of learning more about Section 31. Aboard the Bellerophon en route to the conference, Bashir runs into Sloan who is among the delegate posing under an assumed identity. Sloan wants Bashir to diagnose whether or not Koval, the head of the Tal Shiar who opposes the Federation Alliance, is suffering from Tuvan syndrome, a degenerative disorder. Sloan evidently hopes to use that knowledge to block Koval's elevation to the Romulans' influential Continuing Committee.

On Romulus, Bashir meets Koval soon after which Sloan queries Bashir about Koval's disease. It becomes clear to Bashir and Ross that Sloan plans to assassinate Koval by accelerating his illness. Ross says he will arrest Sloan to prevent the deadly plot from moving forward, but to Bashir's dismay, Ross is apparently felled by an aneurysm before he can stop Sloan. With Ross incapacitated, Bashir turns to Senator Cretak, pleading her to access top secret documents from the Tal Shiar database to help thwart the murder. But Koval turns the tables on Bashir by luring him into an interrogation where he unsuccessfully probes his mind to ascertain for whom the doctor is working. Bashir is brought before the Romulan Continuing Committee, where he learns that Cretak was arressted for trying to access the Tal Shiar database. Bashir tells the Committee the full story about Sloan and Section 31, but it transpires that Koval is one step ahead of him and has already arrested Sloan. He claims that there is no Section 31 and that Sloan is a rogue agent who used Section 31 as a cover to assassinate Koval whom he held responsible for the death of his mentor, Admiral Fujisaki. Sloan is evidently vapourised by Koval, while Cretak is imprisoned for attempted treason.

Bashir is released but later, aboard the Bellerophon, confronts Admiral Ross. Ross admits that Sloan is still alive and that Koval is actually working for the Federation. Section 31's deliberately foiled plan to murder him was designed to give him more political weight in adhering to the Federation alliance. Ross admits that whilst not a part of Section 31, he has formed a temporary alliance. Bashir is horrified that Ross would condone the activities of the morally-reprehensible 31, who are willing to stoop to whatever tactics will get the job done. Ross rationalises that "in time of war, the law falls silent".


That question was posed by Doctor Julian Bashir back in the third season episode Past Tense, Part One. Now, four years on, he's about to learn the answer. And he ain't going to like it one bit.

It's quite extraordinary how far Bashir has come as a character over the years. If, back when the series began, you were to tell me that the naive, arrogant and callow young doctor would later become one of DS9's best-utilised characters I would have checked you into the nearest mental asylum. But some superlative character-building, not least the ingenious revelation that he was genetically-enhanced as a child have cast the character in a completely different light and opened up a whole host of fascinating possibilities. One such example was last year's Inquisition, the gripping conspiracy thriller which introduced us to Section 31, an extremist, covert branch of Starfleet willing to stop at nothing to achieve its aim of protecting the Federation.

I believe there are some fans that view Section 31 as a heinous violation of Gene Roddenberry's utopian vision of the Federation. But DS9 is -- and always has been -- very much its own series and has never shied away from depicting the cracks in Roddenberry's admirable but complacent vision of the future. Admirable because, unlike so many contemporary films and television shows, Star Trek depicts a positive, optimistic view of the future -- one of progress and peace. I truly believe that our future is going to be far brighter than our past, but...BUT it simply won't happen unless we strive to make it so. In many ways, DS9 is the most practical of the Trek shows in its philosophy. DS9 shares the Trekkian ideology of a bright future, but has continuously hammered home that we have to work to get there. We're never going to achieve paradise by simply dreaming of it; we have to get our hands dirty and build paradise, or as on DS9, fight to keep it. In many ways, DS9 has been about fighting for paradise and looking around at the world today, rife with conflict and environmental disaster, I see this as particularly relevant to us.

Any rate, Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges builds on this core theme and tackles a question we've seen on DS9 a couple of times before; do extreme circumstances justify extreme measures?

Sloan is at one side of this argument and Bashir squarely at the other. Julian has always been an idealistic fellow and is understandingly appalled by Section 31's morally reprehensible methods. After all, Section 31 clashes with the very tenets of what, in an ideal world, the Federation supposedly stands for. But, as Sloan would probably point out, the key words there are "in an ideal world". The Federation is at war. Survival is at stake; and what good are lofty ideals and principles when you're facing annihilation? As far as Sloan is concerned, morality doesn't come into the equation; this is about survival and the ends squarely justify the means. But with this philosophy one could justify almost anything. Murder, deceit, treachery...and as we will discover in an upcoming episode, even genocide.

And yet, if you're brave enough to admit it, Sloan does have a point.

There's a real grain of truth to that. The natural law of the universe is "survival of the fittest". Ethics or morality don't fit into the equation because, simply, they're man-made. Of course they are worth fighting for but what if you can't win by fighting by them? This is a theme we've seen tackled before, notably in last year's powerhouse In the Pale Moonlight and Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges delves headlong into this murky issue with no recourse. There are no answers here, perhaps because there are no answers. But what's important is the presentation; as with the best DS9 we're not told what to think, it's for us to make up our own minds...and then acknowledge that ultimately there no right or wrong answers, because that ain't how this universe of ours works. Life isn't fair, it just is. Make of it what you will.

Ron Moore has truly excelled himself here, turning in a thoroughly compelling script that is beautifully-written and tightly-structured, barely wasting a line of dialogue. Like Bashir himself, we're kept on our toes as we try to figure out exactly what's going on. There are twists and turns left, right and centre, many of them completely unexpected and some quite perplexing. There were indeed a couple of instances where my jaw hit the floor -- namely Koval's "revelation" that Section 31 does not exist, being merely a ruse on Sloan's part to execute an assassination. I was completely astounded and, like Bashir, I initially (and incredulously) bought Koval's story, but upon thought began to question its veracity. There were still more surprises in store. Who would have thought that Admiral Ross would be in league with Sloan? Not I. Sure, the "corrupt Starfleet Admiral" has become something of a Trekkian cliche, but Ross was different. Having known Ross for upwards of two years and having seen him work closely with Sisko and crew, this revelation had a great deal more impact than our standard "corrupt-Admiral-of-the-week". 

The confrontation between Ross and Bashir was beautifully-staged, with both sides of the argument impeccably well-presented. Alexander Siddig gave a strong performance throughout, although Barry Jenner didn't quite rise to the occasion, failing to give quite as good as he got. This aside, the only thing that marrs this nail-biting confrontation is a lack of follow-up. I was left with a lot of unanswered questions: what else have Ross and Section 31 been up to? How far up does this "temporary alliance" extend? Is Sisko in on it? After all, he'd been in contact with Ross and he gave the order for Bashir to attend the conference and go along with Sloan. And In the Pale Moonlight demonstrated the extremes Sisko was willing to go to. But, I'm acutely aware that the end is nigh and, with barely a dozen episodes to go, there simply isn't the time to wrap up everything. Besides, DS9 is not a show that feels obliged to connect all the dots and often a good question is just as tantalising than a good answer.

In terms of execution, this episode is outstanding. Aside from Moore's winning script, David Livingston deserves serious kudos for his directing. His work is, in a word, amazing. The pacing is perfect and with the help of some particularly good art direction, Livingston creates a strikingly tangible atmosphere. There's an eerie, fatalistic vibe blanketing proceedings and the tension is so real it's palpable. Complemented by an effective score by Dennis McCarthy, this episode achieves an edgy, restless and unsettling tone that perfectly befits the story. The acting is equally good; Siddig is, as I said above, on fine form, William Sadler is nothing short of perfect as Sloan, and John Fleck makes a wonderfully sinister Koval. Jenner was slightly underwhelming as Ross, but that's a minor quibble, really. Rather oddly, Cretak has been recast and is barely recognisable as the Senator we met earlier this season. While I thought Megan Cole was great, Adriene Barbeau effectively brings an altogether more sympathetic, likeable quality to the role which makes Cretak's eventual fate seem all the more unjust.

Crashing on...

Well, that's about it. This is classic DS9 -- a powerful, sophisticated and thought-provoking morality play that doesn't shy away from tackling the tough, gutsy questions. It's also one of -- if not the -- best espionage stories Trek has ever done, and there have been a fair number over the years. Between this, the beautiful Chimera and the upcoming "Final Chapter", it would seem DS9 has not only shaken off its mid-season blues but is also back on top form -- with a vengeance.

Rating: 10

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