DS9: S3E18: “Distant Voices”

In which Quark facilitates another felony, Bashir faces down his birthday, and Cardassian literature is terrible.

"Oh good, you remembered how much I... love... Cardassian literature."

“Oh good, you remembered how much I… love… Cardassian literature.”

It wouldn’t be right to come back to Deep Space Nine without starting off with Bashir and Garak eating together. Garak has also given Bashir a Cardassian holonovel. Cardassian mystery novels always have all suspects being guilty, and the only mystery is what each character will be guilty of. That sounds fun exactly once, but hey, I’m not Cardassian. Bashir is also not excited about Dax throwing him a 30th surprise party. Despite having been nominated for a lifetime achievement award at 29, Bashir is depressed about getting older.

This conversation is interrupted by Quark trying to procure, for a client who would look downright unsavory if we were so crass and predjudiced as to judge by appearances, a small quantity of a highly controlled substance most often used on the black market to create bioweapons. So we must presume, as even asking about it is a felony in the Federation. Sadly, when Bashir goes back to the infermary, he finds the alien trying to steal stuff, and gets his face electrocuted pretty badly. I feel like Garak probably should have seen this coming (“Why, my dear Doctor, how could you presume that a man willing to commit a felony just by talking to you would balk at mere theft?”) and decided not to warn Bashir as part of his ongoing lessons in spycraft. Or because Bashir doesn’t like Cardassian lit.

Not only is the infirmary ransacked when Bashir comes to, but the lights are shot, the consoles dead, and nobody is answering his communications. The computer isn’t responding either, and all he can hear is a faint distant voice coming across an empty and disfunctional station. Also he’s going grey, so this is probably a dream, hallucination, or whatever happens to people in comas where they confront the current contender for their deepest fears. But maybe it was just that his hairs got electrocuted, and it’s a coincidence that the rest of the station is torn to shreds.

Quark is in his bar, terrified of something that’s rampaging around the station, the replicators are broken and spitting out tea in a constant stream, and Garak ambushes him in Odo’s office and starts spouting conspiracy theories. Garak can’t hear the voices, either. Apparently human hearing is a little better than Cardassian, which is a really nice touch.  So often, humans get the short end of the stick in fiction when cool powers are handed around, and it’s nice to know that it is not always thus.

"While we're at it, let's make the signal for 'everything is fine, no need to come rushing to my rescue' an agonized scream trailing off into a sort of gurgling noise..."

“While we’re at it, let’s make the signal for ‘everything is fine, no need to come rushing to my rescue’ an agonized scream trailing off into a sort of gurgling noise…”

Garak suggests they split up, which is a wonderful idea and has never once gone wrong. I wonder if Cardassia has similar horror-genre tropes to humans or if their horror novels all involve finding out your child once doodled an Anarchy symbol in their notebook. But you’d think bashir would know better before he starts getting chased down the corridor by encroaching darkness. Apparently being a genius doctor doesn’t leave you much time for fiction. He almost gets caught by the same horn-faced alien, Altovar, as before, but escapes in a turbolift.

He’s getting older and older in every shot, but when he finds O’Brien, Kira, Odo, and Jadzia none of them so much as comment. They’re way too busy bickering and acting as exaggerated caricatures of themselves, except Dax who’s behaving like a hostile shrew. This lends credence to the ‘all in Bashir’s mind’ theory, as he probably still isn’t over her turning him down. I really hope I’m wrong.

The station crew bicker their way towards fixing up some systems, but all Miles manages to do is turn on a radio receiver and overhear some medical jargon which couldn’t possibly be from the medical staff trying to revive Bashir and talking about telepathic damage. Oh no wait it totally could, and is.

Now that Bashir knows what’s going on, his dream-tricorder is telling him that he’s only putting out sleep waves, and nobody else is giving off life signs, since they’re all just personifications of his various personality traits, and the Lethian attacker is the progressive damage being done to Julian’s brain. The things they fix seem to make Bashir stronger, but things the Lethian destroys also vanish – like Jadzia and his confidence. presumably, if he dies in the dream, he dies in real life.

That seems like fun.

That seems like fun.

Rather than getting to chase her down, he’s suddenly playing tennis on the Promenade with Garak and discussing what he needs to do next. Get to Ops seems to be the plan, but in the way Bashir finds a corridor full of wounded, and Sisko’s here to the rescue. Sisko clearly represents his professional skills. Better hope he doesn’t get taken. Well, that was predictable.

I wanted to complain about the evolutionary source of a telepathic ability that causes progressive brain damage until the victim finally dies, but it’s actually kind of great. I imagine it serves as a poison, taking the target out quickly, but keeping the meat fresh via its own autonomic functions. When considered as a venom, it makes perfect sense!

Can you say "mood whiplash?"

Can you say “mood whiplash?”

All the ‘facets of Bashir’s personality’ are being picked off, viscerally shown as his dead friends. Only O’Brien, his doubt, is still alive, and they go in search of Ops but wind up back in the Infirmary, finds Quark running a dead pool on him, and then Bashir breaks a hip and meets up with Garak again. Now, if we stick to the schema so far, Gark probably represents Bashir’s cunning, but Garak wouldn’t be satisfied if he was anything but a wild card. With his help, the two of them make it to Ops, which is full of surprise party, complete with spandex-wearing dabo-girl.

Garak is now exuding fatalism and cynical despair, and also hasn’t been attacked by the Lethian. As far as wildcards go, the source of the damage is a pretty good one. Garak morphs into the Lethian, and talks about all the times young Bashir gave up on his dreams. His dreams of being a professional tennis player for fear of his parents disapproval. How he made a basic mistake in medical school, threw the test, so he wouldn’t be first in his class. How he gave up on asking Dax out after she repeatedly shot him down and made it clear she didn’t want to date him.

These accusations help Bashir make some determinations about his presumptive regrets, fixes the station form in the Infirmary (because mind-metaphor), incinerates his attacker, and wakes up. It turns out, though, that Lethian telepathic attacks are usually fatal. Clearly Bashir is something special.

Did we miss something awesome?