In which Andrew Wakefield would have let that whole species die.
Well, nobody’s torturing O’Brien to death today, and instead he, Kira, and Odo get to have a little chat about his unlicensed ad hacking. This is, of course, a misdemeanor, but the fine is no match for facing Worf’s displeasure at having the Defiant‘s mess hall altered to deliver food in noevlty Quark’s mugs. The most unbelievable part about all this is where it says “Free Refills.” I demand an asterisk and a massive block of fine print. Under threats of grevious bodily harm, from both Kira and Worf, Quark quickly goes to work reversing the damage.
Bashir, Kira, and Jadzia are conducting a biosurvey of some the Gamma quadrant planets using the fancy new sensors they’ve fitted onto a runabout. I will repeat that – they’re in a barely-armed shuttlepod in the middle of enemy space running test surveys. I see no way this will end poorly. But on their way, the runabout detects a distress beacon from just outside the borders of DOminion space, referencing a massive attack, and indeed it has been. Bashir and Jadzia beam down to find a city in ruins, complete with barefoot kids and bring-out-your-dead carts. They immediately find a woman dying of ‘the blight’, and a man suggesting they leave as quickly as they can and try to forget about the planet.
Bashir’s analysis is that they’re not succeptible to the Blight, but this also hinders his efforts to help them. Jadzia bartered a hair clip for passage to the local hospital, run by a Trevean. Everyone has these facial lesions, and everyone else at the hospital is grateful to Trevean for providing this hospital, where he can sleep in a bed, have a bath, have good food, and, since there’s not treatment for the Blight, probably just die without pain.
This planet was a thriving powerhouse two hundred years ago, when they decided to stand up to the Dominion. The Dominion destroyed their cities and infected the planet with the Blight, which kills everyone and is passed from parent to child. Treveans hospital anti-hospice is where people go to die quickly, in relative peace and comfort. Bashir can’t really stomach this. Imagine how he’d handle the Vidiians.
Jadzia found the abandoned distress beacon, which has been on loop for 200 years. Bashir’s ready to give up, but a young pregnant woman asks him for help just before he and Dax beam up. She’s two months away from her delivery date, which is an eternity in doomed-to-die-from-the-Blight time. Since help has been asked and a couple of Jem’Hadar battle-scarabs are on patrol in the area, Bashir demands to stay on the planet and bring Federation Medicine to the locals until the patrol is over and Nerys can come back. He expects to have this two-centuries-old plague knocked out in about a week.
They set up with some medical eqipment in a curtained-off room of some communal housing. As a side note, I wonder if Bashir got a field replicator for food or if he’s mooching off this woman he’s going to be running all manner of tests on. She tells a story of how her husband used to have hope, and now he’s dead. Jadzia makes a pretty good nurse/receptionist, too. First up, tests on someone whose Blight hasn’t Quickened, and also some ultrasounds for the expectant mother. In no time, Bashir and Jadzia are sciencing away while Ekoria lifts heavy things and does housework. In no time, Bashir has isolated the virus and they can begin studying it specifically. This is such good news, Ekoria is pulling out her death-day feast.
Now Bashir needs to chart the progress of the virus once it starts in a-killin’, but nobody’s interested in being his test subject. He also runs into the guy who recommended he leave earlier, and we find out why. Of course, after two hundred years of the Blight, they’re used to con artists, and Bashir has to use medical lasers to fuse up a young boy’s arm to get anyone to listen. The cringey part is that Bashir is so all-fired sure of himself that he’s not correcting Ekoria when she flat-out promises a cure. Enter Trevean to explain the con artist situation and forcing Bashir to backpedal a bit. The dying can be a vindictive lot, if provoked.
Bashir didn’t get enough tissue samples, and his complaint sparks a cynical discussion about how the locals have started to worship the Blight, to wait for death. Soon, some more volunteers arrive, including Mr. Cynic. Soon he’s come up with a course of injections to give out. The dying are still dying, but at least he can actually do pain mitigation. The guy in the latest stage stopped responding to their first attempt, though.
The treatment course is working, for some people, at least a little. Bashir discusses his passion for holding back death, and tells the story of the first patient he ever had, and the only deathless creature he knows – his teddy bear Kukalaka. He stitched that bear back together dozens of times, and still has him. Sadly, that success will not be so easy this time, as Mr. Cynic isn’t even responding to the pain-dampening field – the virus has mutated around it, triggered by the EM fields from all the equipment. The virus seems designed to get worse and more aggressive under analysis. Shocking, right?
Soon the entire ward is an eruption of screams and agony, even after they shut everything down, and people start to die. So when I mentioned earlier that O’Brien wasn’t in a personalized hell today? That’s because it’s finally Bashir’s turn to fight a virus specifically designed to resist advanced medicine. Someone’s called Trevean to help ease the pain, and even Bashir can’t object now.
In the light of dawn, surrounded by corpses, Bashir can only blame himself, because that’s apparently what every television doctor does. Greg House might suggest it’s a consequence of playing god for a living. Luckily for Bashir, he has Dax there to help him past this by deflating his ego a bit. He finally finds Ekoria’s husband’s mural, and Ekoria is standing by it, with a newly quickened Blight. At least she’s not mad at him. Bashir won’t leave, so Dax and Nerys give him a beacon that he can call for pickup with… when he’s done.
The locals are still afraid of Bashir after that terrible night, but Ekoria’s still working with him even as he has to revert to more primitive methods. There’s no trace of Bashir’s antigen in her blood. She’s having wracking pain, and palliative care might harm the baby. Thus, she chooses to suffer. The baby is six weeks away from a natural birth, two weeks if Bashir induces. If Ekoria can make it that long.
Trevean shows up to offer her his euthanasia, but Ekoria wants to give her child a chance. There’s a little face-off between him and Bashir – it’s a very polite face-off, but ultimately they both want their patients to stop suffering. Trevean’s just been on this world long enough that he’s given up.
Ekoria is giving birth, and the baby doesn’t have the blight, unlike the baby we saw at the beginning of the episode. The cure doesn’t save the patients, but it can vaccinate babies in-utero. Assuming the babies can’t contract it once they’re born, Bashir may have saved the species… and given Trevean a reason to turn away from death.
It’s just not fair. Bashir’s personalized hell lets him save a planet. Miles is probably still in therapy. Even when he’s back on the station, though, Bashir is still trying to come up with a real cure. I guess maybe it’s a little fair after all – Dax is going to have to physically beat the snot out of him to get him to move on.