Overall Rating: 7.8
Nothing particularly eye popping in this episode, but it certainly had its moments - Peter Allen Fields produced it, so it carries his sense of nuance and characterization, which is a plus.
Starfleet has sent Dr. Bashir and Miles O'Brien to assist in the disarmament of a pair of alien species - the T'Lani and the Kellerun - as they try to end a century-long war that has resulted in the deaths of millions. Bashir's medical expertise is needed to destroy a virulent biological weapon. The harvesters - a genetically engineered micro-organism - had proven difficult to neutralize. After succeeding in finding a method to destroy the harvesters, O'Brien is looking forward to going home to his wife, but Bashir insists they stay on another day to enjoy a celebration in their honor. As they prepare to irradiate the final canister of the weapon, a Kellerun strike force enters and murders the entire science team before Bashir and O'Brien can stop them. They also shoot the genetic bath containing the harvesters and some of the agent spills on O'Brien's arm. They escape to the surface of T'Lani 3, a decimated world, and hunker down in the hope that Sisko will find them before the Kellerun do. But the T'Lani and Kelleruns have different ideas. They send their ambassador to DS9 to report that O'Brien and Bashir are dead and present a doctored security log to prove it.
O'Brien uses his time in hiding to repair a communications device in the bunker they've inhabited until the harvesters render him crippled. When he can't continue to work, Bashir takes over for him and the two two look for topics to discuss to keep him conscious. We learn about a previous love affair of Julian's, we hear O'Brien's thoughts on marriage in the military, and we get a better feel for the depth behind Julian's typically young and shallow facade. Meanwhile, on the station, Keiko - with a stroke of "woman's intuition" - becomes convinced that the data clip was a forgery and Sisko and Dax head out to investigate. They discover the cover up just in time to beam O'Brien and Bashir off of T'Lani 3 before they're executed by the T'Lani, and a clever bait a switch rouse gets them out of harm's way.
One of the things I've come to appreciate about DS9 is that even in a relatively dull episode, the writers find ways to insert moments we can all appreciate, and this is no exception. Seeing the reactions of the residents of the station to news of Bashir and O'Brien's deaths was certainly worthy of more than one highlight clip. The running conversation between Bashir and O'Brien was variously a little dull at times, but intriguing and even a little touching as well. What the show lacks in eye-opening plot or heart-pounding action, it makes up for in the little things.
The deeper Bashir's character gets, the more comfortable Alexander Siddig seems to become in his role...the more comfortable he becomes, the deeper the writers feel they can go. In atmospheric sciences, we'd call this positive feedback...and it's a very good thing. Colm Meaney's acting is a little uneven this time around - some moments seem forced, particularly early on when he's still trying to sound generally annoyed with Bashir's presence - but the rest of the cast did an outstanding job, including Rosalind Chao (Keiko).
I'm a little torn as to what to make of the message regarding disarmament and the steps the T'Lani and Kellerun were willing to take to "ensure" that the harvesters would never pose a threat again. I find it hard to believe any civilized people would consider it necessary to murder their best scientists, and it stretches the limits of common sense to imagine they'd go one step further and order the murder of innocent people trying to help from outside their own world. Such an act would be an unmitigated declaration of war on the Federation and I don't think any race would be that stupid - especially when the Federation has a long track record of refusing to use DEFENSIVE technologies like cloaking devices if it saves them from engaging in a violent conflict. The T'Lani and Kelleruns would have to be aware of Starfleet's reputation as honorable enforcers of their own treaties. There had to be a better way.
On the other hand, O'Brien's little speech about marriage is exactly what makes romances on DS9 work while they just come across as juvenile and cheesy on TOS and TNG. These writers and producers have a much more mature idea of what romance is like for us in the real world. Keiko and Miles have a believable marriage filled with conflict, compromise, and affection, and we see the same thing when Dax and Worf later become involved, not to mention Kira and Odo (although that relationship suffers from a special dysfunction relating to Odo's hero-worship of Kira, but that's a topic for a later date) and Martok and Sirella.
ODO: (reacting to the footage from the security clip the T'Lani ambassador provided) I've heard of devices like this. A lethal radiation pulse that instantly vaporizes anyone who doesn't enter the proper code.
KIRA: I'd like to talk to the chief of security for that ship.
ODO: So would I.
SISKO: Keep in mind, they lost people too.
KIRA: (ready to fight) But they were responsible for the deaths of our people...
SISKO: Major, that'll do. I'll need you to contact the provisional government. Tell them we'll need a doctor assigned here temporarily until Starfleet can send a replacement for Dr. Bashir.
KIRA: Yes, sir.
DAX: Do you want me to go with you? When you talk to Mrs. O'Brien?
SISKO: No...it's my responsibility. Alright, people...I know the next few days are going to be difficult. But we all have jobs to do. Dax, I need you to contact Starfleet. Inform them of the accident. Tell we'll need a new chief medical officer...and a new chief of operations. (this whole sequence was extremely well acted and well-done, if you ask me, and I believe my father would agree it reflects fairly accurately how the military responds to a sudden and tragic death)
DAX: I just realized I still have his medical school diaries. (referring to Julian of course)
KIRA: He let you read those?
DAX: He thought it would help me understand him better.
KIRA: How? By reading about all the women he dated?
DAX: (with a faint smile) That's not what they were about. When he gave them to me, he said they were about his innermost thoughts. His struggle to graduate top of his class...his dreams of a career in Starfleet...his constant fear of failure...
KIRA: And did they? Help you understand him better?
DAX: (mournfully) I never got around to reading them. I suppose I should send them to his parents.
KIRA: You could keep them. Maybe read them...
KIRA: I think he'd like that. (Quark approaches with drinks for Dax, himself and Kira)
QUARK: Uh...these are...on the house.
KIRA: How come?
QUARK: I thought we'd have a toast...to Dr. Bashir and Chief O'Brien.
DAX: That's very thoughtful of you, Quark. (Kira eyes him skeptically)
QUARK: I can be thoughtful. (Kira nods) To our dearly departed comrades...I can think of no higher tribute than this. They were good customers. They always paid their bar bills on time.
KIRA: That's it?
QUARK: I'm not done yet. At a time like this, I'm reminded of the 57th rule of acquisition. Good customers are as rare as latinum. Treasure them. (I always smile like a fool when I hear that line...it's very well crafted and very sweet in a Ferengi sort of way)
O'BRIEN: You were wrong you know.
BASHIR: Wrong? About what?
O'BRIEN: About marriage...
O'BRIEN: Listen to me, Julian! You always talk about adventure. Marriage is the greatest one of them all. Full of pitfalls and setbacks...but it's an adventure worth taking...if you do it together. I know Keiko hasn't been happy about life on station, about my long hours, any of it...but it doesn't matter. Because at the end of the day, we love each other...and that's all we need. - sage words indeed
BASHIR: Chief - I see you're feeling much better.
O'BRIEN: When can I get out of here, Doctor?
BASHIR: Oh, you'll be up and about in a couple of days. Listen, I just wanted to thank you...for what you said on T'Lani 3.
O'BRIEN: What did I say?
BASHIR: That it'd been an honor serving with me. I'd like to repay that compliment as well. It's been an honor serving with you, too. (O'Brien smiles awkwardly) You know...
BASHIR: Right...of course...you'd like to be alone. I understand completely. (Julian exits)
KEIKO: So what was it like out there? Spending all that time alone with Dr. Bashir.
O'BRIEN: It was hell! You see forself, the man never shuts up! (all said with a little smile) You know, I wouldn't mind a cup of coffee right about now.
KEIKO: Miles! You never drink coffee in the afternoon!
O'BRIEN: Sure I do!
KEIKO: You do? (nice callback to the moment of intuition that led to their rescue...very sweet ending)