O'Brien, personal log, stardate 47581.2. I've got to try to set the record straight about the last fifty two hours. I don't know who's going to hear this. I don't even know if I'll be alive by the time this log is recovered. I figure they'll be coming after me. If I'm right about this whole thing, they won't want me to warn the Paradas... I wish I could tell you who they are. That's part of the puzzle I haven't figured out yet. Part of the puzzle? Hell - none of this whole damn thing makes any sense. I'm trying to remember the first time I noticed that things were wrong…
O’Brien first notices things are not quite right on the morning after his return from the Parada sector: Molly refuses to hug him, Keiko seems curiously distant, and his engineering crews have started security preparations for the Paradan peace talks without his input. Regarding the last, O’Brien heads to Ops to confront Sisko and is waylaid by Bashir, who is absolutely insistent that the Chief appear for his regular physical. O’Brien peevishly agrees to appear in an hour, then speaks to Sisko, who informs him that all three upper pylons are malfunctioning and need to be repaired immediately. For some reason, Sisko does not want O’Brien involved in the preparations for the peace talks. And Bashir is acting strangely too – he gives an increasingly annoyed O’Brien the most thorough annual physical in the history of Starfleet before pronouncing him perfectly healthy.
When O’Brien finally locates the source of the pylon malfunction – a crack in a conduit deep within the system – he is troubled; such a breach could only have been deliberate. And the suspicious events keep piling up: Keiko apparently tries to drug him at dinner, and he finds he’s been locked out of all personnel logs beyond the date of his return. When Odo returns from Bajor, O’Brien seeks the constable’s help, relating his fears that there is some sort of conspiracy regarding the Paradan peace talks at work. Odo promises to look into the matter, and O’Brien goes to prepare plan B.
Later, Odo calls O’Brien into his office; O’Brien asks Odo what he’s found out, but quickly realizes over the course of the conversation that Odo has turned against him as well. At this moment, Sisko, Kira, and Bashir arrive and try to subdue O’Brien, but O’Brien throws down a flash grenade and escapes. With the others in pursuit, he takes a runabout. He tries to contact Admiral Rollman, but she seems in on the conspiracy as well. Left with no other options, O’Brien plots a course for the Parada system in the Gamma Quadrant.
On Parada II, O’Brien finds Sisko and Kira conferring with Paradan rebels and is certain he has blown the conspiracy wide open. But then the truth is revealed – this O’Brien is not the real O’Brien at all. He is a replicant – a copy based off the real O’Brien, who was abducted while in the Parada system conferring with the Paradan government regarding the security specifications for the peace talks. The real O’Brien marvels at the accuracy of the copy as the replicant O’Brien dies with Keiko’s name on his lips.
Overall: 8.8 – This is a nearly feature-worthy hour of suspense. A classic O’Brien vehicle!
The monologue which opens this review and this episode is one damned effective narrative hook – and it perfectly encapsulates a major reason why Whispers is such a successful script. Because of the limited point of view, Coyle and Piller are able to drive us crazy with tantalizing – and creepy – hints. Why are Keiko and Molly so frigid? Why would Keiko try to poison Miles? Why are the Chief’s security codes suddenly ineffective? You can’t tear yourself away from the screen because you just want to find out what the heck is going on. It’s a genuinely compelling plot – a go-to example of suspenseful rising action.
This is very nearly a one man show for Colm Meany – but fortunately he is able to carry the story with his usual under-recognized talent. Rosalind Chao, meanwhile, was also fantastic. My co-author has said in the past that she and Colm don’t exactly have oodles of chemistry, but the way they respond to each other here really contributes to that sense of fear and anticipation that permeates the whole episode. The dinner scene is especially chilling.
Of course, this episode doesn’t work metaphysically. A soul is not material and therefore cannot be “replicated” by technology, no matter how advanced said technology might be. The best we can ever hope to do is replicate the body. I’m inclined to invoke the Rule of Cool in this instance, however, because while the premise is unfortunately materialist, the story that blossoms from the premise is incredibly interesting television.
And there’s something else – something that, while certainly accidental, still works in the episode’s favor: the apparently elaborate conspiracy turns out to be a problem with one man. Listen up, Truthers and moon landing deniers – if everyone seems to be in on it, it’s probably just you.
O'BRIEN: “Are we nearly finished? I believe you've poked into every orifice of my body – and created a few new ones.”
BASHIR: “Any dizziness? Oversleeping? Lack of energy? Euphoria?”
O'BRIEN: “Yes, all of them! Especially euphoria. Lots of euphoria!” (LOL!)
O'BRIEN: “Look, if you're determined to keep me here until you find something wrong with me, I'll see if I can't grow you a hangnail.”
BASHIR: “Eye problems? Hearing? Headaches?”
O'BRIEN: “Headache! There you go! In fact, I'm getting a very bad one right now.”
BASHIR: “Short temper. Flies off the handle under the slightest provocation. Perfectly normal behavior.”
O'BRIEN: “I'm glad you're enjoying this.”
BASHIR: “Sorry. I know how you feel about doctors.”
O'BRIEN: “It's not doctors I have problems with-”
O'BRIEN + BASHIR IN UNISON: “- it's you, Julian.” (ROTFL!)
BASHIR: “Well, your sense of humor seems normal enough.”
O'BRIEN: “I don't have a sense of humor.”
BASHIR: “Cough. How's the sex life?”
O'BRIEN: “I don't have a sense of humor.”
BASHIR: “Cough. Everything all right in that department?”
O'BRIEN: “That department is none of Starfleet's business – or yours.” – Hilarious!
O'BRIEN [VO]: “What I found in those hidden logs didn't answer all my questions, but it sure as hell confirmed what I'd been afraid of. They were analyzing and reanalyzing everything I had put into my report about Paradan security. They'd even broken into my personal logs to see what they could find in there. I hope they enjoyed reading the sexy letters to my wife…” – Bwah!