Note: While SABR Matt set up this post and collected the highlights, the rest of the review was written by Stephanie S.
If the writers had penned this episode earlier, they probably would've gotten more mileage out of its central idea.
Memory Alpha has a summary here.
My one complaint regarding Doctor Bashir, I Presume? is this: You can tell that the writers - Ron Moore and Jimmy Diggs in this case - pulled the episode out of their asses. In other words, this episode is a classic case of "Wouldn't it be neat if...?" There's no real build-up to the revelation that Bashir was genetically enhanced as a child -- and the fact that this piece of personal information is introduced so late in the game renders it virtually impossible for the writers to do anything substantive with it.
If you don't stop to think about its context, however, this episode is very good. Ron Moore gives Amsha and Richard motives that are not wholly unsympathetic, which gives the story that human dimension that is characteristic of DS9's best outings. But perhaps more importantly, Moore creates for us a family dynamic that just feels right. When there's a 3000 pound secret sitting in the middle of the room, it makes sense for a family's members to interact in ways that are profoundly toxic.
Isn't it interesting how sin comes back to bite us in the end? Even if we are never officially charged with any crime, we suffer punishment in other ways. When they decided to mold a superstar son, Amsha and Richard certainly never imagined that their relationship with their son would change -- but it did. The Jules Bashir who was developmentally delayed would've loved his parents unconditionally; he probably never would've noticed that his father is a man whose ambitions consistently outstrip his actual talents. Julian, on the other hand, is smart enough to notice all of his parents' flaws -- and he's also smart enough to be wounded by what he perceives to be his parents' hasty judgment. "I was six years old. You decided I was a failure in the first grade," Julian says, and at that moment, you can see the true source of his contempt.
We do not yet have the technology to "enhance" a human being's intellect and physical coordination, but this episode is still relevant to us in this time and this place because we do have the knowledge and the technology necessary to discard certain humans beings who don't "measure up." Some studies have reported, for example, that 80-90% of babies with Down Syndrome are aborted -- and a mother who decides to keep a child with Down Syndrome is often looked upon with thinly disguised hatred. Now that we have the option not to have children with Down Syndrome, many people view it as a full-on moral responsibility to ensure that no such babies are ever born. But, of course, they're wrong; medical and educational advances now make it possible for human beings with Down Syndrome to live longer and more productive lives. It is nothing less than a cruelty to assume that a genetic accident can rob a child's life of its infinite value. Fortunately, Trek has usually bucked its technocratic leanings where this issue is concerned, and Doctor Bashir, I Presume? fits in nicely with that dominant trend.
This episode's Big Revelation in re: Bashir's genetic enhancements doesn't really add anything to the character, but the tense relationship between Bashir and his parents is actually pretty interesting to watch.
I don't think we see feature-worthy acting here, but the performances are strong nonetheless.
The biggest ethical problem with elective genetic engineering is not that it makes possible the creation of an army of supermen. No, the biggest ethical problem with the technology is this: Its use implies that an unenhanced individual is somehow less valuable. Amsha and Richard Bashir may have had motives that were genuinely loving, but I also understand why our Bashir viewed their decision as a sign of rejection.
(Look below the cut for the highlights, which include several scenes from Rom's side plot. Rom's shyness around Leeta doesn't invite much in the way of commentary, but it's cute nonetheless.)
ROM: Today's the day, brother. I'm really going to do it this time.
QUARK: You've been saying that for weeks.
ROM: I've been waiting for the right moment. And this is it.
ROM: It's perfect. She's about to go on her break, and when she does, she'll come over here to say hi, to me like she always does, and that's when I'll do it.
QUARK: Okay, let's hear it.
ROM: I, er, Leeta, would you like, maybe, to one night, soon, to maybe?
QUARK: Rom, you're a regular poet.
ROM: I can do better.
QUARK: Prove it.
LEETA: Hi, Rom.
(She stands close, knees slightly bent so they can look straight into each others eyes better.)
ROM: Hello, Leeta. Bye.
BASHIR: This is a long questionnaire.
ZIMMERMAN: I pride myself on my attention to detail.
BASHIR: Let's see. Compare and contrast your eating habits at age five with those at ages ten, fifteen, twenty, and twenty five?
ZIMMERMAN: It will be necessary for the holo doctor to interact naturally with patients for weeks, possibly even months. The doctor will be expected to share amusing anecdotes, extend sympathy, swap dirty jokes and even have culinary opinions formed by experience.
O'BRIEN: You mean this programme is going to have all of his personal likes and dislikes?
ZIMMERMAN: That is why we bother to choose a human template in the first place.
O'BRIEN: Wow, think of it, Julian. If this thing works, you'll be able to irritate hundreds of people you've never even met.
BASHIR: She's beautiful, isn't she?
ZIMMERMAN: Who is she?
BASHIR: Her name's Leeta. My ex-girlfriend.
ZIMMERMAN: Who broke it off?
BASHIR: She did.
ZIMMERMAN: Oh, I like her already.
ZIMMERMAN: I'll be conducting in-depth interviews with your friends, colleagues, family members, in order to build a more rounded psychological profile for the LMH.
BASHIR: I see. Well, regarding my family members, would you could refrain from
ODO: Excuse me for interrupting, Doctor, Doctor. The Antidean transport wishes to leave the station a day early. Their cargo is still under quarantine. If you could issue a health certificate.
ODO: It would expedite matters.
BASHIR: All right. I'll meet you in cargo bay three in ten minutes.
ODO: Thank you, Doctor. Doctor.
BASHIR: Well, duty calls. I wonder if you could do a favour and consider not interviewing my parents?
BASHIR: Well, to be blunt, we're not close, we haven't been for many years, and I would consider it a personal favour if you would er, sort of, leave my parents out of it.
ZIMMERMAN: I see. Well, I certainly understand.
BASHIR: Well, thank you. I'll see you tomorrow.
ZIMMERMAN: Note. Contact subject's parents immediately.
ZIMMERMAN [OC]: What were your initial impressions of Doctor Bashir? Good and bad.
SISKO: Young, eager, ambitious. He was fresh out of medical school, looking forward to his first taste of frontier medicine. Sometimes he let that natural impulse override his sense of decorum.
ZIMMERMAN [OC]: You mean he was difficult.
JAKE: No. But sometimes he could give you way too much information.
ZIMMERMAN [OC]: Could you elaborate on that?
KIRA: Sometimes he just didn't know when to shut up.
ZIMMERMAN [OC]: Are you implying that he harassed you with unwanted advances?
DAX: No. But he was very persistent.
ZIMMERMAN [OC]: I see. Could you be more specific?
ZIMMERMAN [OC]: You're not being very helpful.
WORF: I do not like doctors. Any doctors.
ZIMMERMAN [OC]: You can rest assured that I will keep anything you say in the strictest confidence.
O'BRIEN: You're sure about that? I wouldn't want this to get back to Julian.
ZIMMERMAN [OC]: You have my word.
O'BRIEN: Well, the truth is he's an extraordinary person. A real sense of honour and integrity, great sense of humour, warm, caring. You're sure he's not going to read this?
ZIMMERMAN [OC]: Positive.
BASHIR: Yes, well, why don't I see if I can find you some accommodation for this evening.
SISKO: It was a pleasure to meet you both.
DAX: I hope we get a chance to see you again. I can't wait to hear some stories about Julian as a little boy.
RICHARD: Oh Lord, there are so many. You know, from the time he was this high we knew he was destined for greatness.
BASHIR: The Captain, father, is a very busy man.
RICHARD: We'll talk later. (wink)
ZIMMERMAN: Have I caught you at a bad time?
LEETA: It's never a bad time for flowers. Come on in. Could you find a place for those while I change?
ZIMMERMAN: Of course.
LEETA: By the way, if you're trying to impress me, you've succeeded.
ZIMMERMAN: I spoke to some of my colleagues at the Jupiter Station this morning. It seems that the manager of our station cafe has decided to quit.
LEETA [OC]: Really.
ZIMMERMAN: They're still looking for a new manager. Someone with experience in both food service and entertainment. Someone like you.
ZIMMERMAN: Yes. I've already taken the liberty of speaking to our station's commanding officer and she's amenable to the idea. The cafe is yours if you want it.
LEETA: My own cafe? (she's naked) Oh. Sorry.
ZIMMERMAN: Not at all.
AMSHA: Maybe you should tell us about the interviews we're doing tomorrow, Jules. What kind of questions will they ask?
BASHIR: Well, Doctor Zimmerman, as I understand it, is trying to build a complete psychological profile of me. He's going to be asking you all sorts of questions. Try to keep your answers as brief and to the point as you can. You don't want to give him any openings to probe into any awkward areas.
RICHARD: I'm sure we can handle it.
BASHIR: Try not to take this too lightly. He's going to be asking detailed questions about my childhood and if you're not careful
RICHARD: You don't trust us?
AMSHA: He didn't say that, Richard.
RICHARD: No, but that's what he meant, isn't it? You think we're going to slip up, say the wrong thing, get us all in trouble.
BASHIR: Look, I've got a lot at stake here. My whole career could be destroyed if Doctor Zimmerman gets wind of our little secret.
RICHARD: You've got a lot at stake? Well what about us? We could go to prison, Jules. Have you ever thought about that?
BASHIR: Of course I've thought about that! That's why I want you to take this seriously.
RICHARD: Oh, so now we're not taking it seriously. We're not as bright as he is. We don't have your gifted intellect so we can't see the perfectly obvious.
BASHIR: This is exactly why I haven't been home in three years.
LEETA: I haven't made up my mind yet. I mean, this could be a big opportunity, but that's no reason to rush into anything. What do you think I should do?
ROM: I, I, I don't know.
LEETA: If I had a reason to stay, I'd stay. Do I have a reason to stay?
ROM: I, I don't know.
LEETA: Well, I guess I'd better take the job.
LEETA: Is that all you can say?
ROM: I, I, I
LEETA: You don't know. Thanks. Rom. You've been a big help.
ROM: You're welcome.
BASHIR: Is there something I can do for you?
AMSHA: Your father has something he wants to say. Richard?
RICHARD: It's a stressful time for all of us and maybe I said some things I shouldn't have.
AMSHA: What he's trying to say is, we would never do anything to jeopardise your career.
RICHARD: And just so there's no misunderstanding, I give you my word that at no time in our interview with Doctor Zimmerman will we ever mention or even hint at the fact that you were genetically enhanced as a child.
AMSHA: Jules, you can trust us. Your father and I have kept the secret of your DNA resequencing for almost twenty five years and we're not going to let it out now.
RICHARD: But I would just add that, despite what the authorities would like us to believe, genetic engineering is nothing to be ashamed of. You're not any less human than anyone else. In fact, you're a little more.
AMSHA: We didn't come here to start another fight. Let's just try to get through this, all right?
BASHIR: All right.
(Amsha kisses him then she and Richard leave. Zimmerman and O'Brien come in from another room)
BASHIR: Who were those people?
(O'Brien switches the hologram off.)
BASHIR: I can't believe you set them up like that!
O'BRIEN: We didn't set them up. They just happened to walk in when the programme was running. Zimmerman thought it would be a idea to test the programme's ability to cope with an unexpected situation.
BASHIR: And you let it go on? You let them stand there and make fools of themselves while the two of you sat in the back room and laughed?
O'BRIEN: Look, I'm sorry about this. I wish it had never happened, but it has and now we've got a problem.
BASHIR: I don't want to talk about it.
O'BRIEN: Julian, Zimmerman is going to file a report saying that Doctor Bashir is unsuitable for computer modelling because of his suspected genetically enhanced background. Do you know what's going to happen when that report gets back to Starfleet Medical?
BASHIR: There's going to be a formal investigation which will lead to my eventual dismissal from the service.
O'BRIEN: Then it's true? You're
BASHIR: The word you're looking for is unnatural, meaning not from nature. Freak or monster would also be acceptable. I was six. Small for my age, a bit awkward physically, not very bright. In the first grade, while the other children were learning how to read and write and use the computer, I was still trying to tell a dog from a cat, a tree from a house. I didn't really understand what was happening. I knew that I wasn't doing as well as my classmates. There were so many concepts that they took for granted that I couldn't begin to master and I didn't know why. All I knew was that I was a great disappointment to my parents. I don't remember when they made the decision, but just before my seventh birthday we left Earth for Adigeon Prime. At first, I remember being really excited at seeing all the aliens in the hospital. Then they gave me a room and began the treatments, and my entire world began to change.
O'BRIEN: What were the treatments? Some kind of DNA recoding?
BASHIR: The technical term is 'accelerated critical neural pathway formation.' Over the course of the next two months, my genetic structure was manipulated to accelerate the growth of neuronal networks in my cerebral cortex, and a whole new Julian Bashir was born.
O'BRIEN: In what way did they change you?
BASHIR: Well, my mental abilities were the top priority, of course. My IQ jumped five points a day for over two weeks. Followed by improvements in my hand-eye coordination, stamina, vision, reflexes, weight, height. In the end, everything but my name was altered in some way. When we returned to Earth, we even moved to a different city, I was enrolled in a new school using falsified records my parents obtained somewhere. Instead of being the slowest learner, I was the star pupil.
O'BRIEN: And no one ever suspected?
BASHIR: Oh, there's no stigma attached to success, Chief. After the treatments, I never looked back. But the truth is I'm a fraud.
O'BRIEN: You're not a fraud. I don't care what enhancements your parents may have had done. Genetic recoding can't give you ambition, or a personality, or compassion or any of the things that make a person truly human.
BASHIR: Starfleet Medical won't see it that way. DNA resequencing for any reason other than repairing serious birth defects is illegal. Any genetically enhanced human being is barred from serving in Starfleet or practising medicine.
O'BRIEN: I don't there's been a case dealing with any of this in a hundred years. You can't be sure how they'll react.
BASHIR: Oh, I am sure. Once the truth comes out I'll be cashiered from the service. It's that simple.
O'BRIEN: There must be something we can do. We can't just give up.
BASHIR: There is something I can do. Resign before Doctor Zimmerman files his report.
O'BRIEN: Oh, Julian.
BASHIR: It's over, Miles. I always knew this could happen. Now it has. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'd like to be alone.
RICHARD: We're not going to just take this lying down, that's for sure. I'll arrange for legal counsel. We're going to fight this all the way to the Federation Supreme Court.
BASHIR: We can't fight this.
RICHARD: You'd better change that attitude right now if you want to hang on to your career.
AMSHA: Jules, listen to your father. He's trying to help you.
BASHIR: Neither of you is listening to me. I don't want to drag this through the courts.
RICHARD: We're a little beyond worrying about your wants, Jules. We have a serious problem here. We have to stop the whining and concentrate on coming up with a new plan.
BASHIR: A new plan. Yes, let's come up with a new plan. That's the way we do things in this family, isn't it? We don't face our problems, we come up with new plans. Don't like your job? Well move along to the next one. Don't like the law? Well, find a way to get around it. But whatever you do, do not accept responsibility.
RICHARD: All those gifts, all those accomplishments, and you still want to behave like a spoiled child. Well you'd better grow up right now or you're going to lose everything!
BASHIR: You mean you're going to lose everything. You're going to lose your only real accomplishment in this life. Me. You said before, I'm your legacy, your proud gift to the world. Well, father, your gift is about to be revealed as a fraud, just like you.
RICHARD: I'm still your father, Jules, and I will not have you talk to me like that.
BASHIR: No, you used to be my father. Now, you're my architect. The man who designed a better son to replace the defective one he was given. Well, your design has a built-in flaw. It's illegal.
RICHARD: You're so smart. You know so much that you can stand there and judge us. But you're still not smart enough to see that we saved you from a lifetime of remedial education and underachievement!
BASHIR: You don't know that. You didn't give me a chance.
RICHARD: You were falling behind.
BASHIR: I was six years old. You decided I was a failure in the first grade.
RICHARD: You don't understand, Jules. You never did.
BASHIR: No, you don't understand. I stopped calling myself Jules when I was fifteen and I'd found out what you'd done to me. I'm Julian.
RICHARD: What difference does that make?
BASHIR: It makes every difference, because I'm different! Can't you see that? Jules Bashir died in that hospital because you couldn't live with the shame of having a son who didn't measure up!
AMSHA: That's not true! We were never ashamed of you. Never.
BASHIR: I'm sorry, mother, but the truth is --
AMSHA: You don't know. You've never had a child. You don't know what it's like to watch your son. To watch him fall a little further behind every day. You know he's trying, but something's holding him back. You don't know what it's like to stay up every night worrying that maybe it's your fault. Maybe you did something wrong during the pregnancy, maybe you weren't careful enough, or maybe there's something wrong with you. Maybe you passed on a genetic defect without even knowing it.
AMSHA: No, this is important. You can condemn us for what we did. You can say it's illegal or immoral or whatever you want to say, but you have to understand that we didn't do it because we were ashamed, but because you were our son and we loved you.
SISKO: Your parents came to me this morning. They explained the situation about your genetic background. I contacted Admiral Bennett a short time ago.
BENNETT: We've just reached an agreement that will allow you to retain both your commission and your medical practice.
RICHARD: I'm going to prison.
RICHARD: Two years. It's a minimum security penal colony in New Zealand.
BASHIR: You can't do this.
BENNETT: It was your father's suggestion, Doctor. He pleads guilty to illegal genetic engineering and in exchange you stay in the service.
BASHIR: Well, I want no part of it. I'm not going to just stand by while my father
RICHARD: Jules. Julian. Listen to me. This is my decision. I'm the one who took you to Adigeon Prime. I'm the one who should take responsibility for it.
AMSHA: Let him do this, Julian.
BASHIR: Two years? Isn't that a bit harsh?
BENNETT: I don't think so. Two hundred years ago we tried to improve the species through DNA resequencing, and what did we get for our trouble? The Eugenics Wars. For every Julian Bashir that can be created, there's a Khan Singh waiting in the wings. A superhuman whose ambition and thirst for power have been enhanced along with his intellect. The law against genetic engineering provides a firewall against such men and it's my job to keep that firewall intact. I've made my offer. Do you accept?
BENNETT: Then report to my office at Starfleet Headquarters once you arrive on Earth.
ZIMMERMAN: Do you hear that?
LEETA: What is that?
ZIMMERMAN: It's getting closer.
ROM: Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit! Wait.
ZIMMERMAN: We heard you the first time.
ROM: Leeta, don't go.
LEETA: Why not?
ROM: Because I love you, and I want you to stay.
LEETA: I love you too, Rom. (they kiss) Oh. Doctor, I'm sorry.
ZIMMERMAN: No, don't be. True love should always win. I'm happy for you. Really.
LEETA: You're a sweet, wonderful, and brilliant man. There's someone out there for you, Doctor. I know it.
ZIMMERMAN: I don't think so. Perhaps I'm better suited to a life of solitary research.
(An alien lady walks past, taking his eyes with her.)
ZIMMERMAN: and dedication to my chosen field of study. Don't worry about me, I'll be fine. Goodbye.
ZIMMERMAN: (to alien, going through the airlock) Excuse me are you familiar with the ancient text known as the Kama Sutra? You remind me of an etching
BASHIR: Not my day.
O'BRIEN: Not your week.
BASHIR: You know what, Chief? I never got a chance to thank you for what you said when
O'BRIEN: Uh-uh. None of that. Especially not in the middle of a game. Ooo, yes!
BASHIR: Looks like it's your game again.
O'BRIEN: What's that, five in a row?
BASHIR: At least.
O'BRIEN: Wait a minute. You haven't been letting me win, have you?
BASHIR: What makes you think that?
O'BRIEN: You said your hand-eye coordination had been genetically enhanced.
BASHIR: Well, maybe I have been letting you win a little bit.
O'BRIEN: I don't believe it. I don't need you to patronise me. I can play at your level.
BASHIR: I never said you couldn't.
O'BRIEN: Well play then. Really play.
(Bashir throws three quick bull's-eyes. O'Brien collects the darts and takes Bashir back to double the ockey distance.)
O'BRIEN: All right. From now on you play from over here. I play from up here. And if that doesn't work, we'll try a blindfold.