Mark Watches ‘Deep Space Nine’: S07E16 – Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges

In the sixteenth episode of the seventh season of Deep Space Nine, I’m convinced this week’s episodes are out to destroy me. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek. 

Trigger Warning: For torture.

This is all your fault. ALL Y’ALL DID THIS TO ME.

I’ll admit that I went into this wanting a sequel because I foolishly believed that maybe, just maybe, Julian Bashir could take down Section 31, that he could expose them for taking advantage of the liberties that they were given. It’s an optimistic view of the world, one I still entertain even amidst the unending trashfire of politics in 2017. BUT THIS IS DEEP SPACE NINE. As I said at the end of the video for this episode, “Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges” feels like a spiritual successor to “In the Pale Moonlight.” It’s a continued examination of what people are willing to do to advance their own ends, even if those ends have a “moral” intent.

It’s astounding to me, then, just how paranoid this episode made me. Sloan, expertly played by William Sadler, is the kind of character who inspires mistrust. Could I believe any word out of his mouth? It wasn’t exactly out of the realm of possibility that Sloan was manipulating Julian, so I spent the bulk of this episode expecting the worst, despite wanting the best. I DOUBTED EVERYTHING. And that’s a brilliant thing accomplished by this script! As the story got more and more complicated, we’re given more chances to feel terrified of the outcome.

It’s such a scary thing to watch Julian cope with. He’s competent, brilliant, and able to adapt to every new obstacle thrown his way. However, it’s clear halfway through this that he’s in over his head, that Sloan commissioned him for a disaster of a mission. ON PURPOSE. What starts as a mandate to collect information on Romulan leaders at a conference morphs into an assassination attempt on the head of the Tal Shiar and Julian getting tortured for hours by the Romulans. I’M PRETTY SURE THIS ISN’T WHAT HE SIGNED UP FOR.

But that’s the whole point, isn’t it? Julian thought he could do as Sisko asked him without getting entangled in Section 31’s nefarious politics. It’s unfortunate, though, that his optimism prevents him from seeing the truth of what unfolds around him. Throughout this, Julian maintains that he might very well be able to wipe his hands clean of this whole affair. Yet he still helps Sloan “diagnose” Koval; he still provides information to Sloan; he tries to play both sides, all the while ignoring that he’s pushing forward Sloan’s agenda.

I don’t necessarily begrudge him that, though, because, as Sloan points out in the final scene, Julian genuinely tried to do what was best! He is a good person, and watching what he does once he learns of the plan to murder Koval is evidence of that. Koval is gross, the kind of person in power who is willing to dispose of others to get what he wants. In every sense, his assassination would probably leave the Federation in a good place. (And the people he wanted to expose to that virus wouldn’t be dead.) Yet Julian can’t let the assassination happen, and so he reaches out to Senator Cretak, of all people! He puts aside any possible grudge or discomfort for working with a Romulan. He does what’s right to save the life of someone he ultimately doesn’t even care about.

And it fails. Sort of? Koval isn’t killed, but that’s because he was never the target; Cretak was. And for what reason? Because she was too “patriotic.” Never mind that she would never entertain using a biogenic weapon on other people or that she was interested in Romulan politics. Somehow, she is the worst threat to the end of the Dominion War. Julian is tortured and then compelled to tell the truth to the Continuing Council (I think that was the name?) because HE’S A GOOD PERSON. He knows that by doing so, he risks the Federation/Romulan alliance, but his conscience tells him the truth is best. This act ends up getting Cretak charged with treason, and the real perpetrator, Koval and Sloan, get to escape scot-free. It’s horrifying, isn’t it? The full scope of Sloan’s manipulation of Julian isn’t revealed until the final scene, but it left me with a horrible pit in my stomach. Once again, Section 31 got exactly what they wanted. There was no heroic dismantling from Julian; if anything, he further pushed them into obscurity and guaranteed their presence in the galaxy. All for what? It might be noble to want to win the Dominion War, but we’re left asking the same question. At what cost? Cretak will be disgraced for the rest of her life for doing the right thing. She might even be executed! But as long as Sloan got what he wanted…

Good lord, this show is fucked up.

The video for “Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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