Mark Watches ‘Deep Space Nine’: S02E14 – Whispers

In the fourteenth episode of the second season of Deep Space Nine, THIS IS SO FUCKED UP. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.

Holy shit, what an accomplishment.

The more I think about “Whispers,” the cooler it becomes. It’s an ambitious plot to try to pull off over the course of a full episode, and while I’m sure some of you figured this out, I never once suspected the truth. Truthfully, that’s because Paul Robert Coyle’s script so brilliantly toys with a very specific kind of trope. I still don’t know if there’s an official name for it, but I recognized it fairly quickly. It’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers. It’s “Dramatis Personae” in this very show. It’s any story where the people around you are slowed replaced with… something.

And for what it’s worth, “Whispers” sticks to the escalation of paranoia consistently. From O’Brien’s opening voiceovers to the experience he has upon returning home, we are unsettled. Something is wrong. The people on DS9 are acting strange. We see it, and even if we try to reason it away, the show pushes our perception further. It’s not enough that Keiko is cold over breakfast or that she’s operating on a bizarrely early schedule. Instead, we see her secretly chatting with Sisko. We get absolute proof that Sisko is openly lying to O’Brien when an interaction with Jake reveals the truth. On top of that? Everyone seems real interested in the Paradans and what O’Brien knows of them. I put all that information together, and I had an idea of what was going on.

The senior crew was being replaced. Or reprogrammed. Somehow, the Paradan rebels had gotten to them, and they were determined to learn every secret possible in order to sabotage the upcoming negotiations with the Federation. (Actually, I might have that detail wrong; I wasn’t quite sure what the negotiations were actually for.) Whatever had occurred transpired while O’Brien was away, and now? It was just a matter of time. How long until they got everyone else? His wife had already changed, as had Kira and Sisko. Jake soon joined their fold, and then, KEIKO CREEPILY WATCHED HIM EAT A MEAL AND IT’S IN THE FOOD, ISN’T IT. I actually expected that there’d be this big reveal that O’Brien’s coffee from the replicator had kept him from changing over because there seemed to be a focus on the food during that dinner scene.

WHAT WAS CHANGING THEM? How had they all so quickly turned on O’Brien? I had hope that Odo’s return would bring us answers, especially since his no-nonsense style was perfect for this mystery. What I loved so much about his scene is that this is where the script escalated beyond hope. Since “Whispers” began in media res, I was curious to see what inspired O’Brien to flee the station and seek refuge in the Gamma Quadrant. I expected that answer to shed light on what the hell was going on that made everyone seem so different. However, I was shocked that when the DS9 crew finally confronted O’Brien, we weren’t given any answers. He boards the runabout after a tense chase, and we’re left with ABSOLUTELY NO ANSWERS AT ALL. How? And more importantly: why???

Oh my god, I wasn’t ready. I’M STILL NOT. This is a fascinating story in hindsight once you realize the whole episode is narrated by (and from the perspective of) A CLONE OF MILES O’BRIEN. No one changed, so to speak. They were all reacting to the fact that he was the replacement the whole fucking time. Thus, everyone’s behavior has a new context that explains it, and IT BLOWS MY MIND. It’s hard to analyze because the replicant produced by the Paradan government is so frighteningly close to the real O’Brien, so much so that I never once even questioned his identity. So what does that ultimately mean? Was O’Brien programmed to wake up to his true purpose at some point? That’s scary to think about, isn’t it? For all intents and purposes, that clone utterly believed he was O’Brien, so much so that he recognized how awkwardly everyone was treating him. What’s most shocking about this, though, is that the clone never got to act out their programming. O’Brien reacted with paranoia and self-preservation in the face of such odd behavior, and the Paradan government’s plan was sabotaged, all because their replicant was TOO GOOD.

What a messed-up episode, y’all.

The video for “Whispers” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

Mark Links Stuff

– I will be at numerous conventions in 2016! Check the full list of events on my Tour Dates / Appearances page.
– My Master Schedule is updated for the near and distant future for most projects, so please check it often. My next Double Features for Mark Watches will be Death Note and Neon Genesis Evangelion. On Mark Reads, Diane Duane’s Young Wizards series will replace the Emelan books.
- Mark Does Stuff is on Facebook! I’ve got a community page up that I’m running. Guaranteed shenanigans!

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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