Mark Watches ‘Deep Space Nine’: S04E04 – Hippocratic Oath

In the fourth episode of the fourth season of Deep Space Nine, EVERYTHING IS UNCOMFORTABLE. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek. 

Trigger Warning: For discussion of addiction

I really do enjoy that this show is so willing to push the boundaries of stories that they tell. BLESS DEEP SPACE NINE.


While I will certainly excuse “The Visitor” for being Worf-lite because it needed to be, I’m pleased that his presence on this show is addressed immediately. It’s a great chance to remind everyone just how different everything is on this station. The morality and protocol that’s developed here is unlike what we’ve seen on both iterations of the Enterprise, which means that Worf sticks out like a sore thumb. He’s used to a very direct and strict form of rule as a security officer.

But here? Well, I’ll say that Odo is far more adventurous and creative compared to what Worf is used to. So I understand why this is so frustrating for him! He’s used to surveilling, arresting, and imprisoning people, in that order, with very little thought to anything larger than that. It’s not that Worf lacks scope or the inability to look at the bigger portrait. I think his interactions with the Klingons show he can certainly do that. But he used to be the Chief of Security, and now, he’s in an entirely different position that requires different skills from him. On top of that, he’s now in a command position that doesn’t intersect with security, which challenges him. He has to go out of his way not to interfere with Odo, which is WAY EASIER SAID THAN DONE.

Bless, Worf. He tried, but he also messed up. Badly. He forces Odo to blow his cover and catch a middleman instead of a smuggling ring, and Worf learns the hard way that he’s got a whole new culture to adapt to.

The Hippocratic Oath

Which is why it’s so perfect that the main story in this episode centers on the kind of grey morality that Sisko speaks of here. Sisko has adapted in his own way, but that’s also why O’Brien and Julian clash so fiercely over the Jem’Hadar. First, let me just say that this episode contains both a fascinating moral issue AND a strangely satisfying ending. I know that’s weird to say because the resolution is designed to be deliberately upsetting. How can that be satisfying?

Because it’s honest. This script respects the characterization of Julian and O’Brien SO MUCH. I believed that Julian would defer to the medical needs of any living being because he’s shown us that over the course of the past three seasons. I believed that O’Brien would remain steadfast in his refusal to help the Jem’Hadar because we’ve seen how he’s the most stubborn, close-minded member of the crew. And it’s not that I think it’s irrational to be afraid of the Jem’Hadar or to value one’s self-preservation. The situation is much more complicated than that! However, once Julian makes it clear that he believes Goran’Agar, O’Brien digs deeper into the sand.

It’s frustrating to watch because, like Julian, I wanted the best of these characters. If the Jem’Hadar could truly break from their addiction to ketracel-white, then it was moral and just to pursue that. Julian knew that! He knew these men would suffer horribly through their withdrawal symptoms, and there was a high chance that all of them, aside from Goran’Agar, would die. Like Odo on DS9, he thought in the long-term. What if curing the Jem’Hadar of their addiction freed them from the control the Founders exhibited over them? What if that swept the Founders’ army right out from under them? Yes, Julian is optimistic, and he takes Goran’Agar under good faith throughout this episode.

But O’Brien can’t. He can’t risk his life under a group of people genetically designed to kill others. His experiences with the Jem’Hadar inform his reaction to them! It’s fair that he feels forced into this choice because he was. This episode liberally uses the trope of a force kidnapping or capturing their enemy in order to get medical help. So I get it! Both characters truly believe they’re doing what’s right. And while I think Julian’s argument was stronger, I can’t ignore what a complicated nightmare this whole thing is. Because many of the Jem’Hadar that Goran’Agar brought to this planet DON’T ACTUALLY WANT TO GET RID OF THEIR ADDICTION BECAUSE THEY THINK IT’LL MAKE THEM WEAK LIKE HUMANS.

In the end, O’Brien betrays Julian, destroys his work, and guarantees that they all get home safely. Yet that’s precisely why the ending is so haunting. The writers don’t have these two characters shake hands and merrily go about their way. Julian is very clear that he’s furious that O’Brien disobeyed a direct order; O’Brien is desperate to prove that he did everything to save Julian. It’s not enough, though, and I suspect that this might be the start of the fracturing of their friendship. Neither of them seem eager to pick up where they left off.

I guess I’ll just have to see.

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

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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