In the tenth episode of the fourth season of Deep Space Nine, this episode is ridiculous and I don’t care. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.
This episode is just so fun, y’all. But being entertained can be more fulfilling when something has layers and depth to it. On the surface, “Our Man Bashir” seems deliberately sillier than most of what we see on Deep Space Nine. That’s a good thing; the previous nine episodes this season (“Little Green Men” aside) are ruthlessly serious for the most part, and I admire any show that’s willing to experiment with tone and humor. Yet I think describing this episode as something that’s just silly or absurd does a disservice to the many other meanings and layers to this story.
Like much of Star Trek, the setup to this story is ridiculous. I’ll admit that, and then I’ll say that I ACCEPT IT, I BELIEVE IT, I SHALL NOT QUESTION IT AT ALL. Part of that is because what comes after the sabotage of the shuttle is so much fun that I’m willing to accept the introduction regardless. But I also love that Deep Space Nine doesn’t do the whole “broken Holodeck” storyline pretty much ever, and even here, there’s still not a broken Holodeck. The problem is computer storage, which gives way to one of the COOLEST Holodeck conflicts we’ve ever seen: Julian must keep his five crewmates alive in the Holodeck story, despite that each of them have been meshed into story characters. Which means that some of them ARE TRYING TO KILL JULIAN.
For the most part, the show plays this situation for humor, and it’s a beautiful thing to watch. I say “for the most part” because there’s a fine line between a homage and a satire present in the script, which means that Jadzia and Kira play odd roles here. On the one hand, I understood that the writers were specifically referencing the kind of tropes that women fit into in Bond films or spy thrillers. At the same time, that means that all four women in this episode – including Caprice and Mona – are highly sexualized and given reduced impact on the story. So while I loved that the show was able to spoof some of the absurd nature of the genre it was borrowing from, I still couldn’t ignore that I wanted the writing to be a bit more critical on this angle.
I say that because once you examine Garak’s role in “Our Man Bashir,” he’s clearly a means for the writers to do exactly that! Garak is an outsider, initially because he barges in on Julian’s Holosuite story so that he can figure out why his friend is spending so much free time inside of it. In that sense, this is a story about cultural differences, and in latter parts of this episode, that becomes a huge conflict between Julian and Garak. Yet he spends most of this episode providing a hilarious commentary on the foolish nature of American and British spy stories. He points out how vague Julian’s “assignment” was. He criticizes Julian constantly because, in his view, this kind of “intelligence” is nonsensical to him.
So I love that the writers take this and run with it, and “Our Man Bashir” turns into a deeply disturbing examination of values. It’s so brilliant of the show to put Garak in the story because of his experience in the Obsidian Order. So when Julian posits that they need to do everything possible to save all five of the crew trapped in this story, Garak argues that this makes Julian a terrible spy. Y’all, I appreciate that despite how uncomfortable this was, the writers committed to Garak’s opinions. The sequence during the escape towards the end was a bold choice, given how funny most of the episode was, but I thought it worked. It needed to happen. It established Julian’s moral center, it showed us that he defied Garak’s pragmatism, and it made “Our Man Bashir” more than just one long joke.
Still, I’ll remember this episode for how much fun it was. It’s why I’ve saved the best for last: Avery Brooks’s scenery-chewing antagonist is a goddamn spectacle. All of these actors had fun with these twisted and larger-than-life stereotypes, but none so much as Brooks, who monologues like every second is the end of the world. By the time Julian’s con delays the story long enough for the crew to be restored, we’ve been through an adventure that was both meaningful and hilarious. Bless you, Deep Space Nine, for the guts to do this.
The video for “Our Man Bashir” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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