Accidental allusions to sword-wielding immortals aside, “The Quickening” is a welcome episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. In a series that has seemed at times too content to flesh out its key adversarial faction, the Dominion, from a distance, here one of our protagonists is thrust headlong into a civilization living with the consequences of defying the Founders’ overtures.
Kira and Dax are on a survey mission in the Gamma Quadrant along with forever-friendzoned Dr. Bashir. After following up on a distress signal (I guess distress signals are universal across species? Who knew?) they find a devastated planet and its people, who live within spitting distance of the Dominion itself. Seems these folks once told the Dominion they’d remain independent and free. In response, the Dominion attacked their world and infected the entire population with a 100%-communicable disease that strikes from birth and eventually claims its sufferer’s life, though on a completely random timetable.
The “Blight”, as it is called, is bad news, clearly, and Bashir volunteers to stay behind and do what he can. Kira is going to go hang out in a conveniently-located Nebula for a while. This is one of those aspects of Star Trek that annoys me: Why would anyone send a bunch of senior officers just dripping with valuable information into the backyard of a known threat, and arm them only with a Runabout? Egads.
Things are so bad on the planet that the “hospital” is actually more like a hotel for last hurrahs, but Bashir is optimistic about his chances of solving the Blight, and his determination is something I found very sympathetic. But I was worried that the Typical Trek Formula would thus follow, in which Bashir encounters skeptical locals and races against time, but ultimately succeeds, even saving the life of the pregnant Ekoria (Ellen Wheeler, in an excellent guest role) in the process.
Luckily, that’s not quite the case. And though I don’t want to spoil the ending here, let me just say it’s much less triumphant than expected. It gives us one of those that moments where DS9 is at its absolute best, when it allows its characters to stumble. Bashir, who’s always been keen to see the bright side in every situation, gets taken down a peg, and has to deal with the fact that he’s not going to be a miracle worker. How he will have to settle for less than perfect results, and carry on in the face of near-crippling disappointment makes this episode a pleasant surprise. This is deep, deep stuff. “The Quickening” is a credit to the series.
Damaged goods are good, I always say.
I should point out that, by this episode, my darling wife had announced her disinterest in continuing the show, so they’ll be no more of her take from this point onward.
A young couple’s miracle at the last star left in the Universe will lead to a specter from the past returning to confront mankind…and the end will become the beginning. Try Part I of the Beacon Saga Serial, for your choice of ebook platforms.