#DS91sttime: Season 4, Episode 4, “Hippocratic Oath”

September 5, 2013 in #DS91sttime, General Topics

Season 4, Ep 4, "Hippocratic Oath"

Season 4, Ep 4, “Hippocratic Oath”

If I was in Starfleet, I’d get very nervous if ordered to fly off in a runabout to perform a planetary survey, or some other banal task. I’d definitely bring a phaser rifle or eight, and I’d also make sure the vessel sent constant updates from my galactic positioning system. These trips never end well.

I’d have to be on my toes, too, because runabout missions have rules, a la Scream. One of these is the danger of idle chatter. Don’t ever get into conversations about nothing, because if you do, something is going to show up.

Bashir and O’Brien are returning from just such a survey–and having just such a conversation–when they run into an odd sensor signal on a nearby planet, indicating a downed starship. Before they can gather more information, the runabout is lanced with a plasma field, causing it to crash land onto the planet’s surface, in what is a fairly solid effects sequence. Predictably, Bashir and O’Brien are fine, though both vow never to discuss Keiko O’Brien again.

Back on Deep Space Nine, Worf is running into his own problems. A black-and-white view of law enforcement isn’t melding well with our local changeling’s approach to security. Worf wants to keep moving the ball down court on a suspected illegal transaction involving Quark and a random alien. Odo wants to dribble–or so it appears. Over the course of the episode, they throw elbows over the situation.

But that B plot is somewhat tedious, so let’s get back to our unwilling crash test dummies. They step out of the vessel, and come face to face with a group of Yautja. No, I’m just kidding–it’s Dominion troops, specifically Jem’Hadar.

So, this is bad.

So, this is bad.

There are two potentially troubling aspects of the Jem’Hadar. The first is that I always have to look up where the apostrophe goes in their name. The second is they’re genetically raised to be shock troopers and enforcers, so they could easily be written as simplistic and one-dimensional. Google helps me out with the first problem, but you have to give credit to DS9’s writers for avoiding the second. Though the Jem’Hadar feature as badies whenever skirmishes between the quadrants break out, they’re being shown as more than just mindless killers.

This time, we return to the nature verses nurture debate first explored way back in “The Abandoned”. Added to this are questions of racism verses realism, and further quarrels between Bashir and O’Brien over just how far to take the moral obligation of a doctor to the sick. And Bashir ends up pulling rank, and O’Brien’s later actions are dramatic. Loved it.

I thought for sure the other pillar of excellence in this episode, the actor playing Goran’Agar (Scott MacDonald) was actually Robert O’Reilly taking a break from playing Gowron. They have similar eyes, and similar voices. But I have no problem with Mr. MacDonald’s return, as his stint playing Tosk in “Captive Pursuit” made that episode work.

My biggest concern with this episode was that it might resolve neatly, with things wrapping up into one implausible-but-happy ending for our stranded crew members. Thankfully, the show took the plot where it needed to go, and we got lots of good character interaction. One of the hardest questions it asks is this: who is really the bad guy in this scenario? Miles? The Jem’Hadar? There’s no easy answer for that. You can see everyone’s side of the argument.

On the criticism side of things, I almost wish that Bashir hadn’t refrained from punishing Miles. It would have taken their relationship in an interesting direction. And Worf’s problems with Odo and (to some extent) Sisko served little plot, essentially boiling down to “Worf isn’t used to the station yet”. We get it. Did that really need half an episode devoted to it?

Despite that, “Hippocratic Oath” leaves you to consider what you would have done in the place of Bashir and O’Brien. That’s good science fiction, any way you slice it. While not a fantastic episode, this was still a good time in front of the tube, and not a bad stop along any survey mission.

Rating: 3.5/5 stars.

See the rest of the review series here.

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