Babel

Confab in the infirmary

“Honestly, we could say anything we want about him right now and he wouldn’t know it.”

Episode: 5

Original air date: January 24, 1993

Notable guest stars: Jack Kehler as Jaheel, Geraldine Farrell as Galis Blin, Matthew Faison as Surmak Ren, Ann Gillespie as Jabara

In a nutshell: While attempting to make Sisko a better cup of coffee, O’Brien manages to doom the station and all of its occupants. Turnips buttocks tractors wheel nostril dance conflagration.

Say hello to: Jabara (Bashir’s on-and-off again nurse)

Say goodbye to: Jaheel’s ship

Missing in action: Nobody! The gang’s all here!

Words of wisdom: “Never ask when you can take.” – Quark

All work and no play makes Miles something, something…

Coffee time for O'Brien

Surprisingly, Miles doesn’t take his coffee “Irish.”

Miles O’Brien is having a bad day. A really bad day. First of all, one of the airlocks is stuck shut, presenting a big problem for the poor souls who’ve been trapped in it for an hour. Then as he’s working on that, Captain Jaheel complains that his ship hasn’t been fixed in a timely manner and his perishable cargo is about rot, costing him a bunch of money. Needless to say, he’s not a happy customer.

O’Brien then gets called to Dax’s lab to fix a power problem causing a huge whining sound. The he gets called to Ops to fix the tactical display. Then, Sisko demands to know why the replicators haven’t been fixed as promised. Commander’s gotta have his coffee, yo.

After firing off a tirade (not quite) under his breath, O’Brien heads to the turbolift and sets about fixing the replicator system. As he finally gets it working, he closes the access panel and small device attached to the replicator begins ominously beeping.

OPENING CREDITS

At Quark’s place, a customer gets angry about his stew and forces the bartender to try some of it. When the customer gets a little too aggressive about force-feeding his host, Odo steps in to calm him down. Quark complains that the stew is horrible because his replicators have been on the fritz. It’s killing his business. Odo suggests he asks O’Brien to fix them, but then points out that he’s busy and entertainment venues aren’t a primary maintenance concern. After Odo leaves the bar, Quark hacks into the computer to try a find a functioning replicator somewhere on the station.

O'Brien talking jibberish

“Know ain’t gonna lay no mo’ big rap up on you, man!”

On the Promenade, Kira and Dax talk about the joys of femininity – specifically how Dax feels about being female again after being male for 80 years. They walk past Quark’s, and the owner invites them to a party he’s holding to celebrate the repair of his replicators. Kira busts a quick exit, leaving Dax to decide whether she wants to hang out at the party or not.

In Ops, Sisko thanks O’Brien for finally getting around to fixing his coffee maker and says that Keiko is doing a great job with her new school thus far. Moments later, O’Brien is chatting with Kira when he suddenly begins speaking in gibberish. When others ask him what he’s trying to say, it seems that he’s unable to understand them as well.

COMMERCIAL BREAK

The doctor explains that O’Brien seems to be suffering from aphasia, a condition where the brain is unable to correctly associate spoken and written words with their proper meaning. He makes sense to himself inside his own mind, but when he tries to communicate, the words come out as a random, meaningless jumble.

Jaheel

Perishable cargo. Serious business.

As the crew talks, Dax suddenly comes down with aphasia as well. By studying both victims, Bashir learns that their condition is being caused by a virus in their brains. Unsure where it came from or how it’s spread, there’s no way to contain it for the moment. Not wanting the virus to spread off the station, Sisko orders a general quarantine for the station and all the docked ships.

Back at Quark’s, business is good. Odo asks him how he managed to turn things around so quickly and Quark tells him that Rom managed to fix the bar’s replicator. Suspicious because he knows Rom is an idiot incapable of fixing anything, Odo disguises himself to figure out what’s really going on. He soon discovers that Quark is illegally using another replicator on the station which O’Brien has repaired.

Sisko discovers Jake on the Promenade with Nog in violation of the quarantine. As he sends Jake back to their quarters, Captain Jaheel shows up to gripe at him about the quarantine and his precious perishable cargo. Jaheel gets rather animated, but Sisko stands firm and insists that he can’t leave the station.

Later in Ops, Sisko wonders if the replicators could be the source of the virus. Odo then tells the crew about Quark’s unauthorized use of the replicators, meaning that he could have been unknowingly passing the virus on to a large number of people. Bashir takes a quick sample of the air and discovers that the the virus has been airborne – they’re all infected know. He theorizes that the incubation period varies from person to person, making them all randomly set time bombs of gibbering nonsense.

COMMERCIAL BREAK
Sisko and son

“I knew that school was no good for you, son.”

The virus continues to spread throughout the station. Kira finds the mysterious box attached to the replicator; soon the crew discovers that the device is inserting the virus into the station’s food. Kira is certain it was left behind by the Cardassians as an act of sabotage, but Bashir points out that the virus is unmistakably Bajoran in origin. The device is also about as old as DS9 itself, making it likely that members of the Resistance installed it during the station’s construction.

Sisko heads to the makeshift hospital ward to talk with his son, who has also fallen victim to the virus. He holds an equally useless conversations with Dax. Suddenly, Jake alerts him to O’Brien, whose condition has suddenly worsened. As Bashir treats the unconscious and feverish patient, he discovers that the virus has begun attacking O’Brien’s body and will likely kill him within the next day or so.

COMMERCIAL BREAK

Knowing that the virus was created by the Bajorans, Kira attempts to figure out who created it and whether they have an antidote or not. She finds that the creator of the virus was indeed a member of the Resistance, but he died during the Occupation. She is able to uncover the name of an assistant, Surmak Ren, who is now a medical bureaucrat on Bajor. Kira calls to talk to him about the virus, but her cuts her off abruptly.

JIbberish on a screen

Sadly, the virus doesn’t replace the Chicago font.

As Bashir continues to finding a cure for the virus, the suddenly the computer is unable to decipher his commands. He too has been infected by the virus. With time and crew members running short, Sisko reluctantly agrees to allow Kira to leave the station on a runabout to secure Surmak’s help as long as she doesn’t go down to Bajor.

Kira takes the runabout to Bajor, where she contacts Surmak to make sure he’s in his office. She then kidnaps Surmak via transporter, infecting him with the virus as soon as he materializes on the runabout. Now facing linguistic paralysis and eventual death himself, he has no choice but to return to DS9 with her to work on a cure.

Back on the station, Captain Jaheel has decided he’s had enough. He informs Sisko that he’s leaving the station one way or another and fires up his engines in an attempt to break free of the docking ring. The stress created by the pull of the engines locks the mooring clamps in place, making escape impossible. Jaheel refuses to listen to reason and it soon becomes clear that he’ll cause his ship to overheat and explode, killing his crew and causing immense damage to the station.

COMMERCIAL BREAK

Odo and Sisko are the only two crew members left in Ops to handle the situation. Odo suggests blowing up the mooring clamps to knock the overheating freighter away from the station. As Sisko begins showing signs of the virus, Odo sends out a call for anyone on the station still unaffected to come assist him.

Quark beams Odo away

Quark boldly sends Odo where he’s probably been many times before.

The only person to answer his call is Quark, whose Ferengi immune system seems to able to fight the virus effectively. With no other choice, Odo leaves Quark in charge and beams directly to the docking ring. Kira returns in her runabout with Surmak and is shocked to discover that Quark is in command of DS9. As soon as she comes on board the station, however, Kira succumbs to the virus as well.

Odo is able to rescue the stubborn Captain Jaheel just moments before he successfully blows up the clamps and releases the ship from the station. The ship explodes, sparing the station but destroying all that perishable cargo.

Back in the infirmary, Surmak is able to create a cure for virus based on Bashir’s notes. Soon (far too quickly to actually show on screen), everyone on the station is cured. Everything returns to normal on the station, which means that Sisko’s coffee still tastes like crap.

Thoughts and ruminations

  • Why can’t they beam the trapped people out of the airlock?
  • Why would the replicators being down totally ruin Quark’s business? Don’t people like gambling and drinking the booze that comes from the bottles behind the bar?
  • I wonder if the actors had scripted gibberish to deliver or if they ad-libbed it. If it was scripted, I imagine it was incredibly difficult to learn and deliver with the correct cadence.
  • I’m going to start yelling “Way link complete!” every time I’m fed up with something.
  • The concept of a virus designed to incapacitate through disorientation is interesting…and terrifying.
  • Despite all the talk of ships coming and going, none ever seem to be docked at the station when we see exterior visuals of it.
  • Even if the plot to release the virus on the station failed, why wasn’t it used elsewhere during the occupation?
  • Third week in a row for the Chicago font.
  • I totally understand Odo’s lack of knowledge concerning dabo. I’ve watched hours of televised poker, yet I still only have a minimal understanding of the game.
  • According to the file on Surmak Ren, he graduated from the University of Bajor. That doesn’t sound like a tropical island degree factory or anything.
  • In these early episodes, Sisko’s best moments come when he’s interacting with his son.
  • The final scene with Sisko burning himself with the coffee and then yelling at O’Brien is particularly cringe-worthy. All it’s missing is a freeze-frame and wacky 80’s sitcom music.

The verdict

This episode combines two of Trek‘s favorite tropes – mysterious illnesses and leftover booby traps from ancient conflicts. The odd couple pairing of Odo and Quark as the station’s last hope is fun. Overall, the episode delivers a compelling enough story with a little bit of genuine tension mixed in. Three out of four Odo buckets.

The Odo Scale

The Modernish Father

Your guide to DS9 is a father of two, husband of one and inspiration for millions of sardonic bald guys. A Texas native who recently moved to San Francisco, he loves baseball, history, most science fiction and generally all things nerdy. Find out more on his blog.

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