Nobody Expects the Starfleet Inquisition
"Inquisition" Plot Summary:
Bashir is preparing to leave for a medical conference when O'Brien comes in with a dislocated shoulder. Bashir repairs it and tries to make his shuttle, but the entire command crew is called to Ops. Starfleet's Internal Affairs division has come to conduct an investigation, confining all senior officers to their quarters, keeping them isolated, refusing even to let them have replicator privileges. Director Sloan believes that there may be a Dominion spy among the staff.
Sloan questions Bashir superficially about the five weeks he spent as a prisoner of the Dominion while a changeling took his place on the station, and about his work with the institutionalized genetically enhanced people he had brought to the station last year, then sends him back to his quarters, which Bashir notices have been investigated in his absence. O'Brien contacts him via an unauthorized link to warn him that Sloan asked the chief two hours' worth of questions about Bashir. The doctor is brought back before Sloan, this time under heavier guard, and interrogated forcefully about whether he was broken and subjected to engrammatic dissociation by the Dominion; with such a procedure, they could have had him spying for them without even knowing about it, since the memories would be compartmentalized in his enhanced brain. Bashir forcefully denies the accusations, but Sloan suggests that he's lying or deluded and thinks he's so much smarter than the non-enhanced that he won't even admit it. He has Bashir taken away in irons.
Sisko objects to Bashir's treatment and insists on sitting in to protect his rights; he also discovers that Sloan had a son who died during a Dominion attack, and accuses the investigator of non-impartiality. Sloan demands to know why Bashir tried to cure a small group of Jem'Hadar's addiction to Ketracel-White, why he wanted to go along with the enhanced patients' recommendation of surrender, and whether Bashir relates to the Jem'Hadar because they are genetically enhanced like himself. Sisko defends Bashir, though he agrees that the doctor has made some poor judgement calls. Sloan points out that Bashir lied to everyone in Starfleet for thirty years about hs enhancements and only came forward when he was found out. Sisko begins to doubt Bashir, and Sloan gets an order to evacuate the doctor to Starbase 53 to be imprisoned for the rest of the war...unless he signs a confession.
Bashir is beamed out of the brig onto a Dominion ship, where he is shocked to see Weyoun. The Vorta "reminds" Bashir that he's been working for them all along and insists that he can help un-block his memories, but Bashir reiterates that he has no memories to unblock; he has never actively or passively worked for the Dominion, not even to help end the war as Weyoun suggests. The Defiant attacks Weyoun's ship, but when Kira and Worf rescue Bashir, none of the command crew believe his explanation that Sloan and Weyoun must be working for the same side if they're both trying to feed him the same lies. Bashir asks O'Brien for help, then realizes that it's not really O'Brien on the Defiant when the chief doesn't have a shoulder injury. None of the bridge officers are real. They're simulations, and Bashir suddenly finds himself on a holodeck with Sloan and his team dressed all in black.
Sloan announces that he now believes Bashir, as his neurosynaptic responses indicate that he's telling the truth, and explains that he works for a secret division of Starfleet Intelligence, Section 31, which answers to no one in its defense of the Federation. He then tries to recruit Bashir, who is horrified by Sloan's statements that they violate Federation principles in order to protect them and points out that Bashir has not been afraid to bend the rules either. They numb him for transport when Bashir says again that he won't join. Back on the station, Sisko says that there's no trace of Sloan or Section 31 in Starfleet records, but strangely, Starfleet won't deny the division's existence. He likens it to the Tal-Shiar and the Obsidian Order, pointing out that many other races have top-secret intelligence divisions that don't answer to the military or civilian governments. Sisko tells Bashir that the next time they try to recruit him, the doctor will say yes. Odo congratulates him: the man who likes to play a spy will get to be a spy after all.
Despite an interesting premise, this episode suffered from absolutely dreadful execution; I was counting on it being a parody, and thought until the last minute that we were going to find out it was all another holonovel of Bashir's! I can believe that the Federation has a secret division like Section 31. In some ways, Sloan's rationalizations for breaking procedure didn't sound unlike James T. Kirk's. But sheesh--wouldn't they have to be SMARTER than these clowns? The idea of having a Federation department that does what it pleases is one thing, but the idea of a Federation department that has the power to harrass Federation citizens with impunity, like the Cancer Man from The X-Files, is profoundly alien to the Star Trek mythos and should never have been introduced.
Sloan had a staff of one-dimensional thug types who made nasty cracks at Bashir about being a traitor and who roughed him up gratuitously. He refused to feed his detainees properly, he deprived Bashir of sleep and deliberately raised his stress levels for an accurate neurosynaptic reading. We never found out whether he really did have a personal stake in the Dominion war, nor why he singled out Bashir as a possible recruit other than his genetic enhancements which he expressed a deep prejudice against, and there's no way any intelligence officer with half a brain wouldn't have known Bashir would get Sisko et al on the tail of the organization the instant he got home, even if he sounded unconcerned.
The secret agent man seemed just plain dopey on both an ideological and practical level. Why try to convince a man that he's a Dominion spy if what you really want is to recruit him to intelligence work? Was he trying to make sure Bashir couldn't be broken easily? But he already knew that, since the Dominion didn't break him. And if they had Bashir under surveillance for months, why the whole spy-novel routine...why be so careless as to mess up his quarters, let O'Brien warn him, let Sisko represent him? And how did these people miss the fact that O'Brien had a shoulder injury, the last thing Bashir treated before he was supposed to leave the station for his conference, and was kidnapped instead?
One thing is clear: Starfleet officers should NEVER EVER go on vacation, go to scientific conferences, or do any sort of travel which does not require that the entire command crew come along (disasters occur either way, but at least you have your friends with you in the usual "the whole bridge crew almost dies when the ship encounters the Anomaly of the Week" episodes). This was a so-called bottle show, a money-saver filmed entirely on sets which already exist: on DS9 those tend to be legal dramas like this one. But this one felt like a bad ripoff of the TNG episode where Riker was accused of murdering a woman's husband and used holograms to prove his innocence, and of the Dominion use of brain implants to make the crew hallucinate a Dominion invasion...it's getting tired already. Now that we know Bashir's enhanced, I wish they'd come up with something intelligent to use his intelligence for.
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