In War, Laws Fall Silent
"Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges" Plot Summary:
While Kira negotiates with Senator Cretak to help repair Romulan vessels, Bashir tells Garak about his upcoming trip to Romulus to a medical conference. He will be giving papers on Dominion bio-weapons and Ketracel-White, but Garak suggests that someone should spy on the Romulan military during this prime opportunity to observe it up close. That night Bashir is awakened by a presence in his quarters. It's Sloan from Section 31, the most covert anti-terrorist group in the galaxy, which works undercover protecting the interests of the Federation. The agent tells Bashir that the Tal'Shiar will be monitoring the conference and would like Bashir to gather data on the state of the Romulan leadership. Bashir argues that the war is not over and he is being asked to spy on an ally, but Sloan suspects Bashir will agree just to find out what secrets Section 31 may be keeping.
Bashir reports to Sisko on the visit, but Admiral Ross advises the captain that Bashir has a chance to learn more about Section 31, insisting that he attend the conference. Sisko theorizes that since Starfleet officially disavows knowledge about Section 31 but no one is trying to put and end to it, someone on the inside might be protecting its members. Boarding the Bellerophon, an Intrepid-class ship like Voyager, Bashir is shocked to find Sloan (masquerading as a linguist named Greer) schmoozing with Admiral Ross and Senator Cretak. In private, Sloan reveals Section 31's real reason for wanting Bashir on this mission: they believe that a xenophobic Tal'Shiar leader named Koval, who is believed to be responsible for the murder of Starfleet Vice Admiral Fujisaki, will be at the conference, and they have heard rumors that he is suffering from a Vulcan-Romulan neurological disorder called Tuven's Syndrome. If so, it may be possible to maneuver their ally Senator Cretak into his committee seat, thus protecting the Federation's interest in keeping the Romulans as an ally against the Dominion.
Bashir is furious to discover that he has been brought along to make a diagnosis, claiming he cannot just look at a man and judge his health. But Sloan points out that other genetically enhanced individuals could tell that a man was a murderer just by studying his political speech, adding that Bashir must understand that if Koval comes to power, the Federation could lose their Romulan allies...and the war. At the crowded conference on Romulus, Bashir is quickly approached by Koval, who wants to know whether the virus which causes the Quickening could be replicated for use against other civilian populations. Cretak congratulates Bashir on getting the attention of the reclusive Tal'Shiar executive so quickly, joking that he could be a spy and noting that she herself has significant political differences with the more powerful Romulan.
After Bashir's lecture on the Quickening and the vaccine he devised, Sloan is not surprised at the interest of the head of the Tal'Shiar in a potential biogenic weapon of such force. Bashir reluctantly admits that Koval had drooping eyelids and accelerated respiration, both of which could indicate Tuven's Syndrome. In most cases, a Romulan with such a condition would not begin to lose his motor skills for ten to fifteen years, but Sloan demands to know whether anything could cause the disease to worsen without warning. Realizing that Section 31 intends to murder Koval and make it look like he died of natural causes, Bashir goes to Ross, who believes Koval would take over Earth if he could. The admiral suggests to Bashir that Section 31 must have an operative within the Romulan Empire: he had inside information and a plan to irradiate Koval to accelerate his illness, both of which would require an accomplice. Claiming that he cannot risk informing the Romulans of the existence of Section 31 for fear of jeopardizing the alliance, Ross promises to have Sloan arrested. But later that day, as Sloan sits smirking in the mess hall, Bashir hears that Ross collapsed with an aneurysm.
Bashir goes to Senator Cretak, telling her that she is the only one he can turn to in order to prevent an assassination. She is reluctant to trust him when he asks her help breaking into the Tal'Shiar database to look for potential traitors threatening the life of Koval, but he insists that if they let their fear of one another get in the way, a man will die. Sloan suggests that Bashir get a cellular scan of Koval to confirm the Tuvan's Syndrome diagnosis, but when the doctor meets with the Romulan again, he is invited to a private room where he is threatened with interrogation until Koval discovers that his enhanced brain makes it impossible to scan the human. Dragged before a high-ranking committee of Romulans, Bashir learns that Cretak was caught breaking into the database and repeated his fears to the council, claiming she wanted to protect the Federation-Romulan alliance. The doctor tells his version of the story - that he became aware of an attempt to assassinate Koval by a group which fights for the Federation without any official sanction, so he asked for Cretak's help in finding the traitor in the Romulan government.
Then Koval has Sloan brought in, looking like he has been tortured. Koval announces that his interrogation revealed that there is no Section 31; Sloan is a member of Starfleet Intelligence, a protegee of the Vice Admiral whom the Tal'Shiar is believed responsible for killing, who sought his own vengeance without implicating the Federation. Koval also reveals that the committee knows about his Tuvan's Syndrome. The only thing he does not understand is why Sloan came to Romulus, knowing that his identity would be discovered by the Tal'Shiar. "I wanted to watch you die!" spits Sloan, who is shot with a disruptor as he attempts to flee. Cretak reminds Koval that she tried to save his life, but Koval calls her a fool, declaring that she is guilty of treason.
Back on the Bellerophon, Bashir goes to Admiral Ross. "Where is Sloan?" The admiral takes off his comm badge, insisting that their conversation is off the record, then asks how Bashir knew Sloan was alive. Bashir said that he knew the broken man Koval interrogated could not have been the same ruthless man who recruited him, and moreover he remembered that Ross planted the idea of a Romulan accomplice, Ross stopped him from contacting anyone on Deep Space Nine, then Ross conveniently became incapacitated so that Bashir had no choice but to involve Cretak. Guessing that Koval and Ross both work for Section 31, Bashir learns that Sloan was supposed to be beamed away at the moment before the disruptor beam hit him. Ross speculates that Cretak will likely be jailed or possibly executed for her actions, but justifies the setup because she was a patriot who would always put Romulan interests above the alliance. Ross declares that he hates the war killing young men and women, but Bashir bitterly declares that Ross has trampled on everything those men and women are dying to protect. "Inter arma enim silent leges," Ross says, which Bashir translates as "in war, the laws fall silent." The quote from Cicero does not appease him, and he refuses to put on his comm badge, symbol of Starfleet, in the admiral's presence.
Back on Deep Space Nine, Sloan again comes to Bashir's quarters to thank him and tell him he's the kind of man of which the Federation needs more. "Someone has to protect men like you," he adds, justifying the existence of Section 31. When Sloan leaves, Bashir starts to call security to have Odo detain the man, then changes his mind, looking defeated.
You know, Starfleet could probably accomplish a great deal if it could just keep a lid on its evil admirals. We already knew Ross was a bit shady from his treatment of O'Brien in the sting on the intergalactic mob from 'Honor Among Thieves,' but really his title alone should give away his nefarious intentions; this guy's on a par with Admiral Leyton from 'Paradise Lost," as well as all those worm-eating galactic-invasion Starfleet folk Picard had to deal with. As a result of the Evil Admiral Tendency, this episode was a bit predictable, but it certainly held my interest anyway.
I am deeply ambivalent about the idea of Starfleet being associated with something like Section 31. It goes against everything the Star Trek myth has always stood for - cooperation, honesty, high ideals. Sure, Kirk had his share of Evil Admirals, but they were always shown to be crackpots acting on their own. Section 31 and Sloan have become Deep Space Nine's equivalent of the Syndicate and Cancer Man, and even though there is a war arc going on, I just don't think it adds anything to the series. At best, it provides the pretext for a couple of spy shows, but at worst it turns the franchise into something profoundly different - something dark and bitter, something perhaps more realistic but hardly distinguishable from The X-Files or Babylon 5 or Earth: Final Conflict or any other sci-fi series centering on a war between human(oid)s and aliens. It takes away what has made Star Trek original and fascinating for decades, all for a cheaply derivative storyline.
Once again we get proof that the stupidest thing a Starfleet officer can do is agree to go on a trip; has no one yet realized that that is always an invitation to tampering by Evil Aliens or Evil Admirals, even when there's not a war going on? I liked the idea of a medical conference full of military types and spies looking to mis-use technology; that rang very true, though it is surprising to find Starfleet leading the way instead of trying to put a stop to it. The Romulans in this episode were terrific: creepy and nasty and, well, ALIEN. The Cardassians have seemed all too human of late with their petty bickering and their myriad fits of conscience; we don't know as much about the Romulans even after 30+ years of having them around, so they make very interesting villains. I sure hope they don't kill Cretak because I'd love to see her back; Adrienne Barbeau plays her with just the right blend of emotional control and fire underneath. Koval, too, made quite an impression with his straightforward questions about biogenic weapons...and he's supposedly on the side of the good guys!
It sure will be interesting when a gung-ho Prime Directive die-hard like this week's Captain Janeway encounters a Starfleet full of people like Admiral Ross...
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