"Life Support" Plot Summary:
On the way to the station for peace talks with the Cardassians, Kai Winn and Vedek Bareil's shuttlecraft is sabotaged, and the Vedek is near death. While putting him in stasis would permit Bashir to prolong his life long enough to devise a treatment, Bareil insists that he must be conscious and functioning in order for the talks to proceed, and Kai Winn is adamant that the doctor listen to the patient.
The peace talks go well, though Winn is uncertain how to proceed and dependent on Bareil's guidance. When it becomes obvious that his brain will fail, Bashir uses a radical implant which gives Bareil half an artificial brain. This keeps him functioning a little longer, but Bareil no longer feels like himself: he seems to be at great distance from everyone who mattered to him.
When, ultimately, the other side of Bariel's brain begins to fail, Kira begs Bashir to replace that half too with an artificial implant. But the doctor reiterates Bareil's belief that he's no longer completely a man, and refuses to perform the surgery. Once the talks are over and she no longer needs him, Winn concurs with the decision to let Bareil go. Despite her own grief, Kira must say goodbye.
Speaking as someone who never completely approved of Bareil's relationship with Kira, I am nonetheless saddened at his passing, which marks the end of an era for Bajor and undoubtedly represents the beginning of the end of progressive Bajoran spirituality. When we first saw Bareil, he was presented to us as the epitome of forward-thinking religious leadership: firm yet open-minded in his beliefs, authoritative but affectionate to those seeking his guidance, pragmatic enough to keep a distance from politics but unwilling to stand down when his ideals were challenged. He impressed me, as he did Sisko and Kira, right from the beginning.
I never fully sanctioned Kira's involvement with Bareil; he brought out her unlikely tendencies to suppress her opinions and swoon giddily, instead of engaging her in lively debate which would have revealed far more about the characters as well as about Bajor than their happily-ever-after affair did. Still, I feel for Kira's loss and for all Bajor: between the deaths of Li Nalas and Bareil, the ascension of Winn, the disgrace of Jaro and the Circle, and the peace treaty with Cardassia, the entire populace must be suffering a profound sense of displacement. Here's hoping that we get to share that with them in a meaningful way, instead of getting carted off to the Gamma Quadrant
I have to quickly note how wonderful Kai Winn was in this episode, asking Bashir if he could replace Bareil's brain! It sounds as if she has genuinely changed, and genuinely cares for the Vedek, but then we start to see the greed, the selfishness, the hunger for power (and for Kai Winn Souffle with Haligian Tongue Sauce). She ends up with credit for a peace agreement Bareil masterminded, and no one can fault her for a thing. Ah, that Kai.
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