Flowers For Algernon
"Statistical Probabilities" Plot Summary:
A group of genetically-enhanced people whose DNA resequencing had flaws are brought to the station to see whether Dr. Bashir can help them become more productive. They have spent years in an institution and are highly antisocial - Jack, the apparent leader, is aggressive and conceited, while Serena never speaks. When O'Brien enters their quarters to silence a sound in a conduit outside the range of normal human hearing, he turns on a monitor which enables the group to hear Gul Demar's speech as the new head of Cardassia, seeking peace with the Federation. They promptly offer astute political analysis, which Bashir presents to Sisko.
When Demar and Weyoun come to the station for peace talks, the enhanced group views a holorecording of the negotiations and concludes from body language and analysis of Dominion speech that the Dominion wants to negotiate for the Cabral system - which, as Serena suggests, contains the raw materials necessary for manufacturing Ketracel-White. Bashir suggests to Sisko that the Federation let them have the system and forestall a war, allowing time for a possible Romulan alliance and fragmentation in the Cardassian-Dominion alliance which the group's statistical probabilities indicate is inevitable. But then the group makes new calculations, concluding that a Dominion victory is ultimately inevitable and that surrender now will save hundreds of millions of lives.
Sisko will not even discuss the possibility of surrendering before the war starts, and Bashir is at first furious at the potential cost. But when the group seeks to meet with the Dominion to give away classified Starfleet information in order to make the inevitable invasion as quick and bloodless as possible, Bashir attempts to thwart them. Jack knocks him out, but Serena, whom Bashir has deduced is in love with Jack, frees the doctor so that he can stop the group from committing treason and going to prison. The group is caught before they can meet with Weyoun and Demar, and sent back to the institution, where they promise to work on a way to defeat the Dominion.
I used to hate Bashir stories; now they're often my favorite Deep Space Nine episodes. Last season's "Dr. Bashir, I Presume," in which we learned that Bashir had been genetically enhanced as a child, was one of the series' finest hours, and "Statistical Probabilities" was gripping and complex despite some serious flaws. Foremost among those was the characterization of the genetically enhanced women, who were both completely reduced to their sexuality: neither of them made intellectual contributions on the level of idiot savant Patrick, and one's purpose in life was seduction while the other's was to adore a violent, egocentric man. I guess their DNA resequencing primarily affected their bra size and capacity for sexual fulfillment.
I also felt very hit over the head by the "genetic enhancement is bad" messages. OK, we got that point last season in "Dr. Bashir, I Presume," and on Classic Trek in "Space Seed" and The Wrath of Khan; we did not need Worf's little speech, especially not in an episode about a group of people damaged by the side effects of the enhancements. That heavy-handedness almost wrecked this episode before it got off the ground, which would have been a real pity because once we saw them in action, the characters were both surprising and engrossing.
I loved the mutants paying attention to things Starfleet officers should, but don't think to: what words mean in their original languages before they get pureed in the Universal Translator, how what an enemy doesn't say or even look at can be as important as what they do. I also liked the fact that they were shown as deeply moral, though misguided; it makes sense that a group of people who've been so isolated would make what we'd consider to be a wrong choice about how to protect their own interests and the interests of the Federation, and I was pretty shocked to learn at the end that Starfleet was just sending them back to that same environment. If this is supposed to be a statement about how people in our own century dismiss mental patients, it was effective in making me angry, and I hope this policy turns around on them one day.
I wasn't so pleased with Bashir's quick turnaround, but then he was in the middle of a lot of conflicting forces this episode - Starfleet and Dominion, the Federation and its citizens, even the group of enhanced people who were so like him and so not like him. I got a scream out of the group noting that O'Brien was jealous of not having Bashir's attentions while his wife was away - hey, O'Brien wants to be with Bashir even when his wife is home, as we learned last season. I miss Bashir's ongoing flirtation with Garak, but Miles is almost as good. I do wonder about Bashir's genetically enhanced reflexes, though; I knew Jack was going to punch him before he did, surely someone with both psychiatric training and superlative muscle control could have seen that one coming and stopped it!
The ending was reductive, with O'Brien noting that it must have been hard for a doctor to permit what he perceived to be a huge loss of life instead of working with the mutants to make the surrender quick and relatively painless, though I liked Bashir's belated recognition that one person can change the fate of the universe. What in heck took him so long to figure that out, though? Surely anyone with enhanced intelligence knows that statistical probabilities can never identify every possible outcome and can grossly distort or underestimate the impact of random elements. He came across as pretty stupid for someone who's supposed to be so smart, as Miles pointed out. If Jim Kirk could reprogram the Kobayashi Maru scenario, surely hundreds of Starfleet officers can figure out a way to do the same vis a vis the Dominion. Heck, Sisko could always ask the Prophets for another deus ex machina miracle.
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