The QuickeningBy Michelle Erica Green
Posted at January 13, 2004 - 10:25 AM GMT
See Also: 'The Quickening' Episode Guide
Bashir and Dax land on a planet in the Delta Quadrant where the Dominion has inflicted the populance with an unpredictable, painful always-fatal disease. Death rapidly follows "the quickening," when red lesions appear all over the victim's body. Bashir meets a pregnant woman who is determined to live to see her child, and begins experiments to treat the ailment.
Trevian, a local anesthesiologist who euthanases patients when they quicken, is opposed to Bashir prolonging the suffering of his people, and encourages the patients to commit suicide rather than permit themselves to be experimented on. Bashir is not unsympathetic to his patients' pain, but assumes that he can treat the illness, until he realizes that all his work on his pregnant friend is failing.
The woman dies just after giving birth...and the doctor realizes that the baby is immune to the illness. He has not found a cure, but he has found a vaccine to prevent it. Trevian promises to make certain that all women are injected with the compound.
Along with "Rejoined," this was probably my favorite episodes all season. Not only was it well-written and superbly acted, it had lasting consequences - unlike "The Visitor" and "Little Green Men," terrific episodes whose events were negated by the return of the familiar timeline. "The Quickening" has lasting implication for the growth of Julian Bashir and the Federation's understanding of the Jem'Hadar.
Most importantly, this was a show about issues which resonate in our own era - a show with a message, like the best Classic Trek. Probably a lot of viewers will zero in on the Dr. Kevorkian parallels, but I saw Trevian's role as more complex, and Bashir's reaction to him therefore more interesting. Trevian is not a doctor - not even a scientist, to the best of our knowledge - he took no Hippocratic oath. And even if he had, the question of what "doing no harm" means in a society where everyone is condemned to an early, painful death is a lot more complicated than Bashir wants to admit at first.
The pregnant woman's isolation from her peers bothered me - surely there are others on the planet who want to live at least long enough to see their children, and if not, then Bashir's assisting her could be viewed as a violation of the planet's balance of power. Bashir seems to have more problems with the Prime Directive than any other member of the DS9 crew, and I wonder whether this wasn't another example of that; he tried to cure the Jem'Hadar addiction to a Dominion drug in "Hippocratic Oath" without regard to the balance of power in the Gamma Quadrant. Both his attempts to sabotage Trevian's suicide clinic and his efforts to cure the disease itself seem somewhat questionable to me.
I wish Bashir and Dax would have considered talking with Sisko before launching such an endeavor; failing that, I don't understand why they didn't simply take some of the aliens back to DS9, where they have far better research equipment. For that matter, they probably have better euthanasia drugs, and people could presumably be kept in stasis while Bashir researched the illness. That may be a nitpick, but when the topic is suicide, such questions are of vital importance: are there alternatives to a slow, painful death or a quick painless one?
I found it odd that never once did Bashir - nor Sisko, back on the station - discuss some means of contacting the Dominion to negotiate for a cure. Interesting as it was to see Julian isolated and fighting his own battles, the larger issues are social in nature, and those were largely left untouched.
Michelle Erica Green reviews 'Enterprise' episodes for the Trek Nation, for which she is also a news writer. An archive of her work can be found at The Little Review.