To find a cure for Odo’s disease, Bashir and O’Brien plan to use an illegal device to enter the mind of Section 31’s Sloan.
Plot Summary: After Bashir tells Kira that he can’t cure Odo’s disease, Odo insists that Kira should return to work, telling her that he doesn’t want her to watch him die. O’Brien urges Bashir to tell Sisko of their plan to lure Section 31 to the station to demand the disease’s cure. Though disturbed that Bashir plans to use an illegal Romulan mind probe to interrogate a Section 31 operative, Sisko is more horrified that Section 31 has attempted to commit genocide and does not report Bashir’s plan to Starfleet. When Sloan appears in Bashir’s quarters, the doctor traps him in a containment field, stuns him, and confines him in a science lab. Realizing that Bashir intends to invade his mind in search of the cure, Sloan activates a device to kill himself. Though Bashir is able to stabilize Sloan temporarily, the doctor knows he has little time before Sloan’s brain ceases to function. Afraid that Bashir will become lost navigating the pathways of Sloan’s brain, O’Brien insists on following Bashir into the agent’s mind. Once they’re attached to the device that interprets Sloan’s thoughts, Bashir and O’Brien find themselves inside a representation of Deep Space Nine, where a friendly Sloan promises to give them the cure but insists that first they must attend his memorial service, at which Sloan’s wife and friends thank Bashir for taking Sloan away from his secret plots. Another Sloan appears to shoot this altruistic one, leading Bashir and O’Brien to a corridor where a Section 31 agent shoots them both. Believing they’re going to die, O’Brien admits that Keiko will be upset because she’s always believed her husband loves Bashir more than her. Bashir declares that he loves Ezri but likes O’Brien a bit more. The two wake up in the lab on the station, but Bashir quickly realizes that this is a vision created by Sloan’s mind. They return to the door they were about to open when they were shot, finding a messy room full of padds. Bashir wants to read all the secret surveillance reports, but O’Brien reminds him that they must find the cure for Odo and get out before Sloan dies, which will kill them too. They are successful, and Bashir cures Odo after telling Ezri how beautiful she is. He also thanks O’Brien for keeping him focused, and O’Brien invites him to dinner with Keiko.
Analysis: “Extreme Measures” doesn’t have a particularly original storyline and in many ways is reminiscent of the far-too-many virtual reality episodes we’ve seen in Star Trek over the years, but it serves its function, though I think it would have been improved had the journey through Sloan’s mind been shorter to allow for more attention to the other story arcs that get neglected to expose Section 31. The benefit of bottle shows is that since the focus can’t be on space chases or alien planets, it must be on the characters, and that’s the saving grace of this episode. While it’s no “Duet” or “In the Pale Moonlight,” “Extreme Measures” delves into the franchise’s most intense relationship between two men since Kirk and Spock, and it’s quite gratifying to watch Bashir and O’Brien confess their love. The word “bromance” hadn’t been coined when DS9 first aired, and while buddy pairings like Bashir’s and O’Brien’s existed on other shows, I can’t think of another example with so many running gags about how much one man prefers the other over his own wife. Way back in “Explorers” and “Hippocratic Oath,” Miles was wishing that Keiko could be more like Julian. His current, lamely sputtered declarations of love for his wife don’t counteract the problematic way their marriage has been portrayed for nearly a decade, the fact that he and Keiko have so rarely seemed to make each other happy and have often chosen to spend month after month on different planets. We’ve seen for years now that O’Brien would rather spend time with Bashir than with his family, and though Bashir secretly may have yearned to be with Dax since she was Jadzia, he’s always chosen to devote far more of his energy to his friendships with O’Brien and Garak. No wonder Worf tries to warn Ezri that Bashir may never fully belong to her, and no wonder O’Brien eventually decides that he’d better pack up his family and move to Earth before his distraction wrecks his marriage. I’m not sure if Alexander Siddig ever confirmed that he purposefully played his character as bisexual the way Andrew Robinson did with Garak – the two actors often made such jokes instead of addressing the subject seriously to avoid contradicting the producers, who insisted that every single Starfleet officer happened to be straight – but Siddig certainly plays Bashir as more passionate about both O’Brien and Garak than any of the women who ever caught his eye.
References to Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities are already part of Star Trek’s more legendary bromance, the emotional scenes between Kirk and Spock in The Wrath of Khan. Neither are stories of mad scientists overreaching themselves in the name of protecting the Federation new to Star Trek – see Daystrom’s M5 on the original series and Next Gen’s cloaking device disaster stories – but as Bashir points out, Section 31 isn’t a couple of scary rogue people, it’s an infestation at the core of everything the UFP (and the series) is supposed to stand for. I’m delighted that Sisko utters the word “genocide” and I even find myself agreeing that laws protecting individual liberties mean too little to enforce in certain cases when such an organization can carry out a plan for the mass murder of an entire civilization, though the captain is essentially condoning torture when he lets Bashir go ahead with the plan to use the Romulan memory scanner. Sloan isn’t an individual terrorist, but, as Bashir points out, one of dozens of people who must have been complicit in creating and destroying the Founders’ disease, clerks and programmers as well as admirals and doctors. In some ways the discovery of this organization makes me less invested in the Federation winning the war, and I feel that getting rid of it should be as big a priority for Starfleet as those Breen weapons. Why defend the Federation from Dominion tyranny when there’s an organization that can sabotage both individual rights like Bashir’s – we never do find out whether Sloan’s threats to O’Brien’s family are just bluffs or whether Section 31 actually would do what the Dominion just did to Damar and murder children to punish their parents – and the voted-upon social and moral standards of the alliance. Suppose Sloan and his buddies had misunderstood how the Dominion worked, and instead of collapsing without the Founders giving orders, the Jem’Hadar and Vorta went on a massive suicidal assault against the Federation, the Romulans, and the Klingons? Despite all of Starfleet’s strategizing and sacrifice, the 100 or so people who came up with a genocide plan not run by any of the elected or promoted officials could have wiped out most civilization in the Alpha Quadrant.
We can guess that, like McCoy before him, Bashir will come up with a miraculous solution by connivance if not medical breakthrough. This is necessary not only to save Odo from the sort of death regular characters never get on Star Trek – it’s pretty clear that if people are going to die in this concluding arc, it will be saving planets, not wasting away – but to end the war and resolve the situation with the Founders, since they control the Dominion. Unfortunately the visual representation of Sloan’s mind has much in common with that of Bashir’s in “Distant Voices,” in which his dying brain also structured his consciousness around the physical form of Deep Space Nine. (Both of these episodes appear to have nicked elements from the movie Brainstorm, which is notable because Louise Fletcher a.k.a. Kai Winn played the dying scientist whose engrams are explored by Christopher Walken’s character in a manner similar to the way Bashir explores Sloan’s.) The entire journey belongs to Bashir and O’Brien, and they acquit themselves wonderfully, though I wish the writers had cut down the fooling around in the station-representing-Sloan’s-mind to spend a bit more time with the other characters. How does Ezri feel upon learning that her new love may be sacrificing his life for an experiment she knows nothing about? Does Worf consider this brave or foolhardy? Does Sisko have second thoughts about permitting Bashir to proceed, and finding out that he could lose his chief engineer as well? Is Quark still trying to cheer Odo up after that devastating scene in which Odo tells Kira that he refuses to let her watch him die in the same room where she lost Bareil? And as much as I love the focus on Bashir and O’Brien’s friendship, I’m sorry about the lack of follow-through on the sacrifice O’Brien persuades his friend to make so that they don’t both die with Sloan. Does Bashir’s genetically enhanced brain recall the names and dates he saw on the padds inside the representation of Sloan’s mind? How can he not making stopping Section 31 an even bigger priority now than Dominion War triage? It’s hard to imagine that Bashir can remain in Starfleet for much longer, taking orders from people who may be affiliated with this secret organization that commits such atrocities. If he wants to do right by the people he loves, who’ve all been willing to give their lives for the freedoms the Federation represents, then Section 31 has to go.