WARNING: This article contains spoiler information for DS9's "Hippocratic Oath". If you dislike spoilers, then "first, do no harm" by leaving this article alone.
In brief: Well, the weakest offering of the season so far ... but still fairly decent.
Brief summary: Bashir and O'Brien are captured by renegade Jem'Hadar soldiers looking for a cure for their addiction.
One of the best words I can use to describe "Hippocratic Oath" is "competent". Much of the plot (or plots, I should say, given that there were two) was a little uninspired, but solid; what proved interesting in the episode was the character conflict and the various resolutions. However, at least one of those conflicts was so interesting in its execution as to bring much of the episode up with it.
That conflict, of course, was between Bashir and O'Brien as to whether to help the Jem'Hadar who captured them. Given that one of the first milestones in this pair's friendships came when they were nearly killed and/or held captive in "Armageddon Game" two years ago, it seems only fair that the first significant strain between them in a while would come in an equally dangerous state. And the conflict, while veering on being called predictable, was more a logical one: based on the characters, it's not surprising that Bashir would see things primarily in terms of his "patients" and rationalize any way he could to justify helping them, and it's equally likely that O'Brien, who is fiercely loyal to the Federation and its ideals, will react very badly to any move that could jeopardize it.
Some of the details surrounding the rebellious Jem'Hadar are leaving me a little perplexed, however. While last season's "The Abandoned" certainly set up the "addiction" situation used here, that same episode also made it clear that the soldiers had been programmed with an unswerving loyalty to the Founders. As such, it strikes me as a little odd that they'd come to view themselves as slaves at all, much less try to actually leave the Dominion. I think some care was taken with that -- it was carefully pointed out that none of these Jem'Hadar had ever even seen a Founder, only the Vorta -- but it still feels like a conflict to me. (My other concern is a more strategic one; when the Jem'Hadar were searching for O'Brien towards the end, I wonder
why they didn't "fade out" to do so. That'd certainly be a help.)
The other significant problem with the Jem'Hadar side of the episode was more of a performance problem. Quite frankly, the performances of all the Jem'Hadar players were so uniform that I had an awful lot of difficulty telling them apart -- and that's not good. Scott MacDonald was a little more recognizable than the others (as well he should be, having appeared several times in Trek materials over the past few years), but even he was difficult to pick out from the rest until perhaps the last twenty minutes or so. Given how programmed the soldiers are meant to be, that may have been intentional -- but if so, I think it was a bad move, since it served primarily to distract me from the story.
The real issue here, however, was the conflict between Bashir's desire to help anyone in need of it and O'Brien's worries about the larger implications. It's interesting to point out that there really is no real "answer" to the question that was raised here -- Bashir's hope that a cure for the Jem'Hadar would deprive the Dominion of its army might have been borne out, as might O'Brien's fear that an independent Jem'Hadar would simply prove an equal or larger menace on its own. Conflicts that aren't just black and white are generally far more
interesting to me than easily resolved "X vs. Y" issues, and this was handled well enough that it turned out to be a beaut.
By far the most interesting part of this was the turnaround of Bashir, the younger man who's idolized O'Brien in the past, actually asserting his status as senior officer and ordering O'Brien to help Bashir in his work. The potential for that has always existed, of course, but I don't think Julian has ever actually given such an order in the past. Just from looking at O'Brien suddenly freezing when it happened certainly suggests that it didn't -- and given how well it turned out, that's perhaps not such a bad thing. Both men were so firmly convinced that they were right and the other was wrong that they went to great lengths to get that point across. Quite honestly, it's that point that made "Hippocratic Oath" interesting, not the Jem'Hadar issue itself. Seeing O'Brien actually destroy Bashir's work -- "You can bring me up on charges when we get back" -- and the subsequent frosty tone their conversation took as they finally arrived back home afterwards was where the real power of the episode lay.
My one worry is that it'll all be forgotten next week. The ending even implied that, to some extent -- Bashir's hope that they'd be able to recommence their darts games "in a few days" suggests to me that by next week, it'll be water under the bridge. I'm not insisting that it should be a festering sore by any means, but I'd be wary of seeing any scenes of them laughing and joking away in Quark's any time soon as well. Things as deeply rooted as what we saw here take time to resolve, I think -- and a lack of follow-through will hurt.
As for the "B" plot of the episode, Worf's approach to security contrasted with Odo's ... well, I'm leaning pretty neutral on that score. The differing approaches are appreciated, and it certainly makes sense that Worf would feel like getting involved in his old field of security (as well as that he would goof up substantially without knowing the territory), but this plot really did feel done by the numbers. I'm not sure there was a single scene I didn't call in advance (except for the order -- I had Worf barging in and blowing Odo's painstaking work a scene or two earlier than he did), and without being exquisitely done that sort of predictability tends to pall. The best moment in this side of the episode came when Sisko was talking to him at the end, because Sisko got in a great "meta-line": "Let's just say that DS9 has more shades of grey." That could be applied as well to DS9 as a series (when done properly) as to the situation he was describing, and the double meaning there was greatly
A few other, shorter points:
-- Bashir's and O'Brien's conversation in the runabout in the teaser was amusing. I particularly liked the way it ended: "so you wish Keiko ... were a man?" "I wish I was on this trip with someone else, that's what I wish." While the exchange was humorous, I also like the fact that it wasn't done in a sniggering, "ooh-icky" schoolboy
-- The scenes with O'Brien on the run didn't strike me as a particularly big deal, but I did like Miles managing to escape right out from under his guard's nose in the runabout. We've been told before that he's a good engineer, but this is one of the more vivid times that was shown to good emphasis.
-- Unless my eyes were deceiving me, Sisko was working on the same clock we've seen in past episodes while he talked to Worf in the final minutes of the episode. I wonder what he sees in that thing. :-) (It certainly broke up the scene, though, which I'm sure was the intent.)
That more or less covers things, I think. I wouldn't call "Hippocratic Oath" a standout by any means, but it was certainly watchable, particularly in the second half. So, wrapping up:
Writing: The story was pretty basic, but the character work with Bashir and O'Brien was quite strong.
Directing: I'm just glad Rene Auberjonois got to direct something besides a Ferengi show. :-) It seemed fine.
Acting: The Jem'Hadar were uninspired, but most everyone else was fine.
OVERALL: Hmm ... I think I'll call this a 6.5. Decent and watchable, but nothing earth-shattering.
The daughter of Dukat?
Tim Lynch (Harvard-Westlake School, Science Dept.)
"You are a soldier?" "I have been." "Then you explain."