WARNING: There are spoilers for DS9's "Our Man Bashir" present here. "Do you expect me to read them?" "No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!"
In brief: A few glitches here and there, but mostly very ... cute.
Brief summary: Bashir is trapped in a James Bond-like holosuite program with the physical patterns of his crewmates used as other characters in the piece -- facing the prospect of killing one of them for real or being killed himself.
I suppose it was bound to happen eventually. After all, as much as Trek is held up as a marvel of screen longevity (with the 30th anniversary of TOS next year, deservedly so), Bond's been around even longer. Given that fact, someone was bound to think of a "Trek does Bond" episode at some point. And given the last several years of Trek, a "holodeck/transporter gone wonky" story is the way it'd almost be fated to happen. Unfortunately, holodeck-malfunction stories have been done so much that it's almost impossible for me to
get really enthusiastic about one. However, this one was played extremely well -- well enough that I can swallow most of the silliness used to get there.
In fact, one element of the setup actually made a lot of sense for me: for once, the fact's been noted that storing someone's transporter pattern takes a LOT of room. Tons and tons of it. From there, if one can just make the leap that the major problem is the "consciousness" rather than the physical pattern, the rest of the
station-based antics in the show actually make some kind of sense. As a result, even though that aspect of the show was tech-heavy, it didn't seem so bad. (I do wish there hadn't been the need for the "jeopardy" angle, though; if you're going to do a show that's deliberately goofy like this one, it's better off to avoid one, I think.)
The element of the setup I disliked most, bar none, however, was the fact that yet again we have almost all the major characters in the same place when that place isn't the station. This time it isn't even the Defiant; it's a runabout, for heaven's sake, and there's not even a whole lot of room there. We never found out what that conference the five of them were attending was, but I have difficulty thinking of anything that requires that many command officers from the same place. (It also couldn't have been a Starfleet gathering, as then Bashir would have come along and Kira wouldn't have.)
Most of the rest of the show stands or falls on how well the Bond pastiche was carried off. I wouldn't consider myself an expert on things Bond-like, but I know enough to have a semi-informed opinion, which is that most of it worked quite well. So, it's time to look at the various elements in isolation.
Just as "Little Green Men" captured a lot of the little touches in bad alien-invasion movies, so did "Our Man Bashir" try hard to call to mind little details of Bond movies here and there, and it mostly succeeded. The character names, for instance, were classic straight down the line: a Russian agent named Anastasia, mad scientist Dr. Hippocratus Noah, Professor Honey Bare, the assassin Falcon, and of course, Bashir's valet, Mona Luvsitt. Similarly, the holo-storyline, namely Noah's plan to remake the world anew by flooding the entire world save his base near the peak of Mt. Everest, was typical Bond villainy: overblown, world-threatening, and totally absurd in every respect. :-)
[I also particularly liked the card game between Bashir and Duchamps. I originally thought to myself "damn, it's blackjack; should be baccarat". Then it turned out to be baccarat, which thrilled me to no end. :-) ]
On the acting side, most of the regulars were good in their alternate roles. Colm Meaney was particularly solid; even though we saw very little of Falcon, he felt right. Nana Visitor was also excellent; she threw herself into the part with just the right amount of silliness. Terry Farrell was fine for what she had to do (very little), and Dorn was decent, though a bit flat.
I'm of decidedly mixed emotions about Avery Brooks's Dr. Noah, though. While the plan was classic Bond, most Bond villains I'm acquainted with are not as totally over-the-top as Brooks went here. Auric Goldfinger never ranted that much, nor did Ernst Stavro Blofeld (at least in the best uses of him). It's not a particularly big
problem, as Brooks's mania fit the style of the episode, but I'm just not certain I buy it.
That leaves the characters of Bashir and Garak, who are special cases, as they were actually conscious ones and not simple holodeck roles. Siddig was good as Bashir-as-Bond, certainly; bon mots such as "a
lot of kick for a '45 Dom" came naturally enough. What was most interesting about the pair, though, was the conflict between them, which despite my enthusiasm for Garak was one I hadn't really thought about until it came up. Given Garak's former ... profession, of course he's going to be looking at Bashir's program with a
somewhat jaundiced eye -- all his comments about what "real spies" have to do as opposed to "Julian Bashir, Secret Agent" were befittingly acid. In fact, it's very reasonable to suppose that this might be why Bashir had been so close-mouthed about this particular program: subconsciously, he knew how Garak would react.
Regardless, the question of Garak's training versus Bashir's "acting the part" went a long way to provide some actual characterization in a show that was otherwise just a romp. Unfortunately, it was a little bit mixed. I liked the core conflicts between them, and Garak's demand that Bashir stop "treating this like a game where everything's going to turn out all right in the end". However, I think Garak was a bit too talkative about his past here; he's never been so up-front about his time in the Order before, and even given the circumstances he felt
entirely too voluble for me.
The rest of it, however, was golden -- my only fear is that it'll go without consequences. After all, the friction between them got great enough that Bashir did shoot at Garak, possibly trying to kill him. That's not something that can be papered over with a lunch, even if it is in Hong Kong. And, even given the stress of the moment, it has to hurt for Bashir to remember Garak's statement that he was "a man who dreams of being a hero because you know deep down that you're not." That's also not something easily papered-over; when you know a friend looks at part of you that contemptuously, some part of your relationship has to change. So, while on some level I think the friction added to the quality of the episode tremendously, on another level I'm worried that it will up the eventual frustration level when nothing changes.
On the whole, though, "Our Man Bashir"was just good, plain fun. So, a few other comments:
-- The music was mostly good, and nicely evocative of early Bond films -- but a few times it got just a bit too cheesy for my liking.
-- The decor was terrible, as were the fashions; fortunately, we had Garak around to note all of that for us. :-)
-- Boy, Bashir thinks fast. His final stalling for time with Dr. Noah was classic.
-- Garak had a number of classic lines: "I think I joined the wrong intelligence service!" had to be up near the top.
-- The one element of Bond films I missed was the gadgetry; aside from the cigar and Anastasia's earring, there wasn't any. Still, early Bond films tended not to have much...
That about covers it. Offhand, I think we're witness to an amazing circumstance: we've had the entire opening batch of new DS9 episodes go by, without one total disaster. Some of them have been only okay, but none of them has been unpleasant. That's astounding, especially given last season.
Anyway, wrapping up:
Writing: The plot had a few convenient setups, and the transporter malfunction itself is a cliche, but on the whole it was good. Characterization was mostly fine.
Directing: Very nice; all the classic Bond moments were there.
Acting: I'm still not sure about Brooks; everyone else was great.
OVERALL: 8, I think. Pretty good fun, but not top-notch.
NEXT WEEK: A rerun of last season's "Explorers".
Tim Lynch (Harvard-Westlake School, Science Dept.)
"I must say, Doctor, this is more than I ever wanted to know about your fantasy life."