Star Trek DS9: Dr. Bashir, I Presume?
“Jules Bashir died in that hospital, because you couldn't live with the shame of having a son who didn't measure up!"
- Dr. Julian Bashir
The episode begins with Quark’s brother Rom trying to ask out Leeta, a Bajoran barmaid. He can’t work up the courage to ask out Leeta. Meanwhile, Dr. Lewis Zimmerman (Robert Picardo, the medical hologram from Star Trek Voyager.) says to Dr. Bashir that he needs to improve the medical hologram’s bedside manner, and wants to use Dr. Bashir as the holographic model. Dr. Bashir requests that he not contact his parents while collecting the necessary profile data.
However, he contacts them right away, and brings them onboard. Richard Bashir is an architect who never finishes a project. While at dinner with Julian, he mentions how proud he is of “Jules” for becoming the holographic model, and a top medical officer. The tension in the scene is so thick you could cut it. Usually confident, Dr. Bashir avoids eye contact with his parents, slumps down in his seat, and stares blankly while his parents talk around him and call him Jules. Finally, Julian explodes and tells his father that he hasn’t been called Jules since age 15, and all he is to him is another unfinished project! Here, it’s revealed that he was genetically enhanced against some form of mental disability, (Autism seems to be hinted; he couldn’t identify shapes, and was shy.) and Richard calls him ungrateful.
After the argument, Julian confides in Chief Engineer O’Brien his genetically-enhanced status, which is a Federation crime due to Khan in Kirk’s era, as O’Brien explains. Bashir isn’t comfortable with hiding his status anymore, and requests that, instead of him leaving Starfleet, that Starfleet arrest his parents, with none the wiser. Meanwhile, Richard Bashir feels remorseful for their argument, and tells “Jules” that they only did it because they loved him. He is unaware however, that he’s talking not to his son, but the medical hologram, so the secret is out.
Dr. Bashir scolds Zimmerman for letting his parents onboard, and tells him to get them off the station, or he’ll inform Starfleet. In a shocker of a moment, Dr. Zimmerman tells him “A full psychological profile was necessary,” and that the hologram already knows. His parents have made a bargain with Starfleet. They’ll go to jail, while he is allowed to remain. At first, Julian defends his parents, but the Starfleet officer explains that “For every Julian Bashir that could be created, there’s a Khan Singh waiting in the wings.” Julian says he’s sorry to his parents, and before their carried off, they say to make them proud.
Finally, we return to the subplot with Leeta and Rom. Dr. Bashir helps Rom ask out Leeta. Dr. Zimmerman then leaves, realizing he can’t interfere with the doctor’s good work. Chief O’Brien and Bashir play darts, with Bashir standing further back so there’s no unfair advantage.
I like this episode mainly because Bashir, for all his perfections, has a secret. And he gets talked around, and underappreciated for all his hard work. I think it makes his character easier to identify with. Secondly, I’ve been in that silence before, where you feel like you’re being talked around, and then just explode. The key though, seems to be to confide in friends. After all, it was more than childhood embarrassment on the line, it was Dr. Bashir’s recognition as a human being; his anger comes from being sidelined, and O‘Brien listens.
I would be remiss however, if I didn’t mention one last reason why I love this episode, and it has nothing to do with disability issues or sidelining. Here’s why: It picks up the Khan storyline. Originally, this was all but dropped from TNG because of continuity errors (Khan having been a dictator in the 90s; which is later attributed to war criminals destroying records.) and because it interfered with Gene Roddenberry’s vision of the Federation as a utopia. Here, genetic engineering is still practiced, and some good came out of it: Dr. Bashir. So, kudos to DS9, for resurrecting issues of genetic manipulation (and mention of Kirk’s greatest adversary!) with more complexity than the original series or TNG ever could have. With respect to Captain Kirk…okay, and Captain Picard!
(Captain Sisko looks on the Bashirs.)