Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Star Trek DS9: Statistical Probabilities

Star Trek DS9: Statistical Probabilities
Dr. Bashir: "It's not our place to decide who lives and who dies! We're not gods!"
Jack: "Maybe not, but we're the next best thing."
Dr. Bashir: “Can you hear yourself? That's precisely the kind of thinking that makes people afraid of us!"

Dr. Bashir welcomes four institutionalized individuals to the station. Each of the individuals has a strong “hidden” disability because of genetic manipulation. He hopes to help them move out of institutionalization. There’s Jack, who I think is bipolar (he speaks a mile-a-minute and has mood swings.) Lauren, who is a nymphomaniac or narcissist, always flirting with him and barely ever moving from a bed; Patrick, who has no emotional filter, and Serena, who is from what I see, catatonic. She can’t express herself at all.

Jack in particular is at first skeptic of Bashir’s intentions and calls him “Mr. Productive-Member-of-Society” often teasing or threatening to kill him because he’s not a “mutant”. In his eyes, Bashir gave up who he was, and Jack says he’s not going to let that happen to him. Jack keeps complaining about a noise, and Bashir admits he hears it, too. It turns out its a shorted power coupling. Their hearing is so sensitive, Patrick can help O’Brien with the engines just by listening.

    Bashir decides the easiest way to help them all adapt is to give them jobs.

After hearing a speech from a Dominion leader, they already know the whole history of the Dominion War. Dr. Bashir puts them to work on creating a truce for when the Dominion delegates arrive. There’s just one problem. Every solution they find has the Federation surrender to the Dominion, which will supposedly save 900 billion lives.
When O’Brien hears about it, he doesn’t buy it, saying it’s just probability. But, Bashir walks a fine line here between being unethical and defending his friends. He tells O’Brien that he’s just being “uncomplicated”, because he’s not genetically enhanced.

I find myself divided on Dr. Bashir’s actions. He wants to fit in, but he forgets his ethics.
Meanwhile, they have a celebration with dance and music in honor of the negotiations. O’Brien takes off Patrick’s party hat, and he starts to cry. Jack ties up Bashir after they disagree on the results. He still has bad blood about what “normal“ people have done to him. (seen above.)

Bashir convinces Serena to untie him. Eventually, Bashir sees he has no choice but to institutionalize them as long as they remain under Jack’s influence. After being caught by the psychiatrist, Jack offers thoughtfully: “If we find a way to beat the Dominion, will you let us back?” Bashir says he will find a way. O’Brien points out in the end, that since they didn’t include Serena in their analysis, its further proof that one person can make a difference.

As far as a disability episode, this raises a number of points. People are institutionalized for the wrong reasons some times; on the other hand, sometimes we as a disabled community fall victim to us vs. them thinking in response. (“normal” vs. “not normal”) I think the most important thing is to be judged for what we contribute, not for what we appear to be. Dr. Bashir honestly tries to help his friends, but Jack cares too much about revenge for perceived wrong-doings.

I do have mixed feelings about this episode, but it really does show DS9’s maturity in dealing with disability. Also, it completes Bashir’s arc, and he learns that although disability is a large part of whom he is, it isn’t the whole picture. I feel like sometimes I’ve forgotten who I was while I was looking for friends. But, in the end, Bashir decides that one person can make a difference.

Well, it’s been one heck of a trip to examine Star Trek through the lens of the ADA and disability issues. For me, Star Trek has always represented a hopeful future where science improves life. But looking back on it, I see it grew in its maturity as society did. Kirk wasn’t afraid to voice his opinion that “Every rose has its thorn.” but DS9 looked at the whole rose. I think more shows like Star Trek need to be on TV. I worry that we’ve gotten so used to technology failing us, that we forget how it gives people purpose, and improves lives.

When I look at the gamut of sci-fi today, I see the dominance of pessimism and cyberpunk. (And I’m all for cyberpunk! My favorite author is William Gibson: its “father”.) From Battlestar Galactica to Nolan’s Batman. Perhaps one of the things we can learn from Chris Pike (Star Trek TOS: The Menagerie) is that escapism isn’t always a bad thing, but we need to not avoid reality. Star Trek is ultimately an optimistic dream world. But as Dr. Bashir shows, we need to have purpose and to do things in the world to fulfill our lives. And that is what I hope for disability culture: A true purpose that isn’t afraid to dream!

(Scheming Jack, Lauren, and worried Patrick.) 

                                                                         (And Serena!)

No comments:

Post a Comment