Babel (#StarTrek #DS9 Rewatch, Season 1, Episode 5) Virus Garbles Everyone’s Speech

Rewatching ST:DS9

Overworked O’Brien is fixing all the things. (The scene in Dax’s lab is great comedy). As he tinkers in a crawlspace, we see an ominous little hidden blinking thing. 

Various brief character scenes (is Odo gloating or commiserating over the slow business at Quark’s; Sisko thanks the overworked O’Brien and we get a brief update on Keiko’s school; Dax tells Kira she’s enjoying the attention she gets while using a female host body) cleverly deliver plot points (Quark hacked into the station computer to locate a working replicator; O’Brien momentarily misspeaks; business at Quark’s is booming again).

The story really gets rolling when O’Brien starts talking nonsense and Bashir realizes some kind of virus is affecting his brain. Kira finds the blinky thing attached to the command-level replicator and decides it’s a Cardassian bio-weapon.

Bashir determines the whole station is infected, and that the virus is not Cardassian but Bajoran. As Bashir works in his lab (the production emphasizes his interaction with props; he’s not just waving a tricorder and spewing medical technobabble), Kira reaches out to a resistance contact to find the creator of the virus. Meanwhile, more and more of our characters start talking nonsense, and then develop a fever.

The scene depicting Kira combing through records via a voice interface hasn’t aged well. (Why doesn’t she instruct the computer to search all districts at once, instead of searching each district one at a time?) The green pixellated typeface on the Cardassian computer screens also looks dated. But when we get a nice close-up of the nonsense text that O’Brien writes on a PADD, the Starfleet LCARS interface still looks great.

Odo, apparently unaffected by the virus, finds himself taking on more responsibility, and finds himself well out of his comfort zone. The scene where Quark shows up at Ops is very well done. (Is he gloating, or commiserating?)

While Bashir’s brilliance risks turning him into another Wesley, this script carefully requires the characters to work together.

The episode was strong until the final act, when the whole story — and the future of the entire TV series — suddenly depends on the actions of a total stranger.

I liked seeing O’Brien show a bit of attitude. I don’t remember noticing or appreciating the Quark/Odo relationship as much as I’ve been enjoying it on my rewatch.