Life Support (#StarTrek #DS9 Rewatch, Season 3, Episode 13) Bashir keeps the gravely injured Bareil alive to help Kai Winn secure a treaty with the Cardassians

Rewatching ST:DS9

An accident aboard a transport arriving at the station rattles Kai Winn and seriously injures Vedek Bareil.

Winn suspects the accident may have been sabotage, infodumping to Sisko that Bareil is crucial to the success of secret peace talks with Cardassia. Winn admits that since she won the election as Kai, her former rival has proved himself a loyal aide, and she not only credits him but admits she doubts she would have been as forgiving.

Bareil does not fare well, despite Bashir’s best efforts. Bashir tells Kira he is on life support, and never regained consciousness.

But as they are preparing for the autopsy, Bashir notices the plot contrivance particles that caused the accident appear to have technobabbled his biology in such a way that more technobabble will restart his brain.

Winn is sincerely impressed, and eager for the resurrected Bareil to help her with the planned negotiations. Bashir insists his patient needs rest.

The B plot, which began in the teaser when a pretty girl (played by Lark Vorhees, of “Saved by the Bell” fame) asks Jake to dinner, develops as Jake tries to cancel his plans with Nog, but instead ends up agreeing to a double-date.

Winn is readily, even humbly, accepting Bariel’s diplomatic advice. But the technobabbling didn’t quite unflabbergast Bariel’s brain jimberjams, so Bashir wants to put Bareil in stasis.

Bareil insists that, despite the danger to him, the success of the talks is much more important. Bashir will therefore start a riskier kind of technobabbling to unflabbergast the brain jimberjams.

Sisko mediates the negotiations; during a recess, Winn admits her religious training didn’t prepare her for this kind of work.

Jake is also trying to mediate, as Nog offends their dates with his sexist commentary, and Jake offends Nog by treating “females” as their equals. At one point they all start laughing, and it looks almost as if the night is saved. But no.

The technobabbling of Bareil’s brain is damaging his internal organs. Bashir threatens to have security throw Winn out if she doesn’t let his patient rest.

Bashir appeals to Winn’s ego, suggesting that if she finishes the talks on her own she’ll get all the glory. But Winn cooly notes that the success of the talks isn’t guaranteed, and Bashir realizes that Winn intends to blame Bareil if the talks fail.

It’s a chilling moment, absolutely nailed by actress Louise Fletcher (who sadly passed away just last week). We never actually like Winn in this episode, but because she expressed concern for Bareil’s health in the opening scene, because she praised his talents and even admitted that he is more forgiving than she could be, it looked like maybe the script was suggesting that Winn was softening under Bareil’s influence. But no.

She’s scheming and he’s naive, and it’s infuriating to watch. (Which is of course the point.)

Meanwhile, even though we in the audience are inclined to side with Jake because Nog was so awful to the girls, Space Dad encourages Jake not to give up on Nog.

Soon Jake and Nog are in the same holding cell, accused by Odo of theft. The two manage to repair their friendship, despite the fact that they admit they each dislike the other’s treatment of women. Nog is also depicted as clever enough to realize that the jail scenario is a setup, and he seems impressed by Jake’s deviousness.

Bareil is barely functioning, and Kira has to watch as the man she loves fades away in the service of Kai Winn’s political aims.

During a post-treaty celebration, Winn features in a rare comic scene, as Quark introduces a chocolate confection he named after Her Eminence.

When Bareil takes yet another turn for the worse, a heartbreaking scene in the infirmary features Bashir finally taking a stand, Winn deftly shifting to his side, and Kira facing the consequences. “I just wish we’d had more time for us. There’s so much I never told you, but this is the time we have left so I’d better say it now.”

Bashir’s emotional speech refers to Bareil’s “humanity,” which is awkward because, as a Bajoran, Bareil is not actually human. Maybe “sentience” or “dignity” would have worked better.

While I appreciate that a main thrust of DS9 is a desire to explore friendships between species with different value systems, and I realize the relationship between series regular Jake and recurring guest star Nog is more important than the story of the teen girls whose personhood Jake tacitly admits is less important than his friendship with Nog.

Kira’s final scene with Bareil had a big impact on me. I only saw it once, 30 years ago when it first aired, but I remembered some of her lines word-for-word.