Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

"Babel"

**1/2

Air date: 1/25/1993
Teleplay by Michael McGreevey and Naren Shankar
Story by Sally Caves and Ira Steven Behr
Directed by Paul Lynch

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

A virus designed by the Bajorans 18 years earlier to infect the Cardassians is inadvertently released into DS9's food replicators and atmosphere, eventually infecting everybody on board the station. Once Bashir diagnoses it, the episode becomes a race against the clock to find a cure before the incubation period expires and the virus begins killing people.

The "race against the clock" is not a particularly effective part of this story, because we all know DS9 is not about to become a floating morgue. The ending, where an antidote is all-too-easily and quickly created (and then administered between scenes with a cut to the exterior of the station) goes a long way toward destroying any remaining sense of danger.

On the other hand, a lot of the character details within the plot work nicely. Kira's tracking down the Bajoran experts on the virus is plausibly handled and interesting (as is the way she kidnaps the man who may be able to find the cure). Odo and Quark continue to display their camaraderie-in-code. Sisko and Jake are believable as father and son, with scenes that resonate. And Colm Meaney's O'Brien is terrific in the opening acts, faced with a broken-down nightmare of a space station where nothing works right. But what's most interesting is the virus itself, which has an inspired, aphasic side effect that causes a breakdown in verbal communication, reducing everyone to babbling incoherence.

Previous episode: A Man Alone
Next episode: Captive Pursuit

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12 comments on this review

William - Tue, Jul 24, 2012 - 11:03pm (USA Central)
I concur yet again. I liked it better than I remember from the initial airings in the '90s.

Kira was the best part of the episode for me.
Van_Patten - Sat, Aug 4, 2012 - 7:21am (USA Central)
An intriguing twist on an old premise, that of the incurable, unknown disease that appears from nowhere. Whilst fixing one of the many mechanical problems bedevilling the wrecked station, O'Brien inadvertently triggers a virus leftover from the early days of the Cardassian occupation.

The first half of the episode is very strong - Colm Meaney is excellent as the 'Everyman' fixer frustrated that hs crew mates seem to expect instant results with no understanding of the myriad problems he is facing. Having had to undertake similar roles at points in my own working life, I can really relate to it! I also like the aphasia virus :

'Oh, Major, Lar's true pepper'

Being one of my favourite lines from the series! What lets it down really is the ending which seems forced. Kira beams the architect of the virus' assistant to a runabout and all's back to normal -one of the most egregious uses of the 'reset' button I have seen in Trek. It's a real shame because the performances of Meaney, Auberjonois (again) and Shimmerman (Why couldn't they keep him in this mode?) are all excellent. Certainly the cast, possibly Terry Farrell apart, seems much stronger and the characters much better defined than at the equivalent point in TNG's cycle. The ending however, does make it for me slightly weaker than ''A Man Alone' but still, 2.5 stars and shows a heartening degree of consistency so early in the series run.
Cail Corishev - Tue, Sep 11, 2012 - 7:29pm (USA Central)
Fun episode. I didn't mind the last-minute reset solution, because it made sense that there would have been an antidote, and Kira followed a logical path to track it down. Very different from trying a series of technobabble solutions until one works.

After Kira beamed the doctor to the runabout, there was a scene where she argues with him and points out that he's now infected, and then a couple more when they arrive at the station and he starts working from Bashir's notes. Short scenes, and he figures it out awfully quickly, but they did cover it. (Maybe he already knew how to do it, but didn't want to admit that much culpability.)
DG - Wed, Dec 12, 2012 - 5:17am (USA Central)
I'm not sure why, but this is my favorite DS9 episode...

I just finished *all* of DS9 (except the last episode. Don't eat me--I do that with all shows I like. That way it goes on in my head. I haven't seen the last episode of TNG, Danny Phantom, Voyager... I saw the vid for Firefly and the last episode of Monk and now I can't watch them anymore. :( )

In retrospect: Odo. Looks. WEIRD! Absolutely creepy... It's like his eyes are going to poke out of his head and his hair's popping off his head relative to Season 7.

Awww! Jake's so teeny! And cute! And them being so close just looks so much deeper now after seeing "The Visitor". Before, it was like 'heh, cliche crap between a forced parental relationship.' Now it's like "aww!!! CUTE!!!! Sisko and Jake!!! :)

Nerys looks the *exact* same except for the haircut, which doesn't count.

I remember thinking 'giant cranium' was a standard Trill thing with the way Jadzia wears her ponytails early on.

NCC-1701-Z - Mon, Mar 18, 2013 - 12:17am (USA Central)
I kinda liked this ep - very TOS-adventure-style - an old cliche of "Cure The Disease Before We All Die", but done well. The virus was a very unique idea and the Sisko-virus-stricken-Jake scenes were very well done.

The ending was too quick though. And couldn't the doctor have just grabbed a phaser from that alcove in the runabout cabin and forced Kira to return him? I really hope they get rid of those phaser alcoves, they kind of annoy me...

Did I mention that O'Brien is awesome in the beginning? I'm sure many working-age men can relate to something breaking down as soon as something else is fixed. I love that guy - he just seems to be like the "everyman" kind of character.

3 stars
grumpy_otter - Sun, Apr 7, 2013 - 8:08pm (USA Central)
Sung to the tune of "Cinderelly, Cinderelly"


Chief O'Brien, Chief O'Brien
Night and day, it's Chief O'Brien!
"Make my coffee, fix the airlock, console's offline, lab is noisy!"
"And the sectors and the phasers!"
They always keep him hopping!
He goes around in circles, till he's very, very dizzy
Still, they holler,
Keep a-busy, Chief O'Brien!

azcats - Thu, Sep 5, 2013 - 9:45am (USA Central)
interesting, odo says Rom is an idiot...but i know from later episodes he is quite brilliant..i wonder if this will be continuity problem. or dod they not know how smart he is..

I liked the scene where the doctor is looking at the screen and all the words change. (Fyi, the computer screens on Voyager are MUCH better!)

I swear that when Sisko was talking to jake and jake was saying nothing..that jake was going to start talking gibberish!
Paul - Thu, Sep 5, 2013 - 10:09am (USA Central)
@azcats: The Rom character was pretty clearly reconceived at some point after the first few episodes. If you listen to his conversation with Keiko about sending Nog to school, he's a completely different character. His voice is even off.

Now, that's not a huge thing. The Dax character changed a lot after the first season and Odo certainly looked and spoke differently after the early episodes (and Bashir toned down the annoying after season 2). But the creators clearly changed Rom early in the series' run.

Far harder to take was Nog's change. In an early episode, Jake is teaching him how to read. But by the third season, he's applying to get into Starfleet Academy! WTF.
Snitch - Fri, Oct 4, 2013 - 6:45pm (USA Central)
The first half was indeed quite entertaining O' Brien is excellent in his role.

Rom was redesigned from bumbling fool, to genius bumbling fool.

Quark is still up to no good, funny how the crew loves him so much.

The race against the clock scenario was lame. Keira's kidnapping of the doctor was a nice touch. Antidote found in one hour not so much.

2 stars from me.
Kotas - Tue, Oct 22, 2013 - 1:37pm (USA Central)

I just couldn't get past how dumb it was to have characters spouting random words.

2/10
Elliott - Sat, Nov 30, 2013 - 5:51pm (USA Central)
Uck

Equal parts cheese (I can't believe we got that early TNG-style joke to credits bit with Sisko and the coffee), boredom (did we have to see every single character succumb to the virus in exactly the same way?), weirdness (I think the aphasia speaks for itself) and pointlessness (that gratuitous bit with the exploding vessel, Sisko sitting with an incoherent Jake). When DS9 doesn't have a storyline to develop, it's amazing how bad it can be.

1/2 a star for Quark saving some face.
Jack - Sun, Jan 19, 2014 - 8:09pm (USA Central)
Two things...

[1] At the end when Sisko's coffee still sucks, he hollers at O'Brien...did he think O'Brien, in his stupor, had time to fix it? It was probably supposed to be funny, bit it just came off as stupid.

[2] When the Doctor that Kira swiped was told by Kira that she was infected, he turned his head, but as far as he knew, it wasn't an airborne illness, but rather a foodborne one. It only mutated into an airborne strain during the crisis, but he didn't know that.

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