Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

"Hippocratic Oath"


Air date: 10/16/1995
Teleplay by Lisa Klink
Story by Nicholas Corea and Lisa Klink
Directed by Rene Auberjonois

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"It smells like a garbage dump."
"I'm sorry I couldn't find a nicer place to crash-land. Should we try again?"

— Bashir and O'Brien

Nutshell: Not up to the first two episodes of the season, but a good show with a good argument.

When an accident allows a Jem'Hadar soldier named Goran'Agar (Scott MacDonald) to free himself of the drug dependency that keeps the Jem'Hadar masses under direct control of the Founders, he captures Bashir and O'Brien—ordering them to help him in his mission to free his military unit from the drug as well.

Well, "Hippocratic Oath" can't really live up to the first two installments of this season, but considering those first two installments what do you want? This episode is, however, another good outing, featuring an interesting twist in the Jem'Hadar, showing that they do have their own internal vulnerabilities. Given the right circumstances, this idea could show up again in future episodes, possibly as an undoing of the control the Dominion has over its military.

Although this show is not always on-the-money, it is a good premise, and the writers do capitalize on the opportunity characterwise. We again get a closer look at the Jem'Hadar and their lifestyle, which is no more than that of a 24-hour soldier. However, it's interesting to note how Goran'Agar becomes more and more able to think independently and question his service to the Founders now that he has freed himself of his drug addiction. He begins to develop his own moral structure.

Bashir begins thinking about helping Goran'Agar overcome the addiction—which puts him in major conflict with O'Brien on the matter. O'Brien, more of a hardened soldier himself, has doubts about Goran'Agar's sincerity. Besides, what if freeing the Jem'Hadar from the Founder's short-leash control leads the Jem'Hadar to go out on a conquering spree of the Alpha Quadrant? O'Brien refuses to help them. Bashir orders him to. O'Brien disobeys the orders. The result is a rather unsettling clash of these two ideals and their friendship. Kudos to the writers for threatening one of the series most well-defined friendships over a high-staked polemical topic that these two see in completely opposite ways. This is what defines the heart of "Hippocratic Oath" and makes it work.

The resolution of the Jem'Hadar plot line goes basically the way it has to go. Bashir is ultimately unsuccessful, partly because O'Brien intervenes in (well, actually destroys) his attempts to free Goran'Agar's troops. Although the overall results of the plot are not exactly earth-shattering, it is quite possible that we will see this element of the Jem'Hadar again. And the character dynamics in this episode are terrific.

A subplot featuring Odo and Worf at odds with each other on security measures makes a whole lot of sense and has a number of relevant points. It shows Worf trying to adapt to his new position and drives home the point of how differently these two characters go about doing things. In a reassuring scene between Sisko and Worf, the Captain tells him that starship officers often find it a bit awkward learning the unofficial rules of the station. "You'll fit in, Commander," he tells him. "Just give it time."

Previous episode: The Visitor
Next episode: Indiscretion

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23 comments on this review

Ospero - Sat, Nov 3, 2007 - 10:42pm (USA Central)
This is one of the few cases where my opinion is different from Jammer's. I consider this episode (or, more precisely, the A-story) one of the best character pieces done on DS9, and Goran'Agar is one of only two Jem'Hadar ever to transcend the "universal soldier" stereotype (the other is "Rocks and Shoals"'s Remata'Klan). Were it not for the rather unnecessary B-story (why exactly is it that Odo investigates stuff that goes beyond the station? Isn't that exactly what Worf is supposed to do?), this would rate at four stars in my book, and as it is, I still give this three and a half.

Admittedly, this episode is easily overlooked following the two stellar starter episodes of the season. But I for one hold it as an equal to "The Way of the Warrior" and not as far behind "The Visitor" as a three-star rating would imply.
Jayson - Wed, Jan 30, 2008 - 6:10am (USA Central)
I really like this episode because it deals with a very interesting theme of controling soldiers through the use of drugs which is an idea that goes all the way back to Encounter At Farpoint when Q shows the crew a dark period in earths past.
Damien - Thu, Jun 11, 2009 - 9:11am (USA Central)
I also liked this one more than Jammer and would put it on equal footing with the season's openers as an intelligent exploration of character motivation and perspectives on free will. I even liked the B story, though I still have no idea what Worf's job actually is. What does someone whose duty is to 'coordinate all Starfleet activity in this sector' actually do?
Maaz - Sat, Sep 18, 2010 - 3:27pm (USA Central)
Jammer, although I usually agree with your reviews, I gotta say that I just loved this one.

Clearly it can't compete with the earlier two, but its a very good way to bring things back to the large threat of the Dominion and at the same time, add character to the Jem'Hadar soldiers.

Here you have a unit commander, who, when it boils down to it, wants the best for his men. He wants freedom, he wants to end their servitude. And you have Bashir, who, once he sees that its possible for him to be more than a programmed killer, allows his healing nature to come out. And O'Brian, the soldier, who sees this as untying their enemy's hands. Its not until the end, in that last dialogue on the planet, where Goran'Agar says to O' brian "you are a soldier? Than you explain" and O'Brian tells Bashir "he's their commander, they trusted him, he can't abandon them". That made a lump in my throat.

We knew how it was gonna end, there were more seasons of the Dominian war so their soldiers wouldn't be free yet. But that didn't mean they didn't want to be free.
Jay - Tue, Oct 18, 2011 - 5:38pm (USA Central)
In other episodes it is restablished that ketracel white is all the Jem'Hadar need (no drink, no food, no sleep)...so presumably it is not just a drug, but also their only source of nourishment (and presumably water, unless they drink that separately), so being "immune" to the white would seem to result in eventual starvation.
David - Mon, Nov 26, 2012 - 1:40am (USA Central)
Replying 12 months too late, but oh well. I just rewatched this episode and Goran'Agar isn't said to be immune, in fact Bashir detects that his body is somehow generating its own supply of ketracel-white, but he can't find any sort of gland or organ that is the origin. Which is sufficiently mysterious that we can't nitpick it too directly, haha.

If the white is their source of nourishment, that would mean his body is feeding itself! Not sure how that works, but oh well. He's still breathing, I suppose a sufficiently advanced lifeform could synthesise it from oxygen. Or something. I'm just making crap up now, which is technobabble in a nutshell really.

Regarding the rating, I'd rate it over some of the other three star episodes from this season, but under others. I guess that just means a four-star rating system can only have so much fidelity, eventually you have to lump some varied episodes into the same category.
Aaron - Wed, Feb 27, 2013 - 2:55pm (USA Central)
I thought this was an extremely good episode. 3.5 to 4 stars. I am just now watching this series, and I had no idea it got so good. Why didn't more people talk about it? I like both the A and B stories.

At first it seemed like a no-brainer to find a cure to the Jem'Hadar addiction, but O'Brien brought up an interesting point: what if they use their freedom to go on a rampage? The Dominion at least is not actively invading the Alpha Quadrant. How do we know which situation is better? This is a Prime Directive episode with no mention of the Prime Directive.

Nitpick: Dr. Bashir knew a heck of a lot about Jem'Hadar physiology from a prior episode and could even synthesize the drug. In another episode, he would have have easily been able to technobabble up a cure.

I hope they don't push the reset button on Bashir and O'Brien's friendship, but I'm sure they will.
Kotas - Wed, Oct 23, 2013 - 12:43pm (USA Central)

Another solid episode. Season 4 starts very strong.

Quarky - Sat, May 24, 2014 - 5:07am (USA Central)
O'brien really gets on my last nerve in this ep. Bashir is his commanding officer. He should have obeyed Bashir. Bashir even gave him the option to leave. I don't care if Obrien thought he was saving bashir's life. He never would have acted this way toward Picard or even Sisko. He didn't respect Bashir. He talked down to him and yelled at him. I find obrien yells a lot at people. He's kind of grumpy. Bashir should have brought obrien up on charges and we could have had a few episodes of obrien in the brig. Very disappointed in the chief in this one.
Yanks - Tue, Aug 5, 2014 - 11:10am (USA Central)
I have a problem with Sisko here:

"SISKO: And I do encourage vigilance in my officers. But remember, Odo is chief of security on this station, and you're the strategic operations officer. Your primary duty is to coordinate all Starfleet activity in this sector, not to catch smugglers.
WORF: Understood. I will not let this matter interfere with my duties.
SISKO: Very well. Dismissed."

Worf's response dodged Sisko's direction. "Very well. Dismissed" let's Worf off the hook. Poor leadership there. But then we wouldn't have had a "B" story. :-)

While Goran'Agar is an outstanding character, Obrien takes a huge step back IMO.

Obrien's inability to see past his war experience with the Cardassian's here and see the bigger picture is puzzling and disappointing. Not expected from the "seasoned" Obrien. It’s obvious that Bashir’s life wasn’t in danger as they could have killed him easily at any point.

I also have an issue with Bashir's recognition of the situation regarding Goran'Agar. It is revealed in the beginning that Goran'Agar had no tube, so despite what he has said (his presence on this planet, blah, blah), he has NEVER been addicted. What did Goran'Agar do, pull his tube out? Did Bashir even ask? Pretty difficult I imagine because it's grown as part of the body. Bashir didn't even suggest that Goran'Agar was never addicted until the end.

I can see a situation where if Obrien hadn’t acted like a child, it’s possible that Bashir and Obrien could have convinced Goran’Agar to return to DS9 with them.

Who fixed the crashed shuttle?

Scott MacDonald was outstanding as Goran’Agar. “Die with Honor!!” …. No wait, “Victory is Life!!”

2.5 stars for me.
DLPB - Mon, Aug 18, 2014 - 8:06pm (USA Central)
O'Brien is right. The doctor is a short-sighted idealistic fool. The only facts that he has available to him is that they were shot down and are being forced to help under the threat of death.

Helping someone like that isn't trendy or cool. It's ridiculous.
Yanks - Mon, Aug 18, 2014 - 10:00pm (USA Central)
Better than being dead I suppose. I guess finding a way to rid the Jem'Hadar of the need to white isn't cool.
Robert - Tue, Aug 19, 2014 - 10:40am (USA Central)
Yanks, I'm about 102% sure Goran'Agar pulled his tube out, ya.

"GORAN'AGAR: It was not by choice. Three years ago, I was on a ship that crashed on this world. The rest of the crew died and I was left with only enough white to sustain me for three days. I rationed my supply and managed to stretch out the drug for eight days, and then it was gone, and I was ready to die."

Unless he had a magically special way to take the white, he used to take it... ergo he had a tube.
Yanks - Tue, Aug 19, 2014 - 10:45am (USA Central)
Ah, very good Robert. Thanks!
MsV - Sat, Nov 15, 2014 - 9:16pm (USA Central)
I totally agree with DLPB. Julian is an idiot. The Dominion has already told them that the Federation is the enemy they have already killed many Bajoran and Federation citizens in the Gamma quadrant, why was Julian so ready to commit suicide over this one incident? Being a good doctor and healer doesn't give him the right to force Miles to make a bad decision. All through DS9, Julian has made ridiculous statements because of his lack of understanding of the predicament they were in, such as, when the Defiant crew were going to rescue Dukat and the council members, he wanted to remind Sisko that he wasn't suppose to use the cloaking device in the Alpha quadrant. He could be such a meathead at times.
Halane - Sun, Jan 25, 2015 - 8:46am (USA Central)
@MsV But that is what makes Julian a good doctor. He has to put saving lives over war strategy. He is idealistic, of course, but that is what he is supposed to be when it comes to saving lives. I can understand both sides, but ultimately I would try to help to, as Julian did, because no matter how terrible the Jem'Hadar are, I am not cut to kill or let die. I admire O'Brien for his strength, though, because it is a hard decision.
However, I agree with @Quarky: O'Brien would never do this to Sisko or Picard, probably not even to Worf or Riker. Even if he believed they were making the wrong decision, he would have obeyed. He doesn't respect Julian as an officer because he is young and somehow naïve, and I think he even resents him a little for having a higher rank. Their friendship is always tainted by this slight paternal attitude from Miles.
MsV - Thu, Feb 12, 2015 - 5:21am (USA Central)
Hey Halane I understand your point of view, my oldest son feels just like you do about Julian. I just think being a good doctor (best Star Trek doctor ever) doesn't mean you have to be a fool. Julian changed quite a bit during the war, he still was an excellent doctor, but he matured and common sense kicked in.
Icarus32Soar - Tue, Mar 3, 2015 - 9:39am (USA Central)
Did no one notice the title Hippocratic Oath? This is a deeply moving episode of the ethical dilemmas doctors face. A mature character study of Bashir, played superbly by Siddig, by far the most accomplished actor on DS9.Must be the British drama school training.O'Brien comes across as a moron by comparison, mindlessly phasering his way out of everything. This episode is light years greater than the moronic The Visitor.
Darknet - Sun, May 17, 2015 - 2:24am (USA Central)
I have to agree with @Quarky. Obrien has always been a bit of a dick to Bashir but this episode was too much. He disobeys his orders and talks down to him. He treats him like a child and has no respect for him as an officer. He single handedly sabotaged a mission that would likely have divided the dominion and gave the federation a tactical advantage. And in the end Bashir is still talking about playing darts in few days? Their friendship should have been over. He should bought him up on charges or at the very least threated him with court martial if it happened again. I really hope there is a future episode where Bashir just gets fed up and puts him in his place.
DLPB - Tue, Aug 18, 2015 - 12:03pm (USA Central)
Can anyone clue me in on why any man would choose to marry a woman like Keiko? She is rude, overbearing, obnoxious, and comes across as some kind of condescending man-hater, or feminazi. Seriously, every time I see her interact with O'Brien I am hoping he tells her to go find some other fool to trample on. Was it the writers desire to make her so selfish and condescending?
methane - Thu, Aug 27, 2015 - 8:06pm (USA Central)
We have commenters saying O'Brien is clearly right and Bashir is an idiot; we also have commenters saying Bashir is totally correct and O'Brien is all in the wrong.

Clearly the writers did a good job; this is a real dilemma with both sides having points in their favor. With the stakes so high, the characters were willing to risk their friendship to do what they believe in.

If Bashir was right, curing the addiction could lead to peace, saving countless lives. If O'Brien was right, curing the addiction could lead to never-ending war (perhaps Jem'Hadar never make peace once freed from control) that would cost countless lives. We don't know which one is truly correct.
jayLB - Thu, Oct 1, 2015 - 11:30am (USA Central)
I liked how the episode started out letting you think it was gonna be another Chief-Doc-Bromance and then subverted it by pitting them against each other, culminating in Bashir pulling rank. Nice!

"Can anyone clue me in on why any man would choose to marry a woman like Keiko? She is rude, overbearing, obnoxious, and comes across as some kind of condescending man-hater, or feminazi"

O'Brien is the grumpiest human on Star Trek, beaten out only by Worf (the grumpiest Klingon) and all the Vulcans. The guy never smiles, never has a good time. Even when he's with his buddy Bashir, he's always just grumpy.

I'd become Keiko too if I were married to that.
Del_Duio - Fri, Oct 2, 2015 - 10:43am (USA Central)
^^ He could have got that way BECAUSE he was married to Keiko too, you know! ^^

Aside from she's pretty, I'd probably want to spend 20 hours a day away from that too. These two never had any chemistry (I've said this before, and it's still true). A weird pairing that they probably never thought would have lasted more than a couple episodes on TNG but of course expanded the crap out of things eventually.

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