Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

"Statistical Probabilities"

***

Air date: 11/24/1997
Teleplay by Rene Echevarria
Story by Pam Pietroforte
Directed by Anson Williams

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"I don't care if the odds are against us. If we're going to lose, then we're going to go down fighting, so that when our descendants someday rise up against the Dominion they'll know what they're made of." — Sisko to Bashir, who has predicted the Federation's downfall in "Statistical Probabilities"

Nutshell: A problematic final sequence of events, but otherwise an intriguing and very effective story about the dangers of megalomania.

I didn't particularly like "Doctor Bashir, I Presume" last season. It surely had its moments, but it drowned in some horrendous scenes involving Leeta and Rom, had an unfulfilling and all-too-easy conclusion, had a central problem that felt conjured out of thin air, and when it ended it seemed like there wasn't going to be any follow-up to make the idea worth the time used to establish it. Well, here's the follow-up to the previous episode's revelation that Bashir was genetically enhanced as a child, and it's a good one. "Statistical Probabilities" is a strong hour of money-saving DS9 that gets to the heart of Bashir and his problem, tackling issues that went unanswered in "Presume."

The story brings four eccentric individuals to the station, where they're to learn from interacting with Bashir, who represents a sort of "best case scenario" for those were genetically enhanced. Bashir didn't suffer side effects as did these four, who, brilliant as they may be, exhibit social behavior that falls in the realm of the clinically insane.

The first rule of a "crazy people" story (which accurately describes part of "Statistical Probabilities") is to make sure that each crazy person has his or her own distinct characteristic. There's Jack (Tim Ransom), the aggressive, adversarial, hyperkinetic guy; Lauren (Hilary Shepard-Turner), the ever-calm, seductive man-chaser; Patrick (Michael Keenan), the plump, elderly goofy guy; and Sarina (Faith C. Salie), the pale woman who never says anything. These colorful characters seem like they were created to please an audience who simply wanted to see funny, lovable crazy people, but I don't know if "Statistical Probabilities" really needed to rely on the mental institution motif so heavily; this episode is really more about how these characters bring rise to Bashir's central problem. Nevertheless, even though they're sometimes a little cartoonish, these characters work, especially the strong-willed Jack (as energetically played by the entertaining Ransom), who proves to be a constant challenge for Bashir.

The problem faced by these four (and I suspect others like them) is that they feel useless to society, for there are many roles they're not permitted to take. An early discussion amongst Bashir and the senior staff does an excellent job of addressing why this denial is deemed necessary, while also highlighting a dilemma faced by a public that limits children who had no decision in the enhancements given to them by their parents. It's unfair to "punish" an innocent child who had no say in the matter. At the same time, however, such actions taken by the parents have to be discouraged, otherwise the procedure would become accepted and everyone would feel compelled to have their children enhanced in order to simply "keep up"—which could have disastrous consequences. I suspect the Eugenics War stemmed from a similar problem. Of course, there's the other problem that genetic resequencing is not an easy procedure, and because it's illegal it ends up being performed in "back alleys," so to speak, and not necessarily with ideal results (hence the side effects of the four people depicted here, who have spent a great deal of their lives in what is simply and ominously labeled "The Institution"). "Statistical Probabilities" does a good job of conveying these problems in the terms of a controversial issue, which makes for some interesting questions—questions which were not adequately brought into the light in "Presume."

At the same time, "Statistical" also rightly argues that these people do deserve the opportunity to contribute to society in a meaningful way. Specifically, these four begin analyzing the Dominion War, and with data supplied to them by Bashir they calculate and predict theoretical outcomes to battles and proposed compromises and agreements. They're fast and smart—and within days they come up with projections that would've taken Starfleet Intelligence months to calculate. The only problem is that they eventually come to the conclusion that the Federation can not win the war against the Dominion.

Resulting from this conclusion are well-conceived reactions by numerous characters. Bashir's reaction is to tell Sisko that Starfleet must immediately surrender or risk 900 billion casualties. A quick surrender, he adds, would result in fewer than two billion casualties. "Either way, we're in for five generations of Dominion rule." Sisko is appalled. First, there's the problem that Bashir's analyses are based upon assumptions and probabilities; second is the fact that even if Bashir could predict the future with 100 percent accuracy, he couldn't ask an entire generation of people to simply give up their freedom to the Dominion. ("If we're going to lose, then we're going to go down fighting.")

It's a particularly telling sign that Bashir makes it a point to slowly go through and explain his calculations to anyone who disagrees with him. A standout scene between Bashir and O'Brien gets to the heart of the matter when O'Brien refuses to take Bashir's statistical analysis as given. Bashir can't see how anyone would be willing to overlook such "conclusive" evidence of the Federation's imminent demise. "The way I see it," responds O'Brien, not happily, "there are two possibilities. Either I'm more feeble-minded than you ever imagined, or you're not a smart as you think you are." Ouch. Bashir had it coming, though.

What we have here is a perfect example of megalomania. Bashir and his new friends have found something in each other (as he explained to O'Brien in an earlier scene where the two played darts—a perfectly characterized scene, by the way) that Bashir has allowed himself to get caught up in. Bashir wants to give his subjects an avenue to contribute, and when he stumbles upon the war projections he's simultaneously in horror over the future of the Federation while exhilarated at the new discovery of purpose made by his friends. It's a very interesting situation for him to be in, but it's also a difficult and painful one, because people aren't likely to listen to the overly-large (and hopeless) predictions made by a bunch of "mutants." The danger here is that megalomania is not good for one's judgment—and Bashir's judgment is decidedly clouded. He should know that statistics are not the end-all/tell-all of the universe, but he badly wants to believe he's making the best decision and using his friends' gifts in a meaningful way.

The one glaring flaw in "Statistical Probabilities" is the crisis that arises at the very end of the show. In which Jack announces that Starfleet is wrong in dismissing the analysis and that his own decision to surrender should stand. In which he plans to contact Weyoun and Damar anyway, who are on the station for a diplomatic meeting. In which he talks about how he will use his access to battle plans and intelligence information to supply the Dominion with a means for a swift invasion (an action Bashir correctly recognizes as "treason"), which in the long run could "save lives." In three words: no, no, no. I don't care whether Starfleet is technically supposed to be a "military" organization or not, but it's in a war with a powerful adversary, and military organizations do not supply the casual civilian (much less an insane one) with crucial data and strategic plans that could have such extreme consequences if misused. One would hope such information is deemed "classified" and that Bashir wouldn't even have access to it.

While the intentions of this sequence of events are relevant in terms of Bashir's self-realization, the actual actions prompt nothing but incredulity. Once again, we have a microcosmic comic-book situation which claims to put the entire war situation "on the line." Such small devices that purport to impact the big-scale themes in such huge ways are very dangerous from a dramatic standpoint. It wasn't necessary in terms of this week's story, and I'm sure there could've been a way around it. All it does is make Starfleet security look like Swiss cheese. It's no wonder the odds are against them.

Despite that the way these events unfold is annoying, I did like the personal realizations that came out of them. Jack's willingness to make a decision that could theoretically affect billions (punctuated by his remark about being "the next best thing" to a god) underlines the relevant fear that "normal" people have of genetically enhanced megalomaniacs. Also, Sarina aiding Bashir in foiling Jack's plan was reasonable, and the fact that Jack couldn't even predict Sarina's "betrayal" of him made for a pretty good point: How can Jack be so sure about the future when he couldn't even predict the actions of one person in his own room? Bashir's disappointment at the turn of events definitely does a good job of bringing him back to earth, as he realizes that there's much more going on than the odds game.

In addition to its strong statements about megalomania, "Statistical Probabilities" finds relevance by reminding us that the Dominion War is very far from over. It supplies the return of Weyoun and Damar, whose working relationship reveals a Damar who finds himself at Weyoun's casual disposal even more so than Dukat did—which is interesting considering past episodes and how much Damar abhorred Weyoun's disrespect of the Cardassian power structure. There's also some pleasant humor, especially between Bashir and O'Brien in the earlier passages of the show. I only wish the ending hadn't gone so overboard. This show could've been great without some of the needless excess. It's a winner even with the flawed finale, but it could've been even more.

Next week: A rerun of "A Simple Investigation," followed by more reruns until the week of New Year's, when we're supposed to get a major Ferengi outing. See you then.

Previous episode: Resurrection
Next episode: The Magnificent Ferengi

◄ Season Index

43 comments on this review

STD
Mon, Jun 2, 2008, 11:24am (UTC -6)
"Also, Sarina aiding Bashir in foiling Jack's plan was reasonable, and the fact that Jack couldn't even predict Sarina's "betrayal" of him made for a pretty good point: How can Jack be so sure about the future when he couldn't even predict the actions of one person in his own room?"

I had a big problem with this. In the episode, its stated that the way the group's calculations work is that they become more accurate over time -- it is specifically a Long View type of statistical analysis. If this is the case, then -of course- Jack wouldn't be able to predict an event so close in time and small in scope as Sarina's actions; they're quite simply too close temporally and too insignificant corporally (regardless of the effect of those actions) to be predicted via the group's methodology. Much like Bashir's demonstration regarding gambling, sure its possible for wildly unusual collapses in probability to happen, but that's just the point... they're -unusual-. If you bet against the house often enough, you are going to lose. Period. If this didn't happen, then gambling would not be profitable for the house.

Bashir's logic is clearly flawed and the others of the group should've called him on it.
Blue
Mon, Mar 23, 2009, 8:22pm (UTC -6)
STD, Bashir's reasoning isn't really flawed, despite that whole bit about long-term results being more predictable than short-term ones. The key point here is that individual events can often galaxy-shattering consequences; Sisko's intervention with the Prophets that swallowed up an entire Dominion fleet is 100% unpredictable and changed the entire course of the war. So much is not included in even the best projections as to render them fairly hopeless in predicting large-scale events.
Nolan
Wed, Jun 3, 2009, 8:32pm (UTC -6)
sounds like Asimov's Foundation books, and the theory of Psychohistory.
Mike
Tue, Jun 30, 2009, 7:50am (UTC -6)
I found it odd Worf was the one to mention how genetic engineering made things unfair for other humans. Things are already unfair, there are races that are smarter than humans, stronger than humans, with more abilities than humans, and in a few cases all of the above (see Vulcans).

I would've thought a Klingon that lived amongst physically weaker humans would've been more optimistic. But this might have something to do with his pessimistic law abiding mindset.
Neil
Fri, Oct 30, 2009, 8:29pm (UTC -6)
I really hated this episode for it's single glaring logical flaw that rendered it completely pointless.

As mentioned in a comment above me, these geniuses could not have predicted the Prophet's interference in the taking of the station, so their prediction for that event would have been wrong.

There are so many potential cataclysmic events that could destroy the dominion:

- a meteorite strikes the founders homeworld, killng them all... the vorta and jem hadar starting infighting and the invasion collapses

- as they push further into the alpha quadrant, the jem hadar encounter a virus that is lethal to them thanks to a flaw in their DNA. The virus has a 2-year incubation period and in extremely virulent, so by the time they realise what is happeneding they entire race is already infected. Within 5 years there isn't a single Jem Hadar left in the universe.

- Q turns up and uses his genuine godlike powers (as opposed to the founder's fake godlike powers) to push the dominion back through the wormhole and seals it forever

I could go on for days. In fact, the further in the future you try to predict, the more likely it is that something of this type will occur, ergo by the time you've gone out 1000 years it's almost guaranteed that something will occur that you didn't anticipate that will change things completely.

What I really don't understand is how the writers can get through producing an entier episode script and not realise this. They could include it in the story and still make the episode work, so are they just lazy?

Ruined the episode for me.
J
Sun, Nov 1, 2009, 6:15am (UTC -6)
^

I don't understand how the fact that black swan events happen equates to a logical flaw in the episode. Outlandish scenarios could happen to disrupt the integrity of the Federation as well.

The characters were working within the likely war scenarios that followed on from the information they were given, and in those they felt the Federation was hopelessly overmatched. Interestingly, several of their predictions that sounded unlikely at the time, such as the Romulans joining the alliance and the Cardassian rebellion, did in fact come true.

It is possible that the Jack Pack, or even Starfleet at the time, did not know or was still not certain that no more Dominion reinforcements would ever be able to come through the wormhole. This seems as if it ultimately made Dominion defeat only a matter of time.
Danny
Tue, Mar 9, 2010, 11:15am (UTC -6)
Odo's deadpan "I know, I honor you with my presence" was one of the funniest lines ever.
Nic
Mon, Jun 14, 2010, 8:23am (UTC -6)
I loved this episode, and was not bothered by it slight illogicality. It's true that probabilities like these become more accurate the farther into the future you go, and that while they are good at predicting the actions of large groups of people (say, 900 billion ;)) they are not so accurate for single individuals. I think that was the point of the episode and it came out beautifully.

In response to Nolan, this episode was actually based on Asimov's Foundation books and the theory of psychohistory. See Memory Alpha for more info.
Jake Sisko
Fri, Nov 11, 2011, 5:27pm (UTC -6)
Overall, I liked the episode; I like any episode that focuses on interesting characters. The colorful characters, alienation, and the new sense of purpose they found in predicting the outcome of the war made for some very interesting situations.

The only thing I didn't like about the episode was the idea that predictions get more accurate over time. They don't, at least according to Chaos Theory (butterfly effect). Later states have an incredible dependency on even the smallest factor among the initial conditions, which as we saw with Sarina, are not always considered or even known.
conroy
Mon, Jan 9, 2012, 8:05pm (UTC -6)
I liked this episode. Yes, there were glaring logic and plot holes, but to only acknowledge these shortcomings would be to completely miss the point of the show. This episode is classic Trekian Humanism: One person, no matter how small, overlooked, or insignificant appearing, can make a difference, no matter how overwhelming the odds.
Paul
Thu, Jan 12, 2012, 8:34am (UTC -6)
Two things that I never understood about this episode:

1) In the third season episode that's all in Bashir's head, wouldn't his big secret come out?

2) Knowing Bashir, he would have studied up on genetic engineering. So why was he so in the dark on the Klingon genetic experiments that led to the flat-headed Klingons in the fourth season of Enterprise?
Sean McCormick
Tue, Feb 7, 2012, 6:16pm (UTC -6)
@Paul

1) When that third season episode was written, nobody had plans to make Bashir into an genetically enhanced superhuman two years later.

2) When that fifth season episode was written, the writers did not know, that someone would write an episode, explaining the klingon looks in the Classic Series that way eight years later.
Nebula Nox
Tue, Mar 27, 2012, 9:45am (UTC -6)
I enjoyed this episode immensely and thought it was fairly realistic. As O'Brien observed, the savants were not nearly as smart as they thought they were. How many times have scientists or mathematicians or even financial types created models and run thousands of simulations - while nevertheless missing key assumptions? And given the Jack Pack's lack of experience in the real world (as well as their arrogance) they would be extremely liable to this problem.
Paul York
Mon, May 28, 2012, 4:36pm (UTC -6)
It turns out that they were wrong; the Dominion did not win. So much for statistics -- what Mark Twain called "damned lies." And yet statistic and probability calculus and cost-benefit rations are commonly used to make momentous decision in our day and age. I see the episode as a commentary on that sad fact - a social commentary if you will -- except that economists are the ones doing the calculating and they are listened to by governments and corporations -- not ignored as crazy.
Laroquod
Wed, Jun 20, 2012, 9:46pm (UTC -6)
Bashir was specifically named the station's intelligence officer, so it makes sense that he would have access to information nobody else on the station does except perhaps Sisko. What doesn't make sense is why he would still be trusted with any intelligence after handing it over to the certifiably insane.

Otherwise, I'm with Neil, above. It is nonsensical for anyone to take these yokels' analysis seriously in a world in which, three episodes previously, the gods erased an entirely enemy fleet. Logic dictates delaying any surrender until the last possible moment to maximise the opportunity for the gods to step in again and tip the scales.

Mind you, it's not this episode that's at fault. It's the silly wormhole aliens in the first place. We know that Q isn't going to change the course of some munane war, because that isn't the sort of thing Q does. Q just changes whatever's necessary to flabbergast and annoy some human plaything, and then changes most of it back again. But the wormhole aliens now have a track record of just wiping Sisko's enemies out of existence on an inexplicable whim. Now that they have done that pretty much all sense of real danger has drained from the series and it is impossible to take episodes like this seriously anymore.
Drachasor
Wed, Jun 20, 2012, 11:55pm (UTC -6)
This is a weird episode for me. It's full of a lot of trite anti-intellectualism. Those "smarties" and their math? Well, they're just wrong, HAH! You shouldn't think, just DO STUFF! That's definitely one of the main themes with them getting rid of the smart people and Bashir playing dabo towards the end of the episode.

And it is such a ridiculous strawman they setup with the predictions of the future. Why did the predictions change overnight? Why couldn't they change just as much if they spent another day at it? If Earth gets destroyed by the Dominion (ironically as Weyoun suggested to Dukat in an earlier episode), doesn't the entire prediction fall apart? With elements like that in play and battle tactics, does it really make any sense that you could have confidence in those predictions? What if the Prophets destroy a couple thousand enemy ships again? What if another power shows up? What if the Borg attack the Dominion? What if some actual peace treaty is worked out? What if Starfleet poisons the planet needed to make white so the Jem'Hadar die? There are dozens and dozens of ways their predictions couldn't be so ironclad -- you simply can't have things "cancel" out like that, as their own overnight change shows.

What makes this episode about attacking a strawman intellectual is that no one attacks their predictions on these grounds. Sisko doesn't point out any of these extremely obvious flaws. Nor does O'Brian. And no saying "It's just statistics" isn't a cogent argument, because statistics can be extremely useful. Instead they make purely emotional arguments, as if that should be the basis of wartime strategy.

So instead we have obviously flawed thinking treated as good logic for the critical moments of the episode. As though what Jack did made some sort of reasonable sense. Heck, his whole plan is an example of how their thinking is flawed. If the Dominion getting those plans changes the outcome, then clearly there are massive things their models don't include. This is especially glaring since the founders are certainly some of the best intelligence operatives you could ask for. The Dominion could STEAL those plans, certainly that's something worth considering...well, apparently not according to the intellectuals in this show.

In the end, Bashir does touch on this lightly. Instead of using that as a way of shifting the work and focus of what they are doing (and instead of doing it far, far earlier), he uses it to dismiss their intellectualism. Their thinking is worthless because they didn't predict the actions of one person. But we earlier saw that their thinking WASN'T worthless with how they analyzed video...but that doesn't matter now. Intellectuals are wrong, and we certainly aren't going to use their fantastic mental capabilities. Go away intellectuals, we'll just trust in random chance to win this war! There's certainly nothing your dirty THINKING can do to help. If you make one mistake (that any idiot, including Bashir, should have been able to point out far earlier), then you'll only make mistakes. Chance though...chance never makes mistakes, or at least there's no one you can blame if it screws you over. That's better....right?....right?

Ugh, I like the characters well enough, but the episode was horrible, imho. It does not seriously consider what is going on and whether it makes sense.

In response to Nic, if they based this on the Foundation by Asimov, they did a crappy job at it. First, the whole plan in Foundation was to use that predictive ability to steer a course through history. This is profoundly pro-intellectual, and makes sense. If you have this capability, you can use it to make things better. Instead in this episode, "nothing" produces any change of any kind....except the changes that would change things (like the plans). Bizarre. Secondly, in the Foundation, predictions got more accurate with more people, but less accurate over time. A huge point of the books is that there has to be a secret force at work to make sure the plan stays on track, because it WILL diverge from what was predicted over time. The intellectuals in the books fully acknowledge you can't predict things completely and that you have to plan for the unexpected. This episode though treats such considerations as some sort of proof that analysis and thinking are just a bad and senseless thing to do.

Again, I hate this episode.
Latex Zebra
Sat, Jun 30, 2012, 6:43pm (UTC -6)
@Danny

Have to agree. Watched it again tonight and had completely forgotten about that line and cracked up.

With this episode you could look at the bigger picture, that even in a Federation Utopia mental health issues are still something best dealt with by hiding people away.
Which is exactly the problem these days.

Sometimes TV needs to be fun though and this was just that.
Gaius Maximus
Wed, Sep 5, 2012, 8:12pm (UTC -6)
Laroquod - The only time I remember Bashir being called an intelligence officer was when he was picking up Worf's duties while he was off with Martok in "Soldiers of the Empire." Presumably, Worf took over again when he came back at the end of that episode, and any intelligence Bashir would have had from that time would be hopelessly out of date by this episode. The war hadn't even started yet, after all.
Duge
Tue, Oct 16, 2012, 10:11pm (UTC -6)
Just saw this ep for the first time last night. It was nice to finally revisit the Dominion War, which had been basically shunted aside since "Sacrifice of Angels". It was interesting hearing a raw discussion of the costs of the Dominion War, as well as the current course of the war. The thing that continues to bother me though is that the Dominion, pinned down in the Alpha Quadrant without the ability to obtain reinforcements/supplies, still seems utterly invincible and the Federation appears to be on the losing side despite some pretty significant victories under its belt since the end of S5: The destruction of the shipyards (Call to Arms), the destruction of the main K-W facility (A Time To Stand), the destruction of the array (Favor The Bold?), the retaking of DS9 (Sacrifice of Angels) and, most significantly, the apparent destruction of the reinforcements from the GQ in the Wormhole and the Prophets' intervention to prevent further Dominion reinforcements from the GQ (Sacrifice of Angels). Given those losses, it's hard to believe that the Dominion was, at this this point, still poised to win and the Federation so desperately losing- so much so that even Bashir was convinced that the Federation should surrender! It's a relief that he finally came back to his senses after Sisko and O'Brien (and even Quark to some extent) sobered him up a bit (and both Sisko and O'Brien were on target with their reactions to Bashir's suggestion). I was aghast at Jack's follow-up plan to deliver classified intelligence to Weyoun and Damar but thankful he didn't succeed. Seeing Weyoun and Damar hiding out in a storage bay waiting for him to show up was priceless, as was Odo's reaction to finding them there. LOL. All in all, it was an interesting and thought-provoking episode. Although I consider myself an intellectual, I realize that "the numbers" aren't the end-all/be-all of our existence and that there are significantly more variables in any given situation than can be adequately anticipated/accounted for in "the numbers" as the conclusion of the Dominion War approx 1 year later proved.
Arachnea
Tue, Nov 27, 2012, 3:08am (UTC -6)
To clarify: Bashir says "Starfleet Command was so impressed, they're giving us classified information regarding Starfleet's battle readiness".

I liked this episode but, as much as I understand that Jack (and the others) would believe in no alternative to statistics, I didn't buy Bashir believing it.

What pains me is that these four characters took so much pleasure in being useful and at the end, they're just dismissed. (Being accused of treason wouldn't stand as they are clearly institutionalized and labeled as non-fit to make their own decisions). These persons want to be useful - those who must be punished are their parents, not them - I'm sure the 24th century Federation could find something useful for them to do, instead of keeping them hidden in an institution.
Herman
Sun, Feb 3, 2013, 5:49pm (UTC -6)
I find Weyoun's character is juast as enjoyable as Garak or Dukat. His role was small this time, but I like how a line like "Besides, I think it's exciting" is said with that grin/smirk. Excellent actor.

A negative note: I think the last couple of episodes show DS9's sexist side a bit, seeing that they featured naive sex bomb Leeta, the sex-crazed 'evil Kira' and this time the mutant nymphomaniac. But I guess DS9 redeems itself somewhat with tough and no-nonsense female characters like Kira and Dax.
Lt Cmdr Black
Wed, Aug 14, 2013, 7:01am (UTC -6)
Surely Damar and Weyoun would have Starfleet security escorts whilst they were on DS9 and wouldn't be able to walk around freely to the extent that they can go out for clandestine meetings in storage bays?
Kotas
Sun, Oct 27, 2013, 9:03pm (UTC -6)

Turning Bashir into a superhuman was a poor decision. The thought that anyone could predict far into the future with any degree of accuracy is absurd.

3/10
Nissa
Sun, Jan 26, 2014, 11:37pm (UTC -6)
I actually love this episode, and it's one I'm willing to watch more than once. I'm not even bothered by the conflict at the end, as Jammer is. To me, this is Trek at its best: strange people, dangerous political implications, moments of good humor, and actors that do a good job. I love it, and whatever flaws people assign to it, real or imagined, are meaningless to affect the entertainment value. Four stars.
Jons
Thu, Feb 6, 2014, 1:33pm (UTC -6)
A ridiculous episode, with EVERY single cliché about "crazy people" in it: the silent one, the slutty one, the nice idiotic fool, the extravagant one...

All of that crossed with every single cliché and stupidity about "intelligence":

1/ It's absurd that people who have been locked away in an asylum for their whole lives with no exposition to the outside world (as we're told) could be such people's people they can read a face and deduct the wildest and most precise things about! That's not intelligence, it's insight. Plus it's worth mentioning that in real life, people with Aspergers (which these four "idiot geniuses" are obviously based on) are PARTICULARLY inept at reading faces.

2/ Statistical projections work by scenarios, since different courses of actions (which are not predictable) lead to different consequences.. "It's a statistical model that becomes more precise as time passes" - this is absurd. No amount of Trek techno-babble can make up for that. No statistical model can work this way, unless you can predict the future. Obviously, the farther from us the more unknown.

Anyway, a ridiculous episode I could barely go through... Up until "Sacrifice of Angels" I was loving season 6 but these past few episodes have been a complete let-down. Just like in season 5 - strong beginning, strong finish (hopefully) but the middle is just a bunch of filler-episodes. Very disappointing.
Toraya
Wed, Mar 26, 2014, 8:24am (UTC -6)
I like humor but not buffoonery. The cartoon-cutout nutcases were an insult to viewers' intelligence. I might have liked a well-conceived show about genetically-engineered people who were depicted as more realistically disturbed and suffering.

Additionally, as soon as the savants identified the reason the Dominion was willing to sacrifice a lot to get Planet X for the manufacturing of ketracel white, the clear solution was to pollute Planet X on the sly and cause the extinction of the fungi the Dominion wanted.

I originally thought that Bashir's genetic manipulation had merely turned him from subpar to very smart and physically above average. It's irritating that he is now depicted as a cartoonish Math SUperhero with the brain of a computer.

Overall, worth skipping.
Vylora
Wed, May 7, 2014, 4:04pm (UTC -6)
This is a prime example of an episode that I want to like more than I did. Despite that, this IS a good episode. The only glaring flaw for me was Starfleet allowing access to restricted information. I don't care how impressed they were with the analysis given by the "mutants".

I really enjoyed the statistical probabilities versus chance enigma presented here. I know that scientific predictions can be done accurately when based on certain undeniable laws. But when it comes to predictions involving potentially chaotic variables (i.e., people) it is much more difficult as one person or a group of people can cause unpredictable results.

Good episode that could've been fleshed out a little better. Just a matter of a few scenes that didn't quite resonate the way they had potential to. Otherwise it's a keeper with some great dialogue and elements worth pondering on.

3 stars.
2piix
Mon, Jul 14, 2014, 1:36am (UTC -6)
The mathematical content of the show isn't the point. But let me suggest that the mathematical content was pretty much spot on, at least under a few assumptions.

In particular, comparisons to "chaos" or "the butterfly effect" are not fruitful. The analyses Bashir and the Mutants were doing were more like predicting the climate than predicting the weather. Predicting the climate (i.e., average weather) can be done with high accuracy, even if the weather is varied.

So what are the assumptions? That 24th century humanity has discovered economic and political models that explain shifts in power, and that these have calculable expectations.
Yanks
Mon, Aug 18, 2014, 12:06pm (UTC -6)
I enjoyed this episode. Albeit I enjoyed the next (Jack/Lauren/Patrick/Sarina)episode more.

This episode made me think of 'The Voyager Conspiracy'.

Can't believe how easily Sisko and Star Fleet accepted their recommendations...

2.5 stars.

$G
Sat, Sep 27, 2014, 2:04am (UTC -6)
Someone already mentioned it, but I like how Bashir suggests that a Dominion-occupied Federation will produce an uprising on Earth. It was just a few episodes ago that Weyoun projected that as well and suggesting annihilating its population.

What does that say about the soundness of Jack's (and co.'s) projections? They could very well be solid - but it also shows off how the Dominion minds are probably as good or equal to a genetically-enhanced human. Both the Jem'Hadar and the Vorta are engineered to be as good at their jobs as possible. The Dominion hasn't enduring for 10,000 years because of chance.

What's kind of interesting is how the Dominion and Federation are again at odds with one another. The Feds outlaw genetic tampering while the Dominion are built on it. The superiority complex it develops is neat, too, as the Founders (physically superior to everyone else) take it on themselves to control everything. Part of it is for their own security, yes, but there's never any debate on the part of the Founders about how morally or ethically sound they are. No - they're better, and they need not answer to anybody.

I like this one, although I didn't like it the first time around because of the unusual characters and performances. Though I still find them a little bit over-the-top, I like Jack and co. More than that, I like Bashir and I like seeing him have something to do except mope.

I really like how Bashir has changed up to this point in the series. He's very much the same character, but is far more sobered by the war, death, and disease he's had to deal with in his first five years out of medical school. I've read that Siddig was pissed off about the genetics thing and deliberately underplayed the lines written to show that off (a good move, I think), but I don't think we're seeing actor bitterness. No, it's just Bashir having grown up really quickly and having to deal with some heavy, heavy stuff.

Oh, and speaking of heavy stuff. I loved O'Brien's reaction to the bad news projections. Nothing that draws attention to itself, but Meaney was perfectly dejected in that scene.

I'd think higher of this one without the fairly tension-less bit about Jack contacting the Dominion, but it's still fairly acceptable since it's not really overplayed.

Overall, a recommended "texture" episode. It doesn't push the plot forward, but adds some nice nuance and intrigue to a few running storylines (the still-simmering conflict, the Damar-Weyoun relationship, and Bashir). This type of episodic fleshing-out of major storylines and characters is what DS9 does best. Though there are mis-steps, it's a great way to do arc-based narratives without being breathlessly plot-centric every week. 3 stars.
Charles
Wed, Dec 17, 2014, 12:53pm (UTC -6)
Agree 100% with Jons. This is beyond absurd. How ironic that a show about intelligence insults the viewer's so much.
Chrome
Fri, Dec 18, 2015, 12:25pm (UTC -6)
I overall liked this episode for much of the reasons Jammer pointed out. However, I am really concerned with the way Bashir and co. came up with "conclusive statistics" that Starfleet would lose the war and that more could be gained ultimately by surrendering.

Okay, predicting the future with math was obviously influenced by Asimov's Foundation novels. And I give credit to the writers for being familiar with his work and trying to work a "psychohistory" type plot into the show. It just bothers me that Bashir would actually buy the math himself. He's been on the front lines throughout this series, and he knows how small factors could make his equations come apart like a house of cards. It really stretches the limits of the audience to believe the Bashir, a loyal officer, would even consider surrendering as an option, math or not.

Fortunately, Bashir does fall in line when his plan gets shot down by Starfleet. But to think that he would be so bamboozled by impossibly advanced math really hurts the character. It brings his loyalties into question. If Bashir had a chance later to collaborate with the Dominion in order to spare lives, would he do it? Has Bashir learned a valuable lesson about trying despite the odds? "Inquisition" will later touch on these questions, but if you still had this episode fresh in your mind you might actually side with Sloan, when he was meant to be depicted as a villain in this later episode.
Skeptical
Fri, Dec 18, 2015, 9:36pm (UTC -6)
I'm not horribly disappointed that Bashir didn't catch on to the error of his ways. Being super-intelligent doesn't necessarily mean you are also super-aware of your limitations and underlying assumptions. But it does seem strange that nobody else pointed out the blatant error in his analysis. This is especially true given that a giant game changer - the Prophets wiping out the Dominion fleet - just happened not too long ago. Surely the psychohistorian crew didn't anticipate that event.

Actually, perhaps the biggest misstep of the episode is the lost opportunity to tie this into the overall story arc further. I mean, while Bashir and company were wrong, they were only wrong by their assumptions. They were working on the assumption that the war would continue under "conventional" means. And, presumably, their calculations were correct in that sense. But they assumed that meant only two options: 1) lose the conventional war or 2) surrender. They never considered the third option: switch to a new strategy.

Which, of course, is exactly how the war was won in the end. It would not surprise me that the endgame of the war had been thought out yet by the writers, but Odo's disease could have been foreshadowed here.

They could have mentioned unconventional warfare as a possibility, as a flaw in the thinking of the geniuses. And perhaps then they could have questioned what sort of new strategy could be devised. Perhaps they even mentioned this to a shadowy higher up in Starfleet, who dismisses it in a vaguely offsetting kind of way. And then later, when Section 31 is introduced, Sloan could specifically comment on this episode and the need for an alternate strategy. And of course, we would eventually learn what that strategy was.

Yeah, not a huge deal, but it's better than Bashir jerking all the way to one side ("this is 100% true!") and then all the way to the other side ("our analysis is bollocks!") in the span of 20 minutes. Give some more weight to it.
Joshua
Thu, Jan 21, 2016, 10:01am (UTC -6)
An asinine episode. Not that you can't tell from the title alone. "Statistical probabilities"? What other kinds of probabilities are there?

1 star.
Diamond Dave
Mon, Feb 1, 2016, 2:09pm (UTC -6)
Tricky one to mark this. I like the performances, but the nature of them makes it a difficult watch. I like the plot, apart from the speed with which Bashir goes to cheese-eating surrender monkey and back again. I like the bravery of portraying mentally ill people on screen, I like less the cliched roles in which they're portrayed. I like it, and I don't. 2 stars
JC
Mon, Feb 29, 2016, 1:09am (UTC -6)
I have to admit, I couldn't even make it through the teaser of this one. Jack had one too many "Hm? Hm?"s in there. Jammers recap will have to suffice as a substitute. It's the only episode I've skipped to date.
Luke
Sat, May 28, 2016, 2:13am (UTC -6)
I suppose one's enjoyment of "Statistical Probabilities" ultimately rests on whether or not you like the "Jack Pack". Personally, I like them just fine. Sure, they're kind of cartoony and aren't used to their full potential - Jack sometimes comes across as little more than a guy who has had WAY too much caffeine, Patrick doesn't act very childlike aside from crying in one scene and Sarina doesn't really do anything until the end. But, they're wacky and enjoyable enough for me; and the actors do a really fine job with the material.

But what I love most about the episode is the fact that this might very well be the most right-wing outing Trek has ever given us. Let me lay down this beat for you, see if you pick it up.... What we have here, aside from a well-conceived story about the dangers of megalomania, is a tale about how centrally-planned societies simply cannot work. It's all basically a big middle finger to Plato's "The Republic", which I greatly applaud because Plato was.... well.... kind of insane and rather authoritarian in his philosophy (I've always much preferred Aristotle and his focus on the individual). You can have your philosopher kings running everything, trying to determine was is best for everyone else. But, no matter how intelligent they are - they can even be genetically enhanced uber-geniuses - they can't predict the future and they will never be smarter than millions (in the case of the Alpha Quadrant, billions or possibly trillions) of decentralized, local actors working on the ground in real time. Jack may be one of the smartest - or even *the* smartest - person alive, but he still could not see what would happen based on the actions of one individual. You can centralize control all you want, but in the end it's individualists who will win the day - that is just the nature of humanity.

Trek has always had a very healthy respect for individual rights (just look at what makes the Borg so scary, after all). But, it also has a decided tendency to glorify centralized control of society at large. So, this is a rather stunning break from Trek orthodoxy. Or.... maybe I'm just reading way too much into a story about a bunch of zany mutants. :-P

8/10
Peter G.
Sun, May 29, 2016, 1:40am (UTC -6)
@ Luke,

That's an interesting take on the episode. I always saw it as being more about how there is too much chaos and unpredictability to know how things will turn out, and that logic by itself is no substitute for hope and faith. Jack and the others would, after all, have been entirely correct except for the small matter of the prophets intervening and eliminating a Dominion fleet. That's another instance of a local event involving one decision that changed the whole course of the war. Granted, *no one* took the prophets seriously until then, but still, it showed that Sisko's faith (in the prophets, in this case) was just as important to his victory as his tactical knowledge.

I guess in the schema of American politics a message about faith still veers toward the right-wing and so that parallels the point you made about central planning.

One thing I would note, mind you, is that one should not confuse "central" planning with totalitarian regimes that are structured as bureaucracies. Historically we've seen some instances of the latter, but to date we have seen zero instances of a completely centrally planned democracy, for example. It probably can't work at present since, frankly, you'd need a computer AI to coordinate it, but in any case I don't think the dichotomy between "individual freedom" and "central planning" applies to the Star Trek universe, where it's clear that it is, indeed, possible to both have a humane and just society that is centrally planned due to technological capabilities we don't have. That's something to aspire to in the future, and doesn't require us to suggest that we need to move towards total central planning right now. Just a thought.
Joey Lock
Wed, Jul 27, 2016, 10:12pm (UTC -6)
What I appreciated most about this episode was the way it basically showed that people who consider themselves smart, bright geniuses who believe they know everything because they have higher qualifications are inherently flawed with their almost inherent sense of arrogance that anything they say is correct simply because they're smarter.

The conversation between O'Brien and Bashir was great, O'Brien is the everyman, the normal average joe who has years of experience and is going to be the one dealing with the actual situations whereas Bashir represents the ones who sit behind the desks with their knowledge and comes up with probabilities, then proceeds tell the regular joes what they should and shouldn't do simply because of a few calculations and assumptions they've made, rather than personal experience, despite all the statistical probabilities that go into stock markets these days, they still can't seem to predict stock market crashes and fluctuations very well because statistics alone aren't enough.
David Pirtle
Fri, Dec 9, 2016, 10:54pm (UTC -6)
This episode had me cringing from the opening scene, with its one-dimensional caricatures of the mentally ill standing in for genetic experimentation gone wrong. I kept waiting for it to get better. Didn't happen.
David Pirtle
Fri, Dec 9, 2016, 11:01pm (UTC -6)
And by 'better' I mean less offensive.
Nolan
Sat, Dec 10, 2016, 1:37am (UTC -6)
@ David

It's interesting. I've been reading another review site that calls out Star Trek's offensive analogies, and it's just got me thinking how the views toward this franchise has changed in the new contexts provided by the passage of time.

Take this episode for example, today, it's rife with offensive portrayals of mental illness. As if presenting what an outsider thinjs mental illness looks like, then discussing it. Problem is, in the 90's this is what the 'common' idea of mental illness was. Of course, if this episode were about mental illnesses perception, then maybe it wouldn't use offensive stock depictions. Instead thus episode seems to be focused on how the mentally ill have a place in society and should have a role in it.

Of course these don't excuse it today, but it does reinforce this growing idea that Star Trek as a whole isn't made for minorities or people experiencing the issues it brings up. The Original series had to use analogy to get around the network, as did TNG, and at the time it was clever, but today, in the more open environment, I'm beginning to think these messages were aimed at straight white men.

The point is to get the dominant power structure to look at all these issues and say "hey, that's not cool, look what this type of behaviour is doing to people. Look were we as a species could be." and because its gotta get past the network and reach that specufic audience, not to mention being largely (though not completely) written by members of that audience, that outside the issues portrayal ends up being used.

For example with this episode; "Here's a bunch of mentally ill people, you recognize this, this is a common depiction of mental illness, you've seen this in the popular media, but look how marginalized they are." if course, since popular opinion of mental illness/race/gender have changed, partly due to the influence of Trek, so many of these depictions become offensive and trite.

So much of Trek has been about opening such topics for discussion, but since those discussions have now happened, and society has (hopefully) grown more open and accepting, Trek now looks outdated in it's messages.

Moving forward, Trek has not only got to talk to the already established white male power structures, but to the recently empowered minorities who are looking for validation of their identities that past Trek could not provide as consistantly due to the culture it was made in.

Course, I'm also a so-called "normal" (I'm really not) straight white man, so I fully acknowledge my percpective is skewed and biased itself, and I have no real standing to discuss these details in any specific detail. And I apologize if this view offends anyone, it's just been percolating a while and I thought I'd share it and see what others thought.
Peter G.
Sat, Dec 10, 2016, 8:33am (UTC -6)
@ Nolan,

"Take this episode for example, today, it's rife with offensive portrayals of mental illness. "

No it is not. You're reading into it what you want to about contemporary issues, when the subject matter is nothing of the kind. The 'mutants' in this episode are not mentally ill, they effectively have brain damage as a result of their genetic resequencing. You can't say what someone suffering from genetic alteration gone wrong ought to look like, because the technology hasn't been invented yet. There is, moreover, no contemporary equivalent to what Jack and the others are going through, as they really are being punished in a sense for what their parents did, which makes this true science fiction and not merely a modern issue dressed up. Whatever else you impute onto it is of your creation and not present in the material itself.

"Course, I'm also a so-called "normal" (I'm really not) straight white man, so I fully acknowledge my percpective is skewed and biased itself, and I have no real standing to discuss these details in any specific detail. And I apologize if this view offends anyone, it's just been percolating a while and I thought I'd share it and see what others thought."

You need to know, and I'm quite serious when I say this, that this type of view of self veers far away from the Trek ideal, not towards it. Perhaps you don't endorse the Trekkian world view, which is fine, but if you do consider that its humanist perspective suggests that every person's viewpoint is important, that no one is unfit to speak his mind, and that skin color and sex do not dictate whose opinion counts.

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