Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

"Extreme Measures"


Air date: 5/17/1999
Written by Bradley Thompson & David Weddle
Directed by Steve Posey

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"I misread you. I thought you were just a misguided idealist. But you're a dangerous man. People like you would destroy the Federation if given a chance." — Sloan to Bashir

Nutshell: An unpleasant surprise. This episode could've been many great things, but it chooses many of the most disappointing paths.

Many aspects of "Extreme Measures" seem grossly out of place. The final stretch of DS9 so far has been woven together into a mostly well-thought-out story that understands the nature of a greater purpose. Seeds are planted, then they grow. But with this episode, we have a primarily self-contained plot that, for the most part, seems to go nowhere we needed to go—certainly not where I wanted to go. What's most disappointing is that Section 31 is brought in as the story's central element, and then not used for what it has come to best represent—an immense moral issue with which our characters must wrestle.

This could've been a great episode. It should've been a great episode. Frankly, I'm a little shocked that it didn't live up to its potential. This has to be one of the most unexpected disappointments of the season.

With time for Odo running out (estimates show the disease will kill him within a week), the plot continues from "Tacking into the Wind," as Bashir and O'Brien prepare for Section 31 to show up on their doorstep as a possible insight into the disease that infects Odo (as well as all the Founders). They confess their plan to Sisko, who isn't happy about the legal or ethical aspects of the plan (that is to say, Bashir's plan to capture an agent and then use Romulan mind-probing equipment to find the truth is both illegal and unethical), but he goes along with it in the interests of saving his crewman's life. And besides, this is the Sisko who lied and cheated to bring the Romulans into the war in "In the Pale Moonlight," and who just last week told Worf to do "whatever it takes" to prevent Gowron from making a military blunder.

Given all that's going on in terms of the moral issues and the undertaking of "extreme measures," as the episode calls itself, this story should be rich with ethical debate, the questioning of tactics, the challenging of morality, and the subsequent challenging of those challenges.

What can I say? It's not.

Sure, there are some interesting moments to be found scattered through the hour (just look at my quote for Sloan at the top of this review and consider where the dialog alone could've gone), but there's not nearly enough analysis of the issues that make this story worth telling.

The big problem, I think, is that "Extreme Measures" approaches its subject with the completely wrong type of plot. Perhaps some details of that plot are in order. Bashir's plan sort of works; his bait of alleging to have found a cure brings Section 31 to the station to seize the cure. Bashir and O'Brien capture Sloan (William Sadler) and isolate him in a room for questioning. It's at this point the story should've turned interesting, with Sloan and Bashir in a room together with little to do but talk. Their initial conversations are actually pretty good, but they aren't permitted to develop to fruition.

Instead, Sloan activates a device in his brain designed for suicide. This leaves Sloan's body dead except for some traces of activity in his brain, which has about an hour of life remaining. Bashir and O'Brien then realize they must use the Romulan mind equipment to connect themselves to Sloan's brain, digging through his mind in a virtual-reality-type situation to find the cure to Odo's disease.

As far as I'm concerned, this is simply the wrong story to be telling. The plot is a gimmick that owes itself more to, say, third season's "Distant Voices," with all the surreal gags to go along with it. Sloan's mind, naturally, looks just like DS9. ("I wanted you to feel at home," Sloan says when he encounters O'Brien and Bashir inside his own brain. A more cynical reviewer might say, "Yes, and we also wanted to use the standing sets to stay within our budget.")

The episode is replete with the usual tricks of surreal virtual-reality mind games, like falling elevators, corridors that inexplicably rearrange themselves, threatening men who appear and vanish, rooms that are filled with people and then suddenly empty, and so on. This might be interesting under other circumstances, but this is Sloan we're dealing with here, in what is the third-to-last episode of the series. Why are we suddenly going back to routine, drawn-out sci-fi games when the whole rest of the arc has been so dead-set on getting things accomplished without resorting to contrived circumstances? (It also doesn't help that this episode puts every other current storyline on hold.)

I should probably point out that there are some genuinely good moments in "Extreme Measures." I liked, for example, that being inside Sloan's mind allowed us to see the side of him that he would never show in real life, namely the "nice" Sloan. This mental projection of Sloan is a side that wants to give Bashir the cure, and who goes into a room full of acquaintances and apologizes for cheating them out of being in their lives.

I liked the notion that part of Sloan regrets what he was, and that the people in his personal life suffered as a result of his constant existence in shadowy espionage. It shows a key aspect of this series, which is that all characters have a side to them that makes them more understandable than we might have assumed given the plots they typically inhabit. We realize here that Sloan has made great personal sacrifices to be who he is—a man of secrets who protects the interests of the Federation at all costs. At the same time, he seems to regret the means he has taken in protecting the Federation, as he tells Bashir that he respects him because in the end, "it's our actions, not our beliefs, that define who we are."

Unfortunately, I'm of the belief that something like this would be more powerful if it had manifested itself in the real world rather than some obscure corner of Sloan's brain. Why couldn't a way be found to bring this sort of dialog to the surface without using a cheat plot?

Strangely, Sloan doesn't even seem to be the main idea here. It seems the primary goal of this episode was to give Miles and Julian one last buddy adventure. That would've been fine if the story had kept the plot true to the tone of the "Final Chapter" thus far, but it doesn't. The whole premise feels dumbed down. It's almost as if the writers needed a device that would give us a Sloan/Section 31 and an O'Brien/Bashir adventure in the same package, and the only thing that could accommodate both criteria was this VR/mind-probing premise.

A lot of this didn't work for me because I was wanting the story to get on with itself. Consider an extended scene where Bashir and O'Brien lie wounded in a corridor after being attacked by a bad actor with a phaser. This is a scene that goes nearly three entire minutes without a single cut of the camera. The technique is skilled. Alexander Siddig and Colm Meaney put a lot into the scene, and come off as extremely natural. I even found myself amused by the dialog, in which Bashir keys in on male bonding in a way that of course drives O'Brien nuts. (My personal favorite: "I love Ezri passionately. It's just that—I like you a bit more.")

But as much chemistry as these two guys have, this scene seems like an overlong and misplaced attempt to be "Armageddon Game, Part II." The point is, I think, that these two guys love each other—in a decidedly brotherly way. Miles of course doesn't want to admit it right off, while Julian is constantly open with his feelings. (Although, this comical lesson of the week had me thinking too much of a line from Wayne's World: "I've learned that platonic love can exist between two grown men.") I honestly liked the idea of O'Brien and Bashir having one last adventure; it's just that the writers picked the wrong way of going about it given the gravity of the situation surrounding it.

Anyway, I hate to get off the topic at hand of Sloan—which is precisely why some of this storyline is distracting. The other interesting idea here is one of Sloan offering to Julian "all my secrets," as a distraction to delay him in finding the cure to the disease. As Bashir later admits, it was the perfect bait. Bashir wants to bring down Section 31 completely—which he considers a parasite in the Federation—and the information in Sloan's head was probably the once-in-a-lifetime chance to do it. O'Brien's practical sensibility of returning from VR with the cure before Sloan's brain dies prevents Bashir from taking the lure and failing the mission. (And speaking of the cure, now that it has been successfully administered to Odo, I'm wondering if having it will play into the story involving the Founders in the final two episodes. I certainly hope so.)

Unfortunately for the bulk of the hour, the VR mind games are too prevalent. Thompson and Weddle fall back onto the most obvious of the VR genre tricks—the predictable "let's allege to wake them up now, never mind the fact there's still 20 minutes left in the show." I'd be very surprised to hear from anyone who didn't instantly suspect we were still in Sloan's mind, and that Sloan was playing an elaborate ruse on Bashir and O'Brien. The story even drops us some surreal hints through the acting (particularly Avery Brooks') in the scene where Sloan "dies"—but then it plays the game through the commercial break in an attempt to dupe the audience. This was far too transparent to be worthwhile, and contains almost no lasting significance, coming off as story padding more than anything else.

What's most frustrating about "Extreme Measures" is the sheer number of missed opportunities. Given all the questionable morality we've seen through this war, and the way Section 31 has played into that through "Inquisition" and especially "Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges," this is an episode that should've dared to ask the truly tough questions. What about the morality of forcing this cure from Sloan through the illegal Romulan mind probes? Here we have the irony of Bashir, who considers Section 31 a scourge in the Federation, resorting to the type of questionable tactics Section 31 itself employs. Yet the episode doesn't begin to address Bashir's actions. And here we have Sisko objecting to Bashir's plan, and then reluctantly permitting it. Yet the episode doesn't address Sisko's past roles in bending the moral rules for the greater good. We have the issue of Section 31 committing genocide. Yet there's barely one line of dialog devoted to it. There could've been an endless clash of riveting moral arguments here, but for the most part, "Extreme Measures" doesn't tackle them, because it spends too much time inside Sloan's brain supplying us with the usual sci-fi plot twists.

Although we see the end of Sloan here, we don't see the destruction of Section 31. But considering there's only two more episodes, I severely doubt we'll be seeing Section 31 again on the series, and I fear that the bigger questions involving Section 31 have not been sufficiently answered—and now never will be.

This episode is by no means a complete failure. It actually proves quite entertaining on many of the superficial levels. But superficial is not what I've come to expect from DS9. This episode set out to be the wrong thing, and it deserved to be so much more than it was. The writers had a huge opportunity here, and they blew it.

Next week: Chapter eight. An apparent acceleration in the war.

Previous episode: Tacking into the Wind
Next episode: The Dogs of War

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18 comments on this review

EP - Thu, Mar 12, 2009 - 3:55pm (USA Central)
NO! Not Sloan! My most favorite of the "shady" DS9 characters.

I want to see him return in a robot body. Like Mr. Burns did in that "Citizen Kane"-like episode of the Simpsons.
Kyle - Fri, Oct 9, 2009 - 12:07am (USA Central)
I thought this was O'Brien and Bashir's best episode together and really got at something about male bonding...but as you said it was disappointing from a general plot standpoint.
Destructor - Thu, Jan 14, 2010 - 6:51pm (USA Central)
I have to agree completely with Jammer- this episode was stinker and an extremely sore disappointment. Every single moment in Sloan's head was torture.
Lenny - Wed, Jun 16, 2010 - 2:48am (USA Central)
What? I loved this one. It explores Sloan's character more, and develops O'Brien/Bashir relationship really well I thought. The whole 'inside the mind' thing was a stretch but I enjoyed it.
Marco P. - Sun, Aug 29, 2010 - 2:02pm (USA Central)
As far as "hit & misses" go, this one was definitely a miss. And after a great run of consecutive *quality* episodes, it's all the more disappointing that we have this one to break the pattern, so close to the series' end.
Nic - Thu, Feb 24, 2011 - 9:48am (USA Central)
Section 31's actions are horribly unethical, not to mention practically useless. Their intention may have been to prevent the war, but in the end the disease didn't really make any difference (considering that in "Favor the Bold" we learned that Odo's return home was more important to the Founders than conquering the Alpha Quadrant). As such, I have no problem with Sisko's approval of Bashir's illegal actions to save a dying race.

Given the above, I'm not sure what kind of "debate" there could have been between Sloan and Bashir. But anything would have been better than a contrived trip into Sloan's mind. And I would have liked to learn more about Section 31 as a whole. This episode makes me wonder if the entire "changeling disease" storyline was really necessary.
Jay - Sat, Nov 19, 2011 - 9:46am (USA Central)
Sisko sure had a nerve railing against Bashir for his manipulations after the events of "In The Pale Moonlight". At least he didn't have the audacity to take some punitive action...giving his support is really all he could credibly do.
Nebula Nox - Wed, Apr 11, 2012 - 11:02am (USA Central)
Unfortunate in both execution and concept. 31 would not send someone to destroy Bashir's work - they would have to destroy Bashir as well. I mean, if he has figured out the cure once, how could he forget it? He's genetically engineered; he does not forget...

And how could Bashir and OBrien - who were nearly killed because of their knowledge of the Harvester Disaster - not realize that their lives were in danger?
Rhoderick Gates - Sat, Jun 30, 2012 - 10:49am (USA Central)
Steve, what exactly would you have wanted Bashir, etc, to say further?

I'm not sure how much more they could have said.

Perhaps you ought to give specific examples(drafts)?
Jay - Sun, Jul 1, 2012 - 4:44pm (USA Central)
Miles and Julain break into Quark's twice in this episode, once to play darts and then to swipe some booze...where was Quark in these past few episodes?
Buckly - Thu, Dec 27, 2012 - 8:40am (USA Central)
Jay - I don't know about Quark, but Armin Shimerman was off working on "Buffy".
Duge - Sun, Mar 10, 2013 - 10:27pm (USA Central)
This was arguably a weak episode, definitely the weakest of the "Final Chapter" episodes but it did have a few scattered good lines and moments that, while not enough to make it a good episode, keep it from being far from the one of the worst ones IMHO (most of the ones dealing with Ferengis or the Mirror Universe). The first part of the episode works well with Kira and Garak bringing Odo back from their last mission to steal the Breen energy weapon and Bashir and O'Brien hatching their plan to capture the expected Section 31 agent (who turns out to be, of course, none other than Sloan). Bashir's rejoinder to Sloan about his protesting the use of the Romulan mind probes as being illegal was clever ("I hope that you can appreciate the irony of that statement!"), as well as his Bond villain-like line about expecting Sloan to "resist until the bitter end" were quite clever. I also was intrigued that there seemed to be a "part" of Sloan that seemed to like Bashir (sort of hinted at the end of "Inter....") and was quite willing to give them the cure once he had made amends-in his mind anyway- to friends and family members in a quite touching scene. Things got a little murkier and less enjoyable when "nice Sloan" was killed by the "bad Sloan" who then promptly disappeared, leaving Bashir and O'Brien lost and confused about where to go to find the information they needed and then getting fooled into believing (briefly) that they were out of Sloan's mind and back on the station with a dead Sloan. The end was a muddled mess with Basir and O'Brien finding Sloan's "office" and sifting through all of Sloan's secrets and Bashir becoming ever so briefly tempted to try and steal more Section 31 secrets at the expense of finding the cure for the Founder disease. Thankfully, O'Brien was there to keep Bashir on track and they ultimately succeeded but it ended up being a close shave. I was happy to see Odo get cured at the end of the episode but I wished that the execution of this episode, as well as the payoff to the Section 31 storyline that started in Season six's "Inquisition" had been a lot better than it end up being.
Kotas - Sun, Nov 10, 2013 - 4:24pm (USA Central)

O'Brien and Bashir's friendship is one of the highlights of the show and it is showcased here.

K'Elvis - Mon, Jan 20, 2014 - 4:00pm (USA Central)
If the Founders had all died, I don't think that would have stopped the war. The Vorta and Jem'Hadar would have simply continued the war. The would have searched for the lost Changelings, who were unaffected by the disease.

What makes sense is when the Founders get sufficiently desperate, to offer the cure in exchange for a surrender.
DLPB - Thu, Feb 20, 2014 - 10:25pm (USA Central)
Minds don't work like this. It is impossible to ever go through someone's mind in this fashion having literal conversations with the person. Using some silly plot device doesn't make that ok.
Ric - Tue, Feb 25, 2014 - 12:09am (USA Central)
This one began with a good example of "shades of grey" done right. I am talking about Bashir misleading autorithies and getting na ilegal Romulan memory scanner to combat the plans of genocide supported by Section 31.

Sad that it only exists because of very Strong example of "shades of grey" done super wrong. I am talking about the genocide plan itself. Section 31 is tolerated by the Federation. The high officers tried to prevent Bashir from finding a cure to Odo hoping that the genocide would prosper. This is not shades of grey. This is changing the very foundations of Federation and Starfleet we knew in the past.

Writters of DS9 in the end were so disconected with Star Trek reality that they didn't even realize what they have done. Because they not only put this Section 31 monster in the living-room. In the last episode, they made Starfleet accomplice. If did that on purpose, it was offensive to the Trek universe. If not, it was dumb to the point of insanity.
Toraya - Mon, Mar 31, 2014 - 9:49pm (USA Central)
What ruined the ep for me - despite a promising start - was Bashir and O'Brian's response to Sloan's suicide move. The man was willing to sacrifice himself to keep (in his view) the Federation safe. I expected Bashir and o'Brian to realize this and respond with a moment of quiet surprise and respect -- realizing that, guess what, their evil adversary had turned out to be a noble man and a true patriot Instead they made smarmy comments like "He just couldn't bear to let his little secret escape.". I am no fan of Sloan, but I am a great hater of double standards. Heroism is heroism, even when bad guys show it.

I am also not understanding all the talk of 'genocide.'. Genocide is genocide because it targets civilian populations. It is perfectly legit in wartime to kill enemy soldiers. So the question is, are the Founders civilians?

We've seen them spy, infiltrate, and give combat orders. It could be argued, I know, that only a few of them do this, while the rest lie around in the Great Link all day being perfect pacifists. But since they are all Linked and apparently of one mind, and also given the Female Changeling's answer to Odo's question "How many shapeshifters are there?" it's hard to define any of them as individual enough to be truly outside of combat.

Additionally, the reason they're able to stay largely out of the bloody fray is that they deliberately bred slave races to do their fighting for them -- an immoral act and not something they should be allowed to hide behind. As creators and masters of the jem-Hadar, they can all be considered commanders in the Dominion military. Therefore, they are fair targets in wartime.

In fact, I would say killing the founders is far more just than wiping out squadrons of Jem-Hadar slaves who have no choice but to be there, as they have been bred for obedience.
Toraya - Mon, Mar 31, 2014 - 10:37pm (USA Central)
Ugh, I am even more disturbed now that I have made myself watch to the end. Bashir's character is totally bastardized here. This is a guy who risked himself to save enemy Jem-Hadar fighters, who risked himself fighting the Quickening, who has consistently been devoted to saving any life he comes across. But in this ep, he watches Sloan die and all he cares about is "There goes our chance of saving Odo.". Not a hint of guilt about the fact that his actions - luring Sloan to Ds9 and illegally interrogating him - caused the man's death. It seems Bashir sees Sloan not as a human being but merely a data storage unit to be raided and pumped for info. Bashir's "so what?" attitude towards his death would befit a psychotic torturer.

If I thought the writers actually meant to show Bashir losing his humanity as a theme, I would be okay with it. (In fact that would be interesting.) But it's clear they didnt. And the fact that we are expected to condemn Sloan, while accepting Bashir's abusive interrogation of him and feeling a-okay about his death -- is hmmmm highly distasteful.

(Next time, doc, just try water-boarding.)

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