Star Trek: Deep Space Nine


2.5 stars.

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 Text

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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83 comments on this post

    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.

    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.

    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.)

    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.

    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

    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!

    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!

    @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.

    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.

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



    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.

    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.

    I didn't mind the episode as much as the reveal that Avery can't show emotion at all when acting.

    This was a pretty sad moment for me, realizing that we are stuck with this guy for as long as the series runs.

    I found it peculiar that the Bajorian was able to find the cure quickly, when Bashir was unsuccesfull over a longer time. I know in the shows' final "captain's log" he states that "with the aid of Bashir's notes", blah, blah .... but we never saw him reference them.

    Kind of a hammy episode. Nothing gained really.

    2 stars.

    Teaser : ***, 5%

    "You look like you could use some sleep!" Thanks, Kira. Maybe he'd have time if you didn't stand around bitching about everything. O'Brien's Bad Day is actually a decent bit of work, but dear god, how about some music [even some crappy music]? Or some snappy editing? So many seconds go by wasted where we watch O'Briend tap a console or replace a hatch. Anyway, there's a mysterious device in the bowels of the replicator system. Uh-oh.

    Act 1 : **, 17%

    And a repeat of the flaw in the Odo/Quark rapport from "A Man Alone"; they're sitting together casually shooting the breeze and are literally telling each other what could amount to character bios. This is not natural dialogue, it's ham-fisted character exposition. What is there for me, the viewer, to infer about their relationship? Nothing, they've just told me everything! Thanks for letting me turn my brain off, guys. On the other hand, it's kind of hilarious how easily Quark gains security access when Odo just left his presence.

    So, O'Brien's fatigue starts to bleed into his manifesting odd symptoms until he finally starts babbling nonsense at Kira. This must have been fun to memorise...

    TNG's S6 was an unfortunate period to air a new show. The bland, slow, padded style which characterised the direction of the series of that time was a poor vehicle for introducing us to this new series and these new characters. I found myself equally disenchanted by this style on TNG, but at least I already knew and cared about the crew and their mission. DS9 did not yet have that advantage. To me, this is a much bigger culprit in DS9's perceived lack of direction than its stationary setting.

    Act 2 : **, 17%

    Hmm...Star Trek : Gertrude Stein? It would have been nice if the crew's goofy dialogue were perceived as funny by the cast rather than "deadly serious." Yes, it's a serious problem, but come on, how about some realistic emotional responses, at least at first, before it becomes clear there's an epidemic.

    Clunky exposition returns as the alien with the stew makes a second appearance just to give Odo his clue about Quark's security breech.

    Others have pointed out the ret-con of Rom being a brilliant engineer despite his "being an idiot," but didn't we see him in the last episode being, well, not an idiot? He seemed like a normal Ferengi. So the writers later chose to take a normal character and make him both incredibly stupid and incredible brilliant. Let's keep this in mind, shall we? I am not certain that Rom was the only victim of this strategy.

    So, it turns out Quark is inadvertently responsible for spreading a deadly virus to the entire station's population, including all his customers. I'm sure we'll see consequences to this.

    Again, the story plods along at a snail's pace with the most lethargic attempts at character interplay sprinkled about.

    Act 3 : *.5, 17%

    Here's ANOTHER unnecessary scene--Kira is about to tell Sisko that she found the mysterious device (nice resolution to that mystery, by the way, if only O'Brien had thought to use his tricorder during his repairs), yet we have to actually be shown a 15-second clip of her finding it. Talk about padding.

    Okay, what would be different, dramatically speaking, in making the "aphasia virus" just a damned virus, ie a disease which weakens and kills you? Is there a reason to make the sufferers aphasic? Do we get some metaphor, plot twist or even a little pathos from this gimmick? Nope! It's just a way to make the virus more science-fiction-y. Take Sisko's finding Jake sick--if Jake had been, say coughing or wheezing, feverish, sick in bed, would Sisko's reaction be less warranted? Instead, we are asked to feel the same based on Jake's random word-generator speak. So, we have to overcome a strange layer of suspension of disbelief for absolutely no reason. The consequences, resolution and empathy of the plot would not be hindered by making the virus act like a virus and not an internet meme-speak. Another unintentional result is we have to rely on the actors communicating their real feelings without the aide of coherent dialogue. Colm Meany could pull this off, but Terry Ferrel and Cirroc Lofton definitely cannot. Poor kid is just flailing his eyebrows about in an attempt to convey desperation. Without knowing this particular child-actor's strengths and weaknesses, it should have been an obvious bad move for the writers to demand something so subtle and strange from a kid.

    Um, the Bajorans developed a complex virus (with this unexplained goofy aphasic side-effect) during the resistance? How, when?

    Oof, Kira's friend whom she contacts over subspace gets the shitty acting prize on this one.

    Act 4 : *, 17%

    "This virus is a work of genius." My ass.

    So, Kira has 12 hours to find the Bajoran genius or people start dying. Okay. So, Sisko, maybe you want to assign more than ONE person to work on this! Maybe help yourself instead of interrupting Kira to let her know she needs to hurry up. Geez.

    Then, we get the scene where Kira tells Sisko she's leaving to find a cure, but fails to mention she won't leave the Runabout, just so Sisko can berate her for breaking quarantine. People are yelling! Drama must be happening! RARG!

    Well, just in case the virus wasn't riveting enough, we've got the other contrived disaster, the exploding ship. That's right, trying to break away from the station doesn't cause his hull damage or impair his docking clamps, but triggers and EXPLOSION. That's some well-designed technology there.

    Act 5 : *, 17%

    Kira stealing Surmak from his office was hilarious. Total Janeway move.

    Why is it that every time someone goes aphasic, it's always met with "what, what was that?" followed by awkward babbling.

    Did Kira just sentence this man to death? Well, I'm sure there will be consequences.

    Did Kira fly past the burning vessel about to blow up half the station and do nothing? No hail, no offer to use the Runabout's transporters or tractor beam? Huh.

    30 SECONDS 20 SECONDS 10 SECONDS!!!!!! 'splosion!

    I did like Quark's little comment about "hazard pay." Do Bajorans earn a salary working Federation jobs?

    The bookending was really painful--all that was missing was one of those early TNG "that was cute and funny" music cues followed by Sitcom credits.

    Episode as Functionary : *, 10%

    What's to say? The plot is ludicrous, the danger at the end obviously manufactured and the titular "Babel" aspect is just a gimmick. We could have had an interesting subtext about the original meaning of the Babel myth--the dispersion of peoples, the multiplying of tongues allegorising the divergence of cultures. Instead we get generic danger and inexplicable justifications. I'm not sure if this underwent a rewrite, but it had, in this way, a similar feel to "Masks," where a potentially intriguing idea is dumbed down to pointless drivel. Much like "The Naked Now," it's also a really bad idea to air an episode which requires the actors to be weird so early in the series. It leads to a lot of uncomfortable scenes with darting eyes and confused expressions. The Odo/Quark stuff was okay in places, but nothing about it really added to their dynamic. Sisko's concern for his son does not inflect his actions in any way except during the designated "character scene." It felt cheap. Overall, it's a cheesy, contrived mess that needs no repeat viewings.

    Final Score : *.5

    Babel: C+
    - “Strike limits flame the dark true salt!” Colm Meaney has fun with those nonsense sentences.
    - Quark is pretty great in this episode. His scene in the sickbay is a highlight.
    - Odo’s defensiveness – “before I came aboard.”
    - I like the Kira/Dax scene. I’m waiting for the first Dax-heavy episode to make final judgments about Farrell, but she’s not bad in small scenes, and the character is conceptually interesting. Sexuality must be a complicated issue for the Trill, what with all the past lives bearing down on the current one. This was touched on a bit in “A Man Alone”, and I like how Dax can’t quite resist male attention in this one.
    - I like Odo being recruited to the bridge crew in the absence of anyone else.
    - Avery Brooks is still pretty bad, but I did like the moments between Ben and Jake.
    - I choose to suspend disbelief and pretend that Kira was reprimanded offscreen for kidnapping a doctor, but that was pretty cool.

    - This episode worked really well when it dealt with the light-hearted aphasia stuff, but as the virus spiraled out of control and the tone became more urgent, “Babel” slackened. I’m not sure the show has earned the gravitas yet to tell a compelling medical thriller; the episode might have been on the whole more successful had they stuck with lighthearted filler. The show takes on a darker tone, but can’t fully commit to it. No deaths from the virus? I know it’s network television in the nineties, but come on.
    - Characters were affected by the virus in exactly the right order for plot convenience.
    - It seems to me that Kira was too quickly able to identify and locate the virus’s creator. Too easy.
    - No fallout for Quark (unintentionally) endangering everyone on DS9.
    - Not a single member of O’Brien’s staff can deal with the sorts of maintenance issues he was being called upon to fix early in the episode?
    - Insta-solution.

    I actually liked this episode quite a bit more than the last – it was good fun at a number of different points – but there wasn’t much depth here.

    To put a finer point on my first "bad": There are basically two issues. One is that the show began forcing a darker tone when the aphasia was still in its infancy and rather silly, which created some tonal issues. But a whole space station being affected by a disease which completely limits one's ability to communicate could actually be a pretty major issue, especially once people start collapsing from deadly fever. But "Babel", as others seem to have said, never makes the race-against-time very compelling, nor does it convey the true horror of having the station besieged by sickness. That's what I mean by the show not having the gravitas to do this story yet.

    @ Yanks, the aid of Bashir's notes", blah, blah .... but we never saw him reference them.

    Yes he did. I am so glad you guys were not the critics who critiqued the show back when it aired. Most of them loved Avery Brooks' portrayal of Ben Sisko and the one thing I remember them mention, he wasn't like the other captains. They seemed to appreciate the differences, rather than a copy of the same formula that had gone on for 7 years. * Heres to being different.


    He did? When? ... Where?

    Don't confuse being different from the other captains with acting chops. Two different animals there.

    MsV, what you are doing (unsuccessfully) is portraying people who have genuine grievances with the acting (bad acting) of Brooks as being intolerant and prejudiced. It really doesn't wash. You provide no rebuttal whatsoever except "He is good and I can appreciate differences"

    Bad acting is bad acting. If you can't see it, that's your fault, but please don't start with the moral high ground crap in order to justify your opinion. Brooks is a bad actor. I say that based on his delivery, over acting and inability to make the character believable. There is no smoke without fire, and the fact so many people are irked by Brooks should tell you something.

    I thought this was a fun episode. Defiantly silly and not one to be taken serious, but still, I always get a kick out of it.

    @ Yanks He did? When? ... Where?
    I am sorry it took so long to get back with you, I think we were talking about Surmak referencing Bashir's notes? When he first sat down at the computer he said something about Bashir had started a base pair...

    I enjoyed his acting, not perfect but he did very well. He wasn't boring nor slapstick either. All of us in or nurses group would get together on Mondays and discuss Star Trek. We all enjoyed Avery's acting as Ben Sisko.

    To DLPB: I am not concerned about whether you think his acting is bad or not, its just an opinion. I think he played a really good Ben Sisko, I was convinced of the characters sincerity and strength. He did this very well. Since I have been a fan of Star Trek since the 70's, I have heard criticism of Bill Shatner's acting and all of the other captains. Someone said they didn't like the way Shatner paused or he always overacted, I just thought he played the perfect Captain Kirk, we had no one to compare it to, since he was the first and only Captain Kirk. Personally I loved his acting. Its only an opinion. Patrick Stewart was my least favorite captain. I think and thought he was dry and boring most of the time. I said this to one of my gal pals and if looks could kill I would be dead now.

    Now what I really enjoy about all of your posts is the way you critique each show, music, story, and characters. If I would do this it would ruin the show for me, but I do enjoy reading it.

    We will just have to differ in our opinions, but its OK by me.

    I agree with MsV: I always liked Avery's portrayal of Sisko. In fact it wasn't unit, what, 20 years later when I looked to the internet did I discover all the Brooks Bashing for his acting. Go figure.


    ..But I like him too :D

    I wont do this twice lol. For Yanks: Surmak said when he arrived with Kira, I need to see your Drs. Viral Characterization Research. He was beginning to develop an antidote series.. Then Kira started speaking japtalian.

    Del_Duio, Its nice to hear from someone in recent history that likes Avery's portrayal of Ben Sisko. I just enjoy Star Trek. I wish I had kept some of the articles from real critics' (who get paid) high compliments on his acting ability. Of course, they made a deal of him being an African American captain too.

    Even a blind ape could make Shatner look like a great actor, let's face it. Stewart, on the other hand, puts them both to shame. But that's my point really... for a modern TV series, why are they using someone who doesn't even come close in talent?

    OK folks, Shatner is a good actor that hammed it up in the 60's to sell bad episodes in an effort to keep the show afloat.

    Brooks can't deliver a sentence without breathing in the wrong places for gods sake. The only thing he's good at portraying is a bass ass.

    Got it about the notes MSV, thanks.

    Nah, I've seen him in the films and shows like Columbo and he's just as bad there.

    For my 2 cents about Brooks... I don't know if he's a good actor... I haven't seen him in anything else.

    I can tell you who is NOT a particularly good actor. Samuel L. Jackson. Samuel L. Jackson is really good at playing Samuel L. Jackson. And since he's AWESOME, we don't care. I'd watch Mace Windu L. Jackson or Nick Fury L. Jackson or whoever else. In the wrong roll that could be a problem, but he doesn't ever seem to take the wrong roll.

    There are good actors out there. Hugh Jackman sells me in WHATEVER he does, all the way from "X-Men" to "The Boy From Oz". It sometimes annoys me when people start dissecting acting technique like it matters. If you cast your show really well it doesn't matter if everyone there is literally just playing themselves. Jackman is impressive, but you don't have to be that good to do your part service.

    As for me, the 3 most important parts of a character are
    1) Do I enjoy their scenes (see Garak)?
    2) Do I believe their relationships (this is a really, really big one)?
    3) Do I get immersed (ie, can I tell they are acting)?

    For me, Avery's Sisko comes up with pretty high marks.
    1) I enjoy his scenes. I think Avery's eccentricities come through a bit sure, but they don't detract from the performance for me. I just attribute those things to Sisko.

    2) His relationship with Jake, Dax and Kassidy all score high marks in my book. Especially Jake. His relationship with Dukat scores VERY high marks in my book. Things things all work well for Sisko.

    3) The ham didn't bother me here or with Shatner. I just felt like Sisko was a little eccentric. And that's ok.

    So in short... we don't need an actor as good as Stewart if the casting people cast the role well, the writers can play up his strengths, the directors can play up his strengths and he has good chemistry with the people he needs to. And I think he does.

    Strong ideas behind this episode, imperfectly executed.

    -Perhaps the best idea, which wasn't remarked upon much in the episode, was the virus as a weapon for the Bajorans during the occupation. A virus that would only hurt those on the command deck and leave all the workers unharmed; the perfect setup for the Bajorans on the station to revolt.

    -the Aphasiac qualities of the virus were an interesting departure from the normal 'fever & collapse' viruses we normally see in these type of episodes, but it quickly became frustrating to sit through scene after scene of characters unable to communicate (to truly have aphasia must be incredibly frustrating).

    -The guy who wanted to burst his ship out was also an interesting (and realistic) idea, but the dialogue was off, and the actor was struggling to emote under all his seemed like he could barely make his alien cheeks move. Of course, Odo & Quark missed the obvious solution to their problem; instead of beaming to the docking ring to disconnect his ship from the station, Odo should have just beamed onto the ship and turned the engines off.

    -They could have used a few lines by the scientist saying Bashir seemed to understand how to attack the illness, but he didn't know a particular molecular combination peculiar to the disease creator that would allow his cure to attach to the disease.

    As to the above discussion of Avery Brooks' acting, I think he wasn't very good in these early episodes, but he became quite good later.

    Like the defense system in "Civil Defense" or "Empok Nor," the virus here is largely has to do with the recognition that this is a station (and a geopolitical situation) with a lot of history; the idea of an old virus designed to attack Cardassians being loosed on the station's new occupants is a decent one. The episode as stands ends up being standard-issue plague story, where, nearly at random, characters succumb to the same symptoms and so we sit through several nearly-identical scenes. This is not really a great subgenre of Trek shows. The nearest equivalent to this is probably "The Naked Time/Now" in terms of being an early plague episode that gets the crew to act weird, but, for all the problems "The Naked Now" had, it had the virtue, as Jammer put it in his review, of not being boring -- to wit, it at least tried to reveal something interesting about the crew via the wacky virus effects. For that matter, even "Genesis" did. There are some decent character moments in the reaction to the virus, but the virus itself, while somewhat interesting as an idea, is never given any character-centric spin, and so it's just a lot of people talking funny.

    It's somewhat nice to see Odo and Quark as the last holdouts running the station. I actually like that Odo is someone who really does *not* like being put out of his comfort zone -- something about his fear of compromise, yes, but I think also that he really does not want to be responsible for screwing up or endangering anyone, and has little faith in himself as anything but a security chief. One of my favourite moments in "Emissary" on this viewing was Odo's deer-in-headlights look when Bashir asked him to press down on a disaster victim's wound, and Odo nearly begged for Bashir to get someone more qualified to do this; for all his gruffness, I think Odo is actually genuinely scared he might hurt someone if ever asked to do something he's uncomfortable with. But Odo's protests that he doesn't know how to run a station have him basically being as competent as anyone else, which tends to happen a lot in these types of shows. Quark and Odo chemistry is great -- but yeah, there is too much telling and not enough showing. Favourite moment: Quark's saying he witnessed transporting all kinds of times just as Odo is beaming away. The captain wanting to leave feels like a hoary device to inject extra tension into an episode where the entire staff was about to die anyway.

    Kira took a hell of a chance, though, beaming that guy onto the Runabout, given that her "evidence" that he had anything to do with the virus was circumstantial and he very well might have had no idea at all what happened -- and certainly, the odds that he would know how to cure it seem miniscule. Couldn't Kira have sent a message to Bajoran medical experts (if such exist!) or the Federation with Bashir's files and explained the situation, rather than threatening this guy's life on such an extreme long-shot? That this doctor could figure everything out based on Bashir's files in such a short period of time seems pretty convenient. There is always this assumption in Trek (well, DS9 particularly) that if someone creates a disease, they will have or be able to quickly find an antidote (watch "Extreme Measures" -- or, wait, better yet, don't), which I am very skeptical about.

    The O'Brien material in the opening acts was indeed a lot of fun -- the next episode is the big O'Brien intro ep/showcase and that does even better, but the frustrated-everyman element works well in these opening scenes.

    I feel like there's not much too this episode, and the resolution frankly feels implausible. It has a few things to recommend it, but it's mostly skippable. I'd say 1.5 stars.

    I suppose we're ready for a ship in peril episode now? In all truth this doesn't bring anything much new to the party, and for more than the first half progresses slowly and with little sense of peril. Once the (double) peril is introduced the pace picks up, but it wraps itself up in a standard and entirely too pat ending.

    That said, the character development is clearly apparent here. Harassed O'Brien is a delight, again Odo and Quark are highlights, and Kira's ass-kicking resolution offers a new dimension to what we saw in TNG. Not perfect, but competent enough.

    And we get Quark trying to communicate with a virus victim by speaking... very... slowly... Genius. 2.5 stars.

    My wife used to be a Speech and Language Therapist and she thought the whole aphasia virus thing was done well and really enjoyed this one. Actually this might be the episode that finally hooked her.
    For people to dismiss the episode as daft because of aphasia, something that actuaklly exists, seems daft.
    I do hold the episode up as being... Well not daft, but again. A bit TNG. This isn't uncommon between all the series. It took them all a while to find their own identity.
    An easy watch though and probably 2.5 from me as well.

    Yawn. A virus is loose and it's a race against the clock to cure it before everyone dies. And there's an explosion coming up in the next thirty seconds, so we have a second race against the clock. This is little more than a transplanted TNG story with some DS9 trappings added to it. Add to that the facts that the virus itself wasn't very interesting (turning everyone into blubbering, incoherent messes - really?, how is that intriguing?) and that the ship captain attempting to force his exit came across as a moron - not someone one could identify with - and you have a dud of an episode.

    Granted, some of the character details work again. However, the only truly good part of "Babel" was having Quark, of all people, be the one helping to save to day.


    . This is little more than a transplanted TNG story with some DS9 trappings added to it.

    Actually, it's been stolen from a first season episode of Babylon 5 (a much better episode with a gutsy ending). There are a lot of eps in DS9 that are plagiarizing B5.

    DPLP wrote:

    "Actually, it's been stolen from a first season episode of Babylon 5 (a much better episode with a gutsy ending). There are a lot of eps in DS9 that are plagiarizing B5."

    What the heck are you talking about? How can you claim "Babel" ripped off a Babylon 5 episode when:

    1) I can't think of a season 1 B5 episode that's close to "Babel". The closest episode would probably be "Confessions and Lamentations" which is in B5's second season and aired in May 1995 (two and a half years after Babel). I would agree that it's a better episode than "Babel" but certainly different enough that there's no ripping off going on.

    2) Babel aired in January 1993. Bablyon 5's pilot episode "The Gathering" did not air until a month later. The first true episode of the first season of Babylon 5 didn't air until until a year later in January 1994. How could "Babel" be ripping off anything in Babylon 5?

    @Ben - The belief is that B5 was pitched to Paramount, who got to see the series bible and made DS9 based on it.

    That said, I have no horse in this race, don't know how much detail is in the bible, if anything was really copied, what was a coincidence and I've never seen B5. Just mentioning what the allegations have been.

    @ Robert,

    I've watched both series many times, and there is very obvious lifting from B5 along DS9's run. The series appears to have basically taken its premise, although based on Pillar's comments on a new Star Trek show he does give good reasons why another ship-based show running alongside TNG would have been a mistake. Babel, in particular, is not like any B5 episode so I believe Ben is correct there.

    Some of the character arcs even appear to be taken from B5, especially Sisko's arc as compared to that of Sheridan. The occasional plot is also too similar to be a coincidence, even down the level of certain visuals and imagery.

    That being said I hold both shows in the highest regard so this isn't a complain on my part. Things like this happen when you have a rival; you watch each other and learn. That's a good thing.

    @Peter - Oh definitely. Just look at how say... the smart phones bite off each other. It's only bad if they jacked the series bible and Trekified it. I can't have an opinion on that though because I never got around to watching B5 and I never worked at Paramount :)


    I suggest you get rewatching B5 - because in the first season there is an identical storyline to this one. A virus gets released station-wide via the air system. But unlike Trek magic wand writing, B5 has a gutsy ending - that's where they differ.

    "A deadly plague threatens the Markab race with extinction, leaving Franklin in a race against time to find the cure before even more species are infected."

    This episode has cleared ripped off B5 - and I have 100 more examples.

    My apologies - season 2. But JMS gave an outline of pretty much everything to them - so you see many episodes cropping up in DS9.

    @DLPB - As stated I've never seen B5, so I can't have an opinion but "ship gets strange virus and Doctor races against the clock" was done a few times on TNG. Even "quarantined space station gets strange virus" was done. I can nearly think of an example once per season.

    Ben mentions that episode and says it's not similar. I read the synopsis just now and it didn't sound similar. What elements do you feel were borrowed beyond virus + space station?

    The similarities of the episodes are too clear - especially the part about the air system spreading it. Please reserve judgement for when you have seen both.

    @DLPB - I'm not judging, just interested. One guy says they are so similar that it has to be stolen. Another guy says they are nothing alike. Was the air system a major plot point? I haven't seen it in years now.

    Surely the champagne moment was Quark with his amazing reverse double handed head grip when there was 10seconds to destruction

    3 stars - it's another strong early ensemble episode that's pacey, has good characterisation and character interactions, and gives everyone something to do. Again, Odo and Quark are highlights. The main downside is the very abrupt resolution as noted above, but the rest of the episode leading up to it is well-executed, especially as this is a premise that could have come over as goofy.

    Honestly, I just couldn't get past the silliness of it all.

    Stupid disease + contrived threat to the station from that explosion + reset button. All adds up to a rather stupid plot.

    Some nice character moments but a weak plot and contrived drama really let this episode down.

    One thing I meant to add: I watched the entire series of DS9 about 15 years ago. There are three episodes I particularly remember being completely cringeworthy and terrible: This one, the one where O'Brien sees a leprechaun and the pied piper and the one where they get trapped in a board game.

    This one wasn't *quite* as bad as I remembered, let's hope my memory of the others is also worse than the episodes actually were

    I like this episode.

    However, the main thing that niggles me about it....

    Why when someone falls victim to the disease does the person (Dax, Sisko being main culprits) get this look of fear/horror/confusion as they are speaking their first affected sentence? Surely to them its absolutely normal, the other people in the conversation would be aware, but no themselves yet.

    { Sisko and Jake are believable as father and son, with scenes that resonate. }

    Agreed. I'm not always the biggest fan of Brooks' acting, but he and Jake were great as a father-son pair, yes, very believable.

    { 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. }

    Yeah, it was a lot different than "quick, the show has to end, what if we hypermodulate the phase flux of the differential transometrogram to flood the station with fixtheproblemionic waves?" "try it" "ok" [poof]

    The characterization in "Babel" is strong-every character featured in the episode is engaging and fun to watch, but this is another Season 1 episode with very little impact. 2 stars.

    Unimpressive -- some nice character scenes sprinkled in amid a main plot that takes too long to develop and then has to wrap up too quickly and in so doing becomes far-fetched and left me shaking my head.

    Seems somewhat arbitrary that certain people get infected with the virus more quickly while the important people (Kira, Ben Sisko) hold out longer and start working on the solution. Finally Quark does something useful (and that too, barely) -- so in the series far he's been 1-dimensional. The love-hate relationship with Odo/Quark is getting well established.

    Interesting idea about how the virus was set up and then got triggered. I liked Kira's "no holds barred" way of getting the doctor to work on the disease although going to Bajor, returning and having the doctor figure out how it works after 18 years is a ridiculous -- and he apparently does it quickly enough so that O'Brien (the 1st one seriously infected) doesn't die. Of course it has to be this way but could the writers have made it seem a tad more credible?

    I didn't get the sense of despair that should have hit like a ton of bricks given nobody was in Ops and it is a race against time. I'd blame Sisko/Brooks for some of this -- just not enough emotion from him in conveying the gravity of the situation. Odo was slightly better in this situation, basically begging Quark.

    And as for the disease, it messes up people's speech but then what? I think this episode could have borrowed from "The Naked Time" and tried to show more chaos on the station. The alien who wanted to leave in his ship is too passive for the longest time until he finally tries to rip his ship away and winds up nearly killing himself -- how do we explain this jump in logic?

    2 stars for "Babel" -- best part about the episode was some of the desperate measures needed (Kira, Odo/Quark) and the character moments they generated. A good premise for how the virus was created and let loose but then poorly executed with the virus itself and how it is treated. Nothing really original here either and similar episodes have been done better in TOS/TNG.

    I remember finding this ep intriguing and couldn't wait to find out what would happen. This is one of my favorites. APAHASIA IS not funny or comes about from stroke and or infarct[s]. In 2005 I went thru the stages of completing a stroke......listed as infarct by MRI readers. My memory loss began taking place in 1999. It was gradual and on daily basises I would be aware that I could not put words together. In Feb 2005 it completed. I woke one morning and did not recognize my home. While I am looking around I could hear loud meows!~!~!!!! and the cats came into the room, Punkin, looked at me screaming "mommy" I swear. I knew my babies. I made it out of bed and fed them all the time noticing the messes they had made...........I must have slept for a very long time because the cat food bag was ripped in pieces...they got their own....

    I became frightened. I didn't know what to do. It took nearly 3 months to help myself feel and be normal. Jump to 2015, August--I went to bed one night in horrible pain and when I woke up the next morning I felt like I'd been smashed to bits and worst of all, I could not speak words properly. That was Aphasia, and believe me, no one will help you when your words come out wrong. I could not get help because I could not ask for it.


    The above comment is from me, I changed my name from Betty to Cinnamon and I am going to add some more.......

    I am certain the people who wrote these comments long ago never come back to see what is new but that TB could be at an age now that memory loss is hitting him [or her] and I hope that person feels the brunt that comes with aging. When I was a child, I was taught now to make fun of people who were sick. I never have.

    Speaking of past captains, Patrick Stewart is my pick. He is English and as it goes very well versed in his chosen craft. He was all business as Picard, all military, never talked down to his people or made the women sleep with him, he listened. He solved the problems and at the same time heard what others had to say.

    Why did the viewers love Shatner so much. He was Canadian along with Scotty, They are like the English, they learn the craft and they project, they don't slur, ever. The U.S. was not use to acting on their levels that is why they were loved and praised.

    I found this ep so nerve grinding and kept praying no one died.
    And Colm Meany as O'Brien, he really is a true Irishman and he knows and uses his craft well. I have always felt so sorry for Miles because after he married Keiko and they went to DS 9 she became a nasty shrew. Why did the writers have to write her this way? She could be pretty fault finding on Tng but not as mean. Rosalind is wonderful actress and she did pull it off.

    In another life I could myself hopping into a ship and kidnapping
    a sorry dissadent [spelling]. No time for dictionaries. I also wonder just how two men on Bajor could hide out long enough to create such a virus. I don't blame them, but after all, it is Nazi's killing Jews ....... understand? Babylon 5 was's another Nazi/Jewish story. Who writes these stories?, Do you know? I do, but you the reader need to research for the answer.

    So it is said, well I guess he must have died or got caught before he could activate device. Guess he did, makes sense.

    Forget anybody's acting ability, the reason Brooks was the boss of DS 9 is because the height of get more blacks on t.v. in responsible jobs or else. He had a t.v. program of his own in case any one wonders. Look that up.

    This Bashir bashing is wrong. Sid/Alexander... is an English actor; therefore he is learned. His mother is the sister of a [white] Scottish lady who has a world famous brother who helped Sid get into acting.

    This ep had nothing to do with THE NAKED TIME they were all drunk AS they were in the stupid NAKED NOW. And Masks, nothing to with Babel. The people Data talks for are all long dead. The chasing is the Sun and the Moon. I love that episode
    as well as The Naked TIme where I sympathize for those poor souls. all for now

    "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."

    I wonder if Geordi and B'Elanna have it too

    Babel follows the "disease episode" formula too closely to be memorable. That being said, it does have a lot of tension. Even before the disease sets in, we are shown how O'Brien is falling behind on maintenance, and everyone is pressuring him. People are trapped in corridors, unable to replicate food, etc. Then it gets worse as O'Brien becomes incapacitated. Then you have Bashir working feverishly to find a cure (pun intended), then he becomes incapacitated as well. It makes the situation feel hopeless.

    Here's where it fails: As the senior staff member becomes infected one-by-one, each time presented in the same way. Person 1 starts babbling. Person 2 looks confused and says "what did you say?" This scenario happens at least three times.

    Odo sure spends a lot of time at Quark's, but I enjoyed their interactions.

    Less than average episode.

    Quark trying to still get money from quarantine patients got a legit laugh out loud from me. “Money put hand me”. I’m on my first watch through of ds9 and so I’m just getting acquainted with everyone’s personalities. Quark is for sure an early favorite

    Again trying the "while watching" commentary, without reading review or comments:

    Love O'Brien and having worked in IT, love this bit about the overworked techie. Yep.

    Lots of complaining in this ep so far. And making others do things. Odo and Quark are amusing together. Maybe I'll be able to tolerate Quark.

    My, how easy it is for Quark to bypass security. A typical Treky plot device, so I won't add to the complaining.

    Ok. So they've been sabotaged! By the Cardassians?? This doesn't seem like their style.

    Jake is sick! Send Brooks to acting school, his degree from the Shatner School just isn't doing the job.

    A slow, quiet ep so far, but keeps my interest. Brooks doing better here in his second encounter with sick Jake.

    Jaheel's ship is too stressed to release. Been there, done that.

    Pico and Quark wishing treachery vote nightstand. Quill kid unnoticed confused no cart? Hog.

    Whew. They found the antidote just in time! I'm better now.

    Love O'Brien.

    A decent ep, enjoyable.


    Brooks’ first great performance I think is in “The Nagus”. (minor spoiler) It’s not even a Sisko episode, but he makes the B story one of the best of its kind.

    3 stars

    This was a solid episode. Garak enters the picture and is put to intriguing use. The duras sisters were actually believably used not as a tng dressing but for a plausible purpose and their double crossing Tahna was definitely in their character.

    Tahna wanting to destroy the wormhole makes a great deal of sense and provided a nice twist and exciting climax. His calling Kira a traitor was biting Kira sand odo soupseaeching scene was well done culminating with odo contacting Sisko letting him know that someone wanted to chat with him was also well done

    I was enjoying the show, then I realised:

    Where are the masks to prevent people breathing in the virus?
    Where are the attempts to filter the air for the virus?

    Do they know nothing about disease prevention ? They must be wanting to get Sick! Even in this “barbaric “ century we know that masks stop air- born viruses.

    This blunder destroyed the whole episode for me. It is silly “, silly, silly! If they didn’t want to do these simple things, they should’ve had a line in the show saying that these preventative measures didn’t work. I need a statement like that makes this episode work for me.

    What strikes me is that the stubborn cargo captain said something like neither him or his crew were affected by the virus, but Odo just saves him, so his crew died in the explosion and no one batted an eye for that!!! Also, why didn't they transport the dudes off the ship?

    The problem with Babel is that the ship/station in jeopardy premise does not really work to create tension for obvious reasons. Another issue is the pacing. Like the previous episode, Babel has an abrupt ending which hurts the show. The virus is interesting though. Its effects produce some fun scenes. The real highlight of Babel is the character moments. The Sisko's father and son relationship and Quark and Odo's chemistry is delightful. O'Brien's early scenes dealing with a malfunctioning station is enjoyable as well.


    Rewatching this episode, I'm struck at two things about Sisko. He is O'Brien's antagonist, right up to the last piece of dialogue in the episode, and often is O'Brien's antagonist throughout the series. Also, when he authorized Kira to talk to the Bajoran scientist even though she said would not set foot on Bajor, it was played as if he realized what she planned to do. It was an early instance of him being desperate enough to cross an ethical line because everyone on the station, including his son, was in jeopardy. Good writing.

    Babel is a formulaic beat the clock, ship/station in danger sci-fi plot, that is somewhat entertaining with a good performance by Colm Meaney. For a predictable show like this to be successful the execution has to be really good and in the case of Babel, it's only ok. For the second episode in a row, the abrupt ending hurt the show. A mediocre effort.


    Having seen 100% of STTNG back in the 1990s and about 40% to 60% of Voyager from BBC America reruns in the 2010s, I set about a DS9 rewatch/watch (I probably only saw 20% of it in the 90s when it was first airing).

    This is certainly not the finest of the first 10 eps of the show that I've gotten through so far, but it is perhaps the most timely and personal to me.

    Timely because of COVID-19, of course--watching the crew not even think to put on masks because they assume the virus is only foodborne is a bit shocking in our masked day-to-day in spring 2020. And once it's airborne, they've realized it too late and now there's no point to trying to prevent the spread.

    And personal to me because my wife once had aphasia (not due to stroke or a blow to the head as Dr. Bashir mentions being causes--migraine-related instead) and was hospitalized over a weekend in a stroke ward due to an abundance of caution by her doctors.

    The main thing I'd change about this one was O'Brien being taken out of the mix so quickly, I was actually quite interested by the everyone and their mother has a job for O'Brien teaser at the start. Ah well, I'm sure there's plenty more of O'Brien being worked to death to come! My other favorite part was probably when Dr. Bashir is looking at his terminal and then the computer stops accepting his vocal input and he looks again and... word salad printed all over it instead of what was there before. A fun scene to pause on the before and after screens.

    While whistling past a graveyard, Jammer to wrote:

    ++"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." ++

    Haha, yeah, I mean, the race to get a vaccine out before the virus becomes deadly is just......well, I mean, it's just--okay, sure, they had to convert additional quarters into an overflow hospital ward as the entire medical staff is overrun......but it's pretty obvious the station won't just become one giant morgue, to the point where they have to start digging mass graves just to keep up with the death and destruction, because, well......what kind of horrendously bleak future would look like that, huh?!

    Additional negative stars to this episode for some of the other outlandish parts of the the bar owner who pompously declares himself to be an "essential service" in the middle of a quarantine, how the one open business in the economy makes a huge profit while everything else is shut down by delivering goods to people that they cannot otherwise access while the station is shut down, the people who ignore the quarantine restrictions and go out to the bars and clubs anyway because they felt fine thereby inadvertently spreading the virus to everyone else far more rapidly and causing it to mutate, the small business owner so single-mindedly desperate to complete his shipment that he fights against the quarantine orders thereby things worse and ends up blowing up his own ship while taking nearly half the station with it.

    DAMN, DS9! How is it a quarter-century later, and your episodes are somehow getting even MORE relevant than ever?!

    In January 2019, commenter Ashley wrote:

    ++"I was enjoying the show, then I realised:

    Where are the masks to prevent people breathing in the virus?

    Do they know nothing about disease prevention ? They must be wanting to get Sick! Even in this “barbaric “ century we know that masks stop air- born viruses.

    This blunder destroyed the whole episode for me. It is silly “, silly, silly!"++

    I'm just going to be over here in this corner......drinking and sobbing, in no particular order.

    I like how the Bajoran scientist just hangs up on Kira when she mentions the virus that is now killing everyone on the station. His virus is going to kill thousands of Bajorans and he won't even hear her out?

    It's like he was afraid to be connected to the virus but why? Hard to imagine the Bajoran government would fault him for a bio attack on Cardassians.

    This episode deserves 1 star at most.

    We learn nothing about the characters, every outcome can be seen a mile away, and 50% of the show is just wasting time with people reacting to the virus. The virus itself isn't even threatening until the last 15 minutes when we learn people could die. Until then they just talk funny and could be going about their everyday lives! Then the cure is found offscreen with no rhyme or reason.

    The whole show was a waste of time!

    Watching this episode after the Coronavirus pandemic has made me see this episode in a new light. I laughed when Kira said to the scientist they were taking back that since she’s infected with the virus he is too. Lots of quarantine but no masks.

    2.5 stars only, Jammer? I thought this was an excellent episode, deserving at least 3 stars.

    Mind you, given the Covid pandemic, it was a little hilarious to see them try to cope with an airborne virus with no masks, no social distancing, and no vaccine… As for Sisko hugging a newly infected Jake, even before the pandemic that would have been highly inadvisable!

    But the way the virus manifested via aphasia and linguistic nonsense was a brilliant stroke, and not only very entertaining but also thought-provoking in terms of the universal translator. What would happen if the UT broke down and everyone’s speech became babble… or Babel?

    One of the episodes I remember clearly from seeing the first time around in the 90s.

    @Perico De Los Palotes

    “What strikes me is that the stubborn cargo captain said something like neither him or his crew were affected by the virus, but Odo just saves him, so his crew died in the explosion and no one batted an eye for that!!!”

    You’re conflating two separate moments. Earlier, the captain told Sisko that he and his whole crew were unaffected, which was when Sisko forbade him to leave. Later, the captain was alone on his ship trying to get away, with his crew in DS9’s medical wards, which was when Odo rescued him.

    Wonderful episode to rewatch in these days.
    Except for a good theme, the story telling compared with current Discovery is wonderful. Colm Meany's O'Brian is terriffic. Just sit back, relax and enjoy.

    People stuck in an airlock? Use the transporter to beam them out. Virus infecting people? Use the transporter's bio filter to remove it. This episode was lame.

    @Maq "Wonderful episode to rewatch in these days."
    Agreed. Just watched it on a lark.

    In the days of Omicron this episode plays rather well. The so-called "aphasia virus" is very reminiscent of the Pandemic inasmuch as confusion takes over and little is done to actually stem the tide. I particularly enjoyed the selfish alien skipper breaking quarantine to get his cargo of what-not (probably Cheetos and Dr. Pepper) into the ruddy supply chain. He screws himself and DS9 up royally.

    This early season 1 episode reminds me of TOS's The Naked Time, with its spectre of near disaster. It already has Quark able to run rings around Odo. O'Brien stumbles around to the point of senselessness trying to get Sisko a hot coffee. Bashir is not yet sporting his super brain, so he is unable to quickly cure the virus-ridden station of its ills. Accordingly, it's literally down to less than a skeleton crew by show's end. Very realistic.
    Liked it 3 stars worth.

    I just watched this for the first time since it originally aired.

    I remembered kind of liking it back then but liked it more now. Simple hesitation! Knowing the characters better makes the episode better.

    It does resemble The Naked Now.

    As for Avery Brooks acting-- well, YMMV, but my assumption is they wanted more of an over the top Shatner type than a Stewart type.

    This episode is hard to take seriously but it is pretty good. Once's an episode with a gold mine of hilarious lines and scenes that are esp fun when viewed out of context.

    @Tidd do you actually still believe that surgical masks stop a virus?


    Um, sure, to a degree? It's not exactly all that controversial an idea that masks help limit the spread of various respiratory viruses which are suspended within liquid droplets we exhale. Those droplets have a chance of getting caught on a mask, particularly if the infected person is wearing one. Now, effectiveness is disputed, but not the idea itself.

    Are we really questioning this basic fact?

    Not a bad episode for the first season, not the best, but certainly watchable.

    Post pandemic the quarantine scene, Quark's bar, and sense of desperation pack much more punch.

    "Mind you, given the Covid pandemic, it was a little hilarious to see them try to cope with an airborne virus with no masks, no social distancing, and no vaccine… As for Sisko hugging a newly infected Jake, even before the pandemic that would have been highly inadvisable!"

    Or they are just way better informed about the usefulness or uselessness of certain measures for the bühne. I hope we can come to the conclusion that you can't stop and barely slow down a virus and that over the too responses only did more damage. Also this DS9 virus was actually dangerous to every age group. Helps they don't have fat people walking sroundin the 25th century because McDonalds, oversized American portions and free sugar bomb refills have been banned and candy and snacks are a different thing altogether in Star Trek.

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