Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

"Hippocratic Oath"

3 stars

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

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

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

— Bashir and O'Brien

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Previous episode: The Visitor
Next episode: Indiscretion

◄ Season Index

36 comments on this review

Sat, Nov 3, 2007, 10:42pm (UTC -5)
This is one of the few cases where my opinion is different from Jammer's. I consider this episode (or, more precisely, the A-story) one of the best character pieces done on DS9, and Goran'Agar is one of only two Jem'Hadar ever to transcend the "universal soldier" stereotype (the other is "Rocks and Shoals"'s Remata'Klan). Were it not for the rather unnecessary B-story (why exactly is it that Odo investigates stuff that goes beyond the station? Isn't that exactly what Worf is supposed to do?), this would rate at four stars in my book, and as it is, I still give this three and a half.

Admittedly, this episode is easily overlooked following the two stellar starter episodes of the season. But I for one hold it as an equal to "The Way of the Warrior" and not as far behind "The Visitor" as a three-star rating would imply.
Wed, Jan 30, 2008, 6:10am (UTC -5)
I really like this episode because it deals with a very interesting theme of controling soldiers through the use of drugs which is an idea that goes all the way back to Encounter At Farpoint when Q shows the crew a dark period in earths past.
Thu, Jun 11, 2009, 9:11am (UTC -5)
I also liked this one more than Jammer and would put it on equal footing with the season's openers as an intelligent exploration of character motivation and perspectives on free will. I even liked the B story, though I still have no idea what Worf's job actually is. What does someone whose duty is to 'coordinate all Starfleet activity in this sector' actually do?
Sat, Sep 18, 2010, 3:27pm (UTC -5)
Jammer, although I usually agree with your reviews, I gotta say that I just loved this one.

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

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

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

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

Regarding the rating, I'd rate it over some of the other three star episodes from this season, but under others. I guess that just means a four-star rating system can only have so much fidelity, eventually you have to lump some varied episodes into the same category.
Wed, Feb 27, 2013, 2:55pm (UTC -5)
I thought this was an extremely good episode. 3.5 to 4 stars. I am just now watching this series, and I had no idea it got so good. Why didn't more people talk about it? I like both the A and B stories.

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

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

I hope they don't push the reset button on Bashir and O'Brien's friendship, but I'm sure they will.
Wed, Oct 23, 2013, 12:43pm (UTC -5)

Another solid episode. Season 4 starts very strong.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who fixed the crashed shuttle?

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

2.5 stars for me.
Mon, Aug 18, 2014, 8:06pm (UTC -5)
O'Brien is right. The doctor is a short-sighted idealistic fool. The only facts that he has available to him is that they were shot down and are being forced to help under the threat of death.

Helping someone like that isn't trendy or cool. It's ridiculous.
Mon, Aug 18, 2014, 10:00pm (UTC -5)
Better than being dead I suppose. I guess finding a way to rid the Jem'Hadar of the need to white isn't cool.
Tue, Aug 19, 2014, 10:40am (UTC -5)
Yanks, I'm about 102% sure Goran'Agar pulled his tube out, ya.

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

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

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

If Bashir was right, curing the addiction could lead to peace, saving countless lives. If O'Brien was right, curing the addiction could lead to never-ending war (perhaps Jem'Hadar never make peace once freed from control) that would cost countless lives. We don't know which one is truly correct.
Thu, Oct 1, 2015, 11:30am (UTC -5)
I liked how the episode started out letting you think it was gonna be another Chief-Doc-Bromance and then subverted it by pitting them against each other, culminating in Bashir pulling rank. Nice!

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

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

I'd become Keiko too if I were married to that.
Fri, Oct 2, 2015, 10:43am (UTC -5)
^^ He could have got that way BECAUSE he was married to Keiko too, you know! ^^

Aside from she's pretty, I'd probably want to spend 20 hours a day away from that too. These two never had any chemistry (I've said this before, and it's still true). A weird pairing that they probably never thought would have lasted more than a couple episodes on TNG but of course expanded the crap out of things eventually.
William B
Sun, Oct 25, 2015, 6:58pm (UTC -5)
Yeah, so, I've been meaning to do a writeup of this for a while but I keep getting stuck. Suffice it to say that I liked this one a lot. The biggest problems I have with it have to do with rushed aspects of the Jem'Hadar behaviour, some of which could not really be helped and some of which could probably have been dealt with better by eliminating the Worf subplot (which was okay but did not need to be in this episode). I will *hopefully* come back to this, but for a quick summary, note the way Bashir finds himself attached to Goran'Agar, who turns out to be some kind of mutant, genetically different in some way, nonviolent relative to the Jem'Hadar mean, forward-thinking, wanting to bring in a new era; O'Brien does not exctly like him, but the person who understands O'Brien the best (and vice versa) is the "ordinary Jem'Hadar" second, who is a veteran with a sense of duty, propriety, and order from the past. As well as using the Jem'Hadar as a backdrop, this is arguably the first time that the Bashir/O'Brien dynamic leads to a good to great story: Bashir is exceptional and elitist, progressive and bleeding heart, forward-thinking and foolish, whereas O'Brien is stable and ordinary, sensible and reactionary, steady and closed-minded. They are both brilliant in their way, but Bashir has his head in the clouds and O'Brien is on the ground, and this is one of the best instances of Trek crafting a moral dilemma where there are two legitimate positions which are well-developed and expressed. I think this deserves a 3.5. (We'll see if I do talk about this more later.)
William B
Thu, Oct 29, 2015, 12:50pm (UTC -5)
I guess I will keep talking about this episode in increments. On the subplot:

There's a particularly funny line of dialogue here:

SISKO: And I do encourage vigilance in my officers. But remember, Odo is chief of security on this station, and you're the strategic operations officer. Your primary duty is to coordinate all Starfleet activity in this sector, not to catch smugglers.

This line is meant to, in-story, remind Worf that he is not security chief anymore, but it also is pure exposition, in that "Way of the Warrior" did not actually bother to define what a "strategic operations officer" is or does. And, for that matter, I'm still not clear after this episode. It does seem to me that Worf is now doing something of what Sisko was doing in, say, "The Maquis" -- being expected to coordinate with other people nearby on, uh, "strategic operations." And I get the idea that this job is necessary now that there are so many conflicts about which DS9 is at the centre. But the show does not really go out of its way to explain why this position suddenly exists, or what exactly Worf's day-to-day duties are.

Anyway, while the ending has Worf chastened and Odo smug, it's notable that it really *is* partly Odo's fault. Even if you argue that Odo owed Worf no professional courtesy to explain what his plan was, which I can see Odo at least believing, Odo said he was aware of Worf's tracking him, and decided to incorporate it in his plan. The moment Odo starts to make Worf's behaviour part of his plan is the moment Odo has to stop crying foul about Worf making a legal arrest at an inconvenient time; it is sloppy for Odo not to have thought of that contingency. In order to get the twist ending, the episode also has Quark acting as inside man for Odo, which is not really traditionally what we've seen, though it's not wholly unbelievable.

Anyway, I find the subplot predictable in its "Worf fails to listen to people telling him not to step on Odo's toes, screws up" structure, and Sisko's "shades of grey" speech is a little too obviously meta for me. Still, it's mostly short, and the idea that Worf instinctively wants to continue his security job and has to learn to let someone else handle that is pretty okay. The subplot also implicitly ties in with the main plot, where Worf and Odo's approaches actually hurt each other, even though they have the same general goal, which ties in with Bashir and O'Brien coming to conflict in the A-plot; it does not live up to the A-plot for various reasons, but one is that the conflict ends with one party taken by the characters as being entirely right and the other entirely wrong, making it a more superficial "lesson" story.

Sisko working on that thing in the final scene with Worf reminds me a lot of that thing from "Dramatis Personae." "IT'S A CLOCK!"
William B
Fri, Oct 30, 2015, 7:05pm (UTC -5)
OK, so back to the A-plot...

O'Brien does a Henry Higgins-style "Why can't a woman be more like a man," and in particular wondering why Keiko can't be more like Julian. He has so much more in common with Julian, and they can avoid the conflicts that seem to crop up in marriage, right? To test whether Bashir and O'Brien have their own differences putting a strain on their closeness, they detect a signal. Officer Bashir says little as non-com O'Brien decides they should land.

What I love about the A-plot is that real effort has been made to present the pros and cons of both Bashir and O'Brien's perspectives, and to give reasons for us to side with both of them (and against both of them). The traditional chain of command gives Bashir the authority, but this is undermined through the episode -- O'Brien basically makes the decision to land on the planet, and Bashir's level of security concern is such that he instantly, without much thinking about it, gives up all their secrets (including mentioning how they found the planet in the first place, which immediately leads to the Jem'Hadar covering up the signal so that Bashir & O'Brien won't be found). Notably, though, Bashir steps forward with information to protect O'Brien, the first of many instances in which the buddy relationship between Bashir and O'Brien is inverted and shown to work against at least one of the pair's desires.

So the plot comes down to the realization that Goran'agar is free of the Ketracel-White. To *some* degree, the episode cheats in order to present its character/moral dilemma, and the cheats do weaken the episode (though not that much, IMHO). Elsewhere, the White is sometimes played like a drug, but it does not seem to be psychoactive (except when absent), and nor does it seem to reinforce blind obedience or violent intent. In this particular episode, Goran'agar's having been freed from the White is the opening to him questioning everything about the Founders, and seemingly quickly moving toward the adoption of humanistic principles. In effect, able to see that the White is a symbol of his servitude, Goran'agar is able to break free of all the Founders' conditioning.

He forces Bashir to help him, but before long it does not take too much forcing: seeing Goran'agar's progression engages Bashir as a scientist, as a humanist, and a progressive. I don't want to get too explicitly political, though it is hard to avoid with certain episodes, but I think that Goran'agar really strongly appeals to a certain worldview shared by bleeding hearts everywhere (myself included -- and the use of bleeding heart semi-pejoratively is deliberate): freed from the circumstances of his birth, freed from his oppressive religion and addictions, the violent soldier is revealed to be capable of compassion and conscience; his monstrous behaviours are not intrinsic but are the result of external circumstances, which *can be cured*. The attempt to find a cure for the White very quickly moves from Bashir trying to solve this particular issue to Bashir having dreams of providing a positive revolution in Jem'Hadar society, one which, if successful, could save the Jem'Hadar from themselves *and* save the Gamma and Alpha Quadrants from them. Goran'agar is the perfect symbol of a particular kind of optimism and positivism. Moreover, Bashir basically responds as a doctor in the purest sense: he sees a patient, he will try to cure him; he sees the possibility of making an individual or indeed a *species* better, he jumps at the chance to improve their life, immediately neglecting other concerns, in particular whether the treatment of this particular ill can create an imbalance that can do more damage in the long-run. Somewhere in here is buried the notion that what is wrong with the world is fundamentally the result of a corruption of a good, natural state, and that once treated people will be healthy personally and ethically.

And O'Brien has lived a lot longer and is skeptical. O'Brien can hardly bring himself to consider that Goran'agar could have changed or is doing anything other than manipulating Bashir. And this itself plays into the portrayals of O'Brien's slight racism against the Cardassians; this accusation both denies actual evidence of growth on the part of Goran'agar and also does not make that much sense (since when are Jem'Hadar these expert manipulators that O'Brien is suggesting?). Let's not forget, too, how much O'Brien would give up for a slave-fighter who did not quite realize he was a slave when O'Brien let himself get to know him ("Captive Pursuit"). He does not quite listen to Bashir and glides past what Bashir is saying. And while he has a point that the Jem'Hadar get out from the Dominion's control, they might be very dangerous, his contention that the Dominion is doing a good thing by keeping the Jem'Hadar under control is a weirdly frightening statement -- the idea that genuinely evil mastermind dictators controlling mad dogs is a better prospect than mad dogs going loose is a pretty uncomfortable one. And yet, obviously O'Brien is right that Goran'agar's change, even if it is legitimate, says next to nothing about the rest of the Jem'Hadar, that Bashir is getting carried very far away from what he can reasonably predict, that what little evidence they have about the Jem'Hadar points a very dim picture of them. O'Brien is the one with actual combat experience, and he recognizes that one a person starts fighting it is hard to bring them back to civilization safely ("it's not you I hate, Cardassian, it's what I became because of you"), so that even if the Jem'Hadar's violent instincts would somehow dissipate once Bashir improbably found his miracle cure, there's still the fact that they have an entire civilization built around fighting the enemy, which still happens to be them. Finally, O'Brien emphasizes that Bashir has seemingly *completely forgotten* that the whole reason they are in this situation is because Goran'agar is holding them hostage so that Bashir can work on this cure -- something which Bashir, his head in the clouds and full of dreams of saving the Jem'Hadar and the quadrant (fueled mostly by hope but with some dollops of egotism), has pretty much forgotten. Somewhere buried in O'Brien's worldview is the idea that corruption is part of the fabric of the world, and it is the job of good people to do what they can to keep things from falling apart, without ever forgetting that the natural way of things *is* that they will fall apart.

As Bashir latches onto Goran'agar, O'Brien finds a kind of kinship with the Jem'Hadar Second, who is willing to follow Goran'agar to a certain degree but eventually turns on him. Goran'agar, as I said in a previous post, turns out to be a mutant; whether or not his mutation could be used to find a cure for the other Jem'Hadar is left undiscovered, because O'Brien destroys Bashir's work. Within the episode, the Bashir : O'Brien :: Goran'agar : Second parallels suggest how Bashir is, in some ways, the Starfleet equivalent to Goran'agar: he is something of a genius, thinking far to the future, and increasingly isolated as a result of it, to the point where he eventually loses touch with the rest of his men completely. Goran'agar and Bashir both end with their respective "men" (one in Bashir's case, a series in Goran'agar's) mutinying, which is partly because they are just so forward-thinking (Goran'agar is free of the addiction! Bashir is a genius!) and partly because they stopped paying attention to anything but their narrow goal which could change the galaxy. They lose touch with reality. O'Brien and the Second come to lose faith in their respective "leaders" and view their actions as flights of fancy. Bashir maybe really is that smart, and maybe he could find a cure for the Jem'Hadar, but he lost track of all the sensible advice O'Brien gave. Meanwhile, it may be that Bashir can only find solutions that work for people who think in the particular "advanced" way he does, which might not actually be that much more advanced. If everyone were like Bashir and Goran'agar, there would be no need for O'Brien's defying Bashir's orders, but, while it's a little unpleasant for O'Brien to recognize this, he does understand the mentality of the Second. O'Brien is not the unthinking soldier that the Second is, but O'Brien's time as a soldier makes him understand the Second's behaviour a little bit more than Bashir does, and so he is able to recognize more than Bashir does why Bashir's miracle cure might not work. I am trying to choose my words carefully, but I'm also writing quickly so I want to be clear: in some respects, Bashir really is exceptional, in ways that the show develops more as it goes on, but his relative certainty about this (which ties in with his insecurities, too) often leads him to neglect that his exceptionality is only in a few specific areas, and that O'Brien has just as valid a POV as Bashir has.

And so they become more and more committed to their different views until they have to come into direct conflict. O'Brien uses his wise-middle-aged-man voice to try to put an end to the discussion, and then Bashir, for the first time, pulls rank. They fall back on different forms of authority. And then they go beyond that: since Bashir's authority is final, O'Brien simply mutinies, and finally destroys Bashir's material, which once again parallels him with the Second who mutinies against Goran'agar.

Of course, the Second is a Jem'Hadar through and through, and O'Brien is a human. O'Brien's giving up on Bashir's cause is in direct opposition to the Second's giving up on Goran'agar, because O'Brien *does not give up on Julian himself* -- in fact, his caring about Julian is probably his primary motivator. Which leads to the betrayal, where eventually O'Brien not only plans his escape against Bashir's instructions, but also destroys Bashir's work. Overall...I guess for me personally, I mostly think that O'Brien's mini-mutiny is kind of justified up until he is ready to escape, and Bashir tells him to just go. At this point, Bashir gives up the pretense that he is "really" O'Brien's SO and releases O'Brien from any requirement for Miles himself to die because of Bashir's high-risk mission. This goes against the chain of command, and I am not trying to articulate that this is how a military organization should be run, but on some basic level I think that Bashir's plan is sufficiently risky, and O'Brien is sufficiently experienced, that I give him a certain amount of leeway to change the plan to protect himself. However, that is as far as I extend it -- at this point in the story, O'Brien destroys Bashir's work, and as he explains later, this is so that Bashir has no reason to stay (and thus no reason to die).

Now...O'Brien raised a point earlier that the Jem'Hadar unchained might be a greater risk. But that is not his reason here: he is Bashir's friend and he does not want Bashir to die. And that is deeply sympathetic, and if it were a matter of purely intervening in Bashir's suicide (ahem, file this point away) that would be one thing. But Bashir genuinely *has* a goal here, which could have good results, whose probability of success O'Brien is not really in a position to evaluate. As far as I'm concerned, if Bashir is willing to risk *his own life* for a noble cause, it is not up to O'Brien to stop him. That O'Brien cares about Bashir is undeniable, but O'Brien also sort of treats Bashir like a child who does not and cannot know what is good for him. This, to some extent, is justified by Bashir's various indications that he does not exactly know what he is doing -- which muddies the waters (and is part of why I don't particularly hold O'Brien's rebellion up to this point much against him). But Bashir is still an adult, and, more to the point, while he may be a lousy soldier, he is a brilliant doctor, to the point where O'Brien really cannot understand the nature of Bashir's work and how likely it is to succeed.

In saving Bashir but destroying Bashir's work, is O'Brien proving that he really does love Bashir, or that he does not understand him at all? In staying behind on what may have been a fool's errand, was Bashir basically indicating he cared more about some science project/alien social revolution more than his best friend and his own life? The ending maintains a balance, somehow: Bashir turns out to be right about Goran'agar's honour, but O'Brien is the one who understands Goran'agar's dedication to duty. (Note: I could have done without O'Brien explaining what Goran'agar meant about his soldiers WHILE JUST STANDING THERE, GET TO THE RUNABOUT FIRST GUYS.) O'Brien says Bashir can bring him up on charges, and Bashir does not quite know what all this means. There is something a little pat in the final conversation, when Bashir suggests that all will maybe be normal in another week, but it's still an effective scene.

While there are still some weaknesses this is actually one of my favourite episodes, with high-quality character and philosophical work. 3.5 stars.
William B
Fri, Oct 30, 2015, 7:13pm (UTC -5)
I should add, while I don't know if this episode gets followed up on directly, I do think that some of the things explored in the Bashir/O'Brien friendship come up again (at least) in "Hard Time," "Dr. Bashir, I Presume," and "Statistical Probabilities," so that I think this episode does feel comfortably a part of the series to me (even if it may not have direct effect on continuity).
Wed, Dec 2, 2015, 8:26am (UTC -5)
The beginning of the episode got on my nerves. What were Bashir and O'Brien doing in the gamma quadrant on such an extended mission that they expect to arrive back to DS9 a "few days" early? Doesn't the station need its only doctor and its chief engineer? What mission could possibly require the two of them, and only the two of them? They have no skills suited to planetary exploration or mapping.

Other than that, I thought the A plot was interesting and good.

I also liked the B plot, although I recognize the holes in it. I think I liked it because of the holes. Sisko's speech at the end: "Everyone here follows their own set of rules and if you understand their rules you understand them" is either a guide to life or a stunning admission that every character on the show is flat and predictable.
Diamond Dave
Sat, Dec 19, 2015, 8:00am (UTC -5)
Another very strong episode. Indeed, if it weren't for what amounts to a disappointingly light B-story it would be another 4 star contender.

Again, the strength of this lies in the performances rather than the fairly standard premise. A genuine difference of views strains the friendship of Bashir and O'Brien and it's all played out brilliantly - and the divergence of comments as to who was right and wrong suggests the writers got the balance completely correct. At the same time, we learn more about the Jem'Hadar, and it's entirely in keeping with DS9's darker premise that there's no Hugh type resolution here - Goran'Agar could be the catalyst for change in the whole Dominion but is never given the chance.

While it's fun to watch Worf and Odo butting heads, there's nothing much to detain us here. 3.5 stars overall.
Mon, Mar 28, 2016, 8:15am (UTC -5)
O'Brien and Bashir crash on a planet in the Gamma Quadrant that just happens to be where a unit of rogue Jem'Hadar are hiding while trying to free themselves from their addiction to ketracel white. What results is a fairly by-the-numbers story. Everyone knows pretty much how it's going to end - with the Jem'Hadar characters either dying or otherwise not embracing Federation principles. The intent is obviously to humanize the Jem'Hadar in some way and yet, in my opinion, the episode fails to do so. When faced with the consequences of being freed from Dominion control (becoming "soft" and "weak" like Humans) the nameless Jem'Hadar decide that they would rather not get rid of their addiction. In other words, they act like stereotypical, mindless super-soldiers. Even Goran'Agar, the one who is given the most development by the episode, succumbs to this stereotypical way of thinking - refusing to abandon his men because he was their commander. For a guy who was determined to be free of the Vorta and Dominion rules, he sure seems unwilling to actually change. If he had decided to go back to DS9 with O'Brien and Bashir and seek asylum from the Federation, some "humanizing" would have taken place. Instead, he acts just like I expected him to.

This A-plot, however, isn't bad, just predictable. What makes it good is that it involves two main cast characters at diametric odds with each other - something rather rare for Trek. Having O'Brien and Bashir come to two completely different conclusions allows some good moral questioning and examination to take place. Given how the Jem'Hadar (even Goran'Agar) eventually act, however, I think I side firmly with the Chief on this matter. And I have to give massive props to the writers for having O'Brien just straight up destroy Bashir's work instead of working to find some kind of compromise or non-violent solution to the situation - something that would be so typically Trek.

Meanwhile, over in the B-plot, Worf acts like a complete dipshit who doesn't do his job (gee, two senior officers are overdue from the Gamma Quadrant, that's not job for someone tasked with strategic/tactical planning, is it?!) and who fails to understand the concept of an undercover investigation. Joking aside, this is actually the part of "Hippocratic Oath" I like the best - for two reasons. First, it allows Worf to slowly acclimate to life on the station. Second, it's kind of a subtle jab at how Security Officers often function on Trek. SFDebris has often complained about Security and Tactical duties being performed by the same person and I have agree with him. It makes no sense for the person firing the weapons to also deal with ship-side security threats. Worf has spent seven years in Security doing just that. In fact, he's spent most of that time only being a Tactical Officer. Now he has to get used to the idea that these two very different duties are handled by two different officers. Odo handles things like gem smuggling while Worf deals with tactics and strategy. And watching Odo slap Worf down by basically saying "look you dumbass, you're not my boss and I don't usually broadcast secret investigations" is genuinely entertaining, I can't lie.

Sun, Apr 24, 2016, 11:43am (UTC -5)
The reasons O'Brien and Bashir give for their own points of view involve a lot of speculation. As Picard said in an episode of TNG, "Can we confine our discussion to the FACTS?" No, I guess not. O'Brien is convinced the Jem'Hadar, once freed of the drug, will go on a killing spree; Bashir thinks anything is possible. Since Bashir isn't asserting that he knows what the future will be, but O'Brien is, the latter has the burden of proof. Problem? They wouldn't know either way unless Bashir had found a cure.

I'd bet if the writers went the other way with this episode, most of the Jem'Hadar freed of the white wouldn't let go of their traditional warrior culture mentality. If Goran'Agar was somehow spared (something the writers of DS9 aren't known to do to guest stars), the rest would've went on and tried to bring others into their fold. Either the writers would bring them back later by forcing them to work with the Federation or have them killed off by the Dominion (like they did to the Maquis) because they "don't know what to do with them".

Still, it would've been awesome to have seen a Jem'Hadar regular in the show by this point. As long as they don't go completely stupid like the writers of Wing Commander III, they could've done some amazing stories with the character. Then maybe we could've avoided the utter garbage that was "Let He Who Is Without Sin" in season 5 in exchange for a Garan'Agar-centric episode.
William H
Wed, Sep 28, 2016, 9:20am (UTC -5)
The main plot seems like something of a walking back from the dark conclusion of "The Abandoned". Goran'agar as a character suggests that the Jem'Hadar aren't purely creatures of their programming. Its an interesting story, though in the end it discusses a lot but doesn't really go anywhere. And I do think Bashir is a bit too forgiving, given how far O'Brien ultimately goes.

I'm really not keen on the B plot. Worf acts like an idiot, Odo does too but the story doesn't really acknowledge it. Then its wrapped up with a rather weak excuse for Quark's get out of jail free card and some preaching of the shades of grey creed.

Thu, Jul 13, 2017, 9:10pm (UTC -5)
DS9 S4 is off to a terrific start with this episode following on "The Visitor". As for "Hippocratic Oath" - it's great that we see 2 strongly opposing views from 2 buddies. Can see pros/cons for both O'Brien and Bashir -- and both take very extreme views of their stances which emphasize how different their views of the situation are.

O'Brien is out of line clearly/insurbordination, but he understands the military aspect of the situation whereas Bashir's role as a doctor puts them both in danger. To me, it's not clear what the better solution is for the longer term and getting a leg up on the Dominion. But that should become 2ndary after self-preservation.

I liked the B-plot with Worf/Odo. In a way it is similar to the conflict between O'Brien/Bashir with Odo really being in charge but Worf interfering in the end (kind of like O'Brien phasering Bashir's work). The B-plot is good as it shows Worf finding his feet in his role (hard to define exactly). Have to like how Odo is no-nonsense about his role and Worf's interference.

Goran'Agar's character comes through well and does a lot for giving the episode a deeper understanding of the Jem'Hadar. But I have to say I'm a bit confused with how he got over his addiction and why he shoots one of his subordinates in the end.

I'd give "Hippocratic Oath" a strong 3 stars -- nearly 3.5 stars. Maybe O'Brien/Bashir getting on good terms so quickly in the shuttle is a bit much -- would have been better to see them mumbling arguments at each other. But plenty of strong points to this episode.

Sat, Aug 5, 2017, 11:08pm (UTC -5)
2.5 stars. I prefer episodes to be not so uneven

I've many times said I didn't much care for DS9's Fluffy B plots. Most of the time couldn't hold my attention and if they did then they held no rewatch value. Most of the time they all came across as ho hum padding that ultimately detracted from an episode. The worf subplot did nothing for me. I also felt a Worf was a much better character on TNG than on DS9. He mainly was defined by his relationship with Jadzia.

The A plot was much better. It was more involving and the reason I watch Star Trek however It wasn't stellar. It wasn't great And I didn't really want to see the Jem'Hadar humanized.
Sat, Aug 5, 2017, 11:14pm (UTC -5)
I also think it is absolutely stupid for the Federation to keep violating Do union territory by entering the Gamma Quadrant. We have seen many times the Federation respect boundaries and not get involved in internal matters ie the Cardassian occupation of Bajor. So why they keep going into the Gamma Quadrant is ridiculous. Not to mention obrien and bashir are on a runabout which is no match for a Jem'Hadar ship
Sat, Apr 28, 2018, 5:32pm (UTC -5)
I was about to say how underrated this episode was, but after seeing the overwhelmingly positive comments I am glad to say I stand corrected. A truly good episode where we have two protagonists offering opposing views in a very human manner that makes it natural and unforced for the audience to understand both points of view. Of course, the fact that the two are already well established personas only gives weight to the whole conflict. The episode also offered something that in my opinion was missing from the whole Dominion War arc, and that was humanizing the enemy and I wish we could've seen more ventures like this one into the Jem'Hadar pysche.

The seemingly unrelated and, truth be told, weaker B plot does round up the main theme of the episode and that is trust. I don't think the focus should be on ketracel-white or how the Dominon controls its soldiers as that has been (or will be) discussed in other episodes, yet it should be on the pairing of our protagonists and the conflict it produces in both cases. Bashir asked O'Brien to trust him despite O'Brien's different perception of the situation in the same way Worf should've trusted Odo and have faith that he was up to the task.

As if that wasn't enough, the final exchange between O'Brien and Goran'Agar wins the show by itself:

"You are a soldier?"
"I have been."
"Then you explain."

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