Dec 14, 2020
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine "Armageddon Game"
Welcome to another Hibernophobic installment of…
This episode, Chief O’Brien and Dr. Bashir are on another field trip. The cold open happens with both men on a cruiser belonging to the T’Lani species. Dr. Bashir narrates that the T’Lani have been fighting a centuries-long war with another species called the Kelleruns, and both sides have made extensive use of biological weapons called Harvesters, leading to millions of deaths. Now that they’ve finally signed a peace accord, they’ve enlisted the help of the Federation to destroy their entire stockpile of Harvesters.
And unlike the last entry in the Trials of Miles, this episode is actually good. The premise, however, is pretty absurd. For one thing, the plot hinges on the two species’ desire to erase all knowledge of the Harvesters so that they can never be created again, which… I mean… that’s not really how science or technology work. I mean, the guys who created the Harvesters in the first place didn’t have any notes on how to do it, and they obviously managed. It’s not like we lost the secret to plumbing forever when the Roman Empire fell.
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Also, there’s absolutely no reason for O’Brien to be here. No hint of one. I mean, we know why he’s here (this is another “O’Brien Must Suffer” episode), but the writers don’t even try pretending there’s an in-story reason. At least Bashir is a doctor (any random doctor is qualified to work with bioweapons, right?), whereas O’Brien has no expertise in medicine or microbiology or really anything that would be applicable here. He’s not even portrayed as particularly intelligent. He’s an enlisted man, to boot; aren’t civilization-ending weapons somewhat above his security clearance? Almost anybody in the whole cast would have more of a reason to be here than he does. But then again, this is true of almost everywhere O’Brien goes. He’s just assigned to do grunt work and fetch files and coffee for the smart people.
According to Bashir’s narration, they’ve been away from DS9 for a week working on the Harvester problem. He’s trying to find a frequency of “muon rays” that disables a certain microbe, and in the opening scene, he’s on test number three hundred seventy-five when he’s finally got it. The T’Lani and the Kelleruns celebrate. And it seems the makeup budget was running low this week, so they reused some Vulcan ears that were lying around and gave both species characteristic hairstyles. The T’Lani, in particular, look like they come from Whoville.
The Kellerun ambassador, Sharat, comes out and congratulates everybody with a labored and weirdly inflected statement that could mean he’s up to some shady shit, or that he’s a really bad actor. Both, as it turns out.
He gestures to the red Pog containers on the wall, which is where all the Harvesters are kept.
Later, Bashir and O’Brien are talking over subspace to Commander Sisko. O’Brien is sick of this shitty job and wants to get back to his normal shitty job, but there’s a celebration on T’Lani Prime and Sisko gives them both another day of leave to attend it. “Fine,” says O’Brien. “I guess another day won’t kill me.” Bashir bites the inside of his cheeks and says, “That’s the spirit.”
In the next scene, the Pog racks are now bare. A T’Lani scientist named Nydrom slides the last cylinder into place in the de-deadly-ing machine. He remarks that it’s “ironic” that the Harvesters should come to a final end over T’Lani III, which was “completely decimated” by the Harvesters. As a copy editor, I am legally required to report these crimes against English usage. Suddenly, the top-knotted Kelleruns storm into the room with caulking guns and start shooting the place up. The hapless T’Lani scientists all die. Bashir tries ineffectually to hide and is almost blown away before Scarred War Vet O’Brien’s PTSD kicks in and he starts beating the Kellerun’s ass.
He wrestles away the weapon and elbows the Kellerun in the gut, which apparently kills him, since Kellerun skeletons are made of Rice Krispies. Bashir finds his balls and struggles with the other Kellerun’s weapon, accidentally shooting the machine in the process. A single drop of Harvester juice falls on O’Brien.
Bashir kills the second Kellerun with a light tap to the face, and then he O’Brien try to escape by asking the runabout’s computer to beam them over. (Hey, O’Brien, the job you did for years on the Enterprise can be done by Alexa, how’s that make you feel?) Finding that their comms have been jammed, they instead get to the space station’s transporter. They set coordinates to beam down to the planet, and O’Brien rigs the unit to overload after they’re gone, so that their assailants won’t know where they went. Though, it’s kind of curious that’s even an option on this machine.
Back on DS9, Sisko is in Quark’s Bar ordering dinner just as he gets a page from Kira saying that the T’Lani and Kellerun ambassadors are here wanting to speak with him. In Sisko’s office, the two ambassadors tell Sisko that Bashir and O’Brien, along with the scientists, were killed in an accident that conveniently vaporized all their bodies. They show Sisko some security camera footage which appears to show O’Brien stumbling across a hidden computer file that activates a decades-old security device that makes everybody disappear, with a special effect nearly identical to the one that happens when Q uses his powers.
Meanwhile, down on the planet, Bashir and O’Brien have escaped into a matte painting. O’Brien has been fully triggered, and he won’t let Bashir open any boxes of food because the Cardassians used to booby-trap food crates during the war. He convinces Bashir they need to stay put, and he discovers a broken comm system that he insists on fixing himself, scoffing at Bashir’s claim that he took “engineering extension courses” at Starfleet Medical.
Bashir tries to keep a lookout but gets jumpy with the lack of anything constructive to do. He starts running his mouth, of course, in particular about the party currently taking place on T’Lani Prime where he had hoped to score some alien poon. “I don’t know if you noticed,” he says, “but T’Lani women are quite attractive.”
O’Brien chides Bashir’s horndoggery and this gets them talking about O’Brien’s marriage. Bashir remarks that it doesn’t seem fair to be married while in Starfleet, as you’re constantly in danger of being killed by the Borg or the Jem’Hadar or an exploding console. He pisses off O’Brien by pointing out that everyone can tell his marriage is on the rocks for this very reason. O’Brien mutters that Bashir the commitment-phobe wouldn’t understand marriage’s pleasures, but Bashir protests that he did have a committed relationship once.
In a huff, O’Brien grabs a blanket, which he claims to need despite the room’s warmth. This prompts Bashir to run his tricorder over him, find out he’s running a fever and has low blood pressure, and then he sees a mark on O’Brien’s arm where the harvester goop hit him. He’s infected, alright. This is a good time to reiterate that O’Brien had no reason to be here at all.
Meanwhile, back on DS9, Keiko is doing some botany on a piece of moon rock with a knitting needle…
…when Sisko drops by. He delivers the sad news about her husband in his most somber and gravelly declamation. Keiko reacts like she’s just been told Miles got popped on public intox.
Down on the planet, O’Brien’s condition is rapidly worsening. He’s pale and sweaty, and worse still, his vision’s getting fuzzy and he can’t work on the comm unit anymore. He reluctantly gives in to Bashir’s demands that he sit down, and even more reluctantly starts talking him through the process of fixing the comm.
Dax and Kira are in Quark’s Bar drinking to Bashir’s—and seemingly, only Bashir’s—memory. Dax mentions that at one point Julian gave her all his diaries from medical school, as if that’s a perfectly normal thing. He gave them to her so she could understand him better, you see, only she never read them because of fucking course she didn’t, ew. Kira says she should keep them because “he cared a great deal about you”, ewwwwww. Quark drops by and proposes a rare free drink to toast to the memory of Dr. Bashir and also Chief O’Brien who, as Quark helpfully points out, died too.
The next scene features Keiko storming into Ops demanding to see Sisko. She pauses the recording to show her late husband drinking coffee, then points to the time stamp to show that it’s 3:30 in the afternoon. Miles doesn’t drink coffee that late in the day, you see. It makes him a fussy boy come bedtime.
For this reason, Keiko believes the recording has been tampered with. It’s pretty flimsy evidence, but if they ignore her she’s just going to bitch all over the place, so Sisko orders Dax to look into it.
Back on the planet, O’Brien is hunched in a corner sweating through his uniform. He wants to know the name of the woman Bashir alluded to earlier, and learns her name was Palis. She was a French girl, and a dancer with “the most exquisite feet”. O’Brien chuckles at this, as if he’s not at all surprised to find out Bashir’s a foot guy. Things ended between them because of Palis’ father. Not that he disapproved, mind you—he approved so much that he offered Bashir a swank job in Paris, but alas, little Julian dreamed of being in Starfleet and having sexy exciting adventures.
This story is so engrossing that O’Brien temporarily forgets he can’t feel his legs anymore. Bashir gets the comm working and starts hailing the T’Lani. A delirious O’Brien starts chiding Bashir for his avoidance of commitment, saying that marriage is the greatest adventure, and similar nonsense. “I know Keiko’s been unhappy about us coming to the station,” he admits. “We still argue about it. But that’s alright. Because at the end of the day, we know we love each other, and that’s all that matters.” If that sounds like a bunch of denial and rationalization to you, it does to Bashir too, who tells O’Brien to get some rest before he can get even more depressing.
Sisko and Dax have now gone back to T’Lani III, ostensibly to recover their runabout. Sisko subtly interrogates the T’Lani while Dax discovers evidence that the computer log has several minutes missing. She tells Sisko that she may have found a request for a remote transport that originated from after Bashir and O’Brien were already supposedly dead.
The two not-quite-dead men are cowering in the bombed out building when the T’Lani ambassador shows up. She’s followed quickly by the Kellerun ambassador—revealing herself to be in on his plot, um, twist I guess—along with several soldiers of both species. They tell O’Brien and Bashir that they arranged to kill all the scientists so that the knowledge of the Harvesters could disappear, and now that they’re the only two left who have seen the data, they must die as well.
With that old Irish Republican spirit in his belly, O’Brien makes Bashir haul him up so he can die on his feet. He says it’s been an honor serving with him. The soldiers are just about to shoot when they’re beamed up to the runabout.
Bashir gives O’Brien a stabilizing hypo and says he’ll die within the hour unless they get him back to DS9. The T’Lani ship catches up and fires a warning shot. Sisko shifts into his best Indignant Declamation voice and defies their desire to kill his officers. The T’Lani give Sisko one minute to turn over O’Brien and Bashir, and he refuses, saying they’ll have to blow up the runabout and kill everybody.
The ambassadors are only too happy to comply. Sisko turns his runabout around and cruises at the ship in an apparent attack vector. The ambassadors blow up the runabout easily, and then starts to head back to the planet with the spare runabout in tow, only to realize that the first runabout’s occupants all transported to the second one and escaped in it.
Now safely back at DS9, Bashir stops by O’Brien’s bed in Sickbay to thank him for all the lovely sentiments he shared while dying on T’Lani III, which O’Brien pretends to be too delirious to remember. Bashir says that when two men face death together, it forges “a bond that cannot be broken” (heh) before leaving. Keiko playfully asks what it was like spending so much time alone with Bashir (heh, heh). O’Brien, perhaps a bit too forcefully, says, “It was hell! The man never stops talking!”
Eyeing a coffee mug that Molly painted for him, Miles remarks that he’d like a cup of coffee right now. “Miles,” Keiko says, “you never drink coffee in the afternoon!” He replies, “Well, sure I do!” Hah!
On the previous installment of the Trials of Miles, O’Brien got trapped in a cargo cult and almost blown up. This time, he got infected with space anthrax, shot at, and forced to confront the realities of his unhappy marriage, and to top it off, almost no one cared that he died (his bartender got more visibly upset than his wife). The Job-like misfortunes are ramping up at an incredible pace. But just wait—If you think this is as dark as it can get for O’Brien, you’ve got another think coming next time, with “Whispers”.