1.5 Babel

The crew is smitten with a virus that causes aphasia, most awesome of the acquired language disorders.

The episode starts off with a day in the life of Chief O’Brien, which seems to consist of trying to persuade the aging space station to stay fixed. A freighter captain berates him about overdue repairs, Commander Sisko whines about the replicators and someone is stuck in their ship. Commander Sisko yells the loudest, however, and so O’Brien fixes the replicator first. This is to prevent Janeway Syndrome, wherein a lack of coffee amongst the senior staff causes gravelly voices, abundant hair and an inability to find one’s way home.

Fixing the replicator, however, activates a tiny little box hidden the the bowels of the replicator.

Quark is struggling – his replicators are also offline, and we see his business suffering because of it. He breaks through the computer security and finds a fixed replicator up on the command deck, which he uses to provide food for a “We’ve Got Replicators!” party.

Suddenly, Chief O’Brien loses the ability to communicate coherently with those around him, chattering away in nonsense words. Bashir diagnoses him with aphasia, a rare and freaky mental disorder in which the brain loses the connection between what words sound like and what they mean. Usually it’s the result of head trauma, but O’Brien’s seems to have been spontaneous. Moments later, Dax is also struck down.

Odo is suspicious of Quark’s sudden good fortune, and this suspicion is only enhanced by Quark’s claim that Rom fixed the replicators. Using his unique powers of disguise, Odo finds out that Quark has been breaking into unused quarters on the command deck.

This discovery leads to another – the sheer quantity of virus produced by Quark’s thievery has caused the virus to become airborne. In the closed-system environment of a space station, everyone is now infected.

Kira finds the box that O’Brien activated, and claims that it is a Cardassian booby trap. Bashir insists that the design is consistent with Bajoran manufacture, and that it was probably a failed attempt by the Resistance during the station’s construction.

At this point, what had been vaguely amusing becomes deadly serious – the virus is starting to kill Chief O’Brien. It now becomes a matter of urgency to find an antidote.

Kira uses her contacts to find someone who might have been part of the virus-bomb plot. He is still alive and now somewhat senior, and rudely cuts her off when she asks him about it. Doctor Bashir also falls victim to the plague, and can therefore no longer continue his research.

Sisko, down to a skeleton crew, permits Kira to take a runabout, which she uses to kidnap the Bajoran specialist and return him to the station.  At the station, a freighter captain attempts to escape. The only two unaffected people, Quark and Odo, have to work together to detach his ship before the engines overload and blow half the docking ring off. They succeed with seconds to spare.

Kira is stunned to find Quark running Ops, but she is able to get the Bajoran doctor to the Infirmary before she is incapacitated by the virus. It turns out that there is no antidote, but Doctor Bashir’s research was very close to discovering one. The Bajoran doctor finishes the doctor’s research, saving the day.

==

I actually really like Babel. It’s an interesting story and provides Odo, Quark and Kira with some much-needed spotlight time. The concept of a bioweapon that inserts itself directly into the replicators is an intelligent application of the negative aspects of Star Trek technology.

The behavior of Major Kira is also rather interesting. She at first assumes the device is Cardassian, but seems oddly unsurprised that her fellow freedom fighters would risk the painful, aphasia-induced deaths of the Bajoran workers. Stonewalled by the man responsible, she proceeds to kidnap him and then deliberately expose him to a terminal disease. Good job he was really responsible, Kira! It would have been a shame to have accidently condemned a hospital administrator to a painful and lonely death because he happened to be busy when you called!

Aside from that, my other problem with this is that Quark and Odo are left unaffected. Odo, fine, his physiology is so freakish that he probably wouldn’t be affected by the virus. Quark explains his immunity with the power of the Ferengi immune system – so where is Nog, Rom and the five or six Ferengi workers we see floating around? Where are they during all this?

Overall, however, I find Babel an interesting episode, allowing us to see the interaction of these characters in a time of great stress.

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