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Babel


Production no.: 405
Teleplay by: Michael McGreevey and Naren Shankar
Story by: Sally Caves and Ira Steven Behr
Directed by: Paul Lynch
Stardate: 46423.7-46425.8 
First satellite airdate: January 23, 1993
 
Jack Kehler ..........
Matthew Faison ....
Ann Gillespie ........
Geraldine Farrell ...
Bo Zenga .............
Kathleen Wirt .......
Lee Brooks ..........
Richard Ryder ......
Frank Novak ........
Todd Feder ..........
Jaheel
Surmak
Nurse Jabara
Galis Blin
Asoth
Aphasia Victim
Aphasia Victim
Bajoran Deputy
Businessman
Federation Male


It's a particularly trying day for Chief Miles O'Brien. People are trapped in a malfunctioning airlock, and he has to fix it to get them out. He's behind in his maintenance schedule, and has to put off an impatient captain named Jaheel, who is anxious to have his ship's antimatter flow converter fixed so that he can get to Largo V before his shipment of Tamen sahsheer spoils. There are problems in the science lab, and with the navigational computer in Ops. And as if that weren't enough, Sisko alerts him to the fact that the Ops replicator is putting out bad coffee.

Since the last thing any engineer wants is a cranky, coffee-deprived commander, O'Brien devotes some precious time to the replicators. He fixes one; samples the coffee; it's good; he continues on his busy way. He doesn't notice the device inside the replicator that suddenly comes to life.

In Quark's, it's been dead for three days, a fact which does not exactly break Odo's heart. The only customer is an alien man, Asoth, who digs into a bowl of stew and finds it wanting. He forces Quark to taste it too; Quark has to agree that it's pretty bad. Odo sends the obstreperous customer on his way, and Quark comments bitterly that the problem is the replicators, which badly need fixing. Odo asks why not get O'Brien to fix them -- he has the command-level replicators working perfectly. This gets the gears working in Quark's devious little brain. When Odo leaves, the Ferengi immediately uses his illicit computer access rods to learn the location of the repaired replicators.

Sisko is enjoying a perfect cup of coffee from an Ops replicator when he notices that O'Brien is looking feverish. He tells the Chief to give his regards to Keiko, and that Jake says she's a wonderful teacher. "She's flower units about the lad herself," says O'Brien. Both he and Sisko are confused by his odd burst of verbal nonsense.

Kira walks down the Promenade with Dax, who blithely admits that she enjoys the attention she is getting due to her attractive new female host. Quark invites them into the bar -- which has become suddenly busy -- for some I'danian spice pudding; Kira declines the offer, but Dax accepts.

In Ops, O'Brien is looking more and more ill. When Kira jokes about the turbolifts breaking down, O'Brien responds with another stream of senseless babble ("Major, lark's true pepper"). Only this time, he doesn't seem able to stop. Alarmed, Kira takes him to the infirmary, where Bashir determines that O'Brien's brain functions appear to be normal. Yet he seems to be suffering from some form of aphasia -- a perceptual dysfunction in which stimuli are incorrectly processed by the brain. Though O'Brien's actual thought processes are still the same, he can no longer express himself or understand others.

At an Ops briefing with Sisko, Dax, and Kira, Bashir tells them that he has found no precedents yet for O'Brien's bizarre affliction. Sisko orders Kira to retrace O'Brien's steps for the last 52 hours, and tells Dax to assume O'Brien's duties for now. Dax responds, "I'm sorry, Benjamin, but I'm unable to...foolish assembled regal...control weather."

In the infirmary, Bashir tells Sisko that it's virtually impossible for aphasia to develop spontaneously; yet they saw it happen to Dax before their eyes. They're dealing with a disease which only mimics aphasia. Bashir has identified the virus, which is present in the temporal lobes of both O'Brien and Dax. The virus randomly reroutes the established neural pathways, disrupting the connections that allow the patient to identify aural and visual stimuli. And two more patients are brought in as Sisko and Bashir are still speaking. Sisko orders an immediate quarantine of the station.

Following announcement of the quarantine, the Promenade is nearly deserted; all shops and services have been closed until further notice. Yet Quark's bar is rather surprisingly busy, a fact which sets off Odo's curiosity alarm. Quark tries to pass it off by claiming that the bar is an essential part of station operations. When the stew is praised by Asoth, the same customer who had earlier disparaged it, Quark explains to Odo that Rom has fixed the replicators.

Outside, Sisko is reassuring Jake about the quarantine when Jaheel locates him, having come back onto the station even though all visitors are supposed to be confined to their ships. He wants permission to leave, which Sisko denies. Jaheel argues, but Sisko is adamant. No one is leaving until a cure is found for the virus.

In an empty set of quarters on the command levels of the station, Quark surreptitiously brings a cart in and begins ordering drinks from the replicator there. Suddenly, however, the cart morphs into Odo, who informs him that unauthorized access to crew quarters is a crime. He also tells Quark that what tipped him off was Quark's claim about Rom fixing the replicators; Rom, in Odo's opinion, is an idiot.

In Ops, Bashir tells Sisko and Kira that he believes the virus is being absorbed through ingestion. Kira protests that the replicators automatically screen out bio-contaminants, including viruses; but Bashir says that all the food on the command level is contaminated. They're not aphasic yet because the virus' incubation period seems to vary from individual to individual. Sisko has Kira take a closer look at the command level replicators which O'Brien fixed.

Shutting down the command level replicators won't help; Bashir has been getting aphasic patients from all over the station. Odo arrives and chimes in that he has caught Quark producing his menu from a replicator in one of the vacant crew quarters. That's how non-crew members have been getting infected. Bashir takes an air sample, and determines that the virus has mutated into an airborne variety.

Kira finally finds the device that O'Brien accidentally activated. She and Sisko deduce that it's sabotage; Kira believes it's of Cardassian origin, since the power source is a Cardassian diboridium core. Bashir interrupts, calling Sisko down to the infirmary, where Sisko discovers that Jake has come down with the virus. Sisko escorts his son to one of the empty crew quarters, which has been converted into a hospital ward.

Bashir informs Sisko that he's discovered the virus is synthetic. Moreover, it was not created by the Cardassians. A certain protein series indicates that in fact, it was created by a Bajoran -- possibly as part of a plot to sabotage the Cardassians while they were running the station. Kira further confirms that the power core's decay indicates it had been put in place 18 years ago, during the construction of the station. Probably the terrorists who put it there were captured or killed before they could set it off. Sisko gives Kira the task of finding out who created the virus. They have to hope that whoever it was remembers the antidote -- assuming they bothered to create one.

Kira has a talk with an old friend on Bajor, who guesses that it sounds like something Dekon Elig might have created. Dekon was in a Cardassian prison the last she heard, nine years ago.

In the makeshift hospital ward, Jake and Dax manage to alert Nurse Jabara that O'Brien has taken a turn for the worse. Bashir determines that the virus has attacked the Chief's autonomic nervous system, but he is unable to lower the fever. Unless Bashir can discover some way to counteract the virus, O'Brien will be dead in twelve hours. And there are other patients who have entered the same stage of the illness.

Kira establishes a link with Bajoran archival records, and gets the files on the internment camp where Dekon Elig was held. They confirm that Dekon was there, and that he was a geneticist; unfortunately, he is now dead, having been killed during an escape attempt. Kira takes a look at Dekon's death certificate, and reads that it was witnessed by one Dr. Surmak Ren, who the computer tells her was a member of Dekon's cell. Surmak was alive when the internment camp closed, and was repatriated to Bajor, but his current status is unknown.

Quark's is deserted again; most of the patrons are now sick with the virus. So are most of Odo's deputies, as Odo tells him when he drops by. The Promenade is very vulnerable right now, but Odo makes a point of informing Quark that he'll hold the Ferengi personally responsible if anything turns up missing.

An exhausted Bashir is using the computer to test potential antidotes for the virus, when he becomes stricken with the disease. Meanwhile, Kira searches for information on Dr. Surmak Ren, and finally locates him, working as chief administrator of the Ilvian Medical Complex. Kira immediately opens a channel and has a conversation with Surmak, but when she mentions the virus, he claims to have no idea what she's talking about.

Sisko is pressing a reluctant Odo into service to help out in Ops when Kira tells them about her talk with Surmak. She plans to go to Bajor to continue it, and promises Sisko that she has no intention of setting foot on the planet. Unsure of the wisdom of this, but left with no other options, Sisko lets her go.

After Sisko returns from a visit with Jake, Odo greets him with the news that Jaheel is trying to depart in his ship. Sisko tells the desperate captain that the mooring clamps are locked, and he's not going to release them; but Jaheel commences firing up his thrusters anyway, in hopes that Sisko will change his mind, and won't listen to Sisko's warnings to cut his engines before the ship is ripped apart. Jaheel is determined to leave while he can still function. By now, the mooring clamps can no longer retract due to the stress put on them by Jaheel's ship trying to pull free. The ship's main power core is ruptured; it is now likely to explode, taking half the station's docking ring with it.

Kira, in a runabout orbiting Bajor, has the computer scan Surmak's office for lifeforms; it finds one, and establishes a transporter lock. Kira calls Surmak to confirm that it's him, and beams the outraged doctor up into the runabout.

There are fifteen minutes left before Jaheel's fuel cells collapse, and Sisko and Odo have lost contact with him. Sisko puts out a call for help to any station personnel who can understand him. Odo suggests that they explode the mooring clamps to push the ship away from the station, and volunteers for the job. Sisko agrees -- and then begins speaking in gibberish. He too has now become a victim of the virus.

On the runabout, Surmak blusters that he'll have Kira put in prison for kidnaping him. He claims that he had practically nothing to do with creating the virus; he was merely Dekon's medical assistant. Furthermore, he says he doesn't know of any antidote. He sympathizes with the plight of the people on DS9, but he can't help them. "Then how about helping yourself?" Kira asks, and then informs Surmak that she is infected with the virus, which means that now, so is he.

Alone in Ops except for Sisko's unconscious form, Odo is beginning to panic when the last person in the world he wants to see shows up -- Quark. The Ferengi is willing to help (for a price to be haggled over later), and without any other choice, Odo tells him that he has to get over to the port where Jaheel's ship is docked, quickly. Quark says he'll beam Odo over. He served on a Ferengi freighter for eight years -- he's witnessed the procedure hundreds of times. Quark savors the look of horror on Odo's face, just before the shapeshifter dematerializes.

Kira brings Surmak to DS9, and to the infirmary, where he gets to work, studying Bashir's notes on his attempts to create an antidote. Just in time, as Kira succumbs to the virus' aphasic effects.

At the docking port, Odo drags a babbling Jaheel away from his ship to safety. With a nervous Quark calling out the countdown, he then manually releases the mooring clamps and launches the ship out into space just in time before it explodes. And in the infirmary, by building on Bashir's research, Surmak has finally found the answer.

A recovered Sisko tells his log that Surmak's antidote is being administered throughout the station, and things are returning to normal. Which they are, especially for O'Brien. He watches as Sisko takes a sip of a cup of coffee from the Ops replicator -- and gags. "O'Brien!!!"

The Chief rolls his eyes. Here he goes again.


  • The Tamen sahsheer that Captain Jaheel is so anxious to deliver may be the same substance referred to in TOS' "By Any Other Name" (sahsheer, a rapidly-growing crystal formation from the Andromeda galaxy).
  • The picture of Dekon Elig, shown in his computer biographical file, is a photo of Dan Curry, visual effects producer (who also designed the show's main title credits). The Bajoran wrinkles were added to his nose digitally. Curry also later "played" Ches'sarro in "Necessary Evil".