Production no.: 495
Written by: Naren Shankar
Directed by: Rene Auberjonois
Stardate: not given
First satellite airdate: May 18, 1996
Ellen Wheeler .........
Dylan Haggerty ......
Michael Sarrazin .....
Heide Margolis .......
Loren Lester ..........
Alan Echeverria .....
Lisa Moncure .........
Quark is in trouble. He has gained access to the station's wall monitors and used them to post advertisements for his bar, complete with jingle ("Come to Quark's/Quark's is fun/Come right now/Don't walk, run!"). Kira, O'Brien, and Odo are not amused. Worf is downright furious: Quark has also altered the replicators on the Defiant so that drinks come in mugs with the bar's logo that sing the jingle when tipped. Kira pulls Quark up by the lapels. "If all your little advertisements aren't purged from our systems by the time I get back from the Gamma Quadrant, I will come to Quark's, and believe me, I will have fun." Suddenly nervous, Quark gets to work helping O'Brien.
Kira leaves on her Gamma Quadrant bio-survey mission with Dax and Bashir. The doctor is bubbling over with enthusiasm. "Those little points of light out there are the great unknown, beckoning to us. I wish I could visit every one...Is it my imagination, or are the stars a little brighter in the Gamma Quadrant?" "Is it my imagination, or has Julian lost his mind?" Dax deadpans.
Some hours later, they receive a fragmented emergency signal from a planet that has been attacked with massive destruction and heavy casualties. The signal is from the Teplan system, just outside Dominion space. "Let's hope the Jem'Hadar know that," comments Kira as she sets a new course.
Bashir and Dax beam down to a bombed-out shell of a city, populated by humanoids who all have blue welts on their faces. Obviously this is the aftermath of whatever crisis prompted the distress signal. A cart rolls by, piled with bodies. Suddenly a woman named Norva staggers toward Bashir and Dax, her welts a livid red. "Help me," she pleads, and collapses. "Don't let me die here. Take me to Trevean." Learning that she means the hospital, Dax goes to find out where it is. As Bashir tends to Norva, a young man named Epran approaches. "The Blight's Quickened in her. There's nothing you can do. You should leave here. Now. Go back to where you came from and forget about this place."
Bashir's painkiller has little effect on Norva, though he figures this Blight isn't a danger to him or Dax, who has returned with her hair down. She has traded her hairclip for a ride to the hospital. They arrive there with Norva, but it doesn't look like any hospital they know. An attendant takes charge of Norva. Bashir and Dax note two groups of people centering around individuals who also have red welts. Trevean appears, and one of the individuals, a man, thanks him. "Yesterday when I woke up, I saw that it had finally happened. I had Quickened. I always thought I'd be afraid. But I wasn't, because I knew I could come here." He describes his preparations for this moment. "Thank you, Trevean, for making this day everything I dreamed it could be." The man then holds up a goblet, and drinks from it.
Trevean speaks to Dax and Bashir, telling them it was too late for Norva. If she had come sooner, he could have helped her. "Then there is a treatment for the Blight?" Bashir asks. "There is no cure," replies Trevean. "It's always fatal." Bashir doesn't understand. Learning that Bashir is a doctor who says he has access to sophisticated diagnostic equipment, Trevean says, "We had sophisticated equipment once. Do you think our world was always this way? Two centuries ago, we were no different from you. We built vast cities, traveled to neighboring worlds. We believed nothing was beyond our abilities. We even thought we could resist the Dominion. I see you've heard of them. Then take care not to defy them, or your people will pay the same price we did. The Jem'Hadar destroyed our world, as an example to others." He shows them a baby, which bears the blue welts. "More than anything, the Dominion wanted my people to bear the mark of their defiance. So they brought us the Blight. We're all born with it, we all die from it."
They are still talking when the man who drank from the goblet starts to convulse. Bashir rushes over, ignoring Trevean's command to stop, and tries to examine the man, but the people there pull him away. "Can't you see he's dying?" demands Bashir. "Of course he's dying," Trevean says. "He came here to die. People come to me when they Quicken. I help them leave this world peacefully, surrounded by their family and friends." He explains that he gives them herbs that cause death in minutes, which is better than dying slowly. In fact, he gave them to Norva as well. Bashir is shocked. "I thought this was a hospital, and that you were a healer." "I am," Trevean replies. "I take away pain." Since Bashir has disrupted the man's death, Trevean asks him to leave. Too shocked to argue, Bashir and Dax do so.
Dax finds the distress beacon, which has its own power source and has apparently been repeating its message for 200 years. "There's nothing for us to do here," Bashir says, resigned. "We should go." But then a voice calls, "Are you really a doctor?" They turn to see a young pregnant woman who was present at the hospital, and who says she's never met a doctor before. The woman converses with them, saying her name is Ekoria, and that she's due in two months. "Did you come here to help us?" "Nobody around here seems to want our help," says Bashir. "I do," Ekoria tells him. "And I know others who would welcome it, too."
Just then, Kira calls to say that sensors have just picked up two Jem'Hadar ships headed their way. Bashir and Dax beam back up to confer. The Jem'Hadar seem to be on a patrol route, and Kira is ready to go. But Bashir says they can't leave these people. A Starfleet relief mission will take too long to put together. He's confident he can do here what he's done on previous medical missions. Kira decides that she will take the runabout to a nearby nebula to hide for a week while Bashir and Dax stay.
The equipment is set up in Ekoria's living area in a tenement house. Dax sees a painting of the city as it might have looked before the destruction; Ekoria tells her it was done by her husband, who died last winter after leaving a mural on a building. Bashir announces he needs to run a complete biospectral analysis on an asymptomatic individual, which Dax translates: it means he needs a volunteer. Ekoria is willing, especially when Bashir offers to scan her and show her a picture of her unborn baby.
It doesn't take Bashir long to isolate the virus, which means he can analyze it and eventually tailor an antigen. Seeing his and Dax's enthusiasm, Ekoria comes to a decision, and starts setting out food. She admits to Dax that she's been saving it for when she goes to the hospital to die. "Something tells me I'm not going to need it anymore."
Next, Bashir needs people who have Quickened, so that he can study the progression of the virus. But no one is interested in volunteering. He bumps into Epran, who has Quickened, and they talk; Epran is bitterly sardonic. "I'd invite you to my death, but we don't know each other that well." "What if I told you there was a chance you didn't have to die?" Bashir asks, and a small crowd starts to gather. Epran is openly skeptical of Bashir's claim that he is working on a cure, and it won't cost them anything, but Ekoria defends Bashir. "He can help us. Listen to him."
Bashir tells everyone he needs Quickened volunteers. "What will you do?" asks Epran. "See how loud we scream when the Blight burns through us?" To prove his skill and sincerity, Bashir heals the broken arm of a young boy, which gains him some points. Then Trevean steps out from the crowd. "Fixing a broken bone and curing the Blight are two different things." "I know that," says Bashir. Trevean speaks loudly. "Others have come here with promises of a cure. They stirred up hope, took food and clothing in exchange for their elixirs. But their promises were always lies. And all those who believed them came to me in the end, begging for release." Bashir protests that he's not making any promises. "Take care that you don't," Trevean warns. "We have dealt with people who give false hope before. Believe me, their deaths made the Blight look like a blessing."
Despite this, Bashir continues his work, trying to chart the life cycle of the virus. "Maybe you should go home," Ekoria says. "Maybe my people don't deserve your help." "They've just been suffering so long, they've lost hope that things can be better," Bashir says, but Ekoria tells him, "It's more than that. We've come to worship death. I used to wake up and look at myself in that mirror, and be disappointed I hadn't Quickened in my sleep. Going to Trevean seemed so much easier than going on living." But she doesn't feel that way now. She wants to live, to raise her son. Then Dax arrives; she has actually managed to collect some volunteers, including, amazingly, Epran. "I canceled my death for you," he says almost accusingly as he offers his arm. "I was really looking forward to it."
Bashir's makeshift clinic grows, and he creates an antigen, which he has Ekoria administer via hypospray. Things seem to be going well, although Dax has to put Epran in an inhibitor field when he stops responding to cordrazine. Bashir goes out to take a break; Ekoria joins him after a while, and they converse about medicine. He tells her about his first patient, a teddy bear named Kukalaka that he had as a little boy, and kept repeatedly patching up. Bashir admits that he still has the bear in his room.
Suddenly Dax rushes out to get Bashir. Epran's condition has worsened drastically. The virus is mutating, and Bashir examines him with a micro-cellular scanner. To the doctor's horror, Epran's welts spread under the scanner beam. The mutation is caused by the EM fields from the instruments. And others are starting to be affected as well. Frantically, Bashir, Dax, and Ekoria shut down the equipment, but it's too late. Epran's heart stops; he dies as Bashir does CPR. Trevean enters the room. "What have you done?" The patients begin calling out for Trevean, who commences going to each one and administering his poisonous herbs. Bashir protests, but can do nothing to stop him.
The next morning, he looks over the room full of bodies, devastated by what has happened, and blaming himself. "I'm going to tell a little secret, Jadzia. I was looking forward to tomorrow, to see Kira again and casually asking, 'How was the nebula? Oh, by the way, I cured that Blight thing those people had.'" Dax tries to comfort him. "It's not a crime to believe in yourself, Julian." "These people believed in me," Bashir retorts, indicating the bodies. "And look where it got them. Trevean was right. There is no cure. The Dominion made sure of that. And I was so arrogant, I thought I could find one in a week." Dax's voice is hard as she replies. "Maybe it was arrogant to think that. But it's even more arrogant to think there isn't a cure just because you couldn't find it."
As Bashir wanders the street, the natives look at him with reproach; one person spits. Dispirited, Bashir comes to the mural that Ekoria's husband painted. "I'm glad you got a chance to see it before you left," Ekoria says, behind him. Bashir turns, and sees that her welts are red. She has Quickened. "I thought I'd make it. I really did." "I'm sorry," Bashir says. She smiles. "Don't be. You gave me hope. I hadn't felt that since before my husband died." Ekoria gives him a kiss on the cheek, and walks away. But Bashir calls out to her to wait.
Up on the runabout, he tells Kira and Dax that he can't leave these people. Seeing how important this is to him, Kira tells him to contact the station whenever he's ready. "You know what worries me, Julian?" Dax remarks. "That without me, you won't have anyone to translate for you." She wishes him luck, and Bashir beams back down with his equipment.
He moves back into Ekoria's room to nurse her through Quickening. She's weak and bedridden, and Bashir can't figure out why there's no trace of the antigen in her bloodstream. But he doesn't give up. He makes a salve for her welts, and notes that in two more weeks he can induce labor. Ekoria is determined to live at least that long.
One night, Trevean comes to her when Bashir has gone out to get supplies. He gently offers to end her suffering. "Your child will have known nothing but peace." Ekoria looks tempted, but says no. "He deserves a chance to live." Bashir returns, surprised to find Trevean making a house call; Trevean says he was concerned that Ekoria might be too weak to come to him. "I don't understand why you're so obsessed with death," Bashir says. "From what I've heard, you've lived with the Blight longer than anyone." "Yes," Trevean replies, "and I've seen more suffering than anyone." He tells Ekoria goodbye, and that he hopes she lives long enough to see her baby. "Trevean means well," Ekoria tells Bashir. "He's a kind man, in his own way."
Finally, the baby is born. The effort spends the last of Ekoria's strength. As Bashir is wiping away the blood, he notices with astonishment that the child is completely free of the welts. Now he realizes why the antigen never showed up in Ekoria's bloodstream; it was all absorbed through the placenta. "He doesn't have the Blight!" Ekoria holds her son for a moment, smiling, then dies.
Everyone is stunned by the sight of the baby, including Trevean. Bashir tells him that every pregnant woman should be inoculated as soon as possible. He will teach Trevean how to make the antigen, and Trevean is eager to learn so that he can undertake the huge task, which he sees as a privilege. Hope spreads throughout the community as Trevean displays the baby, and Bashir watches from a distance.
Back at DS9, though, Bashir won't stop trying to find a cure. "People are still dying back there," he tells Sisko, who replies, "Yes, but their children won't." "That's what I keep telling myself, sir," says Bashir, but it's clearly not enough for him. He goes on working into the night.
The original title of this episode was "The Healing Touch". Much of it was shot at Rocketdyne, a former government shuttle rocket testing facility in Los Angeles. The name Trevean is an anagram for "veteran"; Ekoria was originally named Ekorio, an anagram for "rookie". Kukalaka was named after a cat belonging to an ex-flame of a friend of René Echevarria's, although Echevarria had mistakenly believed it was the name of his friend's childhood invisible friend. Rene Auberjonois (the episode's director) came up with the lyrics for Quark's jingle, while the tune was made up by Armin Shimerman.