When Zimmerman brings up asking for information from parents, however, Bashir clams up and asks Zimmerman not to include his parents in the interviews. This only serves to peak Zimmerman's curiosity, and he makes a point to contact Bashir's parents.
After showing an early prototype of the Long-Term Medical Hologram to Bashir, Zimmerman begins his interviews of Bashir's colleagues and acquaintances, also taking the opportunity to ask Leeta out to dinner, making Rom very jealous.
Later, Bashir gets a couple of surprise visitors that put him on edge: Richard and Amsha Bashir, his father and mother. Dr. Zimmerman had invited them onto the station against Bashir's wishes. Mr. Bashir is a man of many talents who works as a landscaper and speaks of using his skills to build legacies long after he is gone, and bragged about how he talked Julian into taking up medicine. Julian becomes cross with Zimmerman for going behind his back and bringing his parents onto the station against his explicit wishes.
As Zimmerman tries to convince Leeta to return to Jupiter Station with him with the offer of her own cafe, the Bashirs sit down to a very tense dinner, with Julian making passive-aggressive jabs at his father. He requests that his parents not go into deep detail about his childhood, making Richard upset about not being trusted with the secret that could spell the end of Julian's career and prison time for Richard and Amsha. In the end, however, Richard lets slip his secret unwittingly to the prototype LMH while Zimmerman and O'Brien watch; that Julian Bashir is an Augment, a genetically-enhanced human.
Julian is enraged that O'Brien, his trusted friend and confidant, helped to facilitate the secret come to light. He explains that, as a child, he was physically awkward and intellectually stunted. Just before he turned seven, his father took him to undergo accelerated critical neural pathway formation to enhance his intellect. In the end, Julian not only was a genius, but his physical capabilities began to improve. When he later realized what had happened, he ran away from home. O'Brien tries to assure Julian that his genetic enhancement didn't make him who he was as a person, but it doesn't matter; under Federation law, Augments were not permitted to enter Starfleet or practice medicine. With the likelihood of his background being investigated and his Starfleet commission being revoked, Julian feels that he is left with no choice but to resign before Zimmerman could file his report.
As Rom finds himself depressed over the prospect of Leeta leaving and receives a pep talk from his brother Quark, tempers flare between Julian and Richard. Julian calls out Richard for thinking more about his own legacy than caring for him as a person, forcing him to undergo gene therapy because he was disappointed in him as an awkward and dull child. Julian says his father is more of an architect than a parent: "the man who designed a better son to replace the defective one he was given." Amsha, for her part, went along with Richard's plan because she felt guilty for Julian's slowness, that something went wrong with how she raised him or during pregnancy, and she wanted to give him a better life. Julian, nonetheless, is set in his course; he would go to Sisko and explain the situation before resigning and quietly leaving the station.
When Julian goes to Sisko's office, Sisko introduces him to Rear Admiral Bennett, a judge advocate general. Julian's parents had already explained the situation to Sisko, who contacted Bennett to make an arrangement that would allow Julian to keep his commission and his license to practice medicine; Richard would go to prison for two years after pleading guilty to illegal genetic manipulation. Richard decides to take responsibility for the crime that he committed. Bennett explains that genetic augmentation led to the Eugenics Wars two hundred years ago. For every honest Augment like Julian, there was a dangerous war criminal like Khan Singh, hence why genetic augmentation was outlawed by the Federation. With Richard accepting the deal to return to Earth and carry out his sentence, Julian says goodbye to his parents before they leave, but not before Julian thanks his father.
In the end, as Leeta makes ready to leave for Jupiter Station with Zimmerman, Rom finally musters the courage to admit his love for Leeta. Leeta readily accepts Rom's affections and decides to stay on the station, to Zimmerman's disappointment.
This episode provides examples of:
- Accidental Public Confession: Julian Bashir's parents speak about his augmentations, not realizing they're actually speaking to the hologram based on Bashir, and that Dr. Zimmerman is in the other room listening. Up until that point, no one on the station knew or suspected anything about Julian's Bio-Augmentation except the Bashirs.
- Adult Fear: Bashir's mother explains that this is why his parents had him genetically enhanced, since they (and by her wording, her in particular) thought they'd done something wrong when she was pregnant, and having to watch their son struggle with even the most basic things.
- Amazingly Embarrassing Parents: Richard and Amsha Bashir. Of course, his resentment goes beyond their typical stories about him. For instance, Richard has a tendency to exaggerate his many jobs; he describes his time as a third class shuttle steward as "running shuttles." Not to mention the little secret...
- Artistic License Military: In-Universe. The admiral who rules in Bashir's case is said to be a rear admiral, but he clearly has the insignia of a full admiral.
- Bio-Augmentation: Bashir's Dark Secret.
- Bittersweet Ending: Bashir stays in Starfleet, but his father goes to prison. And Rom and Leeta get together.
- Calling the Old Man Out: Bashir does this to his father for turning him into a genetic design project.
- Cannot Spit It Out:
- Rom, for Leeta. Which is all the more problematic since she does genuinely like him, but he's just too awkward to say it. He finally manages it at the end of the episode.
- Bashir's parents never actually explained why they had him genetically enhanced, causing him to assume they were ashamed and embarrassed of him. In truth, they did because they were ashamed of themselves, in the belief they had done something wrong that caused Bashir's deficiencies as a child. They had him enhanced because they loved him and wanted him to have every opportunity possible to succeed in life.
- Catchphrase: The EMH's usual greeting is given to holo-Bashir, which he does not find amusing.LMH: Please state the nature of the medical emergency.
EMH: Oh, that's original.
- Chekhov's Gun: Back in "Homefront", Julian was evasive about his family on Earth. This episode clarifies why.
- It's finally revealed why Bashir missed a question on his medical school exam, which cost him valedictorian status. He originally said that he confused a pre-ganglionic fiber with a post-ganglionic nerve (which would be the equivalent of an engineering major confusing a wrench for a screwdriver). In a previous episode, a telepathic alien suggested that Bashir deliberately answered the question wrong. Here it is finally confirmed: he DID deliberately answer the question wrong, as part of an Obfuscating Stupidity gambit to prevent his status as a genetic augment from being discovered.
- Continuity Nod:
- Khan is mentioned. As are the Eugenics Wars (though due to what's either an error or a quiet attempt at a Retcon that didn't stick and was later called an error, they're mentioned to have happened in the 22nd Century instead of the 1990s).
- Bashir and Zimmerman mention how an EMH can fully replace a ship's medical staff. At this point, no one in the Alpha Quadrant knows that this has happened on Voyager.
- Crossover: With Star Trek: Voyager. Robert Picardo guest stars as Dr. Lewis Zimmerman and an EMH.
- Deadpan Snarker:
- Quark describes Rom's failed marriage, and how his ex swindled Rom for everything he had before leaving him with Nog, finishing with a deadpan "hooray for romance".
- After Bashir learns he's being considered as the model for a new medical hologram, O'Brien quips, "Just think. If this pans out, you'll be able to annoy hundreds of people you've never even met!"
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: Really, what this episode is about is parental abuse, especially of the sort that the parents don't perceive as abusive (even if society at large would also disagree). The Bashirs did something that they thought was in their son's best interest, but left bone-deep emotional scars on him and made him forever unsure whether he truly deserves credit for anything he's done. And ultimately, society agrees with Julian, with the elder Bashir facing jail time over what he did. The whole episode is about how Bashir wants to go forward with a relationship with his parents in the face of what happened, or if he wants to.
- In a more specific sense, this hearkens back to debates on curing autism, and whether finding a cure is even a good idea. Many parents of autistic children, particularly those who blame themselves for their child's condition or worry that their child will never be able to care for themselves, would race to line up for a cure if it was offered; most autistic people, on the other hand, see autism as a fundamental part of their personality, and would consider having a cure forced on them, no matter how noble the motive, tantamount to being killed and replaced by someone society and their parents considered "better" (much like how Bashir considers "Jules", his old self, to have been killed by his disappointed parents and replaced by his more successful current self).
- Heroic BSoD: Bashir after his augmentation is outed. He's ready to turn in his papers now that the penny has finally dropped. When his parents start brainstorming ways to fight it, it's also a good opportunity for him to let loose all the things he hasn't said to them until now.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Bashir's father accepts a prison sentence to save his son's career.
- I Let You Win: O'Brien realizes this at the end of the episode, when he recalls that Bashir mentioned his hand-eye coordination was enhanced. Bashir was letting him win at darts for two years! When Bashir flawlessly throws three bullseyes, O'Brien's solution to this is to make Bashir throw from twice the normal distance.O'Brien: And if that doesn't work, we'll try a blindfold!
- Idiot Ball: Bashir's parents really should known better than to have openly mentioned the little secret outside of their quarters, even if they believed the LMH was their son.
- Why doesn't Leeta just make the Love Confession?? Especially given that this is 300 years in the future and neither of them are from Earth, so there's no reason for a "the male has to be the first one to say it" rule between them. (Although given how strongly patriarchal Ferengi culture is...)
- Interrogation Montage: We get one when Dr. Zimmerman is interviewing all of Julian's friends and workmates.
- It's All About Me: Julian accuses his parents of this when they protest his plan to resign. Richard's reaction certainly seems to fit the bill, as he talks about not letting Julian ruin things for him, leading to a massive argument. Ultimately they're able to express that they had him modified because they felt guilty, not ashamed.
- I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Zimmerman accepts Leeta's decision to stay with Rom.
- Moral Dissonance: This is a similar case to "TNG: The Measure of a Man", where Starfleet seems to have the power to decide the civil rights of a person without the need to consult Federation civilian authorities. There is also an element of Fantastic Racism, since Bashir is being judged by his genetics, not his personal or career history. Starfleet has many personnel from species with Transhuman capabilities, such as Vulcans and Betazoids. But it is not generally assumed that they are a threat or will abuse their special abilities such that they should be disqualified from serving in Starfleet or working in a profession such as medicine. Then again, even if it is part of a plea bargain, Starfleet ultimately decides not to punish Bashir for something that was not really his fault, since the augmentation had been done on Bashir without his knowing consent, and the worst thing Bashir had done was to hide the secret from everyone.
- Naked People Are Funny: Dr. Zimmerman calls on Leeta as she is getting out of the shower. He tells her she's been offered a job as the manager of a cafe on another station. She's so happy that when she comes out to talk to him, she forgets her towel.
- No Transhumanism Allowed: Played With. They point out exactly WHY it's a thing in Star Trek. Ultimately, Bashir is not punished simply for being a transhuman. His father takes responsibility for making him one, and will have to do a prison term.
- Obfuscating Stupidity: It's revealed that Bashir has been doing this for all of his adult life, to try to hide his status as an augment. That he still comes across as a bratty know-it-all at times should tell you just how far his augs took him.
- Oh, Crap!: Bashir's reaction when his parents show up.
- Other Me Annoys Me: The LMH quickly shows his low opinion of both his predecessor and his template.
- Race for Your Love: Just when Dr. Zimmerman and Leeta are about to board the shuttle to leave DS9, Rom catches up to them and confesses his love to Leeta.Rom: Leeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeetaaa! Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaiiiiiiiiiit!
- That Man Is Dead: To Bashir, he stopped being "Jules", the nickname his parents gave him when he was a child, the day he learnt he was augmented.
- The Voiceless: Morn, as usual. During his interview, his response to Zimmerman's question is a shrug.Zimmerman: You're not being very helpful.
- Tempting Fate: Dr. Zimmerman says that the EMH's will be operating for years to come. They are, just not (with one exception) at the task he created them for.
- Title Drop: Dr. Zimmerman does this upon meeting Bashir.
- Small Name, Big Ego: Richard Bashir and his habit of overinflating his past jobs. During an argument, Julian points out that Richard has never risen past the midpoint in any job he's ever had and that his habit of jumping from career to career has resulted in no real, lasting accomplishments except for his genetically-engineered son. (Richard's current job as a landscape architect for parks does seem to be what he really does, though.)
- Vitriolic Best Buds: When asked for his confidential assessment of Bashir, O'Brien is actually full of praise, but only after he's assured that Bashir will never find out he said so.
- Willfully Weak: Bashir has been letting O'Brien win at darts for years. When he starts playing seriously after his augmentations come to light, he absolutely dominates O'Brien.
- Wham Episode: A somewhat lower-key kind of one compared to some others, but it's still one. It fundamentally realigns Bashir's entire character, throws the past several seasons-worth of his story into a completely new light, and affects almost every appearance Bashir makes afterward.
- What the Hell, Hero?: Julian to O'Brien, after he and Doctor Zimmerman accidentally cause Julian's parents to reveal his secret.
- Writers Cannot Do Math: Admiral Bennett mentions that the Eugenics Wars took place 'two hundred years before', which would be in the 22nd century when previous Star Trek canon definitively placed them occurring at the end of the 20th. Ronald Moore explained that it was an error on his part. (Star Trek: Enterprise, set in the 22nd century, later had a three part episode that focused on rogue Augments, which is probably as close to justifying the bad math as they're going to get.)