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Recap / Star Trek Deep Space Nine S 07 E 16 Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges

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The idealist confronts the realist.
Kira leads some negotiations between the station and Romulan Senator Cretak. After slinging some barbs at the Klingons, Cretak manages to browbeat the staff into letting some Romulan ships jump the line for repairs. The senator is next scheduled to attend a Romulan conference in which Bashir will be sharing his expertise on Dominion biogenic weapons. When Garak learns about the conference, he suggests using it as an opportunity to spy on the Romulans, but Bashir dismisses that idea as morally beneath the Federation, much to Garak's disappointment.

Garak isn't the only one with the idea. That night, Bashir is visited in his quarters by everyone's favorite Section 31 agent, Sloan, who "recruited" Bashir during "Inquisition". Despite all the cloak-and-dagger, his request is innocuous enough: make some private observations on Romulan bigwigs at the conference. Bashir refuses, but Sloan is convinced that he'll do it anyway because the thought of being a spy is just too seductive. Bashir goes straight to Sisko. His and Admiral Ross' conclusion is to turn Bashir into a Double Agent, playing along with Sloan's game to get closer to Section 31. Starfleet Intelligence, despite its claims to the contrary, has not made any serious effort to expose them.

At the conference, Bashir discovers to his dismay that Sloan has personally tagged along, posing as a cartographer. They meet in private for Bashir to give his first report. Sloan has a particular interest in Koval, chairman of the Tal Shiar, who is ardently opposed to the alliance and competing with Cretak for an empty seat on the Continuing Committee. It is also rumored that he is hiding a rare and incurable disease known as Tuvan Syndrome. Sloan wants to know for sure. The next day, Koval approaches Bashir to ask a few questions about the Quickening, making no effort to disguise the fact that he is interested in weaponizing it.

Bashir's conclusion is that Koval may have early-stage Tuvan Syndrome, which would give him a life expectancy of 20 to 25 more years. Obviously interested in getting rid of Koval, Sloan asks if there are any ways to accelerate the progression of the disease. Ross is affronted by the idea that Section 31 may be plotting an assassination, whatever benefit it might bring to the Federation. Bashir also tells Ross his theory that Sloan has a Romulan mole working for him. Bashir wants to blow the whistle on Sloan, but Ross is afraid of what that might do to the alliance.

To make matters worse, Ross suffers an aneurysm not long after. It's not serious, but until he recovers, Bashir is on his own. So, he turns to the only other person he thinks he can trust: Senator Cretak. He asks her to help him get access to Koval's intelligence files to locate the mole. Cretak reluctantly agrees. But it would seem Bashir has managed to put himself on Koval's radar. The spymaster lures Bashir away from the conference to conduct a not-so-friendly interrogation. Bashir's genetic enhancements make him immune to the Romulans' infamous mind probes, but no matter. Cretak was also caught trying to hack Koval's files. Both of them are brought before the Committee, who are not pleased to hear their story, no matter how well-intentioned it may have been.

To top things off, Koval brings out a Surprise Witness: a badly-beaten Sloan. Under interrogation, they have found that there is no Section 31. Sloan, an ordinary Starfleet spy with a grudge against Koval, invented it so that he could orchestrate his own personal revenge. The Committee decides to let Bashir loose. Cretak, whatever her intentions, is in any case still guilty of treason. Sloan chooses to try to fight his way out and is executed on the spot.

But that's still not the whole story. By the time Bashir is returned to the Bellerophon, Ross is back on his feet. Bashir asks him what really happened to Sloan, reasoning that Sloan would never have been so stupid to get caught and killed like that. He also notes how Ross has been suspiciously at the center of everything that's occurred. Ross admits that he was working with Sloan. The Romulan mole is none other than Koval himself, who faked both Sloan's story and his supposed death. Now that Cretak is discredited, his spot on the Committee is guaranteed, and with his established anti-alliance reputation, it will be all the more convincing when he later reverses his stance.

Certainly, this is a huge win for the Federation, but Bashir is absolutely incensed that Ross, the model of a Reasonable Authority Figure, would be in bed with Section 31. Ross states that he did what he had to do to save Federation lives, quoting Cicero, "Inter arma enim silent leges" ("In time of war, the law falls silent"). The idealistic Bashir doesn't accept that excuse, but there's nothing left for him to do. Back on the station, Sloan pays him one last visit to thank him for playing the part of the Wide-Eyed Idealist so perfectly. He tells him men of conscience like Bashir are what Section 31 was made to protect. Bashir rejects this excuse as well, but Sloan simply disappears once again.

This episode provides examples of:

  • Agree to Disagree:
    Sloan: Let's make a deal, doctor. I'll spare you the "ends justify the means" speech and you spare me the "we must do what's right" speech. You and I are not going to see eye to eye on this subject, so I suggest we stop discussing it.
  • Ambiguous Situation: It is unknown whether Ross was actively trying to implant in Bashir the idea that Sloan was working with a Romulan, or if he was simply playing Xanatos Speed Chess in the moment to find another way to get Bashir to work with Cretak after Bashir suggested that Sloan was working with a Romulan, and faked his aneurysm shortly afterwards as a result. When Bashir tells Ross that he was the one who implanted the idea in his head, Ross neither confirms nor denies this theory.
  • Batman Gambit:
    • Being found out was part of Sloan's plan to make his man inside Romulus look even better. Not only that, the "exposure" of Section 31 as being all in his head provides Plausible Deniability, thus maintaining its secrecy even more.
    • Ross's aneurysm is faked (and conveniently discussed in front of Bashir in the mess hall) so that Bashir will have no choice but to go to Cretak.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Sloan points out that Bashir always wanted to play at the spy game. Well, he certainly gets his wish.
  • Both Sides Have a Point: Acknowledged by Sloan at the end, albeit in a very condescending way. The Federation needs idealistic men like Bashir to preserve its, well, ideals and it needs men like Sloan to do the dirty work that will allow those ideals to survive in a dog-eat-dog universe.
    Sloan: The Federation needs men like you, Doctor. Men of conscience, men of principle, men who can sleep at night. You're also the reason Section 31 exists. Someone has to protect men like you from a universe that doesn't share your sense of right and wrong.
  • Broken Pedestal: The DS9 crew's worked closely with Ross for the better part of two years by this point, have gotten to know him well, and like him. Whatever personal respect Bashir may have developed for the Admiral is left in ruins by the end of the episode and the realization of Ross' role in Sloan's plan.
  • Call-Back:
  • The Chessmaster: Sloan.
  • Continuity Nod:
  • Continuity Overlap: As the back half of the final Season takes place after the release of Star Trek: Insurrection, DS9 has now switched over to the new dress uniforms that debuted in the film. This is also only their only appearance outside of the TNG Movies.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Sloan explains to Bashir what will happen after the war ends: Cardassia will be occupied and the Klingons will spend the next decade rebuilding, leaving the Federation and the Romulans as the two major powers in the Alpha Quadrant. This mirrors the years following World War II and the beginning of the Cold War.
  • Dramatic Irony:
  • The Easy Way or the Hard Way: After being led away from the conference on a pretext, Bashir finds himself being ushered into an interrogation room and ordered to sit in what is quite clearly a torture chair. He balks, but is told that, one way or another, he's ending up in that seat. He tries to just sit down casually as if for a simple conversation, but is soon shackled in with a mind probe on his head.
  • The Extremist Was Right: Sloan's plan ultimately enables a Section 31 mole (who had pretended to be a critic of the Federation) will have the clout to ensure the Romulans don't back out of the alliance.
  • Everyone Is a Suspect: When Ross and Bashir wonder if Sloan has an accomplice embedded in the diplomatic delegation, the Admiral grimly points it could be anyone — even a member of the Bellerophon crew. Bashir disagrees (as the evidence leads him to erroneously conclude the accomplice is a Romulan). So it doesn't occur to him until it's too late that by that same deductive reasoning, Ross should also be considered a suspect.
  • Faking the Dead: Sloan is seemingly vaporized by a Romulan disruptor, but he was beamed away a split-second before the blast hit.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Sisko initially agrees with Bashir's concerns about passing any intel to Sloan is a bad idea. But he changes his mind after a conversation with Admiral Ross, who persuades Sisko that Sloan has made a misstep. He's given them a unique opportunity to try and get someone inside Section 31, and Ross convinces Sisko that they should take it. It's the first clue that Ross is working with Sloan. He's ensuring that Sisko and Bashir don't accidentally sabotage the plan and that Bashir will play the part they need him to play in order to take down Cretak.
    • In addition, in the scene right after Ross warns Bashir not to reveal the assassination plot or the existence of Section 31, the camera close-ups on Ross with a very nervous look and slightly-twitching eyes. Since the very next scene involves Bashir overhearing about Ross's supposed aneurysm (and the news Bashir had brought to the admiral gave him good reason to be worried), the first-time viewer could easily chalk this up to Ross's impending aneurysm. But on second viewing it clearly acts as a Traitor Shot.
  • Foul First Drink: Ross is overwhelmed by his first taste of Romulan ale.
    (Ross takes a sip of ale and coughs)
    Bashir: Need a medical team, sir?
    Ross: (weakly) No, thank you.
    Cretak: Don't tell me this is your first glass of Romulan ale.
    Ross: Well, it was (coughs) ille-(coughs) illegal.
    Cretak: That never stopped most of your colleagues.
    Ross: I was probably one of the few officers in the fleet who didn't indulge occasionally.
  • Got Volunteered:
    • Kira volunteers Worf to explain to Martok why his ship gets moved back in the repair queue in favor of the Romulans.
    • Sloan volunteers Bashir for a Section 31 op. Sisko then tells Bashir to go along with it, hoping this will help them gather intel on 31.
  • Gratuitous Latin: An episode title in Latin, which gets dropped, after which Bashir conveniently translates.
  • Hypocrite: Garak criticizes the Romulans for being utilitarian and "gray," noting that even their hearts are gray. This coming from a Cardassian, a gray-skinned race who almost exclusively wear black and whose homeworld is decidedly grim and spartan.
  • Irony: Garak's past assignment on Romulus is an in-universe example. Garak admits posing as the Cardassian Embassy's gardener was ironically one of the few times during his career where the cover identity was more enjoyable than the actual assignment.
  • I Was Never Here: Invoked by Ross after his "off-the-record" conversation with Bashir.
    Ross: This conversation never happened. You're dismissed.
  • It's Personal: Part of the ultimate deception is stating that Sloan is a mere Federation intelligence officer who believed Koval assassinated his mentor and wanted revenge.
    Koval: You broke the cardinal rule of our profession. You allowed business to become personal.
  • Mandatory Line: Kira, Odo, Worf, and O'Brien only appear in a meeting at the start of the episode. Ezri gets one line after nearly getting a face-full of phaser from Bashir. Sisko's only scene has him discussing Section 31 with Bashir.
  • The Mole: Sisko hopes to use Bashir to learn more about Section 31 and what they're planning from the inside.
  • Mole in Charge: Koval, Chairman of the Tal Shiar, is secretly working with Section 31.
  • No-Sell: Bashir's genetic enhancements make him immune to Romulan mind probes. Or maybe they don't, and that was just part of Koval's plan.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: This is how Bashir realizes Sloan's capture was faked. Koval's description of Sloan and his 'motive' to the Continuing Committee doesn't match the man who tried to recruit Julian into Section 31 a year earlier. An operative who could so effortlessly outwit a genetically enhanced individual would never have been caught so easily by the Romulans. Realizing there has to be another explanation is what allows Bashir to deduce Ross' involvement.
  • Pet the Dog: At least the Romulans were kind enough to return Bashir to the Bellerophon after this whole incident.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: In comparison to his last appearance, Praetor Neral is quite merciful towards Bashir. He accepts Sloan's 'death' as punishment enough and lets Bashir go back to the Federation instead of imprisoning him. Possibly justified in that Bashir did not personally learn of any Romulan state secrets during the course of his activities, and that imprisoning a citizen of the Federation might exacerbate relations with one of their wartime allies.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Bashir excoriates both Ross and Sloan for their underhanded tactics, but both seem quite comfortable with their choices.
  • Removing the Earpiece: Bashir and Ross remove their combadges before their off-the-record argument over the Section 31 op.
  • Sarcastic Confession: Ross plants the idea of Sloan having an accomplice in the diplomatic delegation and that it could be anyone — even a member of the Bellerophon crew. Bashir and the audience don't realize Ross is actually talking about himself until the penultimate scene.
  • Sequel Episode: To Season 6's "Inquisition" and the middle installment of DS9's Section 31 Trilogy.
  • Series Continuity Error: Bashir incorrectly says that the Quickening disease afflicted people on Boranis III. It was actually on a planet in the Teplan system; Boranis III had been mentioned earlier in that episode.
  • Shout-Out: Sloan mentions the poem The Merchant of Venice: A Legend of Italy by Thomas Ingoldsby when explaining the origin of the phrase "never say die."
  • Spanner in the Works: Three retroactive ones for Sloan's predictions of the Alpha Quadrant's post-war status quo. Section 31's assessment is mostly correct, but it's also ultimately hit by three x-factors the agency couldn't have anticipated: The Breen Confederacy's unexpected entry into the War during the Final Chapter, Shinzon's coup, and the supernova.
  • Stock Footage: The establishing shot of Romulus' surface is reused footage from TNG's "Unification".
  • Suicide by Cop: Sloan's escape is set up to look like him being shot by Koval during a desperate escape attempt.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: With the Federation and Romulans now wartime allies, the Federation's 200-year old trade embargo against the Star Empire has been suspended. Romulan goods like their Ale are thus now legal in Federation space for the very first time (and for the duration of the War).
  • Tautological Templar: In possibly the most scathing criticism of the Federation in the franchise, Bashir accuses the Federation of utilizing the underhanded tactics they claim to loathe and then justifying them by saying that they are the "good guys", and thus can't do wrong.
  • This Is Gonna Suck:
    • Bashir is not happy with Sloan showing up with an assignment.
    • Bashir realizes that his talk with Koval will not be enjoyable when he's led into a secured chamber with two mooks.
  • Title Drop: By Admiral Ross, attempting to justify what happened to Julian. He doesn't take it well:
    Bashir: "In time of war, the law falls silent." Cicero. So, is that what we have become; a 24th century Rome, driven by nothing other than the certainty that Caesar can do no wrong?
  • Trespassing to Talk: Sloan does it twice, both at the beginning and the end of the episode, and while Bashir's sleeping.
  • Uncertain Doom: Cretak. Admiral Ross notes that the most optimistic outcome for her is simple dismissal from the Senate. At worst, she'll be executed.
  • Unwitting Pawn: Bashir and Cretak end up being this in Section 31 and Koval's scheme. When Bashir puts it all together, he's not very happy about it.
  • Villain Respect: Sloan's briefing when he and Bashir discuss the death of Starfleet Intelligence's Deputy Chief Vice-Admiral Fujisaki. Officially, he died from "food poisoning", but Section 31 believes it was a Tal Shiar assassination. As a fellow intelligence officer, Sloan grudgingly compliments Koval for making it a textbook operation with no sign of foul play or Romulan involvement.
  • Visionary Villain: Sloan stresses that the Romulans are only temporary allies and that they will be the greatest threat to the Federation once the Dominion War is over. That's his motivation behind this plan.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Sloan and Ross. Both want to ensure an outcome where the Dominion doesn't cut a separate peace deal with the Romulans.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Bashir chews Ross out for working with Section 31. Ross admits that he doesn't like it, but it's the only way to help end the war.
  • Whole-Plot Reference: Sloan's Batman Gambit is familiar to anyone who's read The Spy Who Came in from the Cold.
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: Bashir - and that's what makes him so useful to Section 31 for this particular mission.