We go back to the DS9 well for this week. Let’s look at the episode that introduced Section 31 to the ST canon, “Inquisition”, episode 6x18, that first aired April 8th, 1998.
The episode began a comedy about bureaucracy. Writer Bradley Thompson described it as being like dealing with the DMV. “dealing with the Department of Motor Vehicles on a Sunday. Bashir went to a planet to do something really nice, like saving the lives of everyone on the whole planet. He parked his runabout in orbit, and when he finished doing this wonderful thing, he found out that he had been towed and he had a parking ticket! So he had to go up against the bureaucracy. It was the ultimate genetically engineered Human against the ultimate bureaucratic red tape.” Thomspon and fellow writer David Weddle pitched it as a comedic take on the 1925 Franz Kafka novel The Trial. When they pitched it to Ira Steven Bher, it reformulated it into the story about a covert Starfleet organization trying to prove a member of the crew was a Dominion spy.As Thompson put it, “it stopped being a romp and became a nightmare.”.(Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)
This episode introduces Section 31 and the character of Luther Sloan.
The idea for Section 31 was Ira’s. He wanted to look deeper into the idea of a Federation utopia, to see what darkness hides bendeath the surface. This didn’t come out of nowhere. Memory Alpha describes how the idea developed across several episodes.
Here is how Ira described it, “Why is Earth a paradise in the twenty-fourth century? Well, maybe it’s because there’s someone watching over it and doing the nasty stuff that no one wants to talk about.”. This idea was controversial as it went away from the ideas of the future presented by Roddenberry and that Section 31 could not existed in such a world. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)
Martian Sheen was considered for the role of Sloan, but it went to William Sadler, According to Ira Behr, “We needed someone who had real power as an actor, who could keep you from jumping to a final conclusion about his character.” (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion) Sloan’s leather outfit at the end was supposed to represent hostility. Robert Blackman explains, “Ira asked for dark, black, severe, hostile looking garments. Well, that’s black leather!” (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)
Michaele Dorn was a fan of the final product. “The show was very Kafka-esque. Sid did some wonderful acting and I thought Bill [Sadler] just did a fantastic job, too. He was a dream to work with, just a dream. He’s a really good actor, so I couldn’t go wrong”. (“Dorn’s Direction”, Star Trek Monthly, issue 39)
The episode focused on the accusation that Bashir was a spy and there were a lot of callbacks to previous episodes.
- “Hippocratic Oath” - where Bashir attempted to help a group of rogue Jem’Hadar beat their addiction to Ketracel-white.
- “In Purgatory’s Shadow” - where it is discovered that Bashir had been replaced by a Changeling some time prior.
- “By Inferno’s Light” - Sloan suggests that the fact that Worf’s runabout was left orbiting Internment Camp 371 meant that the Dominion perhaps allowed Bashir to escape.
- “Statistical Probabilities” - where Bashir worked with a group of genetically enhanced savants and temporarily became convinced that the Federation could save billions of lives if it were to surrender to the Dominion.
Because the entire episode takes place in a holographic simulation, this meant that there could be no B story.
At the end of the episode Bashir compares Section 31 to the Romulan’s Tal Shiar and the Cardassian’s Obsidian Order. He is not happy with the idea of humanity having that in common with their foes. “But what would that say about us? That we’re no different than our enemies? That when push comes to shove, we’re willing to throw away our principles in order to survive?”. Sisko can only say “I wish I had an answer for you.”. In the next episode, we learn how Sisko would answer that question.
Inquistion is one of the best episodes of DS9's run. It challanges the idea of a utopian Earth and dirties up Gene’s idealistic view of the future with a more realistic outlook. I hope you all enjoyed learning about this episode, and I will see you all next time for another Midweek Trivia.