Saturday, March 27, 2021

3 in Babel (Deep Space Nine S01-E05)

Commander Sisko and Doctor Bashir talking about who could have made the virus

Let’s just call this the pandemic episode, biblical name of Babel notwithstanding. There’s the speaking-in-tongues part but none of it due to the chasing of the divine. It was a biological attack meant for the Occupation but triggered way too late.

Deep Space Nine was a processing center for the Uridium mined from Bajor below. Naturally this made the station a target for the Underground. At best it will be Cardassian infrastructure taken off the board, hopefully weakening the Occupation, or at the very least fewer Bajorans will made to work off planet.

After the 3 standouts of the episode, this time I will make reference to current covid-19 pandemic conditions and why I’m not a fan of the bioweapon theory. Science fiction is the only place a biological attack can ever be launched perfectly. 

Why use any weapon if it cannot be used perfectly, which is to say it shouldn't explode in your own face?

With Sisko already down with the virus here comes Quark to the rescue, again.

Love and Hate Relationship between Quark and Odo

There's a playfulness in the love hate relationship of Quark and Odo that made this episode a good one. They are the Spock and McCoy of Deep Space Nine with banter uniquely their own.

Also it is the second in a row Quark would save Odo. In A Man Alone, Quark’s help was endearing because it was surprising, having faced off with Odo for many years who knew he would help and that he would go against the "wisdom" of the mob. Odo’s grumpy response to seeing Quark in a time of need just makes it cute.

The episode started with Odo feigning glee that Quark may run out of business soon. Remembering how Odo talked about Ibudan, that was him angry. There is no hate in him saying that he’d love to see Quark close up shop. It felt playful as far as the line can be delivered.

In this scene, I love that Quark can dish out as playfully as the remarks he had been receiving from Odo, pretending to have observed only the basics of transporter operations. If only Odo can do faces, he would have been Doctor McCoy when he heard that.


In Real Life

In real life no virus can differentiate between Chinese, British, Russian, or American. There would be no genetic boundaries to make any nationality safe in the same manner that made Quark and Odo safe from the aphasia virus.

My eyes roll every time I hear making bioweapons is a simple as just making and unleashing it. All you have to do with nuclear bombs is make sure you’re not in the blast radius. There is no radius with a biological agent, no destruction of enemy infrastructure.  

The weapon is still alive in moving, the enemy can still launch a conventional counter strike even when sick. How do you plan your defense with a weapon that’s alive and moving, taken the face of your own citizens, all the while making sure nukes won’t be launched against you in between?


If this virus is present in a large enough segment of the population, it could mean...

Aphasia Virus Mutated

At face value the biological attack would have worked, the target area is a contained environment, a space station. The contaminated replicator is on the command level, a restricted area today, but most likely has had the same exclusivity under the Cardassians. There was the hope of limiting the damage.

Dekon Elig and Surmak Ren may have hoped contaminating the Cardassian food supply will contain the spread considering they would never have mingled too much with the slave labor.

First mistake with the plan is that they were not able to unleash the weapon during the Occupation. Second mistake is that the virus and potential carriers have a mind of their own. If Dekon Elig had a plan, it does not matter. They didn’t know that one day people on the station might be sharing replicators or that the popular Quark’s would be selling food from it.

Quark’s being the wild card in this episode is a story of quarantine violations, and super spreader events. It also raises the question of what truly is the heart of Deep Space Nine. 

This brought us to the third mistake: mutation. The virus is out of control.


In Real Life

Even with vaccine rollouts the world remains wary that the variants would make them useless. Contrary to the stance of my government that mutations are beyond their control, which most likely is a spin of I-didn’t-know-viruses-mutate, there is literature available about mutation. It is expected, and famously may have been the cause of that infamous 2nd wave of the 1918 Flu and its a bigger body count.

Let’s say we agree to the premise that covid-19 has been artificially created, the next question would be is it possible to prevent it from mutating? 

Any pre-planned antidote would be ineffective under a mutated virus as recent worry of the variants have shown. You cannot control mutation thereby endangering the advantage of your antidotes. Not to mention the fact that enemy nations still retain the ability to organize however difficult, maybe mount a conventional strike if it strikes their fancy. 

So, is a biological attack still the best recourse to further China’s or any nation's agenda?


In Surmak's face Kira said, "you've been infected too."

Surmak Ren didn’t Know

Mission Impossible 2 had Chimera and Bellerophon, disease and cure, existing at the same time; the complete scheme neatly laid out. This plot convenience is what conspiracy theorists think about with Covid-19 now, which changes the big bad from China to Bill Gates.

I like the shot above between Kira and Surmak because Surmak didn't know that he was already contaminated with his own weapon after eighteen years. A bomb would have been simpler.

Surmak Ren having to work out a cure from notes still qualifies as a plot convenience, although not as popular as having both disease and cure already available. So who is he and why didn’t he have the cure ready?

Again we go to or just imagine the rabbit hole that is Bajor’s past. Dekon, as the creator, would have known details by heart, but maybe he wasn’t the type to share everything with his assistant. Even if he were to write it down or make a sample where would he have hidden it? 

This quarantine has everyone on edge, Constable. 
Would you deprive them of a little harmless diversion?
(famous last words under Covid-19)

They’re terrorists on the run, and subsequently caught. It is in their best interest to have no evidences on their person. And besides if the attack was successful they wouldn’t want the solution to be easily within reach.

Thinking about it further there’s a flaw in the logic. Being the weaker of two forces, the freedom fighters or terrorists to some, would want quick death and destruction – destroy the station or kill Dukat, most likely both. Hit and run is the general rule of guerrilla warfare.

Furthermore, the aphasia virus attack relies heavily on the Cardassians implementing timely quarantine procedures, which is important since a processing plant at the orbit of Bajor risks the population of the planet. The better plan would be to destroy the station.

So here even in science fiction the possibilities of a biological attack cannot be perfectly worked out. Why do it?


In Real Life

What is the defense of China had they manufactured Covid-19? If they pre-planned an antidote where would they hide it? Going by current vaccine doses, 2 shots a person, China would have had to have 2 billion doses ready to secure the mainland. Wouldn’t a vaccination program be easy to spot as well as supply depots for the vaccine? And this is assuming the variants wouldn’t render the vaccine ineffective.

If they were to manufacture again for the variants then that should be easy to spot because they would have to restock for the entire population again. Is it worth the effort of a biological war?

My middle ground is that covid-19 is natural but for whatever reason China didn’t want all infected trapped in the mainland, so they decided to “share”. They are confident of their pandemic response and testing program having had the experience of the 1957 and 1968 pandemics, and SARS further on. 

Dubious yes, but, considering plagues have always affected human lives in all of recorded history shouldn’t the Western powers especially the United States, have an effective response by now. If it is naturally occurring what good is blame and politics at this point?

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