> EPISODES >
DISTANT VOICES >
Episode Synopsis by Tracy Hemenover
Bashir is having lunch with Garak one day when the tailor gives him an
isolinear rod with a ribbon around it. It's an early birthday present.
Bashir is a little less than enthused when he learns it's a holosuite
program based on a Cardassian enigma tale. He is also not too happy
about the prospect of his upcoming birthday, which will be his 30th. "It
marks the end of youth and the beginning of the slow march into middle
age." "And that's considered bad?" asks Garak. "No. It's just that when
you hit thirty, it becomes harder and harder to ignore the passage of
time." Bashir admits that he's having difficulty accepting the aging
process. "I'm aware that aging is part of the natural process of life.
It's just that I don't want to be reminded of it, that's all."
They are interrupted by Quark, who is accompanied by a huge Lethean
named Altovar. The Ferengi says that Altovar is looking to buy a small
quantity of bio-memetic gel, but Bashir says that it's a restricted
substance, the sale of which is strictly prohibited by Federation law.
Altovar says he's willing to pay whatever price Bashir names; Bashir
will not budge. "I'm sorry, but bio-memetic gel can be hazardous if not
handled correctly. It's not for sale. At any price." After Altovar gives
Bashir a long stare and walks away, Bashir looks at Quark. "Quark, you
might want to warn your friend that even attempting to obtain bio-memetic
gel is a felony under Federation law."
When Bashir enters the infirmary later, he catches Altovar there,
ransacking the drug shelves. There is a struggle, and Altovar grabs the
doctor by the temples; an energy discharge passes from the alien's hands
to Bashir's head. Bashir collapses, unconscious.
He awakes to find the lights in the infirmary flickering and the
monitors showing nothing but static. Disoriented, he tries calling out,
but no one responds, and the computer doesn't answer. Then he hears a
faint sound of several voices whispering. He goes out into the
Promenade, trying to follow the whispers. The Promenade is deserted and
dark, and in the same condition as the infirmary, with flickering lights
and inoperable monitors. Even more strange, he spots his own reflection
in a mirrored surface, and notices that his hair has started to go gray
about the temples.
Then he hears a noise from Quark's, and goes to investigate; the bar is
also dark, and looks like it's been the site of a brawl. Quark is there,
cowering behind the bar, gibbering in fear. "He's going to kill us," he
whimpers. "He's going to kill us all." "Who?" asks Bashir. "Who are you
so afraid of? Where's Sisko? What happened to the rest of the crew?"
Quark doesn't answer, and Bashir suggests that he come with him to find
them. "No! Don't you see? If we move, he'll find us. If we stay here, we
might be safe." There are sounds of movement, and Quark panics. "It's
too late. He's found us. We've got to get out!" He scurries out the
door. Bashir is uncertain what to do, and calls out into the darkness.
"Who's there? Show yourself!" A chair is thrown at him; he decides to
He continues down the Promenade, and in the replimat, finds liquid
pouring out of the replicators. It's Tarkalean tea, his favorite
beverage. Hearing a scraping noise from the security office, he goes
there, and is grabbed by Garak. The tailor was here looking for Odo, but
everyone seems to have disappeared. Bashir tells him he just saw Quark,
and that something was tearing up the bar. Garak notes that the station
seems to have suffered some kind of massive systems failure. Perhaps
Sisko and the others have fallen victim to a virus, or space anomaly, or
Dominion plot. Bashir hears the whispers again, and asks if Garak does
too. Garak doesn't, but then Cardassian hearing is less acute than
humans'. He does notice Bashir's hair, which has become a little more
gray. "I guess you had reason to feel worried about turning thirty after
all. Either that, or your job is even more stressful than I thought."
They decide to split up to search the station.
Bashir walks along the habitat ring, now carrying a hand beacon and a
phaser. The lights begin to wink out behind him as he passes, and he
gets an eerie sensation that someone else is there. He backs away, but
runs into a forcefield. Just before the darkness reaches him, though, he
finds a turbolift and dives inside. Before the door closes, an alien
hand reaches in, trying to force the door to stay open. Bashir gets a
look at the face, and recognizes Altovar. Finally he kicks the Lethean's
hands, which lose their grip; the door closes at last. The turbolift
starts to move, but there is a series of loud thumps on the roof. Just
when it seems Altovar will break in, the turbolift stops and opens up.
Bashir goes down the corridor, and hears the voices of Dax, O'Brien, Odo,
and Kira arguing. He finds the wardroom and enters. Dax wants to go hunt
down the Lethean. O'Brien seems fearful. Kira is downright belligerent,
and Odo is paranoid. Noticing how strangely they're acting, Bashir tries
to have the computer scan for anomalous readings, but of course there's
no response. "Where is everybody else? There's something very wrong
here." "I'll say there is," says Dax, peering at his face. "Have you
looked in the mirror lately?" Bashir's hair is grayer, and he has now
started to develop wrinkles.
Then the whispering begins again. No one else hears it. Dax suggests
that Bashir lie down, but he says he's fine. "Except you're hearing
voices, and you've aged about thirty years in the last few hours,"
comments O'Brien. After a bit more heated discussion, Bashir asks if
O'Brien can get the internal sensors back online, and the Chief says
there's a computer processing junction not far from here, which he might
be able to repair. They all go together.
O'Brien checks out the panel; the only system that looks salvageable is
the subspace communication relay. The bickering continues, until O'Brien
finally gets the communications relay working. It can't transmit, but a
signal is coming in, audio only. Bashir hears the whispers again; they
get louder and more distinct, and the words become clear at last. With
astonishment, he recognizes the voices of Dax, Sisko, and Nurse Jabara
discussing some kind of medical matter. "The bottom line," Dax's com
voice finally says, "is that Julian's in some kind of telepathically
induced coma. And unless we can get him out of it, he'll be dead in less
than three hours."
Stunned, Bashir picks up a tricorder and scans himself for brain
activity. All he can detect are low frequency delta waves. It's true --
he is in a coma. The others are skeptical, but Bashir informs them there
are no life signs coming from them at all. Slowly, he begins to realize
that this explains their behavior. They're not really there; they are
merely aspects of his own personality. "If I were to guess, Chief," he
tells O'Brien, "I'd say that you represent my doubt and my disbelief."
"No, I don't!" exclaims O'Brien. Bashir goes on to note that Kira must
represent his aggression, Odo his suspicion, and Dax his confidence and
sense of adventure. As for the Lethean, he must represent the telepathic
damage the real Lethean did to his mind. And Bashir's mind is
represented by the station. If they can repair the station, he will wake
Suddenly Altovar appears and drags Dax into a turbolift, whose doors
slam shut. Bashir is banging on them when he finds himself abruptly in
the middle of the Promenade, playing tennis with Garak. "It's a pity
about Lieutenant Dax," Garak remarks. He's part of Bashir too, he says,
so he knows what Bashir knows. Bashir gets winded and has to stop
playing. Anyway, he can't stay here; he has to get the main computer
back on line. Garak suggests that he go to Ops to do so.
Bashir is on his way, looking older and older, when he comes upon a
corridor full of injured people, calling out for help. Suddenly Sisko
arrives with Nurse Jabara, and says he'll handle this. Bashir watches in
bemusement as the commander calmly begins scanning and treating the
wounded as if he were a doctor himself. He realizes that Sisko must
represent his professionalism and skill, and asks him to come with him
to Ops to help repair things. Sisko agrees, but then is grabbed from
behind by Altovar and pulled inside the bulkhead.
Bashir turns to run, but is stopped by Altovar himself, whom the
doctor's phaser beam doesn't affect. "You're not going anywhere, Doctor.
You're staying right here, trapped on this station, watching while I
destroy you piece by piece. And when all the best parts of you are gone,
when there's nothing left but a withered shell, then, and only then,
will I put you out of your misery." Bashir flees. The Lethean calls
after him, "You can't escape, Doctor. You can run if you want to, but
you can't outrun death."
Running terrified and gasping through the corridor, and now aged to
about 75 years old, Bashir comes across Odo and Kira. Kira is dead, and
Odo is half-melted and very weak. He tells Bashir it was the Lethean.
"He's trying to rob me of my confidence, my intelligence, my strength,"
Bashir realizes. "I have to get to Ops." "Use the conduits," says Odo.
"They're your best chance." Bashir takes off while Odo dies, liquefying
on the floor.
Climbing through the conduits, Bashir next encounters O'Brien, who tells
him in despair, "The Lethean's too strong, too fast. He's going to kill
us all." But he decides to follow Bashir, on the off chance that he's
wrong. They open an access panel and find they've ended up in one of the
airlock entrances to the Promenade. "How did we get back here?" wonders
Bashir. "You tell me," says O'Brien. "It's your mind." As they walk down
the Promenade, Bashir looks at the monitors, which are now displaying
medical graphics on his own condition. He's dying.
Hearing people playing Dabo in Quark's, they go there, and find a crowd
gathered around a Dabo table which has turned into a medical bed, with
Bashir's body on top of it. "Just goes to show," says a much calmer
Quark. "Give the people what they want, and they'll show up in droves."
He asks if Bashir would care to place a wager -- on how much longer he
has to live, which organ will fail first, the ultimate cause of death.
"What if I want to bet that I will survive?" asks Bashir. Quark shrugs.
"It's a long shot, but if you want to throw your money away, who am I to
stop you?" They then turn back to the table; now O'Brien is lying there,
dead. "It looks like all bets are off," Quark says. He is suddenly
grabbed and strangled by Altovar, who has replaced O'Brien on the bed.
Bashir staggers away.
He runs raggedly down the Promenade, and suddenly trips and falls. A
hand grabs his shoulder -- it's Garak, who offers to help get him out of
here. Bashir tries to stand, and can't. His hip is broken.
"Well, Doctor," smiles Garak, "it was a good game while it lasted."
Bashir is determined to keep moving. "I admire your tenacity, Doctor,"
Garak says, "but it's over. Look at yourself. Your bones are as brittle
as twigs, you can't catch your breath, you can't even stand, let alone
walk." "But other than that, I feel wonderful," retorts Bashir
determinedly. Finally Garak helps him up, and supports him the rest of
the way to Ops.
They make it there, and Garak helps Bashir hobble in. The doctor now
seems about 100 years old. To his surprise, Ops is decorated with
streamers and balloons. A Dabo girl is there, and sings "Happy Birthday"
to him, with Garak joining in. She walks over, kisses his cheek, and
puts a party hat on his head. "I really must congratulate you, Doctor,"
Garak says in admiration. "You have a fascinating mind." "I'm sorry,"
Bashir quavers, "but I haven't got time for this." Reluctantly, Garak
helps him to the engineering station.
Bashir believes he can get the computer operational, and Garak asks
which panel accesses it. "If you were really Garak, you could tell me,"
Bashir comments. "In fact, you could fix this computer without my help."
"But I'm not really Garak, am I?" the tailor points out. "I'm just
another part of you." Together they pry off a panel, and tennis balls
come pouring out, bouncing on the floor. "This station is in worse
condition then we thought," remarks Garak. Bashir falls again; Garak
makes no move to help him. "Face it, Doctor, there's no way to repair
all this damage. It's much too extensive...I'd be more than willing to
help you, if I thought it would accomplish anything, but you're only
delaying the inevitable."
Bashir drags himself to another panel. "That doesn't sound like the
Garak I know." "We've been through this, Doctor," Garak says. "I'm not
Garak. I'm you." Bashir struggles to his feet. "Well, it doesn't sound
like me either." He opens the panel and is showered in tennis balls
again. "I've been thinking. Why did the Lethean let you live, hm? He
killed everyone else who could have helped me. Exactly what part of me
do you represent? Is it my conscience, my curiosity, hm? Is it my sense
of humor?...I don't think that you are any part of me. In fact, I don't
even think you belong here at all. Which leaves me with just one
question. Who are you?" For answer, Garak transforms into Altovar.
"You've put up an entertaining struggle, Doctor," the Lethean says.
"...But now it's time for you to make things easy on yourself." "You
mean just give up?" Bashir challenges. "I don't think so." "Why not?"
Altovar taunts him. "Isn't that what you've always done? Remember,
Doctor, I'm inside your head. I know all about you." He notes that
Bashir used to want to be a tennis player; Bashir says he wasn't good
enough to play professionally. "Don't lie to me," Altovar says. "Not in
here." He goes on, hammering at Bashir, who he says gave up on tennis to
become a doctor. Altovar then mentions Bashir's final exam, when he
mistook a pre-ganglionic fiber for a post-ganglionic nerve. They aren't
anything alike; Altovar accuses Bashir of having deliberately given the
wrong answer. "You didn't want to be first in your class. You couldn't
take the pressure." "That's not true," protests Bashir.
Altovar smiles knowingly. "Isn't it? Then let's talk about Lieutenant
Dax. You like her, don't you?" "She's my friend," Bashir says. "But she
could have been a lot more if you'd tried a little harder," Altovar
tells him. "But you'd rather give up than fight, wouldn't you?" "We'll
see about that," growls Bashir, who turns and staggers into a turbolift.
The Lethean is waiting for him when he enters the infirmary. "What do
you think you're doing?" "The mistake I made was trying to repair the
station from Ops," Bashir says. "It may be the nerve center of the real
world, but this is the center of my world." He opens a panel, and
Altovar tells him to get away from it. "Or what?" taunts Bashir as he
works. "You'll kill me? Go ahead. You've had plenty of opportunities so
far. I don't think that it is as easy for you as you say it is." The
lights finally come on full. "You know, you don't look half as
threatening in normal light." Altovar points out the monitor, which is
now displaying an image of the young Bashir, lying on a medical bed.
"Take a close look, Doctor. You're dying. Why can't you just accept it?"
"Because that is what you want me to do," says Bashir, knowing he's
finally on the right track. "You may be inside my head, but you don't
know me half as well as you think you do. Take Dax -- I do have feelings
for her, but the important thing is she's my friend. You know, friend,
hm? And I wouldn't exchange that friendship for anything. As far as my
career is concerned, I may have been a good tennis player, but I am a
great doctor. Maybe I could have been first in my class, but it wouldn't
have changed anything in my life. I still would have chosen this
assignment. This is where I belong."
He finishes working in the panel, and calls for a quarantine field
around Altovar. "You can't do this," cries the Lethean. Bashir looks at
him in triumph. "I can do anything I want. It is my mind. Begin
sterilization." And Altovar disintegrates into nothing.
Then Bashir wakes up on the infirmary bed, once again a youthful
almost-30. Nurse Jabara notes to Dax and Sisko that his vital signs have
stabilized and brainwave activity is normal. "Welcome back, Doctor,"
says Sisko in relief. Bashir looks at them. "You will never believe
where I've been."
Bashir tells Garak at lunch about his experience. It turns out the real
Altovar was apprehended by Odo before he got two meters out of the
infirmary. Bashir has done some checking on Letheans, and found that
their telepathic attacks are almost always fatal. "I guess I was lucky."
"Cardassians don't believe in luck, Doctor," counters Garak. "You
survived because you're strong." "One thing's for sure, you know,"
Bashir muses. "After experiencing life at a hundred plus, turning thirty
doesn't seem that bad anymore." Garak wishes him happy birthday again.
"You know, Doctor," the Cardassian comments casually, "what I find most
fascinating about this entire incident is how your unconscious mind
chose people you know to represent the various parts of your
personality...What I find interesting is how your mind ended up casting
me in the role of the villain." Bashir demurs. "Oh, I wouldn't read too
much into that, Garak." "How can I not? To think, after all this time,
all our lunches together, you still don't trust me." Garak smiles.
"There's hope for you yet, Doctor."