Star Trek’s Biggest Plot Twist Decided At The Last Minute

By Chris Snellgrove | Published

For fans of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, the craziest plot twist came in “Doctor Bashir, I Presume,” an episode that revealed that Bashir was genetically enhanced in violation of Federation law.  This revelation occurred in the fifth season, and it made many fans naturally curious about whether this was a fact about the good doctor that the writers had kept under wraps for years. In reality, Ronald D. Moore simply needed a dark fact about Bashir’s past life that the visiting Dr. Zimmerman could discover, and that’s why the genetic modification storyline was created.

Everything Changed For Doctor Bashir

One of the reasons this Star Trek plot twist was so resonant with fans is that it seemed very much at odds with the characterization of Bashir. The doctor’s characterization had changed a bit over the years (more on this later), but at his heart, he was always presented to audiences as a brilliant young man who liked having fun and flirting with beautiful women. Because of that, a plot point about him having a dark and illegal secret that nearly tore his family apart seemed that much more surprising.

Illegal Genetic Tampering

What did this Star Trek twist tell us about Dr. Bashir, though? We discover that shortly before he was going to turn seven years old, the future doctor’s parents were worried that he was less physically and mentally developed than he should be for his age. The parents took him in for a genetic engineering procedure that turned him into a brilliant prodigy, but the fact that this procedure was completely illegal and that they hid it from him until he was 15 drove a rift between Bashir and his parents.

The Original Augment

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Interestingly, the heart of this Star Trek plot twist goes all the way back to The Original Series. In “Space Seed,” we are introduced to Khan Noonien Singh, who led genetically enhanced Augments in trying to take over Earth in an event known as the Eugenics Wars. Khan was originally driven from the planet but became a threat to Kirk and the Enterprise (twice, no less) in the 23rd century, serving as a stark reminder of why the Federation has strict laws against genetical engineering.

No One Could Agree On Bashir’s Character

Different Star Trek: Deep Space Nine execs had very different feelings regarding this Star Trek plot twist. For example, Ronald D. Moore mentioned how Bashir “had some strange jigs and jags in his profile over the course of the first four seasons,” and hiding a deep secret about his genetically engineered past might retroactively make those stranger moments make sense if he was hiding who he was. In reality, one reason for Bashir’s changing characterization was that audiences hated him in the first season, and the writers subsequently tried to make him more palatable while still giving him an arc–the unlikeable know-it-all who eventually wins everyone over.

Alexander Siddig’s On-Set Sabotage

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine showrunner Ira Steven Behr was less comfortable with the Bashir twist, later saying that “we’d had to work backward to get it.” He helped usher in episodes like “Statistical Probabilities” that put this major character change into focus, but none of that ever won over Bashir actor Alexander Siddig. He was annoyed at getting a last-minute change to his character in “Doctor Bashir, I Presume” and admitted to later sabotaging certain lines of dialogue whenever he thought the writers were trying to turn his character into a Data-style walking computer.

Still One Of Our Favorites

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As for me, I find myself half-agreeing with both Star Trek heavyweights Behr and Moore in this matter: like Behr, I think a plot twist this big should be grounded in previous stories and not come out of left field. Like Moore, though, I agree that Bashir’s characterization was all over the place, and this dark twist helped center the character while retroactively explaining some of his strange behavior. Now, I’m left with one big hope for everyone’s favorite genetically engineered doctor: could he please, please get a cameo in that otherwise forgettable-sounding Section 31 movie?

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