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20 Years Later: DS9's "Inquisition"

20 Years Later: DS9's "Inquisition"

The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode “Inquisition” premiered on April 8, 1998 – or 20 years ago tomorrow. The memorable hour centered on the genetically enhanced Dr. Bashir and introduced Trek fans to Section 31, the secret and unsanctioned extremist entity within Starfleet Intelligence. Today, looks back at the pivotal hour.

The Fine Print

“Inquisition” was the 18th episode of DS9’s sixth season. It was written by Bradley Thompson & David Weddle, and directed by… Michael Dorn, his second time behind the camera.

The About Face

The episode started out as a comedic pitch, “a cute little romp about dealing with the Department of Motor Vehicle on a Sunday,” Weddle said in The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion. Executive producer Ira Steven Behr immediately saw the benefits of turning it into a darker story of spy intrigue with Bashir front and center.

The Name

Co-writer Thompson has said that Sloan’s name comes from the movie Shock Corridor, directed by Samuel Fuller and released in 1963. It follows a journalist (Peter Breck) who goes undercover in a mental institution to try and solve a murder. “It happened to be playing down the street and Ira took us all to see it,” Thompson recounted in The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion. “After that, we decided to call our inquisitor… Sloan.”

The Key Exchange

"How many lives do you suppose you've saved in your medical career?" Sloan asked Bashir.

"What has that got to do with anything?" Bashir replied.

"Hundreds? Thousands?” Sloan continued. “Do you suppose those people give a damn that you lied to get in Starfleet Medical? I doubt it. We deal with threats to the Federation that jeopardize its very survival. If you knew how many lives we've saved, I think you'd agree that the ends do justify the means. I'm not afraid of bending the rules every once in a while if the situation warrants it. And I don't think you are either. In time you will agree with me."

The Man Himself spoke to William Sadler in 2010, and the actor compared Sloan to a real-life enigmatic spy figure. “Sloan does what needs to be done, what he feels needs to be done,” the actor said. “He breaks all the rules, all the rules of the Federation, in order to keep the Federation safe, or so he thinks and deeply believes. It’s that same argument that went down with the Iran-Contra affair and Ollie North. You do what needs to be done and somebody’s got to do it. I remember thinking, “How freaking cool is it that the Federation, this honorable group, these honorable people for all these years, had this little worm in there who’s been changing history for decades.”

The Return of Section 31

Section 31 went on to be a factor in Star Trek: Enterprise and Star Trek Into Darkness, not to mention several Star Trek novels and comic books. Star Trek: Discovery fans got their first, unconfirmed taste of Section 31 – and their all-black badges -- in the episode, “Context Is for Kings,” and again in a cut scene cut from Discovery’s first-season finale, “Will You Take My Hand?” The 2-minute and 30-second scene, a coda sequence set soon after the events of the finale, gives us Emperor Georgiou – who’s running a bar/club in the Orion market on Qo'noS  -- making the acquaintance of a man named Leland (Alan van Sprang), posing as a Trill. She assumes he’s Starfleet, but Leland explains that he’s with a “far more resourceful” organization that considers her a “valuable asset,” and he offers her the opportunity to "exert some influence over the fate of this galaxy." He departs, leaving behind… a case with a black delta shield. “Welcome to Section 31,” he intones as he walks off.