What are your thoughts on the episode statistical probabilities? You don't have to answer if you don't want to, I was just curious about your opinion
soooo I received this ask when I was at work like a week ago and resolved to answer it when I got home… and then promptly forgot about it. so. sorry, anon.
anyway: I do not care for statistical probabilities but not with the visceral hatred I feel for its sequel, chrysalis. (jesus christ I hate chrysalis so fucking much oh my god but don’t get me started. or do. I’m always willing to yell about chrysalis). statistical probabilities had a lot of potential, but it fell rather disappointingly short of achieving it.
prior to DS9, the federation had generally been portrayed as utopia – with all basic needs met and all prejudices thoroughly overcome, mankind is free to explore the stars for no other reason than the existential betterment of the species. which is fine for what it is and what it allowed tos to say in the 60s and tng to say in the 80s and 90s, but then ds9 came along and said, “well, wait a minute. maybe eradicating hunger and poverty and inequality isn’t enough. maybe a utopia created by people, with their myriad flaws, isn’t quite as perfect as the federation and starfleet would like to think.” so you get more shades of grey, things like section 31 and starfleet as a military institution (which it of course is somewhat in tos and tng, but not nearly to the same degree as in ds9.)
and you also get things like statistical probabilities. saying “infinite diversity in infinite combinations” is one thing, but the reason why quark saying of the federation“they’re worse than the borg” is so striking is because, from a certain point of view, he’s not wrong. the federation has a specific culture that follows from its economy, and member worlds tend to assimilate that culture. to do otherwise would be to chafe at the very nature of what the federation is – and that doesn’t really lend itself to peaceful cooperation. the klingons, for example, could never join the federation. their cultures are too fundamentally different.
so what does that have to do with statistical probabilities? well, the “federation as utopia” has the unfortunate implication of erasing those things that make us different, and that includes people with disabilities and neurodivergences (geordi and his blindness is a whole different post tbh and I’d have to rewatch tng before I could really get into it). ds9 takes rather an opposite tack in this regard by saying “yes, people like you exist in this universe.”
I have said before how much I love that ds9 portrays the federation as imperfect, and this is no exception. the federation may see itself as the epitome of equality, but statistical probabilities is the federation saying “people like you may exist, but they have no place in our society”. I mean, the jack pack is institutionalized for christ’s sake.
there are so many excellent moments in statistical probabilities that just slay me:
Jack: Here it comes. The ‘we can still contribute’ speech. No, no, no, no, no. I will not forget what was done to me. I will not be part of a society that put me away for being too smart.
I love that Julian starts out believing what the federation has told him – that he should be ashamed of what he is, that he should pretend to be “normal”. I mean, what neurodivergent person can’t relate to that kind of kneejerk self hatred? and I love the conversation julian has with miles about “the common people”. pretending to be neurotypical is exhausting, so of course julian should revel in the company of people like him.
so the episode has a lot of really great potential on the heels of dr. bashir I presume: what an opportunity for a scathing critique of how disability and neurodivergence are treated in today’s society, how we’re forced into neat, socially acceptable boxes, regardless of the cost to our soul. How differences are cast out, especially if those differences are inconvenient. and then instead of following through, instead of saying “you are valuable for more than what you accomplish and how well you pretend”, the episode goes back on its word and says “the federation was right about you all along, you are dangerous, you should be fixed or hidden away.”
and I absolutely hate the focus on contribution. “It’s my fault, not theirs,” julian says to miles at the end. “I should never had let things go so far. If I hadn’t been so bent on trying to prove to the world that they had something to contribute.” and of course julian should feel that way – the federation has told him, explicitly, that the only reason his presence in society is acceptable is because of what he contributes as a doctor. but then miles says, “They did contribute.” and the narrative agrees with him! the jack pack is seen as valuable – to miles, to the federation, to the galaxy – because of their contribution. and I hate that. you are not what you contribute to the world. you are inherently valuable because of who you are, not because of what you do. you do not deserve mistreatment because you’re not productive. in a post-scarcity economy, production should be the last marker of worth. you deserve food and shelter and happiness regardless of what you’re capable of, and the federation has the means to provide that. and that all logically follows from the flaws that ds9 portrays in the show, but the narrative doesn’t critique it.
julian, our pov character for this episode, lets the jack pack get shipped back to the institution where the federation says they belong and doesn’t say a word against it. julian spent the first half of the episode unlearning what the federation has been whispering in his ear his whole life, but he winds up exactly where he started. and obviously it’s not his responsibility to effect change (being nd himself), but he’s the narrative opinion proxy and thus bears responsibility for what the show is trying to say. right up until the end when it becomes abruptly clear that no, julian isn’t the narrative opinion proxy, miles is. the audience isn’t supposed to identify with julian and the jack pack – we’re supposed to look at them with pity and fear and discomfort until they start pretending they’re “normal” again.
except I’m not miles. I’m julian and sarina and patrick and jack and lauren; I’m different, and statistical probabilities tells me that’s scary, something to be fixed or hidden away.
I am not broken.