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Twenty-five years ago, Star Trek helped introduce James Bond to the Final Frontier. Well, kind of.
Writer Ronald D. Moore’s Deep Space Nine episode, “Our Man Bashir,” served as a nod to 1960s spy films like Goldfinger and Our Man Flint as a transporter accident (naturally) swaps out all of the main characters in Doctor Bashir’s (Alexander Siddig) secret agent holosuite program with those that look like Captain Sisko (Avery Brooks) and the rest of the main crew. Soon, Bashir — sporting a very Bondian look and tuxedo — must complete the mission and save the day, 007-style, in order to return order to the station.
To celebrate this year’s 25th anniversary of this underrated episode of Trek, Ron Moore shares with The Hollywood Reporter how he and the rest of the production pulled off one of DS9’s best episodes — and irked the makers of the Bond movie in the process.
“I remember it being a very fun episode to write,” Moore says of the season four putting, which aired at the end of November 1995. “It was one of our more challenging shoots, too, if I recall. I had always loved the classic James Bond movies, I grew up with the Sean Connery films, so it was a great opportunity to combine a version of them with another thing I loved, which was Star Trek.”
“Our Man Bashir” originated as a freelance pitch from Bob Gillan, but it almost didn’t happen. At the time, DS9 producers were leery of doing yet another episode centered on the “malfunctioning holodeck” trope, since it was used very often on Star Trek: The Next Generation. But what eventually won producers over, Moore recalls, is Gillan’s unique way into the story by using the holosuite as means to store the crew’s transporter patterns during a tech glitch while beaming.
“Once we had that [narrative] device locked down, we were able to break the story in a way that was relatively easy, if I recall, because we had years of Bond movies to rely on and borrow from,” Moore says.
And like the Bond movies that inspired the episode, “Our Man Bashir” also set out to capture the action-y feel of those classic films. The extensive approach to the episode’s set pieces led to “Our Man Bashir” being the longest shoot in the history of Deep Space Nine. Most DS9 episodes took seven, sometimes eight, days to make. The production filmed “Bashir” in nine.
“It was a very ambitious episode, and the sets were amazing,” Moore recalls. “Especially the evil villain’s lair set. It was great to see the production value put into what was our version of, an homage to the classic volcanic lair-type sets that [the late Bond production designer] Ken Adams made back in the day. I mean, it was the closest thing you got to making a Bond movie.”
At the time, it was rare for Trek writers to be on set, but “Our Man Bashir” marked one of the few times Moore was able to visit the production and watch the filming of a key action scene.
“There’s this sequence with Bashir’s spy and one of the bad guys, you know, our version of an Odd Job-type character [Falcon, played by Colm Meany]. And there was this explosion and, we rarely got to go on set back in the TNG days. But I was able to see this and I have to say it was such a cool thing to be on set for because — we were really, essentially, trying to make a James Bond movie,” says Moore. “It was hard, very hard work. The shoot was a bear for the crew. But there was an energy to it because everyone was so excited to be pulling it off and doing something different, with the period, Bond-era costumes, too. One of my favorite memories from my time working on the show.”
Another notable memory Moore has from the episode was MGM’s reaction to it. Even though Moore’s script avoids any direct lifts or references to its inspiration, the studio that holds the rights to Bond deemed what references were in “Our Man Bashir” hit too close to home.
“MGM sent us a letter,” Moore remembers. “I don’t recall [Bond producers] the Broccolis being on it or having signed it, but I remember after the episode aired, the studio sent us a very stern letter. And it even got back to some of the higher-ups at Paramount. It seems [MGM was] not very flattered by our ‘homage,’ but it wasn’t like we got in any serious trouble or anything.”
As a result, when Deep Space Nine revisited Bashir’s espionage holonovel in season five’s “A Simple Investigation,” the production made a very concentrated effort to dial back and water down any references to Bond iconography.
Despite the objection from Bond’s home studio, “Our Man Bashir” proved to be somewhat of a popular episode among the staff and the fans.
“It was an important episode for Siddig’s character,” Moore says. “At the time, we were still trying to figure out how best to use Bashir and give him agency, because we cast such a talented and versatile actor to play this character. You want to service those talents and the character the best way you can. And I remember there was this sort of change in how Bashir was treated and perceived by the fans, at least in our experience, from that point on. And I think Siddig said as much in interviews at the time or whatever. It was really a key moment for the character, a fun turning point for him, that helped us as writers when it came to find more stories for [Bashir] to do.”
Unlike Bond, Bashir’s holosuite exploits as a secret agent were short-lived — fans only got two episodes featuring Bashir’s suave alter ego. But like Bond, the missions we did get made for very rewatchable hours of escapist entertainment. Something both Trek and Ian Fleming’s iconic character have in common.
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