Julian Bashir/Miles O’Brien
“The relationship between Bashir and O’Brien is the best relationship… the best friendship in the history of the franchise.”
Ira Steven Behr, Season Six dvd set, Crew Dossier: Julian Bashir
In the beginning, Bashir and O’Brien seem to be very different men, but over the course of the series, their friendship builds similarity upon similarity. This relationship is one that deepens moment by moment, a relationship that’s about building up trust and hope, about turning a somewhat faltering beginning into one of the deepest and strongest relationships that we ever get to see on Trek.
A. The Guys:
To know Miles O’Brien, you have to start with basics. He’s a good guy, a family man, someone who couldn’t possibly have any deep, dark secrets. But he’s much more than he seems on first glance (a common theme in DS9). He’s a soldier as well as an engineer. He’s done what he’s had to do, and he’s made himself content with what he has in his life. Miles has been through many dark nights of the soul, but his strength of will and his heart have carried him through it all.
Julian Bashir seems simple in the beginning, too — he’s the brash young doctor with too many brains and not enough sense. But as the years pass, his bravado is shown to be true bravery, and his arrogance to be as much façade as truth. He chose to be a doctor, chose to make saving lives his life’s work. He chose to work not in the heart of the Federation, but on what he thought would be on the outskirts, what he assumed would be an unimportant space station. To help and to hide, those were the twin goals of Julian’s life, and as time passed, they became more and more irreconcilable.
What I love about Bashir and O’Brien is that their closeness grows out of the characters and the story. We’re there for every important step of that relationship. Interestingly, even from the very first, long before they played war games together in the holodecks, their relationship is defined by war — their first exchange is O’Brien asking Bashir if he knows his history of the Border Wars and of the massacre of Selik III. We learn at some point that O’Brien was the ‘hero of Setlik III’, and this may be the moment when Bashir connected that O’Brien to this one and got his hero worship trigger tripped.
Another thing that probably should be mentioned is the sexual orientation question, i.e. Miles is married and Julian clearly likes the ladies. What’s up with the gayness, yo? To start with the easiest one first, Julian is the most-slashed character in DS9, mostly with Garak, but also with… interesting intra-Trek crossovers. This may be in part because Julian comes across as open to anyone who’ll listen to him talk. That sounded nicer in my head. He clearly has a normality thing, but since there’s no big “Gosh, Gay People, they’re so weird” episode, I’m going to take it as a given that people have grown past the current prejudices. In order to make room for new ones, I’m sure, but still. So, Julian isn’t really a problem.
Miles, on the hand, is married with kid(s) for his entire run on DS9, and leaves DS9 (and Julian, as the show itself presents it) on his wife, Keiko’s, urging. In fact, much of her on-screen time is taken up with how she doesn’t fit and doesn’t really belong on DS9. Eventually, a choice had to be made, and considering the O’Brien character, the choice could not be other than it was — it was to Keiko and his children that his first loyalties must and should lie. Despite the seeming inevitability of his choice, the show itself does, at times, clearly set up a comparison between Julian and Keiko.
Part of the problem is that we rarely get to see the sympathetic side of Keiko — both Miles and Julian are main characters, so the show spends quite a bit more time on them and on their friendship and their growth. And while we often get to see Miles say that he loves Keiko, it’s much rarer to hear Keiko’s side of things — most of time when she’s on the show, it’s because the writers are highlighting a problem or issue, so we see the O’Briens more on the outs than the ins.
And while, at first, Julian and Miles seem at first to be as different as oranges and eggs, over the years, though the banter stays, their closeness grows stronger and stronger. In the end, we can see that they are more alike then they are different, both of them caretakers first, yet fighters, too, when necessary. Each of them willing to fight for something that they believe in, two friends who can stand back to back against the any enemy. I love Bashir and O’Brien for the same reasons that I love most of my fic couples — they tease and fight and stubbornly refuse to admit how much they care while showing their affection by their actions. They have a solid friendship with sparks of possibility. They can trust each other and lean on each other.
As you might imagine, seven years gives these guys quite a bit of subtext (and some actual text) to sift through. Because of the volume involved, I’m just going to point out some of the more obvious examples from each season.
Storyteller, a first season episode, is the first time that we get to have Bashir and O’Brien thrown alone together. While O’Brien tries to weasel out of it, Julian is thrilled (I wonder if Julian actually requested that Miles take him, it seems to play that way). Julian is, after all, very honest and open about liking Miles. He likes him from the first episode and goes right on liking him until the last episode.
Julian is so… almost desperate for affection at places in this episode. He asks Miles if he annoys him. In this episode, Julian asks Miles to call him Julian, because he’d ‘simply prefer it’ if Miles would call him by his first name. At the end of the episode, he relents, seeing that Miles isn’t comfortable with it (yet). Julian acts near starved for attention, especially first season, possibly because he feels that he can’t trust any attention that he does get, because it isn’t for the real him. The real him wasn’t good enough. And even now, he’s constantly afraid that even this ‘better’ him isn’t good enough.
Even apart from that, he’s just so fascinated by people within people — he wants to know all about Dax, not just Jadzia. He’s curious about ‘plain, simple’ Garak, the spy-tailor.
And Miles O’Brien, who appears to be ‘just’ an engineer, was also the ‘hero of Setlik III’. He wants to know all about them (as opposed to the women that he dates, wherein he’s all about telling them about him).
At the beginning of the episode:
Bashir: “I’m really looking forward to this mission.”
O’Brien: “And why is that?”
Bashir: “Well, I see it as a wonderful opportunity for us to get to know each other.”
On the subject of Bashir’s annoyingness:
Bashir: “The only reason I’m asking is because your opinion means a lot to me and I’m aware I have a tendency to run off at the mouth sometimes.”
In Armageddon Game, in the second season, Julian and Miles are thrown alone together by an ‘accident’. They spend most of the episode with just each other’s company and Julian saves O’Brien’s life. We also see the continuation of Julian sharing his life with Miles when he tells the story of the ballerina Palis, whom he almost chose over Starfleet.
Bashir:From near the end of the episode:
”I want you to know, I really appreciated what you said back on T’Lani Three.”
O’Brien: “What did I say?”
Bashir: “That it was an honor serving with me.”
O’Brien: “Oh… right.”
Bashir: “I’d like to return the compliment, Chief — it’s been an honor to serve with you, too.”