In a interview promoting his new film Cairo Time, Alexander Siddig discussed his time as Dr. Julian Bashir on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, including revealing how he was not very happy with changes made to his character over the years. Find out more below.
Siddig didn’t want Bashir to be Date 2.0
The new interview comes from our friends at UGO who cought up with Siddig at the Tribeca Film Festival, but resident Trek nerd Jordan Hoffman spent most of his time talking DS9. Siddig reveals that immediately after production ended on DS9 he went into a "cool stage" where he distanced himself from his time with Trek, but he "got over" that and he is now happy to return to the genre world in the UK series Primeval (see previous Trek story).
The most interesting stuff was regarding Siddig’s views on how in season 5 of Deep Space Nine the writer decided that his character was secretly genetically modified (in "Dr. Bashir, I Presume"). Siddig said he didn’t learn about the change in his character until the last minute:
…on Thursday the script arrived – we started shooting on Friday. I was so shocked. You know you get the impression that maybe the producers sit down and talk about strategies and character arcs with actors but this thing came out of the blue and pissed me off so royally. It was a reaction to the fact that the character was genuinely unpopular in the early days. Because he was not fancy; I mean this is a time where 90210 was at the top of the charts in American TV and this guy was so not the hunk, he was the anti-hunk. He was the –
… He was a man of science; he was like half good looking, rubbish at pulling girls. I mean it was all the wrong kind of archetypes. And so they kept trying to do things to make it happen. Eventually they did the Bond thing (reference to “Our Man Bashir”) – they did the Bond thing before that actually. And that kicked it off. I have to say that I’m still pretty angry. Well, not angry . . .
Siddig revealed that after the change he did everything he could to sabotage efforts to turn Bashir into a genetically-enhanced walking computer:
I did it the only way that an actor can. I completely destroyed the lines that they gave me regarding the situation. Every time something came up that was to do with being kind of Data-esque – I mean, I couldn’t get away from the fact – I thought I was being a Data, which is what they wanted to do, they wanted to switch the characters from all the shows, which they ended up doing with Voyager …Well, it was a bit cynical at the end of the day. But I just fluffed the lines; well I didn’t fluff them completely I literally pinned the lines on the back of someone’s shoulder once, reading them. I wasn’t bothered even to learn them. I just pinned them around the office as if they were lines needed for daily modification. And they got the message and dropped it kind of.
Go to ugo.com to read the full interview for more on Siddig’s thoughts on Star Trek, his name change and his current projects.
Here is the trailer for "Dr. Bashir, I Presume", the episode where he revealed his "darkest secret."
What did you think of the Season 5 change to the character of Bashir?
I never really minded the revelation about Bashir.
I always thought that the tangent they took Bashir to was a little odd, glad to know I wasn’t the “first” to think that.
I actually kind of liked it.
I thought that was a great addition to his character; however, he was my least favorite character on that show. Still, it gave his character a deeper history and more to do.
Nice to know Siddig admits he did a sh*t job at work when they changed the character. Must have been all the other roles that were coming his way during DS9.
Frankly, I would have been angry as well, but it’s no reason to not do one’s best on the set. In the end, I thought the Bashir arc was handled well, and his friendship with O’Brien particularly so (Trials and Tribbleations being a high-point). Odo was the “Data” character on the show (understanding humanity, blah blah), so I think Siddig was safe, being very much a human doctor with human feelings and foibles. The writers could’ve simply sent a blonde lab technician his way, and he’d have been set.
I would think, after 5 years, an actor would actually rather relish the idea of being able to play that “new” character, rather than just riff on the previous template. Admittedly, if the writers were just giving him “Data”-type exposition, then it wouldn’t work. But we also wouldn’t have gotten Bashir’s interaction with Jack’s Pack, or some of the nice character interaction with O’Brien after the revelation. It’s all in what direction it takes AFTER the fact, and if you’re against it from the beginning, you’re not going to see (and take advantage) of the possibilities. Bashir, in the middle of the series, didn’t seem nearly as interesting to me as he did after “…I Presume”, as there were now new places to explore character-wise.
I actually liked the genetic modification arc to his character. It was brought up best when the whole senior staff talked about whether Bashir deserved to be in Starfleet anymore, despite all the good he had done, just because of the risks of creating another Khan.
BTW, Anthony, did you mean “Data 2.0” near the top? It says “Date 2.0”.
I liked it, it gave the character a little more depth which I think he lacked. On a side note, I really, really like DS9 but I CANNOT STAND Sisko… I could be completely alone on this but, man he annoys me! It’s like he’s always overacting…
I never did like when that did that to his character. It’s as if the writers couldn’t write without a gimmick. Smacks of Braga-style writing.
Surprising news, and a shame he was upset with it, but I don’t blame him one bit. Bashir had been a relatable and utterly human character. Turning him into a gimmick with action figure properties is a short road to Wesley territory.
Honestly I’d forgotten about the augmentation arc, with Bashir I remember his performance in The Blight and any scene with O’Brien. I think Mr Siddig had the right instincts.
And by “The Blight” I meant “The Quickening.” I’ll turn in my nerd badge.
Actually Dr. Bashir was one of my favorite characters of DS9. Him and Jadzia. If there is anything I would have changed, I would have put the 2 of them together instead of her and Worf.
#8 – I did at times feel that Avery Brooks was being too ‘stiff’ while playing the role, as if he was uncomforatble for some odd reason. This is especially evident for the first few episodes, but I’m a fan of Sisko nontheless :)
Back on topic, I enjoyed the turn Bashir’s character took. He was annoying at first but by the end of the series his was one of the characters that had grown the most. I also enjoyed the relationship the writers had developed between O’ Brien and Bashir.
I thought the genetic enhancement made the Bashir character more difficult to relate to as a human being. And “Space Seed” had already established the negatives of such gene tampering in the ST universe– revisited in ENTERPRISE — I can’t remember the episode. But the whole gene enhancement thing contradicts the ST IDIC ideology.
It was interesting that the character had a secret history. I liked his interactions with the characters from “Statistical Probabilities” and the discussions about the rights of the genetically-engineered.
It was kinda annoying how, in some instances, they treated him as a “Data” character with his mental math abilities and such. I’m glad they toned this down.
I thought he was an interesting character even without his secret past. Being intelligent and a bit socially awkward is something I can relate too. (I’m sure other Trekkies can as well.)
I was always ok with the storyline. I kind of thought that it spoke more to what lengths a parent would go to protect his/her child, something that I doubt would be much different today, much less 400 or so years into the future. As for Siddig’s reaction, I think that it speaks volumes about his dedication to the character. Siddig sounds like the professional and consummate actor to me.
I can totally see how Siddig could be upset with how the writers did this without his input.
Although the writers deserve most of the credit when it comes to creating the characters, the actors should be able to provde their input. They know the characters just as well and are the ones that bring the chracters to life.
I wasn’t surprised when the genetic thing came up because it didn’t change the character.
What did annoy me was section 31. The idea of a secret federation agency wasn’t the problem. It was sloan. The episode where the crew has to probe into his dying mind to get the antidote for the changlings. I groaned the whole episode. There should have a been a better way for the dominium to surrender.
16. By a shows 5th year running an actor and writer are on par with each other when it comes to the character. They both know everything there is to know about them and collaboration should happen between the two professionals.
To not tell Siddig about this change is stupid but for Siddig to act like a little kid with a temper and not even memorizing some of his lines is just UNPROFESSIONAL. Your there to do a job and to do it the best you can regardless of the material.
If you have a problem, talk to the writers and discuss it behind the scenes. There’s no “I” in “Team” and making a TV series is a group effort. Regardless of “how dedicated” he was to his character doesn’t give him the right to act like he did.
Another example of a good actor managing to turn a bad role good. Like Harrison Ford managed to do with pretty much every line or role Lucas ever gave him.
The producers wanted to make Bashir into Data, Siddig rebelled, and we got his version of Bashir instead — who I liked. And a great deal more than I would’ve liked a Data clone.
Wish they’d learned that lesson when they went to write Enterprise, perhaps the first two seasons would’ve been better.
It’s been a while since I’ve watched the final three seasons of DS9, but I don’t remember it making a huge difference that Bashir became a Mentat. Over the years, he had a lot of interesting stuff to do. I don’t think the writers got it too wrong. DS9 is a wonderfully layered series. If some of the layers don’t work for everyone, I don’t think that takes away from the overall series.
Anyway, Alex is a great actor. Loved Syriana.
There is probably more to this story than he says.
I thought this arc with Bashir sounded a bit needless and stupid. The character was holding his own the way it was. Thankfully, it was more or less dropped thereafter as they could have pursued this angle quite further.
I’m not sure what Siddig’s problem was with the Bond episodes, but I can understand his annoyance at being made more “Data-like.” Even if Siddig honestly tried to sabotage his performance, Bashir was a unique character and I feel that Siddig did an excellent job playing him. It’s too bad he didn’t have a better time with it.
Great line by Siddig about the writers wanting to use the same “characters” in every series. Rick Berman 101.
Can someone explain what he means exactly by the Voyager comment?
#25 I’m guessing that he meant the writers had a formula and on Voyager 7 of 9 was the “Data” character as Bashir was on DS9.
It would have been nice to have a bunch of normal “unenhanced” people like on TOS (besides Spock) that just worked hard and figured stuff out.
I think what we should be clear on is that Siddig sabotaged lines that were too Data-like as a protest in favor of his character — we didn’t see this sabotage because it didn’t make it into the show.
What we got to see was what Siddig was allowed to do after he’d thus made it clear that he wasn’t going to let them rewrite Bashir into being Data.
I think what he means is that in terms of actual character, the Voyager characters were essentially just the TNG characters recycled with different names, faces and (largely irrelevant) backstories. Paris acted a lot like Riker, Tuvok was of course Data, Janeway was Picard, Kim was Geordi, etc etc.
To test this, use the old screenwriter’s trick of “describe the character without saying what their job is or what they wear” and the similarities are pretty inescapable.
When Bashir’s character got the chance to develop in DS9, I always enjoyed him. When he was introduced, yes, he was annoying, but the character grew into the role and became quite a bit deeper (yes, “The Quickening” would be another episode I would point out as evidence of this, Rainbucket, you’re totally right). I enjoyed his relationship with O’Brien (who’s another one of my favourite Star Trek characters, but that just might be because myself and Colm Meaney are from the same part of town). The two seemed more “real” without being too far removed from the 24th century. They were two blokes who went on the beer together and got up to hijinks as a means of escaping the everyday drudgery of life, and we can all relate to that on some level. And yes, I can relate to the Bashir character too, with the social awkwardness, et al. Writing his “secret history” into the show stank of gratuitousness. And raises a lot of “but if you had those powers, then why didn’t you….” questions from previous episodes. Suffice it to say, the ol’ hypocratic oath doesn’t hold much water if you’re more worried about keeping your genetic engineering credentials under wraps. It was a bad decision by the righters, and it’s nice that Alexander Siddig had enough respect for his character to stand up for the dilution of the series, and the character, into something more marketable.
It doesn’t erase the whole Odo/Kira lovestory though. Wow, that got tiresome real quickly!
Voyager gets weird in that respect, as, as Data was the “Spock” character on TNG, Tuvok was the Vulcan “Spock” character on VOY. His challenge was to integrate with a human(oid) emotional crew in constant conflict in an environment where he had to come to terms with never seeing his home planet or family again.
While he, as a full-blooded Vulcan, was never truly able to play the “emotion card,” they brought in Seven to do the “human exploration” thing, with mixed results. Jeri Ryan is a talented actress, and did a reasonable job, while also being beautiful to boot. They should have explored her sexuality more, but the Bermanverse neutered almost everyone.
Hearing that Siddig was so angry that he “called in” his lines isn’t good news, but I agree that he probably retained the character’s integrity through the end by rejecting the idea that he become a super-human.
Wow. Very surprised to read this.
Sorry, Sid, but the change to Bashir’s backstory was extremely well done and turned him into a compelling and watchable character. From Season 5 on, he was one of the true strengths of the show. From Season 1 to 4, he was, well, exactly as Sid described himself above. He was a bore.
Disappointing to hear he was so displeased, but it is pretty tough for these show-runners to please everyone in an ensemble that lasts for seven seasons.
The righters? I meant the writers, of course. That’s a sure sign that it’s past my bedtime.
It made no sense, and didn’t fit in with the characters ignorance and charm of earlier seasons, not to mention downplayed all his eureka moments of brilliance. A random twist that had no foreshadowing just to serve a particularly bad plot of a badly written episide by Ron “another boring Klingon story” Moore! If I wiped my ass with that script, more crap would come from the pages themself! Not surprised he was furious about it.
It also led to some really lame genetic engineered stories, with a group which made people of genius out to be some sort of retarded special needs characters.
I really didn’t see that much “transplant” of TNG characters to Voyager. All the Treks had an ‘outsider’ character, starting with Spock (lone alien on a human ship) on TOS. On TNG, Data (android) primarily filled that role, but the surprising and huge popularity of Worf (aggressive Klingon on ship full of peaceful explorers) gave them two characters to do that with. On DS9, it was largely Odo (non-humanoid), and on Voyager it was mostly The Doctor (holographic entity), with Seven (recovering Borg) coming along a few years in to pick up some of the slack from Kes’s failure as a character, but I always saw Seven as a Worf-analog, not a Data 2.0. Enterprise had T’Pol as the outsider most of the time, with Dr. Phlox too rarely filling that slot.
Berman “We need to get new fans, we can destroy the character of a Chief medical officer and turn him into a DATA clone too attract more viewers , they wont notice!”
I kind of liked it, but I’m not sure it tracks with his performances in the early seasons.
Is Berman really writing a tell-all book? I read somewhere he had thought about doing that.
Bashir didn’t want to be “DATE 2.0” don’t you mean “DATA 2.0”?
Arrrrrrr… Siddig wanted ta’ Bash-Her…
I loved Bashir from day 1.
Bashir is the character predacessor to the guys on Big Bang Theory.
I agree that it didn’t make sense, and the character lost some of his charm.
Can’t blame SIddig for being pissed… if you read the full interview, the interviewer nails it on the head… you work for years to create a character, and then suddenly “you have a secret you’ve been hiding from everyone” comes up and changes everything you’ve done. (…and personally, I think that’s a cheap scripting trick to create conflict where it previously didn’t exist.)
Had he known from the beginning, he might have played things differently, or at least given some sort of continuity to the character that could have made the genetic secret all the more relevant.
I *love* DS9, and enjoy most, if not all of the characters… but I would have loved to have seen how Siddig played it had he known in advance… even by a few episodes…
If they really wanted to do something to get attention they would have hooked him up with Garak and made history with the first openly gay male couple in trek history. Unfortunately, while girls kissing and making out is just ‘good clean family TV, boys kissing is just ‘icky’.
When Gene ran the show they pushed envelopes and had shows that created buzz because they were a commentary on society, when Moore-Ron and the rest of TPTB took over it was about cheerleaders and formulas. Sid didn’t tank anything, the writers and producers had that covered already.
30, I agree. It added more depth to the character that he was missing. It led to some of the most interesting changes in the Trek franchise, including Section 31. Section 31 probably wouldn’t have come about without Bashir’s “Bond” side or his “dark” secret.
Regardless Alexander Siddig’s interview is an interesting revelation.
Well, that explains some of the horrific acting on that snoozer of a series.
The first season, not bad…
I couldn’t bear to watch Deep Snore 9 after they tried to jazz up the opening titles to compete with the superior Babylon 5.
Shark firmly jumped. I’ll watch Enterprise any day, under any circumstance before laying eyes on another DS9 ep.
Bashir started out promising, as a young, naive doctor, used to the latest high tech facilities who longed for the romance of the edge of the frontier.
They turned him, and the rest of the show, into a joke. A space opera caricature with tedious “spiritual” overtones and sludgy klingon melodrama.
36, I had heard that as well a while ago but haven’t seen any updates on the topic. I think Berman gets too much of the blame to Trek’s downward slide in popularity at the beginning of this century. He had many contributions, some of which were excellent, such as Star Trek First Contact, and I think the entirety of his work should be considered not just the last 5 years of an unprecedented 18 year run!
That was the most interesting thing that happened to his character. Bashir was completely boring before that.
The writers on DS9 were the best in any incarnation of Star Trek, period. And the “Bashir-as-Data” thing was only in about two or three episodes before it was largely dropped.
Really, the modification thing didn’t really change his character much at all, since he was always supposed to be a tech wiz. The only thing it did was give him some more and better storylines…
I don’t think it’s fair to blame RIck Berman for transplanting character traits from one Star Trek series to another. Certainly Gene Roddenberry did it in the incarnations of Star Trek he produced (The Cage, TOS, Phase II, TMP, TNG), to an extent that Berman could as well be praised for maintaining Roddenberry’s formula.
This almost makes me want to watch some DS9. An actor rebelling through his work is proper Star Trek, that is. Bravo.
He was right though. That new feature came out of nowhere. I think the producers were desperate for ratings.