Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Classics: DS9 2.17 - Playing God

Overall Rating: 6.4

I have to look past the "I refuse to kill something that's going to kill me" message (not to mention the really confusing and scientifically questionable nature of the threat and the crappy cop out ending to the science plot) and enjoy this episode as an important character builder for Jadzia.

Plot Synopsis:

Jadzia faces one of the biggest challenges a joined Trill encounters when the Symbiosis Commission sends Arjin to Deep Space Nine for field training - he's Jadzia's first initiate and she is unsure how she will handle the job. She remembers how brutal Curzon Dax was with her when she was an initiate and refuses to fall into the same type of cut throat management style. However, when Arjin proves to be lacking in personal motivation or identity, she must confront him about it or she has failed in her job to prepare an initiate for joining. Arjin, who researched Curzon's record as a Field Docent, takes her early warning as an attack blasts her defensively regarding her own behavior. After struggling with how to respond, and having a fruitful talk with Sisko on the matter, she gives Arjin a fair-minded pep-talk and describes her own experiences as an initiate and as a newly joined Trill. Arjin comes away with a newfound respect for the difficulties and rewards of symbiosis and leaves the station with a whole new ambition. Jadzia finds her own identity in the process, joyfully concluding that she is NOT Curzon.

Meanwhile, Arjin and Dax are scouting in the Gamma Quadrant when their shuttle attracts an energy matrix which they later learn is a "proto-universe" in the earliest stages of formation. In the science lab, it expands at least twice, eventually blasting a hole in the station's hull. Sisko is prepared to collapse the universe with a powerful enough containment field to prevent further expansion until Dax finds hints of intelligent life inside it. Now, faced with a destroy or be destroyed decision (if the universe is allowed to expand, it will eventually replace our own), Sisko chooses a third option - take the proto-universe back through the wormhole and put it back where it came from (supposedly some sort of subspace pocket). The flight is barely successful thanks to some quick thinking by Dax and some expert piloting by Arjin. Countering the ethical dilemma, O'Brien and Dax spend a big chunk of the episode hunting and killing Cardassian voles that are infesting the station, which I find rather amusing.

Writing: 6.2

I'm torn with this episode. The Trill plot is very well written, in my opinion. Jadzia's struggle to find her own way in the world with all of those competing voices in her head getting pushed to the forefront is exactly what that character needed to grow on screen for us. I also think we're starting to see hints of Jadzia's maturation into a confident, unique, and fully self-actualized joined Trill. Early in the show, Jadzia was "cold" and methodical about her was as if she needed Trill emotional distance to cope with the many confusing impulses in her mind. I never fully appreciated the transition, so going back and watching first season DS9 was a bit shocking at times when compared with the flamboyant, omnisexual, zesty personality of much later seasons. But, in this episode, not only does she gain confidence in her own ability to handle her symbiont, she also is starting to come out of her shell. It happened so gradually, you could easily have missed it the first time through the series, but you can see her starting to figure out how much of Curzon's earthy personality she wants, how much of Tobin's technical competence she uses, how much of Leela's prudent, political savvy she masters, etc. Her personality evolves in an organic way that impresses me looking back on it. I can now understand how she goes from "cold fish" (as Bashir's fantasy version called her) to the woman who apparently took many men of all shapes and sizes to her bed in later years. Now, you might raise a moral concern with DS9's promotion of this as the healthier alternative lifestyle, but at least I can appreciate how this transition occurred.

On the other hand, the "scientific" plot was FUBAR. makes no sense scientifically, and the reason it makes no sense scientifically (apart form the likely inaccurate depiction of what an early universe would look like) is because the writers wrote themselves into a corner. They set up an ethical dilemma that could not be solved in a politically correct manner (it's kill or be killed, and liberals hate that) they found a completely unrealistic cop out to avoid actually ANSWERING their own dilemma. It's just...very poor form.

Acting: 8.0

I thought Geoffrey Blake was a bit stale in his overall portrayal of Arjin, but otherwise, the regular cast was better than average. Particularly Terry Farrell, who conveyed inner conflict AND inner resolution equally well. It's a pretty common life theme (trying not to repeat what you feel were the mistakes of your parents, mentors, and advisers and struggling with finding your own way to handle the same challenges they did), and she came through it very well. This is one of her best performances of the 2nd season.

Message: 5.0

I'm a little ambivalent about the message both pieces of this episode sent. The pseudo-scientific storyline, while cheaply avoided with a cop-out, managed to avoid sending an obnoxious anti-self-defense message by allowing Kira (once again the voice of reason!) to speak up in defense of traditional values (like the value of self-preservation). And although I would argue that Jadzia's development is a little ambiguous morally, I'm sure my sister thinks it was not ambiguous at all (she probably thinks Jadzia's move toward promiscuity and excess is quite a poor showing)...and truth be told, although I am unavoidably drawn to Jadzia on a personal level, I must admit her lifestyle doesn't work nearly so well in the real world. Many women I've known in my own travels have tried to live like Jadzia Dax (without being aware of it of course) and found it completely unfulfilling. On the whole, I can't be TOO hard on this episode's standard Trek fare and it's not presented in a way that intentionally calls attention to a liberal cause.


ARJIN: (upon seeing a very large alien male at Jadzia's door) Dax here?
ALIEN: Is she expecting you?
ARJIN: Yes...I uh...I was supposed to meet her at 08:00 hours.
JADZIA: (dressed only in a towel) Oh, hello Arjin. You're early again. We're going to have to work on that.
ARJIN: Yes ma'am. I'm sorry...
JADZIA: Don't be silly. Come in! (to the alien man) Thank you - it was...excruciating! When are you going to be back on the station.
ALIEN: I'm due in again in three weeks.
JADZIA: I'll see you then! (escorts him out - to Arjin now) Give me a minute - it always takes me longer to get ready as a woman.
ARJIN: Yes ma'am.
JADZIA: Arjin...let me give you a piece of advice. If you want to make it through the next two weeks with won't call me ma'am again. (LOL)
ARJIN: Of course...Lieutenant.
JADZIA: How about Jadzia.
ARJIN: If you think that's appropriate.
JADZIA: Oh I'm sure it's not appropriate at all. But then I hate to be appropriate. Would you like something to drink?
ARJIN: No, thank you.
JADZIA: Could you get me a black hole?
ARJIN: Black...hole??
JADZIA: It's a Ferengi drink. A bartender introduced it to Curzon.
ARJIN: hole. (he sniffs the drink suspiciously and wrinkles his nose in disgust Jadzia emerges, now dressed, and takes the drink from Arjin, gulping it down with gusto - LOL)

I like this scene mainly because I am impressed with how Jadzia's lifestyle is there as character material but is not the center of attention. It's colorful, humorous, and unoffensive despite the risk of the material being over the top.

EVEK: Oh they are a nuisance, aren't they. We fought them for years and never could get rid of them.
O'BRIEN: I was hoping since you had some experience, you might be able to give us a couple of pointers...
EVEK: You got the station, you got the voles. The Federation could always withdraw from the system...(O'Brien cuts him off with a growl)
KIRA: Chief...Dr. Bashir wanted me to give this to you. (she hands him a box - inside is a flute with a note attached)
O'BRIEN: It worked in Hamlin. Oh, very funny. (snerk)

O'BRIEN: It looks like they've eaten right through the circuitry feeding the containment grid in this section.
SISKO: How long will it take to repair the damaged grids, Chief?
O'BRIEN: I'd say we could have everything up an running in a couple of hours, sir.
SISKO: You'd better get started. Oh and Chief...take those phasers off stun. No more Mr. Nice Guy (referring to the voles - hee)

QUARK: When I was about your age, I got myself appointed as an apprentice to the district sub-nagus. I licked his boots like you wouldn't believe. I was his golden boy! He loved me! And then it all fell apart.
ARJIN: What happened?
QUARK: Rule of acquisition #112 - Never have sex with the boss's sister. I lost my job, I had to take an assignment on a Ferengi freighter hauling scrap.
ARJIN: How did you recover (obviously hoping to hear some good news)?
QUARK: Never did! Look at me, out here tending bar in Wormhole Junction while the big boys fly by at warp speed.
ARJIN: That's very comforting. (LOL)
QUARK: You only get one shot at the latinum stick. If you miss miss it.

ARJIN: Let's just get this over with, OK? Just use a sharp blade so I won't feel it.
JADZIA: Let me tell you a story, Arjin. Before joining, you wouldn't have recognized me. I was painfully shy and quiet. Brilliant - top of my class - but I'd never lived outside the initiate program. I had no idea what I wanted to do if I were joined. And then I met Curzon. He sized me up in about thirty seconds and made the next two weeks of my life a living hell. I cried myself to sleep every night. And eventually, he recommended that I be terminated from the program.
ARJIN: I don't did you get back in?
JADZIA: I reapplied - and tore through the program with a passion, a vengeance! I found my voice and finally, the commission chose me for joining.
ARJIN: But how did you end up with the Dax symbiont?
JADZIA: When I heard Curzon was dying, I requested the Dax symbiont.
ARJIN: And he didn't object?
JADZIA: I never knew why he didn't, but, as I've come to know Curzon better, I have a feeling the irony might have appealed to him. (LOL) (long pause while she sizes Arjin up) Jadzia Dax is not Curzon Dax...but I am Dax. I'm still coming to terms with what that means. Sometimes it means gambling or wrestling. Sometimes it means waking up an initiate before he slides into the middle of the pack and gets overlooked.
ARJIN:'re giving me another chance?
JADZIA: Only you can do that, Arjin. You need to discover what Arjin wants - out of life and out of joining.

And later

JADZIA: I'm nothing like I expected. Life after life with each new voice stampeding around in your head. You get desires that scare you - thoughts that used to belong to someone else. I wouldn't recommend it for everyone...but in time...I might recommend it for you.
ARJIN: I know what I have to do.
JADZIA (after seeing Arjin off) I'm not Curzon! - (very nice!)

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