2.06: “Melora”

OK, let’s start with something really important: I’m pretty sure this is the first time we’ve seen the Klingon restaurant on the Promenade and its nameless proprietor. WHO I LOVE. He is just this Klingon dude who is Extremely Klingon in that he loves to yell and does everything dramatically, and he is just chilling on this station channeling all his Klingonness into making food, and sometimes he serenades his customers. He is #goals.

Moving on!

Apparently the plan was initially for the show’s science officer to be someone like Melora, from a low-gravity environment, but they realized it would be hard to make it work with the effects budget and came up with Dax instead. I do think that maybe Melora’s story might, in general, have worked better if it had been a bit more spread out — if she’d been a recurring character over the course of half a season, say, and every couple of episodes her relationships with the crew advanced a bit more, she and Bashir get involved, etc., leading up to one where Bashir proposes this treatment and Kot shows up on the station.

Area doctor, despite improvements, could still stand to get his life right

Bashir is, uh, A Lot in this one. He’s just…he’s A Lot. He does manage to have some one-on-one conversations with Jadzia without aggressively trying to girlfriendzone her, though, so he’s growing?

Seriously, though, I definitely spent a lot of the first couple of acts yelling “fuck off, Julian” at the screen. I did think that the show was sympathetic to Melora overall, and generally did a decent job demonstrating that what looks like defensiveness and a sharp temper is, in fact, no more fun for her than it is for the people around her, because she’s so friggin’ tired of being shut out of conversations about herself. Like. Before she’s introduced, when Julian is going on at length about how interesting he finds her, and how heroic she is…WHEW, was that uncomfortable to listen to. She’s not an experiment, my guy. She’s not an interesting plot twist. She’s not there to make you feel good about yourself, or for you to show off how much you know. She’s a person. She’s going to be your coworker. We just went through this with Jadzia last season! GET YOUR LIFE RIGHT, JULIAN!!!

And like I say, I do think that the show did a decent job of showing us this from her perspective — we cut from Julian rhapsodizing about how exciting this is going to be to Melora, alone, fighting every step of the way just to disembark and make it to Dax and Bashir with her chair. The contrast from Julian’s purely intellectual understanding and excitement to the physical reality of her day-to-day life in Starfleet is really striking, and it makes her exhaustion and frustration when she realizes that Julian’s taken it upon himself to ~improve~ her chair’s design — the design she herself specified she needed, because she knows what she needs — extremely sympathetic. Were the adjustments he made helpful? Maybe! (We actually never find out, which I think is interesting.) But maybe he could have, like, asked her first! Sent her notes about the changes he proposed and gotten her permission!

Like, oof, her needing to preface her statements to Sisko with “I’m sorry if I seem overly sensitive” and “this may sound ungrateful” — it was painfully clear that she’s struggled a lot with this, on top of everything else — with seeming abrasive, or like she’s not a team player, that in addition to trying to navigate a world that is not set up for her to move in it easily, she has to carry this additional burden of trying to manage everyone’s feelings about her. And one thing Bashir said that I really did like was when he pointed out that everyone on the station is dependent on each other, that that’s a central aspect of life in space. It just would have been nice if it had come in a less condescending way. I really liked her response — that she’s fully aware of that, and she needs to demonstrate that everyone else can depend on her. Bashir talks about her refusal of special treatment (eg using a transporter from place to place) as if it’s some heroic choice, but what I heard was someone who’s been made to feel like a burden no matter what she does.

I think it helps a lot that Evan Carlos Somers, the main writer for this episode is, himself, a wheelchair user — Somers in fact said that he’d wanted to do a story along these lines ever since TNG’s “Ethics”, in which Worf plans to kill himself after a spinal injury results in paralysis. Having a writer who is intimately familiar with the daily challenges of physical disability, and who recognizes it not as a tragedy that needs fixing but just as a part of life, made for a much fuller, more realistic story. And Daphne Ashbrook, I think, does a fantastic job with portraying Melora, particularly her ambivalence about the treatment Bashir develops. Her facial and bodily reactions are incredibly expressive, not to mention generally much more subtle (and network-friendly) than my occasional groans of “fuck offffffff, Julian”.

That said, they are oddly cute

Like. Once we get past the worst of Bashir’s condescension, he and Melora are…inexplicably charming together? When Melora invited him in after their initial dinner together, my reaction was basically just “I…well, you know what, I guess he’s still pretty cute, fair enough.” Some things I enjoyed about their relationship:

  • Oh my stars, when he was in her quarters for the first time and asked, in what he was clearly very sure was a very subtle move, if that was her husband in the photograph. Is there something in, like, Cardassian air circulation technology that renders people unable to chill the fuck out, ever?
  • Bashir’s reaction when Melora charms the Klingon restauranteur! Bashir really, really loves confident people who are extremely good at what they do, and also, occasionally, maybe kind of mean to him. What I am saying is, even when he’s dating women, he is 100% looking for someone with Daddy energy. (Maybe THAT was the reason for Bashir’s suuuuuuper-patronizing “I can see right through you” act when he first asked Melora to dinner? He’s picked up Cardassian flirting techniques from Garak?)
  • When, after the first round of treatment, she lifts her leg for the first time, and Bashir grabs her thigh far higher up than is remotely necessary, and I yelled “CAN YOU TWO PLEASE JUST KEEP IT IN YOUR PANTS FOR THIRTY SECONDS”. See above re: no one having any chill whatsoever.
  • Also, at the very end, “I just want to remember all of this”, followed by Bashir’s smile as he realizes that they are definitely gonna be having tender break-up sex before they part ways.
  • Bashir’s “I can’t tell you how curious I was about this” when Melora lets him experience low gravity in her quarters for the first time. Oh, we all know how curious you are in general, Julian. We all know.
  • (Does “lets him experience low gravity in her quarters for the first time” kinda sound like a double entendre, or has this show’s overall horniness just rubbed off on me?)

    (LOL, I said “rubbed off on me”.)

    Final notes

    I’m…pretty sure that when Quark says someone is trying to kill him, that’s literally only the second time we’ve ever seen Odo’s weird smile in the show, and I am so ridiculously delighted by this. Also, Quark’s “I think we have the situation in hand, Commander,” was amazing, how is Armin Shimerman’s line delivery always completely perfect?

    I am a little surprised that nothing like this has ever been an issue before in Starfleet? I know Melora mentions that only a few of her people have ever been offworld, but I’d think, given the Federation’s size, that there are other planets out there with differing gravity levels. Also, good lord, how is everyone not tripping over those raised lips in DS9’s doorways all the time? It’s a good think healthcare is free in the future because people have got to be coming into the infirmary with broken wrists and sprained ankles constantly. I mean, it’s not shocking that a former prison/forced labor camp wasn’t the most accessible place in the galaxy, but does the Federation not have any kind of laws around workplace and/or residential health and safety that they had to bring the station into compliance with?

    …actually, that would explain some stuff. Never mind.

    Horniness rankings

    • Bashir. Just…Bashir.
    • Melora, eventually, for Bashir.
    • I maintain that Odo has never been horny in his life, but he definitely feels something akin to horniness whenever karma comes back to bite Quark in the ass.

3 thoughts on “2.06: “Melora”

  1. I almost certainly hadn’t watched this episode since soon after it first ran, maybe once again but not more than that. Parts of it hold up remarkably well. Melora’s fundamental conflict, between needing to guard her hard-fought independence vs. needing, by definition, to depend on other people to survive duty in Starfleet, is well-essayed, and Daphne Ashbrook (who I principally remembered for playing the companion in the standalone Doctor Who TV movie that ran on Fox in 1996) acts it well.

    The Dax/Melora dish session about romance in Starfleet was about the only scene of hers that I thought fell flat. It was as if the actor was directed to take part in the conversation on the basis that she and Dax were pals, but the episode hadn’t given us remotely enough between those characters to earn that interaction. Yes, Dax rescued Melora when she was injured and trapped earlier, and it could be interpreted as a sign of character growth that Melora chose a positive interaction with Dax rather than resenting her for it, but it happened too quickly. Your suggestion that they could have stretched this out over a few episodes would have helped.

    Bashir’s origin story is in this episode, something I had not remembered at all. It’s a good origin story, melding both his interest in medicine with his obsession with ~The Frontier~ in a way that makes some sense and feels true to the character as he was set up in season one. If we forget that “Dr. Bashir, I Presume” exists (which I am increasingly ready to propose we do, given how much violence it does to the backstory of a long-established character at that point in the series, and for so little reason/payoff), it works really well.a

    I have, however, issues with Bashir being in the position he is with Melora. The episode sets him up as wanting to “fix” her. It’s not perhaps as dreadful as it could be, since Melora clearly has agency in the decision-making process and is shown, explicitly, giving it careful thought and weighing the pros and cons, and it doesn’t seem as if Bashir is pressuring her unduly in one direction or the other. But still, from an ethical standpoint, it’s hard to make the case that he’s giving her unbiased professional counsel, for obvious reasons. Again, it might have worked better on a longer timeline, which would have enabled a more effective story payoff besides “Melora saves the day in zero gravity” when the dumpster-fire-of-the-week B-plot takes a hard left into crazytown and breaks down in the middle of the A-plot.

    Speaking of the B-plot, it’s hard to understand why they bothered, other than to have a contrivance for danger at the end. Why does Kot, like Verad just two episodes ago, somehow think that the Gamma Quadrant is the perfect getaway location where he can flee after murdering Quark? Like… it’s a totally unexplored part of the galaxy, dude. You don’t speak the language. You don’t have the local currency. Based on what’s been portrayed of the Gamma Quadrant on screen to date in the show, your choices to visit are the war-torn moon from “Battle Lines”, the explodey gas vortex, or the planet of shitty and oppressive bureaucrats between the wormhole and the explodey gas vortex. (Maybe that’s where he’s going, figuring he’ll fit in there.)

    Good episode for sex energy though. Gotta give it that.

    Would the dominant life form on a planet with gravity so low that you can literally fly around in it really have evolved to look exactly like a human with a forehead prosthetic, instead of, IDK, something that looks like it evolved on a planet where there’s no gravity? Why does she even have legs? Why do I even ask these things.

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    1. I was in a >:( mood when I wrote this comment and now I regret it because I couldn’t seem to find a single positive thing to say. Let me add:

      – Klingon Kafe (if it opened today it would probably have a trendy restaurant name like Painstik, or Gagh) and its owner are awesome and I had totally forgotten about them. What a strange and delightful idea it was to add this to the show. I can’t remember but I hope the guy stayed around in future episodes including after the Federation and the Klingons were fighting. I just love the idea of him slinging Klingon food on the promenade during the whole thing. It gives the show a “Casablanca” vibe.

      – Odo’s contribution to the b-plot had merit. He legitimately can’t tolerate the idea of Kot murdering Quark and is not at all subtle about saying so to Kot, even if he doesn’t want to admit it to Quark. This might qualify as Odo horniness … for justice? Or his Changeling interpretation of horniness.

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