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.
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.
- 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.
(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”.)
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.