Some interesting stuff going on in this one! And some really fun performances, as well. I did feel like the conclusion to the B plot, with the proto-universe, was…weird. They just…left this proto-universe, whose expansion threatens the station, in the Gamma Quadrant? Is it gonna keep expanding? I have a lot of questions!!!
I…had actually forgotten that Jadzia had been full-on rejected from the initiate program; I knew that Curzon hadn’t wanted her as Dax’s host initially, but for some reason I was remembering that as something she found out later. (I obviously have not watched this one in some time.)
In general, I liked the story thread of Arjin being pretty ambivalent about the prospect of joining. It made, in some ways, for an interesting parallel to Jadzia, who admits that she really just doesn’t feel like it’s her place to confront him. Her attempts to scandalize him notwithstanding, each of them is just going along with this because they don’t really feel they have a right to say no. I also really appreciated the ending, that there wasn’t a definite conclusion about Arjin’s future as a host — to me, the implication from his “I know what I have to do” was that he planned to quit, but I liked that they didn’t say one way or the other.
Also, speaking of endings, apparently the Klingon chef never actually appears again after this episode? BOOOOOOOOOOOO. Terrible decision on the part of the show, IMO.
“But I am Dax. And I’m coming to terms with what that means to me.”
Speaking of missteps on the part of the show, a couple of lines in Sisko and Dax’s one-on-one were, uh, uncomfortable. Sisko mentioning that “Curzon was tough, maybe even abusive in his own charming way”, immediately followed by Dax’s “you don’t know what he did to me”…yikes. Like, I don’t think the show was going for something as sinister as that sounds (particularly now, post-#MeToo), but it definitely sounds pretty sinister!
(See also: the Jake-Mardah thing, which continues to be REAL uncomfortable. BENJAMIN YOUR SON IS SIXTEEN, WHY IS HE DATING A DABO GIRL???)
I did think it was interesting, too, that Jadzia still clearly feels a lot of resentment toward Curzon, and perhaps even Dax as a whole (which would have to be strange and difficult, post-joining), and that she’s struggling with what seems a lot like impostor syndrome, with a sense that she doesn’t really have the right to make calls like the one she’s now expected to make. Her advice to Arjin that a person who isn’t sure of themselves, confident in their own personality, will essentially disappear into the symbiont once joined, suggested to me that it’s something she may still be wrestling with herself.
Sisko appreciation time
Sisko’s general amusement with the vole situation, at least initially, was truly delightful to me? Avery Brooks just plays the air of “oh thank god, a problem that appears to be a mere annoyance rather than a major crisis” to perfection. Combined with Jadzia showing up with Arjin in tow, visibly pleased that on top of her own efforts to scandalize him, his introduction to Ops involves senior crew members chasing vermin, it’s just a really fun scene. The entire cast play off of each other in some great ways more generally, but it’s particularly delightful when a newcomer to the station deals with culture shock.
I also really enjoyed Sisko and Dax’s discussion later in the episode — the two of them haven’t really had a lot of one-on-one time since the first season, when the awkwardness between them now that Dax’s host is an attractive woman a few years younger than Benjamin himself was being emphasized more. As I mentioned at the time, I liked that both of them acknowledged the changed dynamic, and the contrast, now, when they have another one-on-one, is striking: their friendship feels very real and easy now, and I can truly believe that they’ve spent the last year-plus having the occasional drink together and working to forge a new relationship.
Other things I enjoyed
- Sisko’s “…okay” in response to Jake’s impassioned declaration of love for Mardah.
- O’Brien being so desperate to deal with the voles that he actually calls a Cardassian military representative, followed by his hanging up on the gul in question.
- Armin Shimerman’s delivery of Quark’s line, re: Kira, “The girl insists on fighting her latent attraction to me” is absolute perfection.
- Half the quadrant for Jadzia, apparently. But, really, it’s hard to blame them.
- Jadzia, in general, which is frankly one of the things I love about her.
4 thoughts on “2.17: “Playing God””
Her advice to Arjin that a person who isn’t sure of themselves, confident in their own personality, will essentially disappear into the symbiont once joined, suggested to me that it’s something she may still be wrestling with herself.
Probably not intentional, but it also gives us an explanation for why Dax is so passive in the early seasons and is only just now beginning to emerge. (I wonder if it’s normal for new hosts to spend a couple of years going, “…oh” before they settle? I don’t think we can take Ezri as any kind of standard example, since she had no preparation.)
I had wondered about that too! Especially combined with a comment from Arjin that he thought that joining would bring all this clarity, that it would make a person “serene” and “wise beyond her years”, which is precisely what they seemed to be going for with Dax in the first season. In “Invasive Procedures”, too, Verad is immediately calmer after stealing the symbiont — which surprised me because I really did not think Dax would be so calm about it, but they also mention that the symbiont is pretty weak initially after joining, so I wrote it off as that. But I like the idea that maybe, for someone who’s been properly prepared for the process, the first couple of years typically involve a lot of (vaguely Vulcan-ish) meditation and mental/emotional training while things get settled and the integrated personality starts to emerge.
My favorite thing ever was that it was a vole that disrupted the force field around the protouniverse, almost dooming the station. Best combination of B and C plot ever.
Sadly I didn’t think the A and B plots worked together nearly as well. The whole protouniverse (Now With Life!) storyline was just too transparent a Maguffin for me to accept, especially once it graduated instantly from “weird sensor readings that could be life” to “a civilization” in there. I suppose if you’re Starfleet in this situation the safest thing to do from an ethical standpoint is *assume* it’s a fully-fledged civilization of some kind, but they could easily have said so. It occasions a good Sisko moment, and I’m a fan of that; the decision he reaches is reasonable and I like that the episode shows us how he got there. Having Kira and Odo be the proxies to argue the two sides of the argument was interesting. They took the opposite position that I expected them to, which was either lazy writing or the writers trying to say something interesting about where Kira is philosophically right now about protecting potentially innocent life and where Odo is on it.
So that’s all fine, but it truly defied belief that in a situation where they wind up using a runabout to tow some volatile about-to-explode energy mass through the wormhole before it blows up, the episode thought it was reasonable that *Arjin* would be the one to do it – the guy who literally showed up yesterday and had flown a runabout exactly once in his life. It’s like sending the intern at a nuclear power plant into the reactor his second day to fix a cooling pipe by hand which will cause the whole thing to go Chernobyl if he does it wrong.
Aaaaaaanyway, I guess ignoring that to focus on the character moments, I like what this episode does for Jadzia and her history with Dax and with Curzon. This set the framework for later themes that echoed in other episodes, mainly “Facets.” It does make me wish the episode and the series as a whole was less willing to have Sisko continually give Curzon a pass – even when he calls Curzon out for being selfish and arrogant, which he does repeatedly (“Facets” probably being the strongest example), he usually seems willing to indulge his bad behavior, which plays badly an episode in which Sisko is willing to use the word “abusive” to describe him.
And I try not to pick on the acting too much, but the guy who played Arjin was good at the character’s one mode (trying to impress) and not very good when the story asked the character to show range, which made those parts of the episode drag for me.
Overall: worth it for the voles.
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