In terms of the concept, this one is right up there with “Whispers” as precisely the kind of unsettling/creepy thing that I really like. The execution in that one was generally better, I think — I feel like they never fully realize the creepiness in this one the way they might have — but it’s still a solid episode.
My biggest criticism is probably that, in an episode that’s so focused on Dax and the Trill, it’s annoying that the action of the climactic scenes is driven so much by Bashir and Sisko — especially since the first couple of acts really did give Jadzia a lot more to do. Apparently there were a ton of rewrites (it started as an Odo-centric episode, with a murder mystery on the station) and by the end they were at the point of actually writing scenes that were filmed the next day, so that there wasn’t time to go back and make things fit together better. Knowing that, it’s actually impressive that the episode feels as solid as it does, honestly. (And, according to a quote on Memory Alpha’s entry about this episode, it turns out Ronald D. Moore shares my criticism, so it’s nice to hear that they might have done it differently if they hadn’t had to rush it quite as much.)
Also, on a design note, I really love the symbiont caves and the pools, and I find the Guardians really interesting. Apparently Discovery‘s third season will involve a visit to the Trill homeworld, and we’ll learn a lot more about Trill culture and mythology. I’m really looking forward to that, since DS9 doesn’t really give much more detail than what’s in this episode about the pools or the Guardians.
I was mostly just delighted initially to find out that my guess that some shots from the trailer for Star Trek: Discovery‘s third season depicted the symbiont pools was correct, particularly when one of those shots included Michael Burnham floating in the water. Am I desperately hoping that Michael actually meets Dax at some point, because though there’s no evidence that even symbionts live that long, there’s also no evidence that they don’t? Absolutely.
(Given that the introduction of the Trill in TNG establishes that humans can temporarily serve as hosts, has a part of my brain been chanting “Michael Dax, Michael Dax, Michael Dax” nonstop since I first saw that trailer months ago? ABSOLUTELY.)
Turns out the Trill have some issues
The big reveal that a foundational aspect of Trill culture is built on a lie is interesting, and it’s in keeping with Deep Space Nine‘s general tendency to examine, a little more than previous Treks had done, this world and the way it’s built. It’s a common theme for DS9 that utopias don’t just appear, they’re built, and that there’s a cost involved in their building besides. Part of that is characters having to examine their beliefs — maybe to ask questions they never thought to ask before, or to show a confidence publicly that they may not feel privately, or to deal with cognitive dissonance, and that shows up here, as well; and the Trill doctor immediately responding to Sisko’s question about a symbiont ending up in an unsuitable host with a confident “that doesn’t happen” reminded me of nothing so much as Dukat’s assertion in “The Maquis, Part 2” that “Cardassians don’t make mistakes”. Again, I’d’ve liked to have seen a little more focus on Jadzia in this regard, to see her struggling with this revelation about the lie she’s been told by her own people.
I also liked that they cite the events of “Invasive Procedures” as a specific example of why the lie is believed necessary — first for the continuity, but also because, for me, it reinforces the basic theme of utopias being built, and often at a cost, and of people who live in them still, at the end of the day, being people. The doctor’s argument about the symbionts becoming commodities, and how dangerous that would be for both symbionts and hosts, carries a lot more weight given that even with the lie, Jadzia was nearly murdered by someone who wanted her symbiont.
Also, I find it weirdly funny how calm Joran’s brother was about the whole murder thing. In fairness, it’s been the better part of a century, so he’s had plenty of time to come to terms with the whole thing. But his blase “oh, I believe he killed that doctor, my brother had a violent temper”, and clarifying that he just didn’t buy the public explanation of the murder’s circumstances, was disproportionately amusing. (Partly, maybe, because it raises the question of why he never actually tried to look into it himself.)
On a lighter note
OK, the entire opening scene was friggin’ delightful. Things I’d like to specifically highlight, however:
- I generally love Kira’s standard casual outfit, with the long crocheted vest; it is straight out of my middle- and high-school years in the 90s.
- I really like that Odo is there, particularly in light of my issue with the ending of “The Search, Part 2”, where he basically said that he’s come to think of these people as his family, but I didn’t feel like we’d really seen much to demonstrate that. So seeing him included in a casual get-together, and not only showing up but attempting to help Sisko cook is a lovely touch, and goes a long way toward my being able to believe it.
- Odo’s attempt to stir is funny, but the fact that absolutely nobody corrects him is hilarious. Kind of mean, but hilarious.
There’s actually very little horniness in this episode! In fact, I want to specifically call out Julian for not being horny at Dax, and for just trying to be a really good friend to her. Has it happened? Has he gotten his life right? (Not really. But in this one regard, at least, maybe!)