Friday, December 21, 2012

Deep Space Nine, Season 2: Melora

Deep Space Nine, Season 2
Airdate: October 31st, 1993
25 of 173 produced
25 of 173 aired


Ensign Melora Pazlar has been transferred to the station. As an Elaysian, she is from a low gravity world, and standard gravity renders her unable to move without a complex suit and wheelchair. How will she adjust to life on the station? How will the station adjust to her?

"OHHHH, Meh-lohhhh-tah, I've loooost most of my vi-ooooo-lah..."


Kevin: This episode is the very definition of a "mixed bag." In the plus column, both the back story and the character of Melora are well done. I like the exploration of accommodating disability in the 24th century, though Bashir's surprise at a wheelchair is a little out of place, given that Admiral Jameson had one as late as 5 years ago. Still, the idea of a person from a world with lighter gravity adjusting to what we think is normal is interesting. I would have liked them to push it farther and really explore how certain assumptions about something as basic as gravity sculpt the Federation and Starfleet and how someone who doesn't meet those expectations can suffer, even unintentionally. I liked how combative and frankly, rude, she was. Depictions of disabled characters on television tend to fall into the saintly category so we can all learn a Very Special Lesson, so I liked that she had some edge.

Matthew: As this episode began, I immediately though "oh, no, we're in for another big social issue episode, a la "The Outcast," or even "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield." Happily, I agree with you that the characterization of Melora mostly bypassed this concern. This didn't become a meditation on some sort of  Galactic ADA, which would have been death to entertainment value. Unfortunately, the rest of the episode, while moderately entertaining, didn't really do anything spectacular.

Kevin: In the minus column, I never understood why her planets natural gravity should allow them to float, as the picture of her and her brother indicates. Shouldn't she just be able to walk in that? If she indulges in zero G to counteract the 1 G, they should have said so. It was a little weird for me. More importantly, we get two big problems, that are VERY reminiscent of season one. First, a barely sketched villain who exists only to create the tension in the episode. And as was the set-up, the solution was also a little thin. Why should the treatments make her more resistant to phaser fire? It's just deus ex machina writing. Second, we get Bashir falling for a patient, and that will never, ever, not be creepy. The vulnerability and intimacy of a doctor-patient relationship, whatever the the century, is just too imbalanced to not feel exploitative.

Matthew: Yeah, I was disappointed in the basic set of ideas. The variable gravity element of the story was used solely as a means to create a disabled character, not as a way of exploring a truly alien state of being. I'll get to some of this in the production values section, but I never once believed that Melora, or her species for that matter, was anything but human. Evolving in an environment with lower gravity should make practically EVERYTHING different about a creature. Melora should have been ten feet tall and wiry thin. The idea that just reprogramming her muscles would acclimate her to heavy gravity was beyond imbecilic. Even in 1993, we had a good understanding of what low gravity environments would do to a human body - bone loss, different mineral absorption, muscle atrophy. Hell, her whole metabolism should be different. What sorts of plants would evolve on this world? What sorts of animals that might be a part of the food chain? How would this world retain an atmosphere at the same pressure as the default humanoid value? Basically, that science was just total BS, glossed over in service of the desire of the writers to tell a disability story. Well, I miss the science. I want those questions answered. So far, two Benzites and this is what we've gotten in answer to the "how do radically different biologies coexist in this Federation" question. Lame, guys. Lame. I didn't dislike the Bashir angle at all, really. At least he's chasing someone who reciprocates his feelings... anyway, I don't mind it. For one thing, it has already been established that doctors can date patients, seeing as how both Enterprise CMOs did it (Odan, Kyle Riker). I chalk it up to differing sexual mores, and an assumption that people are mature enough to engage in romantic relationships without distorted power dynamics.

Kevin: I enjoyed most of the slice of life parts of the episode we got, like the Klingon restaurant or chatting about Vulcan composers and human fairy tales. I really wish they had gone full bore into this idea. Slice of life episodes tend to be pretty good, since the Federation is a world I like to see, and really seeing how Melora adapted to her environment, both physical and social could have been fun.

Matthew: The restaurant was definitely great. The Memory Alpha page, linked above, contains a trranslation of the Klingon argument over the food. It is kind of bizarre that so many people are willing to eat nightcrawlers, if you ask me. Maybe humans have been multi-cultured into it (an idea belied by "A Matter of Honor," but anyway...), but would Bajorans be, too? And all the other less "enlightened" races of the frontier? I just question whether he'd have enough patrons without a significant Klingon clientele.

Kevin: I will say as much as the tension seemed artificial, I did enjoy Quark's toadying, but that was probably on the strength of the acting.

Matthew: I agree that it was enjoyable. I also agree that the B story was so bizarrely unrelated to the A story that it served mainly as a distraction. Either episode probably could have stood on its own, and I think they mainly watered each other down.


Kevin: Daphne Ashbrook was really good. Like Megan Gallagher a couple of weeks ago in Invasive Procedures, I wish she were a regular. The character of Melora was conceived as a main cast member, but the zero G would be too expensive to do on a regular basis. I would have at least liked her to be a recurring character. Like Ro, she has a wounded center covered by a harsh exterior and that usually is pretty interesting, dramatically speaking.

Matthew: Definitely agreed here. She portrayed the character as a real person, not a caricature. Ashbrook apparently did research for the role, frequenting shopping malls in a wheelchair. It paid off. I really believed her weariness of others' assumptions and ignorance, but it never came off as shrill or nasty. I rooted for her despite her outward rudeness. That's the mark of an effective performance.

Kevin: I really loved that Klingon restaurateur. He was a riot. I enjoy portraying a range of Klingon personalities, and I liked the depiction of a non-warrior who is still bombastic. Bashir was good this time. When they center him on actually being a doctor as opposed to being as ass, he reads better. He read as awkward and unsure romantically rather than merely pompous jerk.

Matthew: Siddig El Fadil was given the right role, this time around. When he is trying to be all smooth with women who don't really like him, he comes off as ultra-creepy. When he is interacting with a love interest who bites back, who has her own character, and for whom he can be both caring and providing, his accent and his schtick works. I actually liked him here, which has been rare to this point.

Production Values

Kevin: They busted out all the tricks to simulate zero-G, and I think it paid off. I don't think I caught any obvious blue-screening, so I think it was all achieved physically, and it looked good and fun. I would have liked the quarters to be more decorated in a way that would suit a zero G environments. I think that would have looked really cool.

Matthew: I thought the harness looked good. The chair looked kind of lame - I guess they were thinking of going with the hover chair from "Too Short A Season," so I guess it could have looked worse. But overall, I cannot help but be disappointed. As good as Daphne Ashbrook was, I wanted someone who looked truly alien, truly different from us biologically. And that falls totally on production. Am I asking for too much? Probably, given the times and the budget. But darn it, if you can't do it well, don't tell the story.

Kevin: I liked the strands of beads in Melora's hair. Women's hairstyles tend to be a little too elaborate for their own good, but I liked this. It looked like braids or dreads in modern women. I liked her makeup, and it was reminiscent of the original Trill make-up for Odan and what they screen tested for Terry Farrell before going with Kamala-style spots, which is funny since they had also originally asked Famke Jansen to play the role. Circles with in circles here.

Matthew: I guess uniform regulations are a bit more lax in an area with so many earrings. I just want to add that the makeup on Fallit Kot was ridiculous. I'm sorry. There is just no reason a creature with a mouth would evolve that thing in front of it. How was he supposed to eat soup, jumbo Vulcan mollusks, or drink any of the concoctions Quark was offering? If they had covered his obviously human mouth, I could have rolled with it. But sticking it in front of a human gob? Stupid.


Kevin: This is ultimately a 3. The slice of life moments and well-acted guest character anchor the episode. A tighter (or non-existent) B-story hold this back, but in the balance, I like this episode on the strength of the idea of Melora's character and the strength of Daphne Ashbrook's acting.

Matthew: Yeah, whatever my problems were, I was still pulled in and involved by the performances of Ashbrook and El Fadil. I was disappointed by the fact that the character was dropped completely after creating the relationship, but that's not the fault of this episode. In the end, nothing particularly meaningful was said. It was just a moderately entertaining story about moderately interesting characters. As such, it earns a moderate rating from me, too, a 3, for a total of 6.

1 comment:

  1. Wasn't it established when Bashir fell in love with Sarina that it's not okay for doctors and patients to be together? "It's okay, I've had you transferred to this other doctor, I'm not your doctor anymore, we can do whatever we like now" sort of deal?