Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Deep Space Nine Season 2: Playing God

Deep Space Nine, Season 2
"Playing God"
Airdate: February 27, 1994
36 of 173 produced
36 of 173 aired


Jadzia is acting as "field docent" to a Trill symbiosis initiate. While on a shuttle mission to the Gamma Quadrant, they run into an unusual and unexpected phenomenon - a new universe in the process of forming. Now, they must decide what to do both to preserve their own universe as well as to address the initiate's personality faults.

You'll have to speak up, I'm wearing a towel!


Matthew: This episode has a protouniverse in it. So I should like it, right? I'm a big fan of cosmology, astrophysics, and just thinking about weird cosmic stuff. So I should enjoy a story like this. Except that there wasn't much of a story relating to it. What do I want to see in a protouniverse story? Well, at least an attempt at an explanation where it came from and why. A subspace interphase pocket? What does that mean? To me, if you're saying that the formation of new universes that could conceivably displace our own can happen, why haven't they? They intimate that a "decrease in local entropy" indicates that life is forming in this universe. I don't think that's how entropy works, and even if it were, I don't know how you'd sense it, especially in something unfathomably small, that "doesn't conform to our physical laws." Basically, I guess I would have enjoyed a lot more advanced cosmology than we got. Perhaps brane theory wasn't well developed in the early nineties, so a discussion of multiverses and how different spacetimes might interact wouldn't have been possible. But it's too bad, either way. Story-wise, my biggest problem is that I don't know what they were doing with the thing that wouldn't just displace the problem for a little while. How does taking it back through the wormhole fix everything? And if it fixed everything, what was with Sisko's indecision? It seems like an open and shut case of what to do, as opposed to the quandary the episode painted it as.

Kevin: This plot could have been really interesting, but petered out into your basic ticking clock problem. I always assumed they were going to return the protouniverse to the subspace pocket it came from, where it could expand safely, but they don't really make that clear. As for the entropy thing, they could have clarified that better. I think what they meant to say is that there is an indication of organization that indicates life, but again, it's poorly explained. I think they could have taken a better tack with this. Basically, they need an object whose presence and growth threatens the station, but which for ethical reasons cannot be destroyed outright, and many other Star Trek baddies fit the bill better. Maybe they could have found an infant version of the Crystalline Entity or something. It would have crystallized (pun absolutely intended) the moral quandary without relying on the ha;f-formed gobbledy-gook science we got.

Matthew:  The other big portion of this story is, of course, Jadzia Dax acting as a sort of "alumnus interviewer" for the symbiosis commission. This is intended to develop her character. How successful was it? We learned about Curzon's antipathy to Jadzia, but I don't know how believable that really is. Are we supposed to believe that Jadzia was just as uptight as Arjin? I guess I just don't get it - if a joined symbiont imparts all sorts of wisdom and life experience and seasoning to a new host, why there would be a whole bureaucratic superstructure dedicated to ensuring that those hosts were as dull and annoying as possible. Wouldn't the joined beings become increasingly prissy and uptight with each generation? I'm not saying it wasn't a good outing for the Dax character, but it just didn't satisfy me with respect to Trill society.

Kevin: This was a little more successful for me. I always read pre-joined Jadzia as more "shy" than "uptight" though obviously dedicated to being joined, which apparently you have to be given the stakes. Obviously, Curzon gets painted as a more "out-there" host than most, but I think even that could have been mined for better story-telling. Maybe some Trill see the successive lifetimes as transcending individuality lives for some greater philosophical or mental achievement, while others, like Curzon and eventually Jadzia, seek to augment each new life with as many physical experiences as possible. I like the idea and I'll say I largely like the execution. At least for Arjin, they eventually got to the heat of the problem for him, in that it doesn't matter if he's driven if he does not want it for himself. I took that part of the story as a look at the "Wesleys" of the universe, and on that level, I think it works. I did like the look we got at Jadzia's history, though, again, I wish they had gone farther with it. What is it like to meet your eventual host and remember the meeting from both sides? What would it be like to really see yourself as others do? I think that would be a headtrip, and it could be a fun aspect to the episode.

Matthew: All in all, this seems to be another in an increasing trend of episodes in which the story components bear no relation to one another. According to Memory Alpha, Michael Piller re-jiggered this story to emphasize the Trill angle and de-emphasize the science story. Maybe this was done because Piller felt the science story was weak, which it indeed was. But I'd rather see the science story fixed, and the Dax story allowed to breathe as its own episode. Also, can I just ask, what was with the random-ass Jake-in-love story angle?


Matthew: Terry Farrell hasn't gotten a ton of spotlights, but I don't think it is because of any particular deficits on her part. Is she the deepest, most emotive actor in the world? Maybe not. But she's certainly adequate, and I enjoyed watching her in this role. She seemed genuinely reflective on her own past, at least.

Kevin: We're better off than we were first season, but we're not quite all the way there yet with her performance  She's at her best when Jadzia is at her most fun. I like the scenes of her talking to Arjin to try to get him out of his head. It felt relatable and authentic.

Matthew: Geoffrey Blake was cast to be a uptight, uncomfortable, obsequious toady. Well, he did the job, and then some. How much of my irritation with the character should be a compliment, and how much a detraction? I just don't know how much to say in answer to that, except that, when he was on screen, I wasn't really enjoying it.

Yeah. Even the baby fat in his cheeks seemed to aid his appearance as an annoying twerp. I think the actor didn't quite connect to the scifi elements. It was kind of like he was acting a standard parental expectations story, regardless of setting. It was fine, but didn't connect like it could.

Production Values

Matthew: The effects during the wormhole flight were pretty good. What's a verteron node? Who knows. But they look neat when you fly a runabout through them. I would say that this was one of the best visual effects in the DS9 series, and is equal to or better than anything in TNG. The other big optical effects were the "subspace seaweed," which looked just OK, the protouniverse itself, which was pretty neat looking, and the explosion on the ring of the station in which energy leaked out. That effect was adequate but not really anything more.

Kevin: I loved the nodes, but it bothered me we hadn't seen them before or since. Agreed on the other effects. The seaweed was classic "if you can't make it good make it blue."

Matthew: The Cardassian vole looked pretty silly. So did Dax's athlete paramour. We got to see the Klingon restaurant again, with another dish of obvious worms. Has the proprietor gained weight since his last appearance? That's a lot of gagh.

I can't help it, but I love the Klingon restaurant. I didn't like the athlete, though, either. For someone just there to be sexy, he really wasn't. At all. Bleh.


Matthew: I'm torn between a 2 and a 3. This episode kind of makes me feel nothing. The science story was a big disappointment, and I don't think the character story was particularly interesting, either. And so, since a 3 always gives me at least the feeling of "I just watched Star Trek, and it was satisfying," I think this slips down into 2 territory.

Kevin: I'm going with a 3. I find the scenes between Arjin and Dax interesting enough and the wormhole effects are beautiful enough to push this into average territory. That makes a 5 from us.

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