Monday, September 30, 2013

Deep Space Nine, Season 4: Rejoined

Deep Space Nine, Season 4
Airdate: October 30, 1995
76 of 173 produced
76 of 173 aired


Lenara Kahn, a Trill scientist is coming to the station to work on her attempt to create an artificial wormhole. Normally, as science officer, Dax would be nothing less than eager to help. However, a previous host of hers, Torias, was married to a previous host of the Kahn symbiont, a marriage that ended all to quickly when Torias was killed in a shuttle accident. Even though they both might be willing to pick up where they left off, Trill society frowns on such relationships, under threat of expulsion from Trill society. How can Jadzia risk everything she has worked for? How can she not?

Kiss! Kiss! Ki-- oh, never mind, They just did.


Kevin: Aside from the boringly unsuccessful "The Outcast" and a single scene in "The Host" in TNG, this really the only episode to directly depict something other than your standard issue heterosexual relationship. I've discussed my thoughts on LGBT issues and their treatment in Star Trek before, but I am going to try not to carry that over  too much into my analysis of the episode itself. This is a good episode, for a number of reasons. First, we get both an expansion of the personal history of a major character and of a major Star Trek race. I would even go so far as to say this answers an obvious question raised by "The Host." How do joined Trill treat gender in their relationships? How do Trill treat past relationships? The taboo seems to fly in the face of Odan offering to carry on with Beverly, but I forgive that, since the make-up changed too. I wonder how finely they split the hair, since Dax renewing her friendship with Sisko doesn't trip the taboo.

Matthew: I'm thinking of past Dax shows in comparison to this one. Most have been bores (e.g. Equilibrium) or full of inexplicable holes (e.g. Facets). I think this owes itself to the very difficult nature of the concept. The best have dealt with emotions and relationships that we the viewers can identify with (this episode, and the revenge plot of Blood Oath). The point of much of science fiction, if you ask me, is to cast a light on feelings and problems we have today by utilizing a radically different situation or personality to approach them from an oblique angle. Most of us have had relationships we regret having ceased, maybe even wishing for some kind of resumption, only to realize that the past is just that, and you can never regain it the way it was. A schmaltzy love story about two human characters might have read as cliche. This doesn't, because of the fresh sci-fi angles.

Kevin: The reason I think this episode really works, though, is that unlike so many other romantic storylines, is that this, per se. Set aside the allegory and lessons and all that, and the romance between Jadzia and Lenara actually seems to work, even before layering their previous relationship. The conversation in Quark's was great for me. That was genuine flirting. The gift of the earrings, the acknowledgement that Jadzia and Lenara have more in common than Torias and Nilani did makes the idea that the beings I am looking at on screen might carry on a relationship free of the baggage, so once we add on the long suppressed grief of how their relationship ended, and the threat of ostracism from Trill society, it's really interesting. This story ran the risk of being the worst example of the romance that happens because the script says so, but more than most one-episode romances, this one really seems to work. I absolutely bought the kiss, as a kiss, and not merely an attempt to titillate the audience or even just advance the story to the next act. I will disclaim that part of my response to this story is how well it mirrored what made up the majority of LGBT depictions of romance at the time. Every story was some variation on the theme of figuring out if the person with a lot to lose would throw it all away for the real chance at romantic fulfillment, and if it was a comedy, they did; if it was drama, they did not. Now that I think about it, I am going to give this episode a little more LGBT cred than I did before. It's not the ballsy, explicit statement I would have liked, but I think they really managed to tap into the tone of similar stories.

Matthew: OK, I loved the way the flirting scenes played out, I agree. But did neither of them notice an eavesdropper 5 feet away in a quiet bar? The thing about how much in common they had kind of puzzled me. I think the aspects of recovered feelings and making amends for past wrongs was good, but I think the story glossed over how different these people ought to be. Even if they have something in common like a love for science, what about everything else about their life before the symbiont? This episode makes the symbiont seem like the driver of the bond, and makes the host seem unimportant. Anyway, I absolutely agree that the romance feels right, and not just because it's two hot chicks, which of course everyone wants to see (just kidding, moral conservatives). The writing really struck the right tone with the reminiscing and the longing. This script accomplished in half an episode what some romance plots never will in multiple episodes (ugh, like Odo/Kira...). Now, I say this as someone in a hetero-normative relationship, but I liked the way the lesbian angle was handled - by not even really being addressed. Trek at its best has gotten away with addressing issues of race and gender in a frank and progressive way by simply having everyone act as though it is perfectly normal. Sisko and Kira don't even bat an eyelash at the lesbian angle, nor does the brother.

Kevin: As far as Star Trek allegories go, I think this one stays inside the line. It's not Frank Gorshin in black and white makeup giving the audience a lesson about race relations. Kira's question about how society could keep a married couple from acting like one is the closest we get, and I don't think it's too far. It soft lands the underlying point without beating the audience to death with it. Also, I actually prefer that the Federation's stance on same sex relationships is not explicitly stated, since by saying nothing it actually seems like they would be commonplace. One of the fastest ways to deflate a good allegory on bigotry is to have your characters comment on how evolved they are on these issues, especially compared to the sci-fi standby comparison, Twentieth Century Earth. I do have an issue, albeit a slight one, with the mechanics of the taboo we get as stand in. I understand the idea that the Trill would encourage new experiences, but particularly if partners or parents or especially children are still alive, I find it hard to believe a sentient being could casually ignore them. Also, given the lengths the Trill have gone to protect the life of the symbiont, I find it hard to believe they could consign 300 years of Dax to oblivion. I say these are a small complaint, because there had to be some reason Kahn and Dax couldn't be together, and whatever they picked would feel contrived, and if I can survive the Riddler in greasepaint, I can survive this, too. I think what helps keep this from getting to schmaltzy is that it doesn't work out. We watched a character take a risk and get really hurt. That final scene on the Promenade was heart-breaking, and happily restrained in its execution. It was quiet and it hurt.

Matthew: As far as the mechanics of the taboo go, why not just have a taboo against joined trills in relationships? That would seem to obviate most of the concerns raised in this episode. But let's assume it is a broader taboo, against resuming past relationships of any stripe. Perhaps Dax was already playing freer and looser with the rules, but it was much more upsetting to Trill society to resume a marriage. Anyway, I agree that it's hard to imagine that a society so dedicated to the symbionts would really banish and sentence them to death for this kind of infraction, which one would assume is extremely common given the difference in lifespans between host and symbiont. How do symbionts reproduce, anyway? Seems like they should be having relationships with each other, hosts or not.Can I just ask: Does Sisko think of how he nailed Dax in the mirror universe when he's being such a good friend?

Kevin: The sci-fi takes a back seat, but at least it's an interesting idea. The ability to create an artificial wormhole would be cool. I do think it was engineered to produce exactly the tense rescue moment we got, and I actually think it was unnecessary. I think the episode would have had plenty of drama otherwise.

Matthew: The only part of the wormhole plot that was useful to the show was the rescue scene. But that could have been any generic danger. As such, I agree, this plot was unnecessary.


Kevin: This may easily be my favorite episode for Terry Farrell. Maybe it's because the conflict is more identifiable than something more esoteric and sci-fi-y, but she really sold it. The attraction to Lenara, the guilt at Torias' death, the moment she knows Lenara's not going to stay...they are all great. Susanna Thompson had a small part in Next Phase, and we thought she was great, and I see no reason to modify that assessment. There was something about the reserve she gave the character that played well off Jadzia's passion, and it made sense that she, and her previous host, would fall for Dax. She also handled her share of the technobabble well.

Matthew: Casting was key to making this work, as was Terry Farrell bringing her A game. There was very good chemistry between Farrell and Susanna Thompson, who by the way may be even hotter than Farrell's Jadzia. There were a lot of nice sort of "masculine" gestures by Farrell, like grabbing her around the shoulders, and grabbing the hands to emphasize points. The kiss was terrifically acted, coming off better than basically every hetero kiss in Trek I can think of. Both Thompson and Farrell sold every iota of their scenes, completely convincing the viewer that they were long lost lovers, at least in some psychic part.

Kevin: Beyond that, I will say I liked Brooks in the scene with Dax in Sisko's office. Their friendship has a lot of layers and anytime he gets to be the one giving the advice, I like how both actors play it.

Matthew: I agree, that was a really nice scene between those two. There seems to be a flirtation growing between Kira and Doctor. Now there was a romance that would have made sense.... Anyway, I also really liked Tim Ryan as the brother. He played that concern and grudging tolerance perfectly.

Production Values

Kevin: I really liked the costuming choices. Kahn reminded me, intentionally I believe, of Dr. Renhol in Equilibrium. I gather this is what Trill female scientist dress like, but it didn't read as overly repetitive, just a similar fashion wheelhouse. The Trill spots are extremely flattering for both actresses. I really liked the Klingon earrings Kahn was wearing. Avery Brooks directed this episode, and apparently did a lot of work with Thompson and Farrell to prepare for the romance scenes, and I have say, it paid off. Everything about the emotional side of this story unfolded very organically, and he deserves credit for at least some of that. Brooks has commented that he treated this as, first, a love story, and that definitely shines through.

Matthew: Agreed on costumes. I liked the civilian wear that Dax was sporting, too. We got to see a Bajoran dress uniform, which was.... well, lilac purple I guess. It continued the general trend of Bajoran uniforms looking strangely swishy.

Kevin: The wormhole effect was fine, the lighting was good, the gas effects at least adequate. The use of the force field was a novel idea, but it didn't quite do it for me. I think it was the green fire. Since it required additional affects work, it made the whole scene look a little plastic.

Matthew: The force field scene was a really ambitious idea that just didn't pan out. I think Trek is a good 5 years away from making an effect like that work.


Kevin: I think this is a 5. I have other issues with Star Trek's treatment, or lack thereof, of LGBT stories, but I won't take them out on this episode. The emotional drama is strong and self-sustaining, and as I have said, I think the lighter hand with the same-sex elements of the story are actually more effective than a more explicit treatment could be. The taboo itself is a tad creaky, designed to create the drama we got, but that doesn't detract that I am always really drawn into this episode.

Matthew: I'm going with a 4. I enjoyed this a lot, but there were some issues that nagged me, and the B plot was a pointless diversion from the A plot for the most part. The terrific acting almost carried the day, but our combined rating of 9 still speaks volumes about this episode.

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