So, what is so bad about this episode that it turns me, the most unapologetic of Niners, into a quivering mass of nerdrage? In short, everything. Just . . . everything. It’s so bad, you guys. And, it’s not even bad in interesting ways. It’s glacially paced, poorly written, and bizarrely conceived. Those of you who follow my other life know that I have an abiding love for the terrible. I’ve written a lot of reviews of bad movies, and there is an element of joy I take in them. Even me, who has seen the already legendary trainwreck that is Winter’s Tale multiple times, can barely stomach this mess.
The Defiant is exploring the Gamma Quadrant, because this episode can’t even remember that there is a Cold War going on. Oh, they mention it, but it’s like, “Hey, who cares if the Dominion has threatened to send an army of their genetically engineered super soldiers through the wormhole, we gotta do some planetary surveys!” Ugh. It can’t even decide on one way to be bad.
So, anyway, they find this planet that materializes out of nowhere, and it’s Brigadoon. That’s the inspiration for the episode. Now, I’ve always said that bad fiction is a great way to be inspired to make good fiction, and this episode did spur me to create my own Brigadoon-inspired story. Only mine is horror. And, presumably not terrible. And, you can find it in Coldheart, and that’s how disengaged I am, that I’m resorting to shameless plugs instead of recapping this crap.
Right, so Brigadoon. The planet exists in a noncorporeal state for most of the time and becomes physical periodically. These periods are getting shorter and shorter, and oh god who cares? Is something else on? Starfleet decides to help make these periods longer, because this is the only time the locals can, you know, have sex (if you take my meaning), so their population is in the midst of a nose dive. Then, Dax “falls in love” with a local, and, suddenly, she’s ready to take a sixty-year leave of absence to exist in a bodiless state with this guy, because that’s not insane.
Yeah, it’s a love story. While Trek as a whole is really, really bad at those, DS9 generally does much better with the romances because of its serialized nature. Not so much here. This one feels like one of those terrible TNG episodes where someone falls in love, their heart breaks, and they promptly forget the other person ever existed. So, yeah, Dax wants to stay with this dude, but she can’t be incorporeal because reasons, and she’s fine. It doesn’t matter. Literally nothing matters. I have lost the ability to feel joy. Puppies are now just tiny monsters to me.
Hey, that’s just the A-plot! Maybe the B-plot is better? To quote Lana Kane, “Noooope!” Okay, it’s a little better, sort of like being frozen to death is better than being set on fire. Shh . . . shh . . . it’s just like going to sleep . . .
I used to think this hour established Odo’s secret crush on Kira, but, as it turns out, that was the vastly superior second season episode, “The Collaborator.” So, even the tiny bit of continuity is worthless. This creepy alien wants Kira, but she’s not into it, as she is already in a relationship with the creep of her dreams in Vedek Bareil. So, this guy hires Quark to make a holosuite sex program starring Kira, and basically the episode are Quark’s hijinks trying to sexually exploit our favorite freedom fighter. It’s just so gross.
To make matters worse, the alien creep is played by the great Jeffrey Combs. There isn’t a horror nerd alive who doesn’t worship this guy, and for good reason. He would return to DS9 with two excellent reoccurring characters -- the Vorta Weyoun and Liquidator Brunt of the Ferengi Commerce Authority -- but his debut is in this inauspicious place. He does what he can with the material, but, frankly, there’s nothing here. Oh yeah, and the whole thing was directed by Jonathan Frakes. There’s a lesson in there somewhere, but my eyes won’t stop bleeding.
Okay, so what really is bad about this episode? Why doesn’t it work? Magic is never a comfortable fit with Star Trek. They’ve done more than their fair share of godlike aliens -- Q especially -- and those generally go okay. There’s an odd combination of whimsy and wonder that just doesn’t gel with the Trek space opera aesthetic. This idea that Dax could be whisked off her feet by the magic of the situation and some instant attraction is a difficult sell for the writing, directing, and acting. All three fail, I would say spectacularly, but there isn’t even an element of delirious so-bad-it’s-good humor. It’s just so-bad-it’s-really-really-bad. Oh yeah, this is a Dax episode, too, which does account for some of my dislike for those. At least this time around, the Curzon mentions are kept to a minimum. It’s like even a dead guy didn’t want to be associated with what’s going on.
An hour like this gets made because of the realities of television at the time. I’m not excusing its existence, but it makes more sense in context. Seasons of DS9 were a) syndicated and b) 26-episode orders. That’s insane. In modern television, the best shows (which right now are The Americans, Banshee, and Hannibal, and no, that’s not a debate) are between 10 and 13-episode orders. That appears to be the range that you can tell the best serialized story. At the time, no one knew that, and more to the point, they had no desire to do so. There were no DVRs, so if you missed an episode, you prayed for a rerun or you just never saw it. So, filler episodes weren’t just accepted, they were the norm.
None of that makes the pain of “Meridian” any less. If you’re watching the series, just skip it. You will miss nothing.
Next up: Grand Theft Defiant