The Future Will Be Carpeted: An Analysis of ‘Deep Space Nine (S3E25)’

“What is a person but the sum of their memories?”
    -- Lela Dax


Identity is a tricky thing. Even for someone like me, who has a pretty self-explanatory setup. When you’re young, you try on different personae, different obsessions, different cliques. And then, there’s the stuff that might not be okay in the culture of the time. There are a lot of things that determine both one’s identity as presented to the world, and one’s identity as a concept held internally, and how these two faces interact. Certainly, a large portion of identity comes from experiences, filtered through memory. The most terrifying aspect of that is just how unreliable memory is, meaning one of the largest things shaping who we are is a bunch of s--t our brains made up.

It gets even more complex when you throw in the concept of Trill. Jadzia is the eighth host for the Dax symbiont (that number got updated with the discovery of crazy Joran in this season’s “Equilibrium”), and she’s carrying around a whole lot of baggage from all those lifetimes. The Trill have something called a zhian’tara ritual -- and yes, I had to look up the spelling -- where the previous host’s memories are extracted telepathically, and placed in willing volunteers for an hour or so. That way the current host can have a chat with them and figure out where they picked up their habits.

Seriously, that seems to be a lot of it. Dax learns she folds her arms behind her head because of her first host Lela, likes physical exercise because of gymnast Emony, and bites her nails because of nerdy engineer Tobin. Much more entertainingly, it lets the regulars play new characters and sometimes radically against type. Predictably, one of the standouts is Quark as the oppressively motherly Audrid Dax. It’s fun watching Armin Shimerman brush Terry Ferrell’s hair and coo about children, only to break into Quark to snark about how long it’s taking.

The other favorite is Sisko as Joran. While in “Equilibrium,” Joran appeared to be more of a fragile artist, here, he’s abruptly a raging serial killer, a characterization that will linger until the end of the series (with the seventh season’s worst episode). While the lack of continuity does annoy me, the fact is, this is more fun. Avery Brooks is incredible here, making me wish I could go back in time and make a serial killer movie with him as the villain. Even better, there was another take that producers demanded be cut, because he was too scary. How was this man never in a horror movie?

Meanwhile, Nog’s wrestling with identity, as well. In his case, it’s more about wanting an identity his culture regards as shameful. I will admit, I enjoy how scandalized Quark is about his nephew joining Starfleet. He even holds Jake up as a model: “Even a human can see there’s a lot more profit out there for a young man with ambition.” Nog reminds Quark that Jake wants to be a writer, and there’s no profit in that. (He’s not wrong.) Quark counters that writing the “more intimate holosuite programs” (i.e., future porn) is quite profitable. And, yeah. Seriously, that’s how to make it as a writer these days. Write porn, and believe me, I’ve had more than one long, dark night of the soul when I’ve considered it. Even have my porn writer name all picked out.

This is an important episode in Rom’s journey toward growing a backbone. Quark attempts to sabotage Nog’s entrance exams, “for the boy’s own good,” and Rom straight flips out. He informs Quark that Nog’s happiness is more important to him than anything. Including profit. This is the Rom we know and love from the rest of the series, the sweet, daft Ferengi light years away from the original conception of the race. He’s a good man -- too good really -- and his priorities are far more in line with someone like Chief O’Brien than with his brother Quark.

The end of this plot is the beginning of one of the best running jokes in the series. Nog strides into Quark’s wearing a cadet uniform purchased for him by his father. After a polite round of applause and a handshake from Sisko, Nog steps up to the bar, and Quark asks what he can get his nephew, both resenting having to serve his stockboy, but bound by his job as bartender. Nog orders a root beer, explaining it’s an Earth drink served at the Academy. Quark wanders off, muttering, “Root beer. This is the end of Ferengi civilization.” There’s a conversation between Garak and Quark about root beer in a later season that might be my favorite exchange in the series, and it all starts here.

It wouldn’t be a Dax episode without me running it down a little bit, and truth be told, I checked the time more than once. Part of the problem is something Ira Behr identified: the story doesn’t start until Act 3, when the great Curzon Dax gets put into Odo. What both of them discover is that they like the new arrangement. Curzon gets to be a Changeling (although he still gets to eat and drink, which is baffling, since Odo can’t do either), and Odo gets to have a little fun for a change.

Basically, Jadzia wants to know why Curzon washed her out of the program. Meanwhile, all Curzon wants to do is shapeshift and drink. To be fair, after being dead for a couple years, that’d probably be at least in the top five of my list. Curzon refuses to answer Jadzia’s questions, deflecting and avoiding. Sisko reminds Jadzia that for all of Curzon’s good qualities, he was also manipulative, arrogant, and selfish.

Curzon proves it by informing everyone he plans to stick around in Odo’s body. Normally, the host can kick the memories out whenever they like, but in this case, Odo’s good with it. Eventually, Jadzia confronts Curzon, and the old man comes clean. He was in love with her, and . . . what? Yeah, it’s kind of silly. The plot just sort of stops there, but at least Dax has the memories of being a shapeshifter and Odo knows what it’s like to drink.


Next up: It turns out shapeshifter paranoia might make sense.

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