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The Future Will Be Carpeted: An Analysis of ‘Deep Space Nine (S2E4)’

“I spent my whole life trying to qualify for the joining. I studied constantly, every day, every waking hour. I sacrificed everything, and then went before the symbiosis evaluation board and they reduced my entire life to one word: ‘unsuitable.’”  — Verad

How do you solve a problem like Jadzia? This is the second Dax-centered episode, following season one’s enigmatically titled “Dax,” and it suffers from a raft of related problems. “Dax” was all about telling us the difference between “Jadzia” (the host) and “Dax” (the symbiont), which it chose to do by telling us a story about how Curzon Dax punched a war until it stopped. “Invasive Procedures” deepens the Trill mythology by establishing that not only are not all Trill joined with a symbiont, it’s actually a rare honor that Trill have to compete for. It’s like getting into an Ivy League school, if Harvard was a 300-year-old slug you could keep in your abdominal cavity. Yet, in this episode establishing important things about Jadzia Dax and her fascinating species, she spends over half of the running time unconscious.

Due to some plasma storms, DS9 is down to a skeleton crew. While O’Brien and Odo are closing down hatches, they discover Quark in an airlock shedding crocodile tears for the absence of his brother. They assume Quark refused to evacuate because the shuttles couldn’t carry his cash, but the Ferengi’s motives are more sinister. Unbeknownst to them, Quark planted a device that we learn later will allow people to get weapons past the automated security checkpoint. A crew of four space pirates does exactly this, systematically taking the crew hostage. The pirates are a strange bunch, too: led by mousy and apologetic Trill Verad (the great John Glover), his badass girlfriend Mareel (Megan Gallagher, probably most famous as Frank Black’s wife on Millennium), and a pair of Klingons, T’Kar (Tim Russ, who would later play Tuvok on Voyager) and Yeto (character actor Steve Rankin, who has been in just about everything). In addition to being a quartet of recognizable faces, it’s odd off the bat that two Klingons would take orders from someone like Verad. T’Kar even makes a point to sneer about how the Klingon Empire ain’t what it used to be. And now, more than anything, I want a grumpy Klingon grandpa. “You call this gagh? In my day, gagh would leap off the plate and strangle you! Had to use your bat’leth . . . and this was an aluminum bat’leth . . . couldn’t get plasteel because of the war . . . ”

Verad is on DS9 to steal the Dax symbiont for himself, and then escape into the Gamma Quadrant. As insane, surgery-based plans go, it’s not a bad one. Problem is, without the Dax symbiont, Jadzia will die. When Verad threatens the crew (and backs it up with a phaser blast for O’Brien), Jadzia agrees to be the sacrificial lamb. Bashir is admirably not at all creepy here, rising to his best qualities as a caring doctor and good friend. He plans to keep Jadzia alive, and something like that never having been done before isn’t going to discourage him. Verad emerges from the operation as Verad Dax, newly proud, confident, and with a little product in his hair. He’s calling Sisko “Benjamin,” which ultimately leads to Sisko’s action-hero-one-liner of the episode “Don’t call me Benjamin.”

The crew works on the hostage takers in a variety of ways. Quark was feeling guilty — he let them on for an unrelated deal and never would have done anything to hurt Dax — and pretends to be injured. This allows Bashir a distraction to bushwhack Yeto in the infirmary. Quark is then able to free Odo from his prison (not before the best moment of the episode when he asks if he really needs to do this). Sisko talks Mareel down, pointing out that Verad isn’t really the man she loves anymore, he’s a composite of that little, mousy guy and Lionel Luthor. The crew is then able to turn the tables on the pirates and return Dax to Jadzia. The final coda is that Jadzia now has all the memories of Verad in her. Forever.

On the surface, it’s not a bad episode, but I have never liked it for two reasons. The first is that Kira gets in a fight with Mareel, who then proceeds to unleash the mother of all ass kickings on our favorite freedom fighter. Kira never gets beaten like this at any other point in the series, and it just annoys me. To top it all off, when Mareel relates her origin story to Sisko, it’s not what you’d hope. “Oh, I was a cage fighter from Gladiatrix IX, where all of us learn to murder sharks with our bare hands before we can walk.” Nope, she’s an ex-prostitute from a bad planet (but one cool enough to have a Federation Consulate, which is where Verad worked). For what it’s worth, Sisko beats T’Kar like he thinks candy’s going to come out.

The second reason is Quark. He undermined Federation and Bajoran security to allow pirates on the station who nearly murdered a Starfleet lieutenant. Granted, he thought it was for something else, but he still committed a crime and was caught red handed. Kira blusters a bit about how he’s crossed a line, but it never comes back. In fact, Quark gets off scot-free here. This undermines Odo’s characterization as a man for whom justice is the only immutable law. He should demand some kind punishment for Quark, and Sisko should be only too eager to mete it out, Quark endangered not only the life of a valued member of the crew, but Sisko’s worm-mentor. It’s a bit of a bridge too far.

The problem is that this is once again not a Jadzia episode, but a Dax one. Jadzia gets a few good moments, but Dax is at the center of the action. We’re seeing Dax’s influence, and symbionts as a whole, by the effect it has on Verad. There’s a brief scene of a conscious and Daxless Jadzia, but all we get to see of her is that she’s lonely. It’s odd for a character who has lived so many lifetimes to be so inert in her present incarnation.

Next up: Adoption . . . in . . . SPAAAAAAACE!




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