Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

"Melora"

**

Air date: 11/1/1993
Teleplay by Evan Carlos Somers and Steven Baum and Michael Piller & James Crocker
Story by Evan Carlos Somers
Directed by Winrich Kolbe

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

Ensign Melora (Daphne Ashbrook), an Elysian woman confined to a wheelchair due to her homeworld's lower natural gravity, is temporarily assigned to DS9, bringing with her a chip on her shoulder and a defensive attitude that the fascinated Bashir instantly finds challenging. Meanwhile, and old "friend" that Quark testified against (Peter Crombie) and had sent to prison years ago comes to the station and threatens to kill the Ferengi barkeep.

"Melora" is another small DS9 drama about unique perspectives, but this episode doesn't really seem know what it wants to say. It merely rambles with dialog scenes that don't really have any long-term significance to Melora's situation—and Melora herself thus comes off as a severely undefined character. First the story makes Melora unlikable and closed-off (she wants to be completely independent and attacks anyone who tries to give her help), then it suddenly makes her open to possibilities when Bashir far-too-easily stumbles over a medical procedure that could allow her to walk in normal gravity—an idea that, dramatically, is both too obvious and doesn't offer any interesting insights.

What really hurts are two awkward, forced Runabout scenes. One involves Dax and Melora talking about "romance in Starfleet," which feels so oddly out of place and is directed with such uncertainty that the scene seems to belong in a soap opera. The other big mistake is the finale where the bad guy from the B-plot takes Melora, Quark, and Dax hostage in a Runabout, and is resolved with the corny idea of Melora disabling the gravity to subdue him. The best summary of this ending would be to take the word "clever," find a word that means the exact opposite, and apply it appropriately.

The episode isn't awful; some of the Bashir/Melora chemistry works, particularly the scene where Bashir deconstructs Melora's sarcastic defensiveness with equally pointed remarks. But proceed with caution—this episode doesn't end up saying much of anything.

Previous episode: Cardassians
Next episode: Rules of Acquisition

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10 comments on this review

Robert - Mon, Dec 12, 2011 - 10:59am (USA Central)
I just recently watched Melora. It was an interesting concept, but they made a mess of it. I thought the wheelchair and the braces were anachronistic. By the 24th century, we could surely have a wheelchair which can go over obstacles, and some sort of suit which can aid in walking. That suit looked like something from the 1940's. And I can imagine someone being from a low gravity planet, but not THAT low, if gravity were as low as she was used to, her home planet couldn't even retain an atmosphere. But I can overlook those details. And Bashir being amazed at low gravity seems peculiar. We viewers might be amazed by low gravity, but people in star Fleet would be used to it.

I agree, the episode doesn't seem to know what it wants to say. The part about where completing the therapy means you can never go home again seems to come out of nowhere. We seem to get nothing more out of this episode than "buildings should be wheelchair accessible", which is a good message, but hardly groundbreaking. But does accommodating people with handicaps end there? Why is a treatment that lets people walk unassisted a bad thing? That's the sort of thing we are supposed to expect from the future.
LastDawnOfMan - Thu, Aug 9, 2012 - 6:20pm (USA Central)
Agree that the doctor being so "amazed" by low gravity was just ludicrous. And the arbitrary restriction that the cure would not allow her to ever use low gravity again because it would "confuse her motor neurons" was just pitiful. Sounded like bad science out of the 19th century. This episode, where they can't even figure out how to make decent wheelchairs, or powered exoskeletons, really badly contrasts with later episodes, where they, for instance, know how to analyze and transport an entire universe. I mean, really? I think the idea for this character had a lot of potential, but why not think it through a little better? I would have liked to see her in future episodes had they worked her scenario out in halfway sane fashion.
azcats - Tue, Oct 1, 2013 - 2:00pm (USA Central)
my favorite part was when Bashir "Bashir deconstructs Melora's sarcastic defensiveness with equally pointed remarks"

fun dialogue. the rest? meh.
Kotas - Tue, Oct 22, 2013 - 3:34pm (USA Central)

Very sappy, but it could have been worse. I give it a "meh" rating.

4/10
Dusty - Wed, Feb 26, 2014 - 6:17am (USA Central)
Mediocre, but not as bad as I feared--just another example of the writers figuring out what worked on this show ('Vortex', 'Necessary Evil' and their ilk) and what didn't ('Q-Less', 'The Passenger', and this). Melora's character started out unbearable and turned out okay. The "handicapped person OF THE FUTURE" thing was heavy-handed and sappy, and Bashir found the cure way too easily. Basically, the characters kind of worked but the story didn't. It was too convenient and simplistic for a show like DS9, and nothing really meaningful was said.

(Did anyone else notice that not even the writers could figure out why Melora survived a phaser shot to the chest? The best they could do was have Bashir speculate for one sentence about "neuro-stimulants." Groan. The more I think about this plot the more it's going to disintegrate. I'll just stop now.)
Yanks - Thu, Jun 26, 2014 - 8:40am (USA Central)
I normally skip this episode, but I watched it last night.

We see anti-gravity trays carrying all kinds of stuff around in TOS, but she has to have a wheelchair? The can't create a suit that compensates for her? "Cardassian construction just isn't compatible"??? Really? No gravity plating/technology on DS9? or something mechanical that actually works? eeesssh....

In order to have less that "1" gravity, which is what DS9 would have, the biggest delta would be that one. Would she really be that tired by just standing up? She always seemed out of breath. While I think it's far stretched to conceive a planet that has "such low gravity", this is SCI-FI so, OK...

I did enjoy Bashir putting her in her place with her constant jabs. Very appropriate but don't you think someone at the academy would have corrected that? She got to the point of whining and to Sisko to boot! She didn't want any help doing anything accept listening to her complaining that she didn't want any help. If I were Sisko, I would have sent her packing, or had her put her nose on the circle on the chalk board or something. Just seems convenient that our lover boy Doctor has to be the one to address that.

I kind of like that this is a "Grass isn't always greener" episode. I thought there was good chemistry between Melora and Bashir and didn't find his medical discovery all that atrocious.

What was the "B" story again? :-)

2 of 4 stars for me because I liked the Klingon "chef" :-) How hard can that job be? lol
Ian G - Fri, Jul 25, 2014 - 12:34am (USA Central)
This is a pretty dull and ponderous episode that try's to make some sort of ham fisted point about accepting handicapped people that would be fine in a 90's public service video but not Star Trek. Melora's predicament seems silly in the midst of all the medical marvels of the ST universe. The episode then degenerates further into a meaningless one off love story with her and Bashir. Melora herself is unbearable throughout, at first she's angry at everyone for no reason, then she's just a sappy love interest. Through all this we are slapped in the face by the script and told how awesome she is at everything lest we think all people with disabilities are meek and worthless.
Andrea - Mon, Nov 3, 2014 - 5:30am (USA Central)
I really, really, really HATE this episode, i found it insulting. It basically says that if you are disabled, you are not a person, you are a disable, and it's your disability that defines you, not your own personality, and that trying to cure that disability would be a bad thing, because you are "denying who you are". do I have to explain why this is bullshit? and the fact that this was written by a disabled writer makes me cringe even more. and then there's the little fact that the writer is "cheating": Melora isn't really disabled, she comes from a planet with a lower gravity (and can somebody please explain me how such planet would retain an atmosphere? but that's another story..) so in that context the whole "denying who you are" thing makes sense, buuuut the fact is that this episode wants to be a clear allegory for disability, so the writer wants to "cheat" us into thinking that makes sense in the context, while in the larger context (the one of the allegory) it really doesn't, because (and i feel bad for having to spell this out) a person is NOT defined by his/her ilnesses, try to exchange disability with AIDS and you'll get what i mean. and don't try to bullshit me: disability IS an illness. it's not homosexuality, which is something that somebody IS and it is part of his/her personality, and partly (key word being partly) defines who he/she is, disability is an illness, that in some cases can be cured even now (not to talk about the 24th century..), and i challenge you to find ANY wheelchair bound person who would turn away a cure for his/her disability because "that's what i am". and here's another problem with the writing of this episode, it's the 24th century, disability is gone, if you break your spine a quick travel to the infrmary and you'r good as new, but hey, we have to hammer on an half assed message about... something.. so let's make up a bullshit reason about her turning down the cure. i hate this episode
Robert - Mon, Nov 3, 2014 - 8:59am (USA Central)
@Andrea - I think maybe you are giving the writers too much credit. I'm not sure this episode is an allegory for anything except having a bunch of ideas and nothing useful to do with them.

Some background... Melora was originally supposed to be DS9's science officer. They had a character bio lying around collecting dust and decided to use it. While Melora clearly was an allegory for the struggle of dealing with a disability, she wasn't exactly disabled. They seemed to go from a story about overcoming disability to the little mermaid (they even cited in) in less than 30 minutes.

So the writers had a cool character (she floats!!) with a chip on her shoulder from sort of being disabled and having people treat her poorly (even though none of our mains do) that of course our Doctor can melt in under 30 minutes (Trek lightspeed romance). He then finds a cure in minutes of looking and it switches to a little mermaid story. Oh and a Quark story is in there too. It was a mish-mash of ideas that were slopped together, not necessarily an offensive allegory.

And as to your point about nobody ever turning down a cure, I will point out that some of the deaf community is against cochlear implants and this episode struck me a lot like that. Once you get one you gain some amount of functionality back from your disability but you can't exactly go home again.
Alistair - Sun, Nov 9, 2014 - 6:57pm (USA Central)
This one was already done on TNG, and it was done a lot better. "Ethics", anyone? I do have to defend the weird suit that Melora wore to walk though, that's pretty much exactly what Worf was using and I find the idea that even in the future, there are still some medical problems we can't solve interesting.

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