Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

"Playing God"


Air date: 2/28/1994
Teleplay by Jim Trombetta and Michael Piller
Story by Jim Trombetta
Directed by David Livingston

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

In an episode with a split personality that's probably even worse than "The Alternate's," Dax is assigned a Trill "initiate," Arjin (Geoffrey Blake), who she must help guide to the next step in the Trill symbiont-joining candidacy by offering her experience as a joined Trill. In the confines of this same character-oriented episode is a completely inappropriate plot centering around a "proto-universe," which Arjin and Dax inadvertently bring back from the Gamma Quadrant.

The proto-universe begins expanding, putting DS9 and (presumably) the entire Alpha Quadrant in danger of being destroyed—an overly large story idea that ends up making relatively little sense. Sisko decides he can't justify destroying a universe to save his own, so an alternate plan (putting Arjin's flight skills and plenty of technobabble to use, naturally) is concocted. The idea of an entire miniature universe with its own civilizations isn't bad in and by itself, and it even brings up some effectively interesting moments to ponder (Sisko's log about the Borg, first and foremost). But some non-addressed questions arise, like, for starters, how returning the proto-universe to "where it belongs" will keep it from expanding and wiping out the Gamma Quadrant (and beyond), and just how Sisko can have the arrogance to make a decision about the "universe" in a mere hour.

In any case, the whole premise of pondering the nature of universes doesn't at all belong in this small episode of character interaction, which, in a vacuum, is a good one. The writers supply Dax with some reasonable backstory, with the humorous notion that Curzon Dax was notorious for washing initiates—including Jadzia herself—out of the joining program. ("I'm not Curzon," Jadzia constantly reminds Arjin). The Sisko/Dax relationship is put to good use again with a believable dialog scene. Arjin turns out to be a fairly interesting character, and the dialog between him and Dax is nicely written. But forcing the tech plot and character story together is a mistake that the writers have already made too many times this season.

Previous episode: Shadowplay
Next episode: Profit and Loss

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12 comments on this review

Nebula Nox - Sat, May 19, 2012 - 1:00am (USA Central)
Yeah, I have always wondered why that other universe hasn't wiped everything out - and they could have "solved" it by somehow returning it to another "dimension" - which would have involved technobabble (magic) but that is not a problem in other episodes, and it would have been more logical.
Jay - Mon, May 28, 2012 - 5:17pm (USA Central)
So it's possible to become a Level 5 pilot without ever having flown a runabout before?
John - Wed, May 30, 2012 - 10:35am (USA Central)
How did Dax get to be the Defiant's main pilot with only a level 3 license? Heh heh.. I hope somebody got fired over that one.. Heh heh..
Eric - Sun, Nov 11, 2012 - 9:30pm (USA Central)
The actor playing Arjin in this episode is painfully bad. Add to that Farrell's usual semi at best competence and there are way too many cringe-inducing scenes to take this episode seriously. Plus, Jadzia comes off as a flouncy annoyance for much of the episode, rather than good-natured and fun.
Name - Thu, May 16, 2013 - 10:25am (USA Central)
I disagree almost completely. This was a pretty terrible episode in all aspects.

The technobabble and nonsensical plot is just too much. The vole plot device was unnecessary and not executed very well, and the fact that a proto-universe that gets stuck to a shuttle like gum is bizarre enough but it's only topped by the fact that it's solved by just shoving it back in the apparently soon to be consumed gamma quadrant. Out of sight out of mind, apparently. The fact that the proto-universe could contain a civilization was an interesting plot point that was brought up and then proceeded to have no relevance or progression beyond being a reason not to destroy it. The episode reeks of wasted potential.

The interaction between the initiate and dax is trite and unconvincing (partially due to the initiate's absolutely terrible acting) and no real change or understanding is shown, we don't get any sense of revelation or character development, they just kind of go through the motions without any real conviction.

The final scene through the wormhole has no tension or real drama, and the comment about it looking good on his record seemed a very last minute way to bring some sort of relevance and growth back to his character yet it failed in both regards.
Kotas - Tue, Oct 22, 2013 - 4:46pm (USA Central)

Another "meh" Dax episode.

Jack - Sat, Dec 28, 2013 - 6:12pm (USA Central)
Never mind that Sisko was going to decide the fate of two universes in an hour...how was it teh decision of a Starfleet commander at all? Shouldn't he at least have contacted Starfleet Command?
Jay - Sat, Jan 25, 2014 - 11:14am (USA Central)
Jack is right...when Starfleet reviews Sisko's station logs and they get to this one, they're going to be like WTF?!? Why is this the first we're hearing about this?

Just dumping it in the Gamma Quadrant, problem solved? The guy that wrote this episode would never be allows near pencils or keyboards again.
Rivus - Sat, Apr 12, 2014 - 2:10pm (USA Central)
This whole season seems to reek of the TOO MANY PLOTS syndrome so far... Not only that, but I feel this moral dilemma of taking out a universe was already explored far too many times in TNG in some form or another for me to feel any impact from it.
Yanks - Sun, Jun 29, 2014 - 7:29pm (USA Central)
I didn't mind the Dax/initiate story. Arjin came off as believable.

Had there been a decent "B" story this episode might have earned 3 stars.

...but the whole proto universe thing was almost laughable. As was their solution. Why did they "have" to take it back to the gamma quadrant?

2 of 4 stars.
Dusty - Thu, Nov 6, 2014 - 2:10pm (USA Central)
Just plain weird, this one. DS9 showed that it could juggle 3 different stories successfully in Shadowplay, but it's always a big risk, and here they stumbled--badly. The space voles are actually pretty funny, but they get put on the back burner halfway through with no payoff. The mini-universe is a barrage of technobabble that I don't understand or care about. The Jadzia/Arjin story was okay on its own but like Yanks said, there was nothing backing it up. Too bad.
Adam C - Sun, Apr 19, 2015 - 8:49pm (USA Central)
Might’ve been fun to revisit this later on, not for the proto-universe thing but to see what happened to Arjin. Maybe he got drummed out and turned, like Verad, to stealing a symbiont to realize his (father’s) dreams. Maybe he got a symbiont but went insane from incompatibility, making for a massive cover-up by the Symbiosis Commission. Or maybe, whether he got the symbiont or not, he decided that the whole process was unfair and became a black-market symbiont broker. (Perhaps it could have had some interesting implications between seasons 6 and 7, for example.) As it is, it’s not one of the better Dax episodes, and it’s not one of the worst. It just exists.

I do, however, love the Klingon restauranteur. He should have been a recurring character, at least until Worf showed up.

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