Nutshell: A beautifully crafted love story with some intellectually astute subtexts. Very nice.
I know there are going to be people out there who are going to be watching "Rejoined," and when the moment comes when they see two female characters kissing on the screen, they're going to immediately label the show as preachy, liberal, politically correct dogma that sides with homosexual tolerance. If they don't, they'll probably say the show is trying to stir controversy in a cry for attention.
The episode really does neither of the above.
While I would have nothing at all against a Star Trek story that deals with homosexual issues, this is not really the focus of "Rejoined." This episode is a love story—plain and simple—and it's one of Trek's better love stories. It has a fresh Trill twist that proves to be a very effective storytelling conduit. (Leave all the Trill manipulation up to Rene Echevarria, DS9's resident expert on Trill customs and culture.)
A brilliant Trill scientist, Dr. Lenara Kahn (Susanna Thompson), comes to the station to test some possibly ground-breaking research: the attempted formation of an artificial wormhole. Dax knew Kahn in a previous life—they were, in fact, married. At that time, Dax was Torias Dax and Kahn was Linale Kahn. Torias, however, died in a shuttle accident, leaving Linale a widow. The Dax symbiont was passed to a new host, and Dax never saw Kahn again...until now, several host lifetimes later.
And in the present, there is room only for discomfort. One of Trill's strongest taboos forbids "reassociations"—that is, the active pursuit of reestablishing intimate relationships from past lifetimes. The taboo makes sense from what we know about Trills; since each host is supposed to lead its own life and live new experiences, it stands to reason that turning around and living and old life a second time would be counterproductive to a symbiont's interests. Furthermore, pursuing a reassociation is grounds for exile from the Trill homeworld, and means the symbiont would die with its host since it would not be able to be joined again.
So Kahn and Dax find themselves reunited for the first time in generations, and it takes neither of them much time to realize they still have feelings for one another. "Rejoined" isn't about whether or not they have these feelings, it's about what they choose to do about it. And the reason this works so well as a character show is because it feels like rational people trying to make rational decisions. There isn't excessive plot getting in the way here, which is refreshing.
From the moment the two set foot in the same room everyone is staring at them—as if to make sure they stay out of trouble. In an early formal party scene, the two can't come within five feet of each other without the entire room casting a suspicious eye in their direction. And on the bridge of the Defiant during wormhole experimentation, Lenara's aide Dr. Pren (James Noah) begins to notice what he suspects is a more-than-simply-professional relationship. Pren tells Lenara's brother Bejal (Tim Ryan) what's going on, and this leads to a very sensible and relevant scene where Bejal tries to dissuade his sister from playing with fire.
Lenara tells Bejal that there's nothing going on and that she has no intention of allowing anything to come out of her past relationship with Dax. But as she says this it's obvious she's on the fence—that she wants to succumb to her desires but hasn't decided whether she can do it or not.
Dax, on the other hand, "with that little bit of rebellious Curzon in her," barely has a doubt about what she intends to do. She wants to throw herself at Lenara even if it means being exiled from Trill and causing her symbiont to be condemned to die when she dies. Dax goes to Sisko for advice, which leads to a scene that really hits home where Sisko forcefully reminds Dax that a Trill's most important responsibility is safeguarding the best interests of the symbiont. This scene is the show's best—it highlights what an asset the Sisko/Dax relationship can be to the series. When Dax tells Sisko that she didn't come to him for a lecture, Sisko's response "You came here for advice from a friend, and that's exactly what you're getting," is perfect in both delivery and content. It goes a long way to highlighting the severity of the consequences Jadzia would face should she go through with this. When she does indeed decide to pursue it, it feels like a dynamic and refreshing turn of the character, and allows Terry Farrell to display more depth than she is often permitted in plot-driven episodes.
The question becomes whether or not Lenara is willing to face the consequences. Simply put, she isn't. She wants to be with Dax, but the price for going against the custom is just too high for her to deal with.
The interesting thing about "Rejoined" is how all of this comes together and what all of the characters represent. Dr. Pren is the character who believes in the custom. Jadzia is the one who wants to thwart it. Lenara wants the benefits of thwarting it, but can't accept the punishments. In complicated issues as such, all of these sides exist. Avery Brooks' direction of these complex characters feels right on target.
As for the much-ballyhooed kiss: It's not what this show rides on. "Rejoined" is about a situation and how the characters deal with it. Those who see the show as "my god—two women are kissing" are completely missing the point. I think the kiss was put in there simply as a contemporary metaphor to get the point across of how the reassociation is taboo in Trill culture. Obviously (as demonstrated by the dialogue between Kira and Bashir), no one in the 24th century has a problem with same-sex relationships.
"Rejoined" isn't a particularly ground-breaking hour in the way it ultimately affects the characters or the series. Instead, it's an example of plausible, compelling, character-driven storytelling. The characters drive the plot instead of the plot driving the characters. The result is an episode that feels dramatically real and believable.