Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

"Playing God"

2.5 stars

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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38 comments on this review

Nebula Nox
Sat, May 19, 2012, 1:00am (UTC -5)
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.
Mon, May 28, 2012, 5:17pm (UTC -5)
So it's possible to become a Level 5 pilot without ever having flown a runabout before?
Wed, May 30, 2012, 10:35am (UTC -5)
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..
Sun, Nov 11, 2012, 9:30pm (UTC -5)
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.
Thu, May 16, 2013, 10:25am (UTC -5)
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.
Tue, Oct 22, 2013, 4:46pm (UTC -5)
Another "meh" Dax episode.

Sat, Dec 28, 2013, 6:12pm (UTC -5)
Never mind that Sisko was going to decide the fate of two universes in an was it teh decision of a Starfleet commander at all? Shouldn't he at least have contacted Starfleet Command?
Sat, Jan 25, 2014, 11:14am (UTC -5)
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.
Sat, Apr 12, 2014, 2:10pm (UTC -5)
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.
Sun, Jun 29, 2014, 7:29pm (UTC -5)
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.
Thu, Nov 6, 2014, 2:10pm (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
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.
William B
Sat, Aug 8, 2015, 10:30am (UTC -5)
Another A/B/C episode, though the C-plot about the voles is dropped partway through. More so than in "Shadowplay," I think that the themes match up pretty well: the A-plot basically has Dax put in a position where her word will determine the full course of Arjin's future, and both of them struggle against how much power that gives Dax over his life ("playing god"), and so the B- and C-plots similarly have DS9 crew making decisions that will impact the course of other life forms, on a small scale with the non-sentient voles (C-plot) and on an unimaginably large scale with the proto-universe (B-plot). Deciding whether Arjin is recommended or not for joining is seen as a higher responsibility than deciding whether or not to put phasers on kill on the voles and a lower responsibility than DECIDING WHETHER OR NOT TO DESTROY A UNIVERSE OR TO LET IT DESTROY YOUR UNIVERSE, which I guess seems fair.

The big problem, which pretty much everyone here seems to agree on, is that the proto-universe plot introduces impossibly high stakes which the episode has no way of dealing with. A proto-universe with potential sentient life will continue expanding, swallowing up this universe, and so it's destroy-or-be-destroyed on an unimaginable scale, for which Sisko takes an hour, strolls the Promenade and chats dating with Jake, then finally decides "let's take it back where it came from" which is, apparently, sufficient to deal with the problem. No explanation is provided for why dropping it in the Gamma Quadrant will stop the universe's expansion from wiping out this universe, rather than delay the problem for a pretty short time. If "bring it back to the GQ!" was seriously an option that would have no negative consequences, why did no one advocate for it? The episode's attempt to position this as a Major Ethical Dilemma, with distraught personal logs making Borg comparisons and all, is embarrassing given the non-resolution and the way the story is dropped immediately. I think that a good story about destroying one universe to save another could certainly be interesting and affecting, but this is not it.

(On a minor point -- even if we accept the premise that a proto-universe forms within the larger one but it has time at an incredibly rapid and contains enough material to have actual lifesigns/civilizations, could the transporter *really* be able to store/recreate a whole universe's worth of information?)

Alas, the model of "just put it back where you found it" as, somehow, the solution to the lower-stakes dilemma Dax faces, with how she deals with Arjin. It is hard to get a handle on how Dax handles Arjin throughout the episode, partly because it never seems exactly what it is that Dax is supposed to *do* with her initiate. She says it's not her job to confront Arjin about her concerns about Arjin's performance. So, what is her job?

DAX: My job is to show him what it's like to function as a Joined Trill. That's all. I can show you the guidelines. They're very clear.

Oh, that's all then. I'm not exactly clear on which part of her behaviour in this episode demonstrates what life is like as a joined Trill -- joined Trills, I guess, do science in Runabouts on space stations and drink Ferengi drinks. Seriously, going in order, here is what Dax does in her job as Initiate Trainer:

* berates him for showing up early too much
* tells him never to call her ma'am and to call her Jadzia instead
* offers to set him up with her wrestling coach, offers him Ferengi drink
* introduces him to other people on the station
* fly in a Runabout doing Science together
* tell him he doesn't have to impress her
* have dinner and ask him about his plans, then get chilly when she doesn't like the answer
* do more science in the lab and berate him for trying to tell her what she wants to hear
* gives him speech about how he can't try to impress other people but have to figure out what he wants out of life, with the example of how Jadzia was tortured by Curzon and then came back and "tore through" the program, by, um, whatever it is that represents good initiate-ness
* fly a proto-universe through a wormhole without hitting any verteron nodes, which Dax says will look really great on his initiate record

After which, as Arjin is *leaving*, Jadzia finally says:

DAX: I'm nothing like I expected. Life after life, with each new personality stampeding around in your head, you get desires that scare you, dreams that used to belong to someone else. I wouldn't recommend it for everyone but in time I might recommend it for you. When you're ready.

Which, if I'm not mistaken, is the one time Jadzia actually talks explicitly to Arjin about what it's like to be a joined Trill. At which point Arjin says, "I know what I have to do." Well, it's great that he does, because I have no idea. Seemingly, the training has left Arjin exactly where he was before, except more aware that he has to have his own goals beyond joining, which is surely good advice, but hardly actually says *anything at all* about what joining is like or whether he would be appropriate for it. What careers or desires are appropriate for Joining and which are better left to the Unjoined? What personal qualities, beyond this platitudinous Being True to Yourself stuff, will make him good to be joined? What have we learned about Joining? Based on this episode, I guess we can gather that if you become a Joined Trill, you will do wormhole science and drink Ferengi drinks and eat racht.

Now, the essential conflict within Jadzia in this episode is that she does Not Want To Be Like Curzon, but apparently the way to Not Be Curzon is to just to refrain from blackballing a guy from the initiate training because he failed to live up to her unspoken, never-identified standards. As with the proto-universe plot, inaction (or, I guess, resetting the situation to what it was before the episode started) is the solution, but it's a dramatically unsatisfying solution because it is hard to believe this is how the mechanics work: if all Jadzia had to do to resolve the situation is "not be a jerk," then, well, what was the problem?

The vagueness of the Initiate training more or less makes the Arjin training seem like a low-level nightmare of spending a week interviewing for a job where one is not told *any* of the qualifications required. Now, I wouldn't actually be surprised if this is how the Trill really did run things, especially if we read the Trill's Joined Class as a kind of aristocratic caste who decide on the unjoined masses' futures entirely on whims, which seems increasingly likely with each Trill episode. Look, Arjin does seem nervous and he also seems like he might not know what to do post-Joining, but there's something incredibly cruel and arbitrary about the process as we see it, which seems to amount to asking people to first win Olympic gold medals and then win a beauty pageant and then flatter a judge in order to win the presidency -- the rarity of the symbionts makes essentially any "contest" unfair and ungainly. Similarly, while attempting to paint herself as Not Curzon, Jadzia spends her time passive-aggressively instructing Arjin to treat her like her best bud she doesn't need to impress, criticizing him when he tries to impress her and criticizing him when he's "honest" both. She comes across like the type of person who makes fun of a person for being fat and also looks askance at them when they diet. And, yes, this does turn out to be a "flaw" of Jadzia's in the episode, but the fuzziness of the thinking behind this program and what exactly is required means that her "redemption" hardly has any impact. It's not that I find Arjin that appealing anyway, but the contradictory standards Jadzia sets up for him basically means that it's hard to tell what he could have done, except be a fun-loving racht-eating tongo player, that would have impressed her.

What I do like in the episode is that we learn a bit of Jadzia's backstory with Curzon. The idea that Jadzia *was* a shy and driven person before joining, and that it was the result of the Joining that made her into the fun-loving party animal she is now, helps also to join her s1 characterization to her s2 (especially when Arjin mentions that he expected her to be serene), suggesting (perhaps) that Jadzia Dax started as closer to Jadzia's quiet drivenness combined with an attempt to put on the serenity she *expected* to have post-joining, and she gradually became more of the post-s1 Jadzia Dax that we come to recognize. That's cool. The notion that Curzon rejected her and then came to accept her application is an interesting backstory, one which "Facets" complicates in ways that are maybe good, maybe not (will decide when I get there). The Sisko/Dax scene is pretty good.

Oh right, also, the voles thing: what is up with that in this episode? Not enough material with a whole universe moral dilemma, huh? The idea of the voles disrupting the force field and thus causing problems suggests that leaving well enough alone is *not* the solution to all life's problems, which I guess is good but is also kind of a wtf moment when compared with the apparent "messages" of the other two stories.

I dunno. I feel like I've nearly talked myself down to 1 star, but I don't think it was all that painful to watch until the proto-universe started and the main plot fell apart. I will say 1.5 stars for now.
William B
Sat, Aug 8, 2015, 11:31am (UTC -5)
I feel like I should say, I feel a bit bad being so down on this string of episodes. In my defense, the reason I have not written about Cardassians, Necessary Evil and Whispers is that I quite like all three, and want to do them justice.
Thu, Aug 13, 2015, 10:50pm (UTC -5)
I find your write-ups of episodes thoughtful, William B.

"At which point Arjin says, 'I know what I have to do.' Well, it's great that he does, because I have no idea. Seemingly, the training has left Arjin exactly where he was before, except more aware that he has to have his own goals beyond joining, which is surely good advice, but hardly actually says *anything at all* about what joining is like or whether he would be appropriate for it. What careers or desires are appropriate for Joining and which are better left to the Unjoined? What personal qualities, beyond this platitudinous Being True to Yourself stuff, will make him good to be joined? What have we learned about Joining? Based on this episode, I guess we can gather that if you become a Joined Trill, you will do wormhole science and drink Ferengi drinks and eat racht."

I think you picked up what's important in Jadzia Dax's eyes: that you're a whole, fully developed person before you're ever joined. If you do that, you bring something new and distinct into the joining, qualities that can be remembered and perhaps (to some extent) carried on after the hosts' death into the lives of future hosts.

If you don't develop yourself first, you're just a blank slate. The joining doesn't form a new and distinct personality (a partnership of symbiont and host); instead, the symbiont dominates. This is a great loss of opportunity in the eyes of Jadzia Dax; Curzon Dax apparently felt the same way.

I think the purpose of the initiate spending time with Jadzia Dax is 2-fold: the initiate gets to talk to Jadzia Dax about joined life and get answers to any lingering questions he has, while Jadzia Dax reports back whether she feels he should get one of the few symbionts available. There aren't any firm principles in her decision, it's all her impression.

(yes, it's awkward, but I felt it was necessary to write 'Jadzia Dax' out every time, instead of just 'Jadzia' or 'Dax', since those terms technically refer to 3 different life-forms, which is a point of this episode)

And I agree this is probably a 1.5 star episode, maybe 1.0.
William B
Fri, Aug 14, 2015, 8:47am (UTC -5)
@methane, thanks.

I think you're right about what it is that Jadzia Dax believes is necessary in an initiate, and that her overall impressions of whether or not Arjin is a "complete person" that will not be overwhelmed by the symbiont are what actually matters. Which...I mean, that was fairly clear from the episode, BUT it also doesn't quite make sense to me in terms of using any kind of fair standard for measuring his success, or even what it is that Arjin is *supposed* to do. Perhaps Arjin's failure to ask questions is another mark against him, but he is also clearly trying to suss out what is expected of him in the initiate training. I think it maybe comes down to a pet peeve of mine, which is when people with all the power in a situation expect the other person to "impress them" without any indication of what it is they expect, while also *denying* that they expect the other to impress them, in an open-ended feelings-y talk. However, this is what some job interviews or internships are *like*, where a person has to somehow neither be too rebellious nor too spineless and do as they are told only so much when they have no clear job description, so it is somewhat true to life.
Fri, Aug 14, 2015, 11:36am (UTC -5)
I agree that it would be frustrating to be in Arjin's role.

I do have one more observation on the story. I would guess the idea of this plot came from the writers thinking about the advice given to modern women: "develop yourself independently of a man, don't expect marriage to give you direction in life." It seems like they were applying that, in scifi fashion, to the joining of host & symbiont (a far more intimate union). The parallel would have been more apparent had the initiate been female rather than male, but it would have lost subtlety had they done so.

The story was really about "being your own person"; the writers couldn't spell it out at the beginning to poor Arjin, because then there would be no story.
William B
Fri, Aug 28, 2015, 12:08pm (UTC -5)
One thing I want to add, while I'm on the subject of Dax episodes, is that part of this episode is about fully demonstrating what a capital-P Personality Jadzia Dax is, all tongo and gagh and possibly-naked morning wrestling. And so some of the episode's success or failure resides on whether this personality seems convincing or merely grating. Some of the episode plays almost from Arjin's perspective, with Jadzia's off-the-wall-ness functioning like Lwaxana Troi's or something -- that the story is about how she's intimidating because she's nearly too much to handle -- and the first few acts almost ask us to be SHOCKED over and over again by how much personality she has, as if we didn't already know Jadzia. It's a pretty similar structure, too, to "Melora," with Jadzia in the Melora role and Arjin in the Julian one, minus romance. It makes me think a little of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl stereotype. It's mostly annoying in both places, for me personally. I enjoy Jadzia's personality when it's part of the story rather than the whole subject of the scene, as if LOOK SHE HANGS OUT WITH KLINGONS AND FERENGI! is everything we need to know. Knowing that Jadzia used to be shy and was presumably intimidated by Curzon Dax's forceful personality, it does seem as if she is unconsciously repeating the Curzon/Jadzia dynamic with herself and Arjin, intimidating Arjin and finding his shyness to be proof of his lack of direction in life, and so part of her arc here I guess is realizing that throwing a Trill who has *had* to make his whole life be about duty in order to get into the Initiate program (which has its parallels to women who devote themselves to landing a man, as methane points out) into situations where he has to feel at ease with Ferengi and Klingons and then criticizing him for not speaking up about his discomfort might not be entirely fair. It sort of works, but is not enough to sustain the episode.
William B
Fri, Aug 28, 2015, 3:44pm (UTC -5)
I guess one other thing to add is that Jadzia finding it in her to break out of Curzon Dax patterns assures that she is correct that she is strong enough not to be overwhelmed by the Dax personality entirely, which means that she has to relearn the lesson she teaches Arjin, which is a pleasing structure.
Mon, Sep 21, 2015, 8:24am (UTC -5)
Don't like this episode one bit.

The Dax-lives-life-to-the-fullest-shtick is annoying. So she's playing a game with Ferengi and she's eating in a Klingon bar. Wow. That's the kind of amazing that's plaguing Facebook. We get it, George, you like to travel and "experience other cultures". You're a real Marco Polo, aren't you.

Also, can we drop the bullshit that joined Trills merely blend personalities of host and symbiont. Jadzia is Curzon in a hot new body, nothing less.

There was no life to the Jadzia-initiate-relationship. The guy was 32 when the episode was filmed and he was too old for me to make his role work. But even if he was more appropriately aged, what exactly was it that the episode tries to explore?
They spent way too much time on HIS feeling, character, situation. He's a one-off throwaway character. I don't care about him. They could have explored Trills, their society, their rules more. They could have explored Dax more.
But they didn't.

And to add insult to injury, the wasted a great possible story-idea - the one with the universe - to give this lame ass episode a Sci-Fi backdrop.
Thu, Nov 5, 2015, 5:20pm (UTC -5)

I agree, the Jadzia's character is at its worst when she is trying to be this bombastic person she isn't in other episodes.

A few episodes later, we'll see that in "Bloodoath", Jadzia can take part if cultural adventures of her previous host without getting totally lost. That Dax, tempered by Jadzia, is much more believable and relatable to the viewers.
Diamond Dave
Sat, Nov 14, 2015, 9:23am (UTC -5)
A slightly strange amalgam of stories that doesn't quite hang together as a whole. The bit that works best is between Dax and Arjin. I don't feel that the Jadzia character suffers at all from an excess of personality - indeed the verve and playfulness inherent adds life to what could be a blank page. Playing off the story angles that presents with Arjin gives a strong story with some good scenes.

The proto-universe story is intriguing but way to big to be squeezed in here. As such, it is never properly explored and the solution - "put it back where it came from" - seems to make no sense at all. And at least some time could have been gained from excising the voles story, which, while fun, is just taking up space here. 2.5 stars.
Mon, Feb 29, 2016, 9:31am (UTC -5)
There's a miniature proto-universe that was accidentally picked up by a run-about and it's going to destroy everything if they can't put it back where they found it. This is DS9, right? Not TNG? Because "Playing God" is a concept tailor-made for that other show! The problem with this B-plot is that it's just so absurd. These people have straight-up made one of the most important discoveries in all of Human history (possibly in the histories of all known planets) - an actual parallel universe, which is inside our own to boot! And yet it's used as little more than a ticking clock element which will lead to CERTAIN DOOM! *yawn* I can appreciate that they tried their best to elevate this nonsense with Sisko's log contemplating his decisions and referencing the Borg. But it's all just so out of place with the really down-to-earth character-heavy A-plot.

There's a C-story involving some disgusting Cardassian pests that are infesting the station. Apparently they've been there the whole time since "Emissary" but are only now causing trouble because the crew is "moving into new areas of the station." It's nice to know that everyone hasn't even bothered examining whole sections of the station in over a year and half! The only noteworthy scene this part offers is when Quark brings one of the voles up to Ops and demands they do something about it. Kira, again, acts like a petulant child toward Quark when he demands they do their damned jobs as his landlords. "Leave? Oh, please say leave," she whines. Here's a tip, Kira - I doubt he'll leave, but he could probably legitimately sue all your asses off under Bajoran law, so why don't you put your personal feelings aside, for once, and act like a damn professional! Geez, I even like Kira (she's probably one of my favorite character on the show), but they sure use her badly when they pair her up with Quark.

Then there's the A-plot involving Dax and Arjin. *sigh* Can I please just go back to the knock-off TNG story about a tiny universe with Lilliputians in it? So, we've finally been given an actual set of character traits for Dax - she's a boisterous, hard-living party girl who also just happens to be royally smart at everything. I don't like it. I've made no secret of the fact that Jadzia is my least favorite member of the main cast and I think this episode is really the starting point of that dislike. She goes on and on about how Arjin has to measure up to the standards for Trill hosts. However, Arjin is right on the money when he says "that is really incredible coming from you; I have never seen any host in my life who is so far below those standards as you are, ma'am." Not only that, but they've basically decided to make her a man-eater. Quark, this time, is right on the money when he says - "Did she break your heart, son? Mine too. And Bashir is in here every other day crying in his synthehol over her. The Promenade is littered with the bodies of...." (I assume he was going say something like "her conquests.") Look, I'm sorry, if you like Jadzia Dax and her personality/character, then more power to you. But for me, I find her arrogant, annoying, supremely self-important and generally all-around unpleasant. Then there's the scene where she tells Arjin that only proper hosts can be chosen because otherwise the Symbiont will overwhelm the new blended personality. Well, I hate to be the one who says "I told you so" but not really, but it looks like that's exactly what happened to Jadzia. From this point on she's essentially Curzon Version 2.0. I'd say the Curzon part of the Symbiont overwhelmed her. Of course, all of this really isn't helped by the fact that Arjin is about the most bland and uninteresting character ever.

Oh, and there's a D-plot (containing only one scene) where we learn that Jake is dating a Dabo Girl. Lucky bastard!

William B
Mon, Feb 29, 2016, 1:21pm (UTC -5)
@Luke, I almost entirely agree with you about this episode, which, see what a glowing set of comments I gave it above, but I do think that Quark's observation about Jadzia leaving a trail of broken hearts is not necessarily fair. For example, I don't think we saw evidence of Jadzia leading Julian on, except by spending time with him at all -- in fact, for the most part she seemed pretty chilly towards him as you have mentioned, which is not a good quality but does counter Quark's narrative. Similarly I don't think she particularly has done much to encourage Quark romantically besides simply hang out with him. (Of course, she gives him oo-max to convince him to participate in Facets, so he can incarnate one of her female hosts, oh the hilarity, which means she falls afoul of this later on.)
Mon, Feb 29, 2016, 8:12pm (UTC -5)
A lot of my dislike for the character does come into sharper focus in later episodes (especially "Facets", which has other massive problems for Dax's character). As for her relationship with Bashir - I think it's in "Afterimage" where Ezri reveals to him that if Worf hadn't come along Jadzia would have ended up with him instead. That pretty much confirms, in my opinion, that she was leading him on the whole time but simply playing extremely hard-to-get.
William B
Mon, Feb 29, 2016, 8:24pm (UTC -5)
Ah, well, I'm almost at "Afterimage" in my rewatch, so I'll see what I think there. That said, I dunno. I think that Jadzia gains a new appreciation for Julian in "Equilibrium," for example, and later in "Rejoined" and "The Quickening" (after Worf has shown up, granted), where her attitude toward him changes a bit. Her disinterest in s1-2 in anything romantic with Julian seems to go beyond playing hard to get. I checked the transcript for Ezri's line; I'm actually going to kinda hope that is Ezri's interpretation (hindsight + confusing feelings + memories + psych degree) rather than an actual fact that Jadzia had the men in her life mentally ranked and was just biding her time, which, yeesh.

That said I can see your point. "Facets" is an episode that does lots of damage to the Jadzia character, and other Dax aspects, I agree.
Wed, Mar 1, 2017, 1:18am (UTC -5)
Liked the "it takes me longer to get ready as a female" joke. Yes it was corny but effective. The rest of the episode was boring, fell asleep a couple of times during my streaming experience. Nothing great here just another attempt to jam a TNG level plot into this show.
Wed, Mar 1, 2017, 12:47pm (UTC -5)
aside from being an overall bad episode
(to many stories crammed together as many pointed out.) it also REAKS of plotholes.

-the moles are never get rid off, yet somehow a week later (next episode) are no longer a problem... did they call the space-pest-eliminators?

-the universe, that will keep expanding and eventually consume our universe, and will pretty fast start consuming the first worlds in the gamma quadrant... and blocing the entrance to the wormhole... (causing that explotion after all)... yet is never mentioned again..
(yes you should have destroyed it, if it is us or them, I pick us, anytime.)
*I give a few moral arguments out that the lazy writers COULD have used did they do their work better :
- it could have time go for it so fast and so much mass inside it, it will collapse back on itself before becoming to close.. and than either vanish or repeat that cycle resulting to us in the formation of a dangerous region in space of changing size, but never ourside a certain border.
-our universe might be expanding faster.. while it would eventually destroy all life in the milky way and our entire galactic cluster, outside of that things move away to fast for this new expanding universe to catch up with the expantion of our own universe (a big sacrifice, but a needs of the many argument, what are a few million galaxcies with a few trillion sention species in them against an entire universe)
-have the q step in and get rid of this garbadge.. it all was a test.. how would we treat life if it was a danger to us, while we held their universe in our hand.. if we would have destroyed it, the q would have destroyed us.. "do unto others"... now they just wimp the proto-universe away and give us their version of a pad on the back.

-the beaming of the universe
from what I understand beaming is using some form of supermicroscope that is capable of detecting every particle (electrons, atoms, etc) in your body, as well as their relative location, connection speed and temperature.
the data is than stored, while the original is either vaporised (much more energy efficient) or his mass converted into energy (insane energy amounts required) than than is converted back into matter at the ariving destination.
another universe will not have our laws of fysicis, not our defenition of matter and energy, not our laws... so there is nothing to scan for, nothing that can be such it should not have been possible to beam it over.
Tue, Apr 18, 2017, 4:50pm (UTC -5)
Okay, I'm just going to list a few personal observations that are just as all over the place as this episode was:
1. Cardassian Voles are sort of ugly-cute.
2. The Quark and sonic vole-stunner bit was hilarious.
3. A Klingon playing an accordian is funny.
4. Interesting interaction between a young and insecure initiate and a wizer and more self-assured Jadzia Dax.
5. Short but okay debate about how to deal with the "mini" universe.
Lenny C
Sun, Jun 18, 2017, 5:02am (UTC -5)
I love how Sisko orders O'Brien to use the stun setting and bring the Voles in alive, but a few scenes later when the situation gets a bit worse he's like "Set those phasers off stun, Chief! No more Mister Nice Guy"
Thu, Aug 10, 2017, 12:48pm (UTC -5)
I enjoyed this while watching it, but the very best part was the Klingon bar, so the episode as a whole didn't have much resonance. And now I am sad because I love the Klingon chef--a search reveals he was played by Ron Taylor, a star of musical theater who died at the young age of 49. What a great voice and what a great song and what a great character. I love those small roles that bring so much atmosphere to Trek. The Bolian barber Mot of TNG would be another.

I like Dax's intern--but his personality struck me as a bit too similar to the thief host who briefly stole Dax in a previous episode. He seemed nice--just needed a bit more character development.

As far as the "whole civilization within a universe" thing goes, I kept hoping we'd get to go inside it. You know, like at some point we'd be shown some sort of species of scientists and they'd be freaking out in their labs trying to figure out why their universe was being jostled about. Sort of like the tiny people in "Horton Hears a Who." And then they could have figured out a way to send a message out to the DS9 folks to tell them that their universe needed to be returned to the Gamma quadrant in order for them to survive. And that their universe would only get so large if they were near some sort of space thing in the Gamma quadrant.

And they'd look like some sort of adorable chipmunk people and we'd make friends with them, and Jake would decide he wanted to move to their universe and his Dad would get all upset but then appoint him ambassador from the Federation and the chipmunk people would turn out to be wonderful scientists and they'd help us create universe bubbles so we could float around in them.

I enjoyed the joke with Kira and O'Brien's butts. That was funny and the voles were cute.

@William B

"Jadzia actually talks explicitly to Arjin about what it's like to be a joined Trill. At which point Arjin says, "I know what I have to do." Well, it's great that he does, because I have no idea."

Me neither, and I don't think the writers did either. I haven't seen the rest of DS9 yet, but up to this point I am not sure if they have quite figured out what they want the Trill to be, and all the rules of hosts/symbionts. What we learned from their first appearance on TNG through Odon seems to have already been contradicted quite a bit. So maybe that's the problem--they want to explore the possibilities of a host situation, but aren't quite sure yet what the rules should be.
Thu, Aug 31, 2017, 11:20am (UTC -5)
Pretty much agree with the review that the protouniverse storyline wasn't up to much, at least as it was executed. However, to clarify something Jammer and a few other commenters missed, the universe came from a "subspace interphase pocket" (whatever that is) so I assumed they returned it to that and didn't just let it expand in the gamma quadrant.
Tue, Jul 17, 2018, 1:20pm (UTC -5)
Teaser : ***.5, 5%

Bashir escorts a young Trill, Arjin, aboard the DS9. We quickly learn that the young man is an initiate for joining and that he is extremely nervous to meet Dax, who, in its previous incarnations, has a reputation for washing initiates out of the programme. Now, the last time we saw Bashir and Dax together, he was—brace yourself—shamelessly and embarrassingly flirting with her. We haven't seen that the two have become friends, really; he's still pursuing her sexually and she puts up with him because it amuses her. So the fact that he knows exactly where she's bound to be in the middle of the night is unintentionally extremely creepy.

Where she is turns out to be Quark's (we've seen her gambling with Ferengi before). Some fun irony here: Arjin tells Bashir about the gruelling competition amongst initiates to be joined to a symbiont, mentioning that only the “best and brightest” make it that far—this would explain Barcalay-Trill's motivation in “Invasive Procedures”--only to see Jadzia whooping it up with the Ferengi and even giving flirtations ear-grabs to Quark. I guess she's forgiven him for nearly getting her killed. Jadzia is friendly and jovial with Arjin. She tries to get him to join their game of Tongo, but recognising he's nervous and tired, immediately turns it around and escorts him to his quarters, while simultaneously using the opportunity to leave the table with her winnings, which would aggravate Quark more if he weren't so clearly enamoured with Jadzia.

Overall, I like this portrayal of Jadzia, and the teaser is quite efficient in giving us the necessary back-story, establishing the character dynamics and setting the tone.

Act 1 : ***.5, 17%

The next morning, Arjin stops by Dax' quarters—as he was instructed to do—but he's a little early. So he finds that she's still not dressed and has a man in quarters with whom she requests a “rematch” the next time he's on DS9. Given what we later find out about Jadzia's relationship with Worf (erm, spoiler), they definitely fucked. She asks him to replicate a Ferengi drink (a black hole), almost certainly booze, and has all kinds of suggestions for how he might improve his life. You know, by being more like her. She clearly thinks he's lame and uninteresting, but she's being perfectly kind, albeit rather pushy with him.

Meanwhile, O'Brien and Kira are hunting in Ops—for Cardassian voles. The rodents have started disrupting station systems. Sisko orders the voles “be taken alive,” for some reason. Dax and Arjin arrive and the writers really want to play up the “Dax is has child-like curiosity” angle. Sisko confirms that Dax is infamous for being hard on initiates, but Jadzia makes it clear that that was Curzon, not her.

Later on, the two Trills take a runabout trip through the wormhole. We get some character growth out of their conversation. Arjin is over-achieving, a trait which Jadzia probably shared in spades before she was joined. She is adamant that Arjin not try to impress her. It turns out that Curzon actually recommended Jadzia be terminated from the programme. Hmmm...

The plot gods do not approve of this character interaction, so some technobabble hits the runabout hard. Some subspace goop has attached itself to the nacelle, and the chords of bad news indicate that this is probably bad news.

Act 2 : ***.5, 17%

O'Brien and Kira are starting to get desperate for a solution to their vole problem. Miles suggests driving them out with a high-pitched frequency. Quark appears, holding his dead vole prop up and threatening to leave DS9 if his landlords don't solve this infestation problem Except, didn't Sisko have to blackmail him to stay in “Emissary”? Miles turns on his sonic screw driver or whatever and it sends Quark into writhing agony, what with those big ears. At least no one strangled him this time. Oh, and for the record, Shimmerman is completely hillarious in this scene.

Jadzia and Arjin return and have the McGuffin on their nacelle transferred to a containment unit on the station. She takes him to dinner at the Klingon restaurant, which has its own fat singing Klingon waiter—playing an accordion. I'd like to object to this cultural appropriation of clichés set in Venice, but I actually find this pretty funny, too.

Arjin is totally uncomfortable. Jadzia is annoyed that he hasn't made any effort to speak up for himself, express his discomfort, or make interesting conversation. And frankly, I can't fault her. I mean, yes, we would all be nervous in Arjin's place, and might be inclined to be deferential to Dax, given that she has been tasked to judge his worthiness for joining, but she's been completely clear with him, multiple times that all she wants from him is to relax and be direct with her. Anyway, we learn that Arjin's father pushed him (and his sister) to join the programme. Essentially, his over-achieving nature is the result of having a helicopter parent. As a teacher, I can't help but empathise with Arjin, here. She sees right through him. She explains that the host's personality must be strong enough to balance that of the symbiont—implying, gently, that his may not be strong enough, given his tendency to defer to the will of his father, and now to her. He makes a genuine effort, pushing aside the Klingon food he finds so distatestful.

Dax delivers a gift to the harried Miles—the Pied Piper's pipe to help solve his vole problem. Cute. She meets with Sisko for some chess, and Sisko sees right through *her*. He recognises the disappointment he feels in Arjin as a familiar sentiment in his old friend Curzon. She lays it all out—he lacks ambition and direction. She doesn't think he's suited to joining. But, she won't be like Curzon—she won't be the reason he is dropped from the programme, although she believes he ought to be. Sisko believes that Curzon's harshness is part of what made Jadzia tough enough to make it through the programme at all—and obviously she ended up getting his symbiont. Jadzia, strangely, only seems to remember the abuse. Curzon's memories don't seem to surface.

Before the act break, a vole breaks the containment field and the McGuffin is let loose in the station.

Act 3 : **.5, 17%

Ah, now we know why Sisko ordered phasers on stun, so he change his order and tell Miles, “No more Mr Nice Guy.” This is one cliché too many for me, I'm afraid. While Dax and Arjin work on trying to fix the tech problem together, he back-pedals from the previous night at dinner, realising he screwed up in failing to outline his own goals and personality, but he still doesn't really have any. She can see he's telling her what he thinks she wants to hear. She's worried about him, she says—and I think she's being sincere. She says that performing above expectations—which has been his strategy—is no longer going to cut it.

This revelation sets Arjin off. He accuses her of living well below the standards of joined Trills—presumably for drinking booze in the morning? Getting angry and lashing out is understandable, but I think it's a little early in this arc for it. We haven't seen Arjin develop resentment towards Jadzia—he's been confused and a little frustrated, but she's been very patient with him.

Apparently, we are being denied more organic character development for the sake of Jadzia spouting reams of technobabble about the McGuffin to the senior staff. Turns out the thing they snagged on the runabout is...a universe. I...can't come up with the right words to describe how thoroughly, unforgivably stupid this is. Others have commented at length, so I'll try not to repeat their points (which I mostly agree with). At this point, though, they behave reasonably. The best option is destroying it—which they'd like to avoid, so they'll prepare for that contingency during the three hours they have to figure out another option.

Meanwhile, Arjin is drunk. Quark has some words of wisdom, “Never have sex with the boss' sister.” Heh. Actually, his point is one similar to Q's in the previous year's “Tapestry”; when presented with a big opportunity, don't play it safe.

I normally don't bug out about the bad science in Trek, but I am really amused that Jadzia can scan for “localised entropy readings” in the proto-universe. What her technobabble reveals, apparently, is that this little cosmos has life in it.

Act 4 : ***, 17%

So, because the microverse doesn't obey our universe's laws of nature, they reason that time may be moving much faster relative to us, and thus entire species may be evolving—intelligent species. You know what they should do? Probably hook the miniverse up to their car battery.

So they let the thing keep expanding, blowing a hole in the side of the station. And then, things take a nose-dive into the absurd. Kira thinks they need to destroy the miniverse lest they be destroyed, but since the miniverse might contain intelligent life, that would be committing “mass murder” as Odo calls it. Yeah, we don't actually have a word for what this would be—this isn't murder, this isn't genocide, this is...cosmocide? Omnicide? Kira compares it to stepping on ants (or killing voles).

What all this reminds me of is the discussion on the page for Enterprise's “Dear Doctor.” If I may quote myself:

“The question of the hour is about stakes—on the one hand, many seem to agree that when the extinction of a species is the inevitable outcome of inaction, any moral nuances are rightly cast out in favour of simple human compassion. It sounds alright in those terms, but only because the stakes are so high...the problem is our compassion sometimes blinds us to the larger picture. We see existing as an end unto itself, because, evolutionarily speaking, we want to exist for as long as possible. This isn't a question of correcting the injustice of an aggressive alien culture against another or aiding the victims of some isolated natural disaster, we're talking about one crew, one man taking responsibility for the ultimate fate of an entire species, and by proxy an entire civilisation. Becoming extinct by way of your own genes is not 'genocide.'

What Archer realises, finally, in this episode is that holding up human values an example is one thing, but inflicting them, even upon request, on a scale beyond the comprehension or purview of what any individual can possibly apprehend is hubristic in the extreme.

To quote the ever-wise Picard, '[t]he Prime Directive has many different functions, not the least of which is to protect us. It keeps us from allowing our emotions to overrule our judgment.'

[R]esponding with compassion is something a person can do to another person, but when it gets to this scale, responding emotionally to the plight or fate of an entire civilisation, the nature of the situation has changed. Societies don't feel pain or comfort, people do. Archer demonstrates larger thinking here in not indulging his smaller, humanitarian impulses. It is a decision which requires emotional detachment. And that's why the arguments against his choice stem from emotional reactions like empathy with the doomed Valakians.”

In my view, the same reasoning applies, here. The scale is simply too distant for humans (or Bajorans or whatever) to comprehend and apply human ethics to. The miniverse is going to destroy the station (and our entire universe, but we don't really need to even discuss that), so it must be destroyed.

Sisko decides to take an hour to decide what to do. He thinks that destroying the miniverse to save the universe is akin to how the Bord assimilate entire species. It is true that the Borg operate on a different level of consciousness and, right or wrong, believe that their conquests are for the greater good. That's exactly why Arturis' description in Voyager's “Hope and Fear” of the Borg as a “force of nature” is so apt. Dealing with the collective as though it is a civilisation is a mistake. It may be one, on some level, but on our scale of consciousness, the Borg are more like a natural disaster (like the Valakian disease) or a god. So, in a way, Sisko is not so wrong-headed here as many others seem to believe. He is playing god.

In the midst of this heavy stuff, Sisko stops in to his quarters talk to Jake, who is so divorced from the drama that all he can think about is his crush on a Dabbo girl. Sisko is mad, which is more 90s Dad DBI meh. Anyway, his decision to have Jake invite her to dinner “soon” lets us know that he has made up his mind to destroy the miniverse. Good.

Jadzia uses her hour to confront Arjin. She confirms that pre-Dax Jadzia was a lot like Arjin himself, and Curzon was a lot like Jadzia Dax has been. Jadzia's initial failure ended up giving her the motivation and lessons she needed to eventually succeed, and Curzon's dark sense of humour meant that Jadzia got to become the new Dax. This is a pretty good resolution to the dynamic here, but it does run counter to the lesson Quark had for us in the last scene. Apparently, you DO get second chances. And so the episode is over, right? Sisko is going to destroy the miniverse, Arjin gets his second chance and maybe keeps a vole as a pet?

Alas..Sisko actually orders Jadzia (and Arjin) to a runabout for a trip through the wormhole. Uh-oh.

Act 5 : zero stars, 17%

So, I guess they're taking the miniverse back to the GQ. There's some padding with the transporter not working and phasing, and ace-pilot Arjin avoiding bumper cars in the wormhole, taking the dampers offline so we can have shaky cam, etc. etc....ugh. So the little universe is frizzing and sparking—I bet that's really good for the billions of civilisations inside. They put it back “where it belongs” which, I guess solves the problem? Huh?

This is all handled off-screen anyway. Jadzia wishes Arjin good luck on...whatever it is he has to do, and...wait what about the voles? THE VOLES????!! NOOOOOOOOOOoooooo

Episode as Functionary : **, 10%

Man this is frustrating. If this story had stopped after Act IV, it would have been one of the best of the season, so far. But all the BS with the wormhole theatrics and anti-resolution with Arjin and Jadzia, and no resolution with the voles is so totally useless that it makes it difficult to remember all the good stuff in the episode.

Despite the ridiculousness of the miniverse, the ethical dilemma it set up worked for me, just like in other Prime Directive stories. True, it came out of no where for Sisko, but it was a good opportunity for the character, nonetheless. But he doesn't make a choice in the end. He just sends it back to the GQ and the problem is erased.

The main plot is pretty great until the end. Dax finally has a vehicle that allows her to take agency, unlike in “Dax” and “Invasive Procedures.” Her mixed feelings about Arjin are understandable and well-portrayed. Arjin himself has a reasonable arc. The resolution to their dynamic makes sense, but is rushed to make room for the totally pointless final act, which I have to assume a producer insisted needed to be there to fill out the action quotient. It's so ham-fisted and useless that I genuinely feel like it's part of a different, far inferior episode.

The good that we're left with is some insight into Jadzia and Curzon's relationship that we didn't quite understand before, a good performance from Terry Ferrel, and some memorable comedy from Quark. I honestly recommend skipping the final act. It's a much better episode that way.

Final Score : **.5
Fri, Jul 27, 2018, 3:03pm (UTC -5)
The proto-universe subplot in "Playing God" has no place in it. It's a TNG plot executed by a production team who aren't very good at telling TNG type-stories. It might have worked well in a later season as its own episode, or as a TNG episode. It doesn't work as a subplot to a bland and terrible A-story.

1 star.
Tue, Dec 4, 2018, 11:47am (UTC -5)
Some character development for Jadzia, as her experience in the ep helps her further define herself as a unique individual.

The interactions between Arjin and Jadzia are awkward and don't ring true. Way too much anger and angst with little to motivate that level of passion. Hard to care about. 

Hosts and symbiants, vermin voles, a universe trying to expand into our own. Mostly about intrusion, of the wanted and unwanted (appropriate and inappropriate) variety (Arjin always comes early to appointments, Quark had sex with the boss's sister, a dabo girl in the Sisko family??).

I'd rather have seen more about the voles than this expanding universe stuff, which makes so little sense.

Very average.
Thu, Dec 13, 2018, 3:25pm (UTC -5)
Really didn't enjoy this episode. 3 of the things I least like on DS9 are Trill episodes (there aren't many), Farrell as an actress, and half-assed attempts at sci-fi with heavy technobabble. The Ferengi are another I least like but at least they're not part of the mediocre episode that is "Playing God", which features 3 of my DS9 pet peeves.

Found it hard to care about Arjin the initiate and how he has to stand up for himself etc. There were some good heart-to-heart talks like between Sisko and Jadzia after which she gets a bit more confrontational with Arjin -- thought this was necessary. Also Quark has a useful heart-to-heart talk with Arjin that pulls him out of drinking his future away. But the overall plot of Arjin the initiate was dull.

The proto-universe things was weak -- the flight scene for its disposal in the wormhole had some interesting visuals but was it ever arbitrary -- of course it works out for a happy ending. And so Jadzia and Arjin just dump the proto-universe in the Gamma Quadrant and return to DS9? Is that how to solve the problem? Make it somebody else's? And what BS about Sisko having an hour to "play god". Also couldn't stand the technobabble about the proto-universe's expansion, destruction, containment etc. TNG would have handled this type of subplot/plot better.

There were some loose ends like the Cardassian voles and Jake's interest in a Dabo girl. Just symptomatic of a poorly thought out episode.

There was a bit of backstory on Jadzia and Curzon, a character that sounds quite interesting. The episode did give Arjin enough time to show his character as well -- wasn't that convincingly acted though. Just really hard to care.

2 stars for "Playing God" -- started out seemingly as a light-hearted almost whimsical episode but then came the imminent crisis part. Arjin's flight skills were successful in an arbitrary way and of course he gets a good sendoff from Jadzia. Some useful tidbits about Trills and a few good dialogs but overall a mess of an episode, uninteresting, and ultimately maybe even irresponsible with disposing of the proto-universe and maybe even Jadzia's assessment of Arjin.
Bobbington Mc Bob
Wed, Jun 5, 2019, 2:30pm (UTC -5)
I liked the Henson-eque puppetry of the voles setting off the universe splosion, but the rest of the episode, yeah I agree with others. They definitely filed all the good stories up the front of the season.

I hope they explore some of the background of Curzon at some point. I get the impression he was a massive jerk in many respects, and after the episode with the Trill that stole Dax, I would be interested to know how much of each Trill's personality is really in control and how much is symbiont. Given Curzon was a douche on some level, and the symbiont thief (whose name I forgot) was too, it makes me wonder how much Jadzia is keeping Dax in check.

Are the symbionts just an emotional and factual memory store, or something more? I can remember first seeing them in TNG and just feeling "its a parasite but everyone is making out like its a good thing", and its model was much more insect like and disturbing. In DS9 they made it look less abhorrent, but I still have a lot of questions about the nature of the whole joining process.
Sun, Jan 19, 2020, 9:45pm (UTC -5)
Jadzia took over from's that hunk of plastic animal that took over Jadzia ... is making her perform the way he made Curzon perform. GET DRUNK AND HAVE WILD SEX WITH THE UNIVERSE. That little creature is not worth fooling with. It uses people to have fun.

What Arjin did not know was that Curzon wanted to have sex with our Jadzia and to heck with training her to carry a symbiont etc etc .....that is the reason he kicked her out of the class.

I hate Arjin; firstly he does not have what it takes to handle higher education. In fact, as with that creep In INVASIVE blah blah, he just wants to be able to brag that he has a symbiont. Same with the murdering musician. On the planet Trill one can thrust out ones chest and shout "I got a symbiont and you don't.......!" That is why Trill's want to carry one in their is a status symbol!!!

As for the universe......that could never happen.

I keep messing up, excuse me, just mentally make corrections, please.

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