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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58 comments on this post

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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.
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Jay
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?
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John
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..
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Eric
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.
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Name
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.
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Kotas
Tue, Oct 22, 2013, 4:46pm (UTC -5)
Another "meh" Dax episode.

4/10
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Jack
Sat, Dec 28, 2013, 6:12pm (UTC -5)
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?
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Jay
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.
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Rivus
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.
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Yanks
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.
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Dusty
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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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methane
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.
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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.
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methane
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.
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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.
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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.
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Nellie
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.
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Chrome
Thu, Nov 5, 2015, 5:20pm (UTC -5)
@Nellie

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.
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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.
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Luke
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!

3/10
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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.)
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Luke
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.
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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.
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Welchie!!!!!
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.
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DutchStudent82
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 converted...as such it should not have been possible to beam it over.
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Peter
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.
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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"
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grumpy_otter
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.
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Stevensa128
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.
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Elliott
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
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Iceman
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.
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Springy
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.
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Rahul
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.
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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.
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Cinnamon
Sun, Jan 19, 2020, 9:45pm (UTC -5)
Jadzia took over from Curzon....it'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 chest....it 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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Silly
Fri, Jul 17, 2020, 7:51pm (UTC -5)
It’s absolutely hilarious they use the transporter to teleport an entire universe.
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Lee
Wed, Aug 12, 2020, 6:58am (UTC -5)
This is my first time watching DS9 so I am doing every episode and just got to this one. The biggest issue I had is I thought it was going to turn out that Jadzia had something wrong with her because she was acting so out of place. We have seen her in other situations before but I dunno the way she acts at the start with the gambling then the naked guy at her place and then taking him to eat worms. It all just seemed so over the top. Maybe that's just how Jadzia is and will continue to be now, but that wasn't the impression I had of her up until now. She was one of my favorite characters so far but after this one I actually don't like her at all anymore and find her annoying.

It's too confusing trying to figure out how all the personalities work and which are just memories etc. I don't understand why anyone would want to be joined when all you're really doing is just giving the symbiont your body to basically live it's life in and take over most of your personality. She said it herself that she used to be super shy and timid but obviously now is the opposite. I just can't grasp why anyone would want to be joined. It's not like you are getting to live forever now, only your memories are. It's Dax that lives forever just via your body.
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Trent
Fri, Oct 16, 2020, 10:09am (UTC -5)
Wow, not a single positive review on this one.

I think this is an excellent and underrated episode, and in some ways better than season 1's "Dax", thanks largely to its casual, slice-of-life tone, which is quite relaxing in a meandering sort of way.

And think of how many great scenes there are in this one.

We have the great shot of Dax surrounded by Ferrengi at the "poker" table, gleefully besting them and taking their money. We have Miles' conversation with the Cardassian, who mocks his inability to track down space-rats, prompting Miles to hilariously cut off the transmission.

Indeed, that little scene offers a masterclass in Michael Piller's snarky-writing:

CARDASSIAN [on viewscreen]: Oh, they are a nuisance, aren't they?
O'BRIEN: I was just hoping you'd found a way to deal with them.
CARDASSIAN: Federation technology isn't up to the task, eh?
O'BRIEN: Look, I just thought in the interests of good relations, you might-
CARDASSIAN: You've got the station, you've got the voles. By the way, their mating season begins in about six weeks.
O'BRIEN: Thanks for your help.
CARDASSIAN: The Federation could always withdraw from Bajor and-

(O'Brien cuts the transmission)

Then we have the great scene with the opera-singing Klingon, in what was sadly his last appearance. Then we have Dax's infatuation with Frenchotte, the self-exiled Romulan singer. And we have Quark's funny argument in Ops, where he demands his landlords "exercise pest control" and explains that Kira is fighting "her latent attraction to me". Then we have the great scene in which Dax and Sisko quietly play chess, a nicely subdued moment which recalls the best Picard/Beverly dinner conversations in TNG.

We also have Kira and Miles with their butts in the air as they scramble about hunting space-rats. And we have Arjin, the Trill-initiate, who gives us three or four great little scenes with Dax, her free-wheeling absurdness clashing nicely with his prim and proper personality.

And so there's a nice "day in the life of DS9" vibe to the episode, everything deliberately underplayed. Of course then there's the PROTO-UNIVESE IS THREATENING TO DESTROY US ALL! subplot, which I agree is incredulous and hokey, but even this is played with beautiful restraint.

Consider the way the phenomenon is studied by Dax during one audaciously long sequence, in which Dax simply sits at a computer terminal and issues orders to a computer. Later Sisko deals with what to do with this phenomenon by simply wandering about DS9's promenade, thinking quietly to himself via voiceover. Should he destroy an entire universe, just to preserve another? Other scenes are pleasantly low-key, like Jake's romantic infatuation with a bar-girl, or the casual revelation that Dax, clad only in a towel, has weekly hook-up sex with aliens ("It was fun. Brutal, but fun").

I like how mundane and casual it all is. It's banality written in a way that's not dull on one hand, and a bombastic subplot (ANOTHER UNIVERSE!) written in a way that's supremely mundane on the other.

Lot's of great little lines sprinkled about too ("Don't play with my ears unless you're serious about it", "Jadzia's a night owl", "Did you ever wrestle Galeo-Manada style?", "Are all Trills two-faced or just the ones with the worms?", "Bashir is in here every other day crying in his synthale over her", "The Promenade is littered with hearts broken by Dax", "Rule of Acquisition one twelve. Never have sex with the boss's sister", "Look at me. Tending bar out here in Wormhole Junction while the big boys fly past me at warp speed. You only get one shot at the latinum stairway. If you miss it, you miss it. Welcome to the club,son", "Let's get this over with. Just use a sharp blade so I won't feel it", "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" etc)

Even the technobabble has a certain neat cadence and tempo to it: "Activate a quantometer probe. Verify filter calibration. Set energy flux resolution to point one microdyne. Begin scans."

Then we have the great scene where Dax reveals she was a shy and quiet kid, bullied by Curzon. And Odo gets a great argument with Kira (though I'd given these lines to a Starfleet officer like Bashir):

ODO: You can't just wipe out a civilization. We would be committing mass murder.
KIRA: It's like stepping on ants, Odo.
ODO: I don't step on ants, Major. Just because we don't understand a lifeform doesn't mean we can destroy it.

As others have mentioned above, the episode's A, B and C plots all deal with characters playing God. Sisko and Miles want to wipe out the space-rats, Trill symbionts wipe out an aspect of the host, and the proto-universe threatens to wipe out the alpha quadrant. And of course Dax has the power to "grant life" to Arjin, as she decides whether or not he becomes a host.

But what's neat is how the episode's technobabble echoes Arjin's plight. When Dax speaks of a "proto-universe in its earliest stages of formation", she might as well be describing a young man and young host on the verge of maturity. When she argues with Arjin, and Arjin begins to assert his own personality, she then talks of the proto-universe "growing and displacing our own universe". When she discusses with Arjin his inability to truly know what a Trill becomes after joining, she says of the protouniverse "I have no idea what might happen if we tried to move it" which is a far cry from her earlier descriptions of the phenomenon - "Highly structured" and "bound to its own physical laws" - which of course describes the repressed and overly serious Arjin before he begins to cut loose.

This is technobabble as coming-of-age allegory...

"The energy buildup is already straining the containment chamber!"
"The mass periodically undergoes phased expansions, and grows in spurts!"

...and epitomizes a cleverness which I've always associated with Piller.

William in a comment above says that Dax's behavior throughout this episode doesn't make sense in terms of her role as guide and mentor, but doesn't it? She wants Arjin to understand how a joining immediately derails a life in weird and unexpected ways, like a whole new universe exploding uncontrollably. She makes him eat weird food, meet weird people, do weird things, because weirdness is what happens when a Trill joins. Joining breaks your comfort zone. Conversely, she also repeatedly urges him to assert his own personality, and find and forge his own concrete identity, before such a joining occurs. He must learn who he is before the Joining begins smothering what he once was.

Anyway, I think this episode is way better than is typically thought.
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Peter G.
Fri, Oct 16, 2020, 1:09pm (UTC -5)
Really great review, Trent. This is one of those episodes that epitomizes why DS9 is a superior show: because the quality of an episode doesn't rise or fall on the quality merely of its main plotline. Personally I find the Arjin plotline a bit boring, and the proto-universe plotline way underbaked. And yet as you point out the episode is chalk full of world building, greatly written lines and small moments, character moments, and overall stuff that I really want to see in Trek and DS9.

Seasons 1-2 in particular take the cake when it comes to episodes where the plots are substandard but during the course of the episodic adventure we are given golden snippets that even on multiple rewatches are part of the memorable side of the series. DS9 doesn't make you wait for a Tapesty or Chain of Command for greatness; you get snippets of it all around, so that even in a below average episode there will still be something golden in there, or maybe several somethings. It's a rare episode indeed of DS9 that really leaves us hanging and wishing there was something interesting to see. Contrast with VOY, for example, where some episodes are very nice, but others really feel like a waste of time from start to finish. Even in early TNG there are episodes where you really struggle to care about anything in it, like The Outrageous Okona. Actually this last is a good example of how maybe 1-2 lines in the entire episode perk my ears up (most notable the snark about "they are arming LASERS") and the rest is filler.

I agree with you, Trent, that this episode is laden with gold (pressed latinum) even though on a surface inspection it appears to be sub-par in terms of plotting. That's why I like rewatching this series so much.
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Elliott
Fri, Oct 16, 2020, 2:26pm (UTC -5)
@Trent

Hey now--this episode was holding at a solid 3.5 stars for me until the final act. I think the ending is a complete failure, but it's a very good episode for 85-90% of the run.
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Vic
Wed, Nov 4, 2020, 3:48pm (UTC -5)
Lee's comment about Dax's seemingly sudden shift in her personality--from stolid science officer to fun-loving gambler--helped me recognize just when Farrell's acting allowed her character to take on a new and more interesting dimension. Since Farrell spends the rest of her time on the series in that more care-free character mode, it's the version of Dax I appreciate the most.

Arjin's kind of an entitled prick, but then that's a credit to the actor and the writing contrasting these two Trill characters.

The little universe stuff is fine but secondary to the more interesting character studies.
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Picard Maneuver
Fri, Dec 4, 2020, 3:28am (UTC -5)
It would have been a real shame if Jadzia had to eject Arjin in the Gamma Quadrant in order to reduce mass to make it home safely with the damaged runabout. That'd free up time for Kira to continue making the most sense of anyone on the station.

I think this is the point where the writers realized they made a critical error with Dax's character. It wasn't a good idea to create a wallflower who lives in the legacy of a larger than life personality that we never get to see. This sort of idea worked in the TOS movies because in a manner of speaking we knew Spock for decades and, very importantly, Nimoy knew Spock even better. So it was interesting when Spock was reincarnated as a colder version. But I think all we see from Curzon is the one scene with the old man on the operating table.

I get the impression that they were close to finalizing the characters when someone piped up with, "Wait! We don't have Spock! We don't have Data! Who's going to be the cold logical one?" And then they tried unsuccessfully retrofitting Dax into the role, thereby reducing her to a bland, barely there presence who can only make connections based on her physical appearance and nostalgic appeals to another lifetime. I actually like that she gets annoyed when everyone expects her to be Curzon but the unfortunate thing is that even in death he's more interesting than what Jadzia has to offer. This episode reeks of overcompensation, all the way into Auntie Mame territory.

What's funny is the Trill who stole the symbiant made for a better Dax and had way better old friendship chemistry with Sisko than I think Jadzia ever did. When that episode aired I kinda wished they kept him because we'd get to see the character with a bunch of negative character traits that's still ultimately likable. Jadzia seems like she's there because she graduated from an old money name brand school and her grandmother is a Space Senator or something.

I never understood precision flying in Trek. It's always one character slowly relaying information and another equally slowly tapping half a dozen commands on the worst UI ever to make the ship do anything. I would think the future would yield something like a VR suit, maybe with a direct synapse link, along with a dynamic, contextual HUD. As is, it's like tabulation machines existed for hundreds of years before space flight and were adapted for the purpose.
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Paul M.
Sun, Dec 20, 2020, 2:12pm (UTC -5)
Discovering who you really are... or something... is the name of the game in this episode... I guess. Writers should have included Jake's subplot from the last episode here. There he finally admitted to the old man that he doesn't want to join Starfleet with Sisko giving Jake some sage advice about finding out what he wants to do and doing it the best he possibly can. It'd be perfect alongside Dax/Arjin storyline and might even elevate the episode to something resembling watchable. On the other had, we did have a very nice scene where Jake tells Ben he's in love with a girl... sorry, a *woman*, so that's something. These two always work well together.

The main story, though, ugh, among the dullest the entire season with dubious character work and flat performances, which I sadly have come to expect from Farrell, not that Arjin actor is much better.

I found the way that writers suddenly retooled Dax's character very jarring. I was no fan of hers last season, but one would hope the process would be more gradual. Now, all of a sudden, after more than 30 episodes have passed, we find out that Dax collects the work of lost composers, sings Klingon songs with lively Klingon chefs, wrestles with the best of them (hmmm, that *wrestling* thing always seemed a tad... ribald), and hangs out with a bunch of Ferengis. This last one was actually the only thing that was previously established. Jadzia's character always needed more oomph, so I guess it's better late than never to shake her up a bit, but jeez they really went for the sledgehammer, didn't they?

As for Arjin, he was a blank slate when we first met him and he remained a blank slate when we last met him. What exactly was it that convinced Jadzia he'd make a good candidate for the joining? He's clueless, boring, insecure, bland and doesn't know a first thing about pretty much anything except flying. I get that the episode tried to parallel this with Jadzia's own joining and make some kind of point about growing as a person and finding your own voice and way through life, but it was all so muddled that I am still not sure what they were going for. What did Arjin learn? What did flying a protouniverse through the wormhole while avoiding verteron nodes like a pro teach about what it means to be a joined Trill? What did Jadzia learn from her turn as a mentor? The episode ends with her smiling and saying to herself "I am not Curzon", but how and why did she arrive at that conclusion as a consequence of her experience with Arjin? Because she wasn't a total ass with him (as presumably Curzon was to her)?

Protouniverse stuff pretty much went nowhere. I was intrigued for a moment when Dax detected life within it, but that wasn't pursued at all, and wasn't something writers were interested in. Just another ticking clock scenario to hurry up the proceedings.

So, what was good here? DS9 being DS9, there are always fun vignettes sprinkled around. Quark's lifecoaching advice to Arjin was hilarious and true to what we've come to expect from him. For all my bitching about suddenness of Jadzia's transformation, I do think it's needed in the long run and am curious to see how it pans out. O'Brien's vole problem -- resulting in another instance of Quark screaming or groveling -- is a silly little subplot that I enjoyed nevertheless. And, as mentioned, Sisko and Jake have great onscreen chemistry and are usually well served by the script.

Final rating: it teeters on the brink. I just can't make up my mind for now. It's either:
High two stars * * / 5 out of 10 ; or
Low two-and-a-half stars * * 1/2 / 5.5 out of 10
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Peter G.
Sun, Dec 20, 2020, 3:08pm (UTC -5)
@ Paul M,

Alright, I'll go to bat for this one. I'm not going to argue that it's a super-fun epsiode, but I do think there's more meat than it might initially appear.

I think your point about these character traits of Jadzia are relevant: why are we suddenly learning that she's not just this serene old soul? Where did the jocund turn come from? I think part of why we needed to finally see this here, and perhaps even why we *are* seeing it here, is because of the whole Curzon/Jadzia thing that's brought up in the mentoring plot. Curzon is close to the surface because Jadzia knows she's about to initiate someone for her first time as Jadzia. All of her experience doing that is as Curzon, including methods, attitude, and even guilt. That his persona should come to the surface now makes sense: his life experience is going to be necessary when Arjin arrives (which surely Jadzia has been mentally preparing for). So yes, it comes all of a sudden to the viewer, but the timing is likely no accident: we are seeing Curzon sweeping his way to the surface for the first time since Jadzia was joined. At least, that's one way of thinking about it :)

Now on a sci-fi level the proto-universe plot is a non-starter, I think what the writer was maybe subconsciously leading us to see is that Arjin - or any young initiate - is like that proto-universe: full of potential, starting off small, a whole world of experiences you know nothing about really, and of course it's in the middle of your station and living a life of its own. The proto-universe seems cute and interesting when it's small, and becomes a problem when it grows; but that growth is inevitable (at least by the show's chosen set of physics) and it was only a matter of time before it stopped being 'safe', which is the way we're supposed to see Arjin. He's been trained to be compliant, polite, and basically everything else a young student is told he's supposed to be but which doesn't actually translate to success in the real world. I think what we're supposed to see in the later scenes is that his attitude is much more confident and even arrogant than we initially thought, and what appeared to be a green candidate was actually someone who'd been reigned in (probably too much) and whose personality was being squashed under the schooling system. What he actually needed was to be willful and strongly himself, so that he could hold his own in the joining. In other words, butting heads with Jadzia is the right kind of evidence that he could do well as a joined Trill. And I don't think the acting or direction showed this off enough, but I suspect we're supposed to see him unleash a bit more in the later parts of the episode, to show that he'd been holding something back earlier on; something that he'd have thought was going to be a strike against him, but which in reality was what he needed the most. So naturally when the proto-universe and Arjin grow beyond their little containment fields they threaten to destabilize everything, and finally need to be released 'into the wild' to have room to do what they need to do.

From that standpoint the A and B stories complement each other perfectly on a meta-level. Unfortunately the proto-universe story doesn't work by itself on a literal level, and the synergy between them never congeals so that they become greater than the sum of their parts. The effect on a casual watching will be two disjointed stories, both of which are undercooked. The recipe never quite got written down correctly to make this episode work how it should have. The more I think about it the more this should have been a really good one. It's a *very* good concept and story to tell.

About the "I'm not Curzon" line, it's really fishy. She's never been more Curzon than now, so what gives? I guess the answer is something like she can admit to enjoying parts of him and embodying his traits *as part of her*, without being him outright. So maybe she is tough on people like he was; and maybe she likes tongo; and maybe she can't ever disentangle her personal feelings, like he couldn't. She can have all of those traits and still not *be* Curzon, since she has other traits too, I guess. So maybe her last line means she can accept those parts of her now, whereas because of guilt for the first 1 1/2 seasons she was purposefully suppressing them. That's definitely a super meta explanation for the character not finding her footing right away. Talk about creating an in-universe explanation for the actress being inexperienced!
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Paul M.
Sun, Dec 20, 2020, 3:53pm (UTC -5)
You defend the episode's merits admirably, Peter! I particularly find your Watsonian explanation of why Jadzia seemingly suddenly behaves the way she does very enlightening. I have no clue whether that was writer's intention, but it does hold up to scrutiny.

I do still think that Arjin's "growth" is too muddled to make much sense of. To me, his confrontation with Jadzia in the science lab doesn't come across as Arjin standing up to her or being forceful, he seems petulant and childish and unable to respond to criticism in a remotely mature way. Afterward, he goes straight to the bottle to drown his sorrows... which only further paints him as a totally clueless guy. Maybe it's not fair to mention this, because Trek never really had a good relationship with numbers, but for me Arjin's fate was sealed when they mentioned that only 300 candidates are chosen for joining each year. Think about it. 300 people out of however many millions or billions of Trills. And this guy we should consider as a prospective candidate? If he gets joined, I shudder to think what other Trills are like.
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Peter G.
Sun, Dec 20, 2020, 4:33pm (UTC -5)
@ Paul M,

"To me, his confrontation with Jadzia in the science lab doesn't come across as Arjin standing up to her or being forceful, he seems petulant and childish and unable to respond to criticism in a remotely mature way. Afterward, he goes straight to the bottle to drown his sorrows... which only further paints him as a totally clueless guy."

Hm, yeah. The episode prevaricates between him knowing he's quality but is being held back, versus in other ways showing that he really is green in life and doesn't know how to handle stuff. One play/character comes to mind, although it's a woefully bad comparison: in Tennessee Williams' play Summer and Smoke, there's a character described by the author (John) as being full of energy and spirit, and a need for it to be used, but not knowing how to do that, and that if he doesn't end up going in a strong direction with himself will self-destruct and all that energy will implode and destroy him. Now Arjin is scarcely compelling enough to compare him to this, but I can at least imagine a character so driven and energetic that if his direction is suppressed or shut down, he's not going to stop, he's just going to start doing destructive things instead. I don't think I would personally count it as a character flaw myself to see him go right to the bar after a disappointment; at least not in context of the joining, because hey, it's exactly what Curzon probably would have done in his place.
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zanki
Thu, Jan 7, 2021, 10:16am (UTC -5)
I wanted this episode to truly be between Dax and the initiate, unfortunately the B story (which I think should of been an A story in another episode) , sorta took over . The problem with B stories in trek is that half the time they are side notes with little to no details. So the end product is an ill constructed episode with both stories fighting for screen time and importance only to be mutually diminished, everything felt rushed and poorly ensembled .
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Mal
Mon, May 24, 2021, 5:37am (UTC -5)
To echo what @Crobert said over in the thread for "Invasive Procedures," Terry Farrell is really not up to the basic standards of a main-cast Trek actor. She's not Travis Mayweather bad, but she's bad.
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nyghtly
Mon, Jul 5, 2021, 10:34pm (UTC -5)
I found the ending of this episode to be moronic. Here you have a proto-universe that is expanding at a rate which will destroy the present universe as we know it. And so they just toss it on the other side of the warp hole and count to ten. To bad for whoever lives on the other side, I guess.
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Silly
Sat, Jul 31, 2021, 9:13pm (UTC -5)
Haha, maybe the Dominion was pissed they got the proto-universe dropped in their Quadrant, and that's why they went basic against the Alphans.

I hadn't caught the allegorical nature of the technobabble and I might rewatch to check that out.

While I agree DS9 sprinkled good stuff all over the place, the first couple seasons were still far too leisurely for a day in the life type episode. Really need to get some plot rolling first. Might be great to rewatch now though.


Jadzia was indeed retooled rather dramatically. It's been quite a while, but I saw something discussing the behind the scenes. The concept initially was for her to be a somber Sage that could easily be one of those serious Talosians with the enormous heads. But they retooled it because the series needed more oomph, and the reasoning was she could just as easily be a Hell raiser. After all, Dax'll be back again and again and again....
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Silly
Mon, Aug 2, 2021, 8:35pm (UTC -5)
I tried to rewatch this, but I just can't get into it. Yes, the script built an interwoven theme well. But now I remember, this early Dax stuff just never worked for me.

I don't know if it's the actress's ability or weakness in the scripts, but whenever Jadzia would have serious stuff related to Dax, she always switched into sort of a Proud Honorable Serious mode. That one with the Klingons and the albino is a whole episode of it, and it makes it quite a chore to watch, for me anyway.

When I see Terry Farrell acting, it doesn't seem fake or bad, but I wonder if she just didn't have the breadth of skill to bring that part of the character alive. Because, for Cobra Kai watchers, this mode distinctly reminds me of the Robbie character when he gets into super serious mode. Basically, tersely say a word or line and stare.

But partly I couldn't care less for Dax's history. Sisko calling her "old man" and a line here or there were plenty for me. The Blood Oath was a decent story at least, though flawed, but that's for that page.

I just find this episode unpleasant. The guest actor seemed to play his part well, but it was a whiny character that I didn't really want to watch. Also, I had forgotten, but this script pushed Jadzia way way way into the hell raising, gambling, sleeping with anybody. Far more than before, so it wasn't just retooling the character, this particular script took it all to 11 just to shock the upright initiate. I'm hardly a prude, but I wouldn't want anything to do with this Jadzia.

Some bits here were good, like Quark thinking the initiate is in love with Jadzia then realizing and dismissively saying "oh, this is about the worm?"
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Anonymous
Sun, Nov 14, 2021, 3:53pm (UTC -5)
Wasted potential, the life forms were never explored.
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Trish
Tue, Apr 19, 2022, 11:07pm (UTC -5)
I don't get the whole idea of initiate = intern (at whatever workplace the current host happens to have their career). Though a highly trained pilot, he's clearly a civilian. Does Starfleet have any right to send him on a dangerous mission to drop an expanding proto-universe off in the wormhole, let alone any desire to entrust a task with life-and-death implications for light-years around and, well, for an entire other universe to a non-officer who is only there in order to try out for becoming a joined Trill?

And given that he is off doing the work of a Starfleet officer that might get him killed in short order, doesn't his conversation with Dax about his possible future as a joined Trill seem to be putting a cart before the horse? They're pretty casual about the danger they are about to face as they concentrate on matters that will become moot if they both end up dead during the upcoming mission. It's almost as if they had already read the script and knew they would be perfectly fine.

I think the premise of Jadzia taking on the role with an initiate that Curzon played for her, and for which she has never forgiven him, has a lot of potential, but I kept feeling like we were just skimming the surface of the insights she should have been reaching.

I also found the failure to resolve the vole situation unsatisfying. There was an opportunity to link the B and C stories if they had come with some sonic attractant that drew all the voles to the same room as the proto-universe just in time to blow it up.
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Marc
Mon, Apr 25, 2022, 9:20pm (UTC -5)
Jadzia’s treatment of this boy is abusive, this is the most important thing in his life, he should’ve been subject to conditions that he was able to study and prepare for, instead the rest of whether he should be joined was how well he fit in with Jadzia’s idiosyncrasies. Being a trill has nothing to do with being loose and laid back, or being an admirer of the Ferengi..
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Peter G.
Mon, Apr 25, 2022, 9:54pm (UTC -5)
@ Marc,

"Being a trill has nothing to do with being loose and laid back, or being an admirer of the Ferengi.."

You know, I'm not sure that's true. It appears that being joined could involve your personality getting submerged into some mix of memories unless you have a strong sense of self to begin with. And likewise, you need to be open to merging with the other hosts contained in the symbiont, so you can't be closed off to new ways of seeing yourself. It follows from this that someone very intolerant of being molded into something new may not be able to handle allowing the other memories to become a part of one's own identity. How well this concept tracks onto the episode is debatable, but I do think Jadzia is doing more than just tormenting Arjin when she insists that he try radically new things he never enjoyed before. Once he's joined he may well find himself merging with hosts who loved tongo, or who knows what else, and he'd have to explore how much of that is still valid in his new merged self. This requires a large measure of openness to being someone else, which for Arjin it does seem this is lacking.

Being laid back per se might not be required for the joining, but he'd better at least be *prepared* to be laid back if that's the sort of person he needs to be to be at peace with his symbiont. As far as we know Arjin doesn't even know what symbiont he might be up for if he does get selected for joining. In order to be able to be a fit for whatever host-less symbiont comes down the assembly line, he'd do well to become as flexible as possible while also retaining a strong sense of his own values and self. That sounds tough to me, which is possibly why Curzon felt like he needed to demand a lot of candidates to be worthy. It's not just a 'would be cool' sort of lifestyle, like winning the lottery.

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