A Trill rejected as a candidate for joining takes the crew hostage and has the Dax symbiont implanted in himself, leaving Jadzia to die.
Plot Summary: While a skeleton crew mans the station after a plasma storm causes a near-total evacuation, Quark accepts a bribe to leave an airlock unsecured. A cargo ship sends a distress call and is given permission to dock, but when the crew disembarks, a pair of Klingons force Odo into stasis and take O’Brien hostage. A Trill named Varad follows them with a woman named Mareel, who helps take the remaining crew prisoner. Verad tells Sisko that he has come for Dax – the symbiont, not Jadzia, whom he intends to leave to die, since he is resentful that he was rejected as a candidate for joining. Because both O’Brien and Kira have been injured already, Dax asks Bashir to perform the surgery so that nobody else gets hurt. While Bashir has the Klingon Yeto act as a surgical nurse, putting the Dax symbiont into Verad, Sisko tries to learn about Mareel’s motives for helping Verad, warning her that he may no longer love her when he has the memories and experiences of Dax integrated into his personality. Indeed, Verad is distant from Mareel when he recovers from the surgery, trying to rekindle Curzon and Jadzia’s friendship with Sisko and changing his plans to rendezvous with Mareel after escaping to the Gamma Quadrant. While Bashir fights to keep Jadzia alive, Sisko tries to persuade the Dax he knew to return the symbiont to save her life. Verad says that another surgery so soon may kill Dax, but it’s a risk that Sisko is willing to take. When Quark lets himself be injured by the Klingon T’Kar so that he will be taken to sickbay, where he helps Bashir free Odo from stasis, Verad takes Kira hostage and prepares to leave the station. But Odo reaches Verad’s ship first, releasing the docking clamps. Kira fights off T’Kar to escape and Sisko arrives, pulling a phaser on Verad, shooting the Trill rather than letting him escape with the symbiont. Verad and Jadzia both wake up in sickbay, where Verad laments to Mareel the loss off the symbiont and Jadzia starts to come to terms with having Verad’s memories now a permanent part of Dax – and thus herself.
Analysis: There are a number of things I like about “Invasive Procedures” – Lionel Luthor as a Trill gone bad, Tim Russ as a thug Klingon, Dax getting a storyline that explains more about the Trill – but the things that either bug me or just don’t make sense outweigh the positives in the end. It’s implausible from the start – the station is under such threat that all Starfleet and Bajoran personnel are evacuated, yet the entire command staff remains? Wouldn’t it have made far more sense to send Sisko to safety and leave Kira, as the senior Bajoran officer, and Dax, who’s capable both of making command decisions and assessing the engineering problems created by the storm, plus Odo in case of just such a security risk as the one that arises? And then we’re supposed to believe that Quark would leave the station defenseless just to make a bit of money off some Klingons. We all know that Quark will smuggle illegal substances and trade information, but compromising security to make a bit of latinum – something he shouldn’t even know how to do, if security were competent – should get him kicked off the station no matter how he tries to make amends, and Kira should keep her promise to make him pay. From the very beginning, both Starfleet and Odo look pretty stupid, and as much as I enjoy seeing lots of strong women in one place, I take no pleasure in watching Kira get her butt kicked so Mareel can preen and flaunt it, only to reveal that she’s only there because Verad saved her life and she’ll do anything, even murder the entire crew to cover his escape, all in the name of love.
It’s a shame that in an episode that’s ostensibly about Dax, we see so little of Jadzia. We get a bit of background on her family – neither of her parents nor her sister is joined, and she doesn’t believe any of them resent it – and we see that she’s willing to die rather than put her friends in danger. She also seems determined to protect the symbiont, which she accepts will be safer after surgery to put it in Verad than if she struggles and risks injury as a joined Trill, though that makes me wonder whether the things she says to him about the dangers to symbiont and host from an improper joining are true (something I will wonder about again in a few years when an unprepared Ezri takes on Dax). Verad says he did a lot of research and decided that the Dax symbiont would be a good match for him, but it seems obvious that practical concerns came first: he planned all along to escape to the Gamma Quadrant, and he timed his attack to coincide with as little resistance as possible. It seems incredibly stupid to me that he didn’t bring his own doctor along to perform the surgery, since if Starfleet had any brains it would have evacuated Bashir along with the civilians, but perhaps he was counting on Jadzia choosing to give up the symbiont willingly rather than risking damage to it or to her friends. It’s Jadzia’s only really great moment of the story; afterward, we see her tearful, alone and scared following the surgery, then sad and uncertain after waking with Verad’s memories integrated into her own. Even Sisko’s reminiscences with Verad Dax focus mostly on his friendship with Curzon, since Verad doesn’t want to think about the woman he’s left to die in sickbay. Yeto believes that death is all she deserves since she didn’t even fight, and no one takes the time to contradict him by citing any sort of Trill values about friendship or protecting the symbiont at all costs.
Once Sisko realizes that he won’t be able to persuade Verad to change his plans despite all those giggles about Sisko’s bachelor party, he turns his attention to Mareel and the passion that is her weakness, working not on building up her self-esteem or convincing her she doesn’t have to be a killer, but on putting doubts in her mind about her relationship with Verad. We know far too little about the home from which Verad purportedly saved her to know whether it would have been worthwhile probing her past, but I’m disappointed that Sisko doesn’t even try to appeal to her except as a jilted lover; Picard would certainly have made more of an effort to get to know her, to talk about the damage to Starfleet and Bajor from Verad’s attack, to try to put Verad’s selfishness into a bigger context. It’s too bad, too, that no one makes an overture directly to the Klingons. They’re mercenaries, so presumably they could be bought by anyone with access to enough latinum, and it must have crossed their minds that if Mareel plans to kill Sisko and the others to cover Verad’s escape, she’s not likely to let the hired thugs live with all they know, either. Instead the Klingons are stuck being stupid heavies who can easily be outwitted by a Ferengi and get their butts kicked by Bashir with a hypospray. Odo’s still off his game when he’s free and fighting Verad – as my son asked, why doesn’t he turn into a boulder and hit Verad in the head? – but I love Kira’s confident declaration to the Klingon that if Odo is free, there’s no way the criminals are getting off the station. But they’re all supporting characters to Dax, and it’s the main storyline’s flaws that really drag down “Invasive Procedures.” If only Dax had been fighting while inside Verad. A schizoid Trill with the symbiont fighting the host would have made for a more interesting drama and more complex reactions from everyone, not least from Jadzia.