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Retro Review: Equilibrium

Posted by Michelle - 07/09/12 at 05:09 pm


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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

Season: 03 Episode: 04 (s03e04)

Original US airdate: 10/17/1994

A secret from the Dax symbiont’s past threatens Jadzia’s life, necessitating her return to Trill.

Plot Summary: Dax becomes distracted at a dinner party trying to play a melody on Jake’s keyboard. Within hours, she becomes short-tempered and moody, then has a hallucination of a masked figure while the same melody plays. When Bashir examines her, he finds that her isoboramine count – the neurotransmitter that allows Jadzia and the Dax symbiont to function as one being – has dropped to dangerous levels. Bashir and Sisko take Dax to Trill, where Renhol, a doctor with the Symbiosis Commission, is able to bring up Dax’s isoboramine levels. Then Dax has another hallucination, this one involving doctors from the same facility in historic uniforms. She goes to meet with the Guardians who care for Trill symbionts in the pools where they breed, attempting to learn whether the problem might not be with Jadzia but with Dax. The Guardian Timor believes Jadzia is reliving repressed memories from one of Dax’s previous hosts. Sisko and Bashir track down the composer of the music that has been haunting Dax, a Trill named Joran, whose photo causes Dax to experience a violent hallucination and go into neural shock. Renhol says that her isoboramine levels have plummeted again, and that if they don’t improve, the symbiont will be removed for its protection, which would kill Jadzia. Sisko and Bashir learn that Joran’s files have been purged but are able to track down his brother, Yolad, who reveals that Joran had become a joined Trill, then killed a doctor at the Symbiosis Commission. Joran died the day Curzon received the Dax symbiont, leading Sisko to guess that Dax was joined with Joran when Joran committed murder. Sisko confronts Renhol, guessing that the Commission is willing to let Jadzia die rather than risk revealing that half the Trill population is capable of being joined – even mentally unstable Trill like Joran. In exchange for their silence, Renhol agrees to let Jadzia access Dax’s repressed memories of Joran, sending her to the pool of symbionts, where Dax is able to integrate Joran’s experiences with those of Jadzia and previous hosts. Upon returning to the station, Dax explores the newly discovered musical talent with which she has been gifted along with Joran’s murderous temper.

Analysis: Though I still feel as if we’re not getting to see enough of Jadzia, the brilliant and hard-working woman who independently achieved many things before she was joined with a symbiont, it’s nice finally to get an episode that puts Dax at the center, even if invariably “Equilibrium” winds up being more about a past host than the present one. Star Trek has always been big on repressed-memory mysteries – it happened to Lwaxana Troi, it will happen to Seven of Nine – but the formula works particularly well for a character who has already lived several lives. It’s pretty easy to guess that Jadzia’s trauma stems something that happened to one of Dax’s previous hosts even before Timor confirms it. And, let’s face it, Dax could do with a bit of a dark side. We’re always hearing that Curzon was a badass who could impress Klingons and terrify initiates, but we’ve seen almost none of that in Jadzia, and it’s time she got to show some range. Terry Farrell demonstrates that she’s up for the challenge in the early scenes when Joran’s temper makes itself known, throwing a chess board at Sisko and threatening Kira with violence if Kira doesn’t take her hand off Jadzia’s arm. Farrell is also convincingly panicked when Jadzia sees hallucinations and sweetly lonely when she goes to Bashir ostensibly for medical advice but really just because she doesn’t want to sleep alone in a room where she may have another hallucination. It says a lot about how much Bashir has grown as a character that he doesn’t even joke about all the times he tried to lure her into bed, and that Dax is more comfortable going to him than to Sisko to confess her fears of the Symbiosis Commission. The other characters are scarcely present, which is too bad; Kira’s only conversation with the struggling Jadzia is adversarial, and Quark, with whom she has an unusually warm relationship, only gets a few seconds to express concern.

On the other hand, the episode opens with a lovely scene reminiscent of Picard’s crew’s poker games, which allows everyone present to let their hair down and shine for a few minutes. Instead of sharing the attitude of Picard (and later Janeway) that the commander must keep a certain distance from the crew, Sisko is the one hosting the get-together, having invited most of the senior station officers over for a dinner cooked according to his father’s recipes. Even Odo is there, despite the fact that changelings don’t eat, and if he looks a bit awkward trying to help stir the batter, he nonetheless seems to belong in a way he never did among his own people. O’Brien isn’t around – maybe he’s helping Keiko and Molly settle in on Bajor – but Bashir is comfortable enough to complain about having to eat beets and Kira is delightfully relaxed in a way we rarely see her, telling a disconcerted Odo that he looks cute trying to help. (Yes, I am going to make note of every scene all series in which it’s obvious that they’re meant for each other despite their radically different physiologies and needs.) The dinner party is a warmer scene than I can remember among the extended Enterprise crew except during “All Good Things” and exemplifies so many things I love about this crew, even Jake’s inclusion not as a wonder boy but a typical eye-rolling teen. Dax arrives late, distracted first by problems with a sensor relay, then the melody she can’t get out of her head, and we know something’s wrong because she’s usually extremely social, having something in common with pretty much everybody thanks to her previous hosts and their varied professions and interests.

Trill itself comes as something of a disappointment; not only don’t we see nearly enough of the world outside the Symbiosis Commission, but what we do see looks like a cross between Bajor and Cardassia, and the Symbiosis Commission could be an unseen lab on the Defiant. The most interesting aspect is the glimpse we get of how the symbionts live between hosts, reproducing and communicating via electrical signals in what look like pools of milky fluid. Yet it’s aggravating to learn that so much of Trill society is built on a conspiracy that Sisko unravels in less than an hour, the fact that highly coveted symbionts are not compatible with only a small segment of the population but with half of the people I’d expect to be wondering how symbiosis evolved in the first place if it’s so rare for a symbiont to find a host. (Particularly since the very first time we saw Trill, we learned that humans could be temporary hosts for a few days in an emergency.) How annoying that the Trill leaders are lying to their population – even the supposedly enlightened, carefully chosen joined Trill – and are willing to let Jadzia die even though presumably Joran’s memories could surface in a later host, making it seem more logical to sacrifice the symbiont to protect the secret than to risk someone less discreet than Sisko and Bashir figuring it all out. And are we to believe that Joran was such a strong personality he overwhelmed Dax’s morality, or that the symbiont, too, was complicit in the murder of Joran’s doctor? Are symbionts ever punished for acts carried out by their hosts? The Joran who meets Jadzia in the pool seems like he just wants to be loved, but it’s impossible to know whether what we’re seeing is Dax’s memories of the host or some dream-projection by Jadzia to help Dax reintegrate traumatic memories. How much more interesting if Jadzia was approached by a scary person whom she had no choice but to embrace as a part of herself, to open herself to the possibility that she’s been repressing a violent side. Curzon’s Klingon friends would love it.

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  • http://twitter.com/robtclements Robert Clements

    Equilibrium is a curious one. Its like the Search in many ways. Its fascinating as a character study but the mechanics of the storyline seem a little clunky-perhaps because the continuous exposition feels more like a Brannon Braga script than the actual author’s (Rene E with the showrunner’s polish, if i remember rightly)….