Retro Review: RejoinedPosted by Michelle - 08/03/13 at 06:03 pm
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Season: 04 Episode: 06 (s04e06)
Original US airdate: 10/30/1995
When Jadzia falls in love with the current host of the symbiont once joined to a previous Dax host’s wife, she is willing to violate a Trill law forbidding such reassociation.
Plot Summary: While Dax is demonstrating magic tricks for Bashir and Quark, she receives a summons to Sisko’s office. The captain informs her that a group of Trill scientists are coming to the station to experiment with wormhole technology and that since one of the scientists is Lenara Kahn, Dax may wish to go on leave for a few days. Bashir later explains to Kira that Kahn was Dax wife when Torias was host to the Dax symbiont and Nilani hosted the Kahn symbiont. Trill society strictly forbids relationships between the current hosts of symbionts whose previous hosts were lovers, so both Sisko and Kahn’s brother Bejal are concerned about the two women working in close proximity; the penalty for violating the taboo is exile, which will mean the death of both symbionts when their current hosts die. Though Dax believes she can keep their relationship professional, she and Kahn develop an immediate rapport, which Bashir can’t help but notice when Dax brings him along as a chaperone of sorts when the three of them dine together. Bejal warns his sister to be careful, but Kahn and Dax both feel that they have unfinished business between the two of them since Torias died suddenly while he was married to Nilani. As they explore the emotions of their symbionts, Jadzia and Lenara confess that they still long to be together and share a kiss before Lenara forces herself to leave Dax’s quarters. When Dax asks Sisko for advice, he reminds her of her obligations as a Trill to protect the symbiont, but an accident aboard the Defiant that nearly kills Kahn makes Dax realize that she would risk anything – even exile and death – to be with her onetime love again. As Kahn recovers, however, she realizes that she isn’t willing to give up both her scientific work on Trill and the future lives she and Dax might have in new hosts. She tells Dax that perhaps one day she’ll return, but Dax knows that they are saying goodbye for another lifetime.
Analysis: When rumors about this episode first started circling back in the 1990s, I remember being terrified that it would have all of Star Trek’s frequent, puerile attitudes toward sexuality with a big dollop of exhibitionism on top – an opportunity to give the coveted young male viewership demographic an image of two hot women kissing in a context that wouldn’t actually challenge the deeply ingrained homophobia and heterosexism of a franchise that presumed binary sexual orientation in nearly every species it presents and never so much as hinted at the idea that there might be gay humans in the 24th century. Instead “Rejoined” was a delightful surprise – tender and romantic without being erotically exploitative, though I’m not going to pretend that Terry Farrell kissing Susanna Thompson isn’t hot, and taking shots at the human prejudices that not even Star Trek at its most progressive had the guts to tackle head-on. I know there are some viewers who still feel it was a cop-out to show same sex love between members of a species we already knew to be inherently bisexual due to the fact that symbionts share bodies with hosts of both sexes – ironically, the episode that showed us that fact, Next Gen‘s “The Host,” in which Beverly Crusher was loved by Odan in three would appear to contradict the Trill taboo on becoming intimate with previous hosts’ lovers, though maybe it doesn’t apply if the lover isn’t a Trill – but considering that “Rejoined” aired just a few years after the first lesbian kiss on network television, it’s still progress, and the parallel between the unfair Trill taboo on reassociation and the unfair human bigotry against same-sex love is quite clear. Kira makes it so with her indignation directed at the Trill authorities: “Unnatural? How can it be unnatural…I don’t understand how two people who’ve fallen in love, and made a life together, can be forced to just walk away from each other because of a taboo.” That line makes up for all of the faces Kira made at Dax in previous seasons for dating someone with a transparent skull.
On first glance, the Trill restriction mostly seems inane, since hosts aren’t forbidden to keep the same best friends or drinking buddies or Klingon sparring partners that they had in previous lives, who could get someone into a rut just as serious as a lover, though producer Michael Piller thought the taboo had mainly to do with preventing a joined Trill aristocracy. As frustrating as I find it that the actors and most of the writers rejected the idea of a direct connection between Trill and human restrictions on sexuality (Ron Moore is an exception – he always accepted the sociopolitical implications of an episode about a same-sex couple), I really appreciate the fact that it’s love, not sex, that’s the main focus of Dax and Kahn’s relationship. True love in this case transcends both gender and sexual orientation. The passionate contact between the two women is far more romantic than sexy, which is very unusual for a television culture where romantic interest is often expressed by two people having an argument or experiencing a very physical incident before jumping into bed together. Given that this is Star Trek, which for most of its existence was too skittish to give any of its major characters a long-term relationship, I figured the kissing scene would either be preposterously chaste, like Kirk not-quite-kissing Uhura to avoid infuriating censors who didn’t want to watch an interracial couple, or filmed like a softcore porn scene showing off two beautiful women for the voyeuristic pleasure of the men watching them. Yet the scene manages to seem realistic and romantic, as do the various hugs and touches that precede it – these are, after all, two characters who know they shouldn’t be kissing, who need to seem like they’re resisting it a bit. Avery Brooks, who directed the episode, offers a wonderful subtle look at the building passion and both Farrell and Thompson give beautiful, nuanced performances – I have long felt that Farrell is the most underappreciated performer on the series, she may not have Rene Auberjonois’ range or Louise Fletcher’s bite but she can convey calm and focus while at the same time spitting out technobabble with great conviction. I love watching her.
I wish there had been more interaction between Dax and Kira or even Dax and Leeta, because Jadzia, like Curzon, seems so oriented toward friendships and connections with men. There’s a refreshing lack of gender expectations between Jadzia and Lenara – they both flirt, they both pursue, they both argue with their friends and family about their relationship, there’s no sense that Lenara looks to Jadzia in any sort of “husband” role even when Jadzia gets a bit overprotective – yet Dax seems to assume that her old friend Sisko will do a better job relating to her dilemma than her female friends, even though Sisko’s more a stickler for rules for their own sake while Kira has a history of disregarding the letter of the law to do what’s morally and socially right. Considering what Dax knows about the Symbiosis Commission’s lies about the compatibility of Trill for joining, I’d think she might want to challenge not only her own expectations but the social norms and the people who define them. It’s awfully convenient for the writers to create a taboo that guarantees there won’t be any controversial same-sex lovemaking to scandalize the TV audience but compared to Next Gen‘s “The Outcast,” which merely flips expectations to make heterosexuality rather than homosexuality taboo and reinforces the idea of gender and sexuality as absolute, “Rejoined” suggests that such prejudices are cultural quirks that a sensible person like Kira or Bashir can pick apart in minutes. Kira seems to take for granted that any reasonable society should accept love – romantic love, erotic love – as both inevitable and wonderful, maybe even between a Cardassian and a Bajoran, maybe even between a solid and a shapeshifter. I can’t think of a more hopeful message than that.
Tags: Retro Review