Star Trek: DS9 Season 2 “Cardassians” and “Melora”

melora

The Klingon Restaurant is Everything that is Awesome

I’ve completed my re-watch of “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” Now it’s time to start Deep Space Nine! I am much less familiar with this show, though I’m pretty sure I’ve seen about 80-90% of the episodes. It’s been so long that I’m sure it will all feel brand new. My wife has never seen the show. She and I will go through, review every episode, and give commentary and a grade from A-F. There are SPOILERS for each episode below. Without further adieu, here’s:

“Cardassians”

Synopsis

A Cardassian boy, Rugal, shows up on DS9, apparently with Bajoran “parents.” He lashes out at Garak, the Cardassian tailor on board the station, leading to controversy over his situation. Gul Dukat insists on intervening and says he desires to bring all the Cardassian war orphans back home. When Bashir mentions Dukat’s ideas to Garak, he not-so-subtly hints that there is more than meets the eye with Dukat’s concerns because Dukat himself was involved with and opposed to evacuating Bajor. Dukat and Bashir go to Bajor where they find information that ultimately reveals Dukat intentionally left Rugal behind to poison the well of one of his political adversaries. When Dukat arrives on station to help arbitrate the hearing over custody of Rugal, he is confronted with this information. He storms off, his plan in ruins, and Rugal is sent “home” with his Cardassian father.

Commentary

It is difficult for me to figure out how to feel about this one. It’s also impossible to refrain from a comparison of the Cardassian treatment of the Bajorans to various modern day analogues. I did enjoy this episode. It asked many valuable questions, and what I thought for a while was a gaping plot hole (why the heck did the Cardassians leave any of their children behind to begin with) actually became the impetus for a major plot twist. I have to admit that was really well done.

I also like the character of Garak and his interplay with Bashir, which largely seems to be: Bashir looks kind of like an idiot. There’s a lot going on in this episode, and much of it involves Bashir annoying Sisko with little reason to back up his claims other than that some tailor told him to investigate further. No matter, he does so, and his curious nature is ultimately rewarded in the showdown with Gul Dukat, another great Cardassian character. Basically, the writers of both TNG and DS9 have done a phenomenal job writing the Cardassians so far. They’re much more threatening-feeling than most other enemies. There’s a sense not just of intrigue but also foreboding that accompanies them. I don’t know how to describe it, but they’re good.

I didn’t even get to mention the O’Briens impact on the situation, and O’Brien dealing with his own dislike of the Cardassians to try to convince Rugal that they aren’t all bad after all.

Anyway, the ending of this was tough, too. How will Rugal adapt to Cardassia, among those he has effectively been raised to hate? Will his own perspective help bring change, or will they simply beat into him the evils of Bajor? I doubt we’ll ever know, and the ambivalence of it is tough to swallow.

Grade: B+ “A rather ambivalent look at a number of tough questions that, ultimately, leaves them unanswered.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: B+ “It was a pretty good mix of the race relations between Cardassia and Bajor with some good mystery thrown in.”

“Melora”

Synopsis

Ensign Melora Pazlar is coming to DS9 and because she is Elaysian, she is used to lower gravity than DS9 has. Bashir has been getting everything prepared, and is surprised by her abrasive attitude when they first meet. She insists upon doing everything herself, but slowly begins to trust Bashir. After an accident that Bashir helps her to recover from, she gives him the experience of “flying” around her low-gravity quarters. They exchange a kiss. Bashir comes up with an idea to help her muscles adapt to the gravity of the station, but to complete the treatment, Melora will have to give up her low-gravity fields so her motor cortex doesn’t get messed up. Meanwhile, an old accomplice of Quark’s, Kot, has shown up on station, threatening to kill Quark. He is persuaded away from this course of action by a bribe, but as Quark acquires the money, Kot intervenes, insisting on even more. He takes Melora, Dax, and Quark hostage and steals a runabout. On the runabout, after being shot, Melora manages to turn off the gravity in the ship and disable Kot. She decides to discontinue the treatment because she feels it would change who she really is.

Commentary

The biggest problem in this episode is when Dax is talking to Melora and brings up the story of the Little Mermaid as a kind of analogy for Melora’s own situation. It’s like the thrust of the whole episode up to this point has been “Let’s fix the angry disabled person” (itself a major problem) and then it turns into “but wait, disabled people might be better off how they are!” Now, apart from the many complexities in such questions which are largely ignored by the episode, I found this a stunningly inept way of looking at the question of disabilities in the future. Melora is portrayed as rather savagely defensive instead of as a person who is adapting to difficult circumstances, the people around her basically all seem to be trying to “fix” her, and the one person who doesn’t favor that basically tells a horror story about how everything could go wrong with the choice she made.

All of that said, it is clear the intent of the episode was to try to deal with some of these very difficult questions. It just was inept in its execution. What makes this more surprising is that one of the writers, Evan Carlos Somers, apparently is a paraplegic himself who uses a wheelchair. According to the Deep Space Nine Companion, he had to deal with many of the problems shown on screen-elevators not designed to be accessible, etc. I just wish that the episode had highlighted more of the difficulties without making Melora seem so embittered by them. Yes, she does come out of her shell some, but there is little explanation for why she is so upset to begin with.

Also, can we ask how realistic the whole scenario is anyway? Basically any hard sci-fi I’ve read deals with the question of differing gravities, and I think that Melora would have to be better adapted to higher gravities than she is. Simply based on muscle mass and the fact she is able to fling herself about in low or no gravity suggests some better muscles and use thereof than this episode actually discusses. Oh well.

The sub-plot of the blast from Quark’s past was pretty interesting, and I think it could have carried an episode on its own, but maybe that’s because I’m coming to enjoy Quark more and more.

Finally, I give this episode mad props for the excellence that was the Klingon restaurant. That was basically the best non-story moment of any episode so far. Both scenes in the restaurant were pure gold, especially when the owner came around singing and playing his dainty Klingon incident. Superb.

Grade: C- “A questionably-executed attempt to deal with disabilities in the future.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: B- “The ‘Little Mermaid in Space’ didn’t do a very good job addressing disability. Melora was interesting character, though.”

Links

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

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Star Trek: DS9- For more episode reviews, follow this site and also click this link to read more (scroll down as needed)! Drop me a comment to let me know what you thought!

SDG.

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