WARNING: This article contains major spoiler information regarding DS9's "Equilibrium". As such, those not previously aware of the show's content may suffer a certain loss of equilibrium if they proceed further.
Nice. Very nice indeed.
So far, "Equilibrium" is probably my favorite of the season. But, before I get into commentary ... a quick summary.
Dax faces a series of terrifying hallucinations that spark revelations about her past and the very fabric of Trill society.
Now that that's over with...
Okay. After a disappointing season premiere and a fluff piece, we finally start coming to the real meat of the season -- and so far, so good.
I have a few small quibbles, so let me get them out of the way now. First, there's the Defiant. As I worried a few weeks ago, it's being used for no good purpose other than to show off this nifty new model that's been created. Sorry, folks, but if the Defiant is around for defending the station (which makes sense), then you LEAVE it there to defend the station; you don't wander off to the oh-so-dangerous Trill homeworld in your new warship. There were only three people really going to Trill -- Sisko, Bashir and Dax -- so use a runabout. That's what they're there for. (My other main quibble is that again, Odo's new revelations about himself appear to have been swept under the rug -- but that's a comparatively minor point, since we only saw him for about two minutes.)
For the most part, though, "Equilibrium" was one of the better Dax pieces that's come along so far. Part of that may be a bias on my part -- let's face it, if you haven't figured out by now that I'm a sucker for good dream sequences you haven't been reading long. :-) However, what we had here was a good, solid story that not only fleshed out a side of Dax we rarely see, but also one of the deepest examinations of Trill culture we've seen to date (or are likely to see, I suspect).
I also liked the early, lighter character moments. I've been reserving judgement on the emphasis on "We WILL Humanize Sisko!", but here it definitely worked. Let's face it, any scene that can use the line "Beets are a very misunderstood vegetable" and make it work definitely has something going for it. The only part of the dinner scene that I really thought fell flat was the bit with Odo, mostly because "let's make Odo look cute" moments
almost never work with me. The rest of it was nice, though, and the abrupt transition from "tra-la-la, happy family" to "something is definitely wrong here" jarred me very effectively.
The hallucination sequences were quite good as well. They weren't quite on the level of, say, a "[[Frame of Mind[[" or a "Phantasms" [both TNG pieces], but definitely served to get you worried.
[The significance of the mask was never really explained, but my assumption was that the changing masks typified changing hosts. I'm open to alternate suggestions, though -- any thoughts?]
Dax's worries about going back to Trill worked quite well. We've already heard from the "Dax" episode that it's a rare thing to become joined, and we've also seen that Dax's time as a Trill initiate was far from easy (in
"Playing God"). Given that, it makes perfect sense that her memories of the Symbiosis Institute weren't exactly pleasant ones, and that she wouldn't want to go back in any capacity, let alone as a patient. Bashir's story about fearing doctors got a little wearing to listen to, but it got the point across -- and he acknowledged afterwards that it was dull, too, which helps. :-)
Then, there was the cultural side of things. First, I should qualify my above claims about depth; the symbiont/host issue was delved into a lot, but the rest of the culture is still a mystery. What we did see, however, was extremely interesting -- at times a little too mystical for my tastes, but no more strange than many other cultures we've seen over the years. Timor, in particular, was excellent. I liked seeing someone who rarely deals with humanoids and so isn't up on much in the way of social graces at all. (Besides, I've always liked opportunities where one can answer "Can I ask what you're doing?" with a simple "yes" and leave it at that.) His comment about the balance 'twixt host and symbiont being the only one that matters also seemed true to life.
This was, in some ways, one of DS9's better mysteries, also. Not because we were in the dark about Dax's hallucinations -- it seemed relatively likely to me from the start that they were memories of a past host. The ramifications of everything, however, were not quite so obvious; and, in a somewhat rare turn of events for Trek, they were actually examined. If Dax didn't remember a past host, why not? If she had a past host that was violent, what might it mean? There was a lot of baggage attached to this story, and it was wonderfully dealt with.
What's more, we had leads that actually worked for a change. Looking back, it was really only Dax's recall of the music that kept the cover-up from working, and that's not much to go on. Even after that, it was only Sisko's thought to check music academy enrollments that tracked down the real issue, and that's even slimmer. We didn't have a victory here because Dr. Renhol et al were stupid; we had it because Sisko et al were smart. That's the sort of victory that makes for much more interesting viewing.
It also makes some sort of sense that Trill joining might not be so rare as earlier suggested. Even back in TNG's "The Host", a certain flexibility was suggested if the symbiont was able to jump between hosts that were different species. (Granted, "The Host" also suggested a lot of other things that have since gone ignored, but I like to keep up a pretense at continuity as long as possible.) I'd always more or less assumed that the
Symbiosis Committee was picking the very best Trill to be joined, not just trying to avoid rejection -- but the consequences of knowing just how much of the population can be joined had never really occurred to me, and shook everything up a bit. Very nicely done.
That's really about it. "Equilibrium" isn't necessarily a show that will spark a lot of discussion, but in its own quiet way it made a lot of advances. I liked it rather a lot -- if this is a sign of what's to come, I'm satisfied.
So, some smaller comments:
-- A wording quibble. (Hey, I need at least one, right?) Unless the Trill population is an awful lot smaller than that of most planets, Sisko's "thousands more might be capable" isn't a big deal compared to the "1 in
1000" criterion we'd already been given...
-- I would definitely like to have seen who Dax actually knocked out while in her second hallucination. Given that the other phantom turned out to be Bashir, I have a sneaking suspicion that she took out Sisko, but it'd have been nice to see either way.
-- Kudos to the writers for not making anything untoward come of Dax going to Bashir's quarters to talk. I was worried for a moment that we might see a quick jump in the sack or something, and was relieved to see that everything was kept serious.
That's it. So, in closing:
Plot: Pretty tight. A few plausibility strains here and there, especially with the Defiant, but generally quite nice.
Plot Handling: Very nice. I wasn't sure Cliff Bole was really much for dream sequences, but he did an excellent job with them.
OVERALL: Call this a 9. I'm impressed.
Kira molts. :-)
Tim Lynch (Harvard-Westlake School, Science Dept.)
"Beets are a very misunderstood vegetable."