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WARNING: This article contains large amounts of spoilers for DS9's "Melora", bouncing around all over the place. Brace yourself.

In brief: I'd say "stop it, that's too silly", but often when I say that I'm amused. This was pretty much a waste.

Given the high quality of DS9 (excluding "Invasive Procedures"), I suppose they were due for a clunker -- and boy, was this it in spades.

Just for starters, I didn't buy the premise at all. While this was clearly meant to be a show about dealing with disabilities, the choice they made for an "SF twist" was nonsensical.

If Melora is used to a low-grav environment, then returning to that low-grav environment means that she could walk around normally. If she can fly around, it's not low gravity -- it's zero-gravity, and there's no way she grew up on a planet with no gravity. (First of all, the planet has mass, and second of all there's no way she'd have a humanoid shape if her race evolved somewhere with microgravity.) So, the entire "I need to live in a low-grav environment -- wanna come fly with me?" premise was silly.

Second, having Bashir marvel so much at a zero-g environment isn't inspirational and gee-whiz, it's stupid. The man lives and works in space, and the gravity on whatever ship or station he works on is artificial. It's possible (and easy, as shown in the episode itself) for that gravity to fail -- if Starfleet doesn't have some sort of zero-gravity training ground as standard procedure for all its cadets, then it's incompetent. It may have made for a cute scene, but it flies in the face of every single bit of common sense imaginable.

Okay, enough of the premise. Taking the premise as a given, how did the rest of the show work?

Well, its heart was more or less in the right place, but "clunky" comes to mind as the right adjective. The way in which the two plots (completely unconnected -- usually a bad sign) combined was completely contrived, for
instance, and served to simply finish the job of snapping my suspenders-of-disbelief clean off.

Almost everything here was delivered with the subtlety of a sledgehammer. Want to show Melora's independent? Have her and everyone else around her remark on just how determined she is to be independent, and have her bite off everybody's head. Want to have her warm to Bashir? Have her jump him about twenty-four hours after they've first met, then talk to Dax about making romance work in a scene that doesn't connect to anything else. Want to demonstrate that "curing" a disability is sometimes the wrong choice? Have Bashir use Melora for a guinea pig. And so on, and so on.
From the writing credits, it seems the script for this show went through two full rewrites. It needed at least one more. I think Daphne Ashbrook did the best job she could under the circumstances, but those circumstances were pretty atrocious. With lines like "No one can understand until they sit in the chair" and her whole speech about how absolutely committed she was to leaving her homeworld, "Ensign Exposition" would have been a more apt name. The one scene where she absolutely shone was in the first exchange with the Klingon chef (which I loved), but for most of the rest she was trying to play a character that was little more than a message-of-the-week. Characters like that simply don't work, ninety-nine times out of a hundred. As a Bashir story, "Melora" was mixed. The bits revealed about Bashir's past were a little offputting (or maybe it was just the delivery that seemed a bit off), but certainly seemed to fit the Bashir we already knew. His approach to befriending Melora was unsubtle even for him, which I disliked. His attitude towards the treatments was pretty in character, but his final reaction to Melora rejection of them was not. He wasn't taking things in
stride there, he was being a zombie. As I said, pretty mixed.

As for the Quark plot -- also mixed. I might have enjoyed it more had this show taken place before "Invasive Procedures". As it is, it's obvious that Quark's actions in that show have had precisely zero effect on his status on the station (just as I feared), and that took away a lot of the enjoyment the plot might otherwise have given.

One highlight of the Quark plot, though, had to be the scene when he reports his fears to Odo. Odo's smirk when Quark says Fallit wants to kill him is absolutely priceless. That, combined with the line about how Odo would buy a piece of Quark if he were killed, pretty much made up the highlight of the storyline.

As I've said before, it's a little disheartening when a good point to a show is "well, it didn't make THIS mistake." Unfortunately, such is the case here. There are two mistakes I'm glad the show didn't make:

-- It recognized that an effect of Bashir's treatment would be to exile Melora from home, and

-- Given that, it at least gave Melora an actual choice to make.

Other than that, though, there's not much left to recommend this show. It was so single-minded and silly as to be almost intrusive about it, which is something I haven't seen in DS9 except in a very few cases ("Q-less", for instance). Even "The Passenger" had more panache about it than this one.

So, a few short takes and then I'm gone:

-- Quark's servility was amusing at first ("what better way to molli -- er -- satisfy...), but got old very quickly. Also, while his not-very-veiled offer of prostitutes to Fallit made a lot of sense, I thought the gratuitous "Breasts-R-Us" closeup in the dinner scene was a trifle ... tacky.

-- The necessity for the old-fashioned wheelchair and for not using transporters on Melora was explained adequately, if lacking a certain style.

-- The "side-effect" of making Melora phaser-proof was the biggest deus-ex-machina bit of hogwash I've seen from Trek in a long, long time. It made no sense, and will never be brought up again (I hope). What were they
thinking?

-- I trust everyone else thought of the same "playing doctor" jokes we did...

That pretty much takes care of that. I was, to put it mildly, not impressed.

So, to sum up:

Plot: Bare-bones and made to drive home Every Point Very Very Strongly. "The Outcast", only less subtle.
Plot Handling: Aside from a couple of chair's-eye shots, nothing to speak of at all in the direction.
Characterization: Iffy Bashir, good Odo, everyone else uninspired, and Melora the Plot Device.

OVERALL: A 2.5. Distressingly bad -- avoid unless you're a completist or a big Bashir fan.

NEXT WEEK:

The Grand Nagus returns, and Quark is apparently accosted by a giant mutant Oompa-Loompa.

Tim Lynch (Harvard-Westlake School, Science Dept.)
BITNET: tlynch@citjulie
INTERNET: tly...@juliet.caltech.edu
UUCP: ...!ucbvax!tlynch%juliet.caltech....@hamlet.caltech.edu
"Am I missing a choice here, Fallit?"
-- Quark

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