WARNING: This article contains spoiler information for DS9's "Rejoined". Anyone wishing to associate with spoilers from a past episode is looking in the wrong place.
In brief: Definitely not what I expected ... and pretty good, too.
Brief summary: The wife of a past host of Dax comes on board the station, and the two of them must reconcile their new-found attraction with the Trill taboos against reawakening their past relationship.
As I said above, "Rejoined" is definitely not what I expected. Given the hype the episode was given in some of the popular press, and the truly terrible preview from the previous week, I expected the episode to be another botched "issue" story similar to TNG's "The Outcast". "The Outcast" was well-intentioned, but horribly done -- and I was fearing a similar situation here.
I was pleasantly surprised to find exactly the opposite. This wasn't an "issue" show in the sense that a same-sex relationship was looked upon with consternation and dealt with in that context -- in fact, the only place that Dax's lover being a woman was played up was in the previews, the press, and various Paramount-generated hype. The episode itself was a simple love story that could have been done very easily with a male "Lenara" as with a female one. Perhaps the choice to make her female was a ratings-minded decision; I don't know. But from a story standpoint, it just happened -- which strikes me as exactly the right tone to take. So on that level, "Rejoined" worked far more effectively than I'd have guessed a week ago.
Instead of a lesbianism taboo, we got a taboo that is far more uniquely Trill, namely that of "reassociation". That's actually a taboo that makes some sense given the culture; if, as was said, the goal of a joined Trill really is to gather as much experience for the symbiont as possible, then reassociation, essentially "living in the past", becomes something retarding the growth of the symbiont and thus something to be discouraged. I think the penalties sound just a wee bit severe, but the taboo itself makes some sense given the tenets of the society -- which is a major strength.
After that premise, the rest of the episode is unsurprising -- so what it comes down to is whether the execution manages to come off well. On the whole, I'd have to say it did. While Terry Farrell will never have the emotional range of, say, Patrick Stewart, her emotions felt very real here, and she actually had me caring about Dax's reactions. Similarly, Susanna Thompson did an excellent job as Lenara; I can't put my finger on anything in particular, but Lenara and Dax actually fel* like two old lovers trying desperately not to let things get out of
control. That's not always easy to do, and I imagine it's particularly difficult if you're playing opposite a gender you're not attracted to (as Farrell's quite openly stated was the case for her). They managed it, right up to and including the infamous kiss -- which was not played up for effect any more than any other Big Romantic Kiss [tm], in my opinion, which may have made it work even more strongly. In any event, both actresses did the story justice.
The rest of the cast was somewhat less essential to the story, I think, with the exception of Avery Brooks. Sisko was Dax's oldest and closest friend on the station, and the only one who had even the slightest inkling of exactly what she was going to. Brooks had to cram a lot of emotion into a not particularly lengthy part this week, and he also did a great job. Two moments in particular stand out for him:
-- the wordless adjustment of Dax's combadge right after she's finished insisting she's fine
-- and more importantly, the big "confrontation" of sorts between Sisko and Dax. He hit the right balance between speechmaking and plain old frustration; his "You came here for advice from a friend, and that's EXACTLY what you're getting!" set me back on my heels nearly as much as it did Dax.
Those are the real standouts, but I'm not sure Brooks had even one "off" moment in the show. Nice work.
Other major cast members were somewhat less important, but most still came off strongly. Alexander Siddig mostly got to be pleasant and diplomatic this week as Bashir, for instance, but there was certainly nothing to object to. Worf struck me as slightly misused; given his somewhat rigidly defined position (as we saw laid out a couple of weeks ago in "Hippocratic Oath"), using him on the research mission seems more like a move to give Dorn screen time than anything else. Everything else about Worf worked, however, and I liked his deadpan response to the question of Klingon dreams. Like Kira, I couldn't tell if he was joking, either. :-) (Speaking of Kira, I'm not sure she came off particularly well in the banquet sequence. She seemed more "random giggly female" than much else, between her dialogue and the outfit she was in; a minor issue, but one
I'm still hoping not to see much of.) On the whole, though, everyone was reasonable -- even Quark turned out listenable for a change.
The other guest stars came off somewhat less well. Fortunately, neither had all that much to do beyond be the voice of Trill mores, so it's not all that crucial an issue, but I didn't see the emotion in the conversation between Lenara and her brother that I should have -- certainly nothing comparing to the emotion running in Lenara/Dax or Dax/Sisko. The chemistry just wasn't there.
From a plot standpoint, there's not much to talk about. The "artificial wormhole" issue struck me as really not much more than window-dressing, but reasonable window-dressing. Its main purpose was twofold: to get Lenara onto DS9 in the first place, and to get a jeopardy situation in where Dax's commitment would be clear. It did both fairly well, particularly the latter; the plasma fire was a serious threat, and the rescue sequence was extremely well carried off, both from an effects standpoint and from an originality standpoint. (I don't think I've ever seen Trek use force-fields like that before, but it makes sense that they could.) There were a number of random questions that came up, mostly ones of personnel (why is Worf in charge? why is Eddington, who's in security, running the engineering side of the test?), but those were issues not really connected to the core story. The core story was about Jadzia and Lenara (with good focuses on both, not just a one-sided story), and that story worked.
As for the ending ... well, I'd be lying if I said it wasn't a little disappointing, but I'd also be lying if I said I hadn't expected something like it. The story itself was bold enough (ironically, presenting a same-sex romance without making an issue of it comes off as a far more gutsy move than giving it lots of associated shock and angst) that I didn't think we'd actually see Dax and Lenara throw Trill taboos out the window. About the most I reasonably expected was that one of them might be willing to do so -- and that's just what I got. It's worth noting, though, that it was Dax who was willing to; whether that makes her the more principled or less principled one is an interesting debate, but I think it's an interesting choice all the same.
That would seem to cover it. "Rejoined", far from being the ratings-grabbing "look, we're doing a lesbian story!" episode I expected from all the advance press, was a story with a solid emotional core to it, and that kept to it regardless of consequences. With "Rejoined", DS9 is now 5 for 5 this season; while not every episode so far has been a standout, there hasn't been a clunker yet. That's a far cry from last season, and a nice thing to see.
So, wrapping up:
Writing: A few plot contrivances here and there, but true to its characters and to the main points.
Directing: Some nice transitions (the combadge being one of them), and forceful without being exploitative (as it could well have been).
Acting: Some of the guests were iffy, but solid on the whole.
OVERALL: I think this is a 9, actually. The more I think about it, the more impressed I am. Good work!
Quark on Earth, about 400 years too early. This should be ...interesting, he said with just a touch of fright...
Tim Lynch (Harvard-Westlake School, Science Dept.)
"I didn't come here to listen to a lecture about my responsibilities!"
"You came here for advice from a friend, and that's exactly what you're getting!"
-- Dax and Sisko