Monday, November 28, 2011

An Awkward Essential Episode On A Shaky Premise: "Equilibrium"

The Good: Characters, Acting
The Bad: Plot seems quite contrived
The Basics: "Equilibrium" is an average episode that is essential solely in that it is referenced; an unfortunate scandal episode that overshadows the character elements.

"Equilibrium" is the name of the episode and it's refreshing to have a Dax episode. As it turns out, the Trill, the alien race Dax is a member of, are focused on an average of once per season (see the first season episode "Dax," and "Invasive Procedures" and "Playing God," from the second season). Season three's first stab at exploring the Trill is "Equilibrium."

What we know about the Trill so far is that they are a joined species. They look human, but they have an organism that lives in their abdomen. The symbiont, the worm in the abdomen, lives indefinitely, going from host to host when the human-like host dies. From "Playing God," we learned that in order to get one of the symbionts, there is a rigorous selection process that prevents inappropriate hosts from ending up joined with symbionts.

"Equilibrium" changes some of that. It's essentially a scandal story and it focuses on Dax. Jadzia begins to undergo some radical mood shifts centering around music that she discovers herself able to play but has no memory of. Jadzia exhibits remarkable amounts of stress for such a little inconvenience and soon collapses. Dr. Bashir declares that there is something wrong, but its solution is not obvious to him. This brings Dax, Sisko and Bashir to Trill to solve the problem. The Trill there are sad to announce that Jadzia is dying and they cannot save her. Fortunately, Sisko and Bashir are more diligent and their research uncovers a scandal that can rock the fabric of Trill society.

Well, the problem is, "Equilibrium" is not a bad episode, but it does suffer upon repeated watchings. Perhaps the maximum number of times this episode can be viewed before it becomes completely tired is five. If that seems a lot, then that's fine and you'll probably enjoy this episode more than I have upon repeated viewings. The real catch is in the series. For such an unextraordinary episode, it's revisited quite a bit. That is, there are two episodes who have strong ties back to "Equilibrium" and are probably more essential Star Trek Deep Space Nine episodes than this one. As it is, this ranks in the essential DS9 solely because it sets up several allusions.

What succeeds is the fleshing out of a very vague and bland race. In "Equilibrium," the Trill finally have a culture, they are not as monolithic as they have appeared in the past. We see that there are issues in the society and that it is a dynamic thing. Up until this episode, they have been flat and uncharacterized. The problem is that while we are introduced to this society through a good character, it is such a contrived circumstance that allows the revelation to be made. The episode endures with a feeling of "this is a scandal episode" more than "this is a character-driven episode."

Terry Farrell plays Jadzia wonderfully through the episode, her swings from anger and violence to helplessness have more depth than we've seen from her in most of the series thus far. Her acting covers many of the episodes faults. Recommended solely because it is somewhat essential to understanding the full range of the Dax character. There is almost nothing to recommend this episode to the non-Star Trek, non-Deep Space Nine fan.

[Knowing that VHS is essentially a dead medium, it's worth looking into Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - The Complete Third Season on DVD, which is also a better economical choice than buying the VHS. Read my review of the breakout season by clicking here!

For other works with Nicholas Cascone, be sure to check out my reviews of:
Robert A. Heinlein's "The Puppet Masters"
"Pen Pals"


For other Star Trek episode reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2011, 2007, 2002 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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