Thursday, November 17, 2011

Spoon Feeding The Trill With "Playing God"

The Good: Acting, Humor, Character development, Continuity
The Bad: Repetitive, Somewhat uninspired
The Basics: Despite keeping good continuity from the last few episodes, "Playing God" falls flat by not accomplishing well either of its two main premises.

"Playing God" gets its title from developments in this episode that occur about halfway through the episode. In fact, I often lose track of the title because it seems somewhat forced in that the bulk of the plot has nothing to do with the plot arc from which the title gets its name. Okay, that sounds confusing, allow me to restart:

The episode is entitled "Playing God" and it's a Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode that, for the most part, stays within the A-plot, B-plot format. It is from the B-Plot the title comes.

"Playing God" opens with Dax being visited by Arjin, a Trill (like Dax) who is being considered for being Joined. One might recall from the show (or earlier reviews of mine on Star Trek Deep Space Nine) that the Trill are what is considered a "joined species," a humanoid lifeform with a symbiotic worm in the abdomen and when the human dies, the worm goes on to another host. Arjin must have a mentor and he's dismayed that it's Jadzia Dax, as rumors of her former host's failing other Initiates run wild like an urban legend throughout Trill.

Okay, so, from the beginning we see this is a Trill episode. It continues to feel that way. Arjin is nervous and unextraordinary and Jadzia, in her attempts to overcome the Curzon Legacy coddles the youth rather than challenging him. In the course of the episode, Dax realizes she's gone too far in the spectrum and Arjin has his own little coming of age.

In the process of mentoring the young Trill, Dax and Arjin take a trip to the Gamma Quadrant where they snag their runabout on an unidentified material. It doesn't take long - when it is being examined in the science lab - for Dax to realize it's a universe of its own and its growing. There's a whole new universe growing in ours, threatening to wipe everyone and everything out. So, the ethical dilemma grows: should the universe be destroyed or brought back to where it came, which would save both universes?

Okay, in all honesty, it's not a terribly challenging dilemma. It's somewhat obvious. Given the choice, it seems pretty obvious; if you can save the other universe, why wouldn't you? I see that as a severe downside of the episode; the conflict seems forced.

As well, the whole Trill aspect is horribly repetitive. Arjin and Dax go back and forth ad nauseam over Curzon Dax and how Jadzia is not Curzon. It gets tired in that respect; we know this, the episode opens with this idea and in general, it seems obvious. But, I can understand it being made explicit at least once. The problem is, it continues to be pounded away at.

The plus side of the episode is in the character development. Obviously, Dax is in the process of realizing something important. But the peripheral characters add so well to this episode: Kira's stance on the proto-universe is surprisingly vehement and yet it makes sense. The scene with Jake where he reveals to Sisko that he's dating a dabo girl is funny and well conceived.

In fact, the whole episode handles humor well. Quark and Dax open the episode with an amusing scene as well as Dax's antics. This might well be the first episode where she reveals her sense of humor. The Jake/Sisko scene is funny as is some of the dialog between Arjin and Dax in the episode's climax. The high point of humor in the episode, though, revolves around the station being infested by Cardassian voles and the efforts to get them off the station.

Ultimately, this episode suffers from being an unexciting premise. It's a "scientific anomaly of the week" type episode. It is enjoyable to fans of DS9 and science fiction in general. In fact, the whole idea of the protouniverse is an interesting one and I'd be able to recommend the episode if it dealt more with the moral dilemma of the protouniverse. It would be a good episode if it dealt with Dax as Mentor without being so heavy-handed. Either way, it's not and I'm not recommending it. It's close, though and I enjoy it because I am a fan of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

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


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

© 2011, 2007, 2001 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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