Overview – Ensign Melora Pazlar, an Elaysian science officer, has been assigned to Deep Space Nine for some research missions in the Gamma Quadrant. Due to her physiology from coming from a world with lower than normal gravity, she requires a motorized chair to move around the station. The crew quickly learn that adapting to Ensign Melora entails more than meeting her physical needs, but her emotional needs as well. Doctor Bashir, in particular, finds himself drawn to her and a special bond between the two of them develops as he discovers a way that she will be able to walk as the others on the station can walk. The treatment, however, comes with a price. Meanwhile, Quark is reunited with a former business associate who has come to the station seeking retribution against the Ferengi bar owner. His price: Quark’s life. The two stories connect and the crew must try to protect Melora, Dax, and Quark from this violent criminal.
Score: 6/10 – I appreciate what this episode tries to do in bringing the struggles of the physically handicapped to light. To have an officer who is physically limited due to the natural conditions of her home world being in conflict with most other places was a unique way of depicting this issue, and is classic Star Trek. The story does a fair job, largely due to one of the writers being confined to a wheel chair himself. Some of the parts of the episode dip into the cliché well a bit (such as the handicapped person getting into trouble trying to make it on their own, learning to accept help from others), but not in ways that are too overbearing or take away from the story. Where this episode suffers is in some of the acting and/or directorial choices. First, there’s Fallit Kot. He is quite an interesting looking alien, and has the look of a tough-as-nails ex-con. He has every reason to want to kill Quark, and yet he comes across as…well, bored. There is little passion or emotion in his lines that convinces me that he is a serious threat. Second, when Fallit shoots Melora in the runabout, Bashir and the rest of the crew are watching the events unfold. Bashir has just started a romantic relationship with Melora, and his reaction to her being shot and presumably killed is severely understated. I found it difficult to believe that he would have stayed so calm. Not a good choice of action for the character. My final complaint with the episode overall is that once the episode is done, that’s it. No follow up, not even a hint that the episode happened. Maybe I missed it, but all the ramps that O’Brien and his crews spent hours on installing are gone by the next episode. This could have had a more lasting and inclusive impact, but once the last scene was completed it was back to normal.
Relevance – 1 point. A point is scored for the Klingon restaurant, which will be seen again in a later episode “Playing God”. Sadly, these are the only two episodes that we will see the highly entertaining Klingon chef, but the restaurant will be referenced in dialogue a few more times. His argument with Melora (revealing not only her iron will but her fluency in Klingon) is a lot of fun.
Continuity – 1 point. Universe continuity works here, so a point is awarded for it. I am deducting points for character and story continuity here, both for reasons I eluded to earlier. Bashir reactions to Melora’s apparent death are just not what I came to expect from him. He is as emotional as they come. He throws himself into his relationships with gusto and zeal. I am not saying he should have curled up in a little ball of whimpering under his console, but I really expected him to have been a bit more animated. Story continuity is the fact that if the crew had spent all this time installing ramps to have made the station a little more accessible to Melora, and it didn’t appear that they would have hampered anyone else, why spend the time and resources in removing the ramps. It just gave this episode a “one and done” feeling.
Character Development – 2 points. This is definitely a Bashir episode where he finally gets lucky in love. After pining for Jadzia for a year it’s nice to see the good doctor get some success in this department. We see how me uses his medical brilliance to help those he loves, but we also see how idealistic he can be. When he offers her the treatment that will allow Melora to walk in normal gravity as everyone else, he is almost oblivious to the notion that she may not want to give up being who she is. We also get some funny moments with Quark and Odo, with Quark needing Odo’s protection from Fallit and Odo (albeit reluctantly) agreeing to do what he is allowed to do by law. Sisko shows how he handles a character like Melora when he denies her request to go on her mission unaccompanied. He balances compassion and understanding with truly treating others like everyone else by telling her that in no situation would he send a junior officer alone on a mission.
Social Commentary – 3 points. How do we own our limitations? While there is the obvious nod towards those who have very visible handicaps, it also applies to most, if not all, of us. We all have things that can hold us back. It may be something that is mental, physical, emotional, or even just as simple as our basic mortality. We have limits of one kind or another. The true strength is in our ability to own those limits and allow us to define them rather than it being the other way around. The character of Melora goes through the standard path that many characters with physical handicaps do. She fights for trust and then has to learn to trust others in return. She and Bashir have some great conversations that anyone can glean inspiration from. I particularly liked the exchange where Melora says she just wants others to know they can count on her, and Bashir counters with asking if she knows that she can count on them. Proving oneself doesn’t mean we won’t ever need someone else’s help, but it does mean that we are capable of assisting others.
Cool Stuff – 2 points. Melora as a character is pretty cool, and in the vein of characters such as Geordi La Forge, a character being confined to a wheel chair is a good step for Trek, even if it was only for a single episode. I also liked the scene of her and Bashir in the low gravity environment and seeing her float with ease. That scores a point. The second point is for the make-up of Fallit Kot, especially the nose piece that connects to his chin. While I felt that the character was lacking in how he was portrayed, I really liked the look.
Rank – Lieutenant (15 points). While not necessarily a bad episode, there are a few let downs. I really think that in spite of a well-intentioned and good effort, there were some missteps in character direction that cost the overall show. Still, it gives us a good message and has some good moments. So while you may be fine missing this episode while going through the series I would suggest that you catch it at least once. If nothing else, the Klingon chef gives us some soothing dinner music.
If you would like to read other reviews from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, please click the following link.
If you would like to read an episode review from any of the Trek series, click the following link to get to the series catalog. If the episode you want reviewed has not been done yet, then feel free to request it in the comments and I will see what I can do.