March 11, 2015

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: "Facets"

It's 12 June 1995, and time for more Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

Jadzia Dax (Terry Farrell) summons her friends together to assist her in undertaking the 'zhian'tara': it's a Trill ceremony where the memories and personalities of the Dax symbiont's former hosts are temporarily transferred into other people's bodies so that Jadzia may properly meet and talk to them. Meanwhile Nog prepares for his entrance examination to Starfleet Academy.

"Facets" is a bit of an odd fish as far as episodes go. It has an intriguing premise, and of course by putting the former Dax hosts into the bodies of the regular cast it's a good excuse for an inexpensive 'bottle' show. It's odd due to two slightly unexpected creative choices. Firstly, the actual conflict of the episode doesn't turn up until effectively its third act. Secondly, the obvious direction for this storyline - as revealed in "Equilibrium" one of Dax's former hosts is a murderous psychopath - isn't the one that gets followed at all. So while there's much to enjoy in this episode, it's all a bit off-kilter and sedate.

All of these transferred hosts give the regular cast the opportunity to act out and play wildly out of character. Some of them - Avery Brooks, Colm Meaney - do it very well. Others - Nana Visitor, Siddig el Fadil - aren't quite so convincing. Armin Shimerman plays his scene to perfection: it's laugh-out-loud funny and beautifully written. Since Dax has had more hosts than regular cast members, Bajoran dabo girl Leeta is roped into the episode as well. This is odd, since the only scene she's had in the series to date is opposite Dr Bashir, and I'm not sure dropping in a line saying 'they've been hanging out a lot together lately' really convinces.

One big problem with all of these hosts being met in succession (it's about one every two minutes) is that they're only drawn in the broadest strokes. The effect is that instead of meeting people, Jadzia is meeting weird caricatures of people instead. It's a little frustrating.

The final host to be transferred is Dax's immediately previous one, Curzon, who has been name-checked and commented upon at length in the series already. Finally meeting the character should be a remarkable experience, but for some reason Curzon is portrayed less as an outgoing but complicated genius and more like a rambling old drunkard - the sort of embarrassing uncle you keep away from the sherry at parties. It doesn't seem to be Rene Auberjonois' fault - he's a skilled actor, and plays the drunken uncle very well - so I'm placing the blame for this at the feet of writer Rene Echevarria. The revelation of why Curzon rejected Jadzia's initial application to be a host (he fell in love with her) is extremely unconvincing and more than a little tedious.

In the episode's subplot Nog stresses over his application to Starfleet Academy. It's an entertaining enough storyline, but its highlight is Rom's realisation that Quark has been sabotaging his nephew's tests. Watching the usually meek Rom get so powerfully aggressive in Quark's face when his son's welfare is at stake is enormously satisfying. There's so much unexpected depth to both Rom and Nog; I love seeing when either of them are highlighted or developed.

While there are good aspects to this episode, overall it's lacking in drama and is structurally very weak. It gets the thumbs-down from me, and that leaves Season 3 with 17 good episodes out of 25, with one episode to go. The quality ratio has dropped again to 68 per cent.

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