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Star Trek Deep Space Nine: Equilibrium

Sisko: “I’m not interested in exposing your secret, Doctor. All I care about is Jadzia.”

The usually serene Jadzia Dax goes crazy, striking out at friends and then nearly losing her symbiont.

The episode opens with dinner at Sisko’s – Commander Sisko’s, not the restaurant in New Orleans run by his father. The few minutes allow nearly the entire cast to make an appearance, with the exceptions of Quark, who doesn’t belong at a Sisko dinner party, and Chief O’Brien, who doesn’t appear in the episode at all. There’s a charming interaction between Odo and Kira, and although we don’t see the sexiness of Vedek Bareil, we sense the deep affection between these two.

Jadzia shows up, complaining about the sixth pylon, and asks about an instrument of Jake’s. I appreciated the introduction of that instrument – so typical for a kid to try something and discover that he has no talent. However Dax, despite Jadzia’s denials, does. But as she plays, the music changes her and she behaves in a way that is completely unlike her. Snapping at people. Accusing Sisko of cheating. Starting a fight with Kira. Having hallucinations and being rescued by Quark. She ends up in the infirmary, and Dr. Bashir realizes he can do little for her.

The episode lets us go to the Trill home planet, but we only see two areas: the Symbiosis Commission Institute and the cave where the unjoined symbionts swim around in muddy pools, taken care of by Guardians who rarely go to the surface. At least Jadzia mentions some ice cliffs, evidently a great attraction, and a foreshadowing that Trills bear cold weather much better than Klingons. That’s OK. Given what we know about Trill, it seems to be a mostly reasonable planet, with reasonable people, but little else worth seeing (Jadzia doesn’t want to go back, Curzon never got around to taking Ben there, and even later Ezri’s family has relocated to a more exciting part of the galaxy – but of course on DS9 we're more likely to meet the discontented Trills rather than the happy stay-at-home Trills, so my sampling is biased). However, what is true is that well-established, reasonable societies don’t always offer what stories need: conflict.

It was appropriate that the two who accompany Jadzia are Sisko and Bashir. I also enjoyed their detective work and the musical clues.

The episode, alas, had some material in it that was not so great, including a lack of logic. Letting Jadzia die won’t necessarily save the symbiont, and the same problem has the potential to occur with the next host, as the memory block is not permanent. So the Dax symbiont would have to spend the rest of the time swimming around in the mud or else endanger one host after another. The symbionts always come first, but should they?

The episode also did not answer how the symbionts feel about the whole situation. I must believe that the symbionts want restrictions on who is chosen for joining, and not forced to be on the market (or have hosts murdered so that the symbionts could be joined with others). Certainly this could have been made more explicit. The director of the Symbiosis Commission would have been much more sympathetic if she had said this. And certainly the symbionts – who we know can be cranky if everything is not perfect – have an opinion on this matter.

I also did not care for the actor who played Joran (the actor won’t show up again). He just seemed like a sweet kid, and his whole story is an inconsistent mess. What made him so homicidal (questions that never get answered in the series)? And was the symbiont removed due to rejection? Or was Joran sacrificed, both to rescue the symbiont and to prevent Joran from murdering more people? The Trills have all said that the symbionts come first.

Title musings. The title, Equilibrium, is supposed to refer to the balance between host and symbiont, at least according to the Guardian who can imagine little else, but several other interpretations are also relevant. First, Jadzia’s lack of equilibrium alerts everyone to her problem. But the most significant interpretation is the secret that is being kept by the Trill society – a huge proportion of the society is capable of being joined without ill effect. When/if that secret becomes known, the carefully maintained equilibrium of the society will be destroyed and their world will be thrown into chaos. And how on Trill can they expect to keep such a piece of information secret?

Bits and pieces

Becoming joined is considered a great honor among Trills; many people apply. This makes me wonder: why are the Borg considered so horrible? Too many people in the collective? Because joining the Borg is involuntary? Or because we like spots, but we don’t like the prosthetics?

Star Trek sure gets a lot of use out of its cave set!

Jadzia Dax is supposed to be a confident badass, but the actress does vulnerable very well. She does not however, do seizures particularly well (the camera should have canned the close up).

Wonder if someone decided to give Jadzia, the only candidate to go through the program twice, a less-than-perfect symbiont?

The music attributed to Joran Belar was excellent. Often DS9 music is not; in fact it totally sucks, but this was a directing decision and not due to lack of talent among the DS9 associated musicians. (The episode that makes the best use of music is "Chrysalis" in Season 7.)

I have witnessed the impact of music on someone in my own life, with my father, who was very musical. In his last years he suffered from dementia. Even when he lost the ability to speak, he could still play the piano, and when he did, you could see from the expression on his face that the neurons were firing better. Then, when my stepmother told my brother and me that he was dying, we sat in his hospital room for three days. For three days he said nothing and did not even open his eyes. Then, when a friend of the family played, “If I Were a Rich Man,” from Fiddler on the Roof, my father opened his eyes. Just for a moment, the music reached him. Two days later he died.

The fact that the Trills have been lying about the symbiont compatibility with the majority of the population clears up apparent inconsistencies in other Trek episodes. Dax did not get rejected by Verad in "Invasive Procedures," a DS9 episode. And this explains how another symbiont was able to survive for a time in Riker, a human, in "The Host" from Next Gen. The lies told about the symbionts is a great way to get around this issue!

It is not addressed but I have to think that the symbionts would be in agreement with the decision to keep their general compatibility hush-hush. After all the Trills, or at least the Guardians, seem to be able to communicate with some symbionts, and so the matter would be one of the first items discussed. But how do the symbionts keep this secret from their hosts?


Sisko: Beets are a very misunderstood vegetable.

Odo (stirring the soufflé): You find something amusing, Major?
Kira: Oh, I just think you look so … cute.

Jadzia: No, I’m going there as a patient – and that’s much worse.

Julian: Now if that little story didn’t put you to sleep I don’t know what will.

Jadzia: I don’t need therapy, Julian. I need answers.
This resonated with me because of all the times someone tried to convince me that a symptom was psychosomatic or due to stress. Not once was I imagining something. Not once.

Overall rating

Good but not great, not at the level that we see in other DS9 episodes, with a few plot holes, inconsistencies and some seriously missed opportunities. Two and a half unjoined worms.

Victoria Grossack loves birds, math, Greek mythology, Jane Austen and great storytelling in many forms.

1 comment:

  1. Great review, Victoria! I loved the structure of this episode. From Odo quickly stirring to the very stirring ending in the symbiote sauna.


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