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Star Trek Deep Space Nine: Chrysalis

Sarina: I couldn't sleep.
Bashir: My nurse could have given you something.
Sarina: I don't want to sleep.
Bashir: Why not?
Sarina: What if I wake up the way I was? What if I can't...
Bashir: It's not going to happen. Your life's going to be different now. Your future is full of possibilities. You know, you're going to be doing things that you haven't even dreamed of. There's really no reason to be afraid. (She’s asleep on his shoulder) Sarina?

The Jack Pack of brilliant mutants returns to the station, to lose one of their group in the best possible manner. Is this Deep Space Nine’s version of Sleeping Beauty? Or of Flowers for Algernon?

This episode is elegantly simple. It begins by showing the deep loneliness of Julian Bashir. He wants to spend his evening with friends, but they are all too busy for him. He retreats to his work and is later woken by Nog, only to discover that the genetically enhanced gang from "Statistical Probabilities" has returned.

The group, by impersonating Starfleet officers, has escaped from their institute. They’ve come because they wanted to bring Sarina to Dr. Bashir, who has been working on a technique that could release Sarina from her catatonia.

Everyone knows Sleeping Beauty. If you’re not aware of Flowers for Algernon, well, it’s a story by Daniel Keyes. A mentally challenged man has a procedure that greatly enhances his intelligence. His intelligence rapidly increases. But then, he loses his brilliance and goes to live in a home.

A few scenes happen before Sarina wakes up – I love Bashir’s exchanges with Sisko and Ezri – but the episode is mostly marking time until she does. And then she wanders out into the DS9 Promenade, looking, as she says, at everything.

There are many delightful moments as Sarina encounters the world, but my favorite is the musical interlude with the rest of the Jack Pack. It’s both beautiful and also kind of amazing, because usually the music is the most disappointing aspect of Deep Space Nine (with the exceptions of the gloriously inspiring theme music with the trumpets). It turns out the usually underwhelming scores to Deep Space Nine were due to directorial suppression and not to lack of talent.

Faith C. Salie was directed to play the part of Sarina without any subtext. Here’s an example. When she shows up at Julian’s because she’s afraid to sleep – she’s afraid she’ll slip back into catatonia – she means exactly what she says. She really was afraid to go back to sleep. But, reassured by Julian – the doctor who rescued her – she falls asleep, like a stray kitten, on his shoulder.

Julian starts falling in love. How could he not? She’s beautiful. She’s brilliant. His friends like her. She has a sense of wonder as she interacts with the world that is completely charming. She even makes sure he eats breakfast, probably a kindness no one has shown him since he left home and his mother.

Of course, Miles sees what’s happening more clearly than Julian. He reminds Julian that Sarina is his patient and that things are moving too fast.

Julian pushes too hard. Sarina has already hinted that she wants to go to one of those stars in the sky and find out who she is, but Julian wants to keep her with him. And she retreats to her catatonia – her worst nightmare, or rather her daymare, as that’s why she refused to sleep. It appears that Flowers for Algernon is being fulfilled.

Bashir appeals to the rest of the Jack Pack, and they go to Sarina. They have known her for years and they discover the truth. Sarina can still speak, but she doesn’t want to. Because she’s scared. Of him.

Sleeping Beauty is not quite fulfilled. Sarina wakes up, and Bashir gets a kiss, but she doesn’t stay with him. The Flowers for Algernon prediction is not fulfilled either, because she doesn’t lose her abilities.

Title musings. “Chrysalis” is the title of the episode. In case you’ve forgotten your middle school biology, a chrysalis is the form a caterpillar takes before it emerges from its cocoon as a fully formed moth or butterfly. The chrysalis has hard skin that's left behind after the caterpillar sheds its soft outer skin. The metaphors are obvious: Sarina is in transition. The time she is spending on the station is her time of transformation. Also, when Bashir presses too hard, Sarina retreats back into her chrysalis for a bit. I love this title.

Bits and pieces

Captain Sisko’s irritation and indignation at the mutants being dressed in Starfleet uniforms is completely consistent with his character. He’s talked about the significance of uniforms before.

Lauren seems sufficiently normal to be able to function in the real world, unless there are aspects of her we have not seen.

Given how easily the Jack Pack escaped the institute and impersonated Starfleet officers, they could easily make their way into the real world.

No Worf this episode.

The writers are giving Ezri excellent dialogue. Her speech about punishing herself was really funny. You can see that she is, as Sarina, becoming more than the sum of her parts.

Sarina breaks into Bashir’s quarters, which is unrealistic, even if his code has only six digits. A code with six digits has 1,000,000 possibilities (if you want to argue that there are only 999,999 possibilities, remember, 000000 is an option). There’s little reason to think that any combination is much more likely than others.

On the other hand, it’s quite reasonable that the Chief Medical Officer on the station can authorize access into any part of DS9.

Since Faith C. Salie’s role was so limited in "Statistical Probabilities," those in charge of creating Deep Space Nine had her re-audition for "Chrysalis" to make sure she could handle the larger role. Obviously, she did really well.


Bashir: Patrick!
Jack: That's Admiral Patrick.
Lauren: Mind your manners, Doctor.
Bashir: What are you doing here?
Patrick: That's a stupid question.
Bashir: Where did you get these uniforms?
Patrick: That's a stupid question, too.

Ezri: I know you're disappointed, Julian, but you did everything that you could.
Bashir: Well, it wasn't enough.
Ezri: I'm sorry. Obviously you want to punish yourself. Do you want help? Because I'm really good at punishing myself. Let's see. If I were you, I'd be kicking myself for making promises I couldn't keep. For getting people's hopes up. For being arrogant enough to think that I could help Sarina even though dozens of other doctors have failed. Should I keep going?
Bashir: No, that just about covers it. Thanks.

Sarina: So, what's a genetically enhanced girl supposed to do when she wakes up from a long sleep? Point to one of those little specks of light out there, pack her bag, and go make a life for herself?
Bashir: Why does she have to go anywhere at all?

Bashir: Well, don't you have anything to say?
O'Brien: As a matter of fact, I do, Julian. I haven't seen you like this for a long time, and I'm really happy for you. But don't you think it's all happening a little fast?
Bashir: We're genetically engineered. We do everything fast.
O'Brien: Julian, she's your patient.

Bashir: How could I have been so blind? What was I thinking trying to move things along so fast? She needed time. I didn't give it to her. I came this close to driving her back inside herself. I'm supposed to be a doctor. I'm supposed to put my patient's needs above my own.
O'Brien: You didn't want to be lonely anymore. Nobody does.

Overall rating

Although I love this episode, in some ways it hasn’t held up for me as well as others over the years. Bashir should have known better; with (many) more years behind me, it’s so obvious. There are reasons for these rules in medicine; patients are vulnerable; if they had slept together, it would have been so wrong, as she was not capable of consent. Of course, he didn’t, and yet he still drove her back into her shell. And the episode has many other wonderful bits, and it makes it clear why such protocols exist. So, what’s my rating? Three out of four stupid questions.

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

1 comment:

  1. I was worried the whole way through that this would take the Flowers for Algernon route so I was pleasantly surprised that Sarina got a hopeful ending. I do agree that Bashir should have known better but it still feels on-brand for him to behave that way.


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