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Star Trek Deep Space Nine: Penumbra

"She's a Dax. Sometimes they don't think. They just do."

Sisko and Kasidy, and Worf and Ezri, experience changes in their relationships. None of it goes very well.

This is the first part of a two-parter, which is always tricky to review by itself. [Edit: As Patryk pointed out below and I had foolishly forgotten, it is actually Part 1 of 8, or of 10 if you include the two-part finale. But I would argue these first two episodes, particularly in their focus on romantic storylines, still form a sort of mini-two-parter by themselves]. After all, it's hard to analyse how effective a story is until you have the complete story. But Star Trek has always been quite good at Part Ones, with a knack for a dramatic cliffhanger. Some of the most popular episodes of all time have been the first part of two, like Next Generation's 'Best of Both Worlds' Part 1, or Voyager's 'Scorpion' Part 1. I have to be honest, this one is not up there on that level. But it's still an entertaining episode and the cliffhanger, while not one of the franchise's most memorable, still leaves the episode on an intriguing problem for Sisko.

The focus of this episode is on two romantic relationships. If we think about it from Ezri's point of view, both are similar, as both are between a widower and a younger partner who has not been married before, navigating complicated changes. From Dax's point of view, on the other hand, there is a sharp contrast as one relationship is a usually fairly happy and stable one that comes under strain when they try to take a step forward, while the other is a relationship that has ended, but which starts to reignite under strain, in a way that is taking a step backward.

The relationship between Ezri Dax and Worf is one of those sci-fi relationships that is fascinating because it has no real world parallel or equivalent. The symbiotic nature of a joined Trill does not exist in reality, so fortunately no one will ever have to interact with a being who is partly their dead wife in a new body, and partly an entirely different person; nor will anyone have to work out their feelings for someone half of them is in love with and half of them likes but not in that way.

You would think that would make the situation hard to emphathise with, but it doesn't, it makes it more interesting and compelling. Worf and Ezri's personal relationship is spectacularly awkward and complicated on several levels, and that just makes watching them try to work out what they are to each other more interesting. And Ezri reaffirming her commitment to Worf as she remembers his and Jadzia's wedding vows before disobeying orders to rescue him is really very sweet (and returns the favour from Worf sabotaging his career to rescue Jadzia in season six).

Sisko and Kasidy's problems come from a different issue all together. The way that random strangers feel invested in their wedding does have real world parallels. Although Sisko's status as a religious figurehead is a bit more complex than simple celebrity, the fact that total strangers feel like they have a connection to their wedding is something that can happen to celebrities from various careers in real life, and especially to royal families. So some of what Kasidy is experiencing is something a very small number of real people do go through, though not most viewers!

But then, of course, the real spanner in the works is the Prophets, who turn up at the end of the episode to forbid the marriage all together. This does again have something in common with royal families (where this has definitely been known to happen), though with rather more weight to it, since they have reasons involving the fate of Bajor for what they are doing, not just social snobbery.

It isn't the most exciting cliffhanger Star Trek has ever done, we'll be honest, but it is an intriguing one. Sisko now has to face an age-old problem that you might find in Greek or Roman mythology – can he fight his Fate? Will he defy the gods for love, or will he do his duty at the cost of his own happiness? The Roman hero Aeneas, who abandoned his lover Queen Dido of Carthage because the gods told him to and he had a bigger Fate, would sympathise.

Bits and pieces

– Men of television: stop buying land or houses that you plan to live in with a significant other, without telling or consulting said significant other! Toby from The West Wing, Jim from The Office, Sisko here, they were all at it. Ask your partner what they want first!

– Why is it that Worf's hair, when loose, always reminds me of when I used to crimp mine in the 80s?!

– Meanwhile, in another subplot, Dukat looks like a Bajoran now, which is just creepy.


"Don't worry sir, I'll find him." (Ezra on her disobeying orders to search for Worf)

"Stay on the path, Benjamin." (the Prophets to Sisko)

Final analysis: Interesting relationship drama. Three out of four celebrity weddings.


  1. This is the first part of a nine (or ten if you count the last episode as two) part season finale not 1 of 2.

    1. Apologies, you are of course absolutely right. For some reason I had misremembered the Worf/Dax storyline as part of a dedicated two-parter, rather than the beginning of the long serialised arc at the end of the show.

  2. Thanks for reminding us that Worf risked his career to rescue Jadzia in season six and how Ezri's actions mirror that. Great catch.


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