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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Starship Down (Review)

This February and March, we’re taking a look at the 1995 to 1996 season of Star Trek, including Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager. Check back daily Tuesday through Friday for the latest review.

It is surprising that the Star Trek franchise has not done more “disaster” episodes, given the science-fiction setting and the occasional budget overruns that make a simple and effective bottle show all the more effective.

Starship Down is not the first time that the franchise has attempted to emulate the classic disaster film formula. Star Trek: The Next Generation had produced an episode (called Disaster, appropriately enough), which used many of the classic disaster movie tropes to explore various cast dynamics. Starship Down is arguably structured more like a submarine thriller than a disaster film, but the point of comparison still stands. There are conflicts over command styles, characters caught in lifts, high stakes and higher tension.

"Hanok, would you care to assist me in performing surgery on a photon torpedo?"

“Hanok, would you care to assist me in performing surgery on a photon torpedo?”

It is interesting to compare Starship Down to Disaster, if only as a point of comparison between the two shows in question. In many ways, the contrast serves to highlight the difference between the respective shows and their ensembles. In Disaster, the show was careful to give every combination of the cast something to accomplish. Picard and kids escape the turbolift; Geordi and Beverly vent the containers; Riker and Data’s head have excellent adventures; Worf delivers Molly.

In contrast, the character combinations in Starship Down are less goal-orientated. Worf and O’Brien defeat the Jem’Hadar while Quark and Hanok disarm a torpedo. However, Kira simply tries to keep Sisko awake while reflecting on their relationship and Bashir and Dax huddle together in a turbolift waiting for their oxygen to run out. There is a sense that Starship Down is much more interested in its character dynamics than it is a sense of narrative momentum or objective-orientated storytelling.

"Thank goodness only the LED's were affected."

“Thank goodness only the LED’s were affected.”

Perhaps this helps to provide a clear sense of the difference between Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: The Next Generation. Seth McFarlane has joked that the cast of The Next Generation were responsible for the most professional working environment in the history of television. That is certainly true; it seemed like the cast of The Next Generation was populated by people who worked at peak efficiency. There was a sense that there was nothing the cast and crew of the Enterprise could not accomplish working together.

In contrast, the cast of Deep Space Nine is a lot more dysfunctional. Bashir is arguably the only true prodigy working on the station, with the possible exception of Dax. Even then, Doctor Bashir, I Presume will reveal Bashir to be something of a fake. In many ways, the cast of Deep Space Nine is populated with broken character and misfits, exiles and outcasts. This is not a show about people who can accomplish anything working together so much as it is about a bunch of people who might just about be able to keep their heads above water if they work together.

"Remind me to install seatbelts..."

“Remind me to install seatbelts…”

The cast of Deep Space Nine feels very much like an accidental family – a bunch of people thrown together by chance or circumstance who find that they fit together surprisingly well. It helps that a significant portion of the cast exists outside the framework of Starfleet. Given that characters like Quark and Jake exist as part of the primary cast, it makes sense that the ensemble should be tied together by something more profound than the jobs that they do. There is more of an emphasis on the Deep Space Nine ensemble as a family than as a crew.

This is, of course, a gross generalisation. The cast of The Next Generation could also feel like a family at times. All Good Things… put a lot of emphasise on the idea of the weekly poker game as the heart of life on the Enterprise. At the same time, its character dynamics often seemed more professional than personal. Wesley was close to his captain than to his mother. The artificial lifeform on board associated most freely with the engineer. Riker and Deanna did not actually advance their personal relationship until the events of Star Trek: Insurrection.

Tough deal...

Tough deal…

In contrast, the character dynamics on Deep Space Nine were always somewhat in flux. O’Brien originally hated Bashir, but came to warm to him in time. Sisko, Kira, Jadzia, Worf, Bashir, Ezri and Odo all had major romantic relationships form over the course of the run. (In contrast, Picard and Beverly opted to keep a respectful distance that was, at least in part, an attempt to keep things professional.) After all, the relationship at the heart of Deep Space Nine is undeniably personal, as Benjamin and Jake Sisko try to heal from the loss of Jennifer Sisko.

With all of that in mind, it makes sense that the character vignettes in Disaster would set objectives for the Next Generation cast, while Starship Down was more willing to let the vignettes speak for themselves. Picard was able to bond children and manage an escape from the turbolift, while Bashir and Dax simply had a nice long conversation about their relationship. Geordi and Beverly could have a rare interaction with one another while handling a deadly crisis, but it is enough for Kira to try to connect with Sisko as an individual.

Things come to a head...

Things come to a head…

In fact, the conversation between Kira and Sisko in Starship Down is effectively about recognising that their relationship is mostly professional and trying to fix it. “I don’t know why this is so hard for me,” Kira reflects. “All I have to do is talk to you. I mean, what do we usually talk about?” Sisko responds, “We talk about work.” Kira admits, “You’re right. That is what we usually talk about. Even when we’re not working.” It seems like the episode treats this as a sign that there is something dysfunctional about the dynamic between Kira and Sisko.

In a sense, this all ties back in Ira Steven Behr’s aesthetic for the show. When Michael Piller asked him to work on Deep Space Nine, Behr remembers arguing that he would push for things like a genuine friendship between Bashir and O’Brien. “I’d like to really to explore a friendship on Star Trek that doesn’t have to do with the fact that he’s Number One or he’s a Vulcan and they’re both on the bridge all the time and there’s a chain of command. It’s just a friendship.” That plays out here, where most of the cast just interact, rather than react.

Hope of a deal between the Ferengi and the Karemma has been torpedoed...

Hope of a deal between the Ferengi and the Karemma has been torpedoed…

It is telling that the most plot-relevant thread of Starship Down is given over to Worf, a character from The Next Generation who is still adjusting to life on Deep Space Nine. (While Quark and Hanok do play their part, the torpedo is a plot tangent that serves as a nice metaphor for their original argument about risk and gambling. The crisis serves the characters, not vice versa.) As with Hippocratic Oath, it feels like Worf is still getting used to the rules and narrative conventions of Deep Space Nine, with O’Brien having blazed a trail for him.

This contrast between Disaster and Starship Down is interesting, reflecting conscious plotting choices that say a lot about the respective ensembles and the emphasise of the two different shows. There is an argument to be had that Starship Down actually suffers a little from these choices. The emphasis on character development for the sake of character development does undercut a situation that really should be even more tense than the crisis facing the Enterprise in Disaster. After all, Starship Down was written as a submarine movie more than a disaster film.

Playing ball...

Playing ball…

Starship Down was an idea originally developed through the franchise’s famous open submissions policy, which had been introduced by Michael Piller during the third season of The Next Generation. The idea was to open up the show to ideas submitted from outside the standard studio structure. It proved to be one of the franchise’s defining features, bring writers like Ronald D. Moore, René Echevarria, Bryan Fuller and Mike Sussman into the fold. It was a shame that the process was discontinued towards the end of the franchise’s run.

Starship Down was developed from a pitch by John Ordover and David Mack. Ordover had been an editor at Pocket Books with a very deep and in-depth knowledge of the franchise and the workings of the studio. Mack was a young writer who would go on to enjoy a prolific career writing Star Trek tie-in fiction. He would play a significant role in setting the direction of the Pocket Books line following the end of Star Trek on television. His bold Destiny trilogy pushed the Star Trek tie-in fiction into the twenty-first century.

"Captain Worf... that has a nice ring to it..."

“Captain Worf… that has a nice ring to it…”

According to Mack, their collaboration was a matter of convenience that played to their respective strengths:

Shortly afterward, John and I realized that we both had been trying to get in the door at the Star Trek TV series, but had come up short. Because of his job, John had the access to get meetings — but he lacked the screenwriting experience to execute the assignment if he sold a story. I had the skills to take a story outline to finished script, but couldn’t get my foot in the door. Together, we had the skills and the access we needed.

The open submissions policy from Star Trek was radical, and it is fascinating to see how it worked.

That sinking feeling...

That sinking feeling…

The policy was undeniably useful to the production team. During its peak years, the Star Trek franchise was producing over fifty episodes of television in a year; that is simply a phenomenal output. Given that there were already hundreds of episodes that had already been broadcast, having a mechanism to feed ideas into the production team was absolutely essential. Many wonderful (and important) Deep Space Nine episodes began as outside pitches that the writers were able to incorporate into their vision of the series.

Starship Down is very much an idea suited to Deep Space Nine. The writing staff on Deep Space Nine had a great deal of affection for classic cinema, and it seemed like filtering a great movie idea through the prism of Deep Space Nine was one way to catch their attention. Hippocratic Oath was identified by the staff as an homage to Bridge on the River Kwai. Indiscretion was described as a gigantic nod towards The Searchers. It seems like Starship Down was “Deep Space Nine does Das Boot.”

"Oh, Kai Winn would love it if I was responsible for the deaht of the Emissary..."

“Oh, Kai Winn would love it if I was responsible for the death of the Emissary…”

As David Mack has conceded, there was a considerable (almost total) amount of tweaking done to the original pitch:

Of course, the only reason John and I got to be in that room at all is that Jeri Taylor, then the executive producer of Voyager, liked the DS9 spec script we sent to her when she bought our pitch for a Voyager episode called “Sickbay” (which, for reasons unrelated to us or the story itself, was never developed into a full teleplay or produced). When she heard that we’d also sold a pitch to DS9, she forwarded our spec script to Ira Steven Behr, the DS9 showrunner, with a note suggesting he consider giving us a script assignment. He agreed.

John and I left that break session with the staff-approved outline for our teleplay and a two-week deadline. We went home to New York City, wrote our teleplay, and sent it to Hans Beimler. His reply upon receiving it was devastating: “Oh, good, the script is here. Now the writing can begin.” Though John and I are the only writers credited on the episode, the entire staff worked on that script, and most of the rewrites were coordinated by Rene Echevarria. Our best guess is that, of all the dialogue we wrote, only ten words survived into the finished episode:

SISKO: How long, Chief?
O’BRIEN: Twenty minutes.
SISKO: You’ve got ten.
O’BRIEN: Aye, sir.

What John and I learned the hard way was that writing for television is a highly collaborative process, one in which an individual writer cannot afford to become possessive or protective of his or her words. A writers’ room is a crucible where, if everything works as intended, bad ideas are burned away and only the best ideas and words remain, and those who feed the fire are expected to do so without ego or pity.

Another highlight of the open submissions policy is that so many insightful stories come from it.

The price is right...

The price is right…

To be fair, it makes sense that scripts written by outsiders would have to be reworked by the writing staff. After all, the writing staff work on the show day-in and day-out. They know the beats of the show, the larger arcs of the season, the demands of the characters. On a purely practical level, they also have a much better idea of what is physically possible with the time and the budget allocated to the production of a single episode of Star Trek. That these teleplays are re-written is not a reflection on the original writer, but on the realities of television production.

Interestingly, the original pitch for Starship Down had suggested that the Defiant would find itself trapped in the oceans of a planet, hunted by the Jem’Hadar. It is an interesting premise for an episode, an entire planet made of water and a starship forced to dive beneath the surface of such a world. It is so interesting an idea that the franchise would return to it when CGI made it more practical to film such sequences. Thirty Days would see Tom Paris taking the Delta Flyer for a test dive, while Star Trek Into Darkness would find the Enterprise at the bottom of the sea.

I like the idea that Sisko keeps a box full of baseball caps under his desk. "For emergencies."

I like the idea that Sisko keeps a box full of baseball caps under his desk. “For emergencies.”

However, this was simply not feasible for Deep Space Nine at the time. As The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion explains, one of the first things to go was the idea of the Defiant literally under water:

“We had to pare it down,” says Steve Oster, “because underwater stories just aren’t shootable on the television route. My first comment after reading the first draft was, ‘It’s a wonderful script and when you make the movie I’d love to see it.’ It was written as a huge show, as they sometimes are, because good writers love to give you bang for the buck. We had to figure out what we could throw away.”

The script of Starship Down was changed so that the Defiant was forced to hide inside the atmosphere of a gas giant, hoping that many of the same principles might apply.

Diving on in there...

Diving on in there…

Certainly, the script plays rather heavily on submarine movie conventions. Once in the atmosphere, the crew are informed that sensors are useless. Kira proposes a solution. “Sometimes we’d evade the Cardassian ships by hiding in the Badlands,” she recalls. “Sensor range was limited, so we learned to use an old active-scan system to navigate.” The effect is visualised on various monitors so as to evoke sonar scanning. Pulses fire out from the ship in a circular pattern, hoping to hit any enemy vessel so as to expose their location.

As the Defiant flies through the atmosphere, the crew can hear sounds rippling across the hull. It is very much an effect from a submarine movie, with director Alexander Singer making the most of slow pans over a crew utterly unaccustomed to noise coming from outside the ship. There is a sense that this is fundamentally and unquestionably wrong, that the characters are so used to life in the noiseless vacuum of space that hearing actual noise from outside the side is disconcerting.

A flood of anxiety...

A flood of anxiety…

There are other touches that do not work nearly as well. Given that Starship Down is effectively a submarine movie, the script offers the inevitable “close the section or sink the ship” dilemma as the hull breaches and the atmosphere begins to seep in. With Dax trapped in the compromised section, Sisko finds himself reluctant to give the order. “If we don’t seal off that deck now, we’ll lose the entire ship,” Kira advises. Reluctantly, Sisko gives the order. In doing so, he traps Bashir and Dax in the compromised section.

It is not a bad idea, but the execution doesn’t quite work. The visual of water flooding into a corridor is effective cinematic shorthand; the audience knows exactly what it means and how to respond to it. The image of gas flooding into a corridor means something altogether different in the language of film and television. After all, “gas sprays on to the sets” is really just Star Trek shorthand for “the ship is taking a hammering.” It’s not uncommon for the bridge crew to keep working as dry ice pours in (and sparks fly) around them.

Um. Hull breach, I guess?

“The pulsing glow function is really just a sales feature. It doesn’t actually do anything, since nobody’s meant to see it this close.”

While Starship Down includes a shot of a poor crewman being knocked over by the gas flooding into the corridor, it does not do enough to convey the sense that the ship is “sinking.” Intellectually, the toxic gas has the same end result as tonnes and tonnes of water, but audiences have been trained to respond to the visuals in a very different way. As much as the gas might represent the atmosphere of the gas giant seeping into the ship, it could just be a technobabble problem within the ship itself.

This isn’t the only problem that Starship Down has realising its “submarine warfare” premise. As nice as it is to have extended sequences of Kira and Sisko or Bashir and Dax just talking to one another, they do undercut some of the suspense. Worf and O’Brien are fighting to save the ship, while Hanok and Quark are confronted with a very immediate threat to the safety of themselves and everybody on board. It is nice to dedicate so much space to character work, but it does take away from the immediacy of the threat.

Holding on for dear life...

Holding on for dear life…

There is also a sense that Starship Down might be regressing the relationship between Bashir and Dax just a little bit. Bashir spent the first season of the show with a borderline stalkerish obsession with Dax. Remembering those early days on the station, Bashir recalls, “You were always avoiding me.” He doesn’t seem to realise why that might have been, ignoring that his behaviour in episodes like Dax might have seemed deeply unsettling to the object of his affections.

One of the recurring weaknesses of Deep Space Nine was a tendency to glamourise and romanticise male romantic obsession when it came to female characters. This tendency would become more pronounced in later seasons where Odo would create a holographic copy of Kira to practise pitching woo in His Way and when Bashir would eventually get to hook up with a Dax in The Dogs of War. It seemed like unrequited male love in the world of Deep Space Nine existed only so that it might eventually be paid off.

Mourning his losses...

Morning his losses…

It has been a while since the show has focused on Bashir’s romantic fixation on Dax. It has been a long time since the first season, and it seems like Bashir has grown up a little bit. He seems to have accepted Dax as a friend rather than as the object of his affections, and the two seem to get along to the point where Bashir could serve as a chaperone on Jadzia’s date with Lenara in Rejoined. The problem with the conversation in Starship Down is that it seems to pull that relationship back several steps.

“When I first got to the station, I used to have this fantasy that you and I went off on a runabout together on some mission,” Bashir confesses. “Something went wrong with the ship and we ended up drifting around for a few days until they sent someone to rescue us.” Dax responds, “If you don’t mind my saying, Julian, that’s a very strange fantasy.” It is not so strange a fantasy. It is the quintessential “nice guy” fantasy – a beautiful woman trapped in a confined space with nothing to do but accept how nice a guy he is. The fantasy likely doesn’t confine itself to talking.

A nice cap to the episode...

A nice cap to the episode…

This isn’t necessary the problem with the script. After all, it could be seen as a sign of growth that Bashir is realising how infantile his fantasy is. The problem is that Starship Down suggests that maybe their relationship is not as platonic as it seems. “It’s just you came on so strong,” Jadzia tells Bashir. It sounds like a line taken directly from that fantasy. “You never really gave me a chance to get to know you.” Bashir agrees, magnanimously, “You’re right, I didn’t.”

It is suggested that Bashir’s problem wasn’t so much his aggressive pursuit as his reluctance to inject more of himself into the flirtation. Bashir doesn’t acknowledge that he came on too strong, he admits that he never gave Dax a chance to know him. There is no blunt honesty here, no awkward truth. Dax doesn’t tell Bashir that she simply never liked him romantically, and that was the end of that. Dax never tells Bashir that he made her feel uncomfortable. Dax never advises Bashir that other women on that station might have been liable to report him to Odo.

Well, soon he won't need an Orb to talk to the prophets...

Well, soon he won’t need an Orb to talk to the prophets…

Instead, Starship Down seems to suggest that Dax was perhaps flattered by the attention – that she really liked Bashir’s enthusiasm, even as she made it quite clear she did not want to be involved with him romantically or sexually. When Bashir explains that he no longer has the fantasy, Dax seems to sigh a little bit. “You sound disappointed,” he observes. When she warns him not to start chasing her again, he replies, “Now I know you liked it, I don’t need to, do I?”

This is an example of the sorts of sexual politics that are rife in certain sections of nerd culture, flowing from male entitlement issues. Starship Down seems to suggest that beautiful women should be flattered by borderline stalkers who make their romantic wishes quite clear, even after the women in question have expressed their disinterest. There is a sense that pining for a beautiful woman is somehow enough to “earn” her love, as if it were a video game accomplishment that could be unlocked with the right amount of tokens or gizmos.

"That torpedo sure is a convenient ice-breaker..."

“That torpedo sure is a convenient ice-breaker…”

To be fair, this is very much a minor example. The show does not decide to press ahead with a romance between Bashir and Dax in the near future. The two characters remain platonic friends in the short-to-medium term. However, it becomes more problematic when examined in the larger context of Deep Space Nine, where the show plays more firmly into these sorts of male entitlement and fantasy issues. It is attitudes like this that would become a cornerstone of certain toxic on-line male communities and certain sections of nerd culture.

Again, it is hard to be too critical of Deep Space Nine. These sorts of fault lines would not become entirely clear until the show went off the air. Terms like “men’s rights activists” would not entire the popular lexicon for almost a decade after What You Leave Behind was broadcast. At the same time, Deep Space Nine is very firmly a part of the background leading towards those pivotal cultural moments. It is romances like those depicted on Deep Space Nine that would enshrine and entrench certain attitudes that would feed into all manner of terrible events to come.

Having a gas time...

Having a gas time…

Starship Down also does a nice job of keeping the Dominion a credible and interesting threat in the world of Deep Space Nine. The third season often struggled to involve the Dominion in its plotting, and to keep some measure of attention focused on the new threat that had emerged from the Gamma Quadrant. Even with the conflict between the Klingons and the Federation driving the plot of the fourth season, Deep Space Nine provides ample development and attention to the cold war that is brewing between the Federation and the Dominion.

One of the more interesting aspects of the conflict between the Dominion and the Federation is the question of just how much the Federation is to blame for what happened. Deep Space Nine is rather unambiguous in its portrayal of the Dominion as a truly monstrous evil; the Founders are genocidal in natural and operate an army of genetically-engineered killing machines controlled through drug addiction. There is not a lot of ambiguity to the way that the Founders operate. At the same time, there is a sense that the Federation is being provocative.

That trade agreement has saled...

That trade agreement has saled…

In The Jem’Hadar, the Dominion made first contact with the Alpha Quadrant by massacring the Bajoran colony on New Bajor. That was a rather excessive display of force and a massive loss of innocent life, but it also represented a clear warning. The Alpha Quadrant powers were advised to remain on their side of the wormhole. The Dominion was paranoid and violent, but their demands were simple. All the Dominion wanted, in theory, was to be left alone and in peace by the major powers in the Alpha Quadrant.

It is, of course, highly debatable whether the Dominion would have maintained the peace even if they had been left alone as they requested. As Sisko argues in In the Pale Moonlight, the Founders see it as their sacred duty to impose order upon the galaxy. Even if the Federation and the other Alpha Quadrant powers did respect their borders, it seems likely that the Dominion would have still treated their new neighbours as a threat who needed to be controlled and curtailed.

Defiant 'til the last...

Defiant ’til the last…

Nevertheless, the Federation repeatedly and comprehensively violates that request from the Dominion. The Defiant wanders freely through the Gamma Quadrant, brazen violating what is considered to be Dominion space. The Cardassians and the Bajorans build a communications relay to send messages through the wormhole, in what must seem like a very imperialist gesture. In Starship Down, it is suggested that the Federation and the Ferengi have been covertly dealing with the Karemma.

“At the request of the Karemma Commerce Ministry, we’ve brought the Defiant to a remote system in the Gamma Quadrant to discuss problems that have surfaced regarding our recent trade agreement,” Sisko states in his opening log, making it clear that this is not something with which the Dominion would be comfortable. Hanok explains the need for subterfuge, “When we first agreed to use the Ferengi as intermediaries, we did it because we knew the Dominion would never tolerate direct trade between us and the Federation.”

The Karemma are members of the Dominion. It does seem a little provocative for the Federation to engage directly with a member race of the Dominion, to the point where it could easily be seen as attempted sedition or treason. In The Mind’s Eye, it was made clear that the Federation could not involve itself in the politics of a colony world that had been conquered by the Klingon Empire; in fact, the Federation seemed quite happy to turn a blind eye to the imperialism of the Klingon Empire until Cardassia was threatened. What is the difference here?

After all, the situation is reversed towards the end of the fifth season. Once the Dominion claim a foothold in the Alpha Quadrant, they begin making their own diplomatic alliances and in-roads. The non-aggression pacts signed with the Tholians and the Romulans make a great deal of sense for all the parties involved; are these manoeuvrings any different from the Federation making its own alliances and trade negotiations with powers that are rooted in the Gamma Quadrant earlier in the previous season?

The Founder homeworld was recently attacked by a fleet of Romulan and Cardassian ships. The Karemma are engaged in covert negotiations with the Federation and the Ferengi. It seems inevitable that the Dominion would be uneasy with the Alpha Quadrant powers. There is a sense that the Federation is escalating the situation, almost consciously trying to push matters to a head. While it seems likely that the Dominion War was inevitable from the moment the wormhole opened, Sisko is not helping matters. It is interesting to wonder about such things.

Starship Down is a solid disaster episode that does suffer from a few minor problems of execution. Atmosphere is perhaps the biggest problem here, with the gas giant never quite capturing the intensity of a flood and some of the character sequences ebbing away the tension. The result is still fascinating viewing, but it is perhaps not all that it could have been.

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10 Responses

  1. Deep space nine of course had already a disaster episode in Civil Defense. Both episodes have their strengths and weaknesses, Starship Down episode dives, no pun intended, into the characters more, but civil defense is memorable what with Dukat walking calmly as phaser fire is all around him. Both are better than Disaster, however, as I could not stand the children.

  2. Ron and Rene are savvy guys. I’m pretty sure that if this aired today, they would think twice about shipping Julian-Jadzia. At the time, it was pretty benign.

    Bashir was, originally, written as the proto-Kim, the guy who overlooked the attainable girls in favor of his romantic ideal.

    Then, as Jadzia and Julian became mates, they decided to address the elephant in the room. Jadiza tells Julian than his advances were creepy and unwelcome, but that it didn’t make him a bad man.

    Personally, I like the fact that Jadzia flatly told him she’s not interested, it wasn’t a matter of some “other guy” getting in the way. Once she realized Julian was harmless, Jadzia admits she basically strung him along for amusement. It’s not terribly kind. But it is true to life, I think.

    Ezri’s remarks in Season 8 complicate the issue. The writers needed a way to springboard into the Julian-Erzi ship, so they played the trump card: Julian was Jadzia’s second choice” line. It’s fine. It works. Politically, though? That’s a different matter.

    Also, this is just my personal opinion: Ezri’s sudden infatuation with Julian makes zero sense, either in the context of an old host or a new host.

    (Paradoxically, I think Worf and Ezri would get on like a house on fire!)

    • I really dislike the “Ezri as consolution prize” aspect of her relationship with Bashir. Which is odd, given I like Ezri more than most.

    • Ezri doesn’t appear until Season 7 ed; there is no Season 8. And Worf and Ezri tried for a relationship but it didn’t go anywhere once she realised she was in love with Bashir, so they decided to remain friends.

  3. I think you’re being a bit too hard on this episode and DS9 in general when it comes to the romance angle.

    First, the unrequited male love story is as old as time. You can go back to the likes of Lancelot to see guys acting crazy for love or infatuation. I think it’s part of the human condition. Many classic love stories depict a guy (or less frequently a woman) wooing somebody who initially rejects their advances. It’s really been only recently that such behavior has been depicted as stalker-like. Obviously, there are real and dangerous stalkers out there, but I never felt like Julian was going that far.

    Jadzia’s response in this episode seems a very realistic attempt by a woman to put somebody in their place without crushing their feelings. I think the “I didn’t feel like I knew you” is a pretty common form of rejection.

    And let’s not pretend this is a story with solely male protagonists. Female-centered romantic comedies or chick-flicks are filled with women acting like stalkers and desperately trying to get a guy.

    I admit I don’t really see the “crisis” in male nerd culture, but I also might not be visiting the same forums or seeing the same comments online (which probably represent a minority of nerds anyways). But I do see a crisis in larger culture towards women and sexuality. It’s one in which many males treat women like sex objects, focus on trying to sleep with them and then leaving them (there have been a lot of complaints about dating sites like Tinder just being tools for guys to sleep with lots of women). It’s the culture of marketing firms using pictures of scantily clad women to sell anything and everything. The culture of jocks at major universities chanting songs that condone rape (and just the prevalence of rape in colleges in general).

    That’s not “nerd culture”, whatever that might mean. To some extent, I think we’d be better off if the DS9 attitude towards love and gender relations prevailed, where guys tried to treat women with respect and their obsession, while sometimes creepy, never became violent or exploitative. There’s a sense that in DS9 romances could be juvenile, but never harmful (at least not intentionally). The males on DS9 were socially awkward, but (except for Odo’s holograph of Kira) never really creepy.

    • There’s a difference, I think, between the jocks in the examples you cite and the nerds in the argument I’m making, but it’s largely just in how these misogynistic impulses find expression. The jocks singing songs about rape is an obvious example, as are the countless sad stories about sexual assaults involving college sports teams. These are definite issues that do need to be talked about; you’re right, there is a larger conversation to be had about how society treats issues of sex and consent.

      However, there is a particular section of that conversation that involves nerd culture in particular. After all, at the risk of generalising, DS9 is not a show that speaks to jocks and athletes and such. They are not the target market. In fact, it should be conceded that Deep Space Nine represents the point at which Star Trek begins to recede from popular consciousness. (The Next Generation was a hit show by just about any measure in a way none of the other spin-offs were.) DS9 generally speaks to nerdom, for lack of a better word. And while misogyny within jock culture might find expression through sexual assault and rape lyrics and so on, it also runs through nerd spaces in its own unique way.

      To quote the great Sean Connery from The Rock, “Losers always whine about their best. Winners go home and **** the prom queen.” It’s not particularly elegant, but that speaks to the distinction between how popular culture views nerds and jocks in matters of sex. The stereotype, for better or worse, is that nerds tend to be more passive in their pursuit of the opposite sex. This leads to archetypes like “the friend zone” or “the nice guy”, where nerds are treated as winning women through sheer persistence and proximity. (And, occasionally, through rape by mistaken identity.)

      And there is a strain of misogyny that runs through this cliché, which seems to suggest that somehow male characters are inherently entitled to sexual affection from the objects of their affection. And it is a bigger issue now than it was when the show was originally broadcast, but it is worth looking at it in that light.

      Hang around a woman long enough, pop culture suggests, and she is certain to eventually realise how much the two of you are meant to be together. Which is not how it works in real life, but it’s such a cliché of how pop culture treats romance (particularly for nerds) that it has seeped into the consciousness. And DS9 is absolutely full of it. The show never really explains why Kira would eventually decide to go out with Odo beyond… well, he’s been pining for years. Bashir seems to get Ezri Dax as a consolation prize. (Notably, we’re also spared the scene where they actually talk through their (undoubtedly complicated) feelings and jump straight from “she’d be open to it” to “they’re sleeping together and in a relationship.”)

      Also, I’d consider Bashir following Dax to her quarters in Dax as pretty downright creepy, using the logic that “she only softly told me she didn’t want me to follow her to her quarters.”

      (And, to be clear, I’m still a huge DS9 fan. It’s probably my favourite Star Trek show, although I’m also hugely fond of TNG. I just find this particular aspect of it has not aged well, when a LOT of the show has aged very well.)

  4. You confused Disaster with Starship Down Darren when talking about the scenes with Kira on the bridge with Sisko. I would have called the scene in the bar with Morn boring the life out of Bashir The Morning After. At first, I thought Hanok was played by Rene Auberjoinois until I saw Odo and Hanok in the same scene at the Dabo wheel – James Cromwell seems to be channelling some of the same mannerisms.

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