After the short arc of the first three episodes, we’re back into more standalones. Invasive Procedures is about Deep Space Nine being taken over during a plasma storm because there’s only a skeleton crew left aboard. The mastermind of the takeover is an unjoined Trill named Verad, who has decided that he is entitled to the Dax symbiont. His love interest, Mareel, is a prostitute that he rescued from his former life; she acts as his second-in-command on the hired crew that Vared uses to invade the station.
There isn’t a b-plot to speak of; most of the episode is devoted to Sisko trying to convince Mareel that Vared, once he’s Vared Dax, is going to leave her because he’ll be a different person. There’s also some good interaction between Sisko and Vared Dax, where Sisko makes it clear that he doesn’t give a shit if Dax is in there… basically if that’s Dax, that’s someone who is no longer his friend.
Honestly, I wanted to like this episode more than I did. The biggest problem is, I think, that for all the conflict is about Dax and who is in possession of the symbiote, Dax as an entity seems curiously absent. Doesn’t Dax as a being have an opinion about being kidnapped, their previous host effectively murdered while in the prime of her life, and forciby joined with someone they didn’t choose? Apparently not. Dax is a little football that Vared and Sisko fight over, basically. Then because the episode is at its time limit, Jadzia gets the symbiote back and everything is fine.
The next episode, Cardassians, is the moment we’ve all been waiting for: The triumphant return of the Totally Heterosexual Adventures of Elim Garak. A Bajoran couple bring their adopted Cardassian war orphan to the station and immediately there’s politics all over the place when it’s implied that the parents are somehow teaching the poor kid to hate himself. The situation is obviously more complicated than that–Rugal, the kid, knows he’s Cardassian, knows what the Cardassians did to the Bajorans, and isn’t really being accepted… but his adoptive parents really love him. But he’s also the thought-to-be-dead natural child of Pa’Dar, a political opponent of Gul Dukat.
Look, I’m just in it for Garak. My favorite moment of the episode is when he just casually lets himself in to Julian’s quarters to tell him they’re going to have an Extremely Straight Field Trip down to Bajor as soon as possible. Andrew J. Robinson, who plays Garak, is absolutely transfixing in the moment when a Cardassian child at the orphanage asks him if he’s come to take them home to Cardassia; the simple look he gives her speaks absolute volumes.
The one thing I didn’t like about this episode is how quickly Rugal’s story is tied up; it’s not very satisfying. Sisko decides to send him back to Cardassia with Pa’Dar, even though his Bajoran parents love him. Rugal doesn’t get a voice in any of this. He’s a plot puck, getting batted around.
But really, it’s all about Garak, telling Julian:
Truth is in the eye of the beholder, doctor. I never tell the truth because I don’t believe there is such a thing. That is why I prefer the straight line simplicity of cutting cloth.
Keep scattering those bread crumbs, Garak.
The next episode, Melora, is… bad. Real bad. It’s a Very Special DS9 Episode about an ensign coming to the station who is effectively disabled in normal gravity because she comes from a very low-gravity home planet. (The good ol’ “marginalized person as alien” Star Trek trope.) The station is obviously not accessible for someone who uses a wheelchair; that fact alone heavily applies that disabled humans (or Bajorans, etc) don’t exist in this future because they haven’t had to come up with any work arounds to the Space Asshole Construction before now.
Melora herself has some good moments, like when she says “The truth is there is no ‘Melora’ problem until people create one.” Her “disability” isn’t the problem; other people make it the problem. But all of her good points are met by the crew being uniformly patronizing in a really awful way. Julian is in total creeper form as well as being patronizing, which apparently is appealing to Melora?
There’s the dangling of a “cure” for Melora’s condition. She starts to pursue it, but then ultimately decides to not because she would lose a lot of her cultural connections and no longer feel like herself. I am not a disabled person myself, but I know this is a fraught topic, and not one where there should be an automatic assumption that a cure would be wanted… so maybe in this little bit, the episode gets it slightly of right?
But otherwise, the episode is real bad. It wants to make philosophical points about dependency versus independence in a way that totally elides that it Star Fleet as a society treated accessibility like a right, this wouldn’t even be a question.
The only bright light is the cook at the new Klingon restaurant, and he’s mvp when he’s serenading Julian and Melora.
Rules of Acquisition brings back DS9’s second best recurring character: The Grand Nagus, played as always with wicked delight by Wallace Shawn. He comes to the station to put Quark in charge of a big negotiation with people from the Gamma Quadrant… because if Quark is successful, the Nagus will reap the rewards, and if he fails, Quark will take the blame. A brilliant young Ferengi waiter on Quark’s staff points that out and becomes Quark’s business consultant in the process.
Only the waiter is a Ferengi woman who is masquerading as a man. She has an absolutely brilliant mind for business and refuses to be hampered by her gender in their fundamentally misogynistic culture. Look, I’m a total sucker for “crossdressing to get around the stupid bullshit of my society to get what I want” stories.
And my favorite bit is where Jadzia figures out that Pel loves Quark, but not that she’s female–Jadzia thought she had her a gay Ferengi! (Also, this is a great way for Pel to reveal she’s female without having been “clocked” by anyone, which is a thing that happens way too often in stories like this.) This also really implies that Jadzia doesn’t think homosexuality is abnormal–and maybe that gay Ferengi are a thing. Which come on, this thing was made in the 90s. I’ll take it.
I think this episode also has the first mention of the Dominion? Quark and Pel find out about it when they go to the Gamma Quadrant. Right after Pel tries to kiss Quark. Which Quark immediately goes into denial about.
Rom, incredibly jealous about Pel, ransacks her room to find out her secret. The scene where Rom rats Pel out is so hilariously shot. We just see them in the distance, Rom and Quark talking, then Rom hauling Pel over, then… Quark just falling over like a log. It’s a delight. What it leads to is sad, though. Quark sending Pel away from the station, unable to handle that she’s wearing clothes and quoting Rules of Acquisition.
Pel: Then come with me! No one in the Gamma Quadrant would care if I wear clothes or not.
Quark: I care.
Ouch. Ouch. Ouch. Pel decides to unmask herself in front of the Nagus… but all it does it screw Quark out of his cut of the profits from the Gamma Quadrant. The Nagus querelously saying, “Shame on you!” to her is lovely, though. He sounds so hurt about having been skunked.
Pel: It’s time you learned that women are as capable as men when it comes to acquiring profit.
Quark: Do me a favor and don’t tell anyone else.
Oh Pel. You were amazing.
Honestly, I wonder if that’s why Quark spends all his time creeping on non-Ferengi women, particularly Jadzia. Deep down, he wants someone who can be his equal (or outfox him) but he can’t mentally handle it when he meets his match in a Ferengi woman. Your loss, Quark.