|Dr. Bashir is drawn to |
Melora (Daphne Ashbrook)
A new cartographer arrives on Deep Space 9: Melora Pazlar (Daphne Ashbrook), the first Elaysian to ever graduate from Starfleet Academy. Elaysians live on a world with far lower gravity than what is normal for humans. This effectively makes Melora severely physically handicapped within the station's environment. When she begins a relationship with Dr. Bashir, however, the doctor is able to provide a treatment which may grant her the ability to function in full gravity - but at a steep price!
Meanwhile, Fallit Kot (Peter Crombie), an old acquaintance of Quark's wanders into the bar. Kot has just finished an 8-year sentence at a Romulan prison camp, after being burned by his partner in a smuggling venture. He has returned to settle the score with the man whose treachery put him in that prison camp: Quark!
Commander Sisko: Though he will remind Kira, sometimes in a laid back way and sometimes not, that he is the station commander, he somehow allows Melora to get away with throwing a minor tantrum in his office on her first day. In the normal course of events, I would expect Sisko to be telling her to take her attitude and sense of superiority back to the Academy, because he has no use for either on his station. But that would only happen if Commander Sisko was actually in this episode, rather than a cardboard cutout of Sisko who is there solely to act as a relatively minor extra in Melora's extra-special story.
Dr. Bashir: In a very good character scene, one of the few good scenes in the episode, Julian tells Melora about the incident that set him on the path to becoming a doctor. At a remote location, he watched a girl his own age die - only to discover later that she could have easily been treated by herbs that were growing all around them. This led him to study medicine, and eventually put him on his current path. He is fascinated with Melora and falls easily into a relationship with her, though there is a sense that his feelings for her are buried under his own scientific curiosity once he begins her treatments.
Quark: Armin Shimerman is as amusing as ever. Quark's subplot with Fallit Kot, as the Ferengi desperately tries to find ways to appease the man he has wronged, is far more entertaining than the main plot. Quark's actions throughout make a reasonable degree of sense. He first tries to appease Kot with bits of luxury - a pair of beautiful women, some fine food, promises of more. When it's clear that won't work for long, he tries going to Odo. But Odo can't hold a man simply for disliking Quark, so the Ferengi goes to the next step: bribery, with a high price tag. That last may well have worked, if Kot didn't have his own plan in mind that could be summed up with the word, "idiotic." This last bit of the episode, which attempts to mash all the various subplots together in one runabout, is where the Quark plot ceases to work - but up until then, it's easily the best part of the episode.
Hot Alien Space Babe of the Week: "Melora" is apparantly Elaysian for "Mary Sue." All the boxes are there to be checked. As the only Elaysian in Starfleet, she is of course extra-special. She's able to bicker with Sisko about her assignment without getting the smackdown you'd expect. She gets into a relationship with one of the regulars. She even saves the day at the end - after being shot, no less! Finally, she gets to be the moral center of the final scene while Julian is left to stare lovingly at her, blinded by her ultra-specialness. I only pray we never see or hear of her again, so that I can pretend that both this character and this episode never actually existed.
With a story that ends up being little more than an exercise in the world of "Mary Sue," Melora turns out to be the worst episode of Deep Space 9 yet. It's cliched, with a stock central character: the handicapped woman who is so obsessed with independence that she pointlessly pushes everyone around her away. Never seen that character before, have we?
This unpromising starting point is made worse by an episode that can't decide what its focus is going to be. Are we focusing on Melora opening up to the reliance on others needed to function effectively as a Starfleet officer? Well... no, because that notion, and her initial prickly nature, are completely forgotten after about the 15-minute mark. Is this a love story, between the special young woman and Dr. Bashir? Well... no, because that subplot isn't introduced until the 15-minute mark, and then recedes far into the background around the 30-minute mark. Is this a story of Melora accepting her extra-special specialness, when her special nature is put into conflict with Julian's new treatment for her? Well... not really, since that subplot takes up only about ten minutes' screentime.
Given that it comes after a run of eight straight episodes that were all well above average, Melora's sheer badness is almost excusable. All winning streaks end, after all, and an 8-episode streak is pretty darn good. I just hope it's a while before there's another episode as poor as this.
One good character scene for Julian, and some mild amusement from Quark, keep this from getting absolute bottom marks. But it's still the worst Deep Space 9 episode yet, and I found it a trial to sit through.
Overall Rating: 2/10
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