|Dax enjoys the attentions |
of Deral (Brett Cullen).
Sisko has succeeded in convincing Starfleet that exploration of the Gamma Quadrant should continue, despite the threat of the Dominion. He is commanding the Defiant on an exploration mission when a planet appears, as if out of nowhere. The planet is Meridian, and its friendly inhabitants explain that their world alternates between two dimensions: the corporeal one of the Gamma Quadrant and a second, incorporeal one. They enjoy a seemingly idyllic existence, aging only when in corporeal form before passing into decades as pure thought, always returning to the physical world with everything exactly as they left it. Naturally, there is a catch. Their time in the physical world is growing ever shorter. Soon (relatively speaking) the planet's shifts will become too unstable to exist in either dimension.
Back on the station, Major Kira catches the eye of Tiron (Jeffrey Combs), a wealthy associate of Quark's. She evades him by pretending to be Odo's lover. But if Tiron can't have the real Major Kira, he's willing to satisfy himself with a holo-image. He contracts Quark to create a custom program of Kira. Before Quark can do so, though, he must get Kira into a holosuite - something that will be easier said than done!
Commander Sisko: Though we know Dax isn't going anywhere, Sisko's goodbye to Jadzia is still quite affecting. There's a genuine tenderness that's built up between these two characters by this point, and both actors play the dynamic well.
Major Kira: When did Major Kira get replaced by someone who would have any problem at all telling one of Quark's creepy colleagues exactly what to go do with himself? Kira's claim of Odo as her lover is amusing enough, and Odo's reaction is priceless (and probably significant)... but Major Kira isn't someone who tends to fall back on passive-aggressive strategies. She'd be far more likely to just shoot down Tiron's hopes for her, with threats to shoot him down far less metaphorically if he didn't get the message and back off. At least the real Kira is back in time to threaten Quark by the episode's end, while Nana Visitor's comic timing proves to be almost as adept as Armin Shimerman's, making the subplot more enjoyable than it has any right to be.
Dax: The season's second Dax-centric episode. While Equilibrium focused on her past and on Trill society in general, this episode gives her a more emotional focus. We've already seen how much she enjoys flirtation, through her teasing non-romance with Julian. It's evident that she enjoys Deral (Brett Cullen)'s interest from the start. When things go further with him, she embraces that wholeheartedly. She does focus both of their attentions on the work at hand, in finding a way to stabilize the planet's dimensional shifts. But she also jumps head-first into a full relationship, even willing to sacrifice her Starfleet career (or at least put it on hold for 60 years) to be with him on Meridian.
Quark: "The things I do for money." Well, at least Quark's aware of how low he sinks in this episode, desperately trying to find a way to get Kira's voice and image for Tiron's porn program. Given that we know Kira has been in Quark's holosuites before, I'm surprised he didn't have her image already stored - that would seem to be the sort of thing Quark would do as a matter of course. But then, if he had done so we wouldn't have a comedy subplot. This is Quark at his least wily and most slimy, which is to say it feels like a gross simplification of the complex character from other episodes. But Armin Shimerman has such natural comic timing that it's impossible to mind too much.
Meridian is an episode with a very bad reputation... yet I have to confess, I kind of enjoyed it. No, it's not a very good episode. But compared to the momentum-breaker that ended the last run of quality, this is surprisingly entertaining and watchable. I'd even call it pleasant.
It is an example of an A plot/B plot structure that utterly fails to work. The best plot/subplot combinations have both stories feeding each other, either thematically or structurally. Here, there are two unrelated strands. There is no thematic connection between the Meridian story and the Quark/Kira story. There is certainly no plot relevance between the two. They are simply two separate stories, neither one of which is really up to carrying an episode on its own. It's less a case of A plot/B plot structure than it is of B plot/B plot. A major limitation.
But it's still pleasant enough. I genuinely enjoyed the scenes on Meridian. It's always a relief to see genuine location footage in a Star Trek episode, and Jonathan Frakes directs with his usual confidence. I found Dax's dalliance with Deral to be enjoyable, though I think the writers chose the wrong ending. The episode would be a stronger character piece if Dax were to decide, after her talk with Sisko, that it made no sense to throw her career away over a brief dalliance, however pleasurable and romantic. That could have provided a more genuinely emotional resolution than the sea of Technobabble that made it "impossible" for Dax to be with her lover. Still, the romance is passably well-realized for a Trek romance, and is anchored by a quite good performance by Terry Farrell.
The Kira/Quark plot is pure comedy relief, and like most Trek comedy plots, it's hit and miss, with many of the scenes running far too long for the scattered laughs generated. There are some good moments, courtesy of the good comic timing of Armin Shimerman and Nana Visitor. Particularly funny is Kira's threat to make Quark "eat" the holo-imager after he attempts to surreptitiously scan her. Also funny is the final program, when unveiled for Tiron... Though I'm sure the damage this would do to Quark's reputation will mysteriously never materialize within the context of the show.
Neither very good nor very bad, Meridian does live down to its repuation in that it breaks an extremely long run of extremely high quality episodes. But it honestly isn't half as bad as I had expected. I even enjoyed it. I certainly wouldn't rank it as one of DS9's worst. A harmless filler episode on its own, that perhaps suffers from coming at the tail end of a run of very good to great shows.
Overall Rating: 5/10
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