|Dr. Bashir tries to cure Sarina's catalepsy.|
The genetically engineered mental patients Dr. Bashir worked with last year return to the station. Bashir believes he has found a way to cure Sarina (Faith C. Salie)'s catalepsy, to allow her to engage with the world around her. She initially shows no change after the surgery, leaving Bashir feeling that he failed her - but then she is found wandering around the Promenade, where she announces she is looking at "everything!"
Sarina is grateful to Bashir, and happy to be able to interact with the people on the station. But as he gets to know her, Bashir finds himself drawn to her: a woman whose genetically-engineered intelligence is not only equal to, but probably greater than, his own. He initiates a relationship, pushing her to more and more activities before she's had time to adjust to her new life.
And then watches in horror as she starts to withdraw all over again...
Capt. Sisko: The group of patients arrive on the station by having Patrick (Michael Keenan) impersonate a Starfleet admiral. A serious offense, but recognizing that the childlike Patrick has no understanding of why, Sisko agrees to have the charges dropped. Not without first reminding Bashir of the trouble this group previously created, however, and not without eliciting a promise that such behavior will not happen again.
Dr. Bashir: The episode highlights his loneliness. His friends and colleagues are all either married or in relationships (and this is the only Trek series in which the bulk of the regulars are in committed relationships), which leaves him a bit of an "odd man out," with his genetic engineering making him even more of an outsider. Meanwhile, Sarina is the ultimate outsider - someone who has never been able to engage with the world around her before now. It never occurs to him that he might be too quickly pushing her into something she's not ready for, and he only recognizes his folly at the episode's end.
O'Brien: The most emotionally accessible of the regulars, he recognizes his friend's mistakes all too well. He attempts to talk to him about how fast he's moving with a girl who was his patient (something Bashir handwaves away by saying he had her assigned to a different doctor). But when it's clear that Bashir just isn't able right now to hear the truth, O'Brien stops himself from further comment, wishes him a simple and sincere "good luck," and waits for the inevitable fallout.
Ezri: Isn't she meant to be the station's counselor? I would expect Sarina, a woman who has spent most of her life completely cut off from other people only to suddenly be connected in a big way, to need to talk to a counselor - Heck, to be required to! Nicole de Boer does do well with the scene in which Ezri supplies all the reasons why Bashir should feel free to beat himself up... But that's the only moment she has in the episode that doesn't feel like it could as easily have been written for Jadzia, and that feels like a dropped ball in an episode where a counselor would actually seem to be called for.
Hot Genetically Engineered Space Babe of the Week: A nice touch of both script and performance is that when Sarina first begins to speak, she does so haltingly, with a sound in her voice approaching that of a deaf person speaking words she can't hear. That fades as she becomes accustomed to speech. It's strongly indicated that Sarina only agrees to a relationship with Bashir out of gratitude, and as Bashir turns it into a very serious relationship very quickly, she becomes overwhelmed.
Deep Space 9's take on Daniel Keys' classic Flowers for Algernon, Chrysalis offers several worthy moments. The performances are good across the board. Much of the dialogue is sharp and even funny. Patrick impersonates an admiral with startling success by simply responding to all inquiries by barking, "That's a stupid question!" Jack (Tim Ransom) and Patrick fret about the death of the universe in billions of years time, treating that deadline as an immediate emergency - something that reinforces the difference of their perspective from most people's in a way that doesn't just make them the butt of "Look at the Crazies!" jokes. The scene in which the patients celebrate Sarina's successful surgery with an improvised a cappella performance is gloriously well-done.
Unfortunately, all of these good moments are packed into the first half of the episode. Once Bashir declares he is in love with Sarina, the episode becomes flat and tepid. There's nothing terribly effective in waiting for Bashir's ill-advised romance to fall apart, and it's clear that such has to happen - So for the rest of the episode, we are simply left waiting for the inevitable.
Perhaps if some of the story had been told from Sarina's point of view, some genuine emotion could have been wrung from her dilemma. She naturally wants to show her gratitude to the doctor who gave her back her life; at the same time, she doesn't want to commit her entire life to him before she's even had a chance to start living it. That might have created some effective drama, if that had become the focus. But with the viewpoint purely Bashir's, and the dilemma being his desperation to fit and belong with someone, the results become just a bit too predictable and a bit too tedious.
And that's the problem with Chrysalis in a single word. It isn't bad in any particular way. It's just... tedious. An episode to "get through" on the way to better things.
Overall Rating: 4/10.
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