Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch: “Melora”

“Melora”
Written by Evan Carlos Somers and Steven Baum and Michael Piller & James Crocker
Directed by Winrich Kolbe
Season 2, Episode 6
Production episode 40512-426
Original air date: October 31, 1993
Stardate: 47229.1

Station log. Bashir is showing off to Dax the wheelchair that he and O’Brien constructed for Ensign Melora Pazlar. An Elaysian, she’s the first member of her low-gravity species to join Starfleet, and she has to use a wheelchair on the station because her antigrav unit won’t function on DS9. She also wears an exoskeleton and carries a cane. She refuses Dax’s help to get into her “trolley car,” and generally has a big-ass chip on her shoulder. She objects when Dax tells her that she’ll be accompanying Pazlar on her Gamma Quadrant mapping mission, as she’s perfectly capable of working on her own (and also apparently slept through the classes in the Academy that discussed the concept of the chain of command). Dax tartly points out that Sisko wouldn’t let any ensign take a runabout by herself on her second day on the station. O’Brien also adjusted her quarters so the gravity will be the norm she’s used to.

Quark closes a deal with a Yridian just as Fallit Kot walks in. He’s been in a Romulan prison for the last eight years, and he announces to Quark that he’s come to the station to kill him. Quark’s response is to do everything he can to make Kot happy and comfortable: gourmet food on the house, two dabo girls, and so on. This has no effect on Kot’s desire to kill Quark, though.

Bashir and Dax brief Sisko on Pazlar’s request to pilot solo, and when she arrives, she’s resentful of the fact that the meeting started without her, since she feels she should be present for a discussion of her request. Sisko reminds her that, as CO of the station, he consults with his senior staff about personnel issues all the time. She apologizes, saying she’s used to being shut out of “the Melora problem.”

She’s one of the few Elaysians to leave their homeworld, and she resents being treated as if she’s sick. Sisko says that no one’s done that, but Bashir is in a meeting about a cartography mission. She’s achieved everything she’s done without help from anyone, and she’d prefer to go on the mapping mission alone. However, Sisko does not change his orders.

Bashir visits Pazlar in her quarters, which she puts back to regular gravity, and he asks her to dinner, giving her a hard time about how she constantly attacks people. After one or two more snarky remarks, she accepts the invite, to a new Klingon restaurant that has opened up. Pazlar surprises Bashir by complaining about the food—not that it’s too icky, but that the racht is half-dead and should be live. After they’re finished imbibing the serpent worms and side dishes, Bashir tells her about the time he saw a little girl die, only to find out later than an herb growing all around them would’ve saved her. After a digression to try out a tennis career, he then pursued medicine. Pazlar actually relaxes for the first time before calling it a night, as she has an early mission the next morning.

Dax arrives to meet Pazlar at her quarters, but she’s not there—she’s in a storage bay, where she tripped on one of the raised lips that are all over the station, and fell on her exoskeleton controls, leaving her helpless to even call for help, since she couldn’t control the movement of her arms.

Bashir fixes her up, and then escorts her to her cabin, where she invites him to share the low gravity. He’s as giddy as a kid on a carnival ride as he floats around the cabin, and then they smooch and have hot low-g monkey sex.

The next day, the mission goes off as planned, and Dax and Pazlar go to the Gamma Quadrant. They talk about the viability of relationships in Starfleet.

Quark goes to Odo, where we find out the whole story (mostly from Odo, who looked this all up the minute Kot stepped on the station). Kot was smuggling a hijacked shipment of Romulan ale. Quark was the middleman, and they were both arrested. But only Kot served time because Quark sold him out in exchange for no jail time. Odo reluctantly promises Quark that he’ll do his job. He has a deputy bring Kot to his office in order to make it clear that he knows what Kot wants—but that’s all he can do, as Kot’s done nothing wrong yet. Odo gives Quark a combadge so he can call Odo at the first sign of trouble.

Bashir shows Pazlar a process that might allow her to function in normal gravity. It’s a thirty-year-old theory that had no practical applications then, but advances in technology since then mean it would work fine now, just nobody bothered to look. Bashir starts the treatment, and in the first session, she can walk without the exoskeleton for a bit. But she can’t use the low-grav in her quarters, as it would just confuse her muscles. After more treatments, she starts getting a bit of buyer’s remorse, knowing that she won’t be able to take refuge in the low-grav environment again—worse, she won’t be able to go back home, except for very short visits.

Kot ambushes Quark in his quarters. Quark manages to save himself by offering to bring him in on the deal with the Yridian. Kot gets all the money Quark would’ve gotten on the deal—but then he changes the deal, shooting the Yridian and taking Quark at phaserpoint with both the money and the goods. Odo sends security, but Kot holds them off, then takes Pazlar and Dax hostage just as they’re disembarking from the Orinoco. Kot has them leave the station, but Sisko hits them with a tractor beam. Kot shoots Pazlar to make it clear that he wants the beam released. Sisko frees the Orinoco, but not before he, Bashir, and O’Brien board the Rio Grande to pursue.

As the chase goes on, and Dax stalls as much as she can, Pazlar—whose nervous system has been hyperstimulated by the treatments from Bashir, thus saving her life—manages to crawl her way to the gravity controls and turn them off. Everyone’s disoriented—except Pazlar, who’s used to it—and she cold-cocks Kot.

Later in the Klingon restaurant, Pazlar tells Bashir she won’t be undergoing the treatment. She wouldn’t be Elaysian anymore when it was done. Besides, as much as she likes the idea of being independent, she’s coming around to the usefulness of being dependent on someone occasionally.

Can’t we just reverse the polarity? In order to survive in the higher gravity that is apparently standard on most worlds in the Star Trek universe, Pazlar needs to wear an exoskeleton and use a wheelchair (normally an antigrav chair). Hilariously, Cardassian systems interfere with antigrav units, yet a person’s quarters can be changed to a low-gravity environment.

Rules of Acquisition. When Kot tries to sour the deal with the Yridian, Quark quotes the 16th Rule: “A deal is a deal.”

No sex, please, we’re Starfleet. Bashir is fascinated by Pazlar before she even arrives, and his response to her overall hostility is to flirt with her. This actually works, and they get to have hot low-g monkey sex.

Meanwhile, Quark provides two dabo girls to “tutor” Kot in how to play the game, and he suggests learning their “double down strategy.” Wah HEY!

Keep your ears open. “Oh, it’s you.”

“Don’t be so happy to see me.”

“All right, I won’t.”

Odo’s response to Quark’s entry to his office.

Welcome aboard. Daphne Ashbrook plays Melora Pazlar, making her one of the few actors to appear in both Star Trek and Doctor Who—she appeared in the 1996 Who movie starring Paul McGann. Peter Crombie played Fallit Kot, and Ron Taylor makes his debut as the Klingon chef.

Trivial matters: Pazlar—or, at least, a character very much like her—was part of the original conception of DS9, but logistical issues with getting a wheelchair around the set prompted a change to the character of Jadzia Dax. However, Evan Carlos Somers—an writers intern on DS9 who is also wheelchair-bound—felt that the character could be revisited for at least a guest shot. His initial draft was rewritten twice, first by Steven Baum, then by Michael Piller and James Crocker.

This is Pazlar’s only on-screen appearance, but she’s appeared extensively in the tie-in fiction, primarily in the novels featuring the U.S.S.Titan, as she’s made part of Captain William Riker’s crew in Taking Wing by Andy Mangels & Michael A. Martin, and has appeared in all the Titan novels to date. She’s also featured in the TNG duology Gemworld by John Vornholt (where she was assigned to the Enterprise-E) and the crossover trilogy Destiny by David Mack.

The Klingon chef will continue to recur throughout the series. In the post-finale DS9 novels, he’s given the name Kaga (after the host of Iron Chef).

The original plan was to use the same wheelchair used by Admiral Jameson in TNG’s “Too Short a Season,” but that was too large for the more cramped corridors of the DS9 set, so a new one had to be built.

This episode explains why we’ve never seen the antigrav cargo and people carriers that we saw on TNG: Cardassian systems can’t handle antigrav units, thus forcing Pazlar to use a wheelchair.

Walk with the Prophets. “Oh, red alert.” Let’s see, what nice things can I say about “Melora”? We see the Klingon restaurant for the first time, which is awesome. Odo and Quark have a hilarious scene together (the highlight of the episode is the bit where Quark says Kot threatened him, and Odo just smiles; when Quark defensively asks him, “What?” Odo sighs and says, “Nothing—just a passing thought”). Siddig el-Fadil is charming as all heck.

Yeah, that’s about it. This episode is pretty much a disaster on every front. Reportedly, the original draft of the script by the wheelchair-bound Somers had the crew falling all over themselves to help Pazlar, but her not actually needing it—basically, what Pazlar accuses the crew of doing in the final draft, but which they don’t actually do. That would’ve been much more interesting than what we got. As it stands, it’s pretty much impossible to be sympathetic to Pazlar, as she’s defensive and argumentative from jump, constantly questioning orders. Forget the disability for a second—she’s a friggin’ ensign in Starfleet. If anybody else questioned her superiors the way she did, they’d be reprimanded at the very least. She wants no special treatment, yet she insists on it by questioning orders and not expecting there to be any consequences for that.

And all this is before the first act is halfway done, and the episode’s focal character is firmly established as somebody we’re given no reason to care about. Aside from giving Bashir someone to have hot low-g monkey sex with, the episode doesn’t seem to have much of a purpose. The B-plot isn’t any better, mostly because Peter Crombie utterly fails to be convincingly menacing—he can’t even seem to figure out how he’s going to kill Quark (something Quark himself points out in the runabout), making his ability to take Starfleet officers hostage even more absurd. And hey, we’ve got a character who has a thing about gravity, so let’s let her stop him with gravity! That would be awesome!

Plus, the whole episode feels humanocentrically ridiculous on the face of it. This can’t be the first time this sort of thing has come up, yet everyone acts as if this is unusual. Yes, budget limits require that most of the people we see be humanoid (though would someone from a low-gravity world be that physically close to human? of course, she just has to be traditionally pretty so Bashir has a reason to flirt with her, because heaven forefend he flirt with someone not traditionally pretty), but that doesn’t mean all species are. Dax even brings up some examples in her conversation with Pazlar about Starfleet relationships. So why is such a big fuss being made about this one officer? It just doesn’t track.

Daphne Ashbrook does the best she can with the material she has to work with, she handles both the character’s snarkiness and her joy (her smile is radiant as hell) skillfully, and she and el-Fadil have fine chemistry, but it’s not enough to save this train wreck.

Warp factor rating: 3

 

Rewatcher’s note: I’ve launched a Kickstarter campaign for a graphic novel based on the universe of my novel Dragon Precinct and its sequels. Art will be by JK Woodward (the artist on the Star Trek/Doctor Who crossover comic book). Please check it out and spread the word!


Keith R.A. DeCandido will be at Shore Leave 35 in Hunt Valley, Maryland this weekend. His schedule is here, including a self-defense workshop Saturday evening at 6pm. Among the other guests are fellow Star Trek prose stylists Lorraine Anderson, Christopher L. Bennett, Kirsten Beyer, Greg Cox, A.C. Crispin, Peter David, Michael Jan Friedman, Dave Galanter, Allyn Gibson, Robert Greenberger, Glenn Hauman, Jim Johnson, Paul Kupperberg, William Leisner, David Mack, Marco Palmieri, Aaron Rosenberg, Lawrence M. Schoen, Melissa Scott, Amy Sisson, Howard Weinstein, and Richard C. White, among many others. Oh, yeah, some obscure Canadian actor named Shatner will be there, too…

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