Jul 30 2013 3:30pm

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch: “Melora”

Star Trek Deep Space Nine 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…

Church Tucker
1. Church
Waitaminute. Isn't Melora Wil Wheaton's character's God in the D&D podcast campaign?
David Levinson
2. DemetriosX
I think you came close to saying "hot low-g monkey sex" about as often as you did "Sisko decks Q". Unfortunately, unlike the Q episode, that's about all there is here.
3. Hakainokami
It might be. There is a a 4e god named Melora
4. Greenygal
Oh, god, this one.

I can sympathize with Melora's irritation that Bashir modified the chair she asked for without letting her know (and it's as well to point that out, so he's aware it was a problem) but...for crying out loud, you pull out the big heartwrenching speech about your devotion to your dream and how you've wanted it since you were a little kid and how hard you work at it when people are actually trying to stop you from doing things. It is ridiculously inappropriate when your commanding officer tells you that a senior officer will accompany you the first time you do something. Particularly when you've already been told that the same would be true for any ensign.
Christopher Bennett
5. ChristopherLBennett
I don't mind the episode that much, but it had the usual problem that TV and film have in depicting low gravity, in terms of not making much distinction between low gravity and zero gravity. There are likely to be plenty of lower-gravity worlds out there -- Venus is about 90% of Earth's gravity, Mars and Mercury are both at 38%, etc. -- but that's still pretty significant, and you can see in films from the moon (about 1/6 our gravity) that people only fall a bit more than twice as slowly as on Earth (since the time to fall a certain distance goes as the inverse square root of the gravity). What we were shown of Melora's native gravity would correspond to something like an asteroid rather than a low-gravity planet. It's really rather ridiculous to dial her native gravity down that low, when even something like Martian gravity would've been enough to constitute a significant impairment. (Although I feel John Vornholt did a good job justifying this in Gemworld, taking that absurd premise and spinning it into a rather lovely, if not especially plausible, exercise in worldbuilding.)

Also, I feel it would've been more plausible if they'd cast an actress who was really, really skinny and fine-boned, someone who looked like they were from a low-gravity planet. Ashbrook always looked too robust to me.
6. perplyone
I didn't mind this one so much either, but I have spina bifida. I "got" this episode from a standpoint of someone with a disability, and have a lot of the same issues Melora encounter (big-ass chip on the shoulder included). I

've had to deal with lips under stairs and goodness knows what else. I thought Ashbrook's portrayal was dead on.

I do think you're right though, Keith; the "turn off the gravity to save the day" bit was a bit contrived. I'm squarely in the minority on this one, it's my favorite episode in all of Trekdom, but I'm biased. *shrug*

Chris, I always struggled to understand the treknobabble behind Vornholt's Gemworld novels too. He did a good job telling a story. So did you with Orion's Hounds, which is my favorite work of yours. Good job.
Chris Nash
7. CNash
I've always found Melora difficult to like - both the episode, and the character. The titular Ensign doesn't do herself any favours; although she becomes slightly more likeable through her relationship with Bashir, her initial impression is a bad one. I get the feeling that people at the academy treated her very gingerly, walking on eggshells in every conversation, and so she developed this outspoken, chip-on-shoulder attitude (and lack of respect for authority) because nobody had sat down and explained that it wasn't the way she should be conducting herself as a Starfleet officer.

As ever with weak DS9 episodes, it's the B-plot that is more enjoyable to watch. Despite Kot being an unconvincing villain, Odo and Quark's sardonic jousting match is probably the highlight of the episode. There's also the first appearance of the Klingon restaurant, continuing on from the various portrayals of Klingon food in TNG ("A Matter of Honor" etc.); it's nice to see more Klingon culture, and a pity that we'll have to wait until Worf arrives for the bulk of it...
8. Lilly
Awwww, I remember I really liked this episode. :( Granted, the last time I saw it was when it originally aired, so I was about 10. My opinion may have changed, lol. I know she had a huge chip on her shoulder, but I remember liking Melora. Maybe it's because I'm full of snark myself...;)
Christopher Hatton
9. Xopher
I always thought this episode was kind of stupid, but I didn't know it was rewritten from something more interesting (and challenging). That makes it so much worse.
alastair chadwin
11. a-j
I knew I was not getting away with this episode when I found myself so bored that I started idly wondering why Melora didn't have to wear breathing apparatus as a planet with as low a gravity as suggested here wouldn't be able to hold an Earth standard atmosphere. Or is my science completely awry? Is this to be a repeat of my '!=' debacle from last time? Cut me some rope people, my background's in the arts:)

It's frustrating because as several people have pointed out, there was a good potential here to explore issues arising from disability. There is a serious social problem of how able-bodied people can inadvertantly patronise and belittle wheelchair users and other differently abled people. Sadly this episode does not deal with that. Indeed, it inadvertantly sends the opposite message. Melora needs to stop whinging, accept her fate, be grateful for the intentions of others and then conveniently disappear at the end of the episode. And I'm sure that was not what the writers meant. Whoops.
Raymond Seavey
12. RaySea
Melora's attitude bothers me, not because she has it, but because of how she express it. I mean, I know Starfleet is a lot less strict and formal than most real world militaries, but she shows disrespect bordering on insubordination and she's barely even chastised.
Matt Hamilton
13. MattHamilton
I was hoping you'd bring up the fact that someone from that type of gravity probably wouldn't be humanoid because, why? Why would evolution work out that way when you rarely need to use your legs? And CLB...that's true too. Low gravity doesn't mean no gravity. I didn't care for this one either but I do understand what they were trying to do and the knowledge that it came from someone with a disability proves my point and makes it a little more comprehensible as well as redeming it a little bit.
14. Jeff Patterson
An utterly credulity-straining premise. Starfleet personel not fully versed in zero-g or lesser gravity is akin to Navy personel not knowing how to swim.
Christopher Bennett
15. ChristopherLBennett
@13: I'd assume the writers intended her to be from a planet with something like Martian gravity, perhaps, but it was shot as though it were effectively weightless for what I figure were practical reasons with the wirework. I mean, there are safety issues with wirework -- you don't want to raise or lower people too quickly. So having them descend at only about half normal falling speed would've been problematical to pull off. Also, it probably wouldn't have made the gravity difference as clear to the viewers, so they had to exaggerate it to get it across visually.

The other problem, though, is that photo seen above of Melora and a friend basically flying through a cloudy sky. There's no pragmatic excuse for that -- somebody just mistook low gravity for no gravity.
Matt Hamilton
16. MattHamilton
Pretty much what I meant. Agree on all counts. I don't foresee a lot of debating going on with this episode. lol. Also, KRAD, I said so some time in season 1 and now, the Return of Wah-HEY! Good on you, sir! Good on you! Also, wire work and saftey, tell that to William Friedkin while making the Exorcist lol, but I get what you mean.
Charles Olney
17. CharlesO
Not a great episode, but reasonably well done. Strangely, my initial dislike for Melora (for all the reasons articulated) actually helps to make her more appealing by the end. I definitely got the sense that she was used to being treated with kid gloves - and that pushing against any attempts for help had been a necessary part of getting by in Star Fleet. So while they went a bit over the top with her insubordination, I get what they were trying to communicate.

And that's the general theme for the episode. Obviously, they're painting with a pretty broad brush so it's not the most nuanced character study. But the general issues they're working through are real ones and it's nice to see a SF show taking on disability questions.

The romance part felt pretty rushed, but was kind of touching nonetheless. I also liked seeing the more positive side of Bashir's romantic inclinations.
Mike Kelmachter
18. MikeKelm
I'm not actually sure how Melora got into Starfleet in the first place. While I understand that there are many roles in Starfleet, it is still a military organization, which means there are probably some measure of physical standards. I'd be sure that Starfleet Academy has some sort of physical training component. While Melora may be a scientist, she still would be on a ship that might see combat or for that matter have any number of non-combat emergency situations occur. As someone with a physical disability, she would be more of a hinderance than a help in an emergency situation.

What would happen if Melora was in Stellar Cartography when there was a plasma leak in an adjacent section? The crew would be given a short amount of time to evacuate the area before its sealed off to prevent the radiation and fire from spreading. Because Melora moves (realistically) at the rate of a handicapped person, meaning that another crew member would have to assist her in evacuating. Or in a combat situation, she would be unable to get to her battle station in any sort of time (I assume that during battle scenarios, personnel go to emergency stations to help with damage control, act as medics, etc). She also would be unable to defend herself in a situation where the ship got boarded or an away team she was on got attacked.

While I understand and give a pass to Admiral Jameson (after all, Admirals are probably exempt from most of the duties I mentioned and he was not wheelchair confined when he graduated the academy and was serving as a line officer, that same pass can't be extended to Ensign Pezlar. She could be a civilian technical expert a la Leah Brahms, but there is no realistic way she could be a military officer.

Also, is it ethical for Dr. Bashir to become romantically involved with a patient he's treating. While this does get mentioned in the case of Sarina Douglas in Season 7, it gets a pass here as he behaves in a manor which would probably get him barred from practicing medicine.

This whole episode is a one trick pony- "Hey, what happens if we do a show about someone who is handicapped?" and never gets fleshed out at all.
Keith DeCandido
19. krad
To be fair, Bashir became romantically involved with her before she became his patient. Still probably unethical, though, yeah....

---Keith R.A. DeCandido, picking nits
Christopher Bennett
20. ChristopherLBennett
@18: It's rather disturbing to suggest that an organization should discriminate against entire species because of their natural abilities, that entire races should be forever banned from equal participation. It also doesn't make sense in context. I mean, compared to Vulcans, humans are physically very weak, have limited intelligence, have inferior sensory acuity, and are totally devoid of any psionic sensitivity. By Vulcan standards, we're severely handicapped. So should humans be forbidden to serve in Starfleet? And which species' abilities, exactly, should be selected as the cutoff point?

Really, it's ethnocentric in the extreme to call Melora "handicapped" at all. She's no more handicapped than a human would be on a superterrestrial planet with gravity three or four times Earth's, say. The problem isn't her, it's the environment she's forced to work in. Realistically, there's no reason why starships should have to maintain a gravity of 1g at all times. Sure, humans would need to spend a fair amount of time each day in such gravity to avoid bone and muscle loss, but they could have such conditions in their quarters and recreation areas. Given the range of different gravities you'd expect to find in the galaxy, public work areas should probably be kept at a low enough gravity level to accommodate all the species serving in the crew. The only reason this isn't the case anyway is because Star Trek is filmed on Earth and is pretty much stuck with 1g except in specialized circumstances. Heck, even asteroids and comets in Trek generally have full Earth gravity.

Also, the kind of motor-assist armature Melora had here isn't that futuristic at all. Today, we've got prototype military exoskeletons that can increase people's strength 17 times, and the Japanese are working on a civilian model for elderly or disabled patients. By the 24th century, exoskeletons that let people move naturally in gravities far higher than their own should be commonplace, not a rarity as shown here. So there's no reason why a low-gravity native would be unable to function in a high-gravity environment. Again, the problem is with the episode's limited assumptions.
Mike Kelmachter
21. MikeKelm
@ CLB... You're right in a perfectly sensical universe. In the Star Trek Universe, we find that the majority of planets are roughly 1G, the majority of species are humanoid, and the majority of Starfleet is human. The reasons behind this are simple- we're limited by television technology which would make it cost prohibitive for a show to routinely visit planets with gravity other than 1 G and have a lot of non-humanoid species and non-humanesque (I'm lumping Bajorans, Trill, Vulcans and the like who have relatively inexpensive wardrobe modifications to appear as their race in with that crowd).

And I'm not disagreeing with you that the motor-assist armature Melora wears isn't 24th century tech- it's more like 2020 tech, but we've covered the fact that Star Trek creators always seemed short sighted in these regards before. Peter David actually created a device that would probably work just fine when he created Zak Kebron (a Brikar) for the New Frontier series- a gravity compensator that would probably work for Melora, except it takes the rug out from under the premise of the show. Another potential solution was mentioned in the Titan series- having the computer adjust the gravity of the deckplate as she walked over it, until it was pointed out that a crewman who passed her would also be subject to the same force of gravity and likely not adjust for the gravitational shift just because they were walking past and promptly moon bounce themselves into the nearest bulkhead.

And you're also right that there is no need for Earth standard gravity/temperature on board starships. I'd think that all Vulcan crewed ships like the T'Kumbra (Take Me Out to the Holosuite) probably reset the ship for 1.4G, thinner air, higher temperatures and lower humidity than standard vessels. However, there are very few Elasians in Starfleet (or for that matter off planet) so it's unlikely that there is a ship entirely made up of low-G natives. You would probably want to keep the environment at an level where the crew could function optimally in case of a combat or emergency situation rather than a level low enough to accomodate all crew members. In case the ship gets boarded or there is an emergency, crew members would need to be able to act in an unencumbered manor- which wouldn't be the 1/6th or 1/4 or whatever gravity you would need to allow all species to serve.

What I'm basing my statement on is the limitations that we see Ensign Pazlar have... she is limited in her rate of movement and range of motion. A military organization would have to set minimum physical standards that would be met by all involved- in this case it would be some form of minimum standard to operate on Starfleet Vessels and Bases or else lives would be at risk. Since there has never been any sort of comprehensive look at Academy admission standards (at least as far as I know of) who knows what they are, so maybe Vulcans pass the tests very easily (they probably scoff at the standards since they are, as you say, superior to humans) but there are still standards, and I can't imagine what sort of physical performance standard Ensign Pazlar could possibly pass.

This just goes back to the point that the episode does a poor job in explaining the situation. Maybe if Pezlar had a relatively normal range of motion with the armature but was looking to be free from it, which lead her to getting treatment from Bashir, that would be different, but that's not what we are presented with. That might actually be an interesting episode because it would allow for a look at what constitutes "normal" in the 24th century, but again, that's not what we are presented with. We are presented with a woman who either a) moves very slowly with a sort of motor-assist armature that should be archaic by the 24th century or b) moves around by use of a wheelchair. Hence why I don't think she would be able to meet physical standards anymore than a cadet who showed up at the academy 80 pounds overweight and with no upper body strength.
Christopher Bennett
22. ChristopherLBennett
@21: "You would probably want to keep the environment at an level where the crew could function optimally in case of a combat or emergency situation rather than a level low enough to accomodate all crew members. In case the ship gets boarded or there is an emergency, crew members would need to be able to act in an unencumbered manor- which wouldn't be the 1/6th or 1/4 or whatever gravity you would need to allow all species to serve."

Right now, there are people up in orbit who've been living in the International Space Station for months, and they're certainly able to act in an unencumbered manner, because they've had time to learn how. Sure, if someone is not used to low-gravity conditions and is suddenly exposed to them, that would pose a problem for mobility and function. But in the scenario I'm proposing, it would be their everyday working environment, so of course they'd be able to adjust and know how to function in that environment. Hell, gravity itself is a huge encumbrance. Reducing it would make a lot of things easier, not harder.

"What I'm basing my statement on is the limitations that we see Ensign Pazlar have... she is limited in her rate of movement and range of motion. A military organization would have to set minimum physical standards that would be met by all involved- in this case it would be some form of minimum standard to operate on Starfleet Vessels and Bases or else lives would be at risk. Since there has never been any sort of comprehensive look at Academy admission standards (at least as far as I know of) who knows what they are, so maybe Vulcans pass the tests very easily (they probably scoff at the standards since they are, as you say, superior to humans) but there are still standards, and I can't imagine what sort of physical performance standard Ensign Pazlar could possibly pass."

Again, you're fundamentally missing the point, which is that she isn't limited at all, not by the standards of her own species. She's just in an environment that is designed to discriminate against her. Is it the fault of Elaysians that Cardassians refused to design their gravity grid in a way that could accommodate the equipment Elaysians would need to function there?

Basically what you're saying is that an entire race of beings should be perpetually denied the right to participate equally in an activity, and that is a truly awful attitude to hold. I don't think you realize how hideous the implications of what you're saying are.
23. bigray1999
I know I'm changing the subject here...

But did anyone know Marina Sirtis is a new recurring character on NCIS?

She's portraying the director of Mossad, Israel's military intelligence service.

I think this a great role for her. She said she took it because it's not very common for women her age to be depicted at the highest possible level in the military and law enforcement.
24. MutchRalph
@5: Silly people. Elaysians are thin, twiggy people, but Melora is an unnaturally beefy specimen. That's why she went to Starfleet. The frail, breakable ones wouldn't stand a chance.
Bastiaan Stapel
25. Stapel
I found it hard to not getting distracted when watching this episode. IMHO, it's simply a poor written one.
Matt Hamilton
26. MattHamilton
I stand corrected on my statement that there wouldn't be that much debate for this episode. Good on you, sirs!
Rob Rater
27. Quasarmodo
Since Dr. Horndog finally managed to bag a chick, it would stand to reason he would've been bragging all over the station about it. Also he should've still be hitting on Dax hard between bragging, and Melora should've seen him doing it.
28. Zabeus
Eh, I posted a really long comment (not as long as MikeKelm's but longer than CLB's) and it disappeared! Maybe it got mistaken for spam. So I'll try to resummarize what's wrong with this episode:
1. Melora isn't disabled. She didn't grow up bitter from being treated differently. They should have written about someone with a real handicap if they wanted to portray that. The huge chip on her shoulder wouldn't have developed after only a few years in the academy. The insubordination might have come from special treatment though.
2. The superiors' laid-back reactions to her insubordination were more annoying than the act itself. Star Trek had a bad habit of sometimes portraying Starfleet as militaristic (not in the combat sense) and sometimes not.
3. I found Bashir to be more creepy here than Geordi.
4. Zero-g Bashir is laughable. Any Starfleet officer should have zero-g training, and other people would have probably played in zero-g holodeck simulations.
5. Not a reason for disliking the ep but more for the debate above: It would make sense for Starfleet to develop base standards of working/living arrangements and discriminate between species that can and can't work in those conditions. You couldn't possibly make a ship comfortable for everyone large-scale. It seems like there are ships with a majority of one-species, like Vulcans in DS9, so it would make the most sense that if Elaysians want to be in Starfleet, and can't adapt like Melora, they would usually be on Elaysian-crewed ships.
Percy Sowner
29. percysowner
Of course in TOS it was semi-established that members of the Federation served on ships made up of people from the same planet. Spock felt the death of the ship manned entirely by Vulcans. This makes a great deal of sense because having the crew have the same requirements in regard to food, sunlight, gravity, atmosphere makes the entire mission easier. It seems foolish that Star Fleet wouldn't maintain this standard and have separate training areas that fit the physical needs of the trainees and then they would be assigned to ships that were constructed to meet those needs. In other words, it's great that they wanted to do an episode about a person who needs accomodation, but it makes no sense within universe. If Melora had been working on and Elaysian ship and had to be transferred to DS9 it would have made sense, but then she wouldn't have the built up resentments and emotions. Basically an interesting idea that doesn't fit into the world of Star Trek.
Alan Courchene
30. Majicou
In fairness, this is the episode that taught us "there's nothing worse than half-dead racht." Words to live by. The rest of the script, sadly, contains words to forget almost immediately.
Christopher Bennett
31. ChristopherLBennett
@28: We know that DS9's Cardassian-made gravity plating couldn't accommodate Melora's hoverchair. For all we know, that chair would've enabled her to have much greater mobility and functionality in a high-gravity environment, just as many real-life people in wheelchairs manage nearly as well as everyone else so long as their environments are designed with accessibility in mind. And maybe Melora's exoskeleton could interface better with Starfleet grav-plating and give her greater functionality in that environment.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
32. Lisamarie
I'm glad a few other people twigged onto the fact that she really isn't 'disabled'. She is just in an environment that is not optimal for her particular abilities as a species. It's a little different than somebody who is of a species where the norm is to operate in a high gravity environment, but due to an injury or illness may not have the normal range of motion or abilities. So, I was glad she didn't make the treatment permanent because I don't think she should feel there is anything wrong with her - although it would be her perogrative, I guess. (Nor do I feel like a disabled person should feel there is something wrong that has to be fixed, but I can wrap my mind around that a little better - if I lost the use of my legs I would want them to be restored, because that's what I am used to. I can't say how people born without that use would feel).

I think it is fair to say she is handicapped while on DS9, at least in the literal meaning of the term - but the handicap is something imposed from the environment and the fact that it doesn't accomodate for her particular abilities. It has nothing to do with her intrinsic self or value (for that matter, neither does being disabled. I actually find it a little irritating to me that we sometimes can't recognize that a person is disabled and have to put a spin on it. I appreciate and appalud the good intentions behind it, but I think it's better to just accept it and also understand that it has no bearing on a person's intrinsic worth or value. There are definitely many people whose disabilities do not prevent them from accomplishing great things, and have other abilities that make up for, or maybe even more than make up for, what they don't have. But, I think it has negative affects on how we view the ones that we can't spin in some positive way, that aren't able to fully compensate, and I find that worrisome)

I generally take a more charitable view of intepreting what people are saying, but I don't think MikeKelm is being that horrible. I think what he is basically saying is that a person who doesn't have abilities X shouldn't be able to do a job that requires ability X. This doesn't mean the person has less value or that there is something wrong with them or that they are less than a person.

Now that said I also totally think that by the 24th century, the Federation, which is supposed to be a multi-cultural (in the galactic sense of the word!) organization, should be able to accomodate many kinds of abilities and the challenges that different beings would have, such that something like that shouldn't be an issue - I don't know that physical prowess in an Earth-like environment is necessarily a requirement to be a valuable, contributing member of Starfleet.

And perhaps elsewhere in the Federation this isn't as much of a problem, it's just that DS9 is still suffering from its legacy as a poorly maintained Cardassian station (and like the Empire, I don't think they had Wookiees in mind when they designed it). That said, there probably are jobs that Melora would just never be able to do, and I don't think it's hateful to accept that. It may not be her fault or the fault of her species, but it's how it is. I don't think MK is saying that it's the RIGHT thing to discriminate against them, just that, based on what we see here, it's hard to see how she could function at a required level in certain situations. But I agree that the right thing is to do is to have a more accomodating environment so that she CAN participate because she obviously has a lot to offer.

I hope I haven't said anything unintentionally hurtful or insensitive.
Christopher Bennett
33. ChristopherLBennett
@32: But the problem with what Mike is saying is that he's not just proposing excluding a single individual, but excluding an entire species from ever being able to participate in Starfleet. And that's a disturbing thing to suggest, although I assume he didn't mean it to be, but just didn't think through the broader ramifications of what he was saying. He was defining her as a disabled individual and thus failing to consider that there was an entire race with the exact same abilities. And there's a huge difference between excluding an individual and excluding a whole race.

As for Melora enhancing herself to fit a new environment, I don't think there's anything wrong with that, but then, I don't think there'd be anything wrong with humans genetically engineering or bionically modifying themselves with greater strength, senses, radiation resistance, or other attributes enabling them to thrive in new environments. Given how intolerant the Federation is of human augmentation, it would've been a hypocritical, ethnocentric double standard to be okay with altering Melora to let her function in an Earthlike environment. Although given what we later learned about Bashir, it's more understandable why he'd be okay with the suggestion.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
34. Lisamarie
Yeah, I don't think it would have been wrong for Melora to do it as a personal choice, but I am glad the episode didn't imply it was something she SHOULD have done, if that makes sense. So I like the way it ended.
Joseph Newton
35. crzydroid
@21: I think the problem here is that I don't think we should expect every Starfleet officer to encounter some combat situation like you describe. You are discriminating against her on the basis of something that might happen. 98% of the time, she would be perfectly capable of fulfilling her role as a cartographer or whatever it was, especially with her normal anti-grav equipment. So there's no reason to prevent her from having a job she is perfectly capable of doing just because someone might leave Riker in charge to allow a handful of Ferengi in antiquated vessels to take over the most powerful ship in the fleet with over 1000 people on board. But as we saw in the show, there can be situations where her ability to function in low gravity gives her a decided advantage in a hostile situation.

I think there can be debates on how militaristic Starfleet is supposed to be too. It seems like it's something that might differ by writer. But consider the fact that during peacetime, they let children live on the flagship, so why not a handicapped person? And during wartime, the Klingons let Alexander serve in the Defense Force, so why not Melora in Starfleet?

As for the episode itself, I think it makes some interesting points. One, it brings up the fact that handicapped individuals aren't totally helpless, and in some cases your offer of helping or trying to make things easier can be unintentionally patronizing or belittling. On the other hand, I think it's good to point out that these behaviors usually are unintentional. So in other words, you don't have to be a total asshat about it. People in general sometimes like to help out others, even if the other person is perfectly capable or didn't ask for help. You may have had to put up with is behavior your whole life, but your own behavior and your reaction to it is your own choice. Each individual who unintentionally patronizes you be offering to help is at best ignorant and just trying to do something helpful. So a civil response would be to nicely explain to them the implications of their actions, or to simply say, "No, thank you."

That being said, I find it ironic that the episode was rewritten to make the characters less patronizing and falling over themselves, because it is the exact point the episode is trying to bring up. It's like saying, "Here, let me rewrite this as a non-handicapped person to give MY view on the experiences of a handicapped person." Not that I think whoever was in charge was doing that; there may be other reasons to rewrite things. I just thought it was interesting.
Roger Dalton
36. RogerDalton
Random thoughts on this episode:

A. Me and my girlfriend have a pretend drinking game where you have to drink every time someone on DS9 mentions how hard it is for them in some prison camp. It comes up in nearly every episode, and that they were even able to shoehorn it into this non-Bajoran episode is hilarious to me. It started with Ro Laren on TNG before we had watched any DS9 episodes (this is our first time through), so it seems remarkably prescient now!

B. Star Trek is allergic to technological self-improvement. It was obvious as soon as the idea was proposed that her plan to become acclimated to 1G was going to fail for one reason or another. We aren't even going to make it to 2100 without meaningful changes in what humans are capable of with mechanical or biological augmentations, much less 2400, but for Star Trek it's a moral issue. Genetic engineering leads to Khan, computer augmentation leads to uber-Barkley, medical augmentation isn't worth becoming a mermaid on land. I don't see any plausible reason why her being strong enough to survive station gravity would reduce her ability to be among her people except that it's convenint plot to support this twisted morality.

C. I love the way Odo has to open the door for people leaving his office. It's such a power move every time.

Agree that the Odo-Quark parts of this episode were better, but I didn't think it was that bad, all things considered. Pretty much just super-predictable, like many Star Trek episodes. (Part of this predictability may be that we are watching all of the shows back-to-back daily starting with TOS, which is most certainly not how they were experienced by original viewers) They actually held-back from the amount of annoying moralizing of modern day I was expecting from this episode by, for example, having Julian have an apparently normal human relationship with her rather than having it revealed that he was treating her as a science experiment, or becoming mad at her for not wanting to go through with the treatment.
Christopher Bennett
37. ChristopherLBennett
@36: I don't think the idea here was that it was wrong for Melora to enhance herself, but that it was wrong for others to define her natural state as a handicap in need of correction. So it's more that she was doing it for the wrong reasons, out of conformism.
Roger Dalton
38. RogerDalton
@37: I agree that the intended message is what you've described, but it also has the resulting subtext that I've described. The writers DO want to tell stories where you are allowed to be what you are now, and they DON'T want to tell stories where you are allowed to change into what you want to be.

Wesley Crusher is the best example of a human exceeding human limitations in the Star Trek universe. How did he do it? Not by striving to achieve an unparalleled goal, but by rejecting other peoples' advice and being "true to himself."

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