Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch: “Equilibrium”

Written by Christopher Teague and Rene Echevarria
Directed by Cliff Bole
Season 3, Episode 4
Production episode 40512-450
Original air date: October 17, 1994
Stardate: unknown

Station log: The Siskos are cooking a huge meal for the senior staff. While waiting for dinner to be ready, Dax starts playing Jake’s old piano quite skillfully—which is something of a surprise, since none of the hosts of the Dax symbiont have ever had musical talent. She quickly becomes obsessed with a particular piece she’s playing, which she never heard before and doesn’t know, but can’t stop playing.

The next day, Dax is humming the same tune while she and Sisko are playing chess. She’s not even doing it consciously. When Sisko makes a move, Dax insists he was cheating and storms out of his office. Kira goes to talk to Dax in the replimat, and Dax blows her off, too. As she walks down the Promenade, she hears the music again, then hallucinates that she sees people in hoods and masks—but every time they take off the masks, there’s another mask under it.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Equilibrium

She reports to the infirmary, and as Bashir checks her over she apologizes to Sisko. She has a ton of anger inside her for some reason. Her isoboramine levels (a neurotransmitter that regulates the connection between host and symbiont) are 73% of normal. Bashir checks back through the symbiont’s history, but finds only one major trauma that’s similar: Torias, the host prior to Curzon, who was in a coma for six months, and when his isoboramine levels went under 40%, they had to remove the symbiont. Bashir suggests she go back to Trill to have the symbiosis commission doctors look her over.

Sisko takes the Defiant to Trill. Dax can’t sleep, and talks to Bashir about stuff. She swore she’d never go back to the symbiosis commission after her grueling three years as an initiate. And worse, she’s going back as a patient. Bashir offers her one of the bunks in his cabin, and she finally gets to sleep.

They arrive at Trill, and Dax goes through a battery of tests. She, Bashir, and Sisko meet with Dr. Renhol, and the latter starts a treatment to get her isoboramine levels up. Bashir and Sisko refuse to let Dax give them a tour of the sights of Trill because she needs her rest. On her way to (very reluctantly) get that rest, she hears the music again and sees the hooded masked guy. She’s then grabbed by two Trill—who turn out to really be Bashir, wondering what’s wrong with her.

She goes back down to Trill. Renhol theorizes that her isoboramine levels are going up too fast. She has Bashir alter the treatments—smaller doses more often. Dax, meanwhile, is concerned because the two Trill who grabbed her in her hallucination wore uniforms worn by the symbiosis commission a hundred years ago.

Dax goes to talk to the guardians, unjoined Trill who take care of the symbionts who aren’t yet joined or are between hosts. The trio travel to the symboint pools in a subterranean cave, and meet with Timor, who recognizes Dax right away, and also knows that something’s wrong. The balance between host and symbiont is off—though it could be balance with one of the other hosts. Timor insists that the hallucinations are memories of a previous host—but Dax doesn’t remember them.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Equilibrium

The Defiant computer finds Dax’s music: it was a piece composed by a Trill named Joran Belar 86 years earlier. Seeing his face prompts a flashback: an old man in a room being killed by a hooded man in a mask. She rips the mask off, and it’s Joran.

And then Dax collapses on the bridge in neural shock.

Renhol treats her. She asks Sisko for information on the wormhole, since that might be affecting her. Sisko and Bashir go to Timor, who’s backing off his certainty that it involves a previous host. This just makes the two of them more curious. Bashir investigates Joran, and they find a virtually empty record, albeit one that has had a lot of information deleted. Joran’s date of death is the exact same date that Torias died and the Dax symbiont was placed in Curzon.

There’s no record of Joran Belar in the Trill music academies, but they do find a Yolad Belar, who’s still alive, and was Joran’s brother. Yolad’s surprised that there’s no record of Joran’s attendance at the music academy since they graduated together. Yolad also reveals that Joran was a Trill initiate. According to the symbiosis commission he was dropped from the program, and then killed the doctor who dropped him, dying himself shortly afterward. But Yolad remembers speaking to him six months prior to his death, when he claimed to already be joined.

Sisko theorizes that Torias wasn’t in a coma for six months, that he died immediately, and the Dax symbiont was placed in Joran—who then committed murder. They confront Renhol, who insists that a symbiont is never put in an unsuitable host because the host would die in a few days. Yet Joran—a psychopath—was successfully joined for six months. This indicates that the suitability of the host is less of a factor than the symbiosis commission would have the general public believe.

Sisko isn’t interested in exposing Trill’s secrets, he just wants to save his friend. But if Renhol lets Jadzia die, he’ll tell the entire galaxy what happened and why. Renhol admits that half the population is capable of being joined, and if the public learned that, there’d be chaos, the symbionts traded like commodities, hence the rigorous initiate program.

Renhol still objects, because the only way to save Jadzia is to let her have unfettered access to Joran’s memories, which could negatively affect the symbiont. Sisko insists that she make that decision, so she’s taken out of sedation. She goes to the symbiont pool and confronts an avatar of Joran and embraces it, incorporating his memories fully into herself.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Equilibrium

Back at the station, Sisko visits Dax in her quarters. She’s glad she found out about Joran. She feels she knows herself more fully. After Sisko leaves, she goes to Jake’s old piano and starts playing Joran’s song.

The Sisko is of Bajor: We already knew that Sisko’s father is a chef, whom he helped out as a kid. Now we know that the restaurant he owns is in New Orleans.

The slug in your belly: We learn about two more hosts, Torias—who died in a shuttle accident 86 years ago—and Joran, whom the viewer learns about at the same time as the main cast, who had the symbiont for six months before he committed murder. The symbiosis commission covered up his crime and his unsuitability by saying Torias was in a coma for six months. After that, the symbiont went to Curzon. We now know the names of four of the six pre-Curzon hosts: Lela, Tobin, Torias, and Joran.

Preservation of mass and energy is for wimps: Odo volunteers to help Sisko with the stirring the soufflé, which he does in a hilariously uncomfortable manner. (Kira at one point says he looks cute, and he totally does.)

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Equilibrium

No sex, please, we’re Starfleet: Amazingly, when Bashir invites Dax to stay in his cabin on the Defiant, there’s nothing remotely sexual or creepy or flirty about it, which is a welcome step forward, as pretty much all of Bashir’s interactions with Dax in the first season were at least one of those three things.

Tough little ship: There’s absolutely no reason why Sisko should take the behemoth of the Defiant on a trip to Trill that really only required him, Bashir, and Dax. Given Bashir’s comments on the inadequacy of the Defiant sickbay in “The Search, Part I,” a runabout would’ve done the trick just fine.

Keep your ears open: “You don’t like beets, Doctor?”

“Well, they’re not exactly a personal favorite of mine, no.”

“That’s because you haven’t had them prepared properly. Beets are a very misunderstood vegetable.”

“Well, I look forward to understanding it better.”

Sisko and Bashir discoursing on beets.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Equilibrium

Welcome aboard: Lisa Banes plays Renhol, Harvey Vernon plays Yolad, and illusionist Jeff Magnus McBride plays Joran, while Nicholas Cascone returns as Timor, having previously played Davies in TNG’s “Pen Pals.”

Trivial matters: Joran’s full story is told in “Allegro Ourobouros in D Minor” by S.D. Perry & Robert Simpson in the anthology The Lives of Dax.

Joran will return in the episodes “Facets” (where his personality will be channeled through Sisko’s body) and “Field of Fire” (where he’ll be played by Leigh J. McCloskey due to Jeff Magnus McBride being unavailable). All the previous Dax hosts will be seen in “Facets,” including Torias, and more details about the latter’s life will be seen in “Rejoined.”

Renhol and Timor won’t appear again onscreen. The former shows up in your humble rewatcher’s Demons of Air and Darkness and the latter is in “Aversion” by Michael Jan Friedman in New Worlds, New Civilizations. Both characters are mentioned in Andy Mangels & Michael A. Martin’s Trill: Unjoined (in Worlds of DS9 Volume 2).

This is the first DS9 script by Rene Echevarria, who came over from TNG with Ronald D. Moore.

Walk with the Prophets: “It’s important to know who you’ve been.” This is another one like “The Collaborator” that’s more of a useful episode for what it establishes in the lore than it is an actual good episode, only far more so, because honestly it’s pretty terrible.

We start with Dax being bitchy, a mode at which Terry Farrell does not at all succeed. Her snarking off of Sisko and Kira is utterly unconvincing and takes the teeth out of those scenes. (This is made more frustrating by her later fear and vulnerability with Bashir on the Defiant, which she plays magnificently.)

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Equilibrium

Then we arrive on Trill, which is apparently two cheap sets. All the events on Dax’s homeworld take place in a virtually empty hospital room and Yet Another Trek Cave Set (latest in a series, collect ’em all!). Thankfully, “Playing God” let us know how tough it is for initiates, and how miserable Jadzia was in her time as one, because this episode does nothing to give us any sense of the symbiosis commission, except present us with a single doctor, played by Lisa Banes as a third-rate Gail Strickland. The scene where Sisko confronts Renhol about Joran’s being joined has the life drained out of it because Banes doesn’t give Avery Brooks anything to play off of.

The symbolism of masks is wasted; it’s a good metaphor for Trills, masks covering masks covering masks, but it doesn’t go anywhere. Also, why does no one mention the events of “Invasive Procedures,” which might go a ways toward explaining what’s happening? As it is, we get no explanation whatsoever for why Dax suddenly started remembering stuff regarding Joran.

The only effective scenes in the entire episode are the teaser and the very end. The former is a tour de force for the cast, from Sisko’s gadding about keeping up with all the food to Jake’s joyful assistance to Kira’s anticipation to Bashir’s lack of enthusiasm regarding beets to Odo’s hysterical stirring of the soufflé. The latter is a nice quiet coda to the whole thing, ending with Dax playing Joran’s piano piece as we fade out.


Warp factor rating: 3

Keith R.A. DeCandido is pleased to announce that The Klingon Art of War, which will be out in May 2014, is now available for preorder on Barnes and Noble’s web site in hardcover and for the Nook. (You can also preorder it on Amazon in hardcover or for your Kindle.)


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