Normally I write these at night. I'm a bit of a night owl by habit already, and I find that, when doing creative work, I perform far better at night. I'm much more focused during the evenings, whereas I tend to get distracted far too easily by the business and hustle-and-bustle of diurnal life. Today though I am breaking habit and writing this during the morning, but it seems to feel right. I am, after all, also very much a day person: Sunshine is a vital and fundamental part of my existence and I need to be around it and in it constantly or I get depressed. I am of the Sun and the Moon equally, which makes things annoying when I need to find time to sleep. I could say the same thing about Star Trek: Deep Space Nine-This is a show that uses a great deal of dark cinematography and colouring, and it's of course a space-based science fiction series. And yet a sizable majority of my memories of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine evoke feelings of openness, brightness and warmth because, as I'll discuss in further detail in following chapters, much of my experience of it came through comic books and magazines, including most, if not all, of this season. I have extremely vivid place-memories of reading about this year's stories in such magazines beneath the warm and welcoming summer sunshine.
It's news to nobody that Jadzia Dax is my favourite character on this show. It is, in fact, typically a three-way race between her, Tasha Yar and Geordi La Forge for my favourite character in all of Star Trek. But of those three, it's no contest who has the most consistent and unforgettable personality. Jadzia Dax is a goddess-woman, a divine avatar who exists in the space between worlds beckoning us to join her. And this is her definitive story. Jadzia is “Playing God”, that is, playing at being a god, but not in the expected Robert Oppenheimer sense. Though diegetically mortal, Jadzia Dax is dressed in the trappings of the divine, her initiate Arjin also her prospective pupil and the play's stand-in for us. Jadzia plays a goddess of fertility, love and lust: Wild and vivacious, she tries to make Arjin get over himself in order to make peace with and accept himself. Because only someone conscious and mature enough to do that will be able to accept cosmic love and light into themselves. It's in that moment of ego death where we find clarity and gain the power to channel our own truest selves. True confidence and identity lies in the moment where we shed the anxieties and self-consciousness of youth while retaining its vive. And if we're not there yet, we can pretend we are. It's the same thing.
Arjin himself wears the masks of many things. Chief among them, however, is that of the implied audience-Hardcore science fiction and/or Star Trek fans and, by extension, the franchise itself. Like Star Trek, Arjin is nebbish, insecure, directionless and far too eager to impress. He's put off by Jadzia less by bigotry or prudishness and more feelings of insecurity and intimidation, and that's what's holding him back. He's totally uncomfortable being himself because he isn't quite ready to admit to himself who he really is. It's not that he doesn't necessarily know (this isn't the cliché navel-gazey plot about the young adult going off to “find himself”), he's just not yet ready to embrace himself for all that he is. Were he just to relax and be himself, he'd find his life would be a lot more clear to him and it would go far easier. And that's the exact sort of person who needs a goddess to come to them, show them their reflection and give them guidance towards navigating their path. And like all great goddesses, Jadzia is not at all coy about putting things in front of her disciples to force them to confront themselves.
Naturally given this is Jadzia's story (which means it's really Arjin's story), “Playing God” is simply dripping in sex magic. Jadzia makes Arjin walk in on the aftermath of one of her own sessions, and then proceeds to tease him by walking around her quarters in just a towel, all in an attempt to focus his attention and force him to confront sides of himself he's afraid to. Moments later, the scene is echoed extradiegteically for our benefit when the camera appears to be preoccupied with Major Kira and Miles O'Brien, who it catches in a compromising position under the Ops command table, lingering for a fair bit of time on their shapely backsides. Standards and practices for a syndicated TV show that goes out before the watershed in certain markets mean there always has to be backdoor “innocent” explanation for such things (including a rather risible, albeit tongue-in-cheek, suggestion in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion that Dax and her paramour were “wrestling”. I'll bet they were), but the “not what it looks like” context of the Ops scene does nothing to dissuade the shippiness quotient I read in it.
(There is also the subplot of the Cardassian Vole infestation, which we are helpfully reminded happens to take place during the voles' mating season. This subplot is utterly incredible and one of my absolute favourite storylines in the entire series-It's as playful and quirky as Dax herself.)
Dax takes Arjin through the wormhole, the Celestial Temple, and for him creates new life. An entire universe of new life, in fact: Breath channeled and given a new dream-form. We get a typical Star Trek moral dilemma, because this is the set of storytelling conventions and symbolic associations we must translate ourselves into to operate in this realm. Is it dangerous? Only if you look at it a certain way. The universe is of us, but it is also bigger than all of us. How do you, personally, respond to a truth like that? Odo and Kira articulate the debate and, in doing so, reveal something fundamental about their characters and their relationship with each other:
“We already have a solution and the longer we wait the harder it will be to implement it. I'm sorry, but this is us or them. We have to destroy it!”
“You can't just wipe out a civilization! We would be committing mass murder!”
“It's like stepping on ants, Odo!”
The shapeshifter who can be anyone and anything can mould himself into any perspective...And the formless being looking for an identity falls back on justice. Meanwhile, Commander Sisko spells out the solution for us:“I don't step on ants, Major.”
By acknowledging the Borg, Commander Sisko makes his choice. The Borg are who we do not want to emulate, and this is something he would know better than anyone else. And in order to avoid becoming the Borg, we choose empathy. We choose life. We choose love and anarchy. We choose Jadzia Dax, and we welcome her into our lives for all she has to teach us.“Personal log. Supplemental. One hour. One hour to make a decision that could mean the life or death of a civilization. Or the end to our own. My mind keeps going back to the Borg. How I despised their...Indifference as they tried to exterminate us. And I have to ask myself...Would I be any different if I destroyed another universe to preserve my own?”
And as for Arjin? Perhaps he was scared that the new universe would overtake him. He's not ready to be a Trill host. But perhaps he will someday. In Another Time.