Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Shadows and Symbols   Rewatch 
October 6, 2016 5:49 AM - Season 7, Episode 2 - Subscribe

It's a Bajoran-Romulan showdown at Derna, with the alliance at stake. Meanwhile, the soul of the late Jadzia Dax is at stake in a Klingon-Cardassian battle at the Monac Shipyards. And in the desert, Ben can't remember his name.

Memory Alpha does not waver. It will fulfill its destiny:

- Brock Peters makes his last appearance as Joseph Sisko in this episode. In defending the decision to send the 72 year old Peters into the Palmdale desert for the scenes on Tyree, Ira Steven Behr explained that "Ben came back home to be with his father, and I just felt that keeping the family together meant something. If it had been my kid off, I'd have gone with my kid. If it had been Bonanza, Ben Cartwright would have gone with Little Joe and Hoss, and even Adam Cartwright."

- Ira Behr refers to the Kira/Romulan story in this episode as the "Cuban Missile Crisis" story, but it was specifically written in such a way that it was Starfleet who back down, not the Romulans.

- The writing on the wall in Benny Russell's cell was genuine handwriting done by the entire Art Department, under the supervision of Michael Okuda. The writing was supposed to be the history of Deep Space 9, as told by Russell; all the stories as seen by viewers since the pilot episode, "Emissary". When deciding what to actually write on the walls, Okuda used an early manuscript draft of the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, and he had his team copy out the episode summaries from every episode prior to "Shadows and Symbols" – so the writing is literally the history of Deep Space 9.

- This episode features Casey Biggs (Damar) as Dr. Wykoff, continuing the concept of people in Sisko's Benny Russell visions being played by series regulars or recurring guest stars without prosthetic make-up.

- A few months after this episode aired, the desert filming location used for the surface of Tyree was seen again as the surface of a Delta Quadrant class D planet in the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Gravity".


"But why me? Why did it have to be me?"
"Because it could be no one else."

- Sisko and Sarah


"You have definitely gotten stranger."

- Ezri Dax, about Sisko


"The Federation has already sent a strong protest to the Romulan Senate condemning their action."
"That's a start. What happens next?"
"They've already issued a formal protest of our protest."

- Ross and Kira
posted by CheesesOfBrazil (19 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Oh I've been through a dessert with a ben with no name...

And in the desert, Ben can't remember his name.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 6:40 AM on October 6, 2016


Another great episode, and the way the plot threads were interwoven was excellent. The way this episode shows the struggles and strains Sisko is undergoing is nicely done - when he is talking to his father about the woman in the photo and grabs him and realises he has let this overtake him, and then the strain he feels when he is again Benny Russell trying to finish his story, and then finally it all pays off and he wins out. Nice arc for the character over the episodes.

The new Dax is great in this one, completely lost and unsure but at the same time aware of the deep bond between Dax and Sisko and all they've been through. Her confusion when she talks about what happened and how she felt after/now are well written, I can believe it would be like that for someone in that situation, although one nit-pick would be that Ezri says once the Dax is inside her it can't be reversed, yet we know this is not the case from an episode from what seems a long time ago now... The way she talks to Sisko, both on Earth and Tyree is good as well, she even stands up to him a bit, much in the way Jadzia would have done.

The Worf/Bashir/O'Brien/Quark/Martok plot was a bit lame - we know they are going to escape so it was not very tense, but the destruction of the shipbuilding place looked great. One thing with that Klingon slicing-the-hand thing - surely there are tendons and shit there, it would fuck your hand up and you wouldn't be able to close it or use it for fucking ages. I know they can they just get the rejuvenator out afterwards, but this seems like some ancient ritual and in the past they couldn't have done this, so surely there would have been a load of Klingons with fucked up hands wandering around? Yet again, Klingons prove they and their culture to be dumb. The only good thing about it was Quark being there, and Martok's telling Worf they were Jadzia's friends, and he should respect that.

The Cuban Missile Crisis In Space plot is a bit strange, it doesn't really seem to add anything to the episode for me (unless it has repercussions down the line, I can't remember if that is the case) and having Kira take Odo seemed odd, surely he would be needed on DS9. And the Mike Hammer stuff also seemed a bit lame - I get he is a reference viewers at the time would have understood, but still. Best line: Odo: "Mike Hammer would be proud of you."

Another quibble: so, if one of the wormhole aliens lived as a human how come the still don't understand linear time?

Thanks for the detail about the writing on the wall in Sisko's cell - I had actually wondered about that.
posted by marienbad at 7:16 AM on October 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


Another quibble: so, if one of the wormhole aliens lived as a human how come the still don't understand linear time?

Great question, and I not only have no answer, but can't believe it never occurred to me before. The sense I get is that the Sarah-Prophet existed sort of parasitically inside the Sarah-Human, yet the -Prophet must have been the one having all the experiences of being Joseph's wife, because of the whole separation after Sarah-Prophet took off. Maybe Sarah-Prophet+Human was just…really weird and spacey, and Joseph just didn't mention it? I've certainly known a few people who you could imagine not understanding linear time.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 7:37 AM on October 6, 2016 [3 favorites]


I like Ezri so far - though considering what a big deal they made about what a taboo it is for Trill to repeat the romances of their previous hosts, and how strongly Jadzia Dax felt about that previous Dax's spouse, I'm curious to see how they can justify in-story Ezri Dax remaining on DS9. I guess she'll feel about Worf like she does about cold raktajino and not have any desire to rekindle the romance. But then isn't that kind of like accepting a job offer at your ex's workplace?

Quark's professions of love for Jadzia continue to get on my nerves. Maybe if he'd had some role in the mission besides whiny spectator, it might have felt more sincere to me, but this just seemed like grandstanding. (They didn't give Bashir anything to do either, but at least his presence was less obnoxious.)
posted by oh yeah! at 8:40 AM on October 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


The revelation about Sisko's birth felt like a jump the shark moment. The Emissary role was a lot more fascinating when it was something he encountered in a First Contact as Starfleet officer, and the Federation and Bajorans viewed the Prophets in two opposite ways. That's all out the window now, and I think it's less interesting to find it was all predestined. But the Bajoran religion already has a Pope Kai and demons Pah-Wraiths banished to Hell Fire Caves, so it was going to happen that Sisko would be Jesus The Chosen One.

Christ analogies are a frequent thing in cultural works, so much so that Christians aren't even the only one who write them (Siegel and Shuster with Superman). So it's not surprising that DS9 would go there. I just feel it's lazy. The writers introduced a lot of potential to explore religion and faith with the Prophets and Founders, but they never were very interested in the possibilities. I don't blame them as there was so much going on with the series, but I still don't like how they dealt with it.

Another quibble: so, if one of the wormhole aliens lived as a human how come the still don't understand linear time?

If the writers don't care to think about it, it's not worth us thinking about. Just assume it was the will of the Force.
posted by riruro at 10:24 AM on October 6, 2016 [3 favorites]


The only one of the three stories I liked was Kira's. Beyond a great display of Kira's tenacity, it is also a reminder that Bajor is an independent state. It kind of bothered me when Kira would fight Dominion War missions on the Defiant. She even took command during the Chin'toka battle. I get wanting to put a main character in the action, but that's a huge breach of the Non-Aggression pact.

My question is, Romulans being Romulans, whether the Romulans wanted those weapons on the moon for strategic reasons or more as a means to test Bajor's resolve.

Finally, this dialog:
Admiral Ross: You can blink now, Colonel - you've won. Senator Cretak has agreed to remove the weapons from Derna.
Kira: What changed her mind?
Ross: I told her, if she didn't remove them, I would.
Kira: And what changed your mind?
Ross: You did...Remind me never to play poker with you.
Should have ended with Kira turning to Odo and asking:
Kira: What's Poker?
Odo: I have no idea. It's something one plays, so presumably it is either a sport or a musical instrument.
Kira: Why do Humans assume everyone in the galaxy understands their metaphors?
But then I remembered that Kira and Odo were reading Mickey Spillane on that ship. So I'll just shut my dumb mouth.
posted by riruro at 10:48 AM on October 6, 2016 [5 favorites]


Kira: What's Poker?
Odo: I have no idea. It's something one plays, so presumably it is either a sport or a musical instrument.
Kira: Why do Humans assume everyone in the galaxy understands their metaphors?


Maybe I'm just saying this because I'm midway through a TOS rewatch, but I would have loved loved LOVED for DS9 to do this at some point. Or maybe Be'lanna.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 11:25 AM on October 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


Also everything is referred to by it's earth equivalent, which is just massive cultural imperialism.
Like, no one on Romulus is going into a bar and ordering a Romulan Ale. The Aldebaran's are not going to order and Aldebaran Whisky.

Although I suppose DS9 did this a bit less. They tended to name the alien food and drink more explicitly.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 12:08 PM on October 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


although one nit-pick would be that Ezri says once the Dax is inside her it can't be reversed, yet we know this is not the case from an episode from what seems a long time ago now...

Which episode do you mean? According to Memory Alpha, once a Trill and a symbiont are fully joined they can't be separated without the host dying, and if the worm doesn't find a new host right away it will die too. (Also, in the first draft of Trials and Tribble-ations we learn that the symbionts and tribbles are related!)

Pardon my woolgathering, but reading that entry made me wonder how the whole Trill symbiotic relationship began. By the time we know them the joining is a surgical procedure. Presumably it didn't start like that. Was it an Alien-esque deal where some symbiont just jumped on a Trill and burrowed inside? MA quotes the DS9 series bible: "Many centuries ago, the symbionts lived underground [...] [until joining with the hosts] due to an environmental disaster." There is one hell of an untold story there! What sort of disaster drove sentient parasitic worms into the bellies of these people?
posted by Ursula Hitler at 2:03 PM on October 6, 2016 [6 favorites]


although one nit-pick would be that Ezri says once the Dax is inside her it can't be reversed, yet we know this is not the case from an episode from what seems a long time ago now...

Which episode do you mean? According to Memory Alpha, once a Trill and a symbiont are fully joined they can't be separated without the host dying, and if the worm doesn't find a new host right away it will die too.


S02E04 - Invasive procedures. Varad doesn't die when the Trill slug is removed from his body. Nor did Riker in the TNG episoide.

wonder how the whole Trill symbiotic relationship began

I have wondered this too. The slugs don't seem able to survive long outside their hosts so how did they manage to enforce the joining? Surely the Trill hosts could just have said, "no, what you gonna do about it? Nothing lol." I mean seriously, unless there is an advantage gained, but then, as UH says, how did it occur originally, before surgery was invented?
posted by marienbad at 3:21 PM on October 7, 2016


Wasn't there some kind of psychic connection going on between Jadzia and the slugs in the pool that time back on Trill? Maybe the surgery is only necessary with adult symbionts, or with the transfer from one host to another, but the first joining is more of a do-it-yourself-er operation.
posted by oh yeah! at 5:41 PM on October 7, 2016


Varad doesn't die when the Trill slug is removed from his body. Nor did Riker in the TNG episoide.

I don't think Varad had time to fully assimilate the symbiont, that was the difference. I think that once a Trill and a worm are fully bonded, they can't be separated without it being very dangerous (if not deadly) for both, but until then the symbiont can be removed safely. I also don't think a human can survive with a worm long-term, that was just a temporary situation.

If I was going to write DS9 Trill fanfic (and even I'm not gonna go there) I'd guess that many centuries ago the worms were smaller and existed on their own, but then some calamity forced them out of their secluded environment and into open waters. A Trill went for a swim and maybe a worm swam down their throat or something and joined with them, and the Trill soon realized this was beneficial somehow. (At that point the worm wouldn't have been able to offer all the memories of other Trill, but maybe it could offer increased intelligence or something.)

I've never been too sure how intelligent the symbionts themselves are. Are they dumb slugs that just happen to carry the Trill personalities, or are they intelligent beings who bring their own personalities to every joining?
posted by Ursula Hitler at 6:03 PM on October 7, 2016


I'm not sure how long full assimilation takes, but Varad changed, and was linked "mentally" with the symbiont after the op, to the point where his personality and intellect seemed to change.

Also, how the heck does the symbiont living in a human work? Surely Trill and Human physiology are different, chemical and physically, so why can it live in Riker?
posted by marienbad at 6:13 PM on October 7, 2016


Oh, I get the feeling the personality stuff is pretty immediate. When Riker got his worm, he was immediately identifying as the Trill dude who'd romanced Crusher. But I don't know how much of that the host retains, once they lose the worm. I think Riker could host a symbiont for a day or so, sort of like a transplanted animal part, before his body would reject it. Sure, you could question the biology, but with Trek if you start tugging at the threads the whole velour red shirt comes apart. If humans can mate with aliens, we can accept their sentient parasites too!

I gave in to curiosity and Googled up some stuff about the Trill. According to Wikipedia, in the TNG episode The Host (which introduced the Trill), "the personality of the being was entirely that of Odan, the symbiont within the host, whereas the personalities of the Trills in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine are a blending of the symbiont Dax and its sequential Trill hosts." That answers my question about symbiont intelligence, and squares with my memory of The Host. I remember thinking the one Trill woman we saw (before she got the worm) seemed really blank, and wondering how the heck their symbiotic relationship worked. At that point it kind of seemed like it was a planet with these people who were mindless zombies until they got a worm with a personality!
posted by Ursula Hitler at 12:36 AM on October 8, 2016


At that point it kind of seemed like it was a planet with these people who were mindless zombies until they got a worm with a personality!

Yeah, this is clearly an artifact of TNG not quite fully figuring out the Trill, but we can handwave it by saying "Well, there are some really bland-ass unjoined Trills." We will meet some in the upcoming episode "Prodigal Daughter." (...Man, I have really been hating on that episode lately!)
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 7:02 AM on October 8, 2016


My feeling about both Ezri's being stuck with the symbiont permanently and with the Symbiosis Commission being alright with her going back to DS9 is that it has to do with the particular circumstances of how she got the symbiont and also the war. Jadzia gets zapped by the path-wraith-possessed Dukat, the symbiont is basically dying when it gets stuck in Ezri, and the Commission may have figured, hey, we maybe could transplant it into a more suitable candidate, but why risk it? This is, after all, a symbiont with centuries of accumulated memories (fun fact: according to Memory Alpha, the symbiont will be born two years from now), and has especially been useful during the war through Jadzia. Which is also why Ezra gets to go back to the station. The Commission is,after all, willing to bend its own rules (as witness "Equilibrium"), and needs must.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:26 AM on October 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm with riruro regarding the opinion that in general DS9's writers were lazy with regard to Bajoran religion, the Pah-Wraiths, the Prophets, and so forth. I started writing about it a few threads ago and noted I would have more to say. Here's some.

With respect to the challenges to suspension of disbelief created by the apparent posession of Sarah by a wormhole alien, I have a couple of meta-readings to offer.

First, since DS9 has spent a great deal of time working with the idea of the symbiont Trill, it's not unreasonable to see Sarah-Prophet as another symbiotic entity. For that matter, Vic Fontaine somewhat fits this theme as well, as does Gul Dukat later this season. This does nothing to present a harmonization of Sarah's posession with Trek and DS9 physics, but on the other hand we don't really explore the physics of Pah-Wraith posession or the maintenance of millennia-old fire cave force fields either.

Second, another reading of Sisko which after consideration I suspect may have been intentionally left available is this: Ben is mentally ill. Not in the manner that Benny is, but in that we are actually being presented with a limited-perspective unreliable narrator view of his plot events. His vision in this specific episode of Benny in the bin can be interpreted as his consciousness attempting to acknowledge his illness.

With this in mind, the entire series arc of Sisko's time on DS9 takes on a new light. Granted, apparently Star Fleet was not concerned about Sisko's hallucinations degrading his ability to serve as the station's commanding officer, and retconning the whole series into a limited-perspective narrative in order to account for Sisko's encounters with the wormhole aliens seems excessive.

But within the framework of the earlier seasons, it's rare for Sisko to carry predictive or distant-knowledge information out of the Prophet moments. Here, unprecedented real-world events are depicted which would imply that the Prophets can control all sorts of things in the same physical universe that the characters of DS9 understand to be, as Benny puts it, REEEEAAAAL.

So I think it's possible that beginning just about the time that Sisko experiences his sf writer hallucination, he's beginning to actually experience hallucinatory mental illness. This hypothesis can even be deployed to explain why Starfleet granted him a sabbatical in the middle of the war. Heck, maybe it's a long-term side effect of excessive communication with the wormhole aliens.

And, come on, the guy's been through a lot, including time travel to the bad old days on Earth and to the technicolor-uniform era of Starfleet, losing and regaining and losing his wife, becoming unstuck in time and watching his son age into an old man (granted, he doesn't remember that), having to face his complicity in the amorality of war, and all of that *after* some krinkly-nose earcuff wearing people started telling him that he had a special relationship to their gods. We already know what happens to people from Earth that find themselves in positions of spiritual authority over people that believe they have a privileged communication channel to gods.

They go nuts.

So it's my (for the sake of the retcon, at any rate) position that Sisko ain't Space Jesus, he just thinks he is. It's better for my sanity that way.
posted by mwhybark at 3:26 AM on October 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


granted, he doesn't remember that

Yes he does - he knew to dodge the zap the next time around because old-man Jake told him to do so - Sisko remembered what he experienced. And he says something like "Long story..." when Jake asks him how he knew to duck away.
posted by floam at 12:18 AM on October 13 [1 favorite]


And just to add to your point, the poor guy didn't just watch his son get old, he watched his tortured son give up his own ambitions, get old, then commit suicide and die, for him. That's some rough stuff.

Is anyone still here? I'm watching through on Netflix and reading these as I go. So glad FanFare exists!
posted by floam at 10:53 AM on October 13 [1 favorite]


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