"A character like Melora Pazlar was initially to be Deep Space 9's science officer, because the producers liked the idea of a character who came from a low-gravity environment. However, due to the difficulty and expense of recreating the effect constantly, the character was replaced by the Trill Jadzia Dax. But the concept of doing an individual episode around such a "wheelchair officer" remained on the writers' storyboards. Evan Carlos Somers had become familiar with the concept when serving as a Writers Guild intern during Deep Space Nine's first season. When he was invited back to pitch stories in the second season, Somers was successful in reviving the concept by convincing the producers that he could provide insight into the character, as he himself uses a wheelchair; "I didn't think I should let anyone else write this. I could bring some empathy to the character because I am disabled."
After the story-breaking session, Somers gained some ideas and feedback from the writing staff, before going off to write the script. In particular, he wished to respond to the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Ethics", in which Worf's spine is damaged, causing paralysis; "That episode had gotten a little under my skin. Even though Worf is an alien and it's just a TV show, everyone knows we're making statements with Star Trek. Messages and values are being broadcast loud and clear. I resented the message in 'Ethics' – that Worf is worthless now that he's disabled and therefore must kill himself. I'm sorry that the portrayal had to exist at all." Furthermore, Somers recalled that it was "unfortunate that anyone would think that way," regarding Worf's decision to kill himself. "I always thought it would be nice to create a disabled character who's accepted for what she is and doesn't have to change," he says. "The best way to do that on Deep Space Nine was to have Bashir find a cure for the disability, and for the character to turn it down. That was the real driving force behind my wanting to do this episode."
Additionally, Somers wanted to create a love interest for Bashir, which was partly down to Siddig El Fadil joking more than once, "When am I going to get a girlfriend?" Somers comments, "The producers had always thought the wheelchair officer would be a man, but I always thought of her as a woman. 'Zero-gravity sex with Bashir' was a prime element to the story in my mind. I also liked the idea that by falling in love with someone who isn't disabled, and having this cure presented to her concomitant to a growing love affair, maybe Melora is doing it for him. How can she turn this cure down? He loves her and he would never want to do anything wrong for her. But she didn't really think it out. In fact, she was surviving, and functioning very well, prior to her arrival on the station. Now, she's faced with a difficult assignment, but when she leaves, things are going to be OK again. She doesn't have to be cured, and she doesn't have to do it to please Bashir".
When Somers turned in his original draft, it wasn't received well by the writing staff. Somers blames a decision he made while writing it; "I had previously committed to another project that started two weeks before, and I needed another week for it. I thought that since I turned out "Battle Lines" in a week-and-a-half, I could do 'Melora' in a week-and-a-half. That decision wasn't the best one to make." Ira Behr then called Somers to inform him that a rewrite wouldn't take place. However, Steven Baum did decide to take a shot at it, but the producers still weren't satisfied. Michael Piller and James Crocker then worked on a third version of the script. In doing so, Piller believed the original story, that was fleshed out in the breaking session, was flawed and very difficult to write, though he did attempt to stick to the basic concept, as Somers recalls; "He told me I turned in a competent, workman-like draft, but occasionally my problem was that I wasn't giving him the character depth needed. But Michael still commended me and said he stayed very true to my story in his rewrite."
Changes made from the original draft include:
The scene where Melora meets Sisko for the first time – the commander originally came down the steps from his office to greet Melora, who didn't have the benefit of the servo-mechanisms to help her walk. Of the change, Somers comments, "I wanted her to roll up to the steps in her wheelchair, and they would have their meeting elsewhere. That would be a realistic situation. I can't just turn on a servo system and climb stairs; if I have to meet or greet someone who's upstairs, they have to come down to me. I really wanted that scene left in because it would have heightened the station's inaccessibility. What is it like for Melora to be unable to access all areas of the station? Piller did hit those beats in his rewrite, but he did it differently. He had her trip over the raised doorways and complain about the station design."
Melora's chair was initially to have utilized the anti-grav technology that has been a part of Star Trek since The Original Series and the chair from TNG: "Too Short a Season" was to be pulled out of storage and remodeled. However, the chair had originally been designed with the larger set of the USS Enterprise-D in mind and it was quickly realized that it would not be practical in the relatively small Deep Space Nine corridor sets. As a result, the line about Cardassian technology being incompatible with Federation anti-grav technology was added to the script and a simplified 21st century wheelchair was used instead.
Somers experienced many of the same problems that Melora had, on set. During Somers' tenure working at Deep Space Nine, he had worked in an older office building that was initially rampless and had what Somers described as "one of the world's smallest elevators." These experiences further inspired the chair's design. As Somers explains, "So Bashir has to replicate a much simpler wheelchair for her and she encounters all the problems that I did whenever I went down to the DS9 set to snoop around."
Director Winrich Kolbe recounts the difficulties of filming Melora's wheelchair on set; "Obviously there are a lot of thresholds on the station that had to be removed. We put ramps in the set, and it was a pain in the neck, because it's not easy to maneuver a wheelchair even under prime conditions. But going up ramps and making left turns and right turns in these corridors, well...[sighs]"
Writer Evan Carlos Somers, who wrote the original script, believed some of the changes made in rewrites were largely stereotypical, something he had wanted to avoid; "I resist the idea that a disabled person can't just integrate into the environment [....] I liked the idea that the regulars, for a brief moment, would be the problem by misinterpreting Melora's needs and falling over themselves to help. They didn't have to come out looking dumb and awkward; I would never have written it that way. But in the beginning I wanted them to be more of the problem than Melora, and she would react to them. Unfortunately, it was reversed into classic stereotype."
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