Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Chrysalis   Rewatch 
October 17, 2016 9:14 AM - Season 7, Episode 5 - Subscribe

The Jack Pack is back! And this time they're there to prompt Dr. Bashir to attempt a cure for Sarina's near-catatonia. I'm sure that everything will go fine and that, especially, we won't see a repeat of "Melora" in which Bashir has a problem with keeping a strict firewall between his professional responsibilities and personal needs... damnit, Julian.

Does Memory Alpha have more? That's a stupid question.

- René Echevarria's initial concept for this episode involved Bashir, Jack, Patrick, Lauren, and Sarina going on a mission for Starfleet. However, along the way, something happens and the four savants have to pretend to be Starfleet officers. Section 31 was also going to be involved in some way. The plan was for the episode to focus on Jack, who would temporarily be "cured" of his neurosis. Echevarria planned to base the script on the 1959 Daniel Keyes short story "Flowers for Algernon", with Jack ultimately reverting to his normal state at the end of the episode and being abandoned by Starfleet. Ira Steven Behr however didn't like the idea, and it never made it to the scripting stage. According to Echevarria, "It boiled down to the fact that it was a tragedy that this guy becomes normal, which kind of glamorizes mental illness. That's a very common sort of Hollywood story, 'Oh, aren't they cute – don't rob them of their originality and make them normal'. Which is bull."

- The idea to have the story focus on Sarina was Hans Beimler's. Indeed, Beimler only conceived of this idea because Sarina had never spoken in "Statistical Probabilities", and he thought it would be interesting to develop her character a little more. Originally, she was supposed to have a few lines in the earlier episode, but the scene in which she spoke was cut for time. Before the episode was green-lit however, the producers needed to make sure that actress Faith C. Salie was up to the task of fronting the story, and as such, they took the unusual step of calling her in to audition for a part she already had. As Echevarria says, "It must have been incredibly stressful for her. She had a role that was hers to lose. But within seconds of her reading, we knew she was in."

- Of playing the role of Sarina in this episode, Salie comments, "They told me that she should have no subtext, which is an unusual feature for a character. As an actor, you're taught to dig, dig, dig to find what's underneath the lines and to know the backstory, because often a character might be saying something that she doesn't really mean. But with Sarina, there was none of that. She was guileless. She hadn't been around enough to learn about disingenuousness or even flirtation. The undercurrent in almost every scene in film or television between a man and a woman is one of some sort of flirtation or sexual attraction. But I was told specifically to take that out of my scenes with Bashir. In no way was I supposed to relate to him flirtatiously. It sounds like a simple task – 'Just say the line and mean it' – but that was hard to play, because we're never trained to take lines at face value."

- The four actors playing the four savants all reacted differently to finding out they were going to sing; Hilary Shepard-Turner (Lauren) had been in an all-girl punk band in the eighties and had no problems with it, Michael Keenan (Patrick) enjoyed shooting it, Tim Ransom (Jack) was found to be completely tone-deaf and ended up having to be dubbed, and Faith C. Salie discovered that she had an amazing voice and loved the experience.

- While the savants are working on solving the problem of the collapsing universe, the LCARS display they use shows a title of "THE END IS NEAR ! ", and later, "HOW TO AVERT DISASTER."

- O'Brien's conversation with Bashir in the infirmary ("Julian, I can't break the laws of physics; nobody can") is vaguely reminiscent of the famous remark by Montgomery Scott in "The Naked Time" ("I canna change the laws of physics; I've got to have thirty minutes").

"That's a stupid question!"

- Patrick

"Your friend was right. You can't break the laws of physics..."
"...but you can bend them!"

- Jack and Jack, Patrick, and Lauren in unison.

"I'm sorry. Obviously you want to punish yourself. Do you want help? I'm really good at punishing myself."

- Ezri Dax
posted by Halloween Jack (14 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Bashir informing O’Brien (and the audience) that he won’t be Sarina’s doctor and she’ll have her own quarters doesn’t do much to make the situation feel less inappropriate. I don’t want to go into a spiel about what Bashir must want a girlfriend, I’ll just say that it takes me back to “If Wishes Were Horses”, where Bashir’s submissive dream version of Jadzia came to life—which pissed off the real Jadzia.

I would tell Julian, "Bro if you want to get with an enhanced human, don’t go for the mute. Go for the slut. Lauren’s up for anything. She’d even do a Ferengi."

I do love the dynamic of Jack and the gang. They behave like they’ve been together for years (I bet they practiced that Sound of Music thing before). That must have been a challenge for the actors. “OK, so you’re all mentally challenged, but at the same time super smart because of genetic engineering. And you live together in prison that is also a mental institution. And this all takes place in the future.”

The other thing I liked is that the augments (or genetically enhanced humans or whatever we call them) were true to TOS and ST II. Enterprise and Wrath of Cumberbatch took advantage of improvements in special effects, so the augments were super fast and could perform insane gymnastics, like they were X-Men. That looks cool, but Khan was not that physically impressive. He was more brains than brawn. In “Space Speed”, Khan hijacked the Enterprise after a few hours of reading the technical manuals. Then Kirk was able to beat him down with a metal pipe.
posted by riruro at 9:22 AM on October 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

Five demerits for use of the word slut.
posted by phearlez at 9:58 AM on October 17, 2016 [7 favorites]

These "fall in love in an episode" episodes never work for DS9. I don't know if it's the seriousness of the show. The time period it was made in. The writing. Or the actors. All of the long term relationships play out so exceptionally well*, but I can't think of a single one-off that I liked.

This would be a perfect TOS episode. McCoy falling in love patient he saves. Kirk falling for one of Khan's henchmen. (Henchwomen?) Heck... Spock falling for a super-smart genetically engineered human sort of makes sense.

On DS9 it gets a whole lot of yawn from me.

I did like their sudden, devastating distress over the universe ending and would have loved to see an episode where they go off the rails trying to prevent that from happening while accidentally almost ending the universe.

* It's not Kira's fault she falls for boring, buttoned up Bajorans. And come to think of it, I'd even say the Dukat-Kira romance works better than the one in this episode.
posted by 2ht at 10:36 AM on October 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

This is an awful episode, one of the worst episodes of DS9. I mean, "If Wishes Were Horses," "Storyteller," and "Move Along Home" were awful but at least they were in Season 1. That this is in Season 7, after all the great episodes in Seasons 3-6 just makes it worse.

I honestly do not like the Jack pack - Jack is just so annoying that it grates after a while. I understand that they are trying to portray people who were genetically enhanced, and who (for some reason) seem to have some serious mental health issues, but they just come off as ridiculous parodies. And where did they get those uniforms from? Surely it can't be that easy to get hold of a Starfleet uniform? And all that "Cosmological Constant" stuff just sounds ludicrous.

The whole "Bashir cures the girl and falls for her schtick" - again - oh please. In the Melora episode, he was new and hadn't been through what he has been through over the past few years, and yet here he returns to being how he was at the start - so much for character development. And the way the two of them interacts comes across really badly: she is someone who has had no personal development (neither has Bashir lol) and it seems a bit off, almost like taking advantage of a drunk girl or someone with mental retardation*. It is just crass and gross.

The singing bit was cheesetastic, I cringed when I saw it again. The only good bit was the short bit at the start where Bashir has nothing to do and tries to get O'Brien to the holosuite and then tries to gatecrash Odo and Kira's night..

And the whole thing just sort of plods along to its inevitable conclusion.

Love the tags, nice job.

* sorry if this is the wrong word, not sure how else to describe it. I am not trying to be offensive, I mean people whose mental capacity has been so severely diminished by their illness that they are like a child.
posted by marienbad at 1:02 PM on October 17, 2016 [3 favorites]

I agree that this wasn't really in character for Bashir at this point in his character arc. I have a theory that occasionally someone would get it in their head to do the type of episode that they did years earlier, or something that was based on another movie or TV show, and it ended up being not-great. We really didn't need another Bareil episode, nor one that was based on Some Like It Hot, and we didn't need one about Bashir crushing on a patient who was very recently treated by him. It's especially jarring because the whole point of the previous Jack Pack episode was that it was part of the post-"Doctor Bashir, I Presume" era, in which Bashir's character arc really takes off and gets a whole lot more interesting. It would have made for a whole different, and much less problematic, episode if it had been someone besides Bashir--say, the one that beat him out for medical school valedictorian (although he probably blew that test on purpose)--who treated Sarina, she shows up at the station, they fall for each other over some period of time, and then she develops problems and the potential treatment might mean that they can't or won't be together for some reason, and he has to do the non-selfish thing. Here, he comes off as pushy and a bit manipulative.

There's also a problematic aspect in that René Echevarria's statements above about romanticizing mental illness don't really take into account the whole idea of neurodiversity, i.e. that having a different way of looking at and interacting with the world isn't necessarily "mental illness", but that really wasn't as much of a thing in 1998; Oliver Sacks' An Anthropologist on Mars, which is the book that made me aware of some of these issues, had just come out three years earlier. Arguably, Sarina is an exception because she's not really functional before the treatment, and that attitude may not even be particularly relevant to the episode, but still. (Also, what used to be called "mental retardation" is now usually put under the umbrella of developmental disability; a number of institutions and agencies that used to have "association of retarded citizens" as part of their name have changed it or switched to an acronym-only name.) Having the Jack Pack treated in a joking matter isn't really great, but there's a certain amount of pathos in their confronting Bashir about her leaving their little group. (And, while I'm at it, I should point out that in no way can Lauren be reasonably called a "slut", on top of the problems associated with that word; despite her overtly seductive behavior and both crushing on people and assuming that they're crushing on her, there's no evidence that I recall that she's ever actually had sex. Certainly she's not the one laying kisses on someone who just underwent a highly experimental procedure.)

On a more positive note, I thought that Faith Salie's performance was excellent, especially the way she was speaking right after coming out of the catatonia.
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:56 PM on October 17, 2016 [5 favorites]

Marienbad and (Halloween) Jack said basically everything I came to say, except that I definitely enjoyed Patrick's admiral bit, and that Jack is noticeably less irritating this time through.

But about Bashir. I would feel a little weird inviting my spouse of almost twenty years to Risa, let alone my friggin' patient. Risa seems like it's practically Hedonism II. So apart from the obvious "Bashir will never stop being a walking hard-on" element, I think Trek really needed to do a better job of establishing a Risa-lite, a getaway with more of a connotation of genteel romance and without the connotation of freewheeling carnality.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 3:39 AM on October 18, 2016 [3 favorites]

I really liked this one. While Bashir attempting to romance Sarina is obviously a mistake, I didn't lose sympathy for him. I think he's spent his life surrounded by non-augments, always trying to be "normal" and blend in, and when he finally meets this woman who seems like him he gloms onto her, thinking they must be perfect for each other. He's suddenly like a kid again, falling for this person he barely knows and making all sorts of plans about their future. It turns out Sarina isn't feeling it, which is probably the right way for this story to go. Had they both fallen in love and then she regressed into her silence it could have been tragic still, but it would have been a fairly traditional, uncomplicated story. TOS or TNG probably would have taken that path, and maybe they could have made a classic episode from it. But DS9 being DS9, it gets more real and complicated.

Bashir finds out he's been totally projecting on poor Sarina, she's her own person and not his fantasy woman, and he realizes he's made a terrible mistake. His behavior here wasn't supposed to be admirable, it's sad and desperate. But Sarina is the one who really suffers. She's just beginning to live, she's finally able to express herself... and then it all slips away from her. This becomes a story about Sarina losing herself, instead of a story about Bashir losing her.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 4:01 AM on October 19, 2016 [3 favorites]

Just watched the episode this morning, add me to the thumbs down train (though I kinda liked the choral scene, as it caught be by surprise). I agree with the Tor recap:

But ultimately my biggest problem is that this story is only about Bashir when it should also be about Sarina. Yes, Bashir is a main character, but he’s being a jackass. His behavior is horrendous, bordering on unethical—he stops being her doctor, at the very least—but Sarina imprinting on him is almost inevitable, and his response should’ve been to back off, not double down. (Gee, if only they had a counselor on the station to help him through that. Oh, wait!) Sarina’s struggle, outlined all-too-quickly when she unloads on Bashir in the cargo bay, should have been the heart of the episode.
But I still wish we’d gotten more of her instead of just focusing on how awful Bashir’s life is without having someone who can keep up with him in his life. Yes, that’s very heady, and it’s a good journey for him to go on, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of the poor woman who’s just been able to talk for the first time in her life. I get that she’s a guest star, but it feels so horribly unfair for this brilliant, fascinating woman to be reduced to Bashir’s trophy rather than be allowed to go on her own journey on camera.

posted by oh yeah! at 11:53 AM on October 22, 2016

I'm here just to complain about this episode, 3 years too late. Bashir works a rape scheme on a vulnerable woman. The end. Really, what the fuck? "I'll alter her mind, then we'll fall in love." It's hideous rape culture garbage and beneath Star Trek. At least he has the decency to realize his mistake.
posted by Nelson at 8:50 PM on January 14, 2020

I enjoyed a lot of this episode but Bashir's total lapse of medical ethics made my wife and me scream at the TV a number of times. And while, yes, that was eventually the point, they soft-pedal it and Sarina still kisses Julian goodbye at the end. So let's go over this:

Sarina is practically catatonic, and has spent most of her life that way.
Bashir gets her out of that state, and she can fit in with 24th Century society.
He kisses her, which she's weird about, but accepts.
She half-regresses back to her catatonic state rather than have an actual date with him.
After much prodding, she talks, Bashir says he loves her, and she says she doesn't understand love yet and makes it clear that she's trying to act like his dream-woman because he saved her.
Bashir (thank god) finally says enough, provides her an internship elsewhere, and sends her away.

The main problem here is that this is all seen through Bashir's eyes and the music cues signal us to be sympathizing with him the whole time. And what Bashir is doing in this episode is terminally fucked. And the fact that the episode knows that but makes it Bashir's sad story is why the #MeToo movement was so necessary. This wasn't a Florence Nightengale story. This was abuse of the doctor-patient dynamic. "Fixing" Sarina didn't make her a fully-formed and informed adult capable of consenting to the relationship Bashir wanted, handing her over to another doctor doesn't change anything there, and macking on her as soon as she can express herself isn't helping her recovery, Dr. Asshole.

Thank you all.
posted by Navelgazer at 7:06 PM on May 28, 2020 [2 favorites]

These "fall in love in an episode" episodes never work for DS9.

I watched this again today, as the "Greatest Generation" podcast ep on it was dropping today, and I'm way more sympathetic to the episode, which probably did close to the best version of a very tricky story as it could have. Faith Salie does an amazing job, especially considering the direction she was given, in lieu of a real backstory, was to be curious and receptive to everything. She's not exactly the child-like perfect-geek-love-interest that so often happens in sci-fi, like we see in The Fifth Element. She wasn't born yesterday, and knows a lot, enough to clock Bashir and all of his friends instantly (and give Odo a nice compliment of noting how he shows his feelings even if he can't verbalize them well - that was a great touch.) But she's obviously in a very techy, vulnerable state, and Bashir is way too lonely and self-involved (which can come from deep-seated loneliness) to see what's obvious to Miles, at least.

Serena still comes out of this episode better than where she started it. That's what really bugged me before, I think: that we were seeing this as Bashir's tragedy, through his eyes, where this is a lost chance at romance that he'll probably never find again and that we never see the trauma through Serena's eyes.

This time through, I saw it as it was hopefully intended: Bashir's tragedy is that he lapsed in the ethics he should know by heart, because his loneliness got the better of him, and that when Serena told him that she doesn't yet know what love even is, it clicked for him how far-gone he had gotten, and did what he could to repair the damage, but while Serena would be okay, probably, he was stuck with this moment.

The episode knows Bashir is wrong, and is showing him giddy while Miles tries to cool his jets because he knows his best friend isn't acting right. The episode could have gone harder on this, taken them to Risa as Bashir wanted, etc., but it would have 100% ruined Bashir as a character. Any softer and I think the point wouldn't have been made at all. But they made Bashir a villain - a shiny, happy, gleefully-in-love villain with his hopes and dreams clouding out his better angels, and then, at the point of no return, they had him make the right choice. Not the best possible choice - that would have required him to not screw up earlier, and to allow for DS9 to be a place where Serena could have stayed without being uncomfortable. But by the time he realizes the damage he's done, he does the best thing that the show could make tenable.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:45 PM on September 14, 2020

Dr Bashir is a very bad man in this episode!

The writers seem to think he’s a little bad, but also sympathetic because he’s lonely and wants friends just like him, but he’s just bad and gross. Ever since the genetic resequencing reveal, They seem to be trying to add layers to his character in keeping with that, but it goes by fits and starts and you never know which Bashir you’ll get. Gloomy and lonely Bashir? Inexplicably very rude Bashir? And now a Bashir who proposes to take someone who is basically a newborn as far as emotional development to The Sex Planet? It’s pretty close to the Dukat/Kira’s mother storyline -she’s close to not having the ability to say no.

And they let him off very lightly. And a couple of weeks ago half of an episode was devoted to three guys fighting over who got to lay claim to Dax. Please get better, Season 7!
posted by acantha at 6:12 AM on February 27, 2022

The thing is, I think they could have had the plotline just as it is *without* Bashir actually breaking medical ethics. As written, he pushed her way too hard, too fast. But she's so perceptive and attuned to people. Even if he didn't push at all: he wants the romance, and she can tell. She's uncomfortable with that, but also puts the pressure on herself because of the perceived obligation, which leads to her shutting down again as the only "out" she can find. The episode still works without Bashir ever behaving badly towards her.

> And all that "Cosmological Constant" stuff just sounds ludicrous.

This is an odd comment. The cosmological constant is a real but poorly understood thing in physics, and the correct concept to talk about when talking about the long-term expansion or collapse of the universe. The only part that's fiction there is the part about manipulating it via subspace, because subspace isn't a real thing.

I liked the singing part. A real coup that that's Faith Sallie real voice - she's a fantastic vocalist. Worth correcting the Memory Alpha except given here: the article now notes that she has a background in musical theater, it wasn't a new discovery for her that she could sing.

Ultimately, I'm glad they decided not to re-tread Flowers for Algernon, and found this to be a relatively enjoyable episode.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 9:13 PM on August 3, 2023 [1 favorite]

Also there's an implication that Sarina can voluntarily turn off part of her brain. She wasn't just not saying anything - the medical scan showed no neural activity in the new parts grown by Bashir's procedure. That's... interesting.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 7:23 PM on August 4, 2023

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