Star Trek: Deep Space Nine “Meridian” (part 1 of 3)
In the first corner, Dax falls for a dopey, somewhat creepy, definitely clingy schmuck whose people alternate between dimensions. Heartache and overall creepiness ensue, with a generous dash of predictability!
In the second corner, Quark has to arrange a special holosuite program for a very odd client played by Jeffrey Combs. Heartburn and overall nausea ensue, with a generous dash of creepiness!
Deep Space Nine is a unique show in the history of Star Trek, in that it tried for a multi-season story arc and (unlike its predecessors and successors) it actually succeeded, with only a few minor stumbles here and there. The net result was a show that over time became richly entertaining and rewarding.
That being said, the show did have some true stinkers during its run. Albert has already tackled the worst of the worst (we really should try and get him a Purple Heart for enduring “Profit and Lace”), and today I’ve returned to the world of Deep Space Nine to take on another one of those stinkers.
There were actually a few other episodes I considered recapping. “Fascination” and “The Muse” were out, as I found that while I’m more than capable of talking about how annoying Troi’s mother is and always will be, I cannot bring myself to sit through a single episode featuring her. Couldn’t do it with TNG, can’t do it with DS9.
“Meridian” came around early in the third season, just as the show was really hitting its stride. The main story arc, the threat posed by the Dominion, was just starting up, and the show was still in that odd area that some shows get into, with a lot of filler between the meaty episodes. Eventually, the balance would shift, and weeks of solid, intense shows would air, with the occasional fluff episode to give the audience a breather. But at this point, DS9 was still operating, well, like any other show.
And like the other Trek shows, DS9’s filler episodes range from good to really bad. “Meridian” is not nearly as bad as most of the episodes that made it into the Worst of Trek—lord knows I’d rather watch it a dozen times over than “A Night in Sickbay” just once—but it’s still pretty bad in its own right.
The primary reason is the utter corniness and stupidity of the main plotline. Over the course of 45 minutes, we’re expected to buy that after knowing a guy for a few days, DS9’s science officer would be willing to give up her entire life for him. Stranger things have happened in real life, but given the guy we’re about to meet, I have to call BS on this one. It didn’t work in “Sub Rosa”, where Dr. Crusher wanted to throw away her whole career over some Lestat-wannabe, and it damn sure doesn’t work here.
Another problem, as with Insurrection, is how rushed everything feels. Granted, it’s a bit more forgivable when a TV episode that has to fit within an hour (including commercials) feels rushed, at least compared to a major motion picture. But that’s still no excuse for the sloppy contrivances we’ll be seeing which make sure everything gets wrapped up nice and tidy by two minutes to the hour.
The episode opens on Major Kira taking a cup of coffee out of the replicator. She sips carefully while sitting down at a table with Odo. A conversation ensues about how coffee is supposed to be a little too hot to drink, because that gives one a chance to savor the taste, and extend the experience. It also gives one a chance to make grand gestures with the cup while complaining about what a douchebag the boss is in the break room, but never mind that for now.
The conversation moves onto food, and Kira asks if Odo ever tried eating. Being a shapeshifter, his character doesn’t have taste buds and doesn’t require food for nourishment, but as he haltingly explains, he gave it a shot once. In a nutshell, it was messy and unsatisfying. Much like this episode, as we’ll soon find out.
The conversation is interrupted by an alien named Tiron, but it really doesn’t matter what his name is, since I’ll be calling him Norman for the duration of this recap. You’ll find out why in a minute.
Norman is quite pleased to see the Major, but she’s less than enthused. It quickly becomes clear why: the guy simply oozes creepy sleaziness with every syllable. This is the sort of guy that 900-number sex line operators dread. He’s their bogeyman.
Combs makes matters worse by drawing out his sentences, and lingering on every word, and making it even more vital to take a shower after every one of his scenes. Needless to say, Jeffrey proves here that it should have been him playing Norman Bates in that crappy remake, not Vince Vaughn.
Kira exposits that she and Norman met the previous evening, where he proceeded to tell her everything about himself. In response, Odo starts to leave, which is odd, given he’s the station security chief, and Kira’s visible discomfort really should be setting alarm bells ringing in his head.
Regardless, Kira stops Odo, and introduces him to Norman, pretending Odo is her lover. Well, I guess sooner or later the writers had to discover ’80s sitcoms. Tune in next week, when Dr. Bashir tries to convince a stingy, uptight landlord that he’s gay so he can move in with two hot chicks!
Norman is slightly dismayed. Well, I’m guessing here. The prosthetic makeup is good, but it doesn’t exactly afford Combs a wide range of facial expressions. He amps up his “creepy pervert who should be chemically castrated” vibe as he takes forever to leave. Kira thanks Odo, and leaves him wondering what the hell just happened.
Wanna know something even more bewildering? This is the episode’s comic B plot. You know, because creepy sleazebags are just so damned hilarious! Yep, this is a Star Trek episode that’s going for a lighthearted tone, which can only mean one thing:
Thankfully, we leave this storyline (but not for long… so much more to see). Cut to the Defiant cruising through space, while Sisko records a log. And in this episode, he’s still Commander Sisko, with hair, and not yet the shaved head Captain Sisko of later seasons.
Sisko explains that Starfleet has decided that even though the Gamma Quadrant is fraught with danger from the Dominion, they might as well continue exploring the area. Yeah, that’s a real good idea. Personally, I’ve been thinking of putting together a snipe hunt expedition to Afghanistan. What could possibly go wrong?
Lt. Dax, also onboard the Defiant, picks up odd readings in a random star system, and Sisko decides to take a closer look. The system seemingly has no planets—just stars. Chief O’Brien remarks about how strange it is that there are no planets, when suddenly the ship shudders, and a planet materializes out of nowhere right in front of them. Dax dryly remarks, “There are now.” Cue opening titles.
The next two minutes would be a good time to find your center, relax and get your happy place ready. You’ll need it to get through the following 40-minute onslaught of sappiness and creepiness.
After some patented Treknobabble, the Defiant is scanned by a beam coming from the only settlement on the planet. Dax reports only thirty humanoids on the surface. The ship is hailed by a woman named Seltin, who welcomes the ship’s crew.
Seltin exposits that her planet materialized from another dimension, which intersects with our dimension. She invites them to share a meal on their planet, which is called “Meridian”. Get it? Because it’s in the middle of two dimensions! Jesus, that’s right up there with Nilbog for stupidly obvious town names.
The planet looks like… Well, it looks like every other pseudo-RenFaire planet ever encountered on Star Trek. The settlement is also giving me some serious déjà vu. Idyllic-looking, low technology, peaceful inhabitants… oh crap. I’m back on the Insurrection planet! Not to come off as unprofessional, but if F. Murray Abraham shows up yelling in anguish, I’m bailing on this episode. Seriously, I will go straight to “Ferengi Love Songs”, and take everyone with me to that little corner of Hell.
Adding to the sense of déjà vu even more is the revelation that this dinky little episode was directed by none other than Jonathan Frakes. Well, at least Rick Berman didn’t write the script.