In the fifth episode of the seventh season of Deep Space Nine, a group of familiar faces shows up on the station, and Julian gets drawn into helping them. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of ableism.
So, obviously I was going to be biased against this episode because I tend not to like the single-episode romances on Star Trek. They always feel so unrealistic and unbelievable! Which is precisely why, as awkward as this episode is, it approaches something that feels real, something not wrapped up in fantasy.
It still treats mental illness in a very detached manner. Aside from Sarina, there’s no real detail or sympathy given to Jack, Patrick, or Lauren. Even more so than in “Statistical Probabilities,” they exist for visual jokes or to be temporary conflicts. Does the story care about them? Not particularly, at least not aside from some subtextual narratives involving Julian. Even Julian doesn’t seem all too concerned with their well-being once he becomes wrapped up in Sarina’s problem.
To be fair to the script, that is sort of the point. Julian’s loneliness is established in the cold open. He’s been single a long time; most of his friends are involved with other people and are busy with their own lives. When the patients from the Institute all arrive to smuggle Sarina into Julian’s care, it’s a chance for him to focus on something. AND GOOD LORD, DOES HE EVER FOCUS. He obsesses, though at first, it’s just because he’s so determined to help Sarina, to cure her of the overstimulation that’s caused her to shut down her whole life. (Perhaps the writers didn’t intend this either, but this feels like a story about curing autism in someone, which gives “Chrysalis” a whole new uncomfortable implication.) He’s disappointed when Miles can’t break the laws of physics to make a machine more accurate, and that should have been the first sign that Julian was going to go overboard here. Dude, your friend can’t VIOLATE THE LAWS OF PHYSICS AND IT IS ABSURD OF YOU TO ASK HIM.
Yet once the procedure on Sarina works, this story takes a real uncomfortable turn. I could tell that there was chemistry between Julian and Sarina, but I figured that the show wouldn’t go there. AND THEN THEY PROMPTLY DID. Sarina was Julian’s patient! What the fuck is he doing pursuing a relationship with her? Even worse, he was projecting this entire fantasy on her, imagining her as the woman he’d been waiting for his entire life. I understood his excitement; she was genetically modified like he was. Finding a romantic partner who shares such a huge experience is a rare thing, and I don’t blame Julian for being excited. But acting on it to this extreme?
What I ultimately appreciated about “Chrysalis” is that the text itself openly states that this is a bad, bad idea. It comes first from Miles, who worries that Julian is moving too quickly. It’s in that scene that Julian explains what Sarina means to him, and ALARM BELLS WENT OFF IN MY HEAD. Even then, I still worried that she’d just revert to original state, and Julian would never have to deal with the ramifications of his projection. Instead, SARINA TOTALLY ADDRESSES IT. She rejects Julian because he moved too quickly, put too much pressure on her, and, most importantly, because she just got healed. Throughout this episode, Julian refers to what’s “best” for Sarina, but he increasingly does things that are best for him. She just “woke up,” to use the episode’s term, and it’s unfair to ask her to commit to a relationship when she’s not experienced PRETTY MUCH ANYTHING AT ALL.
It’s a surprising end. I’m not used to shows addressing these sort of things, and lord knows that Star Trek is notorious for not thinking about the implications of their romantic entanglements. I wouldn’t count this as a favorite episode by any means, but it’s solid regardless.
The video for “Chrysalis” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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