Mark Watches ‘Deep Space Nine’: S02E17 – Playing God

In the seventeenth episode of the second season of Deep Space Nine, Jadzia helps train a new Trill initiate while the crew deals with a ridiculous moral dilemma. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek. 

So, there are two stories here, and I want to give them both attention. HERE WE GO.


I’m not the hugest fan of this episode, but it does a number of things incredibly well. The chance to examine Jadzia and Trill initiation was satisfying for me, and I still think that’s the best part of this episode. After the last time we dealt with Trill initiation, it was great to see a different take on it! This story was not nearly as fraught as the last one, but it was still intense. And it has to be, doesn’t it? The act of being Joined is a HUGE deal in this culture, and that’s what “Playing God” conveys best. This process matters SO MUCH.

Initially, though, this episode centers on the fact that Arjin was truly unprepared for Jadzia Dax. IT WAS SO ENDLESSLY ENTERTAINING. Kurzon Dax’s reputation was so intense that Arjin thought he would best suited by anticipating being broken during initiation. So when he arrives and sees Jadzia gambling and drinking with a bunch of Ferengi? It’s incredible. It’s such a fulfilling sequence because it’s a reminder of how unique Jadzia is as a character. She’s always a fascinating combination of two personalities and two lives, and that’s why Arjin wasn’t ready for the experience. That’s important because his interactions with Jadzia help him to break his perception of being Joined. He goes into this assuming that Jadzia is Kurzon, that there’s no separation from the two people because Dax is a common thread. But Jadzia matters.

On top of that, “Playing God” complicates the situation in a remarkably intriguing way. While I expected this episode to follow Arjin most of the time, we’re given a number of scenes that show us how difficult it is for Jadzia to train her first initiate, too. It’s never outright shown to us what Kurzon did, but we get glimpses. Sisko refers to his initiation technique as “abusive” but “charming.” (Those two words don’t belong anywhere near each other, but I DIGRESS.)  Arjin is TERRIFIED of Dax. Jadzia herself speaks of Kurzon’s training as if he ruined her. The closest we get to his style is scene in that unbearably awkward scene where Jadzia confronts Arjin about his faults, and EVERYTHING BECOMES A DISASTER. If Kurzon was worse than that? GOOD LORD.

Let this be a great lesson: honesty can be a great thing. It really can. Speaking your mind? Can be good. Constructive criticism? A force of BEAUTY. But there’s a mistaken belief that being so honest that you slip into brutality is “just being honest,” as if that’s the only meaning that an action can have. Jadzia goads Arjin, nudging him and poking him continually, spelling out all his flaws, and, unsurprisingly, Arjin lashes out. That’s not to say her perception of him was inaccurate; Arjin clearly had problems with confidence, desire, and ambition. But is that the best way to approach this situation? Is Arjin inspired by Jadzia, or does he end up resenting her and himself?

I just love that Jadzia gets to be Jadzia at the end of all of this. That’s what matters most to me. She gets to teach Arjin on her own terms, and she helps him. I figured that the secondary plot existed to give Arjin a chance to prove himself, but really, it was Jadzia that helped him get there.

Playing God

Here’s why this episode is not my favorite. I love the Jadzia plot for the most part, and I think the idea behind “Playing God” is totally interesting. THEY FOUND A PROTO-UNIVERSE AND THEY BROUGHT IT ON BOARD AND IT’S EXPANDING AND THERE ARE SIGNS OF LIFE IN IT. This is primary plot material, y’all! And yet, it feels shuttered into the background when it shouldn’t be. The team is deal a moral dilemma that’s seriously disturbing: Do they destroy the universe, thereby saving themselves but dooming AN ENTIRE UNIVERSE OF PEOPLE TO DEATH?

I wanted that argument examined so much more than it was. I wanted to know why Kira, of all the characters on this show, would be the quickest to condemn a universe to death when she fought so hard for her own world to survive? I wanted to see each of these people struggle with this choice. I wanted to know what happened when that universe expanded. How big would it get? Did it consume or destroy other life forms or planets when it expanded? WHY IS THAT NOT ADDRESSED AT ALL IN THE CLIMAX? The ending is so rapid and unsatisfying that it left a bad feeling in me. If the expansion is so dangerous that it could have destroyed Deep Space Nine, why is that threat suddenly unimportant on the other side of the wormhole?

A decent episode, but I found it deeply flawed.

The video for “Playing God” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

Mark Links Stuff

– I will be at numerous conventions in 2016! Check the full list of events on my Tour Dates / Appearances page.
– My Master Schedule is updated for the near and distant future for most projects, so please check it often. My next Double Features for Mark Watches will be Death Note and Neon Genesis Evangelion. On Mark Reads, Diane Duane’s Young Wizards series will replace the Emelan books.
- Mark Does Stuff is on Facebook! I’ve got a community page up that I’m running. Guaranteed shenanigans!

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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