#DS91sttime: Season 3, Episode 25, “Facets”

July 30, 2013 in #DS91sttime, General Topics

"Lucky" Volunteers, S3, Episode 25, "Facets"

“Lucky” Volunteers, S3, Episode 25, “Facets”

“Facets” gives Deep Space Nine yet another chance to spend an entire episode exploring the Trill race, and the many demands of being a symbiont host. This pattern of plots is either a kind of repeating blessing, or a curse without end, depending on how much one really wants to know about the Trill. Someone on this show’s staff is so obsessed with this symbiont-centered culture they believe Dax should endure one metaphysical voyage of self-discovery after another. And the resulting episodes have a certain innate laziness to them.

Laziness? “Isn’t that a little harsh?” you ask. I don’t think so, because I take the same issue with the show’s treatment of the Trill as I do with the Ferengi. These people should be much more than the main characteristics they’re known for. The Ferengi are interesting when they’re not greedy stereotypes. And Dax shines when the symbiont is just a facilitator for regret, insecurity, and other aspects of her personality. You don’t have to have these folks waving signs saying “I’m a fount of avarice” or “I have a worm in my chest!”. That reduces what they are to bullet points on a 3×5 index card.

To further elaborate, let’s talk about the alien this show has the most respect for: Odo. If you talk to a lot of fans, they’ll tell you they love our friendly constable. Of course they do. Because Odo never faces down an episode like this.

Imagine trying to shoehorn Odo into a plot like the show routinely does with Dax. Imagine him announcing to the crew that he is going to endure some shapeshifter-specific ritual where they’ll all have to be set pieces for him to play off of.

You can’t, right?

The fact that the Founders have to be kept mysterious means that Odo gets to be one hundred-percent his own man. He gets to be a conflicted person with dueling drivers, forever on the edge of a sense of belonging. All that shape-shifting stuff is a unique and wondrous aspect of himself, but it’s most important to the extent that it makes him an outsider. The writers can’t just fall back on cultural gimmic episodes, because we don’t have a well-known ice tray to force the shapeshifter to fit into.

Dax, sadly, does.

So, here we go, with a bizarre cultural gimmic that happens to be a ritual. Dax has to meet all her prior hosts, by having close friends take on their personalities in some bizarre, pseudo mind-transfer stunt that’s designed to give her closure on the experience of being a host.

Being able to transfer personalities like this flies in the face of Trill canon. How, exactly, is this being done without these people having a symbiont within them? The Trill aren’t empaths or mind-controllers. Does not compute!

Crazily, what results from Dax’s various prior “hosts” transferring into her friends, one at a time, is a surprisingly enjoyable episode. You can think of it almost as an inverse to the face-palming farce that was “Distant Voices”. The setup is similar, when you think about it, only instead of meeting all the parts of herself at once (as Bashir did), Dax meets them all in sequence.

All of these are done well, but Avery Brooks and Rene Auberjonois both stand over their peers with what they do with their alternates. Brooks hits a solid line drive with his brooding, malevolent portrayal of Dax’s most-dangerous former host. I thought for a moment we might slip into terrorism-plot territory, but we didn’t. Nice job, Mr. Brooks.

Curzon\Odo, AKA "This episode's best performance."

Curzon\Odo, AKA “This episode’s best performance.”

And then, there’s Auberjonois’ performance of the Odo/Curzon mashup. This one goes straight over the cheap seats and into the parking lot. Stand back, folks, because you’re in for a real treat.

Curzon and Odo find a lot to like in their mutual habitation of the same body. Curzon Dax is a total hellraiser, and no one onboard is safe from his antics. He’s proud, arrogant, charming, and grating all at once, and Auberjonois dials it up to eleven. It’s an over-the-top performance, almost, but I completely agree with the man’s decision to make it so.

This is twenty minutes of great television, as Dax attempts to talk Curzon back into reality, and everyone realizes that Odo is voluntarily letting him maintain control–something that speaks volumes about Odo and his loneliness. Then other realizations come out, and…watch out.

On the other side of the station, Nog is enduring his own challenge, in the form of further trials on his way to Starfleet Academy. This provides a nice alternate flavor in the episode, and there’s just something about the young Ferengi that makes you root for him. And remember how great it is when the Ferengi are being everyday people? We get to see a lot of that here. It works well.

So here’s a tough one to rate. We have a ridiculous, a-canon premise, saved by good performances and a solid use of said premise. This is like an exacting sculpture made out of chewing gum. Auberjonois’ performance alone made a big chunk of this episode really work, the B-plot was enjoyable, and I really can’t find anything wrong with the main plot other than the setup itself. Who am I to dock much for that?

Rating: 3.5/5 stars.

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