classic episode
star trek deep space nine: "rejoined"

4.06 / Original air date October 30, 1995

Written by: Ronald D. Moore and René Echevarria
Directed by: Avery Brooks

I'm well aware that by the end of this review I am going to sound like a total geek, but I feel that it's important to write to fans as well as to people who are new to any particular program or TV Universe, as the case may be. The fact is, you can't look at any Star Trek series in isolation from the others, as much as the writers and producers of Trek would like to think. The DS9 continuity people must have had weekly fits as they received scripts for new episodes, and if they didn't, they should have.

An obsessive fan base has been both the greatest asset and the greatest curse for the writers of all four Star Trek spin-off series. We (yeah, I'm going to include myself as an obsessed fan) demand that the writers pay as much attention to continuity in the Star Trek Universe as we do. After all, they get paid to do just that. I know a lot of fans who happily do it for free.

The race known as the Trill has been one of the screwups of the Trek franchise. The problem is, they're also one of the most interesting races ever invented on Trek. Initially introduced in Star Trek: The Next Generation, the Trill are a race of humanoid-looking creatures that have the ability to join with a long-lived, wormlike symbiotic species to enable their consciousness to continue from host to host over a huge span of time. (Initially they also had lumpy heads, but the spots concept was added for DS9 when producers decided that if you were going to hire gorgeous, ex-model Terry Farrell to play a character, you didn't then give her a lumpy head.)

The idea of the symbiotic relationship is that each host contributes to the life and experiences of the symbiont, while the symbiont brings to the host a wealth of experience and knowledge that would otherwise have died with their previous hosts. Once joined, the host and symbiont blend into a single entity. Twenty four hours after joining, if the symbiont is removed for more than a few hours, the host will die. It is normal for a symbiont to live inside both male and female hosts over the course of its lifetime.

In ST:TNG, joined Trill could not use transporters (it caused trauma to the symbiont), the symbiont could be temporarily placed inside a human host (as it was with Riker), and there were no rules mentioned about the romantic life of the symbiont and who it could or couldn't be with, especially since the original Trill we met, Odan, chased Beverly Crusher through the span of three different hosts. (Interestingly, Dr Crusher finally rejects Odan when he becomes a woman.) As we know, Jadzia Dax had no problems with transporters. Ezri Dax had to receive the Dax symbiont when Jadzia died because she was the only Trill onboard the ship carrying the symbiont to the Trill homeworld when the symbiont went into distress. Finally, with "Rejoined" we are given the concept of reassociation, which forbids joined Trill from resuming romances that their symbionts had in previous hosts.

Sound complicated? It is, and overly so, but the Trek writers were most likely looking for a way to spice up Jadzia's love life and to further explore the Trill, so they came up with the wacky concept for "Rejoined", and we got an episode that tiptoes Jadzia's sexuality along the borders between gay and straight. Personally, I think Jadzia counts firmly as bisexual. Maybe even omnisexual, as it was often revealed throughout the series that she wasn't averse to trying (or sleeping with) anything once.

All this is to say that yes, the episode had holes, big enough to fly the Enterprise through. However, for all the lesbian fans of Jadzia Dax (and I'm sure I'm not the only devotee out there) this episode was also like manna from heaven, because it also contains what I like to refer to as "the kiss".

The basic plot is this. A Trill science team arrives on DS9 to use the Defiant in their project to attempt to open the first artificially-created wormhole. (Even reviewing Star Trek technobabble is a laborious task.) The team is led by Dr Lenara Khan, a joined Trill. As it happens, when both the Dax and the Khan symbionts were joined to previous hosts (Torias Dax and Nelani Khan) they were husband and wife. Torias died in a shuttle accident leaving Nelani a widow, and this is the first meeting of the two symbionts since the accident. Dax was a man then, but when the two symbionts meet again in the bodies of their new hosts, sparks fly immediately, regardless of what gender the two are now.

Funnily enough, this gender-switch is never really mentioned. It's like a big, old white elephant sitting in the corner. Instead of dealing with the "gay" issue, the writers turn the whole thing into a social taboo against this concept of reassociation, or getting together with a lover from a past life. The storyline is a metaphor for tolerance and acceptance of alternative sexualities, and not even a subtle one at that. The odd thing is, they could have just played the story straight, I mean gay, and it might have made more sense. Perhaps they thought the concept would play better to conservative Trek audiences wrapped in cotton wool, and considering the backlash that occurred when the episode aired, perhaps they were right.

To continue, the taboo against reassociation carries with it dire consequences. If two symbionts reassociate, their hosts are exiled from the Trill homeworld. This means that when the current hosts die their symbionts will not be joined to new hosts, the symbionts simply die with them. Since nothing is more important to a joined Trill than protecting the life of the symbiont, this is a life-quaking decision.

After spending time together and trying desperately to ward off feelings they both obviously share, Jadzia and Lenara succumb to their passion and... kiss. Oh boy, do they ever. I don't actually have a top ten most passionate lesbian kisses list, but I think if I did this one would be on it. Anyway, later on aboard the Defiant, Jadzia saves Lenara's life in a plasma-fire accident. They vow on the spot never to let anything come between them again, but Lenara's courage fails her and she eventually decides to go back to Trill, leaving Dax heartbroken.

Part of the debate is, as veiled in metaphor as this story is, does it even count as a lesbian story anymore? Sure, the two women kiss, but it seems the "real" couple involved here are Torias and Nelani. I would say yes, and here's why. Lenara freely admits that she's never had so much trouble separating her feelings from those of a past host. The reason for this is obvious; the attraction between Dax and Khan isn't the only attraction going on here. Jadzia and Lenara are obviously attracted to each other as well, and hit it off on a physical and intellectual level. That's what makes Dax so unwilling to accept this taboo when she's been the first to champion all matters of Trill honour and duty in the past. She's not Torias, she's Jadzia Dax, and she's in love with this woman she can't be with, simply because their symbionts have history. As Dax says, the irony is that she and Lenara have more in common than Nelani and Torias ever did. But the word irony isn't really appropriate, it's more of a tragedy.

The point, I'd like to think, is that fear and intolerance should never get in the way of love, regardless of who that love is between. People who try to explain away the storyline in terms of the symbiotic relationships and try to get it to fit into their limited (and often homophobic) mindset are missing the whole point. The episode also tells us a lot about Dax's strength too, and how far she's willing to go for love. Dax is a bit of a romantic at heart and awfully stubborn. Actually I think "Rejoined" sets the stage nicely for the interracial Klingon/Trill romance and wedding that happens later on in the series. Dax always likes to do things her own way, and we love her for it.

Susannah Thompson and Terry Farrell both do a pretty good job with this episode, especially with acting romantic tension while speaking line after line of nothing but technobabble. Thompson especially I thought was wonderful, with her luminous eyes and having the unsympathetic role of being the one who folds under social and family pressure. She despises herself for her own weakness, while she's in absolute awe of Dax's strength of will and moral certainty. It's a finely nuanced performance which is so different from the passionate, raw sexuality of the Borg Queen she went on to play successfully in Star Trek: Voyager. (She's also starred on Once & Again.)

Whether you agree that "Rejoined" was successful or not, it certainly caused a stir, and very few other episodes of DS9 are talked about with the same level of fervour as this one. As a political statement it kind of falls flat, and as a gay episode it has plenty of problems (this was one of the earliest examples of "sweeps lesbianism"), but I'm willing to forgive a lot of that simply for that kiss that I never thought I would see on Star Trek.

If people will insist on comparing Babylon 5 and DS9, with the former always coming out on top, ultimately it comes down to this: regardless of where the idea originated, at least DS9 had the guts to show the lesbian kiss that the B5 producers chickened out of showing between Ivanova and Talia. That earns a lot of lesbian brownie points in my book.

Note: The second ST: DS9 episode to deal with lesbian characters (including another onscreen kiss) was the seventh season episode "The Emperor's New Cloak".

Got a comment? Write to me at nancyamazon@gmail.com