The Great Star Trek DS9 Rewatch: Equilibrium

Something’s not right with Jadzia Dax. Haunted by a mysterious melody, and troubled by disturbing hallucinations, her condition defies even Dr Bashir’s attempts to diagnose it. Desperate to help their friend before the Dax symbiont rejects its host, Sisko and Bashir take Jadzia back to the Trill homeworld in search of a cure.

I’ve never made a secret of my love of Trill episodes, and this one still holds up pretty well. Not only do we get a visit to the Trill homeworld and some more insights into the host-symbiont relationship, but it’s also a personal twist for Jadzia, as she learns about the lifetime she never knew she had. Joran Belar was an unstable, murderous personality who should never have been joined, and now the Dax symbiont’s blocked memories of him are beginning to resurface. As is too often the norm with Star Trek, everything’s wrapped up fairly swiftly at the end, with the long-term consequences not really explored – with the exception of Joran’s reappearances in Facets and Field of Fire.

Exploring the Trill Homeworld

  • The symbionts live in interconnected pools filled with electrolytes, where they communicate via electromagnetic pulses. They are cared for by the Guardians, unjoined Trill who dedicate their lives to making sure the symbionts don’t get cranky.
  • As a joined symbiont cannot survive long without a host, presumably the symbionts in the pools have never been joined. It’s clearly essential to keep back a breeding population, otherwise the symbionts would die off. I wonder if a joined symbiont finds its desire to procreate satiated when the host has children, or if it longs for the slither of tiny worms.
  • The Symbiosis Commission claims that only 0.1% of the population is suitable for joining, when on physical compatibility alone, around 50% of the population could be joined – the problem being that symbionts simply aren’t that plentiful. There are a couple of problems with this official line. Firstly, if it’s just physical compatibility they care about, why have such a demanding initiate program instead of just doing a few medical tests? Secondly, Joran or no Joran, their big secret is already out – Verad was a host for Dax (albeit for less than three days), Riker, a human, was able to host Odan for a short time, and in season seven, the unprepared Ezri will successfully become the new Dax host.
  • In fact, physical compatibility never needed to be the only official criterion anyway. Proving yourself to be a capable and well-rounded person who can bring something new to a symbiont who has already lived through several remarkable lifetimes seems a reasonable bar to set. And just because Joran was physically able to be a host long-term doesn’t mean that it was a good idea. His mental instability would ultimately affect not just himself, but the symbiont and any future hosts. How messed up would a symbiont be if it went through several Jorans, gathering ever more twisted memories in the process?
  • Even though it ultimately doesn’t affect her much, incorporating Joran’s memories and elements of his personality into herself should have changed Jadzia Dax. For example, we see her getting angry during the chess match with Sisko before the memories have even fully returned. Obviously, as mentioned in the episode, Jadzia herself is a strong personality – you have to be to not be overwhelmed by the symbiont – but there should still be some differences.

Summary – Equilibrium: An earworm alerts Dax to a life she never knew she had.

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