Star Trek Continuity Issues Part III: DS9

Parts one and two.

DS9

The Trill: TNG vs DS9

TNG episode The Host introduces the Trill, a conjoined species of humanoid host and vermiform symbiont. In this single episode, a number of facts were established about the Trill:

– The host’s personality is completely subsumed by the symbiont.

– The transporter is deadly to symbionts.

– The average Starfleet officer and Federation member doesn’t know that the symbiont exists and is a sentient being living inside a humanoid host.

– Symbionts can survive for limited times inside humans.

When DS9 started, Jadzia Dax – a joined Trill – was introduced as a regular character. Not only was her physical appearance different to that of the TNG Trills, but various other aspects of her species had been altered.

– The personality of the joined life form is a unique blend that draws from both the host and symbiont.

– Using the transporter is fine.

– Everyone knows about symbionts, and has done for years (see, for example, Dax’s fond memories of 23rd Starfleet century Starfleet, or Sisko’s long friendship with Curzon).

– It’s hard (though not as hard as the powers-that-be want you to believe) to find a Trill humanoid who can successfully host a symbiont, let alone a human.

The decision to change the Trill’s physical appearance was a conscious decision (Terry Farrell looked a lot better in spots than with weird facial protrusions), and obviously the writers wanted to explore a lot more of Trill lore in DS9 without being hamstrung by what had previously been a one-off. But can we possibly reconcile these differences?

First off, I’m not too fussed about the physical appearance aspect – we know humans have a range of skin colours and physical features, so why can’t Trills vary as well? Just because most Trills have spots doesn’t mean that ‘Northern Trills’ might not be spot-free, and instead have forehead protrusions. Similarly, the fact that the symbionts also look different between the two series could be a natural physical variation. But can we tackle the other issues?

– Knowledge of symbionts. Let’s assume that, to start with, the Trill were cagey about telling the rest of the Federation about the host/symbiont relationship. Not only might they creep out other humanoids who would get unnecessarily worried about parasitic life forms taking over their bodies (especially after the events of Conspiracy), but we know for a fact that symbionts are rare and precious – keeping them a secret makes sense. After all, what if the Klingons or the Romulans decided to infiltrate Trill and steal a load of symbionts for some unspecified but undoubtedly nefarious purpose?
Flash forward a few decades, however, and the secret simply can’t be kept. Events like those of The Host, or simple slip-ups between Trill talking about their past lives to outsiders all add up. By the time of DS9’s Emissary, the Trill government has been forced to make a public announcement about symbionts, setting out their reasons for keeping them a secret before, and resolving to work with the Federation to keep hosts and symbionts safe.

– The transporter. The knock-on effect of this revelation is that proper work can be done on making the transporter safe for Trills. Maybe it was always safe for the majority of symbionts, and Odan was just one of the unlucky few – it’s just that the secrecy and the unwillingness to risk the lives of precious symbionts meant that no proper studies had been done.

– Personality. Given that Odan didn’t have much time to explain his situation, it’s likely that he went for an easy “the symbiont takes over” explanation than the more nuanced “blending of selves” story. We know that Riker was completely overwhelmed by Odan, but this fits in with what we know of hosts needing a strong sense of self and years of preparation in order to not be taken over by a symbiont.

Going to warp in a star system

In the DS9 episode By Inferno’s Light, the Defiant’s only way to save the Bajoran solar system involves jumping to warp within the system. Dax is unhappy about this, but of course, despite the added tension, everything works out fine. And why wouldn’t it, you might ask. After all, no one bats an eyelid when the various Enterprise incarnations go to warp within a solar system. Is it really a big deal?

It is possible that being within a solar system might make warp drive riskier than usual. There’s the gravitational effects of the nearby planets and stars, which could possibly affect either the ship’s trajectory or its warp field. Plus, any errors made in the trajectory calculations could end up with the ship flying into a solid object – a far less likely possibility in the vast interstices of space. But if it is that risky, why do it at all? Is the Enterprise really so impatient to get to its destination that it needs to go to warp as soon as it’s cleared planetary orbit?

Perhaps the answer lies in precision and timing. With the computational power of the Enterprise-D computer and Lieutenant Commander Data, for example, going to warp in a system is probably as safe as it’s ever going to be. The original Enterprise computer and Mr Chekov might not have been quite up to that standard, but at least he usually had plenty of time to run through the calculations, and Mr Spock to check his answers.

What about Dax and the Defiant, then? We know that Dax is in the same league as Spock intellectually, and her previous lifetimes have given her expert piloting experience. However, in By Inferno’s Light, not only is time of the essence, but the Defiant is warping around Bajor’s sun – something which sounds much trickier than just warping away from a solar system into open space. No wonder Dax is a little uneasy – the calculations are harder, and she has less time in which to do them.

What, then, about the inaugural warp flight of the Phoenix, which takes place within Earth’s very solar system? Yes, this was likely pretty dangerous all round, but no one was pretending otherwise.

Cloaking technology in the mirror universe

In the DS9 season seven episode The Emperor’s New Cloak, the station’s resident Ferengi must procure a cloaking device for the mirror universe. According to the episode, the mirror universe lacks this technology, but we know this to be false – we’ve already seen mirror universe Alliance ships decloaking in earlier seasons. What’s happening?

The first possibility is that the cloaking technology of the mirror universe is simply inferior to that of the prime universe. Once the Terrans build their version of the Defiant, Alliance cloaks are no longer sufficient, and they start craving their own prime universe technology to match it. Alternatively, it may be that prime universe cloaking technology isn’t actually better, but in fear for his life, Grand Nagus Zek uses his sales technique to convince the Alliance otherwise. It wouldn’t be the first time a Ferengi embellished the truth, after all.

What do the Breen look like?

Late in DS9’s run, the mysterious Breen become allies of the Dominion in their war against the Federation, Klingons and Romulans. There is much speculation from both enemies and allies as to what the Breen actually look like under their refrigeration suits, something no outsider seems ever to have seen.

But if we go all the way back to season four’s Indiscretion, we’ll recall that Kira and Dukat managed to rescue Dukat’s daughter Ziyal by disguising themselves in Breen refrigeration suits. How did they get hold of the suits without ever seeing a ‘naked’ Breen?

I included this one because it seems to be a topic of some interest in Star Trek continuity discussions, but there’s a fairly straightforward explanation. Kira and Dukat didn’t necessarily have to mug a couple of Breen for their suits – they could have just grabbed spare suits from a storage locker somewhere. Given how important these suits are to the Breen, it seems highly unlikely they wouldn’t have a healthy backup supply.

Worthless gold

Remember TNG’s The Last Outpost, in which the Enterprise-D crew first encounter the Ferengi? At that time, the Ferengi express their interest in material goods by wondering whether Riker’s commbadge contains any precious gold.

Fast forward to DS9’s Who Mourns for Morn, however, and Quark is disappointed when he discovers that the latinum has been extracted from Morn’s legacy of gold-pressed latinum, leaving only the outer casing of “worthless gold”. Why the change in attitude?

Since gold is easily replicated, Quark’s attitude makes much more sense than that of The Last Outpost Ferengi, but can we explain why those earlier Ferengi were so obsessed with it? The best I can come up with is this – let’s say that those Ferengi weren’t actually interested in the gold for its own sake, but were excited because its presence might indicate that the comm badge was filled with latinum.

However, latinum itself also presents a bit of a continuity problem. Who Mourns for Morn may have established it as a liquid suspension encased in gold, but numerous earlier episodes referred to solid (usually metallic) latinum items: the latinum earring Zek gave to Kira, Rom’s childhood latinum tooth sharpener, Quark’s latinum-plated renewal scroll inscription pens, and Lwaxana’s latinum brooch. What exactly are these items?

For the plated items, we can assume that there is indeed a very thin layer of latinum coating a less valuable metal – after all, this is a technology that has existed for a while. Just because pure latinum is liquid doesn’t mean it might not solidify when used as a plating layer – we just don’t know enough about the physics of latinum to say one way or the other. It is of course, also entirely possible that either the plating layer, or the other solid latinum items, are either an alloy or a compound that contains some percentage of latinum. For example, one might refer to a 9K gold item as ‘gold’, even though it’s actually an alloy that is only 9/24 gold by weight – in other words, mostly not gold.

Join me next time to cover all continuity aspects of Voyager’s journey, from the holodeck power supply to how Seven of Nine’s parents knew about the Borg a decade before the events of Q Who? Also features a special cross-series look at the rapid ageing of Alexander Rozhenko, Naomi Wildman and Molly O’Brien.

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One thought on “Star Trek Continuity Issues Part III: DS9

  1. Pingback: Star Trek Continuity Issues Part IV: Voyager and miscellaneous – Azure Flame B-Side

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