DS9: S2E17: “Playing God”

In which Dax trains a novice, O’Brien shoots some mice, and Sisko dooms literally everyone.

Trill's 'Best and Brightest' is currently giving the proprietor of a gambling hall some heavy petting.

Trill’s ‘Best and Brightest’ is currently giving the proprietor of a gambling hall some heavy petting.

Bashir is talking up Jadzia to a fellow trill, and this trill is an initiate assigned to be under observation for full host handidacy. Dax is (in)famous for being one of the harshest observers out there, personally washing out 57 potential hosts. Bashir takes Arjon directly to her while he explains that there are thousands of candidates vying for three hundred bellyworms, so only the best of the best of the best get chosen, and Trill administration takes any excuse they can to narrow the field. So far, Jadzia is not quite living up to the Dax reputation, but it’s only the credit sequence so far.

Next morning, Arjin goes to meet Dax at her quarters and is greeted by what I can only describe as the platonic ideal of surfer bros from space. He’s got sparkly dreadlocks. Right away we get the shape of things to come – It’s going to be a buddy comedy except the trainer is the goofy oneand the trainee is the straight-laced one. She even gives him the ‘don’t drink, don’t smoke, what do you do?’ line. To be fair to him, she does have a terrifying reputation.

"Is it always going to be like this?"

“Is it always going to be like this?”

Elsewhere, O’Brien is crawling out of a maintenance duct with a phaser and a flashlight. He and Kira are hunting wabbits. Well, Cardassian voles, which have been hiding out in formerly disused areas of the station. Sisko is concerned about animal cruelty. Dax shows up at Ops and introduces Arjin to Kira and O’Brien’s asses, while Sisko terrifies Arjin some more about training under Dax.

It is when we see the vole that I have to stop and rant. Careful examination will note that this ugly little rodent has mangy tufts of hair, six limbs, and that spoon-shaped forehead dimple. Apparently that forehead dimple is so important for survival or for breeding that even an animal with a different number of limbs from the humanoid Cardassian species has it.

Next up in Arjin’s training, a trip through the wormhole. Jadzia is unimpressed with his reaction, but is trying not to follow in Curzon’s footsteps. We find out that Jadzia was actually recommended for termination, and then the shuttle breaks its nacelle on something.

O’Brien is intent on reinventing the ultrasonic pest repellant, and Quark storms in to complain about the voles and inadvertently remind us that Ferengi have very sensitive ears. Shortly after Miles deafens Quark, the Mekong comes through the wormhole covered in that subspace seaweed. Jadzia is looking forward to studying it eventually, but first shows Arjin their Klingon Opera Restaurant. Arjin isn’t excited about Klingon food. Jadzia is less and less impressed with Arjin’s self-determination – he’s even only in the program because his Father wanted him to. He doesn’t even have an ambition.

O’Brien has gone so far as to ask the Cardassians for help with the vole problem. Given his history with Cardassians, this vole problem must be amazing. Whoever he’s talking to can smarm with the best of them. Bashir is taking the opportunity to make jokes at Miles’ expense, and Sisko discusses with Jadzia her assessment of Arjin. Since she has doubts about him, the judging body will also have those same doubts, so it’s not like Jadzia is sparing him a harsh lesson down the line. Sisko’s argument is that if she doesn’t push him, he’ll fail as he is. At least if she gets rough he stands a chance of growing as a person.

Down in the lab, the voles let the seaweed loose and… uh.. something happens. Sisko is ready to let O’Brien’s crews murder all the voles, and Jadzia and Arjin talk about his future, and he’s got mood whiplash from her sudden change in attitude while they analyze the space seaweed. I really like this argument – Jadzia is trying very hard to express to Arjin the ways she thinks he needs to improve, and he takes it as her passing judgement because of Curzon Dax’s reputation. And uses a ship-mounted phaser bank to dig that hole a little deeper. those trill initiate shoes must taste delicious.

"Great. A universe. Must be Tuesday."

“Great. A universe. Must be Tuesday.”

The space seaweed is profiled by the computer as being a universe. This is problematic, because it’s replacing the current universe. Given that it’s… you know… a universe, I think their initial thought of ‘send it back through the wormhole, the writers will forget about it before it obliterates our galaxy in its infinite expansion’ was probably ill-advised. Fortunately, that plan won’t even work. I like to think the Prophets saw this moment when they were setting up the wormhole and picked the exotic particles they use specifically to prevent Starfleet from wiping out reality by trying to stick a nascent universe down the memory hole. Instead, they’re going to destroy it.

Arjin is getting heartily drunk at Quark’s. Quark is a damn good bartender, commiserating with his clients, telling them stories, and making them even more depressed so they’ll buy more booze.

Dax has found something worrying in her examination, and it turns out to be signs of life inside the universe. After all, the laws of physics are different in there, so time may flow differently, it may be more hospitable to the formation of intelligence. Now there are ethical implications. Plus, there’s always the worry that the proto-universe is actually this one and anything you do to it will wind up wiping out reality.

"Oh, well... uh.. I think I'll just go join Arjin in that hole he dug..."

“Oh, well… uh.. I think I’ll just go join Arjin in that hole he dug…”

The argument here is another good moment – Kira sees the situation as an us-or-them moment, while Odo argues against destroying the universe, because he once benefited from people not wanting to destroy things they didn’t immediately understand. And Sisko thinks of how the Borg treat other civilizations.

Of course, if the universe is experiencing billions of years in a matter of hours, it’s entirely possible that the situation will Deus Ex Machina itself – inside the universe, the civilizations will either live out their existence and go extinct when their universe hits heat-death or big-crunch, or they’ll get the technology to stabilize it from the inside to prevent their own total existence failure. It’s something humanity should be thinking about as a species.

Sisko goes back home to contemplate his options, and runs smack into his son professing undying love for a dabo girl. There are no problems so weighty they can’t be set aside when your teenage kid makes questionable life decisions. Or when your trainee is trying to drink himself to death on a compound specifically formulated to make it impossible to do so. Jadzia tells Arjin a potentially more useful anecdote, about how Curzon treated her as an initiate. This time when she tells him he’s being mediocre, he has the context to listen.

At the end of the day, it turns out Sisko is just going to boost the force fields they use to insulate the universe and send it through the wormhole after all. They beam it onto a runabout.

They beam

an entire universe

onto a shuttle.

And O’Brien, former transporter chief of the Enterprise, has the temerity to act surprised when the transport of a universe full of intelligent life on a scale vast enough to alter external measurements of the thing takes a long time to re-materialize. Even accepting the magic of the transporter, I can’t fathom how Starfleet transporters can handle that.

Also, from the time they beam the universe on board, they limit the shuttle speed to 50kph. It’s in the dialogue. It also takes the shuttle less than 20 seconds to hit the wormhole. Add a little padding for the shuttle being next to the station when they beamed it, and the station is hovering less than 300 meters from the wormhole. If you want to insist the perspective was off, I could be convinced to go as high as 1 km. Basically they’re co-located. Those distances are ridiculously short in space.

Anyway the shuttle full of universe hits the wormhole, and the containment field gets worse every time they hit a pocket of exotic particles. It’s going to come down to precision piloting inside a wormhole. In a nifty touch, it turns out that inertial dampers make ships handle worse, so Arjin turns them off for the drama. Unsurprisingly, they do not accidentally blow up the entire sector, and are able to drop the universe off in the Gamma quadrant where it can expand potentially indefinitely until there’s no way to prevent it from wiping out reality. Good job, Starfleet!


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