star trek DS9: rejoined
4.06 / Original air date October 30, 1995
Written: Ronald D. Moore and René Echevarria
Directed: Avery Brooks
I'm well aware I'm going to sound like a total Star Trek geek, but the simple fact is, you can't look at any Star Trek series in isolation from the others, as much as the writers and producers would like to think. The DS9 continuity people must have had 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 all four Star Trek spin-off series. We 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 Trill race have been one of the giant screwups of Trek. They're also one of the most interesting Trek races ever invented. Initially introduced in Star Trek: TNG, the Trill are humanoids with 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.
The idea is that each host contributes to the life and experiences of the symbiont, while the symbiont brings to the host a wealth of long-lived experience and wisdom. Once joined, the host and symbiont blend into a single entity, if the symbiont is removed the host dies. 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), there were no rules mentioned about the romantic life of the symbiont and who it could or couldn't be with, and the original Trill we met, Odan, chased Beverly Crusher through the span of three different hosts. (Unsurprisingly, Dr Crusher finally rejects Odan when he becomes a woman.)
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 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 writers were looking for a way to spice up Jadzia's love life, so they came up with this concept and we got an episode that tiptoes Jadzia into bisexuality. 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 this episode was also manna from heaven.
The basic plot (without technobabble) is this. A Trill science team arrives on DS9 to perform experiments led by Dr Lenara Khan, a joined Trill. As it happens, when both the Dax and the Khan symbionts were joined to previous hosts they were husband and wife. This is the first meeting of the two symbionts since Dax's unfortunate accidental death. When the two symbionts meet again in the bodies of their new hosts, sparks fly.
Funnily enough, the gender-switch is never really mentioned. Instead of dealing with the "gay" issue, the writers turn the whole thing into an unsubtle metaphorical social taboo called "reassociation", or getting together with a lover from a past life. 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.
The taboo carries dire consequences. If two symbionts reassociate, their hosts are exiled from the Trill homeworld, so when the current hosts die their symbionts will not be joined to new hosts and the symbionts will themselves also die (seriously, more bullpucky because Jadzia had her symbiont transplanted onboard DS9 the season before proving it can be done anywhere).
After trying desperately to ward off feelings they both share, Jadzia and Lenara succumb to their passion and... kiss. Later on, Jadzia saves Lenara's life in an accident and they vow on the spot never to let anything come between them again. But, Lenara's courage fails her and she caves to societal pressure to leave, and Dax is heartbroken.
As veiled in metaphor as this story is, does it even count as a lesbian story anymore? 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 symbionts isn't the only attraction going on here. Jadzia and Lenara are obviously attracted to each other as well. 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 in love with this woman she can't be with, simply because their symbionts have history.
The point is that fear and intolerance should never get in the way of love, a classic gay TV message. Homophobic Star Trek cretins who try to explain away the storyline in terms of the symbiotic relationships to get it to fit into their limited mindset are deliberately missing whole point. The episode tells us a lot about Dax's strength too, and how far she's willing to go for love. Dax is a romantic at heart and awfully stubborn. "Rejoined" sets the stage nicely for the interracial Klingon/Trill romance later on in the series.
Susannah Thompson and Terry Farrell both do a pretty good job, especially with acting romantic tension while speaking line after line of furious technobabble. Thompson especially was wonderful as Lenara. She despises herself for her own weakness, in awe of Dax's strength of will and moral certainty. It's a nuanced performance (not something Trek is usually guilty of) and so different from the raw sexuality of the Borg Queen she went on to play in Star Trek: Voyager.
Whether you agree that "Rejoined" was successful or not, it certainly caused a stir. As a political statement it falls flat (this was an early example 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.