(written from a Production point of view)
While hosting her first Trill initiate Dax discovers a tiny, expanding protouniverse that threatens to destroy the Bajoran system.
Arjin, a Trill initiate looking to get joined with a symbiont, arrives on Deep Space 9 on the USS Nash from Starbase 41. Jadzia Dax was assigned to be his field docent, and he's been nervous about meeting the famous Dax. In the past, Dax has eliminated 57 host candidates from the program. Before arriving on the station, he found himself sitting next to Dr. Julian Bashir, who managed to put him at ease about meeting Dax. When Arjin first meets Dax, she's in Quark's winning a game of tongo and exposing the Ferengi's weaknesses.
The next morning, Arjin arrives at Dax's quarters early. A rather intimidating male alien named Trajok answers him at Dax's door asking what he wants, but Jadzia interrupts wearing nothing but a towel. Dax and the alien exchange pleasantries while Arjin watches uncomfortably. The alien leaves and while Dax gets dressed, she asks Arjin to get her a black hole. The two talk briefly before heading to Ops, and Arjin feels like he can't say anything right to impress Jadzia.
When they arrive at Ops, O'Brien and Kira are hunting down Cardassian voles. The voles are becoming quite a problem because they are chewing through wires, causing breakdowns in equipment. Dax jumps in to help them in their hunt and ends up stunning a vole with a phaser and handing it to Arjin who again looks uncomfortable and has no idea what to do with it.
Dax takes Arjin in the runabout USS Mekong to a trip through the wormhole and back. On the way, the two Trills discuss training, past experiences, and flight experience. Arjin had recently obtained his fifth level flight training, which shocked Dax because she only obtained her third level in her last year of training. Dax assures her first trill initiate that he doesn't have to impress her. During the flight, the runabout runs through a subspace interphase pocket. The Mekong's starboard nacelle snagged a piece of "subspace seaweed" and is no longer functioning.
Meanwhile, O'Brien has come up with a directional sonic generator which can produce a sound at a frequency uncomfortable to the vole's ears and drive them out of hiding. Quark bursts into Ops carrying a dead vole that had run across a dabo table and demands they take care of the vermin problem. When O'Brien tries to demonstrate the sonic generator to Quark to show they are working on it, Quark falls to the ground screaming – the sonic generator works, at least on Ferengi. Dax and Arjin return to the station, and Dax wants to study this "subspace seaweed" further. She asks O'Brien to setup a containment chamber in the science lab, and O'Brien informs her it'll take a while.
While waiting, Dax takes Arjin to a Klingon restaurant on the Promenade where they discuss his past and eat racht. Arjin is less than thrilled with his Klingon meal, and reveals he's only in the initiate program because it was his father's dying wish and has no plans for the future. Back in Ops, O'Brien is getting desperate to handle this vole problem and contacts Cardassia looking for a solution, finding Gul Evek. Evek provides no solution and "kindly" reminds O'Brien that the vole mating season is fast approaching. O'Brien terminates the transmission after Evek suggests that the Federation could always retreat from Bajor.
After dinner, Dax and Arjin part ways and Jadzia heads to Ops to talk to Benjamin Sisko about the "subspace seaweed" and Arjin. Dax admits she doesn't see Arjin being much of a host to a symbiont, but doesn't feel it's her place to confront him about it as it's very clear in the guidelines as to what she's supposed to do. Sisko disagrees and reminds Dax of the things Curzon Dax did to her.
In the science lab, a pair of voles manage to take down the security field that was surrounding the subspace sample.
O'Brien has discovered the voles have eaten through the security fields energy lines, and Sisko tells him it's time to take the phasers off stun – to better handle the vole problem. Dax and Arjin continue their analysis on the sample, but Dax's attitude toward Arjin has changed – she's become more harsh and critical and accuses him of telling her what she wants to hear. Arjin feels betrayed because of their conversation in the runabout earlier, and begins to insult Dax, saying she is far below the standards of a host. He leaves the science lab and heads to Quark's to go "drown himself" in synthehol. Quark has a disheartening talk with Arjin, explaining how he once missed his big opportunity and never recovered and welcomed Arjin to "the club".
Dax has discovered the subspace sample is highly structured and doesn't conform to any physical laws. Further analysis reveals the electromagnetic flux are high plasma concentrations in a rapidly expanding mass. The mass is expanding in a very specific way that the computer recognized as the expansion patterns of a universe. Their "subspace seaweed" is actually a protouniverse in its early stages of formation. As it grows, it will displace their own universe. Returning it to the wormhole could prove devastating to the whole system if it came in contact with any of the wormhole's verteron nodes, and not doing anything would be just as bad. They decide to try to contain it using the universe's own feedback pressure to create an implosive wave destroying the protouniverse – and the science lab – in the process.
Dax continues to study the protouniverse, and discovers local entropy readings in the protouniverse have decreased 12% in the last hour. This shows indications of life in the protouniverse and these readings have been confirmed by the computer.
The senior staff are meeting with Kira amazed at the idea of any life in this universe. Bashir points out that while it has only been hours for them, it is possible billions of years have passed in this other universe. Odo adds that entire species could have been born since then. Sisko agrees to cancel the containment field and let the protouniverse expand and destroy level 22 section 14 of the station, causing multiple hull breaches. Kira can't understand why they won't destroy the protouniverse, comparing it to stepping on ants to which Odo replies, "I don't step on ants, Major." When Kira presses them for another solution, Sisko says he'll have a decision in an hour.
While thinking things over, Sisko drops by his quarters to visit Jake. While talking, Sisko finds out Jake is in love with a dabo girl named Mardah – the one Jake has been tutoring in entomology. Jake asks if she can come over for dinner tonight, and Sisko says not tonight but soon, he does want to meet her after all. Dax and Arjin are in Quark's talking more about the initiate program. Arjin is convinced it's over, but Dax says otherwise and explains her past and how she changed after meeting Curzon Dax. Sisko interrupts the two saying he's decided to take the protouniverse back through the wormhole.
After preparing a containment field aboard the USS Rio Grande that will block out the verteron node radiation, the protouniverse is beamed over and the journey through the wormhole begins.
While traveling through the wormhole, the containment field slowly starts to collapse. Every time they pass through a verteron node, the field gets weaker. They bring the runabout to a stop and decide to let the containment field fail and fly the runabout through the wormhole without touching any verteron nodes. This type of precision flying has never been done before, and Arjin is reluctant to try. Dax convinces him that he can do it, and he manages to get them to the Gamma Quadrant safely so they can return the protouniverse to where they found it. Dax tells Arjin this will look very good on his initiate record.
After the mission, Arjin apologizes to Dax for the things he said. Dax says she wouldn't recommend the process of being joined with a symbiont for everyone, but with time, she might recommend it for Arjin–when he's ready.
- - Quark, to Jadzia Dax leaving the tongo table
"Phasers on stun, Mister O'Brien. I want those voles taken alive."
- - Benjamin Sisko
"You haven't touched your racht."
"No, I have. It's interesting."
"No, you've moved it around your plate to make it look like you've touched it."
"I didn't have to move it. It moved itself."
- - Dax and Arjin
"Take those phasers off stun, Chief. No more Mister Nice Guy."
- - Benjamin Sisko
"I should have known this. I should have realized this. You're Dax! Standards for Trill hosts? That is really incredible coming from you. I have never seen any host in my life who is so far below those standards as you are, ma'am! No wonder Curzon Dax tried to terminate your training."
- - Arjin to Jadzia Dax, after feeling betrayed
"There isn't a problem in the world that can't be fixed by the right holosuite program."
- - Quark
"It's like stepping on ants, Odo!"
"I don't step on ants, Major."
- - Kira and Odo, discussing protouniversal annihilation and ethical philosophy
"Personal log. Supplemental. One hour. One hour to make a decision that could mean the life or death of a civilization. Or the end to our own. My mind keeps going back to the Borg… how I despised their… indifference as they tried to exterminate us. And I have to ask myself… would I be any different if I destroyed another universe to preserve my own?"
- - Benjamin Sisko
Story and script
- This was one of the first episodes to be put in development for DS9's second season. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 24, No. 3/4, p. 110)
- In writer Jim Trombetta's first draft of the teleplay, the A story was the protouniverse story, with Dax's storyline in secondary position. Michael Piller rewrote the episode to place the Trill storyline as the primary plot. Trombetta felt this decision robbed the episode of its emotional balance and that the ethical problem of the protouniverse story is no longer felt on an emotional level. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)
- After "Shadowplay", this is the second A-B-C (three-story) episode in a row. Michael Piller commented, "The problem with the script was always that nobody could find the balance between the three stories and nobody could find the relationship between the two characters." (The Deep Space Log Book: A Second Season Companion, p. 37)
- The script described the Klingon love song as "Sigmund Rombergesque… the sort of thing Nelson Eddy would have sung to Jeanette MacDonald if they were Klingons…" (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion - A Series Guide and Script Library)
- Terry Farrell said of Dax in this episode, "Everything she does in the beginning is an attempt to get Arjin to react to her, to shake him out of his behavior. Because somebody who's really mature enough to be a host would have handled that treatment differently than Arjin did." (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)
- Dale Kutzera wrote about the episode, "Forget the protouniverse. It's not important. ['Playing God'] succeeds by playing as a day-in-the-life episode, finally striking the delicate interplay of A, B and C stories that Michael Piller hoped would characterize each DS9 episode. Here the cast of characters, including the character of DS9 itself, come to fruition. There is a gentle, breezy pace to the show, even a refreshing sense of whimsy with the cat-size vole varmints and a hilarious scene between Arjin and Quark. Terry Farrell, obviously relishing the more bawdy aspects of her character, demonstrates that Dax is as comfortable in a late night tongo game as she is in front of a computer screen, maybe more so." (Cinefantastique) Kutzera also wrote that the episode was: "one of the second season's finest shows that brought the DS9 station to life".
- Sisko fulfilled his promise to Jake to allow him to bring Mardah home for dinner in the season 3 episode "The Abandoned".
- This episode marks the second and final appearance of the Klingon chef played by Ron Taylor. He previously appeared in the episode "Melora".
- Richard Poe makes his first appearance in this episode. Although the script only refers to his character as "Cardassian Officer" and production sources credit him only as "Cardassian", it is apparent that this character became Gul Evek, as in "Tribunal", Evek tells Miles O'Brien that they have spoken before.
- Referenced Rules of Acquisition: #112 ("Never have sex with the boss's sister")
- The chess game played between Sisko and Dax in this episode is recognizable as the famous game D. Byrne vs R. Fischer, 1956 (known as the game of the century). The moves shown on screen are roughly moves 14 to 18.
- Terry Farrell and Geoffrey Blake had previously starred together in the 1980s series Paper Dolls. Blake's character was the boyfriend of Farrell's character.
- Two Pakleds get off the ship in the first scene.
Video and DVD releases
- UK VHS release (two-episode tapes, CIC Video): Volume 19, 8 August 1994
- As part of the DS9 Season 2 DVD collection
Links and references
- Rene Auberjonois as Constable Odo
- Siddig El Fadil as Doctor Julian Bashir
- Terry Farrell as Lieutenant Jadzia Dax
- Cirroc Lofton as Jake Sisko
- Colm Meaney as Chief Miles O'Brien
- Armin Shimerman as Quark
- Nana Visitor as Major Kira Nerys
- Judi Durand as computer voice
- David B. Levinson as Broik
- Mary Meinel-Newport as Bolian
- Mark Allen Shepherd as Morn
2370; acceleration; administrator; "Ak'la bella doo"; analysis; Arjin's father; Arjin's sister; Arjin's sister's spouse; ant; astrophysics profile; Bajor; Bajoran system; Bajoran wormhole; bartender; bearing; black; black hole; Calondia IV; Cardassia; Cardassians; Cardassian vole; chess; citrus blend; club; computer; dabo; dabo girl; Dax (symbiont); Dax's bartender; Dax, Curzon; Dax, Lela; directional sonic generator; District Sub-Nagus; docent; drowning; dynametric array; EM flux; EM pathway; entomology; entropy; exile; Federation; Ferengi; Ferengi District Sub-Nagus & his sister; field docent; field training; fired; Frenchotte; Galeo-Manada; Gamma Quadrant; Gedana post; gravimetric microprobe; Hamlin; heart; holosuite; inertial dampener; inner hull; initiate corps; joined; Klingon concertina; Klingon restaurant; Klingonese; landlord; latinum stairway; marble; Mardah; mass murder; mating season; Mekong, USS; meter; meters per second; microdyne; minute; Nash, USS; nausea; night owl; "Old Man"; Papa; percent; phase variant analysis; physical law; pilot; pilot instructor; porthole; Promenade; Prophets; protouniverse; quantometer probe; Quark's; racht; redlining; replicator; Rio Grande, USS; Romulan; Rules of Acquisition; runabout; sex; sonic indicator; spectral analysis (spectral line profile analysis); sponsor; Starbase 41; subspace phenomenon; Sydney-class; synthale; tongo; tour of duty; towel; training program; tricorder; Trills; Trill; Trill initiate; Trill initiates; verteron; vole; Wormhole Junction; wrestling
- "Playing God" at Memory Beta, the wiki for licensed Star Trek works
- "Playing God" at Wikipedia
- "Playing God" at StarTrek.com, the official Star Trek website
- "Playing God" at MissionLogPodcast.com, a Roddenberry Star Trek podcast
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