S2E6: Melora

The station gets visited by a Starfleet scientist from a low gravity world who can only walk with a powered exoskeleton and mostly moves around with a wheelchair. Unfortunately, a Cardassian station isn't build with accessibility in mind so they have to make some modifications, including getting quarters ready where gravity can be turned off. When Melora arrives she is immediately rude and hostile to everyone trying to be nice.

The next day Dax wants to get her for their first research trip to the Gamma Quadrant but finds her on the floor of a cargo bay with slight injuries from a fall after the tried to get some additional equipment without notifying anyone. Bashir checks her and finds no major injuries, but the expedition has to be postponed to the next day. She becomes a bit more friendly and that evening goes with Bashir to the klingon restaurant. When she returns home, she lets him try out the low gravity she usually lives in. And wow! Who could have seen that coming?! Romance!

On the third day Melora and Dax do their first scans in the Gamma Quadrant and when they come back Bashir tells her that he had been looking at an old research paper about enabling humanoids to function in higher gravity, and with the scientific advances of the past decades the procedure should now be easily doable. They try it out and it it works remarkably well for an hour or so.

The next day Melora and Dax go collecting more data in the Gamma Quadrant and they have have a short talk about relationships between Starfleet officers. Back at the station she talks with Bashir about the dangers of going back and forth between adapting her body for low and high gravity, and she will have to decide if she wants the permanent alterations or not.

Meanwhile Quark has been visited by an old criminal friend who just got back out of prison and has come to kill him for his betrayal. Quark tries to buy him off by offering him the latinum he will get paid for a deal the next day. As the exchange is made, the criminal shots the buyer, but Odo already had him under surveillance and security arrives immediately. The criminal takes Quark as a hostage and as they run away from security they run into Dax and Melora who have just docked and get forced back on the shuttle to take off to the Gamma Quadrant. Sisko, O'Brien, and Bashir pursue them and the criminal shots Melora to show he will kill hostages if they don't back off. After a while Melora wakes up again, crawls to a console, and turns off gravity. Being used to move in no gravity, she overpowers the criminal and the situation is back under control. Back at the station she tells Bashir that she doesn't want the permanent alterations to her nerves and muscles because that's just not how her species is and she won't be able to return to her homeworld.


Well, this was really quite bad.

Not horribly awful as an episode, but the script just completely sucks. This episode manages to have almost no content and still feel terribly rushed. So they wanted to make an episode about accessibility and that was their first mistake. You don't make that an episode, you make this an element of the whole show. Nobody wants to see a social issue very special episode.
It's also completely implausible. I get it that a Cardassian station really isn't build for people with limited mobility, but we really have to believe that Starfleet doesn't have any low gravity species and this is a completely new issue that never really came up before?

The science here is as usually laughable. First, Bashir gets the solution for a medical problem in one day that had not been worked on for 30 years. Then he is ready to start the treatment immediately, the effect kicks in in 10 seconds, and the whole treatment should be completed in a week or so. And apparently they have started the process without fully talking through the side effects and long term consequences.
Now generic engineering to significantly increase bone density and muscle strength would be very much a plausible medical process. It might have sounded somewhat fantastic back in the 90s, but now it feels somewhat silly that it had not already been perfected in the 24th century. But that's not even what they are doing here. Instead the procedure is something about altering her nerves to simply send stronger signals to her muscles, and that will make her function normally in higher gravity. Bodies do not work this way. And then Melora gets shot, and to everyone's surprise is actually completely unharmed. They can't explain it, but think it must have been a side effect of the treatment that caused her to not be dead.
I think in general this is actually a nice idea. But this development is something that would need to be stretched over a full season, maybe even two or three, to feel believable and meaningful. Here it's just the gimmick of the week. There was a rather cringy episode on TNG where Worf was struggling really badly with recovering from a paralyzing spinal injury, and that one did the topic much better than this.

Is it low gravity or zero gravity? They say low gravity, but every scene we are shown where normal gravity is turned off clearly show zero gravity. Which of course would be impossible, since you can't have zero gravity planets. And if she lacks the strength to walk normally in standard gravity, why doesn't she set gravity in her quarters to the strength were she can stand and Bashir stumble around? Instead they are both flying. She even has a picture of her and her brother flying through the sky. If they can super-jump on their low gravity homeworld, then they would have the strength to walk in standard gravity. And how exactly would making her stronger prevent her from experiencing low gravity again? It doesn't seem completely out of the question that the procedure requires her to be under constant gravity while the alterations to her body are being made. But the idea that going into low gravity later would damage her nervous system sounds very implausible. I think her argument that she would be something of a super muscled freak compared to the body she is used to should have been enough to justify the decision not to have the permanent alterations.

Other points of annoyance: Was that romance aspect necessary? I can answer that. No it wasn't. It was completely pointless and unneeded. All the stuff with Quark and the criminal was equally pointless and boring. But without these two things the episode would only have been half as long. Which might have improved it. This was the first time with the series so far where I got so bored I checked the time and it was only 15 minutes in.

This script was terrible. It's boring, makes little sense, nothing happens, and it's also rushed. This doesn't feel like an early draft of a script. This feels more like an outline for a draft. Though I think having Melora as a permanent crew member who is undergoing the alterations over several seasons would actually have been a nice addition to the series. Even if at the end she still decided that being genetically altered to the point. There was great potential in the idea, but they just shoved in in as filler in a rather disrespectful way.