Star Trek Easter Egg Calls Back to a Forgotten Deep Space Nine Episode

The latest episode of Star Trek: Discovery does a less corny version of a goofy classic from Deep Space Nine.

Terry Farrell as Jadzia Dax in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Photo: Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

This Star Trek: Discovery article contains spoilers.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine earned its position as a favorite series among fans because of its more complex take on the franchise’s themes, thrusting the United Federation of Planets into a huge war that tested its moral compass time and again. But even at the height of the Dominion War, DS9 also found time to follow Jake and Nog’s search for a baseball card and to check in on a holographic Rat Pack lounge singer.

But even within that wide range of possibilities, the season three episode “Facets” stands out as an oddball. Written by René Echevarria and directed by Cliff Bole, “Facets” introduced the Zhian’tara ritual, through which Trill hosts find closure for their symbiotes by spreading host personalities to others.

Although “Facets” isn’t exactly a “Sub Rosa” level embarrassment, it is a weird episode that mostly went unmentioned in the larger canon until Discovery reintroduced the Zhian’tara ritual in the season four episode “Choose to Live.” In that episode, the Guardians of Trill use the ritual to separate Grey from the Tal symbiote carried by Adira and into a Soong-style golem. As usual for Discovery, writer Terri Hughes Burton and director Christopher J. Byrne emphasized the emotional over the goofy, not invoking the sillier parts of the idea.

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That’s not the case for this week’s Disco season five episode “Jinaal.” When Burnham and Book’s search for the secret of the Progenitors brings them to Trill, they find a guide in the form of Jinaal Bix, a host from 800 years ago. Through Zhian’tara, Bix allows Jinaal to embody Dr. Culber, who takes the duo to the next clue.

The stakes of “Facets” weren’t quite so high, and fittingly, neither was the episode’s tone. Jadzia sends the minds of the previous Dax hosts to Quark, Bashir, Leeta, O’Brien, Odo, Kira, and Sisko, who all take on new personalities. O’Brien becomes nervy and scared when Tobin possesses him, while the maternal Audrid softens Quark’s hard edges. The murderous Joran transforms Sisko into a Hannibal Lecter type, making malevolent observations through an invisible holding cell wall.

The most outrageous of the transformations involves, fittingly enough, the shape-shifter Odo, who takes on the identity of Jadzia’s most immediate predecessor Curzon. Although a gregarious man in his life and a close friend to Sisko and the Klingon Martok, Curzon’s joi de vivre makes him selfish, fighting to hold on to his new life. Due to his shape-changing abilities, Odo undergoes a more thorough transformation, as he and Curzon blend into a single being. This new being happens to look a lot like Odo performer René Auberjonois, giving the actor a chance to work with less make-up.

Culber’s transformation isn’t quite so dramatic. The change to Jinaal gives Culber’s actor Wilson Cruz the opportunity to be a swaggering charmer instead of the empathetic physician he usually plays, as well as the opportunity to compliment his own (admittedly very impressive) physique.

Unlike Culber, Auberjonois and Avery Brooks (Sisko) go hard into playing off-beat characters. Never one for subtlety, Brooks chews all the scenery available to him as the evil genius Joran. He never makes for a credible threat (contrast his presence to that of Brad Dourif’s killer ensign Lon Suder in Voyager), but he is fun to watch.

Likewise, Auberjonois takes advantage of having his face freed from most of the make up he wore on DS9 to mug at every opportunity. Drawing from his many years on stage, Auberjonois exaggerates every gesture. It’s not quite as obnoxious as Brent Spiner‘s performance in “Masks,” The Next Generation‘s spiritual predecessor to “Facets,” but it does feel like it comes from a different show.

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Which isn’t always a bad thing. Every Trek series has dabbled in other genres, from the gangster episode “A Piece of the Action” on The Original Series to the zombie thriller “Impulse” on Enterprise. Discovery continues that tradition with its current season and episodes like “Jinaal,” showing that Star Trek can handle a wide range of tones, and even get really goofy.

Star Trek: Discovery is streaming now on Paramount+.