Bashir shows off an electric wheelchair that he replicated to accommodate the mobility needs of Ensign Pazlar, a newcomer from a low-gravity world, and whose usual anti-grav unit “just isn’t compatible” with the station’s Cardassian design.
When she arrives, Pazlar is brusque and not interested in socializing. (She is probably physically exhausted adjusting to the high gravity and needs to relax in her zero-g quarters, but the scene emphasizes Bashir’s disappointment.)
Quark is closing a lucrative deal with one alien, when a second alien arrives and threatens to kill him. Later, Quark tries to mollify him with gifts.
Pazlar bristles at the notion that she was not present when Sisko discussed her request for a solo runabout excursion, and bristles again when he tells her Dax will be accompanying her.
Bashir makes a heroic effort to get through her defenses, and invites her to a Klingon restaurant (which is the occasion for some good comedy), and tells her a story about how he wanted to be a tennis player, but realized he had more talent for medicine.
The next morning, Dax finds Pazlar has gone into an area of the station not outfitted for wheelchair access, had fallen, and could not get up. She blames herself for not paying attention. Their trip to through the wormhole is delayed.
Bashir mentions recent advances in medical technobabble that might help her adapt to higher gravity. She invites him into her quarters and turns off the gravity, they kiss, and we fade out. (Okay, call me old-fashioned, but that was *quick*.)
In the runabout, Pazlar and Dax talk about making romance work in Starfleet. Dax admits it’s a challenge, but “look at the alternative.”
Quark asks Odo for protection, and Odo gives the impression he’s reluctant to help, but will do his job. Odo warns Kot not to kill Quark, but has no reason to lock him up.
Bashir suggests he try an experimental neuromuscular procedure that should temporarily adapt Pazlar’s physiology to the station’s gravity. At first she’s glad to be able to walk unassisted, but the treatments are only temporary, and she will eventually have to choose between swimming in low gravity, or walking on land. Dax brings up Hans Christian Anderson’s “Little Mermaid,” and doesn’t answer when Pazlar asks, “Didn’t she live happily ever after?”
Quark’s vengeful friend Kot seems willing to spare Quark’s life for pay, but he shoots Quark’s buyer, orders Quark to recover the goods, and connects to the A plot when he commandeers the runabout in which Dax and Pazlar have just returned.
Will Pazlar’s identity as a member of a low-gravity species be the key to resolving this crisis? Will she decide to reject the technobabbling that will make her more like everyone else, and come to appreciate who she is? Is she a one-time guest star, which necessitates telling Bashir it’s been fun? Will their goodbye scene take place in the Klingon restaurant, with ambiance provided by the huge singing chef plucking a tiny instrument that somehow plays chords even though it has only one string?
A preachy episode about ableist tyranny, which relies on some stereotypes in order to challenge others. I don’t mind preachy Star Trek when the story is engaging and the moral is an added bonus. It’s a bit of a stretch to believe Bashir is that excited by the idea of floating in zero-g (certainly as Space Guy, he’s been somewhere without artificial gravity), but it does push back against the trope that a disabled person is an object of pity (unlike nonverbal, wheelchair-bound Captain Pike in TOS “The Menagerie”).