the story: Odo's last fling with Lwaxana Troi, as well as Jake's flirtation with literary greatness.
what it's all about: Even though the title of the episode leans toward Jake's story, it's hard to tell which one should be considered the real lead. This is the last of Lwaxana's nine appearances across Next Generation and Deep Space Nine. In a lot of ways, this third appearance in Deep Space Nine is the completion of her redemption from the role of irritant in Next Generation, where she was second only to Q in that regard, with the occasional sympathetic outing whereas in this series only one in three ("Fascination") is she served up for comedic potential.
Rather, since she first showed up in "The Forsaken," Lwaxana formed an unexpected bond with Odo. Both were able to interpret the other better than anyone else had in their lives, and be comfortable around and accepting of each other, too. In a lot of ways, Lwaxana is the reason Odo went on to a happy relationship with Kira, something that went beyond easy familiarity, and one step beyond what Lwaxan and Odo were able to do together.
The episode finds her in another bad relationship. Unlike what would've happened in Next Generation ("Cost of Living" comes to mind), Lwaxana finds someone (Odo) willing to help her out of it, who isn't distracted by her brash impulses but instead recognizes what's at the heart of a complicated individual, because again, that's what Odo always wanted and needed, too.
The other side of the episode is Jake being inspired to work his best stuff, but at the cost of another of those parasitic aliens who're always cropping up in Star Trek. Like "Shattered Mirror" immediately preceding this episode, it's like another callback to "The Visitor" earlier in the season, but one that somewhat unfortunately is tied up in gimmick storytelling, something that the series in general tried to avoid, and so it's always odd when it happens. But the end result is the same, and it's that we get to see Jake truly advance along the road to his destiny, something the series never really revisited, except in the more war-pertinent role of journalist, which came with its own complications.
Like the rest of the season, "The Muse" represents a definitive moment of transition, but it also shows the limitations of hesitation. Lwaxana's story is very much her own. Jake is very much caught up in a situation rather than his life. Situations are what make up life, but more often than not, Deep Space Nine demonstrated more directly, less obliquely, how those situations add up. If the work of resolution is left so completely to other episodes, and not merely in terms of serialization, something is lacking in the story. This is an example of the series struggling to combine franchise expectations with its own best impulses, and falling short.
- franchise - Formulaic elements abound.
series- Which hamper the best instincts of Deep Space Nine.
- character - Still, this is good material for Jake, Odo, and Lwaxana.
- essential - It's necessary connective material.
Majel Roddenberry (Lwaxana)