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Retro Review: Dax

Posted by Michelle - 25/11/11 at 02:11 pm


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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

Season: 01 Episode: 07 (s01e07)

Original US airdate: 02/14/1993

Jadzia Dax is arrested by the Klaestron for an act of treason and murder allegedly committed by the Trill symbiont’s previous host.

Plot Summary: Dax is abducted on the station by a Klaestron named Tandro, who tells Sisko when apprehended that thirty years ago, Dax committed treason and murdered Tandro’s father. Sisko counters that it would have been Curzon, not Jadzia, who was then host to the Dax symbiont, and guesses that Tandro resorted to kidnapping because he knew that the Bajorans would not extradite Dax without evidence. Jadzia won’t tell Sisko the details of Curzon’s involvement in the crimes, so Sisko sends Odo to Klaestron IV to investigate while a Bajoran judge holds a hearing to determine whether Jadzia should be tried for Curzon’s actions. Odo contacts Tandro’s mother, Enina, widow of the slain war hero, who says that Dax was not responsible for her husband’s death but that her son discovered alibis for all other suspects. Under questioning, she admits that she was romantically involved with Curzon at the time of her husband’s death. Meanwhile Sisko testifies to the very different personalities of his friend Curzon and his coworker Jadzia while Bashir argues that their brain waves prove that they are different people. Jadzia resists taking the stand and is about to accept responsibility for Curzon’s actions when Enina arrives with Odo to testify that while her husband’s regiment was betrayed, Curzon was in bed with her. Later Enina discovers that Dax has always known that her husband betrayed his own people, but would not betray Enina by revealing the information.

Analysis: “Dax” is one of many Star Trek episodes that takes the format of a trial, but unfortunately it doesn’t have the novelty of the original series’ “Court Martial” nor the creative storytelling format of Next Gen‘s “A Matter of Perspective.” There’s nothing terribly wrong with the story, but the presentation seems quite formulaic and we don’t learn enough of substance about Dax nor about Sisko’s relationship with his onetime mentor. If we had never seen a Trill before DS9, it might be important to establish how much a host’s personality changes when joined with a symbiont, and if we were familiar with Curzon from a previous Trek show, it would be entertaining to watch a newer Dax host deal with an older one’s choices the way we will eventually watch Ezri do in regards to Jadzia. But other than revealing that Jadzia doesn’t share Curzon’s promiscuous tendencies and will remain devoted to Curzon’s friends, there’s not a lot on offer – the “big secret” is telegraphed practically from the beginning, and there aren’t any additional twists.

We start off with Dax deflecting Bashir’s flirting with her typical unruffled charm, which makes a nice contrast with the accusations of murder and later revelation that Curzon was something of a womanizer. But we don’t get any indication of how Jadzia feels about that. She seems to have been a circumspect, studious young woman – Sisko reveals that she received three advanced degrees by her mid-twenties – so how prepared was she to inherit the memories of a Trill who’d spent many hours in debauchery? Was she shocked, disgusted, secretly thrilled? Is her current disinterest in Bashir merely because he seems so young or because she fears she knows how promiscuous such a flirt can be? If Sisko wants to establish differences between Jadzia and Curzon, it would be so much more interesting to have him learn early on that Curzon committed adultery and press Jadzia for her reactions. Jadzia suggests that joined Trill are supposed to behave better than Curzon did, but we’re not really given a context for that statement, like whether it means she’s always been the good girl Sisko presents her as being.

Then there’s the matter of Sisko himself. He describes Curzon as a great friend, though he indicates that he has always known Curzon could be dismissive of the rules and was lecherous toward women. Kira (who is perfectly delightful telling the Klaestron that they have no rights on her station) is somewhat surprised to hear Sisko make these claims of his friend; I’m more interested in why he doesn’t also cite Curzon’s better qualities, which would seem to include loyalty beyond death and the ability to keep a secret for the good of others. Sisko is trying to establish the differences between Curzon and Jadzia so that the latter can’t be charged with the former’s crimes, but one would think he’d spend a bit more time telling his staff if not the magistrate that he refuses to believe Curzon could be guilty of treason and murder based on specific instances in Sisko’s own interactions with him – after all, if Odo comes to believe in Curzon’s guilt, he’s made clear that he won’t stick his neck out for Dax despite the change in hosts, because his sense of justice is closer to that of Tandro who finds it outrageous that a Trill might be allowed to get away with murder after changing hosts.

We see quite a bit of Sisko interacting with Jadzia, pointing out the changes in their relationship since the symbiont became part of a new host, but we don’t get nearly enough of the little telling details about what made them so close while Curzon was Sisko’s mentor. What’s strangest of all, though, is that the Trill who testifies about how joining works doesn’t give any information about how Trill society itself treats crimes committed by previous hosts if they aren’t discovered until the symbiont has been transferred. It surely can’t be unprecedented. Nor is there any discussion about whether a stronger Trill symbiont might exert a bigger influence over its host and whether host personalities are chosen to complement the symbiont’s strengths. When TNG’s “The Host” compelled Riker to accept Odan inside him, the symbiont’s personality had a much bigger effect on Riker’s own, but then, Riker isn’t a Trill and received no preparation to have another personality joining with his.

Considering that this is a Trill story, there are odd Biblical resonances – Curzon’s affair with the general’s wife reminds me of David seducing Bathsheba while her husband was getting killed at the head of his armies, and the Bajoran judge recommends splitting Dax in two – removing the symbiont for trial, which would kill Jadzia – like King Solomon’s famous ruling that a baby should be chopped in half to satisfy both women claiming to be the mother. There’s no significant emotional or moral message – not even much condemnation of adultery, since by his own wife’s account the dead man was a traitor and a coward and Curzon was a comfort to her, though Jadzia says it was shameful that Curzon slept with another man’s wife. I like the way she glows with pride when her accomplishments before her joining are read out, and the way she maternally warns Sisko about his temper, but we should know so much more – not just about her attachment to a woman who was once Curzon’s lover, but to Sisko himself.

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  • Anonymous

    Wow. I read this review, but when I read; “There’s nothing terribly wrong with the story, but the presentation seems quite formulaic and we don’t learn enough of substance about Dax nor about Sisko’s relationship with his onetime mentor.”; I think the reviewer misses the point.

    Title of this episode is Dax not Sisko. It is again another character development story that presupposes that no one is aware of the future direction of the series. We are not supposed “learn enough” about Dax, who is a unique and complex character, and it assumes that the viewer knows nothing about Trill society. Surely it has to leave holes that can be filled in later stories.

    The “formulaic” outline is really so very predictable.

    “Emissary” was about Sisko
    “Past Prologue” was about Kira
    “A Man Alone” is about Odo
    “Captive Pursuit” is about O’Brian
    “Dax” is about Dax
    “The Passenger” is about Bashir (next episodes)
    “Moving Along Home” and “The Nagus” is about Quark

    Heavens, it is even they repeat various character episodes again – even until Series 2! The same kind of sequence was in Voyager and even TNG.

    Studio producers have always understood that if series are going to survive it must form a positive attachment of the audience to the characters. Even in various spin-offs, the plot development nearly always tries to use the familiar then gravitate to the unfamiliar story lines. In DS9, they went out of their way to make sure to use as many plots and characters from the TNG stories to be all woven into DS9. I.e. Borg (to introduce Sisko), Q, Ferengi, Kilngons, Cardassians, etc. In turn, the used the same ideas into Voyager. I.e The Marquis (Ro Laren is the key the joins DS9, Voyager and TNG here; who was also mean to be in the role of Kira Nerys, but they could not get Michelle Forbes to to play Kira.)

    TV Series traditionally is really all about keeping viewer watching and engaging with the characters. If we care about one or two, or even the majority, of characters, we will keep the ratings up and the program will not be cancelled. (In DS9 this was more important as Babylon 5 that was shown at the same time was also competing for similar sci-fi audiences.)

  • Kozmikg

    Clarification: Forbes was asked to play Ro on DS9 (like Meaney did with O’Brien). She did not want to do a TV show so the Kira character was created instead.

  • Anonymous

    Agreed.

  • http://twitter.com/belmikey Uncle Mikey

    This story would not have worked very differently if they’d done it even a couple of seasons later, when Jadzia Dax is established as being a much more carefree and playful (and possibly promiscuous) individual than she’s portrayed here.

    As it is, the story shows hallmarks of being written very early. It wouldn’t surprise me to learn that this was one of the original outlines of stories the producers had in mind when putting together the show’s concept. Like many of DS9′s first season stories, it sorts rather roughly with how DS9′s concepts and characters evolved.

    I think the few insights into Sisko and Curzon’s friendship are possibly the most interesting parts of this story, so I agree that it would have been nice to see more about that as a lead-up to this. As it is, what we know is mainly by implication: Sisko feels so strongly about the Old Man–he really doesn’t know Jadzia Dax well enough yet–that he’s willing to fight hard for his successor’s life.

  • http://twitter.com/belmikey Uncle Mikey

    This story would not have worked very differently if they’d done it even a couple of seasons later, when Jadzia Dax is established as being a much more carefree and playful (and possibly promiscuous) individual than she’s portrayed here.

    As it is, the story shows hallmarks of being written very early. It wouldn’t surprise me to learn that this was one of the original outlines of stories the producers had in mind when putting together the show’s concept. Like many of DS9′s first season stories, it sorts rather roughly with how DS9′s concepts and characters evolved.

    I think the few insights into Sisko and Curzon’s friendship are possibly the most interesting parts of this story, so I agree that it would have been nice to see more about that as a lead-up to this. As it is, what we know is mainly by implication: Sisko feels so strongly about the Old Man–he really doesn’t know Jadzia Dax well enough yet–that he’s willing to fight hard for his successor’s life.

  • http://twitter.com/belmikey Uncle Mikey

    This story would not have worked very differently if they’d done it even a couple of seasons later, when Jadzia Dax is established as being a much more carefree and playful (and possibly promiscuous) individual than she’s portrayed here.

    As it is, the story shows hallmarks of being written very early. It wouldn’t surprise me to learn that this was one of the original outlines of stories the producers had in mind when putting together the show’s concept. Like many of DS9′s first season stories, it sorts rather roughly with how DS9′s concepts and characters evolved.

    I think the few insights into Sisko and Curzon’s friendship are possibly the most interesting parts of this story, so I agree that it would have been nice to see more about that as a lead-up to this. As it is, what we know is mainly by implication: Sisko feels so strongly about the Old Man–he really doesn’t know Jadzia Dax well enough yet–that he’s willing to fight hard for his successor’s life.

  • http://twitter.com/belmikey Uncle Mikey

    This story would not have worked very differently if they’d done it even a couple of seasons later, when Jadzia Dax is established as being a much more carefree and playful (and possibly promiscuous) individual than she’s portrayed here.

    As it is, the story shows hallmarks of being written very early. It wouldn’t surprise me to learn that this was one of the original outlines of stories the producers had in mind when putting together the show’s concept. Like many of DS9′s first season stories, it sorts rather roughly with how DS9′s concepts and characters evolved.

    I think the few insights into Sisko and Curzon’s friendship are possibly the most interesting parts of this story, so I agree that it would have been nice to see more about that as a lead-up to this. As it is, what we know is mainly by implication: Sisko feels so strongly about the Old Man–he really doesn’t know Jadzia Dax well enough yet–that he’s willing to fight hard for his successor’s life.

  • http://twitter.com/belmikey Uncle Mikey

    This story would not have worked very differently if they’d done it even a couple of seasons later, when Jadzia Dax is established as being a much more carefree and playful (and possibly promiscuous) individual than she’s portrayed here.

    As it is, the story shows hallmarks of being written very early. It wouldn’t surprise me to learn that this was one of the original outlines of stories the producers had in mind when putting together the show’s concept. Like many of DS9′s first season stories, it sorts rather roughly with how DS9′s concepts and characters evolved.

    I think the few insights into Sisko and Curzon’s friendship are possibly the most interesting parts of this story, so I agree that it would have been nice to see more about that as a lead-up to this. As it is, what we know is mainly by implication: Sisko feels so strongly about the Old Man–he really doesn’t know Jadzia Dax well enough yet–that he’s willing to fight hard for his successor’s life.

  • Bobby

    If I recall correctly, she asked for too much money.

    At least, when I was at a con shortly before DS9 premiered, that is what the behind-the-scenes guy giving the presentation on DS9 insinuated when answering the “Why no Ro?” question.

    Sorry I don’t remember who the source was. :) It was a few decades ago.