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The Trek Nation - Prodigal Daughter

Prodigal Daughter

By Michelle Erica Green
Posted at January 13, 2004 - 12:44 PM GMT

See Also: 'It's Only a Paper Moon' Episode Guide

Ezri receives a shipment of gagh ordered by Jadzia as Bashir frets over O'Brien's return transport being late. When the engineering chief doesn't return on schedule, the doctor warns Sisko that O'Brien had gone to New Sydney to check out the disappearance of his friend Bilby's widow Marika, whom O'Brien had been in touch with since Bilby's death in the Orion Syndicate sting in which O'Brien participated. Ezri's family lives in the system, so Sisko asks her whether her mother would help them in pressing the police investigation; Ezri's mother agrees, but only on the condition that Ezri come home for a long-postponed visit.

The reluctant Trill goes to New Sydney for the first time since her Joining and is awkward with her brothers - Narvo, the family bookkeeper and would-be artist, who is warm to her, and Janel, who runs the mining business and suspects his sister has only returned to seek her missing Starfleet friend. Ezri's mother is disconcerted by the changes wrought by the symbiont, but says she'll take care of her daughter. Narvo reveals to his sister that he was rejected from art school, reciting a litany of personal failings which Ezri describes as comments typical of their mother. He gets drunk and defaces his own paintings, for which the mother blames Ezri, but she insists that his anger is because he feels smothered.

The local police bring in O'Brien, whom they rescued from the Orion Syndicate. He has found Marika Bilby's corpse and insists she was murdered, but the police say there's no evidence that the Syndicate was involved. After she has offered the engineer hospitality, Ezri's mother asks for his help with a sonic drill that none of their own engineers has been able to fix; Ezri is angry, but O'Brien is happy to help. He tells Janel that they have a mislabeled transtator. A commodities broker in the mine, Thadeo Bokar, recognizes O'Brien's name and warns Janel privately that O'Brien was looking for Marika Bilby; Bokar works for the Syndicate, and tells Janel that O'Brien should leave the system immediately. Janel suggests this to O'Brien, but he says that because Ezri's his superior officer, he'll wait for her orders. The lieutenant meanwhile tries to convince Norvo to come with her to Deep Space Nine, but he's not sure he can leave the family business - he insists that Janel needs him, though Ezri says he has no head for business.

O'Brien questions Ezri, who has never heard of Bokar but agrees to let O'Brien see her family's business records. As he reads, he becomes suspicious, demanding to know whether she came to New Sydney to look for him or to cover up her family's connection to the Syndicate. When he realizes she has no idea what he means, he shows her that Marika Bilby was on her family's payroll when she died. Ezri insists that her mother would burn down the place before working with organized crime, but O'Brien says Janel seems like a man who's being pressured by the Syndicate. Ezri orders O'Brien not to approach the police with what he's learned until she asks her family what's going on between them and the Syndicate.

Confronted, Janel confesses to their mother that they employed Marika as a favor to the Syndicate, which bailed them out when they were desperate for cash. His mother is appalled, but Janel is furious with her, claiming that she dumped the company in his lap and he did what was necessary to save it. When Janel adds that he doesn't know how Marika died, his mother is skeptical, but Norvo is so adamant in defending Janel's innocence that Ezri realizes the younger brother must have been involved. He confesses that he killed Marika - he couldn't reason with the woman who was demanding more and more money from the family, and finally he concluded that if Marika were dead, the family's problems with the Syndicate would go away. Norvo brags that he took care of the problem even though his mother thought he was weak.

After Norvo is arrested, Ezri counsels Janel to get out of New Sydney and make a life for himself elsewhere. Their mother pleads with Ezri to tell her that Norvo's sociopathy isn't her fault, but Ezri refuses to answer. Back at Deep Space Nine, she tells O'Brien that Norvo was sentenced to thirty years incarceration, which O'Brien thinks is an easy sentence. Ezri blames her mother, but also herself, saying she should have gone home years earlier.

Analysis:

A predictable mystery, this episode gave Nicole DeBoer a chance to shine and provided Ezri Dax's mediocre backstory, but contributed little else. We've seen characters have a variety of problems with their fathers over the years on Trek shows, which usually come to a cathartic conclusion - think Spock and Sarek, Data and Soong, Worf and Mogh, Benjamin and Joseph Sisko, Garak and Tain, Chakotay and Kolopak, Tom and Owen Paris, etc.). DS9, on the other hand, seems to be specializing in maternal angst, and in most cases the mothers are characterized as unforgivable - Sisko and the Prophet who used his father to bear him, Kira and her mother the collaborator, now Ezri and the overbearing matriarch of the Tegan family (whose name she no longer needs to wear, now that she has a symbiont). I can't exactly say that this attention to mothers is an improvement.

I guess we did get answers to the questions of why Ezri became a counselor and why she didn't ever want to be Joined before the accident which gave her Dax, but did it have to be this trite and chauvinistic? Janel and Norvo are both grown men; Ezri's suggestion that their entire lives are their mother's fault is pretty ludicrous and makes me question her competence as an analyst if she's going to let everyone off the hook so easily based on their family backgrounds. We never heard a word about what happened to the father, nor about the mother's sacrifices to keep the family business going in the first place; even if she went overboard in her desire to keep her children close, she must have struggled considerably just to keep the business in the face of organized crime and Ferengi competition. I rather liked her in spite of the episode's harsh judgement; she seemed smart and tough, and I rather wish she had known of her sons' involvement with the Syndicate just so she didn't look so extraneous and oblivious in the end.

O'Brien was a plot device rather than a character in this episode; if he really missed Bilby or really felt outrage over Marika's death, we didn't see it, and I'm not entirely clear on why he kept in touch with Marika, who sounded greedy and selfish when Ezri's brothers described her demands. I am always touched to see Bashir mooning over his friend, especially when O'Brien's family is conveniently in absentia, but we learned nothing about either of the men, nor about how they interact with Dax now that she's in a new body. I really disliked her using her rank to demand the chief's silence until she'd untangled her family affairs: that was very unprofessional, not to mention rude to a man who'd gotten beaten up by people whom she had reason to believe were working for her brothers.

Sadly, in six seasons of DS9, we never really got to see Jadzia's family. I sort of wish we hadn't seen Ezri's either.

Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


Michelle Erica Green reviews 'Enterprise' episodes for the Trek Nation, for which she is also a news writer. An archive of her work can be found at The Little Review.