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Monday, 8 August 2016

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine 1-08: Dax

Episode:8|Writer:D.C. Fontana and Peter Allan Fields|Air Date:14-Feb-1993

This week on Sci-Fi Adventures I'm still working my way through the worst season of Deep Space Nine, which hasn't actually been that bad so far to be honest. It hasn't been all that great either though. It's just kind of existed, like the dull droning sound of a fusion reactor, with the occasional chat between Odo and Quark thrown in to make sure I was still paying attention.

Somehow I doubt Dax is going to break this streak, but I don't know, I can barely remember it. Though I do remember that it has the distinction of being the only Star Trek episode with just a main character's name as its title. There's Spock's Brain, Data's Day and Our Man Bashir (and Q-Less, but he's a guest star) but this is the only one with the name on its own. So now we're both stuck with knowing that.

Additional Dax facts: it originally aired on Valentines Day in the US, and it's legendary Trek writer D.C. Fontana's only episode of Deep Space Nine. Funny that she'd write the seventh episode of the series (it says 8 up there because Emissary counts twice), seeing as she'd go on to write the seventh episode of Babylon 5 as well. Another spooky B5/DS9 coincidence for you.

There will be SPOILERS for this episode and everything that led up to it, but what comes afterwards will remain unspoiled.



The episode begins with... oh fuck, Dr. Bashir's gone back to pining over Dax, despite the fact she's clearly trying to tune him out so she can figure out her repair work.

Sisko's captain's log narration explained that O'Brien's taking the episode off, so Dax has taken over some of his duties. He's gone back to Earth with his wife Keiko for her mother's 100th birthday. Seems slightly odd that Keiko's mother is over 60 years older than her, but hey it's the future. The original script wasn't so cheerful, as O'Brien was escorting his wife to her mother's funeral.

By the way this episode is notable for being the introduction of a major part of Deep Space Nine lore: raktajino. Captain Picard likes a bit of Earl Grey and Captain Janeway has her coffee, but the DS9 crew are all addicted to raktajino... which is actually also coffee, except made by the Klingons. I have to give the writers credit for coming up with a proper name for it instead of just calling it 'Klingon coffee' like they usually do (eg. Romulan ale), but I'm deducting credits for making it sound so much like cappuccino.

Also they've brought out the special anti-topple wide base space mugs!

The scene ends with Bashir offering to escort her to her quarters. She says it's not necessary and walks off. Bashir decides it's not forbidden either, and creeps off after her. Scenes like this might have worked if there was any sign she was into him, but it's clear he had no chance from the start and his persistence really isn't endearing. Not even when we can see the sinister aliens secretly staring at them from behind a fence.

They grab Dax while she's alone in a corridor, so it turns out she really did need an escort this once! What she doesn't need though is Bashir, who turns the corner, sees what's going on, and decides he can probably take them.

He runs in and throws a double fisted Starfleet punch at the leader, managing to send himself spinning off into a wall as well. To be fair though it was an obvious stunt double who did the actual falling over.

Then he comes up against a chivalry conflict when he realises one of Dax's attackers is female and spends a moment trying to decide whether it's okay to punch a lady if you'll be saving another woman by doing it. She on the other hand has no hesitation in smacking him into unconsciousness.

This GIF has been edited down by the way, as he lasts several seconds longer in the actual episode. His valiant distraction gives Dax an opportunity to get a few hits in, but it's not long before the aliens have dragged her away. End of teaser!


ACT ONE.


Bashir eventually wakes up, and it seems that the head trauma's unstuck a few of the gears in his brain, as it suddenly occurs to him to use his combadge to tell Ops that Dax is in trouble! Shame he didn't think of that before running in to get his ass whooped.

Unfortunately the crew are up against professionals who know all the tricks and bypass all their attempts to keep them away from their escape ship. If this was Next Gen or Voyager I'd be rolling my eyes, but DS9 station was broken when they got it, it's been studied and infiltrated by Bajoran saboteurs for the last 18 years, and it's being run by a staff who've had a few months at most to get used to what all the buttons do. It's their station but they don't really own it at this point.

Plus both their technobabble experts are both off station right now, meaning Kira and Sisko are the ones left to yell out lines of bullshit as they work to undo their sabotage (it's those pesky gravitons again). Doesn't seem right somehow to have Avery Brooks talking about "increasing the flow to the EPS wave guides". Not with that voice.

DS9 is brown now? I'm sure the station was painted grey back in the teaser.

Anyway, the kidnappers make it back to their ship and take off, which kind of sucks for the DS9 crew as the thing's too fast to catch in their runabouts and their tractor beam's been disabled. But Sisko gets it back on line at the last moment and grabs them!

Not once during this whole chase did anyone mention maybe using the transporter.

But as Odo arrests the mysterious aliens, they reveal that they're actually extraditing Dax for the crime of treason and murder! Their homeworld Klaestron Four has a treaty with the Federation that allows this, so this apparently lets them off the hook for assault and kidnapping.

Personally I think that's bullshit. Their homeworld I mean; no one names their own planet xxx Four.


ACT TWO.


I'm sure these two have been discussing something during this scene, but I've been too distracted watching people walking behind the windows on that security monitor. Why they put a TV in the middle of the frame like that I've no idea.

Dax is being accused of the murder of General Ardelon Tandro on Klaestron Four thirty years ago, and it's his son who tried to kidnap extradite her. Tandro Jr. claims she betrayed the government to the rebels the last time that she was a he. But Jadiza Dax inherited the Dax symbiont from Sisko's old friend Curzon Dax, and he knows that the guy wouldn't set someone up to die like that.

Sisko tells Dax he's doing what he can to stall the extradition, but she's not that bothered any more. She won't talk to him about it and she doesn't want his help, despite the fact that Klaestron Four has the death penalty. Man they say Klaestron Four a lot in his episode.

We learn that Dax and Sisko have been friends for nearly 20 years, but Dax points out that it was Curzon he was friends with. Not that she's not friends with him too! Sisko realises he's getting nowhere here and goes off to the next scene.

Sisko and Kira meet with the man who led the extradition attempt, Tandro, and discuss why it got a bit kidnappy. His world does have an extradition treaty with the Federation, he could've just asked for her to be handed over, but he didn't and that's interesting. It kind of gives the impression that Tandro was worried that the Bajoran government wouldn't allow people to be extradited from their space station.

So Kira gets to use her threatening smile! The more pissed off Kira is, the bigger the grin on her face, as if she's imagining all the things she'd like to do to the latest frustration in her life. And today she's imagining that Tandro's not taking Dax anywhere without a hearing.

So that means for the second episode in a row, Quark's bar is getting closed for a bit so the space can be used for something else. In Babylon 5 they'd just redress it and pretend it was a different part of the station, but DS9 tends to be less... creative with its main sets.

Quark's not exactly on board with this though. He'd do a lot to get Dax's appreciation, but losing a few days business is too much... until Odo blackmails him with new building code restrictions that he may have just invented. Then it's revealed that Sisko hadn't even decided on where the hearing should be held yet; Odo had decided on his own to encourage Quark to volunteer his bar!

The Bajoran Judge Judy arrives to arbitrate the hearing and makes it clear right away that she's 100 years old and has no time for bullshit. She intends to be here "until supper, not senility", which doesn't completely mesh with Sisko's plans as he wants to drag this out long enough to give Odo an chance to snoop around on Klaestron Four.

Sisko wants extradition refused on the grounds that Jadzia Dax isn't Curzon Dax and challenges Tandro to prove otherwise.


ACT THREE.


The hearing will reconvene in a bit, so Sisko takes the opportunity to put Kira and Bashir to work finding evidence to support his case. He wants to know if there's precedent that says that a Trill is responsible for the crimes of its antecedent selves, and if the answer's yes than that answer is wrong.

I love how Sisko seems determined to redefine reality through sheer force of will here, basically saying "assume there's evidence to back up my point and then find it".

It'll be crazy if they don't find some kind of precedent though, seeing how joined Trills like Dax aren't all that uncommon. At some point in their history one of them must have committed a crime, had their host die, been joined to a new host, and then been tried for it.

Meanwhile Odo's already arrived on Klaestron Four to investigate Curzon Dax's alleged crimes. That was bloody quick. Seems to take them as long to get to Bajor sometimes, and that's in the same star system.

Hang on, this isn't Klaestron Four, this is Angel One from first season Next Gen! They didn't redress the main station sets much on DS9 but they had no issues recycling entire planets.

This is a true Deep Space Nine milestone here, as it's the first time anyone in the crew has set foot on a planet outside of Bajor (which is basically their back yard). Well okay there was that one in the wormhole in Emissary, but that didn't technically exist.

Odo's already discovered that the murder of Tandro's dad 30 years ago inspired his troops to win their civil war, and the man because a national martyr (the statues were clue). Now he's having a chat with the man's widow Enina, played by Fionnula Flanagan. The actress appeared as different characters in three of the Trek spin-offs, but she's better known for her work on Lost, where she played that mysterious woman who... uh... wow I actually have no idea any more.

Enina is adamant that Curzon Dax didn't kill her husband, and that they were in fact close friends. But the fact is that someone leaked information that got General Tandro kidnapped and killed, and they've been able to rule everyone out but Curzon. Apparently everyone else was out during the time the transmission took place, and the idea that the traitor could've told someone else to leak the info is so ridiculous that neither of them even mentions it as a possibility!

She asks how Curzon's doing, unaware that it's a new host being extradited. She seems pretty upset to hear about his death in fact.

Back at the extradition hearing, Tandro... you know it occurs to me that I haven't shown a clear shot of this guy until now. Which makes this the perfect time to mention that he's played by Gregory Itzin, better known for playing President Logan in 24! The man has a real knack for being dislikeable when he wants to be.

Anyway, Tandro has come up with an ingenious way to demonstrate how Trills work: he brings a Trill Minister in and asks him! At first I thought it was pretty impressive how he brought someone all the way from Trill so quickly, but now I realise that they were the two behind the fence spying on Dax in the teaser.

The Minister explains that Jadzia Dax would still remember and feel guilty for any crime Curzon Dax, or any other previous host had committed. But under Sisko's questioning he also reveals that Trills aren't joined until they're adults, so Jadzia had her own identity and life when she was given the symbiont. Their two personalities were merged, creating a brand new person distinct from both Jadzia and Curzon (though I'm sure she gets to keep both of their things). 

Hang on, I just realised that this whole plot is just an excuse to have the actors explain who Dax is! It makes me feel sorry for Terry Farrell, who must have expected her character would actually get lines this episode when she saw the title on the script.


ACT FOUR.


Now Dr. Bashir's being questioned, and he reveals that the symbiont acts like a co-processor to a joined Trill's brain. Jadiza will die if Dax is surgically removed now, so they can't just take it out punish it separately.

Sisko himself is questioned next, and uses the opportunity to describe his friend Curzon for a bit, demonstrating that he had a very different personality to Jadzia because he actually had a personality. I like Terry Farrell as Dax but season one hasn't been giving her much to work with.

Tandro points out that if a joined Trill is a merged personality like Sisko argues, then that means that the symbiont must be guilty of all crimes committed by all of its hosts! But that kind of circles around to the 'can't punish it separately' part of the conversation.

The next time they have a break Odo phones Sisko to explain what he's learned. Turns out that Curzon was calling the General's home a lot... when the General was out. Now that sounds a lot more like something Curzon would do. If Curzon was having an affair with the General's wife, that means they have a motive for his murder.


ACT FIVE.


It's now morning on Klaestron Four, and Odo's having another chat to Enina about her relationship with... actually hold on a second, I'm sure there was something weird about that daytime establishing shot.

Ah, it's one of those nocturnal skyscrapers. Either that or it was scheduled for demolition last night.

Enina reveals another piece of the puzzle, explaining that she husband was no angel. She'd never tell anyone this though, she knows how important General Tandro is to her people. Well anyone aside from Odo that is. In fact, maybe she will tell people! Fuck General Tandro!

Sisko tries chatting to Dax again, confronting her over Curzon's affair with Enina. She still won't explain or defend herself, though she at least confirms that Tandro isn't her son. It would've been amazing if he was though.

The scene is actually more about Sisko's backstory, and his anger issues, as he yells "Dammit... if you were still a man..." and visibly restrains himself from hitting her. Which is kind of dark, especially as he punched Q just last week. But it's not like he makes a habit of hitting anyone, male or female; his old friend and mentor was a special case. She talks about the time that she... Curzon once talked him down from 'killing' someone who threw a drink in his face. And by 'talked' I mean he punched Sisko hard enough to leave a scar on his chin.

Back at the hearing it's Dax's time to be questioned! She reveals that all her science qualifications come from her Jadzia side, not Dax. Apparently the competition to become 'a Trill' is very strong. Become a joined Trill is what I think the writer meant to put there. She also accepted the responsibilities of being joined, but does that include the responsibility of being executed for the crimes of her symbiont?

Suddenly Enina comes out of nowhere to save us from this endless examination of Dax's nature! Damn, Klaestron Four really must be next door to Bajor.

Enina has brought a high-yield truth bomb to drop on her son: Curzon does have an alibi. He was in her bed at the time the transmission was made. That leaves just one person who could've sent the message to the rebels, someone they'd discounted entirely on account of him being the victim of it: the General himself was the traitor.

Man, I suddenly feel sorry for Tandro. Sure he wanted to kidnap and kill Dax, but she was his planet's greatest monster and his dad their greatest hero and now he's suddenly in backwards-world where nothing makes sense and he gets humiliated in courtrooms.

Later Enina and Dax take a walk along the Promenade together. It's revealed that despite all Sisko's arguments that Curzon and Jadzia were different people, she still felt obligated to a promise he made to keep General Tandro's reputation intact.

Enina wants one more thing from her though: for her to live a long and wonderful life. The end.


CONCLUSION

Wow, there really was no O'Brien in that episode at all. Usually they'll throw in a token scene for an actor just to get them on the screen (like Quark being blackmailed by Odo to let them use the bar), but he was just gone. Plus anyone coming into this expecting to see much of Dax would likely be disappointed too.

Well okay you can see her sitting in the background a few times, but she doesn't get to say a whole lot because this is actually a Sisko episode in disguise. Sisko dominates almost every aspect of the story, and the scenes he and Dax share together are more about his history and his anger problems. He's still trying to figure out his relationship with this new Dax, who acts very differently to his old mentor but shares all the same memories and the emotional connection to those memories. It's also a good episode for Odo as it shows him successfully carry out an investigation without having to turn into a chair at any point.

Dax (the episode) asks the question "Is a joined Trill responsible for crimes committed during a previous joining?" and over the course of 40 minutes it pretty much entirely fails to answer that question. Enina just walks in at the end and shuts the hearing down. But that's fine, as who cared anyway? The courtroom drama is really just a cunning way to have characters explain exactly what a Trill is, and if they don't explain it well enough (or drag things out long enough) she'll die!!!

So now we know for sure that despite what was hinted at in episodes like Babel (and flat out stated in Next Gen), the Trill symbiont is a co-processor, not a mind-control parasite. Dax might seem like she's pulling a Doctor Who, but every new regeneration the symbiont gets is actually a blend of two personalities that isn't quite like what either of them used to be. Unfortunately this implies that Jadzia was so boring as a separate person that she's nullified Curzon's affair-having, Sisko-punching wild side entirely. As Tandro pointed out, she's pretty much a default generic Starfleet officer at this point: smart, honourable, kind, and that's it.

Giving Deep Space Nine its own version of classic Next Gen episode Measure of a Man was a good idea, but Dax doesn't come off so great by comparison. Examining the nature of a joined being is less relevant to us than the rights of artificial life, and if you're not interested in courtroom drama or exposition the episode doesn't have much going for it. Still, I thought it was watchable enough. Better than Q-Less at least.


Deep Space Nine will return with some dead serial killer antics in The Passenger. But next on Sci-Fi Adventures it's another episode by D.C. Fontana, Babylon 5's The War Prayer.

If you want to share your thoughts on Dax, Dax, or Deep Space Nine season 1 then type them in the box below and hit that blue publish button.

2 comments:

  1. lost TNG episode!

    Dax (the episode) asks the question "Is a joined Trill responsible for crimes committed during a previous joining?" and over the course of 40 minutes it pretty much entirely fails to answer that question.

    That's the most frustrating thing about 90's Trek as a whole, although to be fair the moral dilemma of the week is more often than not side-stepped through nonsense technobabble than genuine character work, so this is an improvement.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ignore that first line; I'm not sure where that came from!

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