WARNING: This article has spoiler information regarding "Dax", the latest episode from DS9. Those sentients not wishing to hear lots of discussion about it are probably better off jumping ship here.
Once again, the plot gives way to characterization -- but *good* characterization.
This is beginning to be almost expected with DS9 so far as I can tell. I've yet to see any plot aside from the second half of "Emissary" that has jumped out at me as strikingly original (as opposed to, for instance, "Ship in a Bottle" or "Tapestry" for TNG lately), and this murder mystery was no different.
Here, however, DS9 took full advantage of the situation to tell us a lot more about Sisko, about Dax's past, and about Trills (the last answering many questions that have been raised ever since "The Host"). The answers about Trill physiology and Trill culture were for me the most interesting part of the show, and meshed nicely with many of my own speculations. For instance:
-- I don't remember if I ever brought this up publicly (I tend to doubt it), but I'd theorized a number of weeks back that there were probably two classes in the society of the Trill "host" species. Those who did become full Trill
were most likely honored and treated well, and the others (whether majority or minority) were stuck looking longingly from afar. We didn't have anything confirmed quite to *that* extent, but it apparently does take considerable competition and diligence to be selected for full Trillness. That should reduce the cries from those claiming that Trilldom is "slavery" for the host, I hope.
-- The most interesting thing I heard was that the memories and personalities of both host and symbiont mesh in the joining. That makes a great deal of sense in Trill culture, especially given the competition to become a Trill; if the host will only be a physical shell, what's the point? However, let's remember "The Host", the first time we saw Trills. How much of *Riker* was involved in the continuing Odan/Crusher relationship?
-- Along those same lines, how much does the host *remember* after a separation? Obviously, 99 times out of 100 that's not a valid question, because the separation doesn't happen until the host dies. The events of "The Host", however, were again an exception -- and how much does Riker remember of what happened during Odan's tenure in his body? Hmm ... there's a juicy followup story happening there if anyone wants to ever get around to telling it...
The elements of Trill physiology were not quite so interesting in and of themselves as the societal and psychological issues, but made themselves extremely useful in Bashir's testimony. I rather expected that Bashir's testimony would backfire (after all, anyone *that* naive shouldn't be allowed within a hundred meters of any lawyer :-) ), but the skillful manner in which Tandro turned Bashir's own smug analyses and raw talent against him said a lot, both about Bashir's character and about Tandro's ability to pursue his obsessions.
Speaking of smugness, Sisko's shown now that he can get as smug as Picard -- but he shows it far more on the surface than Picard ever has. His response to Selin Peers's testimony and to forcing the hearing in the first place is that of a man who knows he's wrestling the situation into the form he wants, and is quite prepared to let his foes know he's enjoying it. Sisko would make a lousy diplomat (like Riker, he shows too much in his face), but he's great viewing when done right, as he was here.
In fact, Sisko probably got the most development of anyone we saw in "Dax", including Dax herself. The situation is vaguely analogous to "The Measure of a Man", which while ostensibly focused on Data really gave most of its strength and its work to Picard. ("Dax" was nowhere near that level, though.)
Thinking about it, actually, we found out surprisingly little about *this* Dax, given the title. We found out a lot about Trills, and a lot about Curzon Dax, but not too much about Jadzia Dax. I'm a bit surprised at that. It's not necessarily a bad thing -- after all, it makes sense to fill in a lot of gaps about her situation and her background -- but now that it's done, we'd better see what *this* "new friend" is like. So far, it's been awfully tough to tell.
Despite not getting much of a chance to work most of the episode, Terry Farrell acquitted herself quite honorably, and has begun to ease many of the worries I had about the role. Two scenes in particular stood out:
1) The teaser, in which Dax more or less completely ignores Yet Another Come-On [TM] from Bashir. Given the outrageous lines Bashir was using [and the fact that, given her looks, Ms. Farrell has probably had to deal with similar ones in her own past], it's probably difficult to ignore them quite as well as Dax did.
2) The scene where she finally talks a bit to Sisko. Her speech about Curzon's ring no longer fitting her finger *finally* cracked through the serenity that has sometimes seemed out of place even for Dax. It's quite possibly the first time we've seen Dax act in any way other than serene, smug, or threatened -- and I think she nailed it.
In other respects, we've found out (or may have, at any rate) a few things about Dax that explains some of her behavior. For instance,
-- Her insistence that physical attraction is no longer particularly relevant to her, despite the admission that her host's body may feel otherwise, could now be looked upon as springing from Curzon Dax's indiscretion with Enina Tandro. It's clear that Dax feels no small guilt about the affair, and may have gone overboard with her reticence in trying to ensure that it never happens again. (It will be interesting to see if, now that the news of the affair is out, it dampens Bashir's interest or strengthens it, and what form Dax's response will take now.)
-- The reason we may not have seen much of the Dax/Sisko friendship yet could be that Dax isn't quite sure how much of it is *there* now, or what form it will take. Their friendship has taken on a very different tenor since the transition from Curzon to Jadzia, clearly [witness the "if you were still a man" incident with Sisko here], and I don't think the symbiont and the host have agreed yet on what they think of this guy. If done right, it'll be very interesting.
Turning away from that for a moment, let me deal with the plot. Again, it was somewhat routine -- we've had lots of murder mysteries lately. (This was by far the best done of the three, though -- I found both "A Man Alone" and "Aquiel" to be very disappointing.) The investigation and resolution of the whodunnit fell squarely under the heading of "competent, but no big deal"; I am glad, however, that they decided not to have Enina actually responsible for the general's death, which was my hunch.
Where the plot worked beautifully was in forcing the hearing (thus setting up a great courtroom drama, which I'm a sucker for), and in making the central issue not Dax's innocence or guilt, but the "What is a Trill?" question. That, I suspect, is what saved "Dax" from being a very mundane story, and instead made it a good "cultural" character study.
The aborted kidnapping was among the best example of such a sequence we've seen in a long while. Unlike the Enterprise, it is not unbelievable to see that the security plans can be found -- and both the kidnappers and the station personnel worked quickly and admirably. The one particularly *dumb* move in the whole affair was Bashir rushing in by himself without letting anyone know what was going on -- but that's a particular brand of foolishness that fit Bashir perfectly. (The first thought that went through his mind was probably how grateful Jadzia would be for the rescue...) In addition, the "snaring" of the kidnappers with the fixed tractor beam was arranged so beautifully as to make me really wonder if they'd gotten away -- a great rarity in Trek. Very nice all around.
Similarly, forcing the hearing was a little underhanded on Sisko's part, but sprang from a great scene of teamwork between him and Kira. The line about how their sabotage "not only compromises Bajoran security, but also ... _annoys_ us" was probably the best zinger Kira's gotten to have in ages; it's about time something happened with her.
We could see Sisko's desperation mount further and further as the odds stacked up. I'm not sure a man so desperate is a man I'd want to have running such a key installation, but that ties in again to Sisko being a very
un-reserved, "perceptible" character. Not all of his traits are good ones (given some of his slightly violent tendencies, I'm a little curious about how Jake was brought up, for instance), but they're all his. And his final
exchange with Tandro on the witness stand brought the very best of "The Measure of a Man" to mind. This, like all good courtroom dramas, had a strong air of theatricality about it -- worked like a charm, too.
Quark had a token scene which said a lot more about Odo than it did about him. Odo himself is being seen as relentless as ever (even given his own setup in a murder investigation recently), and not particularly sympathetic to anyone's feelings. Odo was a good choice to get the information, but I don't think there was much new about *him* to see. (However, Sisko upbraiding *Odo* for jumping to conclusions was a great companion piece for Odo's tasking Sisko about unjustified faith in "A Man Alone".)
All the guest characters were fine (and better, in some cases). Richard Lineback was a little bland as Selin Peers, but I think most "socially acceptable Trill" are intended to be that way. Gregory Itzin as Tandro was
properly obsessive, and also nicely skilled in his arguments. Anne Haney (a return guest; you may recall her from "The Survivors" about three years ago as Rishon Uxbridge) was truly delightful as Judge Renora. "I intend to be here until supper, not senility." Finally, we have Fionnula Flanagan as Enina Tandro. While her scenes tended to border ever so slightly on being too over-the-top, I found her quite believable in her bitterness.
Lastly, the epilogue really got to me somehow. The plot resolution contained therein was a waste, but Enina's final request to Dax -- "Live, Jadzia Dax. Live a long, fresh, and wonderful life" struck a chord. I don't know why, but it did. (It could mean almost anything, and I hope we see Jadzia acting on it somehow, sometime soon.) Add that to the fade-out (the only such closing fade-out I can ever recall seeing in TNG or DS9), and it made a very touching coda to a nicely constructed show.
Anyway, I'm rambling. On to a few short takes:
-- The "split her down the middle" solution was great, and nicely countered by the 93-hour criterion (which lets Riker off the hook :-) ). However, that 93-hour limit must have exceptions -- otherwise, how could the symbiont ever change hosts?
-- Klaestron Four must be *awfully* close for Odo to be able to get there and back so fast. I wish we'd been given some sense of scale.
-- I was a little disappointed to see that Dax's reticence was only due to her vow of silence. Somehow, based on her controlled anger at Sisko's line of defense, I'd gotten the idea that his argument was a *major* cultural
taboo among Trills. I'd like to hear more about this sometime.
Well, that ought to do it. So, some numbers before I'm outta here:
Plot: 7. Fairly routine, and mostly setting up for a lot of information.
Plot Handling: 10. Smartly executed and sharply done.
Characterization: 9. I wish we'd found out more about *Jadzia* Dax, but we'll see...
OVERALL: 9. Nice job. "Q-Less" is now forgiven. :-)
Murderer, murderer, who's got the murderer?
Tim Lynch (Harvard-Westlake School, Science Dept.)
"Live, Jadzia Dax. Live a long, fresh, and wonderful life."