Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Dax   Rewatch 
May 17, 2015 1:47 PM - Season 1, Episode 8 - Subscribe

In which we learn more of Trill society (and of Dax's impropriety).

Fun fact: the flowers on the table in the opening scene are commonly called "gay feather".
posted by Solomon (11 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Gah, this one. It combines a whole bunch of my least favorite tropes from the show:

1) Legal drama written by someone who saw the end of a Perry Mason episode once and knows that you gotta end things with a surprise witness.
2) Dax-centered episode where the action is triggered by someone other than Dax, and the problem is resolved by someone other than Dax.
3) The "we cannot let the general public know the truth about Revered Hero, because those peons just couldn't handle it" thing.

One other major annoyance, more specific to this episode, is that no one bothers to ask or even check how the Trill handle this issue (is a host + symbiont responsible for the criminal actions of a previous host + symbiont). I understand that it might not be considered the final word on it for a Bajoran judge, but the fact that no one checks or asks about it is just silly.

And then all of the philosophical/legal arguments end up being unresolved by the court because Dax didn't commit the crime after all.

The actress who played the judge and the actress who played Dax's old flame both did a great job trying to breathe some life into this episode (the scene with Dax and the old flame at the end is very nice), but that's not enough to save this one for me.
posted by creepygirl at 4:56 PM on May 17, 2015 [5 favorites]

I've been looking forward to the discussion on this one. Sure, it isn't terribly exciting, the execution is a bit flawed, and the resolution doesn't resolve the ethical dilemma driving the episode, but it's fascinating to me still. Star Trek at its heart, and often at its best, is a show that explores humanity, moral questions, and social issues through the lens of a fantasy world. In this episode, we dive into a social issue without absolutely no real world parallel. It's completely unique to the fictional universe.


The size of the galaxy is a little questionable here. Isn't Bajor near the edge of Federation space and days to weeks away from major activity hubs? Odo made it to the alien's planet awful quick.

My biggest wish for this episode would be giving more for Dax to do besides being noncommittal.
posted by 2ht at 7:04 PM on May 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

In this episode, we dive into a social issue without absolutely no real world parallel.
And we kind of explore it, and while Sisko's arguments and evidence feel more compelling, there's no real resolution to the core question, and we never think about it again!

This episode seems like a St:TNG episode, and not in a good way.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:26 PM on May 17, 2015

I kind of liked this episode.

I wish Bashir would quit the really OTT flirting, especially as Dax has made it clear she's not interested. And why are there so many places to hide in the shadows on the station, that apparently anyone can access?

The fact that there are no precedents in Trill society jumped out at me too. Given the huge amount of trouble it takes to become a joined Trill, I wonder if Trill society automatically jumps to the conclusion that no joined Trill can actually do anything wrong. Quite silly, not to mention dangerous. Or perhaps the Powers That Be know it happens and suppress all knowledge. Look at how they handled the Joran situation. Complete denial and nearly letting the later host die.

I liked the scene early on, where Sisko and Dax are talking to one another through the shelving unit, to emphasise the distance between them. I also loved the scene with Kira delivering the line "Which not only compromises Bajoran security but also ... annoys us!". One of my favourite Kira scenes.

Anne Haney is epic, as is Fionnula Flanagan. I wonder how much of Els character was simply because Haney wanted to play her that way, and how much of it was part of the Bajoran Women Are Fierce meme. Thinking about Enina Tandro, it must be extremely awkward to say goodbye to someone who is actually a completely different person.

I've considered how I'd handle this situation, if I were in the position of the arbiter. I honestly don't know what I'd do.
posted by Solomon at 12:57 PM on May 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

The first season of DS9 isn't bad, certainly leagues better than TNG's first season. But the show was finding its way, and there are a lot of episodes that just kind of muddle through premises they would have done better later. This, IIRC, is one of those. (There are also episodes that are fanciful in ways that don't fit the later show, like the one where O'Brien has to tell the story every night so the cloud monster won't kill everybody. Not a terrible episode, but it feels like a different show.)

I think one of the most impressive things about DS9 is how few truly bad episodes there were. The one everybody agrees on is the Move Along Home one, with the board game. But I suspect even that is fun to rewatch, if you adjust your expectations. They started OK-to-pretty-good and got a lot better.

Dax takes a while to click, and she is probably never going to be the character some people want her to be. She gets more feisty and proactive later and gets into Klingon combat and stuff, but she is at heart kind of a passive observer. And that makes sense in some ways. She has lifetimes of experience, as various men and women, and she has seen it all. It would make sense that she sits back and smirks a lot, and isn't as active or rash as Kira for instance. If you want a woman who takes no shit ever, Kira's the girl. But Dax is very, very old, at the same time that she's a 28-year-old woman. I'm not saying the character is handled ideally here, but I think you need to adjust your expectations with her in some ways. Dax is almost like a tree or something, and it takes the writers a while to figure out what to do with her. But they do figure it out.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 8:26 PM on May 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

Gotta' admit, I don't really like this episode, so there'll be more complaints/nit-picks than I usually try for, but:

I agree with the above: like a bad episode of TNG in that there are no real lasting consequences and continuity is splotchy at best.

How can you commit treason against a society you're not a part of? Crimes against the state, sure... but isn't treason particularly heinous because crimes against the government/sovereign/etc charged with your protection are considered worse than just going after a government because you don't like/agree with them?

Dax's "I'm not really your friend" bit is kind of weird, especially considering her relationship with Sisko for... the rest of the series. Same goes with her intransigence regarding discussing facts of the case. And that's not even getting into Trill's "we don't think about things like this" which, while if you squint the right way might be seen as the TSC's over reliance on secrecy (there's an episode that spells this out where we learn about Joran, and the (not sure if they're canon?) books that extend the series after the finale go into quite a bit more), but straight up "We, the ancient and wise society... well, we're pretty flummoxed by this, never thought about the situation." I mean, hell, nobody's ever died with an unpaid parking ticket? Who gets the bill, family of the host, or the new symbiont?

I like Kira's argument "You've compromised our security... and you're annoying! So ... help you? ehhhhhhh..."

Odo the building inspector is amusing.

I do like Sisko the defense attorney as well. "What if the answer is we're fucked" "Then that answer is wrong."

Prediction halfway through (just past "Why isn't she defending herself" and "Curzon'd do anything to defend my husband"). The wife did it. (Edit: yup)

Anyone else a bit tweaked that demonyms/plurals aren't consistent during the first few seasons? Trills/Trill, Bajora/Bajoran, etc. Pronunciations of what would seem to be normal-speech (to the character) seem to change as well. SYMbiont to symbiONT, that sort of thing. Sisko's line "The competition to become a Trill must be very strong"... suggesting that only the joined population are Trill? What's everyone else?

On preview, I agree with almost everything Ursula Hitler said... though I also submit that it's possible that Ms. Farrell is just not finding her way into the role very quickly - though she certainly improves over the series, the first season she doesn't really seem old or passive... just ... like she's reading lines, and reading them for the first time. It just seems that her inflections are scattershot and not necessarily tied even to what would be her own native pronunciation of a word/line.

... woah, yeah. Odo got there/back quickly.

Meh. Decent episode. Might have worked better later - - switch the Worf-war-crimes-trial with this one in the production schedule, and I think you end up switching the reviews... both somewhat meh, this one suffering from first-season-itis.
posted by Seeba at 8:52 PM on May 18, 2015

This episode just seems like an attempt to recreate the glory that is TNG's "The Measure of a Man." The goal is to add to the philosophic questions about personal identity brushed against in TNG's episode, but then add something. But...what do they add? A mystery about the political landscape of some distant planet we don't care about? That's not exactly a whole lot.

I think, if DS9 were made now, this episode would be hugely different. DS9 would have a lot more cultural space to go much, much darker, were it made nowadays. So, there'd be space for an ending like this: have Dax be guilty; have Dax admit to being guilty; have Dax almost frightening with how cool she is about remembering committing a murder while (perhaps mistakenly) confident that she is not a murderer; have the court come this close to finding her guilty, but have her get off on a technicality. Leave the episode with Dax portrayed as alien, as threat. Leave the episode with the nature of her identity up in the air, purposefully and irrevocably confused. "Measure of a Man" reinforced our concept of personal identity ("See, even something as alien as an intelligent machine can fit into our conceptual scheme"), while this episode could have brought it down in flames.

One of the worst sins in criticism is to respond to the piece, not as it is, but as you imagine it could be. It makes me feel weird. But, doesn't this whole plot line have such potential? Even all the stupid court room drama stuff could be invigorating and fascinating, if DS9 were a less comforting and pleasant universe.
posted by meese at 10:46 AM on May 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

I think you may be the first person to refer to DS9 as comforting and pleasant. The rap at the time was that the show was too dark. And it is a pretty dark show. (I mean, one of the heroes is a former terrorist, and they don't shy away from the implications of that. I doubt a show would try that now.)
posted by Ursula Hitler at 4:21 PM on May 20, 2015

It's definitely darker than TNG. And its darkness paved the way to even darker Sci fi, later on. But, even still, it's nothing like the bleakness of Battlestar Galactica.
posted by meese at 7:32 PM on May 20, 2015

Well, no, it doesn't go that far. But it gets really freaking dark. I mean, Miles O'Brien survived a lifetime of actual torture, went nuts and killed a man, even if ultimately it was all a false memory. Nog got his leg blown off in the war, and had serious PSD. Garak, lovable though he was, was an ex-Nazi drug addict who just radiated kink. And he was ultimately one of the good guys!

I mean, It's a faaaaake!

(Garak is easily as dark as anybody on BSG. He and Baltar could've been pals! Now I really want to see that show.)

But even if DS9 was as dark as Trek could get and still be Trek, you're right, it didn't go as far as some shows that followed. I mean, they always had people in green rubber monster heads hanging around. BSG never had a lovable rascal like Quark, or cute kids running around and hatching schemes like Tom and Huck. (Then again, Huck never got his damn leg blown off!)
posted by Ursula Hitler at 2:37 AM on May 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

Just watched it for the first time, the weak plot points didn't bother me so much (it's Trek:-) as the implications of how repressed this future society is portrayed. The general's wife didn't send the message either, she was in bed. So why didn't Dax just get on the subspace-phone and ask her if she could handle the truth coming out to save her former lover's life?

I think that's my problem with a lot of Trek stories, there's this huge moral issue plot point, but only in the context of late 1960's American presumed moral turpitude.
posted by sammyo at 7:30 PM on June 18, 2015

« Older Podcast: This Is Actually Happ...   |  Brooklyn Nine-Nine: Johnny and... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments