Resize text+=

The Future Will Be Carpeted: An Analysis of ‘Deep Space Nine (S1E7)’

“I’m telling you, I knew the man!”
“But, did you know the symbiont inside the man?”
          — Commander Sisko and Constable Odo

On my first trip through DS9, I always dreaded Dax episodes.  Not because they were bad, but because they meant that this week I wasn’t getting a Kira episode, or an Odo episode, or the black tar heroin of episodes, a Garak episode.  On this trip through the show, I’m hoping to analyze exactly why Dax episodes don’t quite work as well as others.  Your mileage may vary, of course.  It’s possible Dax is your favorite character, and, in that case, don’t let me curb your enjoyment.  On the surface, I get the appeal.  Dax is a classic, strong woman archetype.  She’s tough, she’s smart, and uniquely for that niche, she’s wise.  Unlike many later heroines, Dax is refreshingly sex-positive, and the show never wags its finger or clucks its tongue at her for it.  And, because I would be remiss if I didn’t point it out, she’s played by the ridiculously gorgeous Terry Farrell.

I remember discussing the show with a friend back when it was on the air, and we both came to the same conclusion: the Dax symbiont’s previous host, Curzon, is so much cooler than Jadzia.  He sounds like the kind of guy who would be kicked out of a Klingon kegger for headbutting too many things.  Jadzia is very much not that, which is the entire crux of this hour.  She’s calm, collected, and a wee bit chilly.  She’s the station’s Science Officer, which tends to be where Starfleet puts its coldly logical personnel: Spock, Data, Seven of Nine, whoever the hell was on Enterprise . . . just once I want to see a hard-drinking, fire-starting, punch-mastering Science Officer.  This would happen if only they would do the show they’ve been teasing for twenty years: Star Trek: Klingon, but, sadly, the world is not yet that awesome.

The episode begins with Dr. Bashir sleazing all over Dax over some raktajino.  This is the first instance of that beverage — Klingon coffee — being served on the station.  It would later become the signature drink of the show and proof that the crew of DS9 is a collection of hardcore badasses who aren’t happy unless their own morning coffee tries to kill them with a bat’leth.  Also, Bashir is coming onto Dax really hard here, and it’s just gross.  I know it’s not supposed to be charming, as Dax ignores and rejects him, but, still, I can’t help but wonder if this is a Mad Men-esque window into former social mores.  Anyway, Dax wanders off and promptly gets kidnapped by a team of aliens, the leader of which is played by the excellent character actor Gregory Itzin, who you remember as the evil Vice President on 24.

Fortunately, the crew is good at their jobs (This is a running theme on the show.) and manages to stop the ship carrying Dax and her abductors from getting away.  It turns out these guys are from Klaestron IV, an independent planet with an extradition treaty with the Federation.  Sisko correctly susses out why, if they have a valid treaty, they didn’t go through official channels to get their hands on Dax, because (Say it with me, kids.), DS9 is a Bajoran station!  Bajor has no treaty with the Klaestrons, and since their knowledge of the station’s innards implies a connection to the Cardassian Union, the Bajorans are not inclined to play nice.

The Klaestrons are trying to extradite Dax over a thirty-year-old charge of treason and murder, in which Dax is said to have indirectly killed cultural hero General Tandro during the Klaestron Civil War.  Bajor convenes an extradition hearing in Quark’s bar (Sisko quite sensibly does not want Dax off the station.) to hear the arguments, with Anne Haney (the social worker from Mrs. Doubtfire) serving as the delightfully cranky Arbiter.  The key to the hearing is this: Can Jadzia Dax be held responsible for a crime Curzon Dax committed?  Are they they the same individual under the law?  Sisko repeatedly points out that Jadzia is only 28, meaning she wasn’t even born when the alleged crime took place.  The Dax symbiont, on the other hand, is over 300, and, in theory, could have participated in any number of crimes.  We’ll never forget Tobin Dax’s reign of loitering terror from 200 years ago.

This is the second purpose of the episode: to explain what the hell a Trill really is.  The TNG episode “The Host” established the species as more of a bodysnatcher kind of situation, but DS9 goes a long way to walking that characterization back.  They also had forehead protuberances rather than the distinctive spots, so think of those Trills as a rough draft.  Here, it’s stated that the process is more of a melding of personalities.  The symbiont goes into the humanoid, and after 93 hours, they can’t live without one another.  They have separate brains, which Bashir compares to a linked computer.  While the Dax part remains relatively constant, the Curzon/Jadzia/something-else-with-a-Z changes.  The fascinating part is that the episode’s answer to whether or not this is a new person is “kinda.”  The hearing eventually comes down to an eleventh-hour alibi (which Odo extracts) to save Dax, allowing the show to have its cake and eat it, too.

The weird part is that it is a Dax episode, but she spends the entire hour being acted upon rather than acting herself.  She’s stoically silent on the charges, refusing to give up her alibi (out of respect to the woman Curzon loved, who is played by Fionnula Flanagan, making this a great episode for the Casting Director) and generally letting the action swirl around her.  I don’t want to compare her to a black hole, but I sort of accidentally did.  To make matters worse, we spend the whole hour hearing about how awesome Curzon Dax was.  How he once punched out Ben Sisko (who later punched out a god, so you know, transient property and all), how he drank too much, and how he was womanizer.  He sounds like a man who had an excess of life, and now there’s Jadzia, who seems to regard life as that thing that happens inside a petri dish.

That’s not the only bit of weirdness in the episode.  While Dax is being kidnapped, Bashir was following her in hopes that he might sleaze all over her some more.  When he interrupts the abduction in progress, he attacks the kidnappers.  But, as soon as he sees one of them is a woman, he hesitates just long enough to be knocked out.  Later, in quarters, a frustrated Sisko blurts at Jadzia, “If you were still a man!” implying that the rest of that sentence is, “I’d slap you around like a mischievous, godlike entity!”  I get that the characters are refusing to commit violence against a woman (and there would be a ton of troubling baggage if Sisko followed through on his threat), but it’s a strange thing to see in the egalitarian future.

“Dax” relegates its title character to the status of supporting player, and though she gets a fine moment in which she talks about trying on one of Curzon’s rings and having it slip off her finger (Message!), she never comes to life the way the other characters have in their spotlights.

Next up: The Fugitive, DS9 edition.




Leave a Comment

Scroll to Top