“It’ll be just like old times. Except different.”
— Ensign Ezri Dax
Terry Farrell leaving DS9 put the writers in a no-win situation. The first option, the one I preferred at the time, is problematic from the standpoint that the show was already a bit of a sausage-fest, and they’d just been forced to kill one of only two female regulars. Elevating one of DS9’s numerous reoccurring characters to regular status, say, someone like Garak or Nog, who are not only great characters on their own, but are in most of the final season anyway, would have certainly been elegant and organic. It would have also left a cast of nine with only a single woman.
It gets even worse when you look at all the various reoccurring characters they could have promoted; they are, by a huge margin, men. The woman who guest-stars in the most episodes through the series, Rosalind Chao as Keiko O’Brien, was not only in fewer than Damar, she was so extraneous to the narrative she only appears twice in the final two seasons. The DS9 writers had painted themselves into a corner with the complete lack of women in the cast, and when one of those women, finished with a series that never really learned what to do with her character, left, they were screwed. It’s a shame the Subcommander T’Rul character (Remember her? Probably not) never worked out.
Their solution irked me at the time, and it still irks me somewhat, although now I believe it’s the best of all possible bad solutions. Their solution: introduce a new host for the Dax symbiont. To make her as dissimilar from Jadzia as possible, she’s a Trill who never wanted to be joined and only was to save the life of the symbiont. She wasn’t an amazonian action heroine like Jadzia, but an assistant ship’s counselor played by a tiny and very delicate-appearing Nicole de Boer. My problems with Ezri Dax, this new incarnation, was never with de Boer. I’ve enjoyed her in other things, and anyone who has even a passing association with The Kids in the Hall earns a lifetime pass from me. It’s just that, much like her predecessor, she’s a riddle the writing staff never quite solves.
She has more obvious hooks than Jadzia. Because Ezri never wanted to be joined, she isn’t prepared for the eight lifetimes now bouncing around her noggin. She even benefits from the six seasons of backstory, as, like the viewer, she has a memory of all those things. The writers had already developed her other past lives, as well, allowing her to call on people like Curzon, Joran, Torias, and even the lesser-known Daxes, Emony and Audrid. The problem, though, is in the aggressively serialized DS9, Ezri is a season one character dumped into the maelstrom of season seven. So, while we’re watching characters we’ve known for six years and counting head toward their final destinations, we have this entirely new face thrown into the mix.
That’s sort of the point of the Ezri character, too. She was there for the build up, but she also wasn’t. She doesn’t know how she fits in, the same as the writing staff isn’t quite sure. So, it works on that level, but it will always be jarring. She will never be one of my favorite characters, and is more a reflection of the uncertainties of making television. Like I said, Ezri Dax was probably the best of a series of bad options.
In her attempt to adjust, she sensibly reaches to the one person who has been her close friend for two lifetimes: Ben Sisko. Unfortunately, she finds him in the middle of a quest from the Prophets. Such a thing can look a lot like a psychotic break, considering he’s dragged his immediate family across the galaxy in search of an artifact no one’s ever heard of, all while being tormented with a persistent voice in his ear asking, “Dr. Wykoff to report to the isolation ward.” “Ben, maybe my memories are playing tricks on me, but have you gotten stranger?” she asks, as he’s digging in the deserts of Tyree and muttering to himself about his auditory hallucinations.
Meanwhile, Worf begins his mission that will allow Jadzia into Sto-vo-kor. While he begrudgingly tolerates the presence of Bashir and O’Brien (One suspects his major objection is to Bashir, as Worf has literally gone on record with his respect for the Chief.), he can barely stomach Quark, who has also chosen to tag along. Amusingly enough, Martok takes to Quark pretty quickly, either having heard the story of Quark’s defeat of D’Ghor in “The House of Quark,” or seeing those qualities in the Ferengi. There’s even a subtle callback to that episode, when Quark announces himself on the bridge of the Rotarran as “Quark, son of Keldar,” as he did to the Klingon High Council.
Eventually, it’s Martok who makes Worf realize he’s being a jerk. Worf, of course, wanted to get Jadzia to Klingon Valhalla by his lonesome, and he was jealous of her affection for Bashir and (especially) Quark. He apologizes, which flabbergasts the Chief, who’s never seen Worf do that. Of course not — it took Jadzia to make Worf express contrition, and good mates make us better people through their influence. With that behind them, the crew is able to accomplish the mission, destroying the Dominion shipyard with a plasma eruption from the nearby star.
Back at Derna, a showdown is brewing between Kira and the Romulan government. The weapons are not yet online, needing one more shipment from the Romulans to become fully operational. Using a pathetically small Bajoran fleet of twelve impulse ships (impulse, meaning these things aren’t even warp-capable), she blockades the moon. When Senator Cretak announces that fourteen warbirds are on the way, Kira’s fate looks to be sealed.
There’s only one problem: Kira’s ovaries are made of titanium and they’re each the size of a moon. Way back in the pilot, Kira faced down a Cardassian fleet with nothing more than a stern look, some harsh language, and a warning shot. If she has one specialty, it’s making a superior force cry uncle. So, while Ross and Cretak each try to get her to back down, Kira faces them with preternatural calm. She’s not dead yet, and there’s no way in hell she’s letting one Romulan set foot on Derna as long as she draws breath.
Odo is on the bridge with her, as well. It speaks volumes about his character that he never once attempts to talk her out of this action. He is merely there with her, because he can be nowhere else but by the side of the woman he loves, offering a few dour asides from time to time.
It looks hopeless, but fortunately, Ross is the one to blink first. He convinces Cretak (who, remember, is a pro-alliance force in the senate) to back down by informing her that the treaty with the Federation hangs in the balance. Cementing the callback to the pilot, Ross expresses a sentiment similar to the one Chief O’Brien did after Kira faced down those Cardassians: “Remind me to never play poker against you.”
Kira might not have succeeded had not her gods returned. For that, she has Sisko to thank. As he unearths the Orb of the Emissary, he finds himself tumbling into Benny Russell once again. This time, Benny is in a sanitarium, scribbling frantically on the walls. In a nice detail, these writings are actually the history of DS9, cribbed from episode synopses, and written by hand on the walls of the set. His doctor, played here by Casey Biggs (Damar), tries to convince him to whitewash over the words. Stunning metaphor that, especially in light of the modern controversies over figurative whitewashing and the crux of Benny Russell’s original story.
Benny’s pencil hovers over the final line of the story, where Sisko will open or bury the Orb of the Emissary. The story of DS9, his reality, hinges on his decision. Ezri invokes the memory of Dax, and that helps the modern Sisko to focus. The vision was not from the Prophets, as they were locked in the wormhole by Space Satan. This was from Kosst Amojan himself, trying to trick the Emissary into walking away from salvation.
Sisko opens the orb, releasing a Prophet, who promptly zooms into the wormhole and expels Kosst Amojan, reopening the Celestial Temple and thereby informing the Bajoran people that the gods have returned. This news reaches Kira right at the end of the blockade, giving her faith the jolt it needs to see it through. Her Emissary has succeeded in his quest, and she can do no less.
Sisko is then drawn into the vision, where he meets a Prophet with the face of his mother, Sarah. The Sarah-Prophet informs him that his birth was necessary, and the Prophets brought it about. This makes perfect sense; these beings are from beyond time, so creating their Jesus would be fairly easy. It gets kind of gross when the mechanics are laid out, though. They possessed Sarah, stripping her choice from her. So, when the Prophet left her body, that’s why she abandoned her husband and child. This also makes Sisko at least partially a god. Makes sense how he was able to punch out Q, right?
No, I’m not saying the writers knew this in advance. There is an art to making past events make more sense in light of future revelations, and this is where DS9 nails it. Sisko being half-divine is more logical than the alternatives. It also unapologetically makes an African American man the living incarnation of a race of gods.
It’s pretty obvious I’m a fan of this. Sisko is my captain and will always be, and I get to win every Trek argument by merely pointing out that my guy is half god.
The episode ends with Sisko’s triumphant return to the station (with Ezri in tow) to be greeted by his crew and the adoring throng of Bajorans. Sisko has exorcized some of his demons, but now it’s the new Dax’s turn to confront hers.
Next up: Dax has some readjusting to do.