Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

"Dax"

***1/2

Air date: 2/15/1993
Teleplay by D. C. Fontana and Peter Allan Fields
Story by Peter Allan Fields
Directed by David Carson

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

Jadzia Dax is charged with the murder of a military hero from a non-Federation world that her symbiont's previous host Curzon allegedly committed 30 years ago. Now an extradition hearing may decide whether Jadzia can be held responsible for the actions of a previous life.

"Dax" is a captivating drama that successfully accomplishes a great number of things. First is the Trill background, as the episode poses and answers numerous questions involving the intriguing implications of a joined species. Then there's the emotionally probing exploration of the relationship between Sisko and "Old Man" Dax—highlighting a bond shared between Curzon and Sisko that both characters hope will survive the change in the host. Curzon's colorful backstory ("not the model Trill citizen") is also of interest.

Then there are the courtroom scenes, written with finely-tuned dialog and plausible arguments. Anne Haney as the 100-year-old no-nonsense extradition arbiter is a priceless gem. Odo's investigation proves almost as fascinating, as he locates the widow of the military hero and observes her problems and her concealed role in the matter. The plot unfolds on realistic terms that make plenty of character sense, highlighting personal regrets and sentiments. Every performance is praiseworthy, and the way the courtroom and character issues fit together with the intrigue-like plot is successful without ever colliding in discord. An exemplary effort overall.

Previous episode: Q-Less
Next episode: The Passenger

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20 comments on this review

Jay - Fri, Mar 12, 2010 - 8:53pm (USA Central)
DS9 was okay with its courtroom episodes, but that is one category where it actually comes in third, behind both TNG and VOY. "Dax" was pretty good, but I didn't care for "Rules Of Engagement" (especially the Ron Canada character, who was ridiculous), and neither can compare with "The Measure Of A Man" (the first and still the best), "The Drumhead", or "Author Author".
Hank - Tue, Mar 27, 2012 - 2:05am (USA Central)
I agree with all the the positives in the review, especially Anne Haney's performance as the judge. But, I also felt the episode was a bit marred by Dax's unwillingness to say anything at all in her defense to anyone. That choice is explained by the story, but you would expect her to at least maintain her innocence, if nothing else. I found those scenes frustrating to watch, and it felt like a crutch to maintain some suspense in the murder investigation.

Also, while I found the ending satisfying, it was probably best the story didn't dwell on the details. The murdered man's wife confesses to sleeping with the defendant, who were two of the people who could have given his location to the rebels -- not a great alibi. If anything, the affair would provide a motive for murder, which would seem to make the prosecution's case stronger...
John - Sun, Jul 1, 2012 - 3:18am (USA Central)
For me, one of the best character exposition stories for a first season of Trek.

And some of the dialogue is as brilliant as you'd expect from Peter Allan Fields. But interesting too that original series writer DC Fontana was also involved. Given that she was originally Roddenberry's secretary, would it be sacrilegious of me to suggest the keeping-the-affair-secret-to-preserve-the-great-man's-legeacy part of the story may be a reference to her and the Trek creater?...
William - Tue, Jul 24, 2012 - 11:14pm (USA Central)
I liked this episode. Not quite as much you, but I think you make a great case for your enthusiasm. Loved the exploration of Trill society (what is a Trill?) and Dax's background.

Maybe Jadzia's colorless response to the situation dampened it for me.
Van_Patten - Fri, Aug 10, 2012 - 5:43am (USA Central)
The strongest episode of the season thus far, and a welcome antidote to the insubstantial 'Q-Less'. Ths grabs you from the very beginning when the Klaestrons attempt to abduct Dax, right through the courtroom scenes until the eventual denouement at the conclusion.

Jammer mentions the performance of Anne Haney as the Arbiter, who is superb, but also worth singling out is the excellent Gregory Itzin (Who appears in episodes of Voyager and Enterprise by my recollection) as the prosecutor. The regular cast's performances seem stronger as well - This is probably Avery Brooks best performance yet, and Odo (still for me in 'Blunt instrument' - to quote 'Duet' - mode) is driven and as relatively dispassionate as ever. The following exchange is for me a classic:

Sisko: 'It's nonsense, I Tell you Constable, I knew the man!'

Odo: 'Yes, but did you know the symbiont inside the man?'

As far as courtroom dramas go, for me the Standard, as I think for many was set by the TNG episode 'Measure of a Man', and whilst this isn't quite as compelling as that episode , it does prove a very strong outing. Arguably only Terry Farrell's slightly dispassionate response to her plight, as pointed out by William jars somewhat, especially when viewing the episode now. Agree with the 3.5 star rating - for me a very strong episode.
Arachnea - Sat, Nov 3, 2012 - 9:55pm (USA Central)
I'm astonished that no one mentioned a huge problem with this episode:
The delegation from Klaestron IV attacks and kidnaps a Federation officer, knocks down another, sabotages the station (tractor beam) and knows how to override the all the codes.

Are they arrested, put in custody or questioned ? Bah, no, security here doesn't seem to be an important matter to Sisko or anyone else for that matter.

Although this is an interesting episode, I'd have done without the first act. It's annoying and unnecessary because the issue is not pursued. Also, I'd rather have had anything else than a love affair: for example, Dax preserving the "honor" of a traitor for friendship's sake. And it'd been much more interesting if the (very enjoyable) arbiter had to take a decision. I feel like I've been cheated beacause there has been no resolution at all.
Eric - Tue, Mar 12, 2013 - 12:14am (USA Central)
I thought Avery's (Sisko) acting has been pretty bad so far, but it was particularly bad in this episode. I'm only getting into DS9 now, but I heard that the acting gets better later, so I'm looking forward to that.
grumpy_otter - Tue, Apr 9, 2013 - 4:36pm (USA Central)
I agree this was very good, especially learning more about the Trill, but I was very bothered by one aspect.

Enina knows the truth, and she explains that her son has been "obsessed" with the murder of the father he never knew. Really? She allowed her son to become obsessed with this when she could have told him so many things that might have satisfied his curiosity?

I understand that she wanted to protect her son from the knowledge his father was the traitor, but certainly she could have concocted some story to prevent his obsession.

But that is a small matter that only bothered me at the end--until then, this was a great episode. FINALLY, the accused has a decent reason for staying silent. I hate those "have to stay silent for honor" crap things--this one actually made sense.

RD GEEK - Sun, Jun 9, 2013 - 12:21am (USA Central)
So, wouldn't the legal question of culpability of Trills and their hosts have been long settled by Trill society? Instead of having the back and forth of the extradition hearing, couldn't they just cite (or even the Trill minister just cite) the relevant legal standard? Why didn't the prosecutor just ask him how it worked on the Trill home world?
azcats - Fri, Sep 6, 2013 - 1:00pm (USA Central)
I like odo's cynicalnesss.

to answer a question below.

when the prosecutor hears from his MOM, that curzon is innocent. wouldnt it be kinda hard to keep on pursuing the matter?

good episode. i think they just have farrell not say anything the last few episodes so she can learn to act...
Snitch - Sun, Oct 13, 2013 - 7:49pm (USA Central)
It was a good episode, the mystery was nice, the court scenes dragged a bit. The plight of the widows of military of political heroes was a niche touch but was not investigated enough 2 1/2 Stars
Kotas - Tue, Oct 22, 2013 - 1:45pm (USA Central)

An important character development episode for Dax, reminiscent of the TGN episode where data goes on trial. A good episode overall and well above average for a Dax-centric episode.

6/10
spmsmith - Sat, Oct 26, 2013 - 7:59am (USA Central)
Knowing what comes later with the suppressed host, perhaps Jadzia also stayed silent because her sense of guilt was so strong, even if she couldn't pinpoint why. She might have assumed it was Dax's memories of the affair that created such an overwhelming sense of guilt that she had to risk extradition and death to protext the widow - whereas, really it is the suppressed memories subconsciously giving her that sense of guilt.

I know they didn't have the later episode in mind when they made this one, but I think the two hang together nicely. I *think* - I haven't seen the series in a long time, and only intermittently then; I'm rewatching the first season now.

The very first DS9 episode I ever watched? "Let He Who is Without Sin...." Is it any wonder I took so long to continue? :)
Paul M. - Sun, Jan 26, 2014 - 5:13pm (USA Central)
@RD GEEK: "So, wouldn't the legal question of culpability of Trills and their hosts have been long settled by Trill society? Instead of having the back and forth of the extradition hearing, couldn't they just cite (or even the Trill minister just cite) the relevant legal standard? Why didn't the prosecutor just ask him how it worked on the Trill home world?"

Agreed. Maybe I'm a stickler for minutia, but this is a thing that really bothers me about the episode. The legal question of culpability of joined Trills for the crimes of previous "entities" is something that should be a basic and well-known issue of Trill criminal law. Wouldn't the very first thing on the agenda be to consult the Trill legal sources and simply apply the relevant standard?
Dusty - Tue, Feb 11, 2014 - 10:22pm (USA Central)
RD Geek and Paul M are correct. I'm no nitpicker myself, but there are problems here that even I can't ignore. The idea that the Trill wouldn't have their OWN procedure for this--and that neither the general's son nor DS9 bothered to refer to them--is quite a stretch. The beginning, in which the son and his henchman tried to kidnap Jadzia like thugs, bothered me even more. It made the station's security look like a joke, and the guy's tactics completely undermined whatever integrity lay in his cause. (And apprehending his own father's alleged killer? Talk about a conflict of interest!)

Despite all that, I enjoyed everything that happened afterwards. The hearing scenes made this episode in a big way. The arguments were logical and compelling, and the 100-year-old arbitrator was a delight. All in all, a good outing for DS9.
Yanks - Tue, Jun 24, 2014 - 10:20am (USA Central)
Another "court" episode in trek that gets WAY too much credit for being good. (see Measure of a Man)

The whole reason for the extradition hearing is crap. It doesn't matter where Jadzia is serving, she's a member of Star Fleet and Trill is a member of the Federation. All Tandro had to do was submit the request to the proper authorities. The whole Bajor involved mumbo-jumbo is crap. The fact that Odo and Sisko didn't arrest Tandro and his thugs for any number of crimes is crap.

The most interesting point of this whole episode was this:

"SISKO: Exactly. From one host to the next. A different host, a different person. So I submit that the person he wants to extradite no longer exists, and I challenge him to prove otherwise.
TANDRO: That's ridiculous.
RENORA: It would have been easier on me, Commander, had you not raised that particular point. But the penalty for these crimes on your planet is death, and that is rather permanent. So before I grant extradition, you will convince me please, that the person named in your warrant is the person who is standing here now."

We learn that Jadzia remained silent in her defense because Curzon swore to be silent, but we never do learn if a Trill or new host can be punished for a crime one of the other hosts commit.

I think Sisko made a great argument in this hearing that wasn't necessary.

"SISKO: ... Madame Arbiter, how can anyone justify trying her for a crime allegedly committed by another entity before she was even born?"

I don't know that we ever learn the answer to this question. I do remember that one of Dax's previous hosts was a psychopath/killer... guess no one ever prosecuted, eh?

I thought Anne Haney was superb in her performance. I also liked Odo's persistence and the performance of Fionnula Flanagan. Sisko also gave a good performance during the hearing.

But this hearing should never have taken place.

How hard would it have been for there to have been no treaty between Klaestron Four and the Federation? Then this hearing would have been required. Oh, then we don't have action and technobabble to kick things off. I thought the DS9 writers we so good…

This episode falls short because we don't get an answer to how Trills are treated within the law and because the writers were so stupid in setting up this hearing.

All we really learn about Jadzia Dax is she was an outstanding student.

Much like TNG's Measure of a Man, the performances elevate this episode to heights that when you break it down it shouldn't achieve.

2 out of 4 stars.
Robert - Tue, Jun 24, 2014 - 10:52am (USA Central)
@Yanks

I think the biggest problem with the setup is that if the Federation has an extradition treaty the Federation would eventually order Dax to report for extradition. And then she'd have to resign her commission and be stuck on Bajor forever. Better than dying of course, but if Sisko won his court case Dax would still lose her career, be imprisoned, and never be allowed to report back to Trill when she died to have the symbiont joined.

Just because Bajor refuses to extradite a person in their jurisdiction, doesn't mean that the Klaestron government would not eventually force the Federation to force her to leave Bajor. And yes, the absolute easiest way to have slowed the extradition would have been to require a new extradition party to show up because the old extradition party were all in prison cells for sabotaging a Bajoran space station. It was out of character for Kira (ESPECIALLY S1 Kira) to not be ready to hurl them out an airlock for that....
Yanks - Tue, Jun 24, 2014 - 11:09am (USA Central)
@ Robert - Tue, Jun 24, 2014 - 10:52am (USA Central)

There is no reason why she would have to resign her commission or be stuck on Bajor. She would have to report for trial, that's it. Jadzia isn't a citizen of Bajor. She's a Star Fleet Officer that is a member of the Federation. The treaty was already in place.

Sorry Robert, none of your implications are valid. The treaty was there. She should have been ordered to appear in court. Simple as that.

This wasn't a court case, I do not understand what you’re saying about Sisko winning and Jadzia having to lose her career... If Sisko wins here (extradition hearing) she never sees a courtroom.

That's the crux of what's wrong with this episode, a court case would have revealed how a trill can be judged for past hosts conduct. (but we never got there, so we are left guessing)
Elliott - Tue, Jul 29, 2014 - 4:15pm (USA Central)
Teaser : *** , 5%

So, Bashir is still hitting on Dax, anxious to cure her of all the exotic STI's he's picked up out here on the frontier. On the other hand, she's a damned cock-tease. Stop eating with him if you're just stringing him along!

Dax is grabbed by the cloaked fellows, Bashir turns the corner and sees her...10 seconds later..."Dax!" It's a small thing, but if you're going to do an action scene, don't pace it so laughably. Since we aren't getting any tension from the music, it's on you Mr Director.

The scene may look silly, but conceptualised, it's a good teaser: to the point, with an upward dramatic curve and looming questions.

Act 1 : ***.5, 17%

We get a decent and functional chase scene (held back only by Ferrel's confusing "injured" with "sleepy." Also what's with that smile when she steps off the airlock? While it seems like this whole chase is just a gimmick (Action Insert) since the Clytemnestra or whatever they're called were trying to *extradite* Dax, it is later revealed to be part of trying to circumvent a legal technicality.

Act 2 : ****, 17%

The next several scenes are good for the following reasons: the characterisation elements are *revealed* by the plot. Yes, we get from point A to point B (Sisko and Kira force the Clytemnestra into an extradition hearing), but everyone's actions say something about who they are; Odo is diligent and skeptical, with no particular attachment to Dax; Sisko is loyal to his friend, pursuing every avenue of aid at his disposal, even when she asks him not to; Kira is self-righteous and temperamental; Dax displays a conflict between Kurzon's and Jadzia's feelings; and the Clytron (or whatever) subtly reveals his anxiety over needing to capture Dax. None of these ideas is stated outright, it's DEMONSTRATED.

RIshon Uxbridge returns from the dead with a new crinkly nose! So, we get opening arguments, and the premise is revealed; much like "The Measure of a Man," the trial will examine the nature life, individuality and sentience via sci-fi twist (Trill joining). This is classic Trek and presents a very absorbing draw. There's also the hinting of a deeper tragedy here in Dax's unwillingness to comment or return Sisko's smile. As we saw in "Emissary," so long as Ferrel doesn't have to talk, she can be counted upon to deliver.

Act 3 : ***, 17%

For the first time, Sisko's slippery brand of morality finds a fitting venue; he isn't breaking laws or violating ethics, but he is brushing aside all objectivity in his quest to save Dax. In this instance, it's okay, however. It would have been a little braver of the writers not to have the Clytemnestra practise capital punishment. Sisko is desperate because he wants to save Dax' life; this blurs the argument slightly as the Trills' nature is a relevant topic to pursue without this looming threat.

There's a bit of legal griping to get out of the way: so Trill is a Federation world now (I don't think Odan was considered a citizen). This is why Sisko has Kira and Bashir look for Federation precedents on the legal status of Trills' antecedent selves' actions. So, shouldn't Dax get a Federation lawyer? In MoaM, the excuse for having Picard defend Data had to do with the JAG office's lack of personnel. What's the excuse here? Wait a minute, even if Dax is a Federation citizen, the basis on which they're holding the hearing at all is that the Clytemnestra are extraditing from *Bajor* and NOT the Federation, so shouldn't the legal precedent for Dax' status be determined by Bajoran law? It seems like they invoke the Bajor/Federation division of authority when it's convenient and ignore it when it's not (just like in "A Man Alone").

Odo checks in to deliver news that adds a mystery element to the story and introduce us to Data's mother...I mean the Clytemnestra's mother. There's a bit of goofy block in this scene, with the widow walking sideways and backwards while fixing her gaze on Odo. Good thing she didn't trip and break her prosthetics. And, oh....widow wants to know about Kurzon. Well yep, looks like they were banging. There's a wrinkle.

The Trill Peers gives his testimony. I guess the budget ran out on decent guest actors as we get the Mitt Romney-tron delivery. The arguments that follow are high on substance, low on style. Which is a good thing. Court room drama has to do a lot of exposition in order to cinch the closing arguments. I only wish they'd found a better actor for Peers.

Act 4 : ***, 17%

I like the arbiter's acerbic irritation with this whole affair.

Bashir's beaming pride and moderate arrogance with his work is sort of charming here.

Sisko : "[Kurzon Dax] probably wasn't the ideal Trill. He drank a little too much. He could be more interested in women than maybe he should have been...he was not at all like the young woman in this courtroom." Can't help but revel in the irony of Worf-era Dax (drinking, partying, gambling, lesbian-ing...)

Sisko lays his little trap for Clytemnestra and, unfortunately, he walks into it a little too easily. He eagerly points out that Kurzon's culpability implicates Dax, thus proving Sisko's argument about the individual nature of each host-symbiont pairing. It's just a bit pat, especially against the rest of the episode. Brooks' portrayal is predictably distracting--smiling wide-eyed and over-enunciating. How about a little nuance there, Avery? Let me see; he's.....happy! Got it.

Odo checks in to reveal what we already knew, that the widow and Kurzon were shtupping during the war.

Act 5 : ***.5, 17%

So it turns out the General was an asshole, but a national hero and both the widow and Dax are sacrificing themselves for the reputation of another. The question in Dax' case is, is this the same sense of honour of which Sisko spoke in his testimony a product of Dax, passed on from the man he knew, or is it the new host, Jadzia, applying her own flavour of morality to her inherited memories?

My pondering this interesting question is painfully interrupted by Sisko raising his *fist* to Jadzia's face and lamenting that she is a woman now, and thus he can't punch her. Okay... then we get a story about how SIsko almost killed a man for throwing a drink in his face. Uhuh... Based on this and the events of "Tapestry," I'm starting to wonder if Starfleet isn't feeding their cadets crazy pills. Why is this man so damned angry?

Anyway, Jadzia reveals that she is indeed struggling with her memories via the metaphor of Kurzon's scar-producing ring.

So we get to the closing arguments. The question..."is not the new host responsible for the actions of its previous incarnations?" is interrupted by the revelation that Kurzon was ploughing the widow during the alleged betrayal. And we never really get an answer (which is okay, by the way).

I'm a little tired of these conversations on the promenade while two people slowly walk to no place in particular. How often do people converse like this? Trying to see where they're going will walking *next* to someone so they can be seen by the camera? It reminds me of all those dialogue scenes in the Star Wars prequels. Just lazy blocking. In any event, the widow tells Jadzia to stop living other peoples' lives, which is an appropriate way to close the episode.

Episode as Functionary : ***.5, 10%

As an allegory, the Trill make a good soapbox for the issues of familial inheritance. Just like Odan was thought to be his previous host's *son* the question of living in the shadow of one's progenitors is magnified for closer inspection by the sci-fi conceit. Most of the character work with Jadzia is done vicariously, with other people examining her on her behalf. In this way, it's weaker than "Measure of a Man," where Data did a lot of his own heavy-lifting. That said, it was very good work. Sisko's character is softened a bit (anger issues aside) and we get some good characterisations all around as well as a strong guest cast, with the exception of Peers.

Final Score : ***.5
Steinway - Mon, Nov 10, 2014 - 11:03am (USA Central)
WHY did they have to have the hearing in Quark's bar?! There were only five or so people present. They could've had the hearing in Odo's office, or Sisko's ready room, or the holodeck! Why did they need that goofy scene with also pressuring Quark to shut down the bar and let them have the hearing there? It was pointless.

I don't care for Avery Brooks' acting throughout the series, but I think Nana Visitor's acting takes the cake in the beginning of the series for being the most awful! The scene where she overacts in this episode is as laughable as it is painful to watch. I do think she wins the award for Most Improved Actor of the Series of award, though.

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