Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine



Air date: 10/17/1994
Teleplay by Rene Echevarria
Story by Christopher Teague
Directed by Cliff Bole

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"If you want to know who you are, it's important to know who you've been." — Dax

Dax experiences hallucinations and exhibits hostile behavior, leading to a routine life-jeopardizing medical mystery that pays off in the long run thanks to some new character development and other twists and turns.

In the most interesting Dax episode yet, the writers finally let her dark side out of the closet, something one would never know existed given the perpetually calm, cheerful demeanor Jadzia sports. Act one is entertaining and effective, proving Farrell can play Dax with an attitude. She accuses Sisko of cheating in a chess game and then dumps all the pieces to the floor. Kira tries to bring Dax to realize her recent abusive tone toward others, but Dax turns on her (hence Jadzia's once unthinkable line, "Get your hands off of me...before I do something I'll regret"). Dax finally winds up in the infirmary where Bashir uses medical technobabble to explain that her behavior is the result of an "imbalance" between host and symbiont. Further events put Jadzia's life in danger as she's rushed into emergency surgery.

Granted, the medical jeopardy plot is definitely not a new concept. It is, in fact, a Trek cliche. Through the seven years of TNG, how many times did Picard lie on the operating table with his life on the line? But "Equilibrium" is much more inquisitive than the previews make it out to be, and placing Jadzia's life in jeopardy is wisely used only as a device to launch other plot threads and explore more interesting character issues.

The mystery leads to Trek's first visit to the Trill Homeworld, where Dax is placed under special medical supervision by the symbiosis committee. One disappointing aspect here is a matte painting featuring what is supposed to be a beautiful world, but instead comes across as far too restrained by focusing mainly on a single building. Trill is also shot solely on two unremarkable sets. Is it strictly forbidden to shoot anything outdoors? Still, it's another addition to the Trek encyclopedia of worlds, and another chance to escape the station via the series' new Defiant.

The mystery grows somewhat plot- and dialogue-heavy but remains enduringly interesting in spite of some excesses, such as the slightly exorbitant notion that half the population of Trill is capable of symbiosis yet officials keep the fact under the rug to avoid anarchy over the limited number of symbionts. The conclusion reveals to Dax that one of her previous hosts—a violent-tempered musician who killed a doctor—was blocked from her memory. Jadzia allows the memories to be reintegrated into the Dax symbiont, adding to her own personality. Hopefully (but only if the writers permit it) this will profoundly change her currently underwhelming personality. Everyone needs a dark side, including Jadzia Dax.

Lastly, let's not forget the great character moments that make this one a winner. The cast works together like a well-oiled machine. The episode opens with the series' most amiable teaser yet when Sisko hosts dinner in his quarters for the senior staff. Some enjoyable tidbits include Sisko mentioning his grandfather's restaurant in New Orleans, Odo taking an interest in cooking and Kira telling the chef-apprentice shapeshifter that he looks so "cute" while mixing ingredients. Who says the DS9 crew can't be a big happy family?

Previous episode: House of Quark
Next episode: Second Skin

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19 comments on this review

Thu, Jul 12, 2012, 6:29am (UTC -6)
I wonder what you'd give this episode now Jammer.

Far too sterile, stilted and cliched for me. I remember liking it but now I find it mostly underwhelming.
Fri, Feb 1, 2013, 4:01pm (UTC -6)
I agree with the review. This was a really nice episode, and my favorite Dax episode so far. Hopefully the new personality will make her a little bit edgier.
Tue, Oct 22, 2013, 6:33pm (UTC -6)

Another so-so Dax episode.

Fri, Feb 14, 2014, 2:07am (UTC -6)
Three comments? Doesn't anyone want to talk about this one? 'Equilibrium' and 'Blood Oath' are among my favorite Dax episodes. I was intrigued by the glimpses into Trill society, as well as Jadzia's anger and hallucinations, which were very frightening. The plot was fairly plausible, and Sisko's resolve when confronting the doctor was something to behold. A great show all around.
Andrew Taylor
Sat, Mar 1, 2014, 10:25am (UTC -6)
Just finished watching this one again for the first time in a while. I always used to like Dax when I was younger when I first watched the series, and I find that even though Terry Farrell is probably the weakest of the main cast, I still have a soft spot for the character.

In terms of the symbiant episodes Dax had, this is easily the best one. The music she constantly hears was haunting, and I enjoyed how crazy it made her behave with her friends. I liked that Sisko was going to go to any lengths to save her.

Special marks go to the hilarious teaser with Odo taking an interest in cooking. Auberjonois's face is priceless as he moves the bowl around trying to whisk the souffle.

The whole scene was a nice portrayal of the DS9 crew as a family.
Mon, May 12, 2014, 12:35pm (UTC -6)
Got to agree with Dusty, a solid Dax episode, which is good, as the Dax character tends to be the first to get side-lined in an episode (shades of Cllr Troi in TNG here) . I dont think Farrell is a bad actor in the role: I like the way she stalks around, hands behind her back, like an old (male) academic ; also the young, flirtatious Jadzia , clearly discovering and enjoying her new younger body. She just didnt have that many good episodes written for her, until this one. A solid piece of Trill backstory and good acting from Brooks too.
Mon, May 12, 2014, 3:55pm (UTC -6)
Agreed. She's not the best on the show, but most of the early issues with her were the fact that the writers had no idea what they were doing with her, not issues with Farrell. By S3 I really liked the way Dax turned out.
Tue, Jun 24, 2014, 9:53pm (UTC -6)
Meh. I found it boring. Sure, there were some good plot implication, but I just couldn't care.
Mon, Jul 14, 2014, 12:41pm (UTC -6)
Very interesting reveal about the politics of the Trill home world.

The "Doctor" wouldn't hesitate to kill to protect their "little secret". Makes one wonder how many others have needlessly died over the years. Although I don’t really see the harm in everyone “knowing”. They still have an initiate process due to the number of Trills available.

I thought this was one of Terry's best performances. I'll agree with Jammer in that it was nice to go to the Trill home world (what's it called anyways.... Trill Prime? :-) ) but it sure would have been nice to see a little more of it.

I too loved Odo stirring the soufflé.

3 stars for me.
Wed, Feb 11, 2015, 5:36am (UTC -6)
Ditto: This is my favorite Terry episode. It showed Dax had a little more depth. I always hated she was such a busybody and later how she shared hers and Worf's personal business to everyone she said was her friend. She never took into consideration that Worf was a very private person and it was offensive to him to have everybody knowing his plans. In spite of all of these character flaws, I always liked Dax, not only being very pretty she was very real smart.
Fri, Jun 19, 2015, 3:34am (UTC -6)
I can't quite put my finger on why, but I'm just not a fan of this episode. Maybe It's because i just don't get the Trill as a species. If the symbionts can live and communicate in their little pools, why do they need to be joined? Why do the humanoid hosts treat the symbionts with such reverence? And along with that, with the symbionts being held in such high regards, why would the hosts put them at risk by joining? (by risk, I mean all the differnt medical rules that go along with the joining, like the risk for rejection, the whole 93 hour transfer rule, etc.)

One other little nitpick about this episode: It sure is a good thing the Dominion didn't decide to attack while the Defiant was being used for a trip that seemingly could've been handled by a runabout. And they sure fixed the Defiant rather quickly, didn't they?
Tue, Jul 28, 2015, 6:34pm (UTC -6)
I liked this one...and yet I wanted to like it even more. It could have been sharper, with some sections trimmed, leaving space for more story.

I would have been interested in exploring more what the killer Dax had been like; they also could have added a "B story" by taking the opportunity to introduce someone who knew Jadzia before her joining.
Sat, Aug 8, 2015, 7:26am (UTC -6)
Eh, I don't get the Trill. So Dax is the symbiont and Jadzia is the host -- OK. So who is Kurzon Dax -- the former host? And when the former host dies, does part of who he was become a part of the symbiont, and thus a part of the new host?

Sisko refers to Jadzia as "old man" whom I guess refers to the former -- wait, I don't know. Former host or symbiont or both?

So do symbionts ever die? And why are they so special that they get new bodies?

I didn't understand a lot of the episode, I guess because of my lack of knowledge regarding the race. Plus I was sleepy and DS9 has a rather deliberate pacing, not that that's bad. It's...relaxing, I suppose. That's good.
John G
Sat, Aug 8, 2015, 2:04pm (UTC -6)

The Trill are a humonoid species. A small percentage of them are selected to be "joined" with slug like symbionts that are also native to their planet.

When a joined Trill dies or is about to die, the symbiont is surgically removed and implanted in to the next host, who has been chosen through an intensive screening process.

All of the memories from all prior hosts live on in the symbiont and are transferred to the new host. Because of this and the selection process, joined Trills tend to be very, high achievers.

"Dax" is the name of the symbiont slug inside of Jadzia. The hosts take the symbiont's name as their last name.

The Dax symbiont had several hosts prior to Jadzia. The most recent host was Curzon Dax who was a close friend and mentor to Benjamin Sisko. That is why Sisko affectionately calls Jadzia "Old Man".

Good question about whether the symbionts ever die naturally. They can be killed and can live hundreds of years (Dax is over 300) but I am not sure what the limits of their natural lifespan might be.
William B
Thu, Aug 27, 2015, 9:49pm (UTC -6)
More comments to come but before I forget: in the scene where Dax trashes the chess set and storms out of Sisko's office, you can spot a second, fully-set up chess set in the background on Sisko's desk just as Dax is leaving. I presume it is a gaffe, and that multiple boards were set up to reduce waiting times between takes, but in universe it looks like not only has Sisko asked Dax to play a game of (2D, bizarrely) chess in his office but has set up multiple boards for the occasion.
William B
Fri, Aug 28, 2015, 10:42am (UTC -6)
The Trill host selection process looks worse and worse with each passing Trill-focused episode. In this episode we learn that unsuitable hosts are *supposed to* reject the symbiont to the point of death, but that this is a lie by the Symbiosis Commission to prevent "chaos," i.e. for them to maintain control by telling anyone they decide to blackball that they would *die* if they joined. This seems to contradict "Invasive Procedures," in which Jadzia says that an improper joining could cause permanent PSYCHOLOGICAL damage to host and symbiont, and "Playing God," in which it seemed like the big risk was not that Arjin would die if he misjoined but that he would be overwhelmed by his symbiont. I do find it funny to imagine, though, that the Symbiosis Commission's weeding through candidates, presumably with the scientific methodology akin to Jadzia's "weird vibes" feelings in "Playing God" is meant to be their determination of whether or not someone will die if they get a symbiont. Anyway, retcon or not, the basic philosophy seems to fit with the impression I got from those two season two episodes, which is that the Trill symbiocracy is unstable, placing JOINING as a kind of ultimate fulfillment goal to the point where their whole society seems to be built around it, while making excuses why most people just AREN'T GOOD ENOUGH in order to justify the vast majority of their population being left out. Here, the Symbiosis Commission is willing to kill Jadzia in order to cover up not even the fact that they have a killer skeleton in their closet, but the fundamental idea that just because someone is successfully joined does not mean they are a psychologically stable, or even non-murderous, person -- which to me seems once again about power and influence. If there is no *physical* guarantee that people who are joined are Good People, then not only are more people going to be banging down the doors demanding to be Joined, but -- perhaps even worse! -- joined Trills might actually be deeply flawed individuals who don't automatically earn awed hushes wherever they walk, and the Symbiosis Commission no longer holds sway over the whole planet.

As in most previous Dax episodes, Jadzia herself is sidelined partway through the episode, which is especially frustrating here; the big reveal about the Symbiosis Commission's essentially being willing to kill in order to hide their secret ends with them *still* keeping their secret anyway, so any changes in the Trill have to happen on the individual level, in the one Trill we know well. Jadzia does dominate the first few acts, but soon is comatose. The question of what it actually means to have the memories of a cold-blooded, psychotic murderer living inside oneself is largely ignored, or, generously, left to future episodes; and, yes, it is brought up again, though I'm not so sure if "Field of Fire" is a worthwhile exploration of this. The initial mystery is interesting, though, and the impact is something between a repressed memory coming to light and the revelation of a dark secret in one's family tree. Since Joran is A Part Of Jadzia but also a family member of sorts, maybe the best analogy is for someone to discover that they have a particular mental illness, which has largely laid dormant, and which has caused previous family members to violent tendencies and breaks from reality -- a genuinely scary idea, which this episode gets to a little bit in its early acts and weird masked dreams. But it's an incomplete idea, and there is no real discussion of what Jadzia does before taking her trauma-relieving pool visit, nor do I think Jadzia humming a lot and accusing Ben of cheating at their 2D chess game constitutes murderousness.

Aside: the pool stuff with the symbionts is interesting, but wow, Trill don't even let the Guardians go out and see the sun? Also, given that the electrical impulses are symbionts communicating with each other, how exactly is Jadzia Dax having some electrical zaps supposed to help relieve her trauma -- are other symbionts who talked to Dax about the whole Joran thing between joinings present there to remind Dax about it or something? ("Hey Dax! It's me, Odan. I heard they told you about the whole Joran thing. Sorry bro, they told us not to say anything." "It's cool, dude.")

Sisko and Bashir doing everything they can for Jadzia is good to see -- particularly evidence of Bashir's being a good friend to her, and whom she can trust, without pressing to sleep with her or trying to take advantage of her vulnerability. Thankfully he's not that much of a jerk, but it occurs to me that Jadzia might not have known beforehand exactly how much he cares about her *absent* the lust. That said, it's hard to imagine what could have possessed them to take their WARSHIP over to Trill, seemingly with more people milling about on the bridge than there were during their Gamma Quadrant trip, and who presumably weren't doing anything. Take a Runabout! What is wrong with you? Were you planning on blowing up the Symbiosis Commission if you didn't like what you heard?

The episode isn't bad exactly, but Jadzia's emotional arc is stunted and the revelations about the Trill rely on retconned information and don't go anywhere, either. 2 stars.
William B
Fri, Aug 28, 2015, 11:36am (UTC -6)
I should say, Sisko articulating how much he cares for Jadzia as opposed to Curzon is another moment that works for me, and also emphasizes that hosts are not truly replaceable; they are a part of each other, on a continuum, but Joran being a killer does not make Jadzia a killer any more than Sisko having lost Curzon means he is prepared to lose Jadzia.

There have been five Dax episodes up to this point -- "Dax," "Invasive Procedures," "Playing God," "Blood Oath" and "Equilibrium." "Dax" and "Blood Oath" dealt specifically with Jadzia's tricky relationship to actions and oaths taken by Curzon and were pretty successful; the other three have left me somewhat cold, I think, because they keep trying to clarify what the Trill joining is like and what it means, and yet somehow don't quite do so. Where is Dax in Verad Dax, and why was he so willing to let Jadzia die? What qualities does a potential host really have to have to be successfully joined, and if it is mostly a matter of having one's own well-defined personality, what does the symbiont actually add there anyway? What is it like to have a killer as one of one's past lives and how much does that change one's personality in the present?

It's possible I'm just wanting something from these episodes that is not really that reasonable to ask. The joining is hard to pin down because it's a difficult idea to get across. That being the case, it may be that I'm underrating all three of these episodes -- I could, I suppose, see going up to 2.5 for this and for "IP," and up to 2 for "Playing God" (which still has the ridiculous subplot to deal with). Overall, I think I am going to say this episode maybe earns a 2.5 stars, since it's a mystery with a good clip and forward momentum even if I find it incomplete and frustrating.
S, Kenendy
Sat, Aug 29, 2015, 10:57am (UTC -6)
I think this is the first episode where you really see the crew coming together. It had been in development for some time, with Bashir-Miles's friendship and Odo repudiating the Changelings in The Search Part 2. Now you see they have really developed into a team reminiscent of TNG.

I would have liked to have seen more of the Trill homeworld but that is only a minor point.
Diamond Dave
Sat, Nov 21, 2015, 3:51pm (UTC -6)
Ultimately something of a disappointment. We have the guts of a good Dax episode here, but unfortunately she drops out of the episode as Bashir and Sisko solve the mystery. Given that there is no B-story this is also fairly slow moving, and it wraps itself up fairly quickly in a less than satisfying resolution.

Full marks for Odo's souffle preparation though. 2.5 stars.

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