Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Air date: 1/4/1999
Written by Bradley Thompson & David Weddle
Directed by Victor Lobl
Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
"Our mother is a force of nature." — Ezri
Nutshell: Pleasant, perceptive, very quiet; slight on lasting impact.
"Prodigal Daughter" is an example of reasonable storytelling done with sincerity and subtlety. It's a character show surrounded by a serious plot that is executed with the most lightweighted hand. That's not to say the issues are lightweight per se, but that the tone of the episode is. This could go down among the series' most quiet episodes yet.
That's not really a criticism. The DS9 story structure has often ventured into the "do plot things big" arena, like for example the six-episode occupation arc from last season, or as recently as "Shadows and Symbols" earlier this year. It's certainly fine to see the other end of the spectrum, where acting and character relationships are elements within a smaller scale, and thus become a focus point more than the huge, sweeping storylines that are unfolding. And if you're going to do it, you might as well do it in that isolated two-episode lull that's most likely to go forgotten early in the new year.
On the other hand, there's something to be said for huge and sweeping; "Prodigal Daughter" is certainly a watchable episode, but is it particularly memorable? In the current DS9 universe where we want to know, for example, where the war stands and what's going on in the Dominion given the nature of the Founders' illness and so forth, an episode centering around the quiet details of Ezri's family (featuring scenes where guest characters have most of the dialog) is one mystery that wasn't exactly swimming around in my mind. Besides, last week's "It's Only a Paper Moon" provided a meatier, more effective example of how to do a quiet character story.
But that's the nice thing about serial television: Breaking away from the usual business to tell this isolated little tale of Ezri and her family is something writers can do. The flip side of that coin, my brain then reminds me, is that the clock to the end of the series is ticking, tick-tock.
The plot is workable, somehow following up an O'Brien episode from last year while offering insight as an Ezri show. O'Brien, who has been on leave to visit family, has disappeared. Sisko is unhappy to learn that Bashir knew the real reason O'Brien was on leave: because he was searching for Bilby's widow, whom he has been in contact with for the past few months (see "Honor Among Thieves" if you need a reminder as to his reasons). Mrs. Bilby has since vanished mysteriously, and O'Brien feels obligated to track her down.
Once Bashir comes clean and explains the reasons for concern (I liked the amusing bit about Bashir being "in the doghouse" for covering for O'Brien), which narrows O'Brien's whereabouts to somewhere near New Sydney, the captain enlists Dax to use her local family ties (Ezri is originally from New Sydney, you see, and the rest of the Tigan family, her mother and brothers, still live there) to help find Miles.
The story's importance lies not within finding Miles so much as it provides a quiet character outing for Ezri, whom we learn more about a la "Afterimage."
In many ways, this story had a lot of the same impact on me as "Afterimage": It was nice to learn more about "the new Dax," and I just sat back while the story took a routine, everyday sort of pace.
What works best in "Prodigal Daughter" is Ezri's homecoming and the story's analysis of her family life. There are so many perceptive, accurate-feeling notes concerning family tensions that the story subtly picks up on, and I imagine that just about anyone will recognize the sort of uneasy, submerged family schisms that the Tigan family demonstrates. Sure, not every family has problems that run as deep as the Tigans', but I presume most people will identify with the way family members can occasionally restrict one another's space or personal needs, or grate on one another's nerves.
The Tigan household and family mining business is headed by Ezri's mother, Yanas (Leigh Taylor-Young), a well-intentioned maternal figure who has fallen into the unconscious habit of trying to continuously control her children's lives, despite the fact they're all adults. Ezri's two brothers, Norvo (Kevin Rahm) and Janel (Mikael Salazar), live at home and help run the business. The problem here is in two people who are trapped in a repetitive pattern of life, without the ability to move beyond the confines of an existence their mother has created for them.
Norvo in particular is suffering. He's an aspiring artist, but finds himself constantly knocked down by his mother, who conveys her beliefs of his inadequacy more than she should, paving the way for Norvo's depression, apathy, frequent drinking (we presume), and moments of explosive rage (destroying his own artwork). As Ezri points out, Norvo needs to get out. But somehow he can't.
Janel deals with his situation better because he seems to have more commitment to the management aspects of the mining business. Ezri is the one who left the nest, as they say. And she doesn't often return. "You never stay any longer than you have to," Janel notes, expressing honest feelings but with no intended malice. And I liked the way the family scenes uncovered the Tigans' troubles without resorting to clichéd histrionics or yelling. (At the same time, of course, the notion of the long-delayed homecoming is as old as the hills.)
It's about here that Mrs. Bilby is confirmed dead, O'Brien turns up, and the Orion Syndicate figures into the mix. Janel and Norvo had called upon the Syndicate for low-interest loans, and when the Syndicate wanted the favor returned—giving the recently widowed Mrs. Bilby a job in the mines—they hardly were in a position to say no. Unfortunately, it didn't end there. Mysterious sabotage followed, and it became clear that to go against the Syndicate would not be the healthiest course of action for the Tigans. The Tigan brothers, unbeknownst to their mother, suddenly found themselves "in," and wanting "out."
I found the Syndicate's methods interesting—an effective strong-arm without being overtly strong-armed. They're subtle but unmistakable about what they want and what they'll do to get it. I still wish the Orion Syndicate would play a bigger part in the series, especially given the connection they've had with the Dominion in the past.
But the Syndicate plot is a means to an end here. O'Brien and Ezri soon find themselves looking for Mrs. Bilby's killer, at which point, the Law of Economy of Characters states that the killer must be someone in the Tigan household. Not a terrible idea, considering how it unfolds, revealing a Norvo who snapped one day and beat poor Mrs. Bilby to death because she complained and talked too much. The psychology of the situation is appropriate given Ezri's role as a psychologist and Norvo's deep-rooted, volatile self-torment brought about by years trapped in that house. And the tragedy du jour is that it's only after the murder has been revealed that Yanas wonders if maybe she wasn't pushing on her son too hard in the wrong direction, asking Ezri desparately, "I didn't cause this, did I?" Ezri feels the burden of responsibility, too, considering that perhaps she was so desperate to leave that she didn't think about those she left behind. It's all very reasonable material—though perhaps underlined by melodrama and not incredibly fresh.
Thompson & Weddle give the script a good deal of human texture and common sense. But they also try to have the plot work both ways: It wants to be a quiet, self-contained character show, yet it also wants to play the DS9 plot thread games by bringing in the Orion Syndicate while doing nothing important with them. It works in context (the Syndicate being incidental to the story rather than vital), but there's still a tendency to wonder why the Syndicate was really necessary beyond filling out the convenience of O'Brien's presence and the murder melodrama.
Besides, some of the story's circumstances strike me as a tad convenient. O'Brien disappears. Fine. He disappears on Ezri's home planet. Okay; an acceptable coincidence. He disappears while looking for someone who has vanished after having been given a job by Ezri's own brothers, one who had eventually killed her. Now we're looking at a pretty small universe.
I'm giving "Prodigal Daughter" the highest "okay" rating I can. There was nothing about this story that struck me as wrong or poorly conceived, and I appreciated a lot of what it had to say. My general reaction throughout the episode was one of nodding in an understanding assent, thinking to myself, "Yeah, I see what's going on here," or, "Yeah, these problems are sensibly conveyed," or "Yeah, Norvo needs to get out of this situation." This is perhaps one of the more competent Trek family tales in recent memory (right down to the use of Ezris nickname, "Zee"). It's just that it's not all that moving or probing, but rather a documented set of events surrounding a group of believable people. The lasting impact is what's lacking.
And besides ... "Prodigal Daughter" can at times be a show that makes me long for an episode where stuff blows up.
Upcoming: Some reruns, followed by a final venture into the mirror universe the week of January 31.
Previous episode: It's Only a Paper Moon
Next episode: The Emperor's New Cloak
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89 comments on this post
Sun, Dec 6, 2009, 6:46am (UTC -5)
Sun, Jan 10, 2010, 5:22pm (UTC -5)
Tue, Jan 19, 2010, 5:47pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Nov 15, 2010, 10:18pm (UTC -5)
Tue, Oct 4, 2011, 3:43am (UTC -5)
Sun, Oct 16, 2011, 10:06am (UTC -5)
Tue, Oct 25, 2011, 10:52am (UTC -5)
Thu, Nov 17, 2011, 4:28pm (UTC -5)
Thu, Dec 29, 2011, 1:45am (UTC -5)
Fri, Apr 6, 2012, 11:48am (UTC -5)
I did like Ezri talking about her confusion after being joined. But gosh darn it, she is one lousy counselor.
Wed, Apr 25, 2012, 7:44pm (UTC -5)
Tue, May 1, 2012, 8:03pm (UTC -5)
Wed, May 2, 2012, 11:59am (UTC -5)
I consider it a testament to the consistency of DS9 that this is considered one of the more mediocre episodes. It's a fairly solid story, IMO, and it has good and believable character development for Ezri. And yes, I do like Ezri as a character. I thought Nicole deBoer got a bad rap and that expectations were too high of her.
Sat, May 5, 2012, 2:44pm (UTC -5)
Mon, May 7, 2012, 11:01am (UTC -5)
Thu, Jun 21, 2012, 4:44pm (UTC -5)
Tue, Aug 7, 2012, 10:58pm (UTC -5)
The best throwaway line in any Trek in a long while was Ezri's about "Misha-gagh,"
This phrase, with a slighly different spelling, is a Jewish expression which means "nonsense."
I always laugh when I hear it in this episode since it was so purposeful and yet so really obscure, the perfect inside joke...
Mon, Sep 24, 2012, 7:27pm (UTC -5)
Thu, Sep 27, 2012, 6:35pm (UTC -5)
Thu, Nov 29, 2012, 4:20am (UTC -5)
There are two parts of this review I wanted to highlight: First, "... There are so many perceptive, accurate-feeling notes concerning family tensions that the story subtly picks up on ..." Unless a story connects with us personally, it's hard to enjoy it, or remember it for long.
It says quite a lot about DS9 as a whole, that people still think and talk about it.
Also, where you talk about Ezri's mother and how she has "... fallen into the unconscious habit of trying to continuously control her children's lives". A lot of our actions (and mistakes) come from not even being aware of what we're doing. I'd be surprised if her mother really changes for the better after this, but it's possible.
Thanks again, Dean
Wed, Jan 16, 2013, 6:13pm (UTC -5)
So, today I arrived at this episode in my re-watch list and after starting it, I was on the verge of skipping it - but decided not to since it's been so long since I last saw it. And I must say, that was a very good decision.
I guess it's because I expected so little of it, but after watching it with an open mind for the first time, I'm really impressed. Sure, it's no "Visitor". But I really felt for these characters and the plot did work very well for me. I thought it was quite clever how they were able to link up the two seemingly unrelated parts of the story to form a new picture. Yes, it seems a little unlikely. But what the heck.
And I do appreciate the fact that we got to know Ezri a bit better. Without this episode, I guess she would have really been a totally wasted character. This at least gave her a little bit of depth.
People saying this episode deserves zero stars are out of their mind. Or maybe they're in the same stance that I was when I originally saw it. You have to give it a chance. As always, Jammer's rating is spot on.
Mon, Jan 21, 2013, 7:16pm (UTC -5)
Tue, Feb 5, 2013, 3:11am (UTC -5)
It's not a criticism, just interesting...in contrast the surviving parents of the main characters often play prominent roles in at least one episode (think Worf, Bashir, Kira, Quark etc.) It seems strange you wouldn't write siblings in, a gold mine of plotlines, similar aged siblings who are possibly also in Starfleet, possibly not as in Ezri's case.
Also re: Trill's Federation membership, even Memory Alpha flatly states they don't know, so there you go. There's some good arguments on the Trill talk page about why it's highly likely, but not definite (the most interesting note from that page I thought was that Curzon was the Federation Ambassador to the Klingon Empire a century earlier, not that that necessarily means anything).
Anyway, New Sydney is said to be a non-Federation world. Also the Federation may not have currency within itself, but it still has to function in a universe community that uses latinum, so "books" would have to be kept in some form.
Sun, Oct 20, 2013, 5:03pm (UTC -5)
Yes, New Sydney was clearly identified as not a Federation world. The Syndicate seems to prefer non-Federation worlds, and so do people who want to become or stay rich industrialists.
I give it 3 1/2 stars.
Sat, Nov 9, 2013, 10:45am (UTC -5)
Mon, Jan 13, 2014, 3:58pm (UTC -5)
Ezri as the girl breaking away from her rich mother is a bit cliche, there are too many characters in fiction with that back story. And the business magnate having a son who is an artist who is up to something is pretty cliche as well. It's an old murder mystery standby. Always suspect the artist who is living off his parents' wealth.
Tue, Feb 11, 2014, 7:59am (UTC -5)
Sun, Mar 30, 2014, 2:23pm (UTC -5)
Otherwise, slow but tolerable.
Mon, Jun 2, 2014, 5:03pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Aug 22, 2014, 1:09pm (UTC -5)
The more I get to watch Ezri the more I'm impressed with Nicole's acting.
Average. 2.5 stars.
Tue, Aug 26, 2014, 10:05am (UTC -5)
Nicole's acting was wonderful, but this episode was kind of boring as was the other Ezri episode that comes soon (where she plays security officer).
I don't know... if they wanted to give Dax an A story I just feel like they could have done it better. The character just feels meaningless to me until the final 10 except for scenes where she's with Sisko.
Thu, Oct 23, 2014, 11:10pm (UTC -5)
This one's good because, like Jammer says, there are no family histrionics. No shouting, no predictable murder scenes, no overt Orion Syndicate mafia cliches. Just a nice, pleasant little drama with a mystery that wraps it up (and a mystery I had no idea would be this neat).
Also, New Sydney is a cool location, just like that cyberpunk hell in "Honor Among Thieves".
The Memory Alpha post about this ep makes it sound like it was an absolute production mess. I like it, though. Understated, quiet, enjoyable. 3 stars. Recommended.
Fri, Oct 24, 2014, 1:39pm (UTC -5)
When I first saw DS9 my eyes threw fire at the screen each time I saw Ezri... :-) Jadzia lag I guess.
I have gotten over that and have started to appreciate the character and Nicole much much more.
Thu, Nov 6, 2014, 5:53pm (UTC -5)
Thu, Nov 13, 2014, 6:56pm (UTC -5)
It's true...the way TNG presented the Trill, they were new on the scene and the Federation had barely heard of them. But DS9 has tried to insinuate that Curzon Dax actually was the key negotiator of the Khitomer Accords. That's a rather epic contradiction.
Sun, Feb 21, 2016, 9:40am (UTC -5)
Indeed the only thing that really works is the gagh conversation at the beginning, and that has nothing to do with the rest of the episode. "Bithool gagh has feet" indeed. 1.5 stars.
Sun, Apr 3, 2016, 2:16pm (UTC -5)
From a dramatic point of view, the episode is slow-paced and measured. For a while it seems that it’s just a family drama, with the O’Brien plotline “unrelated,” and it is…okay as far as that goes, though hardly thrilling. However that perception is false: the Mrs. Bilby plotline actually ends up being incredibly important to the emotional core of the episode, in that it is what eventually leads to the realization that Norvo became a murderer, which also kind of changes the kind of family drama we are dealing with from quiet to crime melodrama. The episode goes a whole lot of its running time before actually committing to the major plot/mystery at its centre—the disappearance of Mrs. Bilby, and the eventual realization of the relationship to the Tigans. This Mrs. Bilby plot is not just a backdrop against which the Tigan family dynamics play out—as we find out, Mrs. Bilby was murdered by Norvo, and that murder is meant to serve as condemnation of the entire Tigan household and Ezri’s mother especially. Ezri is the episode’s protagonist, probably, but she does very little to further this investigation, and indeed as far as I can tell her only actions that are related to this are 1) following Sisko’s request/order to ask her mother to ask around, 2) eventually helping O’Brien look things up in the family files, later in the episode, where even there O’Brien is the one to discover the Mrs. Bilby files, 3) ordering O’Brien to do nothing and 4) being the one to recognize that Norvo was the killer by paying attention to him. Points 1 and 2 are, let’s note, entirely Ezri doing what those around her ask her to do, and 3 is her slowing the plot down so that she can deal with things. Point 4 is the one moment where *Ezri* genuinely contributes something to the story. So I think it’s fair to describe Ezri as a passive protagonist, which my screenwriting understanding indicates is usually a difficult thing to pull off. It is hard to get too invested in the murder mystery because Ezri is for most of the episode are only real “in” to the story, and she seems pretty indifferent to it all until toward the very end. Of course, there is Miles’ investigating too, but first of all it was hardly believable that O’Brien would become an undercover operative on orders and it is not that believable that he could get away from the station for long periods of time on lies to do his own investigating, and second even then we are given very few privileged moments that emphasize O’Brien’s POV and how much this means to him.
What Ezri does concern herself with is Norvo’s mental health—so she is onto something there, as it were. But I cannot help feeling that the tone is wrong, in those early scenes; Ezri sort of wanders around, avoiding family landmines and wondering if Norvo would be better off elsewhere, and she grows more concerned as the episode goes through, but she also laughs off her mother’s concern about him getting drunk and defacing his drawings when, yes, actually it turns out that he has somewhat cracked. But anyway, Ezri spends the episode convinced that Norvo needs to get away lest his artistic dreams fade into nothing, and then the episode ends with the tragic realization that it’s too late, because Norvo killed a woman to prove that he has what it takes to protect the company from petty extortion. On the one hand, this proves Ezri right in a somewhat arbitrary way; Ezri knew that he was depressed and sad but did not really see that he had a recent murder weighing on him, and to be fair to Ezri even knowing it was coming I didn’t either. Kevin Rahm, who I recognize as Ted Chaough on Mad Men, is good in the role of Norvo, maintaining a kind of detached self-mockery as a defense against inner tumult, and there are certainly hints in the script, as it goes on, that things are going badly for him—that suicide line, for instance—and yet I still can’t quite square Norvo-the-killer with the Norvo criticizing his paintings or not finishing his homework, er, reports on time, or asking mommy for permission to go away and being shot down. Norvo reads as sad and depressed, with some buried anger, but not as someone whose anger was about to be released on a woman, or, more to the point, someone whose anger was *recently* released, who just murdered someone and then carries on normally, whose main problems really *do* seem to be his art school rejection and being in a dead-end family job for most of the episode. So the episode’s tragedy seems in some sense like, well, overkill, as if to make the point that the Tigan family is toxic really required someone to die, when most of the episode relied on us being interested even in minor family landmines. This could still, I suppose, have worked, but it feels contrived to get to the murder reveal anyway—the Syndicate’s motivations remain murky (why is that guy saying O’Brien needs to leave the system? Isn’t O’Brien there to help them?), the idea that Mrs. Bilby would start demanding a big enough widow pension to threaten the company is suspect, that Norvo would believe that killing Mrs. Bilby would actually get rid of their problems rather than bring the whole Syndicate down on them, and that this seems to possibly even have been true, is unbelievable. It’s all swirling around to get to the Tragic Ending, which doesn’t really feel emotionally earned either.
The ending, too, really comes down on Ezri’s mother like a ton of bricks. It’s obviously she who is the problem, we learn. And while the episode had some nuance in her portrayal throughout, it does stack the deck in the end scenes: the way she just jumps to assuming that Janel did murder Mrs. Bilby for asking for too much money and refuses to believe him both makes it seem like she basically expects people to murder spontaneously and shows a big lack of faith in her son. Still, Ezri immediately tells Janel that he must leave (after, earlier in the episode, telling Norvo that Janel can take care of things) and refuses to answer her mother’s question of whether she, the mother, is responsible. Yeah, I dunno. The episode is clear that Yanas wasn’t deliberately trying to ruin her children’s lives, etc., and so will at least extend that sympathy, but there is no challenge to the idea that she is wholly responsible for Norvo’s actions. Which, like, I believe that it was difficult living in that house, etc., and while she is less cruel than other parents (she seems less deliberately hurtful than Ishka is to Quark) that she is hard to live with. I can see how the situation we see could have broken Norvo down over time. While Norvo is an adult responsible for his actions, the fact that he seemed to believe he needed to kill a woman to save the company grief and that this is what his mother and brother would want of him does suggest that there are unhealthy dynamics throughout the family that led to him making the choices he did. But really, we don’t know any of the circumstances that caused the family to develop along those lines. Why was she so obsessed with protecting the company? Why did she not believe her children could make it in the world without her constant protection and guidance (and criticism)? Why did she jump so quickly to assuming that Janel definitely murdered Mrs. Bilby? Why are her adult children so isolated that they seem to have no friends or life outside the family and the company (one and the same)? Clearly there is something wrong with this family, and hey, it seems like maybe it is Yanas’ “fault” that things developed that way, but no one seems interested in why Yanas is the way she is, Ezri in particular.
As Ezri development, the main takeaway here is that Ezri’s insecurities are perhaps not purely a result of being joined without having been ready, but instead have something to do with the difficult and oppressive environment she grew up in. That is potentially an interesting idea. Along similar lines, that her brother turned out to become a murderer from growing up in the same household opens up questions of how unstable Ezri might really be, when you combine that home environment with a joining which she was unprepared for—and then with, on top of that, a former host who is himself a murderer. Yep. In some ways, I wonder if there is something of an unofficial trilogy of these three consecutive episodes, with “Daughter,” “The Emperor’s New Cloak” and “Field of Fire,” which undermine Ezri’s cute, perky, sweetness-and-light insecure image by suggesting her family is deeply dysfunctional, that alternate Ezri is a mostly conscience-free mercenary, and that Ezri has Joran banging on his cage within her psyche begging to be let out. I don’t think any of these episodes are particularly successful (“Cloak” being by far the worst), but they point to an interesting direction the show seemed to be taking, and then didn’t, because, well, yes, there is not really enough time to have some sort of Dark Ezri arc. But it also seems odd, somehow, to associate with Ezri such intense violence, which really changes the way Ezri reads—she seems sweet and fragile, but actually she is possibly a time bomb, dangerous, unstable not in cute “stands on her head” ways but in “might one day kill someone” ways.
The episode did spend time linking Ezri’s distance from her family with her joined status—she says the last time she and her mother talked was after her joining, and we learn gradually that many things her family knew about her (her hair, her boyfriend, etc.) are changed now because of who she was. She embarrasses her mother at dinner by saying sometimes she has to look under the covers to see if she’s a man or a woman. She says that she left her boyfriend because he reminded her too much of her son—Audrid’s son! She tells her mother off by saying she has experience parenting. And for a while I actually thought that the episode would play this element up—how Ezri’s recent joining, which completely rewrote much of her life, changed her relationships, cut her off from her former life, and indeed makes her view the whole world differently. This is the only time we actually see anything of Ezri’s life before being joined, and in fact we never even saw any of Jadzia’s life pre-joining, with the exception of the brief orb experience flashback in “Emissary” and the various statements about what going through the Initiate training was like for Jadzia. This was an opportunity to talk about what it means to change through the joining, and the episode largely dropped it after putting emphasis on it in the beginning (“Ezri Tigan…Dax”), which I think is a shame. I’d go as far as to say that the episode also fails to think this through, because it really would be pretty devastating to have a family member so radically change and take on a whole other lifetimes, especially without warning, but everyone treats this as old hat and just more evidence of Ezri wanting to get away from the family—which I guess is maybe just another hint early in the episode that this family is dysfunctional and awful. I know that Luke has criticized the show’s portrayal of the Trill for being too symbiont-focused, and I see his point, but this episode doesn’t seem like much of a corrective: the Tigans are basically humans with spots.
In any case, we learn that before joining, Ezri had already run away from her family, and here we learn it had consequences. There is something poignant about a family member escaping a difficult home situation (or community, or…) only to find that those left behind suffered more greatly from one’s absence. I can’t help but note, though, that this means at least two lives Ezri has essentially ditched before this season, since she completely left the Victory in order to come to Deep Space 9, where I *still* am unconvinced she is actually making much of a life for herself rather than just haphazardly scrambling for what remains of Jadzia’s life. As with the Ezri-and-violence material, there is an interesting story here that I don’t think gets told. SPOILER: of course Ezri goes to be with Worf and then realizes that she actually wants to be with Bashir…but basically her first statements to Julian were that Jadzia would have ended with him. So on the one hand Dax’s life, and in particular Jadzia Dax’s life, may be the one thing holding Ezri together, with Ezri Trigan, pre-Dax, being something of a wreck who narrowly avoided a lifetime of depression by escaping to Starfleet and then had to leave that Starfleet 1.0 life behind when she was joined and it all became too uncomfortably mixed in with family feelings, but on the other it still seems to me that she should be trying to figure out her own life, and that DS9 probably really is not a good choice for that.
Also, hey, remember there's a war on? Ezri and Miles taking off for a while mostly spontaneously once again makes everything feel fake.
Overall, the drama feels very blunted to me, though there are some moments. The episode demonizes Ezri's mother without anyone showing much interest in why she is the way she is, has Ezri mostly wander around doing nothing to further the plot, Mrs. Bilby's death is made a central plot point but with no emotion attached, Norvo's early scenes and late revelations don't quite match, the magnitude of the emotional impact of having one's family member change from joining is forgotten about after a few Curzon jokes, the Orion Syndicate's actions don't make that much sense, and the episode mostly doesn't seem to have much to do with anything. Against that are some fairly nice dialogue scenes and some okay performances, especially Kevin Rahm. 1.5 stars, I think.
Sun, Apr 3, 2016, 2:18pm (UTC -5)
I'm pretty torn on this one, because part of me wants to say that the episode was okay while watching, and part of me feels like it really adds up to almost nothing. The Tennessee Williams-lite family melodrama tragedy feel could have been moving and at some spots almost is, but it also feels pretty phoned in and haphazard. So part of me wants to go up to 2 or 2.5 or so stars along with Jammer's review and part of me wants to go down to 1. I never feel confident about ratings.
Tue, Feb 28, 2017, 6:00pm (UTC -5)
I ended up fastforwarding through bits of it.
Tue, Mar 7, 2017, 11:14am (UTC -5)
Does anyone else see heavy elements of the Gothic novel? Technically characterised by an atmosphere of mystery and horror and having a pseudo-medieval setting, featuring the young innocent girl who has a mysterious past and is later revealed to be from old money (Ezri); the foolish older woman (her mum), madness in one or more of the characters (the artsy younger brother), and a setting in a vast, gloomy house. Check, check and check. DS9's answer to Edgar Allan Poe, I see.
Thu, Jun 15, 2017, 2:14pm (UTC -5)
I liked the painting after he put the stick figure in it. I might hang that on my wall.
I assumed from the first scene that there was a history of Janel abusing Ezri. The way he touched her hair as if he had a right to was creepy.
How did Miles know how to read Trill?
The house in the middle of nowhere was weird. I know they can transport out, but how awful to live in a place where you can't just walk out the door. They could have played up the claustrophobic aspect of that a lot more.
Sat, Jul 15, 2017, 12:55pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Aug 18, 2017, 10:07am (UTC -5)
I suppose if you were looking for it you could have guessed Norvo was the murderer but I was so engrossed in the story I didn't even think about it. Coming after a long string of 4 star episodes in my opinion, this episode drops to 3.5 stars, but it keeps up the amazing season 7 streak (which will unfortunately be broken by the next episode).
Fri, Aug 18, 2017, 5:38pm (UTC -5)
I was never an Ezri fan (didn't hate her, just couldn't adjust to her childlike insecurity and anxious tics and newness). This episode made me actively dislike her.
I'm not a trained counselor, but I have a tip for Ezri: The guy who beat the woman to a bloody pulp, the guy you call brother - the villain. He took a life in brutal fashion. He did it of his own free will. He did it because he wanted to impress someone. Your brother is a vicious killer. Being a vicious killer is quite a bit worse than being a driven businesswoman.
I maybe could handle a childish Ezri in this episode, in her childhood home - if I had formerly seen a mature and interesting Ezri on the station. But on the station she had already been shown as childlike and insecure, Doubling down on her little-girl persona didn't improve the character.
Not to mention: the "female ship's counselor is revealed to have issues with her strong willed mommy" was already done to death on ST.
Thu, Oct 5, 2017, 3:31am (UTC -5)
Sat, Apr 14, 2018, 11:19am (UTC -5)
Too much coincidence...O'Brian and Ms. Bilby "happen" to be on that planet. Dax's mother "happens" to be a business magnate. It of course "happens" to be one of the main characters...amazing that there are supposedly 100s of people on the station, but everything that happens always happen to the same 6 people.
Into the last stretch of episodes, and one after another goes nowhere.
Sat, Jun 2, 2018, 10:28pm (UTC -5)
Tue, Jun 19, 2018, 4:07pm (UTC -5)
Sun, Sep 9, 2018, 9:33am (UTC -5)
The whole Trill gimmick lasts for a few episodes, but the writing shows that they didn't think very deeply about a Trill personality. It's just a convenient plot fix on occasion. I kind of feel bad for Nicole, she stepped in to take over a dull Mary Sue character, but doesn't have much time for character development.
Sun, Sep 9, 2018, 9:54am (UTC -5)
On the other hand, Nicole De Boer was one of the shining points of Ezri. I think it’s safe to say the writers deserve all the blame but De Boer deserves all the credit for salvaging what she got.
Thu, Sep 27, 2018, 8:18pm (UTC -5)
Maybe I'm missing something but how the hell is Ezri O'Brien's boss?? This makes zero sense to me. She is a brand new counsellor on DS9 (was an ensign at the start of the season) and O'Brien is the chief engineer of DS9. WTF???
It's probably easy to get bored with the start of the episode -- seems like lightweight Ezri family stuff but there's the hint of something suspicious with the 2 brothers speaking privately and that undercurrent grows. Interesting that the guest actors get a lot of screen time -- and they weren't bad or overly cliche. One can sympathize with Norvo, be suspicious of Janel, and think the mom's a bossy control freak.
I think Norvo has a compelling story and I liked the scene where he admits he killed Bilby's widow -- there was a poignancy that worked for me. He felt he needed to handle a tough problem and that he can't wallow in self-pity all the time -- of course, he has to know right from wrong but maybe he's mentally ill and in that society he can feel he can get away with crimes and can justify bad deeds if it is solving a problem for the family.
Found it weird how Ezri just left her mom hanging at the end when she's asked if it was her fault. This would have been a moment, I think, for Ezri to do some "counselling" and be useful. I really don't see how Ezri showed her mettle in this episode -- she was more useful in "The Siege of AR-558" for example. So here Ezri's left with guilt in the end for letting her family fall apart.
Barely 2.5 stars for "Prodigal Daughter" -- won't penalize an episode not furthering the Dominion war arc and fleshing out a character just introduced in the final season. It's a quiet family story that has some interesting plot details and a decent ending that solves the built-up mystery well. Best part was Norvo admitting his crime but not sure how the Ezri character grew, if at all.
Thu, Sep 27, 2018, 10:29pm (UTC -5)
"Maybe I'm missing something but how the hell is Ezri O'Brien's boss?? This makes zero sense to me. She is a brand new counsellor on DS9 (was an ensign at the start of the season) and O'Brien is the chief engineer of DS9. WTF???"
Someone here with a military background could answer with better details, but basically it's the same situation referenced when O'Brien said to Nog he'd be calling him "Sir" soon. It's that a noncom is always inferior to any officer in strict rank, even if the noncom is a senior member of the station's personnel. "Chief" afaik refers to "Chief petty officer" and is as high as a noncom can go, and still has to call an ensign "Sir". That said, it doesn't mean that Ezri is necessarily above O'Brien in the stations's command structure, (this is where a military person can give better details than me).
I think the best use of plot tension between official outranking versus actual seniority and position was in Hippocratic Oath, where Bashir was technically in command even though O'Brien was by all rights above him in experience, command knowledge, and tactical importance in a dangerous situation. I think that episode did a good job of making us ask ourselves which of them should have been considered to be "in charge" in that scenario. In this episode it's essentially irrelevant.
Fri, Sep 28, 2018, 9:46am (UTC -5)
OK I get what you're saying -- it is a technicality and in this episode it's not important.
But I just wonder if there's a deliberate change between TOS and TNG/DS9 etc. in terms of the rank of the chief engineer -- Scotty was Lt. Commander (and subsequently got promoted) but O'Brien is "just" a chief. So Scotty took command over Sulu/Chekov on many occasions. But in a catastrophic situation on DS9 would Ezri have to take command over O'Brien? That doesn't seem sensible.
Fri, Sep 28, 2018, 10:20am (UTC -5)
Remember Disaster? Same scenario.
Fri, Sep 28, 2018, 10:28am (UTC -5)
Yes, thought about "Disaster" -- it basically came down to Troi and Ro on the bridge. Troi outranks Ro by a wide margin but she was indecisive in her command - got better as the episode went on. Would have been interesting if Geordi was on the bridge with Troi. Troi barely outranks him but Geordi has far more relevant experience.
Fri, Sep 28, 2018, 11:35am (UTC -5)
You're missing the direct parallel in Disaster. It's literally Chief O'Brien being outranked by a counselor with no command experience but an officer's rank.
Fri, Sep 28, 2018, 11:44am (UTC -5)
I wouldn’t say that’s necessarily true. Troi has been at Picard’s right hand guiding him on the bridge since year one. Geordi had some bridge time at the helm, but from year three onward he was strictly in engineering. If you mean “Disaster” specifically, it just happened to be an engineering problem which would favor Geordi, but just keep in mind the ship’s main duties lie elsewhere.
The Enterprise D is usually involved in solving disputes and lending aid, so it seems like Troi could generally handle its command (something that happens later). Not saying that the writers were really great at utilizing Troi, but I think Roddenberry at least envisioned her to have a key role on the bridge.
Fri, Sep 28, 2018, 1:27pm (UTC -5)
Thanks - yes I had somehow forgotten O'Brien was there with Ro and Troi on the bridge (probably because Ro's extreme suggestions stood out to me).
Ezri's a lot greener than Troi -- so it really stuck out to me when O'Brien said she was his boss!
Fri, Sep 28, 2018, 1:51pm (UTC -5)
"Ezri's a lot greener than Troi -- so it really stuck out to me when O'Brien said she was his boss!"
I guess, although Ezri has 300 years of experience, including as a Starfleet lieutenant with experience commanding both the station and the Defiant, as well as a history as multiple Federation VIP's. She may be an ensign, but contrast with Troi who was having trouble even understanding what Ro and O'Brien were telling her and doing any kind of reasonable risk assessment in Disaster.
But the Troi thing makes sense in military terms, since 'medical' personnel seem to be assigned fairly high rank for some reason. M.A.S.H. outlined how doctors that were drafted, for instance, were automatically placed at a Captain or Major rank in the army, making them outrank the majority of the military even though they had no combat training or command experience. In some weird scenarios I'm sure some hapless doctor ended up in command over soldiers and the command structure was all messed up at that point.
Sun, Nov 4, 2018, 2:11pm (UTC -5)
In the context of the final season the episode seems out of place. In the context of a more exciting urgent war raging on this seems lacking in comparison. But in a vacuum as a stand-alone I’ve come to appreciate it more in hindsight than I did originally when it aired
The episode itself is pretty entertaining and involving. The mining colony itself. The Ezri family dynamics. Norvo well you just have to feel sorry for him. The murder mystery. The Orion syndicate involvement. And Ezri in just a half season has been more interesting than Jadzia in six years.
Thu, Feb 14, 2019, 9:41am (UTC -5)
--Some backstory on Ezri. Not particularly engaging, but Ok. I like the portrayal of Mom, nicely done. The brothers are ooky, in different ways.
--Miles . . . I don't like this story line. It was hard to buy that he got soooo invested he betrayed Star Fleet, and now puts his (husband and father) life in jeopardy to track down the widow and personally follow up on her death.
--Ummm . . . Norvo even oookier than I thought. Yeeeee.
--Oh, c'mon! The suggestion that Mom is responsible? Really? And now Ezri blames herself?
Ugh. Ugh, ugh, ugh.
Below average ep with oooky message.
Thu, Feb 14, 2019, 10:04am (UTC -5)
The O'Brien thing is really strange.
I think they could have gotten away with some ambiguity there at the end -- maybe Ezri or her mom saying, "I wish we had known how to help him before it came to this" or something. But yes it's totally ooky for everyone to jump on board that mother is responsible for Norvo being a murderer for...being somewhat bossy?
There's something off about the whole thing. I found it weird that Ezri's mother also jumps to immediately assuming that the other brother definitely did murder the woman to save the company and then won't believe him when he (truthfully) says he didn't. Why do Ezri's family, who are presumably Federation citizens, act like they're in a melodrama about a Depression-era coal mine with ties to the mob? (And what, if anything, does that tell us about Ezri?)
Thu, Feb 14, 2019, 10:07am (UTC -5)
Thu, Feb 14, 2019, 10:17am (UTC -5)
Thu, Feb 14, 2019, 10:19am (UTC -5)
Sun, Feb 17, 2019, 11:36am (UTC -5)
Exactly. "Honor Among Thieves" was an episode that had no good reason to exist, but was lifted into passable territory for me by its acting. Sometimes DS9 just doesn't know when to quit and let an element go.
Sun, Feb 17, 2019, 11:55am (UTC -5)
Actually this feels a bit like a weak TNG season seven episode, with both unnecessary follow-ups to forgotten stories (Bok in Bloodlines) and unnecessary family backstory (lots of examples, though I like at least one of the infamous new family member eps).
Sun, Feb 17, 2019, 12:10pm (UTC -5)
Thu, Apr 25, 2019, 11:18pm (UTC -5)
Thu, Sep 26, 2019, 9:47am (UTC -5)
Also to make this a sequel to the really good Obriend film noir ep is just bizzare and the episode cant seem to figure out whether to focus on Ezri or OBriend. Also... it does a terrible job of being a sequel or making any sesne unless you remember the intricate details of the previous episode. The woman that was murdered in the episode doesnt even appear and its frankly strange OBrien cares to this degree about this woman when his own marriage is clearly on the rocks all the time.
Wed, Nov 20, 2019, 12:27am (UTC -5)
Sun, Mar 8, 2020, 4:50pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Jun 24, 2020, 11:56pm (UTC -5)
Sun, Jul 26, 2020, 8:11am (UTC -5)
Fri, Mar 19, 2021, 10:51am (UTC -5)
Wed, Mar 24, 2021, 11:40am (UTC -5)
Wed, Mar 24, 2021, 11:53am (UTC -5)
"This was an odd episode title. There is no daughter in this episode who could be described as "prodigal". The only character that label would apply to would be Norvo."
Wouldn't it just be a reference to Ezri? I mean, she is the only daughter around :)
As for why she would be likened to the prodigal daughter, it's because she left (i.e. abandoned) her family to do her own thing, while at the time in a lesser state than she is now. The coming home doesn't quite match the story of the prodigal son insofar as it's not like Ezri is here to admit she was wrong or anything. But at least the analogy here would be that she's a more complete person than she was last time - at least as far as we know. Was she always this mixed up and confused even before the joining? We don't really know. Actually, if I'm going to fault this episode for one very damning flaw, it's that no attention whatsoever is given to her family's reaction to how she's changed. She ought to be a completely different person, and yet they react as if this is good old Ezri. And likewise she reactions to them as if they have the same relationship as before, even though she should be seeing them through a new lens as well.
Tue, May 18, 2021, 12:16pm (UTC -5)
Tue, May 18, 2021, 1:01pm (UTC -5)
It's all very Freudian.
Wed, May 26, 2021, 4:32am (UTC -5)
(1) The Gagh discussion (mixed with Alamo, and Bashir's worry about Miles being missing). As a whole it was pretty funny I thought.
Ezri: "Misha-gagh jumps... Bithool- gagh has feet...(gag). Flush it out (of) the airlock. All of it!"
Odo: (shaking head no) "Environmental regulations".
Kira: "Why don't you just give it to Martok?"
Ezri: (with comic irony) "He'd insist on sharing it with me as a point of honor."
Good delivery. Ezri eventually leaves the scene due to nausea. Bashir says "I have to go too." Faint indication of his attraction to Ezri. The scene is then concluded by Odo: "Give my regards to Santa Anna."
(2) Bashir waits to see if Miles' gets off the Federation shuttle. He doesn't, but we do see what seems to be a Jem'Hadar with a red shoulder bag being escorted by a Star Fleet officer. What's up with that?
(3) An entertaining scene of Sisko attempting to contain himself while Bashir tells him that Miles is missing. I like a good Sisko-being-annoyed-by-Bashir (S-BABB) once in a while, and this one was particularly strong. 'I want your report within the hour', almost demanded that 'and no Alamo BS this time' be tacked on.
(4) Good Sisko-Ezri scene to enlist the mother's help in finding Miles. By making Pergium the family's mining specialty, the writers injected good remote continuity with TOS Devil in the Dark (Horta episode). I also liked Ezri's line "No, yes, i don't know."
(5) Bashir's scene with Ezri, at the shuttle prior to departure has an important element, that comes down to: we both come from messed up families. "I sympathize."
I know that nobody who wants to be cool is supposed to like Ezri, but while "Prodigal" eventually bogs down into a strange Perry Mason-esque 'downtrodden son becomes murderer to gain mother's approval' thing, it started out well. It isn't a happy story, but wasn't a waste. On its own a 2.75 star outing, maybe a 3.0.
Tue, Aug 3, 2021, 1:19pm (UTC -5)
Tue, Aug 3, 2021, 1:35pm (UTC -5)
"The writers of this episode obviously don't know the meaning of the word prodigal."
I think you have to take seriously the episode's premise to see why they thought the term applied to Ezri. What I think they mean to say is that from the perspective of Ezri's narcissistic, dysfunctional mother, Ezri ran off to pursue selfish things and leave the family in the lurch when they needed her for the family business. Apparently since she left everything's been falling apart. and since her mother naturally blames her for it, that makes her the prodigal daughter from a wrong POV. Certainly not from ours. So that alone muddies what they're even trying to say. But even worse, it's not even clear what the family thinks about Starfleet or whether they supported her or opposed her going, or what the heck is happening. Why did she even join Starfleet? We don't know. Unlike with Spock and Sarek, we aren't treated to any backstory about the origin of this conflict. It's just not a very good episode for the most part (I can barely bring myself to watch it), but the title at least gives a hint at what they were trying to write.
Wed, Oct 13, 2021, 10:43pm (UTC -5)
Tue, Nov 23, 2021, 11:29pm (UTC -5)
I like her character as she comes to terms with herself. And I find the actress FAR more attractive than Jadzia, so I was really glad to have her come on the show.
While the younger brother has to carry his own load for his actions, it is painfully obvious that his overbearing mother has a lot to answer for in the way things turned out.
Both sons were in a toxic environment
Sun, May 15, 2022, 12:04pm (UTC -5)
It’s not that the Tigan family seem particularly lovely either, no person creates natural resources and so no person has a right to exclusively own or control them, and what’s doubly egregious is that they’re not even natives of planet whose resources they’re claiming ownership over! So, the basis of their wealth is a resource that they had no hand in creating, on a planet that they have no relation to; and the workers whose labour makes the resource available only get a tiny fraction of the value that their labour produces (a resource is worthless if it is inaccessible, and so extracting that resource and making it available is akin to creating the value that the resource has, just as a worker at a factory creates the value of a product with their labour), yet the Tigan family is wealthy? To me this doesn’t seem much different than a medieval lord whose wealth comes from tribute or taxes that peasants were forced to give him, and wealth and resources that he stole from neighbouring lords, who got their wealth from forcing peasants to give them money or resources.
In short, this story is not about the mob harassing an honest family until one of them breaks, this story is about two mobs, two exploitative gangs of thieves, one of which is arbitrarily considered more legitimate than the other, harassing and exploiting one another. The only thing that makes this different is the irrational connection that O’Brien has to one of the agents of one of the mobs.
Sat, Jun 4, 2022, 10:49pm (UTC -5)
I didn't like the ending, that it was implied that the mother was the root of all problems in the episode. As Federation citizens, Norvo and Janel could've gone anywhere, FOR FREE, and made a new life. Their mother wasn't holding them hostage. After all, Ezri left. As one of the wealthiest mining companies in the sector, they could've hired replacement staff easily.
Ezri pulling rank on O'Brien didn't make sense. They were on a non-UFP world dealing with a non-UFP matter, plus Ezri is medical... but whatever.
I agree it was farfetched that O'Brien just happened to be connected to Ezri's family, out of the billions and billions of people in the Federation, through Bilby's widow. I guess you have to suspend belief a bit to make this episode work.
As for the question above about why there is mining in a universe that has replicators. It takes energy to replicate things, and pergium is a source of power. You would need the same amount of energy to replicate the fuel that you need. Replication only works for less energetic substances. That's why the Federation still has a lot of industry. The same is true today. We synthesize oil, but it would require the same amount of energy that we would get from burning it.
Mon, Oct 3, 2022, 9:05am (UTC -5)
I dislike both Smiley and Dax v.8.0 so a story delving into either of their troubled relationship with his/her parents/sibling/family cat draws less than zero interest from me.
Also... Sigh... Yet...another...episode...about a character's turbulent relationship with his/her family. Really? I mean... - REALLY!?!?! Is there ONE SINGLE character on this dumbshit show who is NOT somehow maladjusted due to some friction with his/her family that produced some repressed trauma that informs his/her character to the present day (and that, of course, needs to be unpicked and unpacked for the viewer)?!?!?!? Is there ANYONE on that entire goddamn station who grew up with a reasonably loving, reasonably supporting mom and dad, maybe experienced a bit of bullying here and there that shaped his/her character, won some, lost some, went through a "finding self" phase in puberty and adolescence, chose the strait and narrow, and is now a functional humanoid doing a bang-up job at Starfleet!?!?!
Some love to talk about "tropes." If this dreck isn't easily THE most overused and jaded trope, then butter my butt and call me a biscuit.
Zero stars. Hard pass, with extreme prejudice.
Thu, Dec 1, 2022, 6:18am (UTC -5)
I didn't read Ezri's perspective at the end as absolving Norvo of responsibility for his crimes. Her perspective is that of a sister who loves her brother, and who has seen his best qualities over many years: sensitivity, creativity, kindness. And she's also seen how he's spent his whole life being emotionally abused by his mother, belittled and controlled and made to feel as if every instinct he has for his life is a betrayal. She understands that his actions were terrible, but she grieves, imagining how Norvo might never have become his person if he hadn't been pushed into a life he clearly feels is a kind of living death.
Since Ezri also holds herself responsible for Norvo's actions, I don't think it's fair to say that she points to their mother as being solely responsible for Norvo's crime. But in refusing to absolve her mother's guilt, she refuses to let her mother avoid facing up to the impacts that her manipulative, controlling, humiliating behaviour has had on her two sons. As a child of an abusive parent myself I really appreciated that she left it hanging. So rarely are emotionally abusive parents held to account. It was nice to see it just this once, almost a wish fulfilment fantasy.
As for Norvo and not buying that he could have done it... I would say think of the man getting blackout drunk and destroying the artworks he hate-loves. It's pure nihilistic rebellion against a life he clearly feels is both intolerable and meaningless. Hence the suicide 'joke'.
I wonder if those who found it all unbelievable and unfair have seen emotional abuse/neglect? I could see so many parallels to people I have met in my own life. While I was watching the episode I was actually mentally high fiving the writers for doing such a good job.
I do agree with Jammer's comments about the awkward placement of this episode in the lead up to the series finale. I think that is part of the bigger Problem of Ezri. Introducing a new major character in the final season and trying to give the audience an opportunity to emotionally connecting with her just does not gel with bringing together all of DS9's major arcs. The whole character was a mistake (no shade to Nicole De Boer, who played the character well despite the inherent drawbacks).
Mon, Mar 20, 2023, 5:59pm (UTC -5)
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