In the eighth episode of the first season of Deep Space Nine, this is horribly messed up. Intrigued? Then it’s time or Mark to watch Star Trek.
There are a lot of common science fiction tropes here within “Dax,” and I don’t want to ignore them. But I think “Dax” ends up being so rewarding because the writers of this show are allowed to be more realistic than they might have been for other Star Trek shows. I have no clue what went on behind the scenes for the creation of Deep Space Nine, so I won’t speculate too wildly here. But I get a different sense of the intent and purpose of these episodes than I have for The Original Series and The Next Generation. I’m still having a bit of difficulty identifying why that is, but the journey in “Dax” is getting me closer to it.
This episode is uncomfortable from beginning to end, and its conclusion does not offer us hope or comfort, and I think that’s where I want to start when discussing this. The attempted kidnapping of Dax is violent and disturbing, and it only becomes more so when we discover it is for their extradition. It’s through this that a complicated question is asked: Is Jadzia Dax responsible for what Curzon Dax did? Is a Trill a singular entity or two separate ones?
For Commander Sisko, that’s an easy question to answer: Curzon could not have possibly murdered someone, and Jadzia is not the same person as Curzon. I think the willingness to have Sisko assume a moral position over the legal right is one of the reasons that Deep Space Nine doesn’t come across like the other shows. When Sisko sends Dr. Bashir and Kira out to obtain evidence, he openly tells them to be selective, at least in terms of what argument he’ll be bringing to Judge Renora. I am just so thankful for this, especially since it makes his character so much more realistic. He’s loyal, perhaps to a fault, and he’s also tenacious. At no point does he back down from his position, even when Dax refuses to talk to him. It’s a flawed approach, and the show doesn’t avoid that. Is there a better example of that than Dax? Curzon Dax engaged in an affair, hid it from everyone, vowed to protect Enina’s reputation, and was willing to be executed in order to preserve the mythic position that General Tandro achieved upon death.
The entire court proceeding plot wasn’t something new, of course, but even then? I found the writing of it to be fascinating. First of all, I would be remiss in not acknowledging the hilarious brilliance of Judge Renora, who frequently cut off both Sisko and Ilon because she didn’t want them wasting her time. Because it wasn’t an official case, it allowed the writers to be much more ridiculous in what they could stage. Gone are the normal parameters of courtroom dramas. (Though those are often unrealistic or flat-out fake, anyway.) The scenes here are way more personal and intimate. How could they not be? Sisko is invested in Judge Renora denying the extradition, and Ilon believes that Curzon killed his father. Each of them want an outcome that pits them against the other, and that means one person here is going to end up with the worst deal imaginable.
Which is why the third option is so horrifically crushing. Can you imagine spending years obsessed with the death of your father, only to track down the suspect, nearly escape with them, and then have to go through this? All so that your own mother can show up, admit to an affair WITH THE MURDER SUSPECT, except her confession EXONERATES THE MURDERER. Even worse? She’ll go to the grave knowing the real truth: General Tandro sent the message that led to his own death. HE WASN’T THE HERO EVERYONE THOUGHT HE WAS.
Look, this is some dark shit, and I don’t want to denigrate The Next Generation in talking about this. I love that these shows are different, and I like that The Next Generation‘s tone differs so much at this point. My opinion of “Dax” doesn’t rely on an insult to the other experience. I just think that the writers of Deep Space Nine are crafting a world on this space station where stories like this, which are technically one-offs, can still happen. We don’t get an easy solution. We see sides to these characters that aren’t necessarily likable or admirable. Instead, we get a portrait of a location set so far on the edges of space that people resort to different means to get what they want. Odo toys with and irritates Quark deliberately, knowing that he can get away with it. Characters can pop in and out of the station, meaning that the guest cast can comprise any number of possible combinations of mercenaries or mysterious figures. And with the combination of Federation and Bajoran cultures at work, that means that we can have more scenes like the extradition hearing. (Please let Judge Renora come back. P L E A S E.)
I find this exciting. I think that the moral issue at the heart of this episode was messy and complicated, and I appreciate that we’re not given an easy solution to it. The morals on Deep Space Nine are more grey than I’m used to from the Star Trek universe, and I’m perfectly fine with that. It makes for some good science fiction.
The video for “Dax” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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