In the twenty-sixth and final episode of the sixth season of Deep Space Nine, I can’t do this. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.
Trigger Warning: For talk of death and grief.
“The war changed up – pulled us apart. I want my friends in my life, because someday, we’re going to wake up and we’re going to find that someone is missing from this circle. On that day, we’re going to mourn, and we shouldn’t have to mourn alone.”
I simply never even considered this a possibility.
Death is sort the thing to do with serialized television these days. I don’t know that I could properly track where that started. It’s easy to say it’s because of Game of Thrones, which certainly upped the ante in terms of shock and emotional destruction, but even that show largely bores me with this tactic. Death doesn’t mean anything when the shock of it used so frequently. But it’s unfair and a bit ahistorical to say that shocking character deaths came from that show specifically. You could look at a number of iconic shows that aired prior to Game of Thrones that caused inspired huge reactions because of character deaths. Six Feet Under. The Sopranos. LOST. There’s Whedon’s whole thing of killing off whomever we love most. We could go back further and talk about the UTTER PAIN of The X-Files. Even further back with Dallas.
You get the point. It comes and goes in waves, and when television narratives are largely static, a major character death is usually going to do a number of things: increase ratings. (Or tank them if the writers miscalculate who to kill off. TAKE NOTE, THE 100.) Increase visibility of said show. Affect that fandom in a ton of ways. I’m not a huge fan of death as a plot twist anymore more because it’s so overused, and even in my own manuscript, I revised it a number of times to remove practically every death in it. And personally, I think it makes my story better, though we’ll have to see what others say. I felt better about it, though, because in the end, death is a relatively easy thing to write. Maybe not the scene itself, but it’s such a final choice for a character. All the surviving characters have the aftermath to deal with, and trust me, that’s some of the easiest and most fun stuff to write. But I found it was a whole lot more fun to take death off the table and consider: What would I do to bring these characters to this specific point? How would I increase tension or signal a tonal change without killing someone?
There are so many options available, and sure, it’s more challenging, but the difficulty is half the joy in writing.
Now, I don’t want this to come off as arrogance. Deep Space Nine is a different medium than I’m working in. There are so many other factors at hand that I, as someone who wrote a novel and a bunch of short stories, won’t ever have to deal with. Here’s a huge one: the characters I write are not attached to real-life people who must act out my words. I have no idea what behind-the-scenes stuff affected Terry Ferrell’s (apparent) departure from Deep Space Nine. (And at this point, while I’m accepting Jadzia’s death, I don’t even know if this is final or if she’s in the seventh series at all. Please don’t spoil that for me.) That stuff affects television, and it’s important to acknowledge that I have no clue what went into this decision. So, I’m assuming that Ferrell had to leave in this episode. If that’s the case, then I have to examine the story I’ve got. Is this a good send-off? Does it respect her character? Is her story complete?
And what I come up with is a resounding NOPE NOT AT ALL, with one exception. (Yet even that exception is complicated… I’ll get there.) This episode opens with the utterly frustrating decision to have Quark and Julian react to the news that Worf and Jadzia are going to try to have a baby by having them be BITTER AS ALL HELL. So much so that they go to Vic Fontaine to sulk and whine about how they can’t have Jadzia! Y’all, it’s been FUCKING YEARS NOW. You did not have a chance then, you don’t know, how is this a plot in the sixth season of this show. It is, frankly, rather gross to see. Jadzia feels like an object in these scenes, not like she’s a character who deserves to be viewed as a whole person with her own goals and ambitions and life.
Which brings me to the whole pregnancy thing. That details feels added in here just to increase the sheer tragedy of her death. Why do that? Why focus so much on this one bit of hope in this episode, especially if you were going to take it away in the end? It felt just as out of place and unnecessary as the scenes with Jadzia and Quark. I’m guessing they were intended as a distraction – a way to make Jadzia feel safe to the audience because the writers wouldn’t dare go there. Except instead, the vast majority of this episode does not feel like a goodbye to her. It feels like the show teasing us. It’s not until after her death that the typical sort of writing I expect from the Deep Space Nine staff shows up. And that’s what I’m referring to with the exception. Jadzia’s death is amazing character development… for someone else. And look, I can’t even think of an example of a white woman dying to give a black man character development ever, but I don’t think that should stand as a sign that this is a great choice. Subversive, maybe. And Worf’s cry of anguish over Jadzia’s lifeless body is chilling, easily one of the most haunting moments of the show.
Then there’s Sisko. Aside from Jadzia’s death, “Tears of the Prophets” is a stupendous episode, one of the riskiest things in the entire Star Trek canon. Why? Because Sisko had to choose between his military training and his spiritual instinct. For the first time in ages, he chose Starfleet, and he failed. He failed spectacularly and completely, and it is such a bold move for the show. While Jadzia’s death is shocking on a more visceral, Sisko’s failure is shocking in a much more grand sense. He’s always been the leader one step ahead of everyone else, able to adapt and change and empathize and sympathize with others. He’s the man at the center of “In the Pale Moonlight,” the man who took back DS9, the man who navigated the complicated politics on Bajor, the man who came to accept the position as Emissary. He doesn’t lose.
Yet having him lose – and to Gul Dukat, of all people – makes him even more interesting as a character. What is he going to do with this sadness and despair? How will he grieve his best friend? How can he contribute to the Dominion War when he knows that he should have listened to prophets and stopped the Reckoning? (THIS IS TOTALLY THE RECKONING, ISN’T IT?) It makes me think about how strange and fulfilling Dukat’s story is, too, since he represents pure revenge, a revenge he enacts with an outcome that is unexpected and chaotic. He certainly didn’t impress Weyoun or gain his respect; if anything, the man hates him even more for blowing up the wormhole. But Dukat’s obsession with Sisko and Bajor was both a downfall and a boon at the same time. He didn’t achieve what he wanted to… sort of. Sisko is still out of the picture, so there’s that. But is Dukat so sure that he got what he wanted? The Dominion suffered heavy losses, and the invasion was a success. Does Dukat even care about that, or is he so petty that… oh god, he is TOTALLY that petty.
I am very, very interested to see what season seven is going to do with all of this.
Yet I am going to miss Jadzia, and I don’t know how this show is ever going to fill the gap in this circle. Are they even going to bother? Julian mentions saving Dax, so… maybe a new Dax? In the last season? That’s a huge hurdle to overcome, and it just feels so impossible to me. Jadzia’s role was so specific, and her dynamic was integral to this cast. How? How are they going to do this?
I wish I felt better about Jadzia dying. I know that’s a weird sentence because in an ideal scenario, I wouldn’t have to deal with a major character death. But her story is ended at a point that deliberately cliffhangers the audience in a way that can never be addressed. She can’t ever have the child that was dangled in front of us, and… fuck, what of Worf??? How the hell is the show going to address him losing his wife?
Good god, Deep Space Nine.
The video for “Tears of the Prophets” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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