January 24th, 2021

Blue Aside

Who's Dax?

I love it when Sci-Fi addresses problems that don't exist. Last night I watched "Dax", a 1993 first season episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine in which Jadzia Dax faces the legal ramifications of a crime possibly committed by Curzon Dax, the previous host of a the Dax symbiote. The central question of the episode is whether or not the combination of a sentient parasite and humanoid host's brain can be held legally accountable for actions of a combination of that same parasite with a different humanoid host. No-one in real life can identify with this problem and I love it.

There are a lot of ways you could translate it to real life issues. You could say it's an allegory for a "sins of the father" story, a different way of looking at how someone might have legal responsibility for the actions of a forebear. It could be seen as a transgender issue inviting us to contemplate in what ways a person is really the same person before or after they transitioned. It could be looked at as an issue of whether or not psychologically altering medical conditions, physical or psychological, alter the culpability of an individual in criminal matters. It really doesn't fit any bill perfectly so it can be interpreted in so many ways and, in doing so, invites us to contemplate any number of issues in ways we may never have otherwise.

This was the last script D.C. Fontana worked on. A writer from the 1960s' original Star Trek series, she co-wrote the teleplay with Peter Allan Fields who came up with the story. The concept, though, according to the Star Trek wiki, was concocted by producer Ira Steven Behr along with Allen Fields. The legal drama itself isn't very interesting--Jadzia (Terry Farrell) stoically refuses to defend herself when a group of aliens attempt to extradite her to their planet in order to stand trial for the murder of an important general many years ago. Odo (Rene Auberjonois) goes to the planet to investigate and interviews the wife of the deceased general, played by none other than Fionnula Flanagan, who also guest starred on The Next Generation that same year.

It's pretty easy to figure out why Dax is keeping her mouth shut but it's nice watching Rene Auberjonois work, especially after I so recently watched him in 1972's Images in which he played such a very different character. I noticed anew how much work he put into constructing Odo's mannerisms and voice.

The best stuff is in the courtroom, though I wish they hadn't used Quark's bar for it. According to the wiki, this wasn't a production issue, the idea being that the station was too wrecked for any conference room to be available, but frankly I don't buy it. A cargo bay or even empty living quarters would've been more appropriate and feasible. It reminds me of when the roadhouse was used as a courtroom on Twin Peaks. In addition to not making sense, it erodes some of the character of the space itself. But it's still great watching Sisko (Avery Brooks) and guest star Gregory Itzin arguing about what makes Dax . . . Dax. It doesn't resolve one way or the other but that's fine. It keeps a nice point of ambiguity that keeps the character intriguing for the rest of the series.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is available on Netflix.