liz_marcs (liz_marcs) wrote,

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DS9: The difficulty of answering "Who are you?"

I forgot just how fantastic this episode really was. I'll be sure not to forget it in the future.

Episode 07: Dax

On the surface, this episode looks like a rehash of The Next Generation’s excellent ‘Measure of a Man.’ Certainly it treads the same ground. How do you answer the question of “Who are you?”

However, it manages to take the concept one step further and dose it with a bit of irony.

In a complete inversion of ‘Measure of a Man,’ the person who’s being subjected to the question on pain of death (in this case, Jadzia Dax), isn’t the one who has to answer that question. She already knows who she is, who she isn’t, and all the responsibilities that go with it. It’s everyone else who has to figure out the answer to that question.

What makes this episode really special is, for the first time, a story deliberately highlights the fact that one of the main characters is so alien that it’s hard for other races — be they Starfleet human Benjamin Sisko, Bajoran Kira, or the Klaestrons that want Jadzia Dax extradited to their homeworld to face charges for murder and treason for something that Kurzon Dax did — to wrap their heads around it.

In short, this episode is all about identity. Who you say you are. Who others think you are. And who you really are. The problem is that for joined Trills like Jadzia Dax who is both a 28-year-old woman and a 300-year-old worm bearing the memories of no less than 7 separate individuals, the answer to the key question of “Who are you?” is not going to make any sense to anyone who isn’t a joined Trill. How they view identity and its relative importance is so fundamentally different from everyone else that it defies explanation.

While we’re contemplating the sheer alienness of Dax, meanwhile, the question of “Who are you?” has to be answered in one form or another by just about everyone with a major role in Dax’s trial.

Is Benjamin Sisko one of Dax’s best friends? Or are Benjamin Sisko and Dax complete strangers? The answer to both questions is “yes.” And seeing Sisko coming to grips with that throughout the whole episode as he wavers back-and-forth between treating Dax as Kurzon or Jadzia is a subtle tour de force of both writing and acting.

Is the widow of the general Dax is accused of murdering a heroine of the people and mother of the nation? Or is she a flawed woman who made a terrible mistake many years ago? Is she a mere symbol? Or is she a real human being? How she answers these questions, and how she finally accepts the consequences for finally answering them is both heartbreaking and brave. So much so that in the end, she becomes the real hero of the piece.

As for the general that Dax has been accused of murdering. Is he a hero and father of the nation? Or is he a coward who tried to sell his own people out? Is he a beloved legend? Or a flawed man who was hoisted by his own petard? In the end, it doesn’t matter. He is what people believe him to be, and those who knew the real man are sworn to silence because at the end of the day, the truth of who this man is really isn’t all that important.

It’s all circles within circles, this episode. And the questions raised and how they are answered will stay with you long after the credits roll.

Although the whole episode is one big ball of awesome, there are a couple of points I can’t resist pointing out:

  • One gets the impression that Kurzon Dax, Jadzia’s immediate predecessor as host, was really kind of odd for a joined Trill. Although one of the Federation’s top diplomats and negotiators, he had a whole host of bad habits that aren’t normal for joined Trills. He drank. He gambled. He womanized. He could be manipulative. One wonders how the heck he was cleared for being joined. But the real fun comes in when the episode deliberately highlights that Jadzia is not above using Kurzon’s manipulative tactics when she wants to avoid answering a question. It leaves one to wonder: Who really was the bad boy Trill here? Kurzon? Or Dax?

  • The first hints that Jadzia has a tendency to give more weight to Kurzon’s promises and obligations than maybe she should. And when the reasons are finally revealed why that is in a future episode, it makes a very neat bit of sense.

  • Seeing Jadzia's personal quarters, with all its cool trinkets and memorabilia. How much of that is from Jadzia's life, and how much of it is from Dax's previous 7 (OOOOPS! Spoiler!) 6 hosts?

  • If you’ve already seen the whole series, the closing scene of the episode between Jadzia and the general's widow is an especially heart-breaking treat that'll bring a tear to your eye.

‘Dax’ is an all-around gorgeous episode. It’s gorgeously shot, georgeously lighted, gorgeously directed, gorgeously acted, and gorgeously written. I would put it up there with some of the later season stand-out episodes that explore the same rich vein for other characters, like S5's ‘Nor the Battle to the Strong’ and S6's ‘Wrongs Darker Than Death or Night.’
Tags: fandom: deep space nine, review: dvd

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