As soon as it became clear that this was going to be a Jardzia Dax episode, I had my doubts about the story. I’m sorry, but to me Terry Farrell just isn’t good enough as an actress to be the central figure, nor indeed to carry through an episode with involved emotions. But despite my reservations, I did find myself moved before the end of this story, albeit by the deaths of two of the guest stars.
The set-up was that Odo was being plagued by a couple of aged Klingons, the drunken Kor and the aloof Koloth, who referred to a third, Kang. As soon as Dax heard those names, she recognised them and why they were here. Original Series fans would also have recognised the names, and the quite wonderful touch of having these parts played by the original trio of actors of a quarter century before.
The trio were on Deep Space Nine to recruit Dax, the fourth member of a Blood Oath, sworn 81 years ago, an oath of vengeance against a former pirate known only as the Albino who, after being broken by these three Klingon captains, had exacted revenge by killing the son of each man: Dax was godfather to Kang’s son.
Or rather they were here to recruit Curzon Dax, and had decidedly different responses to young, beautiful, unconvincing warrior material Jardzia. Kor, the Falstaffian one, couldn’t care, Koloth didn’t regard her fit and Kang not only released her from her oath but refused Jardzia a place.
As a Trill, each new symbiont is a new life for Dax: Jardzia owes none of the debts of Curzon, though nearly every time DS9 decides it has to give Jardzia the spotlight, it tends to involve Curzon (who, by now, is coming over as a far more interesting character than Jardzia). But Jardzia felt the obligation and forced her way onto the flight.
Needless to say, there was a by-now characteristic fumble in the storyline. Before Jardzia can request a leave of absence, Sisko, alerted by Kira that his Science Officer is planning to go off and kill somebody, furiously refuses her leave. Jardzia goes anyway, disobeying a direct order, with no consequences whatsoever: service oaths and military discipline? Pfah!
So the quartet fly off to the Albino’s satellite. It rapidly becomes clear that they have no strategic plans whatsoever but to burst in waving their bat’leth’s and crying ‘this is a good day to die’ in the sure and certain knowledge that they won’t last a minute. Indeed, that was the main reason Kang didn’t want Jardzia along: the Klingons had decided that they couldn’t win and were fixed on the next best thing, an honourable death (excuse me if I’m not up on the nuances of Klingon honour, but I’d have thought that planning to get killed failing to revenge their young sons was the very opposite of ‘honour’).
Thankfully, Jardzia knows tactics and science, so the quartet succeed in beating up the Albino’s private army. It comes at the cost of Koloth’s life, promised songs by Kor (who is himself wounded) that Klingon children would never forget. It comes at the cost of a mortal would for Kang, in a one-to-one battle with the Albino.
And it leaves Dax facing the great question, the one she’d asked of Kira to begin with. She disarms the Albino, holds her bat’leth to his throat as he sneers at her, challenging her to strike, confident that she can’t. Does Jardzia have it in her? Of course we’re not going to find out, because Kang delivers the killing stroke, before expiring.
It’s disappointing, but inevitable, to find that the central question that dominates the episode, that speaks volumes to the centrality of a character, is left unanswered, is fudged. It’s fudged so much that the closing scene, a silent one of Dax returning to duty, without (onscreen) debrief, but with Sisko and Kira sniffing at her – and no consequences whatsoever for her disobeyance of a direct order, absenting herself from duty, going AWOL – is a fudge of fudges: not even a, ‘would you have killed him?’/’I’m glad I didn’t get to find out’.
What moved me most was the old Klingons, dying their honourable deaths in fulfilment of an oath sworn eight decades ago, going out in one last battle according to their kind, avenging the murder of their innocent sons. I have my sentimentalities and that sort of thing is one of the things that always gets me.
But I do wish that DS9 would lead with its gut once in a while, stop wimping out on the moral conundra it poses, and writes itself out of corners like Dax’s refusal to obey orders with impunity. It undermines the story badly.