Sunday, August 16, 2015

7-3. Afterimage.

Ezri has a difficult time adjusting to her new life.


"I knew Jadzia. She was vital, alive. She owned herself. And you? You don’t even know who you are!"

Ezri is having a hard time adjusting to life on Deep Space 9. She has all of Jadzia's memories, so she knows all of Dax's old friends - but to them, she's a stranger. Except for Sisko (and, oddly, Quark), they are all uncomfortable around her. Worf goes so far as to actively avoid her, even leaving Quark's bar when he notices Ezri is there.

She plans to transfer back to the Destiny, her ship before she became joined. Sisko has other plans. He tells her that he will support her decision, but he clearly wants his old friend to remain and offers her a position as counselor on the station. "The station could use a good counselor," he observes.

His offer comes exactly when the station does need a counselor. Garak, who has been decoding intercepted Cardassian messages for Starfleet, suffers an anxiety attack caused by claustrophobia. Ezri agrees to talk to Garak, to try to help him so that he can continue his intelligence work. Garak pretends their talk helps - but shortly after, he enters an airlock and tries to open the outer door to get out of the enclosed station. When Ezri tries to help again, he denounces her "insipid psychobabble" and tells her that she's unworthy to carry the name "Dax" - leaving Ezri not just doubting staying on Deep Space 9, but doubting her very ability to continue as a Starfleet officer!


Capt. Sisko: He already went through the process of adjusting to a very different Dax with Jadzia, which I suspect is why he's so instantly accepting of Ezri. She's as different from her predecessor as Jadzia was from Curzon, but he knows that the friend he has so relied upon is there underneath the quirks. For all that he wants to be supportive, a good leader knows when someone needs handholding and when someone needs a hard kick. When Ezri responds to Garak's tongue-lashing by wallowing in her own insecurities, Sisko doesn't hesitate to deliver that kick, as harsh in his way as Garak: "Dax... had eight amazing lives. So what if the ninth was a waste? ...Dismissed!"

Ezri: A little scene that I particularly like sees her hovering in front of a replicator, uncertain what to order. The favorite foods of her past lives keep popping to the top of her head, to the point where she can't remember what she herself actually enjoys. It underscores the difficulty of her transition. Imagine not being able to remember whether you prefer coffee or tea, or pancakes or waffles, or whether you like your steak rare or medium well, or whether you're actually a vegetarian! She probably really does need a good counselor, or at least time in a low-stress environment - Luxuries the current war situation simply will not allow to the young woman carrying the Dax symbiote.

Worf: "You are not Jadzia... I do not know you, nor do I wish to know you!" Worf is not just brusque, but downright rude to Ezri, making it clear that he wants nothing to do with her. Then, after she has a friendly (if not unflirtatious) chat with Dr. Bashir, he responds like... Well, like a jealous husband, loudly declaring that Ezri is absolutely off-limits. His behavior is inexcusable... But in fairness, he is also facing a difficult situation. His role in the opening two-parter was all about securing a place for Jadzia in the Klingon afterlife, allowing him to begin the process of coming to terms with her death. Then he barely sets foot on the station before being confronted with a new Dax, carrying all of Jadzia's memories. His wife is dead, but she also still lives - So in a way, Ezri takes away by her very presence the significance of what he has just done for Jadzia's soul and memory. I hope it's a long time (if ever) before these two become comfortable around each other, because this is not something Worf should just get over in a handful of episodes.

Garak: The moment in which Garak turns his venomous scalpel against Ezri is the episode's highlight, his tearing down of her more than a little reminiscent of his tirade against Bashir in The Wire. Writer Rene Echevarria builds carefully to this moment. The first Garak/Ezri scene sees Ezri displaying all of her emotional fragility - Something that might earn sympathy from Jake or Bashir, but which can only garner contempt from someone like Garak. After his second attack, Ezri uses Quark's holosuite to simulate a wide-open space while promising to do all she can to help him. Garak initially responds with gratitude - But once he's had a chance to recover himself, the thought of being so weak as to require the aid of someone he regards as pathetic has to ignite all of his self-loathing, which he directs right back at Ezri. At the heart of it all is his fear that he has become a traitor to his own people, condemning the Cardassian Empire to annihilation by deciphering their codes for Starfleet. Which is a distinct possibility, because Garak's not wrong when he says that the Dominion won't let the Cardassians simply surrender.


After the introduction of Ezri in the opening two-parter, it was the right choice to devote the next episode to her finding her place on the station. The characters' reactions to her are designed to anticipate the audience's - Sisko and Quark accept her pretty much right away, as a small but distinct segment of viewers could be counted on to do. Most of the others show varying levels of resistance, though most seem inclined to at least give her a chance - Which would be the case with the majority of viewers. Meanwhile, the distinct subset of viewers who could be counted on to resist the change with righteous fury are represented by Worf, openly resentful as if Ezri's existance cheapens Jadzia's memory; and by Garak, who tells her that she isn't worthy to carry the name "Dax."

The goal is clearly to make it easier for the audience to accept her by putting her through an emotional hell as she overcomes the very type of resistance in the regulars that the viewers will have. I find it successful in this, but I already find Ezri quite likable. She doesn't have Jadzia's confidence and humor, and I could never picture her in command of anything - But she is likable, and her reaction to her situation feels emotionally believable so far.

Rene Echevarria is regularly top-notch at characterization, and it's no surprise that not just Ezri, but all of the characters feel right for who they are. Sisko and Quark accepting her immediately feels right, because Sisko's been through this once and because Quark is just the sort who will accept that this is his friend Dax even if it's not Jadzia - He isn't going to sentimentalize when his friend/unrequited crush is standing right in front of him, just in a different form. Kira's discomfort, particularly when standing at the very Bajoran shrine where Jadzia was shot, is well-realized, and I appreciate that we don't see everyone completely losing their discomfort by episode's end.

I retain some apprehension about introducing this new character this late in the series, but I'm happy that I find myself liking this nervous, neurotic young woman. I just hope that the writers are able to balance properly developing her against the needs of the many ongoing plot threads that need tied up over the next 23 episodes.

Overall Rating: 8/10.

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