|Ezri's unhappy homecoming.|
Chief O'Brien has disappeared on New Sidney after traveling there to track down the widow of Orion Syndicate operative Liam Bilby. Since New Sidney is not a Federation planet, it's difficult for Sisko to intervene... But Ezri's mother (Leigh Taylor-Young) owns one of the largest mines in that system. She readily agrees to help locate O'Brien - But only if Ezri returns home for a visit.
Ezri agrees, but reluctantly. Her mother is a domineering figure, who has forced her sons, Janel (Mikael Salazar) and Norvo (Kevin Rahm) to devote their lives to the family business at the expense of their own ambitions. After Ezri left to join Starfleet, she never looked back, and her relations with her family are strained at best.
Ezri's mother keeps her word. Not long after Ezri returns, O'Brien is rescued from a pair of Orion Syndicate thugs by the local police. But when he reveals that Bilby's widow was found murdered, and then discovers that Ezri's family is being pressured by the Syndicate as well, it becomes clear that there is a lot more at stake than family drama...
Capt. Sisko: Is undertandably angry when he learns that O'Brien went to a non-Federation world to play detective after indicating that he was simply visiting his father. I wouldn't want to be in either O'Brien or Bashir's shoes for the next little while - As O'Brien observes, Sisko "has a boot with (his) name on it." Still, he immediately focuses on the problem, demanding all information on the chief's activities, then going to Ezri for help in recovering his wayward crewman.
Ezri: This episode exists to fill in her backstory... Which would be a lot more useful in making us connect to her if her backstory wasn't the stuff of soap operas. The family drama never has the blistering feel of real, decades-long resentments being re-opened. It's just cliched melodrama, dressed up with some sci-fi trappings. Nicole de Boer does her best with the material, and she manages some very good acting when Ezri realizes what actually happened to the dead woman... But I can't help but observe how much more real her disgust at gagh in the teaser feels than any of the family situation in the main story. It's all very artificial, and the emotion it should carry feels artificial as well.
O'Brien: One indication that is a troubled episode is that it's Ezri-centric, even though O'Brien is the one driving the plot. The main plot only kicks into gear when O'Brien is recovered (about halfway through), and then it's O'Brien who steers the investigation. He is the one who has a brief confrontation with an Orion Syndicate representative, and he is the one who discovers the link between the Syndicate and Ezri's family. The problem is that while I fully believe O'Brien continuing to feel an obligation to Bilby's family, this story should be an O'Brien episode - and it suffers for being forced to be part of an Ezri plot.
Dr. Bashir: The teaser shows him preoccupied with worry over Chief O'Brien, leaving him barely engaging in any conversation with his friends. When O'Brien doesn't return on the scheduled transport, he immediately goes to Sisko. He doubtless knows he's going to get chewed out, and he takes thatin stride - He even draws more of the captain's wrath on himself by pointing out that O'Brien did not actually lie to Sisko.
Prodigal Daughter has a terrific teaser. The opening neatly introduces the O'Brien plot by showing Bashir's preoccupation, but tips focus to Ezri through her dismay at being informed that some gagh Jadzia had ordered has arrived. Ezri shudders as she recalls not just the taste of the Klingon delicacy, but the way it feels when swallowing it. Once again, she is shown as different from her predecessor - Jadzia jumped into such experiences wholeheartedly, while Ezri reacts... the way most people would, really. The scene scores because it's funny, and because Ezri is absolutely relatable in this moment.
This is followed by a few quick scenes that economically set up all of the conflicts of the episode: The activities of the Orion Syndicate; O'Brien's determination to find his late friend's missing widow; and Ezri's return home to secure her mother's assistance. It all works, and within ten minutes the entire story is set up and ready to take off running.
Then Ezri returns home and the rest of the episode falls completely flat.
A quick glance at Memory Alpha reveals that Prodigal Daughter was written in a hurry, and that its development was further hobbled by a refusal to even imply that Starfleet could be influenced by criminals such as the Orion Syndicate. As was true of Star Trek: Insurrection, the demands of keeping Starfleet clear of any direct wrongdoing cripple the drama, forcing writers Bradley Thompson and David Weddle to make their already small-scale story even smaller.
I've already mentioned that the episode suffers from being forced to be an Ezri plot when the story clearly wants to be an O'Brien one. This is at least partly responsible for some of the awkward pacing, with the scenes between Ezri and her family feeling too often like filler, while the Syndicate story is rushed. We're also told over and over again how terrible Ezri's mother is... And while she is domineering, she never comes across as being the monster the script insists she is.
The episode's worst sin is that there's nothing remotely interesting about it. The mystery is thin, the murderer very easy to guess. Meanwhile, Ezri's family dynamics were cliches in 1930s melodramas, which results in an Ezri episode whose main revelation is that there's nothing very interesting to know about her! Very likely, that's why Ira Steven Behr apologized to Nicole de Boer after the episode wrapped
I will credit some decent performances, particularly from Nicole de Boer and Colm Meaney, and this is acceptable late-night insomnia viewing. But it's the most expendable DS9 episode since Profit and Lace, and is far below this series' usually very high standards.
Overall Rating: 4/10.
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