|Ezri is tempted by her past host,|
Joran (Leigh J. McCloskey).
The crew is shocked when Lt. Hector Ilario (Art Chudabala) is murdered immediately after a late night celebration of his combat conduct. Ezri is hit particularly hard; after walking the inebriated young lieutenant to his quarters, she was apparently the last person to see him alive. There is no significant physical evidence, despite the murder having been committed at close range with a projectile weapon. It's a sad, random act of violence, one Odo is not optimistic about solving.
Then another victim turns up: a woman with no apparent ties to Ilario, but who was killed in the exact same way - potentially the work of someone killing at random. Sisko assigns Ezri to assist Odo, hoping that her psychology training will help narrow the suspect pool. But to catch this type of killer, innocent young Ezri will have to somehow be able to think like him. Impossible... If not for the fact that one of Dax's past hosts was Joran (Leigh J. McCloskey), himself a cold-blooded murderer.
Faced with the prospect of more murders, Ezri takes desperate action. She performs the right of Emergence, separating Joran's personality from her other predecessors. Now she can interact with him, letting him guide her to see through a killer's eyes. But Joran's perspective is more than a little seductive, and the further Ezri goes with this line of investigation, the more she finds herself drawn into Joran's darkness...
Capt. Sisko: Is quick to assign Ezri to assist Odo, on logical grounds: Her background makes her more suited to anticipating a psychologically-motivated killer than anyone else among the command crew. But when it becomes clear that Ezri is being affected by the investigation, he offers (threatens?) to take her off the case, and she has to argue to keep the assignment.
Ezri: When she first thinks about Joran, her impulse is to do what her predecessors did: Bury him as deep in her consciousness as possible and do all she can to forget he even exists. But her sense of duty is too strong to allow these murders continue without doing all she can. When a second victim turns up, she calls on Joran to try to understand the kind of killer who is incomprehensible to most of us. Ezri's interactions with him are like those of a pupil with a teacher, and she finds herself easily tempted by the darkness he represents. A key scene comes as he urges her to look through a duplicate of the murder weapon. As she uses the sight on the rifle to peer through the station corridors, then into private quarters, she grows excited. She drops the gun like a biting snake when Joran urges her to pull the trigger - But it's indicated that his urging excites her almost as much as it appalls her. Nicole de Boer is very good here, and Ezri feels more fully realized in this episode than she has since Afterimage.
O'Brien: He and Bashir both feel guilty for not allowing Ilario to join them in their holosuite program, perhaps feeling that if they'd only said yes the young lieutenant might not have died. O'Brien puts his guilt to particularly good use. When the bullet is matched to a TR-116 rifle, O'Brien replicates the weapon, then modifies it so that after firing, the bullet is transported directly in front of its victim - Thus explaining both the close range and the lack of powder burns or other physical evidence. It proves a major breakthrough for Ezri in learning to see through the killer's eyes, while also putting established Trek technology cleverly in service to the mystery plot.
Worf: Startles Ezri when, late at night, she senses someone is following her. That someone turns out to be Worf. He admits he was trying to protect her, though he insists this isn't any special worry over her - "You are a fellow officer. I would have the same concern for Chief O'Brien or Dr. Bashir." Ezri isn't any more fooled than we are, and is genuinely touched at his concern. He also unintentionally pushes her into utilizing Joran when he states his confidence that she will do whatever is necessary to catch the killer: "You are Dax. It is your way."
Joran: I think the great success of this episode's Joran is that he isn't just a killer. He's genuinely wounded at being suppressed by the various Dax hosts, and basks in Ezri's acknowledgement of him. He's effectively Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty combined, interpreting the clues while tempting Ezri with darkness. In the end, she only identifies the killer thanks to his guidance, but he's no benign influence: When she intercepts a fleeing suspect midway through the episode, he urges her to kill the man - and she almost does it! Guest star Leigh J. McCloskey doesn't hesitate to push the line between "spirited performance" and "ham," but it works well for this kind of part, and his charisma makes it believable that Ezri would find his darkness so enticing.
Writer Robert Hewitt Wolfe was one of DS9's stalwarts during the series' first five years, writing or co-writing episodes such as The Wire, The Collaborator, and Call to Arms. His return is a welcome one, and it is no surprise at all that Field of Fire is a good episode, boasting strong character work and some excellent dialogue.
Story structure and pacing are strengths. The teaser introduces us to Ilario, giving us just enough of the young lieutenant to make him likable to both Ezri and us, then cutting to the next morning to reveal his death. Enough is done before the murder to make it convincing that Ezri is emotionally invested, but it's so economically achieved that there is no chance to become bored. Then, as Ezri wrestled with the possibility of using Joran, the murder plot is kept on track with O'Brien's unveiling of the murderer's weapon and method - Which puts all the pieces on the board by the time Ezri summons Joran to assist her.
The Ezri/Joran interactions are extremely well-done, and their dark mentor/innocent pupil relationship is what fuels the episode. Nicole De Boer is particularly good here, and it's to the credit of both script and actress that she never feels like a stand-in for Terry Farrell (which hasn't been true in certain other episodes). It's also to the episode's credit that even though this is the second Ezri-centric murder mystery in three episodes, I was never bothered by that. If I thought about it at all, it was only to reflect on how much better this was than Prodigal Daughter.
Uncovering the killer's identity does come a little too quickly and easily, which is one thing that keeps this from being a truly first class episode. But it's still a good one, and thoroughly entertaining from start to finish.
Overall Rating: 7/10.
Previous Episode: The Emperor's New Cloak
Next Episode: Chimera
Search Amazon.com for Star Trek: Deep Space 9