USS Discovery

Dax: Can a Symbiont Be Criminally Culpable?

Marie Brownhill
Game Industry News is running the best blog posts from people writing about the game industry. Articles here may originally appear on Marie's blog, Fan Collective Unimatrix 47.


Dax” poses the question of whether a new host of a joined Trill should be held accountable for criminal actions perpetrated by previous hosts. That’s a fascinating legal question, but “Dax” represents a big step in testing the boundaries of Jadzia the host and Dax the symbiont. The episode leaves the former question unanswered but does provide a glimmer of an answer to the second.

Plot Ahoy!

Jadzia Dax and Dr. Bashir finish a meal together in the Replimat, and Dax gets up to leave, sidestepping Bashir’s offer to escort her home. Dr. Bashir follows her regardless and comes upon a group of three people attempting to kidnap Dax. He rushes in to help only to be knocked out. When he regains consciousness, he comms Ops to tell them that Dax has been kidnapped but may still be on the station. Though the kidnappers avoid some of Odo’s security measures, eventually, security captures them and rescues Dax. The person in charge of the kidnapping presents Commander Sisko with a warrant for Dax’s arrest, charging Dax with treason and the murder of Ardelon Tandro. Based on a treaty with Klaestron IV, the kidnappers’ homeworld, the Federation must allow for unilateral extradition.

Momentarily stymied, Sisko remembers that DS9 is technically a Bajoran outpost. Klaestron IV does not have such a treaty with Bajor, so Ilon Tandro, head kidnapper and son of the murder victim, must appeal to the Bajoran Provisional Government for extradition. The Provisional Government appoints Els Renora as Arbiter, and the interested parties begin an extradition hearing. However, prior to its commencement, Sisko sends Odo to Klaestron IV to find out anything he can regarding these charges.

Els opens the hearing, and Tandro restates the warrant. Sisko argues that extradition should not be allowed as the events reflected in the warrant happened 30 years ago, before Jadzia was born. He bases his entire objection on the idea that Jadzia Dax is an entirely new entity, separate from Curzaon Dax. Tandro objects, and the Arbiter agrees to hear evidence on that issue. Sisko and Tandro calls several witnesses, and present their evidence. Significantly, throughout the entire debacle Jadzia Dax refuses to say anything regarding Curzon Dax’s innocence or culpability.

Back on Klaestron IV, Odo ascertains that the charges are based on a single communique sent to the opposing rebels during Klaestron’s civil war. That message contained the exact route that Ardelon Tandro would be taking on a certain day, and the rebels used that information to murder him. He also discovers that Curzon Dax and Ardelon Tandro were close friends. He meets Ardelon’s widow, and she offers that her husband was not the great hero history makes him out to be. Eventually, Odo discovers evidence that Curzon Dax and Enina Tandro were having an affair, and he confronts Enina about it. She does not admit to the affair per se, but she does agree to return to DS9 to save Jadzia.

Just as Jadzia Dax takes the stand at the Arbiter’s behest, Enina Tandro interrupts and informs the Arbiter that Curzon Dax was not the traitor because at the time the message was sent, he was sharing her bed. Ilon Tandro is shocked and appalled, but the Arbiter tells him that he might want to reconsider his extradition request. Later, Enina and Dax walk the upper level of the Promenade, and she thanks Dax for trying to save her reputation and observes that history will never know that Ardelon Tandro sent the message on his own as he intended to betray his government. She also exhorts Jadzia Dax to live well as they say goodbye. Jadzia watches her leave, sorrow visible on her face.


Clearly the question as to whether culpability for a crime transfers with the symbiont is a question of first impression for both the Federation and Bajor. I almost wish the episode had provided an answer even though the hearing would be precedential only for Bajor, assuming Bajor’s legal system to function according to the principles of common law. However, the Arbiter’s decision would provide weighty persuasive authority for the rest of the Federation, and Els seems to be aware of the potential magnitude of this decision. She also has to think carefully about the ramifications of sending a 28 year old woman to die for an alleged murder that took place two years before she was born. Because if the Klaestrons successfully extradite Jadzia Dax, they will find her guilty and put her and the symbiont to death. Any way you look at it, Els finds herself in an unenviable position. In a sense, she does provide a sort of answer when she worries that Jadzia Dax might be both over 300 years old and only 28, but Enina’s arrival saves her from having to rule on the merits.

Though the episode uses a legal framework to ask the question, the story is not one about making a legal decision in the sense that “Measure of a Man” was. Rather, “Dax” represents an exploration of the eponymous character’s duality and unified identity. Sisko bases his entire defense around the idea that Jadzia Dax is an altogether new entity from Curzon Dax, and he makes some good points. The murder happened before Jadzia’s birth, so at least Jadzia did not exist during the relevant time frame. He also runs through a quick summary of Jadzia’s accomplishments from before her Joining, and Jadzia’s history indicates that her interests and aptitudes differ entirely from Curzon’s. However, Sisko’s proof centers around Jadzia, not Dax. Even Ilon Tandro admits that Jadzia is innocent, but he argues that the Dax portion of this joined entity should be held culpable for Curzon Dax’s alleged actions. I suppose that he considers Jadzia collateral damage since Jadzia will not survive separation from the symbiont.

Ilon Tandro’s argument bears some consideration. Jadzia Dax refuses to speak in her own defense and seems willing to accept death for both Jadzia and Dax. From Jadzia’s perspective, nothing about that decision makes sense, but it does for Dax. Dax the symbiont retains not just the memory of Curzon Dax’s actions but the full force of the emotions Curzon Dax felt. Therefore, Jadzia Dax makes her decision based on the intense guilt Curzon Dax felt for cuckolding one of his best friends. Curzon Dax’s real love for Enina serves as her other motivator. Importantly, Curzon Dax never promised Enina his silence, and she did not request it. Jadzia Dax therefore makes the decision all on her (their?) own to keep her silence. That refusal cuts against the idea that Jadzia Dax is an entirely new entity as Sisko labored so valiantly to argue.

In later seasons, DS9 will explore this duality a bit more, so “Dax” does not represent the final analysis regarding just how much of Jadzia Dax is Jadzia versus how much is Dax. In “Rejoined,” Dax will try to rekindle a forbidden romance with a former spouse. In “Blood Oath,” Jadzia Dax not only upholds Curzon Dax’s oath to his Klingon friends but considers herself to be for oath purposes Curzon Dax. Jadzia Dax will even confront wrongdoing by a host in “Equilibrium,” and that episode seems to side with Els, that Dax is both the young woman Jadzia and the symbiont at once. In that episode, Jadzia Dax embraces Joran Dax, metaphorically assimilating all that he was and most especially his guilt. Therefore, “Dax” really only scratches the surface, but the episode does provide the framework upon which these later episodes will build. The wooden minister of whatever explains that the Joining really is a blending of both the host and the symbiont, but DS9 explores what that really means for the entity of Jadzia Dax. I’m glad it did because it makes for some of DS9’s best moments.

I want to acknowledge how key Anne Haney’s Els Renora is to the success of this episode. She strides into the hearing and takes charge. Her no-nonsense attitude implies that she will consider the evidence as impartially as anyone really can. Any other approach to that character would have distracted from the central theme. She’s fantastic enough that her Els almost makes up for Fionnula Flanagan’s weak performance as Enina Tandro. Suffice to say, Els comes off as an entirely fair Arbiter, leaving the rest of the episode to explore deeper questions. “Dax” is very much worth the rewatch.


A triple with the potential for a slide into home

Stray Thoughts From the Couch:

  1. We see some familiar faces in this episode. Though this marks Gregory Itzin’s first appearance in Trek, he will go on to have several more appearances. Anne Haney appeared as Rishon Uxbridge in TNG’s “The Survivors.” Fionnula Flanagan’s first appearance was also in TNG, “Inheritance,” and she will go on to portray Ambassador V’Lar in Enterprise.
  2. Oh yes, why hello creeper Julian Bashir. Watching him hit on Jadzia Dax has become no less awkward, seven episodes into the season.
  3. This episode does introduce us to Klingon raktajino, which will become an ongoing reference in the series.
  4. There’s some weirdness around the use of “Trill” in this episode. The dialogue almost implies that being “Trill” requires being “Joined.” They’ll sort that out in later episodes.
  5. Also, if you’re interested, we’ve got a new Picard Season 2 teaser, this time with an actual appearance by Q. Unfortunately, it confirms that we won’t see the season until 2022.
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