Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch: “Prodigal Daughter”

“Prodigal Daughter”
Written by Bradley Thompson & David Weddle
Directed by Victor Lobl
Season 7, Episode 11
Production episode 40510-561
Original air date: January 6, 1999
Stardate: unknown

Station log: Kira, Odo, Dax, and Bashir are sharing a drink in Quark’s. Odo informs Dax that the gagh she—or, rather, Jadzia—ordered for Martok’s birthday has arrived. Bashir is distracted, which he says is because he’s looking forward to O’Brien returning to the station. But he’s not on the transport he was scheduled to be on. Bashir then reports to Sisko that O’Brien wasn’t actually on leave to visit his father like he said he was, but he was instead trying to track down Bilby’s widow, Morica. He’d remained in contact with her since the mission on Farius Prime, but she disappeared weeks earlier, and after failing to get anywhere with New Sydney authorities, he went on his own to investigate. And now he’s missing, too, as Bashir hasn’t heard from him in three days.

Sisko goes to Dax. Before being implanted, she was Ezri Tigan, and the Tigan family owns one of the largest pergium mines in the Sapporo system, which is where New Sydney is located. Sisko’s hoping that Dax’s mother can intervene with the New Sydney authorities to help find O’Brien. Dax’s relationship with her mother, Yanas, is a bit strained, more so since joining, as Dax refused to go home to New Sydney to recuperate, instead going to Earth to hang out with Sisko.

Yanas is only willing to help find O’Brien if Dax visits home, as she hasn’t been home in three years. Sisko accedes to the guilt trip and grants her leave, and she heads off. Bashir sees her off—sympathizing, as he doesn’t get along with his parents, either—and provides her with everything Starfleet knows about Bilby, the Orion Syndicate, New Sydney, and all the rest.

She arrives home, and is greeted first by her younger brother Norvo, whom she greets warmly, and her older brother Janel, who’s somewhat less warm. Janel provides a preliminary police report on O’Brien—they haven’t found him, but they’re still looking—and then Yanas shows up. She’s friendly to her daughter, but treats her sons like employees, wanting Janel to fire someone named Lorcan and Norvo to finish a bookkeeping report he’s spent far too long on.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: Prodigal Daughter

Yanas takes Dax off, and Norvo asks why Janel is firing Lorcan. It’s because of a part that failed, and Yanas thinks it’s due to poor maintenance, but Janel thinks it’s more likely that it’s because of a member of the Orion Syndicate named Bokar. Norvo is worried, but Janel says he’ll take care of everything.

The family has dinner, and Dax talks about adjusting to life on DS9 and being joined. After dinner, she visits Norvo in his very messy quarters. For the second time since her arrival, he denigrates his own paintings, and then shows Dax his rejection from the Andorian Academy of Art. He insists that his art is just a stupid hobby, but Dax recognizes that as their mother’s words—she said the similar things to Dax, but her response was to leave home. Norvo’s is to believe her and languish as the company bookkeeper.

The next morning, Yanas complains to Dax that she found Norvo hung over in the entryway after defacing his own painting. Yanas blames Dax, but Dax blames her—she’s smothering him. Their argument is cut off by Janel’s arrival, along with a New Sydney cop named Fuchida—and O’Brien.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: Prodigal Daughter

The chief has been pretty well beat up, and is handcuffed. O’Brien found Morica’s body—she’d been hit on the head and thrown in the river. O’Brien assumed the Orion Syndicate to be responsible, and tried to infiltrate them. The New Sydney police took him into custody after saving him from being beat up by two Nausicaans. Fuchida says that the Syndicate would never harm the family of an operative, then takes his leave.

O’Brien gets cleaned up and has a good meal, and then Yanas asks him—over Janel’s objection—to look at a malfunctioning drill that no one on her staff can seem to fix. Dax is appalled that she’d even ask, but O’Brien’s happy to get his hands on a problem he can actually solve.

Dax goes to Norvo’s room, where he’s still hung over, and has destroyed all his paintings. Dax suggests he come back to DS9 with her, even if it’s just for a few weeks. Norvo insists that he can’t leave mother and Janel in the lurch.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: Prodigal Daughter

Me 'nboozerr buyina HOUSE tugethrr

O’Brien finds the problem: a transtator was mislabeled. Bokar shows up and says that if he hadn’t fired Lorcan, the part might have been the proper one. Bokar claims to be a commodities broker when he introduces himself to O’Brien, but he’s obviously with the Syndicate. Once O’Brien leaves, Bokar tells Janel that O’Brien was searching for Morica, who’s been missing for six weeks. The mere mention of Morica’s name sends Janel into a panic. Bokar makes it clear that O’Brien better get his ass off New Sydney pronto, or he’ll meet with an accident.

Janel tells O’Brien he needs to leave as soon as possible, but he can’t leave until Dax does, as she’s his superior officer (plus he’s not in any rush to return to the station, as Sisko has a boot with his name on it). O’Brien then tells Dax that Janel has the look of someone being pressured by the Syndicate—equipment failures and the like, with threats of more if they don’t do business with them—and Bokar seems like a Syndicate operative to O’Brien. Dax doesn’t think it’s possible—Yanas would burn the company to the ground before going into business with the Syndicate—but they check the family records. To O’Brien’s anger and Dax’s shock, Morica was on the company payroll when she died. She’d been hired as a “shipping consultant,” a very well paid one, with no indication as to what, exactly, she was doing.

Norvo goes to Yanas with Dax’s notion of a vacation on DS9, and she talks him out of it. Dax then confronts Yanas, who’s never heard of Morica Bilby, so she confronts Janel and Norvo. Janel explains that hiring Morica was a favor to the Syndicate. It turns out that Janel got into bed with the Syndicate after they had a downturn in profits with the added bonus of a Jem’Hadar raid destroying a major shipment. The Syndicate bailed them out, which Janel did without Yanas’s knowledge or permission. In return, they gave Morica a nonsense job that required no actual work on her part, but would continue to pay her. She kept insisting on raises because she wasn’t living comfortably as she was promised. Norvo was supposed to alter the payroll records, and Yanas is furious that Janel dragged his little brother into it.

Even as Yanas and Janel argue, Dax figures out the truth: Norvo killed her. He hadn’t intended to, but she kept yelling at him, she was so angry with the Syndicate, with the Tigans, even with her husband for getting himself killed, and Norvo realized that killing her would solve all their problems. Norvo says that he’s proven to Yanas that he handled a tough problem, even though she always said he couldn’t.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: Prodigal Daughter

Norvo is arrested. Dax tells Janel to do what she did: go away from there and find something—anything—else to do. He’ll be happier. For her part, a tear-laden Yanas asks Dax if this was her fault, and Dax can’t answer.

Back on DS9 a few weeks later, O’Brien joins Dax for a drink in Quark’s after her return. Norvo was sentenced to thirty years. O’Brien thinks he got off easy, and also that Dax shouldn’t blame herself, but Dax doesn’t agree on either count—and she also thinks she should have gone home sooner.

Can’t we just reverse the polarity? Apparently there’s a big difference between a 52J transtator and a 52L transtator. So don’t go mixing them up, or your drill will never work…

The Sisko is of Bajor: Sisko is livid that O’Brien went on leave under false pretenses, and he’s just as livid at Bashir for being in on it. When Sisko decides on a course of action, Bashir asks what he’s planning, and Sisko very pointedly doesn’t tell him.

The slug in your belly: When Dax first saw Yanas, she said, “Hi, it’s me, Curzon!” And when Yanas asks about someone she was seeing on the Destiny, she says it couldn’t have worked after joining because he reminded her too much of Audrid’s son.

Keep your ears open: “What’s wrong with your painting?”

“Well, the composition is puerile and obvious, the colors belong on a child’s toy, and the technique is laughable.”

“But other than that?”

“It’s perfect.”

Dax and Norvo discussing his painting.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: Prodigal Daughter

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: Prodigal Daughter

Welcome aboard: Leigh Taylor-Young plays Yanas; Taylor-Young is the sister of Dey Young, who was in another episode involving the Orion Syndicate, “A Simple Investigation.” Dax’s brothers are played by Kevin Rahm and Mikael Salazar, while John Paragon plays Bokar and Clayton Landey plays Fuchida.

Trivial matters: Besides providing backstory on Ezri’s family, this episode serves as a sort-of sequel to “Honor Among Thieves.”

The episode title is derived from the parable of the prodigal son as told in the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 15, verses 11-32.

The Tigan house design by matte artist Syd Dutton was based on Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater.

Pergium, the element mined by the Tigan family, is the same one that was being mined in the original series’ “The Devil in the Dark.”

The character of Brinner Finook, mentioned by Yanas as someone Dax was interested in on the Destiny, appears in the short stories “Second Star to the Right…” and “…And Straight On Till Morning” by Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens in The Lives of Dax.

Walk with the Prophets: “I haven’t talked to my mother in almost six months.” There are times when you don’t want to know the behind-the-scenes stuff. It just isn’t always necessary to know how the sausages are made, y’know? Having the background information can sometimes ruin the magic, spoil one’s enjoyment.

But in this case, I’m really grateful that books like The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion and web sites like Memory Alpha that kindly inform me of the process behind the making of this episode and the feelings that the producers had on it. This was a story that was originally supposed to be something else, but writers Bradley Thompson and David Weddle couldn’t make it work, and they were coming down to the wire of how soon they needed the script, and so they trashed it and started over by doing the Ezri Dax’s Family Episode—and then that wasn’t working because they wanted to give the Tigan family a connection to the Orion Syndicate, but it pointed to a level of corruption in Starfleet that they weren’t comfortable with, and then they decided to do a sequel to “Honor Among Thieves,” so the connection would be with O’Brien and it was already the eleventh hour at this point and they just threw it together and hoped for the best.

And this happens when you’re producing fiction on a schedule. Sometimes it needs to be good. More often it needs to be done by Tuesday, and you just hope for good. I’m intimately familiar with the problem—one of my movie novelizations was written in ten days, and more than one of my works of fiction was written in only three weeks.

Sometimes, of course, this works. “Yesterday’s Enterprise” was written over a long weekend, and it’s one of the most highly regarded episodes of TNG.

Sometimes, though, it really really doesn’t, and to the producers’ credit, they admit it, as “Prodigal Daughter” is considered by many of the folks on staff to be the weak link of season seven.

How-some-ever, knowing that the episode had a troubled beginning and that even the people who made it admit that it didn’t work doesn’t change the fact that the actual act of watching it is incredibly painful. Because man does this episode suck the wet farts out of dead pigeons. I get that we have a new character in Ezri Dax, but the attempts to sledgehammer her into the ensemble have been abject failures so far, and this has the added lack-of-bonus of being the totally unnecessary sequel to one of the low points of the sixth season.

There’s just nothing here. The family drama with the Tigans is tired and spectacularly uninteresting, with impressively nowhere acting by the guest cast. O’Brien’s search for Morica is solved off camera, so whatever emotional involvement we might have in the Bilby family is squandered.

 

Warp factor rating: 1


Keith R.A. DeCandido has a bunch of things coming out in 2015. Some of them are: the Stargate SG-1 novel Kali’s Wrath, the graphic novel Icarus (adapting the novel by Gregory A. Wilson, with art by Matt Slay), and the short stories “Down to the Waterline” in Buzzy Mag, “Back in El Paso My Life Would be Worthless” in The X-Files: The Truth is Out There, and “Streets of Fire” in V-Wars: Night Terrors.

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