"Change of Heart" 
Season Six, Episode 16
Written by Ronald D Moore
Directed by David Livingston
Music by Dennis McCarthy
Main Cast:
Avery Brooks as Captain Benjamin Sisko
Rene Auberjonois as Odo
Michael Dorn as Lt Cmdr Worf
Terry Farrell as Lt Cmdr Jadzia Dax
Cirroc Lofton as Jake Sisko
Colm Meaney as Chief Miles O'Brien
Armin Shimerman as Quark
Alexander Siddig as Dr Julian Bashir
Nana Visitor as Major Kira Nerys

Guest Star:
Todd Waring as Lasaran  


Dax and Worf are sent on a mission to recover a Cardassian intelligence operative from Dominion territory. The operative, Lasaran, has vital information for Starfleet command about Dominion strategic operations. They arrange to meet him on Sukara, in the jungle some way from the Dominion base. But on the mission to meet him, they are ambushed by Jem'Hadar soldiers and Dax is seriously wounded and unable to go on. Worf realises that if he continues with his mission (a mission that will likely save millions) he will have to leave Jadzia, who will bleed to death. Worf cannot leave his beloved behind, and takes her back to the station where Bashir manages to save her life.

Maybe I'm just getting sappy in my old age, or maybe it's just that Star Trek has been unable to produce a genuinely moving love story up until now - except for  Rejoined, also a Dax episode which worked on as both a love story and a social allegory. I guess you could also count The Visitor which explored the deep bond between a father and son, and is to date one of my all-time favourite episodes of Trek. But onto less platonic love, Change of Heart is a long overdue follow-up to You are Cordially Invited and is something of a godsend when it comes to developing the relationship of Worf and Dax. Although there's very little to the plot, and an outcome that was more or less inevitable, I still found this a surprisingly moving and sincere look at love and sacrifice. 

And this is from someone who was initially opposed to the Dax/Worf pairing! But then you can hardly blame me, because the writers really botched it to begin with! Last season, the episodes that began the relationship (including Looking for Par'Mach in All the Wrong places and the lamentable Let He How is without Sin) were hardly inspiring. The relationship was treated as light fluff and I don't suppose it would have been that bad had there been chemistry between the pair (which at that point there wasn't). Plus, all through the fifth season I went through a "hate Worf" phase (no doubt aided and abetted by that dreadful Risa episode) and felt that if anything their relationship damaged Dax's character (she was portrayed as being in love with Worf who more or less treated her like dirt). No chemistry, no depth, only annoying child-like bickering. I was not happy they were getting married. But, something happened during the early sixth season - perhaps I just got used to the fact their wedding was imminent. Perhaps it's because the Worf character seemed to mellow a bit. But I enjoyed the wedding episode, and actually started to find their relationship fun and engaging. But I still never felt much depth or chemistry in the relationship. Until now... 

Perhaps this is because the writers finally got their act together; gone is the bickering and gone is Worf's attitude problem, et voila - Dax and Worf finally have that vital chemistry that their relationship previously lacked! You finally believe that these two people are very much in love. And the character of Worf appears to have undergone a complete rehabilitation, which is very welcome indeed. Just when we all began to get completely sick of Klingons (and that certainly includes Worf) and their "honooour" and all their "today is a good to die" nonsense, the writers have finally given us a completely different and refreshing slant on a festering species. We learn that the Klingons are passionate not just about honour, but about love. The wedding ceremony in You are Cordially Invited first explored this new facet in Klingon nature - and surprisingly enough it had resonance. Once again we see that a Klingon is willing to forsake everything for love, and the coda serves as a poignant follow-up to the wedding ceremony, and a kind of catharsis for Worf. Worf, and the Klingons in general are finally a lot more sympathetic and likeable. And not before time, either. 

As I said, I didn't expect it, but the Dax/Worf interaction simply sparkled. Yeah, a lot of their dialogue was light-hearted bickering (just to make a change! :-)) but there was something deeper. Much of it must surely be due to Worf's "humanisation". Previously he treated Dax without regard or compassion - evidently more concerned over his collection of Klingon operas than his Par'Mach'kai (In Purgatory's Shadow?). But this episode begins with Worf watching and supporting his wife as she plays tongo. Finally he's not afraid to show that he loves her. And it shows in just about every scene they are in. The bedroom scene was wonderful, just going to show that the biggest disappointment of the season so far has been the utter lack of follow-up to their marriage (excepting a minuscule sub-plot which was about the only redeeming feature of Resurrection). 

Anyway, I rather liked the way the episode was structured, with the light-hearted sub-plot interwoven during the first half. The sub-plot is pure fluff, but it's a lot of fun. O'Brien and Bashir are like the Laurel & Hardy/Bert & Ernie/Joey & Chandler of DS9 - I just love that pair! Watching them try to get one-up on Quark, the reigning champion of Tongo was delightful - particularly as they're doing it just to see the look on his face when he's beaten by a pair of "lowly hew-mons"! Of course, the sly Ferengi has the last laugh when he uses Bashir's feelings toward Dax to distract him and win the game. Great fun, although I don't know why Bashir didn't realise Quark was just trying to distract him - it was pretty obvious to me! Still, as O'Brien tells him, he may be genetically engineered but he's still hew-mon! The best thing about this sub-plot was the way it only played out during the first half of the episode. If it had continued right to the end it would have totally cut the more dramatic main plot into shreds. Luckily the writers were one step ahead! 

Plot-wise, as I mentioned above, Change of Heart is rather minimal, but it manages to achieve a fair degree of eloquence in its simplicity. After Dax is seriously injured, Worf must choose between abandoning a vital mission that may save millions of lives or carrying it out and leaving his wife to die. It's a real gut wrencher, and made all the more powerful by Terry Farrell's wonderful performance. There's something so strikingly sincere and convincing about her performance that she pulls this off brilliantly - you really believe she's dying, and as such it's actually quite painful to watch. 

Less acting points go to Michael Dorn, however. On The Next Generation I used to consider Dorn one of their better actors, but as far as DS9 goes he's easily the weakest of an otherwise marvellous ensemble cast. Most the time he delivers his lines reasonably well, but I have some serious doubts about his acting range - most of which were confirmed by this. Although he gives an above average performance here, I'd still have liked to see a lot more reaction from him. I entirely approve of the "softening" of his character, but Dorn ought to have taken it a stage further - a lot less stoicism and a lot more emotion. Still, that minor quibble didn't dampen things much at all, because as I noted above (several times) for once I believed their relationship, and for once I was emotionally caught up in it. 

Another slight nit was the rather ambiguous scene where Worf makes his crucial scene - thanks to some sloppy editing it was more than a little vague. But it didn't undercut the powerful image that followed of Worf checking for Dax's pulse (again, a little more reaction from him wouldn't have hurt) and then carrying her home - so simple yet so poignant. 

The following scene where Sisko "on the record" chastises Worf for abandoning the mission (adding that if he'd been Worf and that was Jennifer lying there, he'd have done the same) was nicely written and particularly rang true for "family man" Sisko. Good also to see there will be consequences - Worf's career is more or less sabotaged, as he will never get a command of his own. The closing scene with Dax awakening from her surgery and learning that Worf sacrificed his career for her was just wonderful. And, I might add, there's more than a touch of tragedy because of the foreknowledge that Dax is going to die anyway. I'm really going to feel for Worf when this happens (assuming Dorn doesn't botch it!). 

Incidentally, I've yet to see Tears of the Prophets but I understand that Dax doesn't get the dignified send-off she deserves. It occurred to me that Change of Heart would have been a more fitting (or at least focused) end. Imagine if Worf had decided to abandon the mission and go back to save Dax, as he did - only to find her dead? He'd sacrificed the mission and his career and still lost Dax. Now that would have been devastating

In spite of the tragic undertones, there's something quite special about this episode. Sure, there are one or two problems, but it's perhaps the most effective love story Star Trek has ever done. It's about as far from one of those stock "romance of the week" cliches as you get. This is about an ongoing, deepening relationship between two people who would sacrifice it all for each other. There's now a depth to their relationship and Worf's actions here certainly add a lot more depth to his character. It was all beautifully done, and it felt genuine and moving. It almost had the feel of a Shakespearean love story. Really, this is quite a beautiful episode.   

Rating: 9

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