"Prodigal Daughter" 
Season Seven, Episode 11
Written by Bradley Thompson and David Weddle
Directed by Victor Lobl
Music by Dennis McCarthy
Main Cast:
Avery Brooks as Captain Benjamin Sisko
Rene Auberjonois as Odo
Nicole deBoer as Lt Ezri Dax
Michael Dorn as Lt Cmdr Worf
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 Colonel Kira Nerys

Guest Stars:
Kevin Rahm as Norvo
Mikael Salazar as Janel
John Paragon as Bokar
Clayton Landey as Fuchida
Leigh Taylor-Young as Yanas Tigan 


O'Brien has gone off looking for Maurika Bilby, the widow of Orion Syndicate operative Liam Bilby who O'Brien befriended when he infiltrated the Syndicate (in the sixth season episode Honor Among Thieves). O'Brien had become friends with Maurika, and when she mysteriously disappeared he decided to go to New Sydney to try and find her. But he's gone missing himself. Sisko gets Ezri to ask her mother -- a mine owner living on New Sydney -- if she has any information on O'Brien's whereabouts. Ezri's mother, Yanas Tigan, agrees to help on the condition that her daughter return home for a visit. Ezri reluctantly agrees, but as she and her mother have never gotten along, she isn't particularly happy at the prospect of returning home. She meets up with O'Brien, who has found Maurika Bilby -- dead. He suspects the Orion Syndicate and evidence indicates that the Tigan family are linked to the Syndicate...


Okay, before I get started on the actual episode itself, I'd first like to make a little protest, just for the record. You see, a couple of years ago I remember reading an interview with Terry Farrell, a very gracious gal who never spent her time moaning about her lack of screen time (unlike a certain co-star who shall remain nameless). She did, however, quite justifiably feel that her character hadn't been explored to its full potential. When asked what she'd like to see happen to Jadzia in the future, Ms Farrell said that she'd like us to meet Jadzia's family. Alas, that was never to happen. Why? Because the writers simply couldn't be arsed (that's a rather impolite British expression, by the way, which means "couldn't be bothered". Just so's you know :-)). 

Nope, they were quite content to abandon Jadzia, even though they knew the actress was unhappy -- hell, even when they knew she was considering quitting. Given that Farrell left because of this lack of attention, it's something of a bitter irony that her replacement, Nicole deBoer, is having the opposite problem. Not exactly fair, is it? No. Is it because Ezri is a better character than Jadzia? Hell no. It's simply because she's new and The Powers That Be are behaving like little children given a new toy to play with. I'm very unhappy about this. Not only is this little fixation with Ezri a slap in the face to fans of Jadzia but it's all the more unforgivable because the rest of cast are being neglected. They're the people we've grown to know and love over the course of seven years and I resent this new kid coming in and hogging the limelight. This is our second Ezri story already this year and the second of no less than four consecutive episodes to prominently feature her. I like Ezri alright, but she simply doesn't deserve this attention -- our regulars do. There, I feel much better now I've got that off my chest.

Onto complaint number two (boy, we're in for it today! {:-/). We're nearly half way through the season now with a mere fifteen episodes to go before the series ends. At this point, can we afford such an inconsequential, insignificant story as this? I guess when we look back at the end of the year we'll know for sure, but now let's just say I'll reserve judgement for now. I can think of several dozen other stories I'd rather be seeing right now, but c'est la vie, I guess. If someone would kindly pass me the prozac I'll calm down a little now. I promise! :-) So how about the actual episode itself? Well, it's alright, I guess. Not bad, but equally nothing all that startling. At its best Prodigal Daughter was quietly effective and poignant, while at other times lethargically-paced, cliched and unengaging. When everything balances out it's pretty much a middle-of-the-road show.

The episode starts off with the disappearance of O'Brien, who has apparently gone off looking for a friend that has gone missing on the planet New Sydney. This friend is none other than Maurika Bilby, the beloved wife of ill-fated Liam Bilby, the man Miles befriended when he went undercover to infiltrate the Orion Syndicate. Whilst I appreciated the good use of continuity in what amounts to something of a sequel to last year's Honor Among Thieves, I had a couple of problems with the story itself. It made sense that O'Brien, having been indirectly responsible for Bilby's death, would feel some measure of guilt, and would therefore contact his wife to offer his sympathies. We learn that he and Maurika Bilby even became friends. So far so good. But when Maurika goes missing, O'Brien sets off on a potentially deadly mission to find out what's happened to her. I'm sorry, but bad move, Miles: you have a family. When you have a wife and kids you simply can't go galavanting off like a one-man police squad into dangerous territory, risking your life for a woman you barely know. Whatever happened to "O'Brien, the responsible family man"? That part of the story I had a very hard time accepting. It's also something of a stretch that O'Brien's investigations would lead him to the family of a colleague, in this case Ezri. Small universe, huh? <Scott rolls his eyes> 

But before we get to learn anything about O'Brien's disappearance, the episode abruptly segues into an exploration of the Tigans, Ezri's somewhat dysfunctional family. Oh yeah, there were cliches aplenty -- the overbearing, manipulative parent, the ultra-responsible older child, the overlooked, neglected younger kid and, as the title suggests, the "prodigal daughter". But despite the pangs of deja vu, I found the characters and their inter-relationships well-drawn and most of the acting was quite strong. It's pure soap opera without a doubt, but mildly entertaining nonetheless. Leigh Taylor-Young did a good job as the larger-than-life Yanas Tigan, a domineering woman who conducts the family affairs in much the same way she runs the business; from behind a desk. Janel seemed a little wooden, perhaps, but Kevin Rahm did a wonderful job as Norvo, who I found the most interesting, engaging one of the lot. 

As for Ezri, well...in some ways she felt like more of a plot device than a character. Bradley Thompson and David Weddle seem more interested in the Tigans than little "Zee", who is used more for exposition than anything else. At the beginning of the episode Ezri tells Bashir that she's about to present her family with a whole new Ezri, but "to tell the truth they didn't know what to make of the old one." Hmm, I got the impression that they didn't notice any difference. Which is something I've felt about the character for a while now. You see, both the writers and actress have given us a fairly good feel for Ezri, the neurotic, motor-mouthed little girl that wasn't prepared for joining. But evidently they've forgotten that she's Ezri DAX and should therefore be a lot more experienced and worldly than Ezri is portrayed. Whilst deBoer is often uncanny the way she integrates little mannerisms and touches of Jadzia into the role, I still don't quite buy her as Dax. And that's just that, I guess. I think the interaction between she and her family could have been handled a lot more effectively. Aside from not capitalising on the fact that Ezri is -- supposed to be -- a different person altogether, I also didn't quite "buy" a lot of the dynamic between Ezri and her mother. 

Mrs Tigan is such an indomitable, imposing woman that in order for Ezri to have believably been able to stand up to her, she needed to display some measure of strength and presence herself. But she doesn't. In most the scenes between mother and daughter, Ezri kind of fades into the background, making the conflict between the two seem unreal and fabricated. Given what we know of Ezri, I find it hard to picture her as the determined rebel who had the guts to oppose Mom and leave. I think in reality, given what we know of the character and the way deBoer plays her, Ezri would be just as trapped and trampled on as Norvo. While we're on the subject of Ezri and Norvo, I liked the way she supported him, evidently putting some of her counselling training (which has thus far been little in evidence) to good use. But her solution to his problems, basically "leave this dump and move to DS9" reminds me of an episode of Frasier in which he offends everyone in town after telling a woman that her life would look up if she left dreary, rain-soaked Seattle. :-)

Anyway, lest I get side-tracked, we'll get back to the episode. Following a good dose of family soap opera, we return to O'Brien and the Maurika Bilby mystery. I'm afraid the whole thing played out very conventionally, lacking much in the way of suspense or intrigue. It certainly had it's moments, but this was an episode that was never in danger of being nail-biting. Of course, it did have one thing going for it, namely the ever-reliable Colm Meaney. But I found myself very angry when I realised that this, this is supposed to be our annual O'Brien "torture" episode -- and the whole thing is focussed on friggin' Ezri! Don't worry, I'm not going to start another rant, but needless to say I'm none too pleased. Meaney is one of Trek's best actors and, as charming as li'l Nicole is, she doesn't bear a patch on Meaney in the acting department.

Anyway, once we got back to the gist of the plot, things began to unfold in as sloooow and wordy a manner as seems possible. The Big Revelation was that the Tigans were connected with Maurika's death. Dum dum duuuum! Sorry, folks, but this was completely obvious from the word go (though I did enjoy O'Brien's reaction). Why bring Ezri's family into the picture unless there's some connection to O'Brien's plot? Still, I guess the main nugget of interest was the "how", the "why" and the "who". I was most interested in who exactly was involved in Maurika's death. Right from the start it looked like Janel was the guilty party, what with his dealings with the Orion Syndicate. But nah, it can't be him, I thought, that would be too obvious. My money was actually on Yanas, a woman who looked like she'd resort to any means in order to keep the business afloat. 

That it was actually poor little Norvo who killed Maurika was something of a surprise! But looking back it makes sense given his tendency to throw tantrums and between Rahm's strong performance and some good directing and music, the revelation was quite powerful, giving the episode a bit of emotional punch (something it could have done with more of). Yup, it was definitely a strong ending, and the final scene between Ezri and Mrs Tigan was genuinely poignant. Yanas begs Ezri to assure her that it wasn't her fault, that she wasn't responsible for what happened (even though it's quite clear she knows that she was). Ezri responds with silence and, after a short pause, she turns and leaves the room. Perhaps a little harsh given that she obviously did mean well for her children, but it was certainly effective on a dramatic level. Less so was the closing scene, which seemed a little needless, almost leaving us with a less than fulfilled feeling of "yes, and...?"

Which pretty much sums up what I thought of the episode. For what it was it was decent enough, but I'm left with absolutely no idea why the writers felt the need to tell this story. It's insubstantial, inconsequential and in the end amounts to very little. It's also a little odd that we should be introduced to the family of a character that we've barely known for a dozen episodes as it is. I've a sneaky feeling that, with the finishing line now starting to loom ominously on the horizon, this episode could have -- and should have -- been used for something a little more worthwhile. As it stands, I certainly wouldn't consider Prodigal Daughter time well-spent.

Rating: 5.5

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