Season Seven, Episode 3
Written by Rene Echevarria
Directed by Les Landau
Music by Jay Chattaway
Main Cast:
Avery Brooks as Captain Benjamin Sisko
Rene Auberjonois as Odo
Nicole deBoer as 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 Star:
Andrew J Robinson  as Garak


Ezri Dax is having trouble adjusting to life aboard DS9. Jadzia's old friends are uncomfortable around her and Worf refuses to speak to her at all. She plans to leave for the starship Destiny. Garak, meanwhile, suffers from a violent claustrophobic attack and cannot continue his work de-coding Cardassian transmissions, an important job for Starfleet Intelligence. Sisko asks Ezri, an assistant counsellor, to try and help him. But it's not an easy job, and when he starts bawling at her she decides that she's just no good to anyone and hands in her resignation. Sisko berates her for giving in, telling her that she is unworthy of the Dax symbiont. But when she makes a break-through with Garak, she decides to stay in Starfleet. O'Brien has a word with Worf, who has been treating Ezri with nothing but contempt, even threatening Bashir for having lunch with her. Worf realises that it dishonours Jadzia's memory by treating Ezri badly and he apologises to her, telling her that if she wants to stay on board DS9, he won't stand in her way. She agrees to stay, but they will give each other a wide birth, giving Worf time to come to terms with what has happened. Ezri is promoted to Lieutenant and is enrolled as DS9's counsellor.


I can't remember the last time I've had such trouble writing a review. I don't know whether that's because the episode was rather "bitsy" or because I just don't seem to be able to concentrate on anything this past week or so (and I'm spaced out at the best of times!). So you'll just have to bear with me I'm afraid. But, first thing's first, did I like the episode? Mmm, there were some good moments and some bad ones. But as a whole, "Afterimage" had little cohesion, being little more than a collection of good and bad scenes strung together. There wasn't much to speak of in the plot department and even though there were some nice touches, as a character piece it was a little weak and insubstantial. At a crunch, the episode did what it set out to do, but I find it hard to muster any real enthusiasm for the way it did so.

I've similarly got mixed feelings about young Ezri herself. On the one hand, as I said in my review of "Shadows and Symbols", she's a little charmer and she's well, cute (there ain't no other word for it!). Nicole deBoer is remarkably confident and assured for a newbie and she carries most her scenes with charm. There are problems, however. I wasn't quite as convinced by some of deBoer's more "serious" scenes. She's okay, but there's just not that much to sink your teeth into. Part of the blame goes to the writers who over-emphasise Ezri's psychological frailties. I can accept that she's unstable as a result of the joining but I often felt that what was being portrayed was just another screwed up youngster, kind of an Ally McBeal for the 24th century. Which is all good and well, but where's the Dax? Ms deBoer does an admirable job of adding a touch of "Jadzia" to her performance (especially noticeable vocally) but the problem whilst I can accept that Ezri the host is pretty messed up, there's little sign of the experience and wisdom of the Dax symbiont showing through. "Afterimage" paints a decent picture of a confused, frightened little girl but little more. Hey, writer folks, it's Ezri Dax remember? I can only hope that as she settles down, the duality of her nature will become a little more balanced and integrated.

And she does need to settle down. She's just too highly-strung just now, too messed up. It's all very well doing the old "psychologist who's more screwed up than their patients" routine but it was a little overdone here. She's just such a mess and not terribly capable at her job (which I'll discuss in a sec) that it's hard to believe Sisko would want such a dysfunctional individual in his crew, Dax or no Dax. As fun as Dwight Schultz was, I don't want to see Ezri become a female version of Reg Barclay (and at moments it felt a bit like she was). Watch yer footing, Ez! The constant "perkiness" evident in deBoer's portrayal could also get tiresome, already serving to make the character feel a bit one-note. But it is, as I said, early days, so we'll see how it goes. For all her charms, there are aspects of the character that need addressing. Incidentally, the "space sick" gag has got to go! Please. I'm a nice person! I eat my greens and pay my taxes, I don't deserve this! :-(

I am pleased to say that some of the concerns I expressed in my last review about Ezri's arrival have been laid to rest (alas making way for a host of new ones, but that's another story). I'm glad that Ezri's induction isn't nearly as easy or comfortable as the coda to "Shadows and Symbols" had seemed to suggest. It was a good decision to have Ezri only visiting the station and not planning to stay. I did wonder whether that would be all we heard on the subject, you know: "ta dah! Here's Ezri our new character. We don't need to explain what she's doing here, so there!". Fortunately things don't go quite as smoothly as that, and whilst there's little doubt that she was going to stay (the fact her name is listed in the main credits is a bit of a give-away!) we needed to see her agonise over this a little bit. When I first heard that Dax's next host was joining the crew my initial reaction was to wonder how the writers we're going to explain this. I mean, was she just going to waltz onto the station and take over Jadzia's vacant post as if nothing had ever happened? And how, I asked myself, are they going to get past that "reassociation" taboo?

Fortunately "Afterimage" addressed these concerns -- well, as best it could. It's clear that Ezri has a completely different line of work to Jadzia, so that's fine (though to be honest, I was less than enthused that the writers chose to make her a counsellor. TNG's Deanna Troi was never especially well-characterised, neither as a professional nor a person). As for "reassociation", it apparently only applies to lovers. Which, I guess would explain why Jadzia was able to remain friends with Benjamin. Only question that lingers is this; why would she want (let alone be allowed) to stay on DS9, practically picked up where he last life ended? It's been established that for Trills, each new life has to be a new life. So what's going on here? Obviously the answer is quite simple, the writers want Dax to stay on the show. I guess it's a case of standard disbelief suspension. :-)

Another thing I was half-expecting was for Ezri to be immediately accepted by all the crew. Glad it didn't happen quite like that. One of the things "Afterimage" did best was explore how the crew react to Ezri. The reactions were realistic and handled with variety and subtlety, for the most part ringing true-to-character. I will say I'm very glad that Jadzia has not been forgotten. I had feared that following the sub-plot in the previous two episodes that would be the end of it, and I've never been happier to have been mistaken. Jadzia was an integral member of the DS9 family for six years and she deserved a good send-off -- something she most certainly hasn't received so far. I was disappointed that the aftermath of her death felt so flat with little indication that anyone had actually been affected by her death (except for the fact Worf was even grumpier than usual). This aspect comes across a great deal better, no doubt helped by the touch of DS9's best character writer, Rene Echevarria. Nothing earth-shattering but there were some nice scenes where it is very much evident that Jadzia's husband and friends are still in mourning.

Yes, even the Worf factor was handled quite effectively this week! No one was more taken aback than I when I actually found myself caring about how he felt this time. Okay, so he was the usual grumpy fart, but there was evidence that he was acting out of pain and I must say that Michael Dorn conveyed this far more effectively than he did in "Image in the Sand". The sympathy-o-meter drops quite considerably given his overblown jealousy and his near assault on Bashir was almost as out-of-line as his lack of apology. What a jerk he can be a times! I sometime wonder why the DS9 crew tolerate him, let alone try to be his friend! Just what was he doing watching Bashir and Ezri eat lunch, anyway? Okay, if he'd just been passing and happened to catch glimpse, but he was clearly standing there spying on them. But it is all-too easy to understand his confusion over the fact that part of Jadzia lives on in Ezri. As he says at one point, "it just doesn't make any sense!" His confusion and uncertainty of how to treat Ezri was only natural given the circumstances and I imagine it's something a lot of Trill spouses have gone through. The scene where he and Ezri come to their understanding was nicely done, realistically written and actually quite poignant. Despite their agreement to avoid each other, it's clear that they can't avoid each other forever and are bound to cross paths again (OK, so I've been peeking at the Spoilers for the Final Chapter! I'm sorrrrrry!). As Ezri said last time, they do have a lot to talk about.

Another character who was handled very well was Sisko. He's been through the trauma of a Trill body-change before, with Curzon and Jadzia, and to him this isn't that big a deal. In "Shadows and Symbols" he accepted the new Dax almost immediately and here he continues to prove supportive of her, just as Jadzia did so many times for him. Avery Brooks gives a particularly nice performance and I enjoyed his scenes with deBoer very much. A highlight of the episode was his reaction upon learning that he intimidates Worf -- loved it! His speech when he's upbraiding her for resigning was about as obvious as the nose on his face, but my only real problem with that was that Ezri didn't catch on, her a psychologist no less. "I had a feeling you didn't mean all those things you said to me," she tells him. Um, excuse me but duuh.

I guess this brings me back to what I said about Ezri being portrayed as a confused little girl rather than Dax, a symbiont with seven life-times of experience and wisdom. For instance, what does she do when Garak is nasty to her? She runs off and cries like a little girl (incidentally deBoer was just awful at "crying". There's phoney and then there's phoney). Sure, it can't have been fun, but she's NOT a little girl any more -- she's a joined Trill (allegedly)! It doesn't help that her "people skills" are sadly deficient. She's an absolutely dreadful counsellor. Her bumbling attempts to psycho-analyse Garak were awful (and since when does a counsellor psycho-analyse a person, anyway? Are the writers confusing a counsellor with a psychiatrist?), and plus she doesn't actually do anything that helps him -- any discoveries she makes about his "condition" are purely by chance. And that remark to Julian ("if Worf hadn't come along it would have been you") was just not merely insensitive, it was cruel. I didn't think it was possible, but here's a counsellor who makes Deanna Troi look good at her job. It's obviously the case that the writers are trying to write about something they don't quite understand. I did expect better of Rene Echevarria, a man who's shown a tremendous grasp of the human nature in some of his other stories.

Quite the worst thing about the episode, however, was Garak -- and I never thought I'd hear myself say that. To cut to the chase, he was woefully mis-characterised throughout. Here, even if you can swallow the laughably overwrought bouts of claustrophobia, he was virtually unrecognisable to the man we last saw in the season six classic "In the Pale Moonlight". If Echevarria hadn't written "Improbable Cause" (one of the very best episodes to feature Garak) I'd simply assume he hadn't a clue how to write the character. I guess the main problem is that here he is so obvious, so transparent, which is just the antithesis of the Garak we all know and love. Even though the actual cause of his claustrophobia made some sense (although the connection is very tenuous to say the least), he was just too forthright about his feelings. Where's the sinister, impenetrable side of his nature, the all-pervading evasiveness, the lies within lies? At first I assumed that he was playing Ezri like a fiddle (as he has done many times in the past with other characters) or "humouring" her at the very least. Nope, this was not Garak. For the record, I don't mean to slight or scoff at claustrophobia, the actual condition (I'm sure it can't be fun) but the scenes where Garak has his "attacks" were absolutely horrendous. What with the loud heartbeat, the silly music and awful directing they were hokey and downright laughable. And it didn't help that for the first time I can remember I actually found the usually-excellent Andrew Robinson quite unconvincing and, like the plot itself, overwrought. I can't watch a lot of Garak's scenes in this episode without a cringe. And, again, I never thought I'd ever say that.

So, I've got mixed feelings 'bout this one I'm afraid. There are definitely parts of it I liked -- in particular, Ezri's interaction with the other characters was handled quite effectively, in some instances better than I'd expected it would be. But sadly it's not enough to sustain an episode, nor counterbalance the parts I didn't like (the stuff with Garak being foremost and some of what I see as characterisation problems with Ezri). As I said at the beginning, at the end of the day I guess "Afterimage" does what it sets out to achieve -- but I can't say I'm all that impressed with the way it does so. On the whole, I have to say that this came across as quite a weak and uninvolving episode. Just now it's the only disappointment in what's turned out to be an excellent start to the seventh season.

Rating: 6

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