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Star Trek Deep Space Nine: Field of Fire

"I don’t want your help."
"Maybe not, but you need it."

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine presents:

'And Then There Were Dax'
'Silence of the Jorans'

There's a serial killer loose aboard Deep Space Nine, and Ezri knows that there's only one person who can help her track them down before they kill again.

Unfortunately, it's her evil past self, so... you know... it gets complicated.

I don't have the widest breadth of Star Trek knowledge, but I can't think of another instance of a Star Trek series attempting such a sincere whodunnit with this much atmosphere. If there are others, please let me know in the comments. The thing is, murder mysteries live or die (no pun intended) on their ability to create a believable sense of personal danger and claustrophobia, and that's a tough lift for Space Opera.

Which is why I like this one so much.

There are two separate sequences in this episode that exist entirely to create atmosphere, which is more screen time that the show normally allows itself for that sort of thing. First, we have Ezri's dream sequence where she imagines poor, doomed Ilario murdering himself, and I have to say, they were clearly trying to invoke an old school Nightmare on Elm Street vibe (specifically the first one). And they succeeded. Generally speaking, shows in the Star Trek franchise are far more likely to spend their screen time on plot, character, or theme. Spending it purely on atmosphere is a rare treat.

The second sequence that's all about the atmosphere is of course Ezri's nighttime wandering on the Promenade in which she encounters Worf (who is clearly standing watch for potential murderers). Here they're aiming more for a Silence of the Lambs 'someone may be in the darkness' vibe, and again the episode is all the better for it.

This leads us to the main thrust of the episode.

Joran is clearly positioned here as the Hannibal Lecter to Ezri's Clarice Starling. She goes to meet him on her own. The transitional shots of his face in the mirror clearly echo their first meeting at Hannibal's cell. And, most importantly, Joran is set up as Ezri's corrupter-figure. That's why she gets so knife happy after a little while of Joran being set loose in her psyche.

It tends to get overlooked in discussions of Silence of the Lambs, but the cornerstone of the Lecter/Starling relationship is his desire to corrupt her, counterpointed by his unacknowledged hope that she'll be strong enough to resist his attempt. That's the essence of Loran's feelings toward Ezri, complicated in some part by the fact that part of them are the same being. It's an interesting dynamic, and a good look on Ezri. It's a particularly nice trick that they used the previously established 'emergence ritual' to facilitate a situation where Joran could hang out with Ezri and no one else could see him. That was nicely handled.

So, great creation of atmosphere, interesting character work, what else does a whodunnit murder mystery need?

Oh yeah... the resolution.

Look, clearly, they ran out of time. They reach the conclusion that the murderer is someone who had recently suffered trauma comes more or less out of Ezri's butt and doesn't logically follow as the only possible explanation for the killings, but they only have the hour, so we need to get a move on. Joran literally just looks at Chu'lak, the killer Vulcan and says, 'It's him, I know it' and we just roll with that solution as if it's some sort of 'gaydar, but for serial killers.' Because, again, only an hour and not much of that left.

Now, would I have rather they skipped the two earlier scenes where they established all that delicious atmosphere so that they had time later to properly plot out tracking down the murderer? Not for a single second. Solutions are all well and good, but proper atmosphere is forever.

As for other features of a classic serial killer caper, I thought it was cute that they had to find a way to explain how Odo knows what 'powder burns' are. Without that information we couldn't have the mystery of how the victims were simultaneously shot up close and from far away, which was such a clever gimmick that I'd have accepted any amount of handwaving as to Odo's taste in literature. The combination of a projectile rifle with portable transporter technology was an inspired idea, and it honestly creeps me out thinking about it even though I know that the technology is fictional. The idea that you could be shot from long range in an enclosed safe space is inordinately sinister.

Also, the special effect shot from Ezri's point of view, zooming through bulkheads to find Chu'lak aiming his rifle and looking right back at her is just an objectively great moment.

I really love this one, despite the fact that they kind of completely skip the 'figuring out who the killer is' part.

Such a cool moment

Bits and pieces

- I wonder if an earlier draft of this script featured Ezri being suspected of killing Ilario. They so clearly went out of their way to get her alone with him as the last person to see him alive, and then leaned hard into Joran attempting to corrupt her into killing. It's strange that the possibility that she killed Ilario is never even floated by anyone.

- Generally speaking, if you're a member or the crew that we've never met before and the episode opens with the people we do know throwing a big celebration for you, maybe don't make any long-term plans.

- Could it have seemed any more like Bashir and O'Brien were using their holosuite time together to have hot, heavy Alamo sex with one another? I'm almost convinced that they were.

- They seeded the idea of the pictures with the victims smiling very well. It's hard to do that kind of thing casually.

- Worf could not have been more endearing when he spoke to Ezri on the creepy nighttime promenade. I love how this season of Deep Space Nine handled the two of them.

- The combination of Ezri and Joran made this feel a lot like a multi-Doctor story on Doctor Who.


Bashir: "He’s very particular about anybody seeing him in his coonskin cap."
-You see it now, right?

Ilario: "You know Lieutenant, you’re very beautiful."
Ezri: "And you are very drunk."

Odo: "I’m sorry Lieutenant. There’s nothing more annoying than a corpse with a mind of its own."

O’Brien: "Hmm. Maybe I’ll start calling my tricorder ‘Sally.’"

Ezri: "Well, what do you think?"
Odo: "Nice melon."

Worf: "I am certain you will do whatever is necessary to complete your task."
Ezri: "How do you know that?"
Worf: "You are Dax. It is your way."

Joran: "How could anyone be so happy with such unattractive children?"

A great stand-alone episode that holds its own nicely in a season jam packed with really great stuff.

Eight out of ten creepy dream sequences.

Mikey Heinrich is, among other things, a freelance writer, retired firefighter, and roughly 78% water. You can find more of his work at the 42nd Vizsla. If you'd like to see his raw notes for this and other reviews, you can find them at What Was Mikey Thinking.

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