Episode 1.8: Dax

This episodes poses a very interesting question: What makes a person actually a person?  Jadzia being a Trill generates a unique opportunity to explore this.  Her joined status gives her multiple lifetimes of memories in a symbiont living in a Trill host.  Briefly for some background, Trills are a separate species from Symbionts.  Trills live independent lives, and only a small fraction will ever become joined.  Their lifespans are on par with humans.  The Symbionts live for millenia, and are capable of living either in pools on the Trill homeworld or being joined to a Trill.  Nearly all Symbionts are joined, and those not are usually waiting for a suitable host.  The first name (ie Jadzia) is the Trill host name, while the second name (ie Dax) is the name of the Symbiont.  This is what brings us the conflict of the episode.  Dax’s most recent host, Curzon, is accused of a crime, and the extradition authorities wish to try Jadzia for Curzon’s crime.  The majority of the episode is spent trying to ascertain whether Jadzia is responsible for Curzon’s crimes, given the Dax symbiont was alive during the alleged crime.  The case revolves around the prosecution trying to prove that Jadzia is the same person as Curzon.

The Trill expert offers the first argument for personhood.  The memories of each host are passed along to future hosts thanks to the symbiont.  Do memories make us who we are?  It might be argued that I am the sum total of my memories up to a particular point.  And in any given moment, I’m simply in the process of creating a new memory.  At the end of my life, the totality of who I am, what I did and how I acted is contained in the memories of my life.  When I die, my memories die along with me.  Personally, I find this an insufficient argument.  Memories may define my past, but they do not define my future.  Personhood transcends time.

The second argument is brought by Dr. Bashir.  Is a medical description the final say in defining a person?  The primary evidence presented is the brainwave patterns.  Jadzia and Curzon’s brains were very different, and the symbiont has a distinct pattern itself.  Again, I find this an insufficient argument.  Brain patterns may be manifestations of personality or a pagh, but not the driving force of a personality.  The Dax symbiont will contribute to the personhood of the combined being, but it does not override it. Separate brain patterns result in a blending of personality, not in two distinct personalities.  This tells me the brain contributes to personhood, but does not define it wholly.

Sisko brings us the last argument, which is one from behavior. The behavior of Jadzia is radically different from that of Curzon.  Because the personality is a blended one, the new personality is wholly distinct from the previous one.  Though I don’t find this argument wholly comprehensive, I like it.  The choices we make are absolutely defining of who we are.  If I think a racist thought, but do not act on it, am I a racist?  I would argue that I’m not, but I certainly know many folks who would say that I am.  I vehemently disagree with this attitude.  What we do, how we decide to live our lives is more telling of who we are than the random thoughts floating around in our head.

Ultimately, I would argue that all three play a role in defining a person.  My memories of a childhood in Indiana influence the kind of decisions I make.  Same with brain patterns.  I have an aptitude for mathematics, not art, which is partially chemical (and partially other things, like experience).  Biochemistry is a contributing factor to personhood, not a singular defining quality.  And as I alluded to above, actions define our personhood as well, and more than some might give credit for.  The blending of personhood is complex which is a major theme of this episode.  The episode does not give us an answer (the hearing is ended by testimony from a 3rd party), and thus we are left to wrestle with the questions on our own.

This episode is one of the reasons I was put off by Jadzia early on.  Granted, it’s a plot device that she says nothing during the hearing, but it gives her an aire of aloofness, superiority, and stiffness when she does speak. Her stoicism was a bit of a turnoff to me.  Julian reveals more of his idealism in this episode.  He is excruciatingly optimistic with Jadzia, continuing to pursue her.  Sans Worf, this attitude would have worked in the long run.  Additionally, that tenacity is what ends up saving Jadzia from being taken, since Bashir coming upon the kidnappers gives the rest of the crew an edge in trapping the fleeing ship.  Julian is chivalrous guy too!  He wouldn’t hit a lady, and he gets beat for it. Again, more Quark and Odo.  Quark in previous episodes plays Odo to cheer him up; here Odo knows just how to play Quark to get him to volunteer the bar’s space.

Random Thoughts: 1) Can’t get enough of Morn.  2) O’Brien doesn’t appear in the episode.  2) The transition from Sisko to Kira in the argument in Sisko’s office is magnificent.  I always enjoy that scene.  3) Sisko is willing to take a moral stand, declaring other outcomes wrong.  4) Huzzah for chemistry in DS9!

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~ by Joshua Black on July 26, 2012.

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