As always, in the Star Trek universe, there are few phrases more redundant than “Klingon drama”.
Seriously, though, I liked this episode a lot. In addition to some solid character stuff for Jadzia (more on that shortly), I felt like the pacing was fantastic — the episode zips along, filling us in on a ton of backstory without ever feeling like it got bogged down. It doesn’t feel like one forty-odd-minute episode at all.
“Well, if Curzon Dax were here, you’d be out of luck.”
I was a bit skeptical about the idea that Jadzia should be expected to uphold an oath Curzon made. Honestly, it seemed like it might go along with the Trill laws and taboos around re-association, holding a new host accountable for a previous host’s promises seems like…kind of the opposite of what’s generally expected by Trill culture.
But what really struck me and made me rethink was the fact that Kang’s son was named Dax, not Curzon. That suggested a responsibility beyond just Curzon, and I could see why Jadzia wouldn’t immediately dismiss this. (I may be overthinking that aspect, but also, Curzon would’ve worked alliteratively with Kang, Koloth, and Kor, so going with Dax seems deliberate.)
This was also an interesting episode coming so soon after “Playing God”, where I got the sense that Jadzia may still be dealing with impostor syndrome and a lingering anger towards Curzon, and where she also warned an initiate that one needs a strong sense of self before being joined. I wonder if this was also about proving something to herself, and to Dax, as well. I liked that Dax had to take different approaches with each of the three Klingons, too. In combination with her conversation with Kira, it felt very much as if she were working through her own reservations — like it gave her a chance to figure out what this meant to her.
The episode also makes a great showcase of just how much of a shift has happened with her characterization. She gets some great one-on-one scenes in this episode — with the Klingons, with Kira, with Sisko — and this is the first time we really see Jadzia Dax, Action Hero. Or, in the words of this brilliant post:
I also loved that after Kang asked how the phasers could be disabled, and I yelled they had a dang science officer with them, Jadzia made the same point. First because I always love it when characters are on the same wavelength as me, but also, it was a lovely way to reinforce that this isn’t just Curzon or Dax’s thing — Jadzia is a vital part of it. Hell, Curzon might actually have been less helpful in getting them into the compound than Jadzia.
Time for some wild speculation
So, uhhhh…the Albino looks like he may be Klingon, but also calls them “filth” and “scum”. He’s also apparently a contemporary of three guys who were kicking around at the time of the Original Series. His death came at the hands of, in addition to those three guys, a joined Trill.
Meanwhile, season one of Star Trek: Discovery, set only ten years before the Original Series, features Voq, a Klingon with weird, pale skin who, by the end of the season, has undergone a lot of complex brainwashing of varying success and become Ash Tyler, sleeper agent, whose memories of being Klingon are blurry-to-nonexistent, but who does clearly remember being a prisoner of the Klingons. Also, the trailer for season three shows Michael Burnham — who, by the way, was in love with him before she left him nine centuries in the past — in the symbiont pools. (When the trailer first dropped I assumed this was just wishful thinking on my part, but in the course of the NYCC panel they confirmed that there’d be stuff involving the Trill and scenes on the Trill homeworld, and a little corner of my brain has been devoted to my freakout ever since.)
I’m not saying that the Albino is definitely Ash Tyler/Voq and Michael is gonna learn that Jadzia Dax was involved in his death, I’m just saying it’s a really interesting coincidence and, like Garak, I don’t trust coincidences.
And I’m also just saying that Ash Tyler’s child was kidnapped by Kol-Sha of the House of Kor.
Other things I liked
I mentioned it in passing earlier, but I really loved Jadzia’s conversation with Kira — Visitor always plays Kira’s lingering trauma and struggle to reckon with the events of the Occupation wonderfully, and she shines here, quickly slamming the door closed on it while also trying to spare someone she’s come to consider a friend the same struggles she’s endured.
I also found it interesting that Kira’s concern was such that she then went to Sisko. I know it wasn’t necessary for the story, but I have to say that I would’ve loved to see that conversation, what with my love of Sisko and Kira’s developing friendship.
- “Curzon, my old friend!” “Actually, it’s Jadzia now.” “Jadzia, my old friend!” KOR SAID TRANS RIGHTS
- Odo used a surprisingly light touch in getting Kor off to the drunk tank!
- I’m a sucker for Lingering Meaningful Gazes, so obviously I adored the ending.
There’s surprisingly little horniness in this one! That said, not gonna lie, I definitely got some Kang/Curzon vibes.
4 thoughts on “2.19: “Blood Oath””
I’ve gotta say, “The Albino is Voq/Ash” theory is EVEN WORSE than “The Albino is Voq and L’Rell’s baby” theory which the show was so kind as to debunk.
(I choose to believe that Ash and L’Rell are both alive and SUPER DOOPER OLD in the 24th century and spend their time quietly meddling in Klingon politics just for funsies.)
I’m honored, thank you.
I freaking *love* this episode. Although I am not actually that big a fan of Klingon-centric episodes
on any of the modern Trek series, this one hits four stars for me easily because it’s one of the
best-written, character-driven adventures on DS9. It creates a real, believable conflict for Dax and
has us see all sides of the issue before she makes her decision, a decision that we as the audience
are invited to disagree with – I think, actually, that the episode *wants* us to disagree with, although we don’t, because of course that wouldn’t be any fun.
Moreover, I think the guest star turns by John Colicos, William Campbell, and Michael Ansara are easily the strongest in the first 2 years of DS9, and among the strongest across the entire series. In the span
of a single episode, all three Klingons emerge as individual personalities with distinct styles of
performance. I honestly did not care all that much that they were reprising characters from TOS (in only
two of the cases did I actually even remember their characters from TOS) although that’s a nice touch for
the superfans. It really doesn’t matter. Even with zero knowledge of the source material, these characters jump off the page and are brought brilliantly to life in a way that few Klingon characters throughout any of the shows ever were, barring long-established regulars like Worf.
In researching this episode, I was sad – not exactly surprised, but sad – to learn that all three actors
have since passed away, Colicos in 2000, Campbell in 2011, and Ansara in 2013. Campbell was the only one I remember hearing about at the time. I know Colicos returned as Kor in a couple more episodes, but frankly those appearances didn’t work for me as well as this one, where he’s just absolutely spot-on, and I kind of wish they had just let it go – leave the character alive, certainly, but leave him be. Sometimes less
The dialogue in this episode just sparkles for me. It sounds like the closest Star Trek has ever
come to having been written by Aaron Sorkin. I know Aaron Sorkin is Problematic, but I grew up loving
his cadence and word choices; he kinda aims for Shakespeare but usually hits Gilbert and Sullivan, and that’s what this episode does. It effortlessly fuses these epic, operatic Klingon moments
with more pedestrian, human themes – the same episode that gives us Kor’s grudging, Falstaffian acknowledgement that he is aging and slowing down (“The only weight I carry now, dear comrade, is… is my own bulbous body. I was once, if you remember, far less than you see. And far more than I’ve become.”) also gives us: “Of course you should come. The splendor of fighting and killing, a blood bath in the course of vengeance, who wouldn’t want to come?” And “am I forced to choose between pleasure and palate?”
Koloth – his sudden appearance, from nowhere, behind Odo. “How did you get in here?” “I am Koloth.”
“That doesn’t answer my question.” “Yes, it does.” Even when they talk about each other, these old
friends, they sound authentic. “Kang thinks too much, Koloth doesn’t feel enough.” Other characters get in on the act. Odo, chided for attempting humor at the expense of a Dahar master, *apologizes*, chastened; then gripes about having a “Klingon afternoon.”
And when they dial up the Klingon to Over The Top O’Clock, it works just as well:
“This time, we will reach the Albino. And when we do, I will cut his heart out, and eat it, while he watches me with his dying breath!” (Kang later conversationally muses, “will you eat of the heart of the Albino?” in roughly the same tone of voice I might ask my wife if she’d enjoy tater tots for dinner tonight.)
“The old Klingon ways are passing. There was a time, when I was a young man, the mere mention of the
Klingon Empire made worlds tremble. Now, our warriors are opening restaurants and serving racht to
the grandchildren of men I slaughtered in battle. Things are not what they used to be, not even a
And most glorious, the thundered bellow of entry: “Look upon your executioners, killer of children!”
Dax has two great moments with regulars – first with Kira, a conversation that rang amazingly true and
felt (here’s that word again) earned based on the rapport the two characters had developed over the
course of the series to this point. Kira knows some shit is going down. “TELL ME.” I love it. Then
with Sisko – this is the conversation I always wanted Picard to have with Worf whenever Worf was
ready to run off and do Klingon Things That Involve Murder. The way Sisko enters this conversation had me actually applauding. “No. No leave of absence.” Think about this – what you’re going to
do is 180 off from the way the Federation does things, and even if it’s consistent with Klingon law
and tradition, it’s at odds with the other way of life you chose when you selected your career.
*Think about it, character.* There may be consequences. What this conversation must do to Sisko, who for the first time finds himself in the position of being an authority figure to Dax in the midst of an internal conflict for her – presenting her with his ultimatum as her commanding officer, when for both of them, the dynamic for years was Curzon as the elder authority figure and Ben as the junior. (Although there aren’t, so far as I can tell, consequences to this particular choice, other than some Lingering Meaningful Gazes, which is a little bit of a disappointment, but I’ve made my peace with episodes being allowed to have one-off themes and leave them behind afterwards.)
If I had to complain about something, it would be that the idea that the Klingons unite on DS9 because
they expect to find Curzon Dax there. First, I find it impossible to believe that they wouldn’t have
heard that Curzon had died. He was a famous Federation diplomat; his death would have made news, and
probably particularly among the Klingons (given the role he played in the Federation-Klingon peace
talks), and probably especially particularly among *these specific Klingons* who knew him extremely
well. The implication I guess is that they had lost touch with him over the decades. It doesn’t really
make sense. It’s also unclear why, if they’d lost touch with him over the decades, they would have
expected to find him on Deep Space Nine, of all places. What the hell would he have been doing there? And even if he was there, did they imagine that he would be in fit enough shape to join them in literal hand-to-hand combat? What little we glimpse of Curzon in the “Emissary” flashbacks portrays him as pretty feeble – although perhaps that’s literally just at the end of his life having made his peace with the symbiant being withdrawn. (His incarnation within Odo in “Facets” is more feisty; that guy I could believe would truck along with the Klingons on a revenge quest, age immaterial.) This is just a badly-explained concept milked to produce the initial conflict over whether theyeven want Jadzia to join the mission. This is so poorly explained that it almost seems as though they chose to meet on DS9 by coincidence and happened to bump into Jadzia by mistake, which would be astronomically improbable. (Latent probability-law-distorting particles in the air following “Rivals”?) I mean, the scene in Ops has Dax literally finding out by accident that Kor and Koloth are on the station, which lends itself to this interpretation as well. I don’t *really* care that much, it’s a minor distraction in the grand scheme of things to set up such a glorious drama, but it’s notable. (I honestly can’t tell, but I think the implication may be that Kang summoned Koloth and Kor to join him on DS9 – they aren’t certain he’s found the Albino until Kang appears and confirms it – and perhaps he alone thought Curzon Dax was there, although, I still don’t really buy that explanation.)
It falls down on the horny (although I think the writer was plenty horny for Epic Klingon Moments, but everything else about it works so well I can’t help but love it.
BTW, I am now seriously interested in the Voq/Tyler-as-Albino theory and would like a pamphlet with additional information. (Also I still haven’t seen season 2 of Discovery, I need to double-check and see if the DVDs are out yet. Yes. I’m that guy.)
I will try to respond to some of your points later but let me just say I LOVE THIS WHOLE COMMENT SO MUCH
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