Courtroom drama isn't exactly what comes to mind when you think of Star Trek, although the judicial system of the future has played a prominent role in some episodes. We don't have a full-on court case in Dax, but rather an extradition hearing for Jadzia Dax, in place of the Dax symbiont's former host, Curzon Dax.
The episode is named "Dax" as it's the first episode that really explores Jadzia Dax's past lives, and the symbiotic relationships that Trills have with their hosts. While we learn a great deal about Trills in this episode, particularly about Dax, many further questions are raised, as the A.V. Club review has noted. This isn't a bad thing though. These are valuable story hooks, allowing for further character development and plot hooks for later episodes. Always leave your audience looking for more.
This a great episode on a number of points. It explores a philosophical question about a "perfect" crime, as well as examining issues of identity, loyalty and friendship. Who is Jadzia Dax, and in what ways is she different from Sisko's old friend, Curzon? Even as Sisko is working to connect his friendship with Curzon to that of Jadzia, this episode works both to complicate and simplify matters.
The major plot is that Curzon Dax was one of a very few people who could have sent a transmission to an enemy of the Klaestronians, committing treason and betraying his close friend, a general who was killed and posthumously made a national hero. Some thirty years later, his son is persecuting Jadzia Dax for the supposed crimes of her former host.
Dax is of course innocent. The general himself colluded with the enemy, who betrayed and killed him. Dax has an alibi as well: the General's wife. Rather than risk her reputation, and the heroic status awarded posthumously to the general, Dax holds her peace, ready to accept responsibility for the betrayal: extradition to a planet which has the death penalty.
Death normally isn't final for a Trill, as when the symbiont is transferred to a new host, it brings all memories along with it. In this case, however, it is the Dax symbiont in particular that is being prosecuted, and would then suffer a final death.
It's interesting to see that to remain true to her vow of silence regarding her relationship with the general's wife, Dax essentially denies her friendship with Sisko, stating the Sisko was Curzon's friend. Sisko, in turn, defends Jadzia Dax as a separate entity from Curzon.
When Bashir testifies about how Jadzia's brainwaves are different from that of Curzon, thus showing that they are separate people. In the cross-examination, Bashir reluctantly admits that there is no evidence that the symbiont's individual brainwaves altered appreciably from Curzon to Jadzia. Curiously, no mention was made to whether Jadzia's brainwaves were altered during the joining. The audience learns of her many accomplishments of her own accord, prior to being joined with the symbiont, but we don't get a feel for how she was changed by this irreversible change. How much of her personality is due to the symbiont? Jadzia is very self-assured, extremely confident, and willing to sacrifice her own life for her principles.
Sisko, however, approaches the case with a particular result in mind, and directs his team to find the "correct" answer, although he admits to wanting to know of any incorrect answers as well. An interesting nuance.
Speaking of personal principles, there are some good personal performances by Quark and Odo. The extradition hearing needs a location, and with a little prompting from Odo, Quark "offers" his bar for the location. It's a small scene, but this relationship is built upon small scenes. Quark, as always, wants any concessions he makes a goodwill gesture, in spite of any coercion.
Dax is a very philosophical episode. While much of the case focuses on technicalities, such as whether Jadzia Dax is or isn't the "person" who committed treason, it is in the end a moot point, as Dax has an alibi. We entirely sidestep any question of whether the Federation should allow extradition to a government that has a death penalty, a reminder that Star Trek exists in a world formed by ideologies in the USA.
Dax first aired on February 14, 1993. Teleplay by D.C. Fontana & Peter Allan Fields. Story by Peter Allan Fields. Directed by David Carson.