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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – The Lives of Dax: Allegro Ouroboros in D Minor (Joran) by S.D. Perry (Review)

The September and October, we’re taking a look at the jam-packed 1994 to 1995 season of Star Trek, including Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager. Check back daily for the latest review.

Joran Dax was a much more interesting character in Equilibrium than he became in later appearances. In shows like Facets and Field of Fire, Joran went from being a socially dysfunctional individual who murdered his supervisor to a serial killer with an in-depth understanding of the psyche of a killer. The shift is understandable. After all, “killer” is much more eye-catching with word “serial” placed in front of it.

Unfortunately, it has a tendency to diminish the character. Serial killers are a dime-a-dozen in pulp fiction. Although they had been a fixture of the American popular consciousness for quite some time, the critical and commercial success of The Silence of the Lambs had turned serial killers into a cottage industry within popular culture. Films and television shows about people hunting serial killers became fixtures of the pop culture landscape, to the point where it all got exhausting.

The story of Joran Dax as presented in Equilibrium is tragic and more than a little compelling. In that story, Joran was a damaged individual who was not ready to merge with another mind. The process shattered his psyche completely, breaking his tenuous hold on reality. As a result of poor screening and a quirk of fate, the thing he had wanted for the most of his life pushed him over the edge. He lashed out, killing the person who had initially rejected him from the initiation programme.

It is a story that makes Joran seem like a creature to be pitied. Indeed, Equilibrium ends with Jadzia embracing Joran – as if accepting that his actions were not entirely his fault. Unfortunately, Allegro Ouroboros in D Minor rather heavily re-writes this back story, in favour turning Joran into a serial killer. Reading Allegro Ouroboros in D Minor, Joran comes off as even more of a Hannibal Lecter knock-off than he did during Avery Brooks’ scenery chewing in Facets. Which is saying something.

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The original Hannibal Lecter was a compelling character, because the audience had never really seen anything like him before. Played by Anthony Hopkins, there was something unsettling in his stillness. He was like a coiled serpent ready to strike, a predator who seemed even more dangerous after he had been caged. Hopkins infamously secured the Best Actor Oscar with less than twenty minutes of screentime, demonstrating how thoroughly he towered over the rest of the film.

There have been many attempts to mimic Hannibal Lecter over the years. There have been waves of serial killer films and television shows, looking to tap into that mood and that vibe. None have succeeded in the same way that The Silence of the Lambs did with Anthony Hopkins. In fact, Hopkins’ two subsequent appearances as Hannibal Lecter – in Hannibal and Red Dragon – could not capture the same magic, despite the actor’s best efforts.

As such, it seems a bit over the top to expect a short story in a Star Trek anthology to provide a worthy imitation of that iconic character. Allegro Ouroboros in D Minor reads like a poor impersonation of a serial killer, as an attempt at pastiche or homage to the work of Thomas Harris. The clichés come quick and fast. “I won’t rest until I find out who did this to you,” the investigator promises a dead body. The killer seeks to harness death as a creative or an artistic force.

There is even a host of pretentious psychobabble from both Joran and the officers pursuing him. Joran is portrayed as a calculating and smooth psychopath, even as the walls close in around him. He is charming and flirtatious, and prone to arrogant self-justification. His pursuers offer a suitably grand psychological profile of their target, “a joined killer, experiencing himself as the rebirth of his symbiont, creating death as he is born.”

This feels more like a collection of serial killer movie clichés than anything real or tangible. The story elevates Joran to the sort of stock psychopath who is a dime-a-dozen in popular culture. Allegro Ouroboros in D Minor even brushes over the horror of his crimes, presenting him as a well-spoken and meticulous (and very clean) form of psychopath. Joran never feels like a person who could actually exist. Instead, he seems like a collection of vaguely familiar and well-worn iconography.

Allegro Ouroboros in D Minor misses most of the interesting hooks into the story of Joran Dax. It glosses over the potential exploration of class on Trill, as a serial killer is able to strike with impunity due to his social status. “Murder was rare on Trill, and only the unjoined killed,” we’re told, but the story never follows through. Did the reluctance to acknowledge this reality enable or empower Joran? What about his victims? Was there any institutional prejudice at work there?

Jack the Ripper is an infamous serial killer, but he also provides a window into the culture and attitudes of nineteenth century London. Jack the Ripper defined his era, by making it impossible to ignore the sort of poverty and class divisions that existed in British culture at the time. Given how Trill culture is structured around social class and image, the cover-up surrounding Joran is much more interesting than Joran himself. It would be interesting to explore how Joran’s crimes were hidden for so long.

More than that, Joran is more interesting as a three-dimensional character than as a broadly-painted archetype. The idea of a person who wasn’t able to cope with the joining process is much more interesting than a stock serial killer. Allegro Ouroboros in D Minor never really portrays Joran as a character struggling with himself or with his identity. He moves with a certainty that is common in these sorts of stories.

Allegro Ouroboros in D Minor is a reflection of a problem, rather than the problem itself. Nevertheless, there was an opportunity here to do something interesting and insightful with the character of Joran Dax. Instead, we just get a reheated serial killer.

You might be interested in our reviews of the third season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:

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