Wednesday, 15 February 2012

The Magic Of Star Trek Deep Space Nine: Joint Trill and the Higher Self

Jadzia, meeting her "shadow self" in "Equilibrium"

One of the more fascinating races in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine are the Trill, a species of humanoids who share existence consciousness with a slug-like creature called a symbiont. Throughout the series, the psychology of such an existence is explored quite thoroughly, as several episodes are devoted exclusively to the special problems and challenges Trill science officer Jadzia (eminently portrayed by Terry Farrell) faces due to her 'joining' (as is the term) to a symbiont called “Dax”. These symbionts live on after the “host” dies, we are told, and Jadzia is just the latest in a series of joinings of the same symbiont to previous hosts.

So what is the exact relationship between symbiont and “host”? Early in the series it is established that for all practical purposes, Jadzia is a separate personality from all the previous hosts, and that due to the joining, a unique personality is established by a merging of host and symbiont. Yet, this is the outside world view, as Jadzia herself adopts a very different attitude and, in the episode “Dax”, seems to hold herself responsible for the alleged sins of her predecessor, Curzon. And later in the series, in “Blood Oath” she does exactly the same when upholding a Klingon blood oath that Curzon swore but that she herself feels obliged to fulfill.

Jadzia seems very much in touch with her 'previous lifes', especially with Curzon, as she is often quoting him and his wiles, sometimes ad nauseam. In one episode, “Equilibrium”, she even encounters a previously unknown host, Joran Belar, who turned out to be an unsuccessfull host and whose joining had been suppressed both by the Dax symbiont itself as well as by the Trill officials.

Jadzia Dax (Terry Farrell)

This all seems to point towards an existence in which a personality is brought into intimate contact with a -more or less- immortal and 'higher' mentality. The symbiont seems to fulfill the role of the Higher Self, the Individuality, while the various hosts deliver the Lower Selfs, the Personalities, the mortal “incarnations” that throughout the ages allow the symbiont to discover Itself. The actual act of the Joining -which is shown in the episode “Invasive Procedures”- then becomes an initiation, in which the Higher and Lower Selves are connected to each other. In that particular episode, the actual moment of contact between host and symbiont is shown as an extatic moment of enlightenment. In fact, the candidates selected for joining are referred to as “Trill Initiates”. Those initiates have followed a rigorous regimen of training and study and are subjected to numerous tests in order to determine capacity for joining.

After the joining, the newly joined Trill need some timne to establish and equilibrate their new existence. We witness this in Deep Space Nine's final season when Ezri, Jadzia's successor, needs to come to terms with her symbiont while being stationed at DS9 in the thick of the Dominion War.
What emerges is a new and stronger, and more balanced personality. Eventual character flaws are smoothed over, so we see the single-mindedness of Jadzia turn into the warm and versatile Jadzia Dax, and the insecure Ezri into an effective officer. The symbiont cannot be moved without killing the host; an interesting reference to the irreversible nature of initiation: one cannot undo it, it is a Rite of Passage.

I cannot help seeing this as depicting the initiation pathway that -in fact- aims at re-establishing the same kind of inner cooperation between the two aspects of our soul: the Higher and Lower Selves. The severe and sometimes tedious preparations, the tests, the discipline and dedication of the Trill candidates: it is all too familiar. Now, of course, the analogy is not exact, but enough parallels may be discovered to trigger a lasting interest in the development of the Dax character. More on this subject in due time!

The Trill Homeworld

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