Overall Rating: 8.9
Highlighted by stunningly written dialogue and laced with a lot of deeply meaningful personal exchanges between Dax and others close to her (especially Sisko and Kira), Blood Oath is very close to feature status - I deliberated for weeks about whether it was a feature worthy episode or not - and even falling short of said feature label, this was one of the strongest Dax-centric episodes in the entire series.
When Kor, a long time friend of Curzon Dax, arrives on the station and wrecks one of Quark's holosuites, and his compatriot Koloth refuses to take custody of the drunken old Dahar Master, Dax arrives to bail him out of jail. Although Kor does not recognize his old friend in her new, quite attractive (as he points out on several only slightly creepy occasions) body - she proves her identity to Kor, Koloth and Kang, the last to arrive on the station, and then, the reason for their visit is made known. Kang has found "The Albino" - an old enemy against whom Kang has issued a blood oath with Koloth, Kor and Curzon Dax because, eighty years earlier, Kang's son (Curzon's godson) was murdered by this man in cowardly revenge.
Dax pledges to join them in their quest to take down The Albino and fulfill Curzon's blood oath and is startled when Kang robs her of her honor by releasing her from responsibility and refusing to take her with them on the quest. Suddenly, her place on the mission is not compulsory and she spends the next day trying to decide if she should force the issue or even if she really wants to be a part of this revenge killing. She talks to Kira about what it was like to kill - a topic that thoroughly horrifies Kira - and when Sisko gets wind of this matter, he tries to talk her out of it, saying she has a duty to the station and he will not give her a leave of absence. She begs him not to force her to choose between her career and her honor and Sisko reluctantly allows her to leave. She convinces Koloth to allow her to come on the mission by proving her battle worthiness in the holosuite. With Kang the final holdout, she accuses him of having no honor and he angrily relents, saying "fine! Join us on the quest! Come and be damned!"
As they leave in search of The Albino it becomes apparent that there are serious flaws in Kang's plan and doubts about his intelligence. Dax confronts him about it, saying he seems to have a death wish, and Kang admits that they have no chance to reach The Albino. He and his friends are old and have lost their warrior's skills. In Klingon custom, the worst possible death for a great warrior is outside the battlefield. Old age is a terrible thing to reach when you're expected to die a warrior's death in honorable combat. Dax convinces him that they can reach The Albino and achieve one last victory and that there is no honor in committing suicide in a winnable battle.
With some clever tactics, they eventually overwhelm The Albino's sanctuary and Dax reaches The Albino...knife poised to deliver the killing blow. She hesitates...unsure if she really wants to go as far as cold blooded murder, but Kang - ever the consummate Klingon - uses his last energy to kill their enemy and thanks Jadzia for saving him the death blow before he dies along with Koloth. Only Jadzia and Kor survive the assault - Jadzia clearly affected by her experience. When she returns to her post, both Kira and Sisko want to know whether she went through with it but neither says a word. An uncomfortable silence falls over Ops as Dax thinks over that decisive moment. She'll never know if she would have killed him or not.
Showing all of DS9's characteristic flare for organic and realistic dialogue, Peter Allen Fields (yep...that guy again!) delivers another delicious character piece full of great scenes worthy of highlights and comments (see below). This guy is like a character-writing savant or something. Even the three Klingons are all meaningfully portrayed with unique personalities that are both endearing and flawed. I don't know what Mr. Fields is up to these days, but I hope he's writing for someone. The man is the master.
All of the guest stars do an above average job, though I think Koloth is a bit flat in all but perhaps one scene (his bat'leth dual with Dax). Everyone else rises to the occasion of great dialogue once agin...especially Terry Farrell, Nana Visitor and Avery Brooks. The weak link is probably The Albino himself...he's not terribly convincing as the big bad and it strikes me as odd that it took 80 years to hunt this mo-fo down and kill him.
I guess the lone disappointment for me is that we brought Dax all the way to the moment of truth...we had an opportunity to see how Klingon she was, and at the last moment, PAF backed away, allowing Kang to do the killing. I feel like a chance at real permanent character growth may have been lost and we had to settle instead for a sort of coming of age story for Dax. Much like her experience with Arjin, she is realizing just how strong the influences of the other hosts to the Dax symbiont are within her, especially Curzon. As the show progresses, she is getting more and more Curzon like - obviously, he was a powerful man. The moral question - is it justified to murder someone in cold blood out of vengeance? Does any action they take give you the right to kill? I know what my co-author would say. I personally think she could stand to have a bit more Klingon in her blood though. I kind of wish Dax had gone through with it and taken responsibility for the guilt it caused.
QUARK: You've got to do something, Odo. He only paid for one hour, but he's been in there for three! Fighting some Klingon battle...Klagh-da-glag-blag or something.
ODO: The Battle of Klakt De'kel Bracht is a legendary victory of the Klingons over the Romulans.
QUARK: Well he's been losing it all afternoon. I banged on the door, he sealed himself in! I threatened to shut off the power. He threatened to kill me.
ODO: Aw...poor you. (they get to the door and sounds of a battle are heard) Since when did you add Klingon battles to your holosuite programs?
QUARK: The Captain of the last Klingon vessel that passed through here sold some to me. (Odo scoffs) I know! It's brutal...it's violent...it's bloody! But to the Klingons...it's entertainment!
ODO: Shut off the power.
QUARK: Are you insane? He'll kill you!
ODO: No. He said he'll kill you! Shut it off. (Quark reluctantly complies and we hear Kor howl angrily and slam his weapon to the ground)
KOR: (obviosuly very VERY drunk) Who dares interrupt the battle of Klakt De'kel Bracht?! (Quark cowers in fear)
ODO: The battle is over. The people are waiting to cheer your victory.
KOR: They are? Lead the way, then!
KOLOTH: What are the charges against him?
ODO: Charges? No charges! He's today's guest of honor. (snerk)
KOLOTH: You must be a brave man to attempt humor at the expense of a Klingon Dahar Master.
ODO: Sorry...no disrespect intended.
KOLOTH: Kor! (Kor barely moves)
ODO: Sir...if you'll wake up, I'll release you into your friend's custody!
KOR: Koloth (incoherent growling)...my old friend...I knew you'd be here.
KOLOTH: You disgrace yourself and our purpose! I do not go into battle with one whose honor is washed away in Breshtanti Ale! Keep him!" - ZING!
ODO: Security assignments for next month's duty roster, Major. Sorry it took so long. It's been a Klingon afternoon.
KIRA: A Klingon afternoon?
ODO: Every time Klingons visit the station I end up with a Klingon afternoon. But this is definitely one I'll cherish forever. There's a drunken Klingon - who must be 100 years old - in one of my holding cells singing Klingon battle hymns. Even his friend - who must be 150 years old - won't have anything to do with him. So I'm stuck listening to his repertoire. (Kira giggles - so do we) Kor! Dahar master of the Klingons.
KOR: Dax? My friend? After eighty-one years, I find you here...a delightful young woman! Kiss me!!
DAX: How about just a great big hug! (ROTFL!!!!)
KOLOTH: This is a mistake. Kang must not have known of Curzon's passing.
KOR: But what a lovely mistake! (LOL! Dirty old man...)
DAX: Kira...how many people did you kill?
DAX: When you were in the underground?
KIRA: Too many.
DAX: Were they all faceless Cardassians? Or did you know who you were killing?
KIRA: Why are we talking about this??
DAX: If it bothers you to talk about it, we can stop...
KIRA: Well it bothers me.
DAX: I'm sorry...forget I brought it up...
KIRA: Why? Are you thinking of killing someone?
DAX: Me? (laughing uncomfortably...Kira looks terrified and pulls Jadzia aside)
KIRA: Tell me.
DAX: I don't know what you're talking about.
KIRA: Tell. Me.
DAX: Eighty years ago, there was a band of depredators led by an albino...raiding Klingon colonies. The Klingon Empire dispatched three birds of prey to stop it. One of the Captains was a close friend of Curzon's. The mission was successful - they captured most of them - but The Albino escaped. In his last message to the Klingons, he promised he would seek revenge on the men responsible by killing their first born sons. Three years later, he made good on his threat. Somehow, he infected three innocent children with a genetically engineered virus that killed them all. One of those children was my godson.
KIRA: I'm sorry...but Jadzia...that was Curzon's godson.
DAX: I took a blood oath to avenge my godson's death.
KIRA: Curzon took a blood oath! (long awkward pause)
DAX: I can still remember the boy's funeral. He was named Dax for me.
KIRA: You know where this albino is?
DAX: They found him. The three Klingons came to tell me.
KIRA: Look...you've said yourself that every new Trill life has to be completely separate. If they're not, you'd wind up paying off old debts forever! These Klingons can't expect you to hold to this oath!
DAX: That's just it...they don't. They say I have no obligation to any of them. But I do...I know it...I feel it! If not to them, I owe it to Curzon."
KIRA: (looking almost desperate to dissuade her) Jadzia...your questions before...about my experience with killing...if you wanted to know what it was like...every time you kill someone you lose a little of yourself as well. (even writing that brings chills...very haunting words)
DAX: Could you speak to them (Kang and Koloth)...it means far more to me than I realized.
KOR: Koloth spends all his time in the holosuite practicing. He listens to no one. ANd if Kang has made up his mind, there's nothing I can do.
DAX: And you call yourself a teacher of Klingon history. What of your history? You are Kor! Dahar Master! They cheered you at Klakh De'kel Bracht. Your voice weighed heavily on the course of Klingon events.
KOR: You shame me.
DAX: No. Please don't feel that.
KOR: The only weight I carry now is my own bulbous body. I was once, if you recall, far less than I am now...and far more than what I've become. (that's just...so well written...I love the language...)
DAX: You can't deny my right for vengeance.
KANG: You...try to speak like a Klingon, but the words do not fit in your mouth.
DAX: You said that to me before, Kang, do you remember?
KANG: That was Curzon Dax. I do not wish to discuss it any further.
DAX: The Corvat colony. First day of negotiations, I walked out on you. Right in the middle of that long-winded speech. You should have seen the look on your face. Nobody had ever had the kadjung'pat to show their back to the great Kang before Curzon did.
KANG: I almost killed Curzon that day.
DAX: I knew I had to get you very...very angry with me that day or my mission wouldn't succeed. Getting you angry was the first step toward creating a bond between us.
KANG: Curzon...understood Klingons.
DAX: And he also understood what he was doing when he took a Klingon blood oath. You can't ask me to stay here and not seek vengeance for my own godson's death. You can't expect me to live with that dishonor!
KANG: I cannot dishonor myself by allowing you to die in Curzon's place.
DAX: Who's talking about dying? I have no intention of dying. (Kang seems unimpressed) You dishonor yourself already, Kang. By placing your honor above mine. No Klingon Warrior would leave a comrade behind while he goes off to battle! Perhaps you're right...Klingon honor isn't what it used to be.
KANG: Are you trying to anger me? Do you think the same trick would work twice?
DAX: I understand Klingons.
KANG: Alright then! Come and fight with us! Come and be damned!!
DAX: I was just coming to find you, Benjamin.
DAX: No what?
SISKO: No leave of absence.
DAX: Kira shouldn't have told you.
SISKO: Kira is my first officer.
DAX: I don't have to tell you what this oath meant to Curzon.
SISKO: Jadzia Dax took an oath too. When she joined Starfleet. You're subject to orders, Lieutenant!
DAX: Don't do it, Benjamin! Don't make me disobey a direct order!
SISKO: I never understood this. I mean...whatever else Curzon was, he did have a fundamental morality. He wouldn't condone murder any more than I would. And yet he swore to kill this albino and now you're about to go off and kill in his name. What about the laws of the Federation?!
DAX: The Klingons have their own set of laws. This is justice to them!
SISKO: And to you?
DAX: I've chosen to respect their codes of conduct in this matter, yes.
SISKO: You really think you're capable of doing this?
DAX: I don't know. I guess there's only one way to find out, isn't there?
SISKO: Let's say you are. Let's say you somehow survive this insanity. Do you really expect to come back here and resume your duties as thought nothing happened?
DAX: I guess that'll be up to you.
DAX: So...we talk about dying again.
KANG: A Klingon warrior is always prepared to die.
DAX: Yes...but to invite death with a direct assault against a superior force...Kang! What are you doing? What is really going on here? Loyalty blinds Kor and Koloth, but not me. This is not a plan for battle, it's a plan for suicide! If it were someone else...I might think you were paid to lure us here.
KANG: How could you say that? I took a blood oath with you!
DAX: That's why you didn't want me to come. You knew anyone who went on this mission wouldn't be coming back.
KANG: When the amulet arrived, I went to Sacerus sector to see for myself if it was true. Somehow...the instant I arrived, he knew I was there. He contacted me - he sent an invitation for one last glorious battle. He said that he was tired of this pursuit. He swore to send 40 of his strongest and most skilled warriors against us in battle. And I agreed.
DAX: But why?
KANG: Because...this is our last chance. If we cannot reach the albino...we can at least die an honorable death trying to reach him! A death any Klingon Dahar Master deserves.
DAX: You know what, Kang? I think you Klingons embrace death too easily. You treat death like a lover. I think living is a lot more attractive. I think an honorable victory is much better than an honorable defeat. (YES! Go Dax, go!!)
KANG: I was right afterall. It is a good day to die. (and he dies)
DAX: It's never a good day to lose a friend.