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"The Death of Dax"

By Ian Spelling

-For Deep Space Nine, the Trill is gone, but the adventure is only beginning for Terry Farrell-

Dax is dead. Long live Dax. "I asked specifically not to be killed off," reveals Terry Farrell, who spent six years as Jadzia Dax on "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine before Gul Dukat ( Marc Alaimo) murdered her in the sixth season finale "Tears of the Prophets." "(Writer/executive produce) Ira Steven Behr told me that he didn't want to kill me either, but he had to do what was best for the show. It was the best for ratings, best for making a clean break from the show. As far as I know, it was just up to Ira and Rick Berman what happened to Dax. So I said,'OK - just remember, if you ever need me to come back, you can clone Dax's body.' I'm sure once Dax got her body back, there would be no stopping her from getting the worm back."

On the other hand, dead could very well mean dead. It could and likely will mean no "DS9" guest shots, or "Star Trek" movies. "I knew I would have to live with all that when I made the decision not to come back," Farrell explains. "DS9 has been an amazing experience. I needed it. I learned so much as an actress and as a person. But it was a job, and I needed to work on my career and find another job. I'm 34. Women don't have that long of a life span in Hollywood, and I wanted to try something different. I just believed in my heart that I could find something new. I don't know how to explain other than to say I was on DS9 as long as I needed to be there."

Dax's Demise

Farrell decided last summer, following several weeks of deep thought, conversations with business associates , friends and family, that the 1997-98 season would be her last. While most everybody else in the DS9 cast had signed two-year deals taking them through seventh season, Farrell chose not to do so. When it came time to negotiate for a seventh year, Paramount made an offer, and the actress turned it down. According to Farrell, there was a little haggling about money after that, and she decided to simply complete her contractual obligation and move on.

In fact, by the time she filmed "Tears of the Prophets," she had auditioned numerous times for a role in a sitcom pilot entitled Becker. Nine days after shooting her death scene, Farrell won the job playing Reggie, a practically broke woman who runs a Bronx diner she just inherited from her father. Ted Danson plays the tell-it-like-it-is Dr. Becker. Just a few weeks later, CBS announced that Becker would be a mid-season replacement.

As soon as Farrell made up her mind to depart, she went about informing her co- stars and the show's crew. She didn't want anyone to find out about it via the Internet gossip or the industry trade publications. " I think it's kind of rude when you work with people for a long time and you don't tell them that you're not going to be working with them anymore" Farrell reasons. " Many of them thought for sure that I was coming back. They didn't think in a million years that I would actually leave. Colm (Meaney) was the least surprised, because he knew how I felt. My impression was that Nana ( Visitor) thought that it was more about the money, that they would come up with it. The crew was shocked. I think most people, most fans, thought it was a money issue, that it would be solved and we would all just keep going. I told the truth, and said how I felt. I didn't pull any punches.

"It took a long time for everybody to get that I was really leaving. Until "Tears of the Prophets," was written most people didn't believe it. When I got to the set the day we read the preliminary script, it was really rough. I had many shocked people around me. They were saying, ' You can't leave,' or , ' I can't believe you're going to die!' Everyone was dealing with their own emotions about it. It was sad, exciting and scary all at once. It was very bittersweet."

And how about Michael Dorn? What was the reaction of Farrell's pal and Klingon husband Worf? " Michael was very funny. He said it didn't feel real until I was laying there on the biobed," she explains. " That's when it hit him. And it worked well for him, because he gave a great performance in the episode, a great in-the-moment performance. He's probably not too sad to see me go, because he knows he'll see my sorry ass out in the real world. Colm and Rene Auberjonois, too, were very cool about it. They said, "we'll see you."

Finally, the day came for Dukat to fire the shots that cut Dax down just as she and Worf were in the process of enjoying married life, just as Dr. Bashir figured out a way for Dax to give birth to a Klingon baby. Farrell remembers that there were a few laughs on the set as she filmed her two most important scenes, the one in which Dukat shot her and the one in which she succumbed to her wounds after bidding Worf farewell. As often happens in episodic television, scenes from "Tears of the Prophets," were filmed out of order, meaning Farrell technically died before she was shot.

'The death scene was done on the first day of the episode, and the day before the last day was me getting zapped," Farrell says with a bemused laugh. "They asked me what I wanted to shoot first, the death scene or another scene that day that had us all put together. I said,' Please let me die first.' I figured that way I would have the rest of the day to get cheered up. I didn't want to die, then be sent home. That would have been such a drag.

"My very last shot was of me lying on the ground. It was weird. I couldn't believe it was actually happening. I had to punch myself. You also have to understand that I was lying on that ground knowing that the very next day O was going right back to Paramount to see all the head people I already worked for to talk about Becker. I was feeling really good about my chances. Knowing that this other opportunity could really happen made me a little less sad about Dax dying."

Trill's Thrills

However appropriate it is for Farrell to now look ahead, it's also time for looking back on her Star Treks. Back in late 1992, Farrell stepped for the very first time onto the DS9 set. She was a 28-year-old beauty whose credits included the horror file Hellraiser III and the Rodney Dangerfield comedy Back to School, as well as the TV series Paper Dolls ( Starlog #188). She entered the world of Star Trek quite familiar with the original series and eager to breath life into Jadzia Dax, the humanoid host of a Trill symbiont.

Farrell remarks that the reality of acting on DS9 proved quite different from what she anticipated on other fronts. " I thought it would be much easier than it was. The technobabble was much more difficult than I ever thought it would be," she says. "The hours were more difficult. I thought I would be able to have a better balance of working and living, and I pretty much ended up working, then resting. I didn't get to spend as much time as I had hoped with my friends because I was just so tired. That made me feel so guilty. We would get done so late of Friday nights, and I was always canceling on people. I thought that because DS9 was an ensemble show, I wouldn't work as many hours as I did. What you don't realize is that sometime you have to wait around before you go in. I remember one time I sat at home for 13 hours before they called me in.

"Another thing that happened a lot on DS9 was that we would get a script the night before we would start working on it. That makes you really good at learning things fast, at the last minute. I was so terrified at the beginning, so scared of the words, so nervous about the technobabble. Now I've got much more confidence. I know I can learn my lines quickly and that I'll be able to get them out when they say, "Action." Also, I now know how to listen to the other actors in a scene. When DS9 started, I was so worried about getting the technobabble right that I could hardly listen to the other actors. To play a scene well, you really have to be able to listen to the people you're acting with, so that you can react to them and not just their words. Going into Becker, it's great to have all the confidence I got from doing DS9."

Always fond of her earthy Trill character, Farrell for the most part thinks the writers developed her quite well over the years. Would she like to have seen Dax's family even once? Sure. Would she have liked to learn more about what made Dax tick? Of course. Would she have preferred more scenes between Dax and Worf? You bet. Since DS9 is an ensemble show, however, its writers were obliged to write stories not just for Dax, but for the other eight other regular characters and the 30-plus recurring characters who people the DS9 landscape week after week. But the always candid Farrell doesn't deny feeling DS9 focused on too many guest stars at the regulars' expense.

"When you already have nine people to write for on a weekly basis, I think you should exhaust all of the storylines in those directions first. I don't know what the writers have to do or what their constraints are, because that's certainly not my job," she points out. " We've had some great recurring characters, be we don't learn enough about the main characters as a result. Also, if the complaint is that there is not enough money (to entice Farrell to remain with DS9), why are they spending more money on guest stars? So, they would have me work one day and say one line, then pay three people to be guest leads that week. Well, no wonder they have no money. We had nine regulars! That's a lot of actors. There should have been plenty to write about each one of them.

" In a way, though, it was great for everyone. The guest stars all want to work, and they did. Many of the regulars became friends with some guest stars, so I guess it was OK. It was just too many people to write for. You couldn't really get to know more than a couple of regulars. You know the most about Kira, then maybe Sisko and Odo, then Quark and Bashir. Worf we already knew from his Next Generation days. In my opinion, they haven't done a lot with Worf since he has been on DS9. We really don't know too much about Dax other than that she's a wisecracker who seems to roll with the punches. However, I loved that they made it a point to show that she was good in battle. That she was an equal who could get in there with anyone and hold her own. Since Dax's science office blew up, though, we've learned even less about her.

"That was one of the reasons I realized it was time to leave. They couldn't do much more with Dax. They couldn't promise me that they would do five Dax episodes next season, and I didn't want them to make that promise. I realize that there are nine characters, and all of those guest leads that have become integral parts of the show and of the stories. No one could argue with that. If I got lucky, I might have gotten two Dax shows next year. Well, jeez, what if I got hit by that proverbial bus and I was in the middle of season seven? I would be so angry that I came back for what? Money, and not because I was wor5king more or getting to do anything creatively different. That seemed like a really silly reason to come back. I didn't need to say yes. I saved my money exactly because I wanted to be able to say no if I felt I needed to say no."

Jadzia's Journeys

Looking back at more than 120 episodes, Farrell has her favorites, her disappointments, and her bizarre moments to recount. First, she cites what she considers the best Dax episodes. "I loved 'Far Beyond the Stars,' Avery (Brooks) did a great job as a director and an actor. He let me do a New York accent for it, and I chewed so much gum in that show it was insane," she laughs. "It was fun, because the character I played wasn't Dax or even a variation of Dax. 'Change of Heart,' was up there with the best Dax shows, and so was 'Fascination.' It was fun and comedic and off the wall. I liked having that lightness coming out of nowhere every once in a while. 'Playing God' was a favorite because I got to work with Geoffery Blake ( as Arjin). He had played my boy friend on Paper Dolls a million years ago. mastering the technobabble in that show was a huge achievement for me. That's when I started to get a little more comfortable with it. I also loved wearing the wedding dress in ' You are Cordially Invited...' "

Of course " You are Cordially Invited..." and "Change of Heart" stand as Farrell's two biggest season six episodes, excepting "Tears of the Prophets." In "Invited," Dax and Worf finally tied the know, while the battle-heavy "Heart" explored the limits Worf and Dax would go for each other. "For the most part I loved ' You are Cordially Invited...' It was great that I got to outwit Sirella ( Shannon Cochran). I looked up her family history and really nailed her on that. That was a good idea on the writers' part, to use Dax's smarts to get Sirella," Farrell notes. " The bachlorette party Dax had was the best party, period, that I ever saw on DS9. It was a hoot. I got to play hung over, which was so much fun. I know this sounds silly, but to have mascara running a little bit was such a big deal on that show. You never have mascara running, much less lipstick out of place when you're fighting.

"The only thing that was odd to me was that even though the wedding was a last- minute thing, no one from my family was there. If there was anything missing during my six years of DS9 , it was that Dax talked about her family, but we never saw anyone. Dax even went to Trill, but how going there affected her was never investigated, other than how it affected he health. Didn't she ever miss home or the people in her life? Did they ever miss her? I know she was willing to throw it all away for Lenara ( Susana Thompson in "Rejoined" ), but Trill must have meant something to me. That's really my one great complaint.

" 'Change of Heart' was the first time that you really got to see Dax experience the pain of letting go of something. I liked that episode, but it would have worked even better if there had been some inter-cuts of the Jem'Hadar. Even though we killed those guys, you never saw that others were still after us. If you had, you would have felt a greater sense of urgency. One thing I liked was that you saw that a Klingon would put his wife before duty, There haven't been too many big revelations about the Klingons since Worf came on, and it was nice to see one that was so important."

Farrell's Future

When DS9 returns for its seventh season, Farrell intends to tune in. "It'll be fun to see what they do. Worf has got to be tortured - he has just got to be tortured. He'll have to move back onto the Defiant and mourn for a while. It took a lot for him to devote himself to Dax, and now she has been taken away."

Much noise has already been made by fans about the possibility that the Dax symbiont could wind up in a male character. Such a development would certainly generate excitement and controversy, but it's likely just too risky a move for the DS9 powers-that-be to consider. "It would be interesting if they replaced Dax with a guy, but I just don't see it. There are two main problems with the idea," Farrell suggests. " Number one, I can't see Michael saying yes to it - but if he does, I want to see the full-on kiss. I want to be there for it. They were all there for mine ( in "Rejoined" ), and I want to be there for his. Number two, I really think they'll either go with the characters they have left or, if they bring in someone new, that it would have to be a woman. Right now, Kira is the only female character, I'm sure Nana would love to have another woman around."

Just as Farrell will still watch DS9, she won't forever abandon the convention circuit or SF projects in general. "I'll still do the occasional convention. I'll still talk with people who want to know about my time on Star Trek.," she promises. " I would also do more genre projects. Why not? I don't worry about being associated too much with SF at all. If George Lucas called me about one of the next Star Wars movies, I would be there in an instant. If they did DS9: the Movie and they wanted me to play Dax in it, I would absolutely do it. I would even play another character. I have no problem with that."

For now, though, it's over. The deed is done. The Trill is gone. Farrell has moved on with a bright future before her and, behind her, six years of growth as a person and an actress. She closes the Star Trek chapter in her career with the hope that the viewing audience enjoyed having Dax as a part of their lives as much as she enjoyed playing Dax, that they took away from the half-ancient/half-naive Trill even a fraction of what she did. " Jadzia taught me not to make any choices out of fear and to love yourself. She taught me that if you can't accept yourself for who you are, nobody else will. I desperately needed to learn those things, not just hear them, but learn them and live them," Farrell concludes. " I got to do that, and I am very lucky. I'm a very fortunate woman to have lived the experiences Jadzia gave me. If anybody else - the other characters or the people who watch the show and liked the character - got any of that from Jadzia, I'm even happier.

---Starlog, September 1998, #254