(written from a Production point of view)
Ezri returns to her home to ask her family's help in finding O'Brien, who disappeared while searching for the widow of a dead friend.
Kira, Odo, Ezri and Julian are at Quark's. Odo mentions to Ezri that her shipment of gagh has arrived, which Jadzia had ordered for Martok's birthday party prior to her death. Ezri wants to get rid of it now that she dislikes gagh but is told she cannot dump it out an airlock due to environmental regulations. Kira asks why she can't just give it to Martok, but Ezri knows Martok would insist on sharing it with her as a point of honor. Kira notices that Bashir is being very quiet. He says he is waiting for O'Brien to arrive on the next transport. Kira teases Bashir about his holosuite adventures at the Alamo with O'Brien, but Bashir remains subdued.
The transport arrives, but O'Brien is not aboard. Bashir goes to Captain Sisko, saying he hasn't heard from O'Brien for 3 days and he is concerned that something may have happened to him. Sisko says O'Brien told him he was going home to visit his father. When Bashir reveals that was a misdirection, Sisko becomes angry. Bashir explains O'Brien really went to New Sydney to follow up on some promising leads in his investigation of the recent disappearance of Morica Bilby, the widow of the Orion Syndicate operative he had previously been involved with. Bashir says O'Brien still feels responsible for Bilby's death, and he has kept in touch with Bilby's widow. When she disappeared a few weeks ago, O'Brien left to search for her, and is now himself missing.
Bashir explains that O'Brien did try contacting the authorities on New Sydney in the Sappora system first, but since it's not a Federation planet, they weren't very helpful. Sisko tells Bashir to write a detailed report with everything he knows about the case, and to get it to him within the hour.
Sisko then asks Dax to contact her mother since she is an influential business woman in the Sappora system, where O'Brien went missing. Ezri says she hasn't talked to her mother for 6 months. Sisko says if there was any other way, he wouldn't ask Ezri to involve her family, but she says she knows it's important. He says, "Thanks, old man," and leaves.
Ezri calls her mother. She tells her mother she's feeling better than the last time they saw each other, and that she's been promoted. Ezri tells her mother about O'Brien and asks for her help with local authorities. Yanas interrupts before she can go any further, and says she'll do everything she can, but then uses the opportunity to force a visit from Ezri by stating she won't do anything unless Ezri visits her and then closes the channel.
Bashir walks Ezri to her transport, giving her all the reports on the case and some medication for space sickness. He tells her he sympathizes with her since he didn't really get along with his parents either. On Sappora VII, Ezri's brother Norvo Tigan welcomes her home with a big hug, calling her "Zee".
The family home is spacious and light, with fine art including a large mountainscape above the table. Ezri asks Norvo if he painted the mountainscape, and he says he did and that their mother insisted on hanging it in here. He says, "I hate it." and criticizes the colors, forms, and technique. Ezri says, "But other than that, it's perfect" and they both smile again. Their older brother Janel Tigan comes in, wearing a miner's overall and carrying his safety helmet. His greeting is more subdued than Norvo's, but still warm.
Janel tells Ezri their mother is on her way, and he is supposed to give her the preliminary police report on her friend, but they haven't found out anything yet. They do have a few leads they'll follow up on. Janel says he hopes Ezri appreciates all the trouble their mother is going through, that she had to call in a lot of favors with the city police. Ezri says of course she appreciates it. Norvo asks how long she'll be staying, and Janel says, "Not a minute longer than she has to, you know that."
Their mother arrives and greets Ezri, then tells her they're making a special dinner in her honor. Switching to business mode, she first tells Janel he needs to fire an employee named Lorkin for incompetence, then asks Norvo if he's finished a report she asked for a week ago. Janel says he'll take care of it. Norvo says he made some mistakes and has to redo part of the report. Yanas says she knows he hates doing the bookkeeping, but she really needs the report. Then back in mother mode, she starts telling Ezri about the handpainted tiles she got from Andoria for the new solarium, and walks her out to show her.
Janel calls the mine to send Mr. Lorkin over. Norvo asks why they have to fire him. Janel says some of his work is costing them 1,000 bars of latinum a day. He says their mother thinks it's just incompetence, but he suspects sabotage. Norvo asks if the Orion Syndicate is behind the sabotage and Janel says yes, they won't take No for an answer. Norvo says they should tell their mother. But Janel says he can deal with Bokar (the Syndicate representative) and Norvo doesn't need to worry.
At dinner, Ezri is telling the family about Deep Space 9 and the others there. Norvo starts to ask another question about the station, but Yanas interrupts to ask about a young man from Ezri's old ship, the USS Destiny, that Ezri used to date. Ezri says she doesn't think the're really right for each other anymore. "He reminds me too much of my son, Gran. It makes me uncomfortable to be around him now." The family look askance at each other and Ezri apologizes, saying she's still sorting out her pronouns. Gran was the son of a previous host, Audrid. She tells Ezri not to worry, the family will take care of her. When Ezri responds that she thinks she's getting things under control, her mother tells her she was always too proud for her own good.
After dinner, Ezri goes to visit Norvo in his room, which is cluttered with art, paperwork, and personal items. Ezri asks him how many of the art pieces are his own compositions, and he says, "All the bad ones." She asks him why he has become such a harsh critic of himself.
Norvo explains he just been refused admission from the Andorian Academy, the best art school in the sector. Ezri says it doesn't necessarily mean his work is bad and that there are other art schools, but he doesn't accept that. Ezri argues with him, saying those are just their mother's opinions, she's hear them all, too. "but she wasn't right about me and she isn't right about you either." He says he's fine, the family needs him here. Ezri tells him she still believes in him, and they say goodnight.
The next day, Yanas tells Ezri she is the one upsetting Norvo. Yanas found him that morning passed out in the entryway drunk, and now he is in bed with a terrible hangover. During the night he had defaced his artwork, including the mountainscape, by drawing stick figures over them. Ezri attempts to defend Norvo but her mother disagrees. Their conversation is interrupted when Janel tells them a police officer has arrived with a handcuffed O'Brien. O'Brien has clearly been in a fight, with torn clothes and bloody marks. She introduces her mother to him, who directs the police officer to uncuff O'Brien. The officer says O'Brien "wasn't very friendly" when they found him, and the chief mutters, "Neither were you." Janel asks to be excused to go to see a problem with a drill in the mine. He leaves.
The officer says they only hit O'Brien on the jaw once when they were bringing him in. The other injuries were due to a beating by the Orion syndicate. Ezri asks O'Brien if he found anything out, and he says he found Morica but she was dead.
O'Brien is seated and a house servant brings him and the police officer a hot drink. O'Brien tells Ezri that Morica had been dead almost 6 weeks, but a DNA scan confirmed it was her. He and the police officer, Lieutenant Fuchida, argue over the cause of death, the police officer saying there was no evidence of anything but an accident. O'Brien says he knows it was the Orion Syndicate. Besides, the injury was to the back of her head, "she couldn't have 'accidentally' thrown herself in the river." The police officer says if they hadn't "interfered" O'Brien would be dead. When they found him, he was being beaten up by a pair of Nausicaans.
The police officer says the Syndicate would never murder the widow of one of their operatives: it would break their code of loyalty. The police officer then says goodbye to Yanas and leaves. Yanas suggests Ezri take O'Brien to one of their guest rooms so he can get cleaned up and get something to eat. O'Brien thanks her and he and Ezri walk out.
Later O'Brien (now healed of his facial injuries) and Ezri are seated at the table where O'Brien has finished a meal. He tells her more about his search for Morica. Yanas and Janel comes in. Yanas decides to take advantage of having a Starfleet engineer in her house to ask him to have a look at a trans-sonic drill problem. Ezri protests that O'Brien needs rest, but he says he feels fine and would be happy to look at it. Ezri apologizes for her mother, calling her "a force of nature," but O'Brien says it will feel good to work on a problem that actually has a solution. He and Janel leave.
Ezri goes to Norvo's room, where he has destroyed most of his artwork. She finds him still hungover in bed. He says mother isn't going to be happy about his room, but Ezri says she's too busy torturing Janel and Miles to notice. Norvo is happy that Miles has been found and asks if Ezri will be leaving right away. She says not right away. Ezri tries to get him to talk about destroying his art, but he doesn't wasn't to be analyzed by his sister the counselor. She suggests he come to DS9 with her tomorrow. Just a vacation. Norvo states that he doesn't want to leave Janel to deal with everything.
Meanwhile, O'Brien finds the drill problem to be a very strange one, even suggesting sabotage. A part appears to have been deliberately mislabeled. A man named Thadial Bokar arrives. He tells Janel that maybe if he hadn't fired Lorkin there wouldn't be any drill problem. Then he asks who the new mechanic is. He recognizes O'Brien's name as the Starfleet crew member who was recently rescued by the police. Janel thanks the chief for fixing the drill and asks him to excuse them for a private business conversation, and the chief leaves.
Janel tells Bokar that sabotage won't change his mind about working with the Syndicate. Bokar says they have more important things to ask about: O'Brien is a Starfleet Intelligence operative and Bokar wants to know why he was trying to infiltrate the Syndicate. Janel says O'Brien was just trying to find some woman. Bokar demands Janel tell him her name. When Janel says he doesn't know it, Bokar says it was Morica Bilby. Janel appears surprised. Bokar says rumor has it she's dead, but he doesn't know anything about that. What he does know is that Chief O'Brien should leave this system quickly – before something happens to him.
O'Brien is seated in the living area, holding another teacup. Janel comes in and asks if O'Brien will be leaving tomorrow. O'Brien explains that it's up to Ezri since she is his superior officer. Janel says this isn't a good time for guests. Ezri comes in and says Janel has been under a lot of pressure.
O'Brien asks Ezri if she knows Bokar. She says no, but she doesn't follow the family business. O'Brien says he suspects Bokar is a member of the Orion Syndicate. He says it's just a feeling, but he thinks Janel already knows and that the company is being pressured by the Syndicate. Ezri says Janel is not easily pressured, "And my mother…she would burn this place to the ground before she did business with the syndicate." O'Brien suggests they look at the company records.
Down in the mine, Yanas and Norvo, both in mining overalls, are arguing. She doesn't think he should go to DS9, but he says it might help clear his head. She tells him this is a very bad time to take a vacation and tells him to get back to the report she's waiting for.
O'Brien finds Morica's name in the company's financial records. He asks Ezri if she came here to find him – or to prevent him finding out the truth. She doesn't know what he's talking about. He tells her that Morica was the connection between the Tigan company and the Syndicate. She was on the company's payroll when she died. She swears she didn't know anything about it. He tells her that since no one has mentioned Morica's connection before now, there's some kind of coverup going on. She needs to face the possibility that someone in her family was involved in Morica's death.
O'Brien and Ezri dig out all the details. Nine months ago, Morica was added to the payroll as a shipping consultant at 5 bars of latinum a week. But there are no cross references, no records of what the work entailed. And her salary kept going up: 10 bars, then 20, then 30. The last payment entry was the day before she was killed. Ezri says her mother has ultimate authority over the payroll, but she's turned over most of the day-to-day operations to Janel. And Norvo does the bookkeeping. Any or all of them could be involved. O'Brien wants to turn over the records to the police, but Ezri orders him to wait until she can find out more and makes it an order.
The whole family is together. Yanas asks why this woman was on the payroll. Janel says they were "returning a favor." She asks to whom. He tells her the Orion Syndicate. She asks what the Orion Syndicate had to do with it. Janel admits getting the company involved with the Orion Syndicate to prevent them from going bankrupt when the Ferengi mining operation started and the price of ore dropped 10 points and in the same month a Jem'Hadar raid had destroyed an entire shipment on the way to Rigel IV. The Syndicate came to Janel and offered him a loan as a way out. He says his mother never asked how all their problems had been solved overnight, and she says that's because she trusted him.
About a month after the loan, Bokar told Janel about the widow of one of their associates who needed a job without any actual work involved. They needed to provide for her. Morica's "salary" from the company was a way to return the favor to the Syndicate. Janel had asked Norvo to falsify the payroll records, but he never got around to it.
Yanas becomes angry that Janel tried to involve Norvo, but he says she's the one who always says there's nothing more important than the company. Janel insists that he saved the company.
Ezri interrupts and says right now they have to concentrate on Morica. Why did the payments keep going up? Janel replied that Morica wasn't happy with her salary; that she'd been promised a comfortable life and she needed more money. Ezri asks how she died, and Janel says he doesn't know. Yanas accuses him of being involved. Norvo tries to defend Janel and Yanas tells him to stay out of it. Yanas tells Janel she will get him the very best solicitor in New Sydney, but he has to tell her the truth. He continues to deny any involvement, but she doesn't believe him.
Ezri realizes Norvo knows something. Sitting near the house's fireplace, he then admits he went to see Morica, to try to reason with her. He says she was angry at everyone: the Tigans, the syndicate, even her husband for dying. She was yelling they were all the same, liars and cheats. Suddenly he realized if she were dead, all the family's problems would go away. Norvo tells his mother she always thought he was too weak to handle the tough problems, but he proved she was wrong.
Sometime afterward, the police arrive and take Norvo away in handcuffs as Janel and Ezri sadly watch. Yanas is not there. Janel starts stammering and talking about the mine, but Ezri interrupts him. She says after Norvo's trial is over, Janel needs to leave the company and make his own life. She promises him he will be happier.
Ezri walks in to another room and finds her mother. She tells her the police have taken Norvo, and that after the trial is over, she will return to DS9. Yanas suddenly asks Ezri if everything is all her fault. Ezri just looks sad and walks away.
Back at DS9, Ezri and O'Brien have a conversation at Quark's about the recent events, a conversation in which Ezri admits feeling responsible for her brother's fate. Norvo was sentenced to 30 years. O'Brien says he wishes he could say he was sorry, but he believes with the sentence Norvo received, he got off easy for what he did. She understands his position, but says O'Brien didn't know Norvo. He was very gifted. He was the one they thought would be something special. She doesn't understand what happened. She guesses, looking back, that she was just so focused on getting away that she didn't see what her mother's constant criticism was doing to Norvo. His heart was carved up into little pieces. O'Brien tells her not to blame herself, but she says she should have gone home a long time ago.
"There are varieties of gagh?"
"Oh, yes. I can remember what each one tastes like… and the way they… move when you swallow them. Torgud gagh wiggles. Filden gagh squirms. Meshta gagh jumps. […] Bithool gagh has feet. […] Wistan gagh is packed in targ blood… I have to go now."
- - Kira and Ezri
"I haven't talked to my mother in almost six months."
"Last time I saw her was just after I was joined. She came to visit me on Trill and I was still a little confused… When she walked into my room, I put on a big smile, looked her right in the eye and said: Hi mom, it's me… Curzon…"
- - Ezri and Sisko
"What's wrong with your painting?"
"Well, the composition is puerile and obvious, the colors belong on a child's toy, and the technique is laughable."
"But other than that?"
- - Ezri Dax and Norvo Tigan
"Ezri… You always were too proud for your own good."
- - Yanas Tigan
"I hate your hair."
- - Ezri Dax and Yanas Tigan
"So, what are you feeling?"
"I'm feeling… like I don't want to be analyzed by my sister."
- - Ezri Dax and Norvo Tigan
"You always said that I was too weak… to handle the tough ones. I'm not. I proved it. I handled a problem that you couldn't. I handled it."
- - Norvo Tigan admitting to his mother Yanas that he murdered Morica Bilby
Story and script
- This episode began life as a Sisko show in which he travels into the future and encounters his own future self, who subsequently warns him that if he follows a particular course of action, there will be dire consequences. David Weddle and Bradley Thompson wrote a teaser which they really liked, but they then found themselves completely stumped as to where to take the rest of the show; "There was nothing to say beyond the fact that these two Siskos have a great struggle. There was no bottom to the show." However, the main problem was that Thompson and Weddle didn't have enough time to work out the kinks, as principal photography began in two weeks. As such, Ira Steven Behr suggested that they abandon the story altogether and do a show about Ezri's backstory, which he himself had been tinkering with for several weeks. Behr's basic idea was that Ezri's family was involved with the Orion Syndicate, with Yanas Tigan being a particularly powerful member of the organization. In this conception of the story, Ezri would be like the character of Michael Corleone in the 1972 Francis Ford Coppola movie The Godfather – the son/daughter who has no interest in the family business, who left home to pursue their own dreams, and who now has returned. When Ezri returns home, her mother reveals that it was the Syndicate who "arranged" for Ezri to be given the Dax symbiont on the USS Destiny. This idea was dropped however, because, as Thompson explains, "It was a little too sleazy to suggest that Starfleet could be manipulated like that." However, it was now only a couple of days before production began, and the script still had no central crux. The writers wanted to keep Behr's Orion Syndicate plotline to some degree, but they needed a reason for it to be there; why would a story about Ezri's family involve the Syndicate? Eventually, Ira Behr suggested that they bring in O'Brien and the Liam Bilby story from "Honor Among Thieves" and have O'Brien searching for Bilby's widow. As Ronald D. Moore, who helped compose the final draft of the script, explains, "The show was already in prep, so it was a case of 'First thought, best thought.' Just throw it down and move on, because we've gotta get ten pages out today. So boom! You just blaze through it." (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, pp. 639-641)
- Armin Shimerman (Quark) and Michael Dorn (Worf) do not appear in this episode. It is possible that Worf is involved in the events depicted in Star Trek: Insurrection. Worf and Quark were to appear in the episode, in a short scene that would have taken place before Ezri returns to Deep Space 9. In the scene, Quark makes Worf pay for a bar bill owed by the House of Martok. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion - A Series Guide and Script Library)
- An aspect of the show which the producers particularly liked was the Tigan family house on Sappora VII. Designed by matte artist Syd Dutton, the house was based on the work of legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright, particularly Fallingwater in Pennsylvania. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, p. 642)
- The Tigans' living room was a redress of Vic's lounge. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, pp. 641-642)
- It seems that every season of Deep Space Nine has an episode which the writers and producers universally regard as the weakest of the season. In Season 1 it was "Move Along Home"; in Season 2 it was "Rivals"; Season 3 was "Meridian"; Season 4 was "The Muse"; Season 5 was "Let He Who Is Without Sin..."; Season 6 was "Profit and Lace"; and in Season 7 it was "Prodigal Daughter", which is not surprising given the problems getting the script in order. According to Ira Behr, "There's plenty of blame to go around on this one. The script never came together." Ron Moore is more blunt, "It was just a mess." René Echevarria points out, "None of O'Brien's story could happen on-screen, so there was no investigation. The story got so diluted that it felt like a soap opera." According to Nicole de Boer, "Ira apologized to me for the episode afterward." Even director Victor Lobl was unimpressed, "Other than the trappings, it never felt part of Deep Space Nine. It seemed like O'Brien had been brought in just to bear witness to these events more than anything else. But that only got us to a location, and then we just watched things unfold. The feeling across the board was there was nothing very powerful driving it." In fact, the crew became so disillusioned with the show that they dubbed it "Audra Goes Home", a tongue-in-cheek reference to the TV show The Big Valley. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, p. 641)
- The title of the episode is a reference to the Biblical parable known as the "Prodigal Son", as told by Jesus in the Gospel of Luke 15:11–32. However, the Prodigal Son wasted all his money and came home penniless. In contrast, Ezri comes home as a commissioned officer on a promising career path.
- Pergium is pronounced differently in this episode than it was in TOS. In "The Devil in the Dark" it was pronounced Pur-GEE-um, while here it is pronounced PUR-gee-um.
- A script for this episode was sold off on the It's A Wrap! sale and auction on eBay. 
- This episode was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Art Direction for a Series.
Video and DVD releases
- UK VHS release (two-episode tapes, CIC Video): Volume 7.6, 21 June 1999
- As part of the DS9 Season 7 DVD collection
Links and references
- Rene Auberjonois as Odo
- Nicole de Boer as Counselor Ezri Dax
- Colm Meaney as Chief Miles O'Brien
- Alexander Siddig as Doctor Julian Bashir
- Nana Visitor as Colonel Kira Nerys
- Kevin Rahm as Norvo Tigan
- Mikael Salazar as Janel Tigan
- John Paragon as Thadial Bokar
- Clayton Landey as Fuchida
Special guest star
- Sam Alejan as a Human science division officer
- Ivy Borg as Vulcan operations lieutenant
- Amy Kate Connolly as a Human command division officer
- Brian Demonbreun as a Human science division officer
- David B. Levinson as a Human transport passenger
- Angus McClellan as an Human operations division ensign
- Daniel Reardon as a humanoid miner
- Guy Richardson as alien police officer
- James Lee Stanley as a Bajoran security deputy
- Unknown performers as
52-J; 52-L; accountant; Alamo; Andoria; Andorian Academy; Andorian tile (Andorians); angel; art critic; artwork; balance sheet; Bashir, Amsha; Bashir, Richard; Bilby, Liam; Bilby, Morica; bookkeeping; business leader; carpet; chief engineer; commodities broker; contract; Dax, Audrid; Dax, Curzon; Dax, Jadzia; defacing; detective; DNA scan; Dominion War; engineer; Farian; Federation; Ferengi; Finok, Brinner; flush; force of nature; gagh; Gran; hamsha; heart; heart attack; House of Martok; hug; humiliation; intoxication; invoice; Jem'Hadar; Korella; latinum; line of fire; Lorkin; Martok; mechanic; milligram; mining engineer; murder; O'Brien, Michael; "Old Man"; Orion Syndicate; Nausicaans (Unnamed Nausicaans); New Sydney; New Sydney Police; nightmare; operative; payroll; pergium; pergium mining facility; personnel file; pronoun; Quark's; Rigel IV; Saltah'na clock; Santa Anna; Sappora VII; Sappora system; Saurian brandy; servant; shipping consultant; shipping order; socks; solarium; solvent; sonic shower; space sickness; Starfleet; Starfleet Intelligence; suicide; symbiont; tantrum; targ; Tigan, Mr.; Tigan home; Tigan pergium mining business; tile; Timor II; trans-sonic drill; transtator; Trill; Trills; waveguide; week; "with my name on it"; work stoppage; year; Zee
- "Prodigal Daughter" at StarTrek.com, the official Star Trek website
- "Prodigal Daughter" at Memory Beta, the wiki for licensed Star Trek works
- "Prodigal Daughter" at Wikipedia
| Previous episode:|
"It's Only a Paper Moon"
| Star Trek: Deep Space Nine|
| Next episode:|
"The Emperor's New Cloak"