|Some B7 characters attract more attention that others. Some. like Avon are
simply popular. Others get noticed because nobody seems to care much
about them - Gan's a good example. Dayna, on the other hand, tends to get
overlooked, largely through not leaning to either extreme. Most people seem
to like her, but not very much. I think this is a shame, because she's quite an
interesting character and deserves more attention than she gets.|
Niel Faulkner (21K)
Let's start at the beginning. Dayna was born on Earth about twenty years before her first appearance, the daughter of a weapons development scientist who trained at the Federation's Central Science Complex. Terrific, another Alpha grader. If Hal had behaved himself and let Dayna grow up at home, she'd have got into drugs and driving fast cars very dangerously just to piss Daddy off. But Hal wasn't a good boy, so Dayna had a distinctly unusual childhood. Locked away with the same two people from an early age (Lauren was about Dayna's age, and had probably been with Dayna for much or even all her life), it's no wonder she grew up to be such a selfish precocious brat. Hal was probably in a difficult position, doting on this last living legacy of his murdered wife and trying to keep her in check at the same time. We can only guess at Lauren's degree of influence - she seems to be a dutifully respectful girl where Hal's concerned, and this might reflect her Sarran origins (we don't know exactly how old she was when Hal adopted her). It may well be that Lauren was the one who curbed headstrong Dayna's excesses.
Then Avon arrives. Avon groupies who think His coming might be a Good Thing can learn a lot from Aftermath. Dayna promptly loses her father, her sister and her home in a matter of hours. Strangely she doesn't blame Avon for any of this. Or maybe she does. We all know that one of the first things she does with Avon is give him a smacker in her hidey hole of an unconvincing BBC cave, but thereafter shows no real physical interest in him. Perhaps this reflects an ambivalent attitude toward him - thanks to him, and his antagonism with Servalan, she'd lost everything, but on the other hand he'd clearly been on her side from the moment things started going wrong. He was just as clearly a match for her wilful personality, and she could sense that. No twisting this chap round her little finger.
Avon may have represented something of a father figure to Dayna, being the senior member of the Liberator's crew. Vila wasn't much younger, but had clearly eschewed any attempt at holding a dominant position. I also regard Tarrant as being a good bit older than some fans think he was, but her didn't act it, at least not in the 3rd Season. Cally was a total drip by this time, just wafting in and out when it suited her, so no competition there either. Which left Dayna feeling a good deal of justified bitterness, but no suitable focus for it. No good directing it at Avon (though she did argue against him from time to time, such as Ultraworld, and Servalan was never around long enough. So what does she do? She takes it out on Vila, and it's brilliant. It's brilliant because Vila's basically a nice guy, and Dayna's bullying homes in on an easy target. This makes her nasty, but she is not an intrinsically nasty character. Vila-bashing goes a long way towards making her real and believable.
If I had to reduce Dayna to some kind of social archetype, I'd probably settle for 'bolshy teenager'. This in itself makes her refreshing, a welcome change from all those sensible professional types from the first two seasons. Not that I particularly like bolshy teenagers - in fact I'd gladly see them all guillotined - but as a contrast to the previous crew Dayna was a shot in the arm. Her practice of carping at Vila captures her immaturity rather nicely, though actual examples are hard to pin down. It was most marked in Sarcophagus, where Tanith Lee managed to bring out many of the essential facets of the main characters without reducing them to crude stereotypes. It was a good piece of writing by any standards, and bloody marvellous for a first episode - Lee had obviously done her homework. Dayna has another withering go at Vila in Stardrive, suggesting that even in the 4th Season he remained a focus for her impatience, though by then everyone seemed to be losing patience with Vila anyway.
Once yanked out of her enclose childhood world, Dayna shows signs of growing up a bit. She's introduced as a gung-ho killing machine, but her enthusiasm for wanton carnage gets diluted over time. Hal's attitude to the Sarrans didn't exactly do him much credit, since he seemed to regard them with a mix of patronising pity and outright contempt that would have gone down well with some ex-public school officer in the Raj. Exposed to the galaxy at large, Dayna may have been forced to question this attitude he undoubtedly instilled in her. She would have been brought into contact with the real consequences of developing high tech weaponry and using it and neither might have seemed such innocent games any more. She might also have come to realise that the real barbaric savages in the galaxy were not scruffy primitives like Chel, but the people of her father's civilised world - people like Shrinker, Bayban, and above all, Servalan.
Her commitment to killing Servalan may well have been her initial reason for staying aboard the Liberator, disenchanted as I believe she was with Avon. The Liberator, of course, also offered her a place to stay, suitably enclosed like her previous home and without the complications and confusions of 'normal' society in which - as she probably guessed - she would have extreme difficulty in functioning. I'm inclined to think that she was less aware that Liberator was the perfect home for her, crewed as it was by - let's face it - a pack of social misfits. The vendetta against Servalan did, however, pose the scriptwriters with problems, since there can't be much doubt that Dayna was perfectly capable killing her and would do so if she ever had the chance. Scripts were forced to impose constraining reasons for her not to do so (Deathwatch, Gold), keeping them apart (Rumours, Moloch, Games), or sheer bad luck (Assassin). In Harvest the idea just seems to have slipped her mind another nail in the coffin of this derisory effort (sorry, couldn't resist that).
It's interesting to see how she gets on with the other members of the crew.. I've already argued that she rapidly went off Avon, and gave him begrudging respect rather than actually liking him. Vila made a good punchbag. Tarrant, on the other h and, was a fellow new kid on the block, and the natural one to team up with. He was older and distinctly worldly wise, which would appeal to her, but he also shared many of her own qualities - obstinate, opinionated, preferring to act when thinking got too complicated. He was also, (as is, I think overlooked too often) a straightforward man, not given to underhand personal dealings - if he hated your guts he'd tell you so in so many words, and I can imagine Dayna responding to that. She may also have used him to vent out her own frustrations on Avon. Not that I think she manipulated him into doing so, only that he did a good job of saying the kind of things she'd have liked to have said for herself. There doesn't seem to have been any sort of romantic attachment between them, certainly not before Ultraworld, and it seems more likely that Tarrant took her under his wing more as a younger sister. This might even have gone some way toward filling the gap caused by her loss of Lauren, though it's not a line of thinking I would take to extremes. Dayna's relationship with Cally is the hardest to pin down - they rarely worked together, and though there was no overt friction there was no obvious deep friendship either. However it's worth noting that Dayna did argue strongly for going after Cally in Ultraworld, but even here she was essentially backing up Tarrant. Cally should have been an ideal prospect for the Lauren role, being a young, stable woman with considerable moderating power, but she probably wasn't young enough, and was, in any event, rather distant and withdrawn through the 3rd Season, and in Dayna's eyes somewhat unexciting. She could probably do no more that respect Cally from a distance and enjoy her company when it was offered. Perhaps tomboy Dayna preferred male company anyway.
Things changed considerably in the 4th Season. Avon and Tarrant began to patch up their differences and started to work as a team, leaving Dayna shut out from Tarrant to some extent. Tarrant's flings with Servalan and Zeeona - and Dayna's with Justin - reinforce the notion that there was nothing going on between him and Dayna after Ultraworld, or if there had been, it hadn't added up to much for either of them. Indeed, Tarrant's spell with Servalan would only have served to drive Dayna further away. Vila hadn't exactly improved, and Avon was pretty near untouchable. Only Soolin offered any real solace, and it has been noted before (Horizon NL-31) that the two women got on rather well. There are some obvious reasons for this - both are significantly younger than the men, both have an interest in weaponry, both have been violently robbed of their families - but I think it's also worth noting that Soolin is a newcomer to the group, suggesting that even after all this time Dayna still feels like an outsider among the crew. It's also worth considering the differences between them, since they do exist. Soolin is a seasoned professional, killing without compunction, and this rather goes against Dayna's mollified attitude to violence. Soolin is thoughtful, practical and calculating in a way that Dayna could never be. In some respects she is as distant as Cally, but in a very different way. With Cally it was incidental - she simply didn't have any real need for anyone - but with Soolin it's a defensive front, and Dayna would probably feel gratified at being allowed in closer. It would be a new experience for her, at least since leaving Sarran.
It's impossible to discuss Dayna without mentioning Justin, which is a pity because naming a bigger git in the whole series is a tough call. The first thing that springs to my (less than wholesome) mind is the age issue. Justin was packed off to Bucol-2 six years before the War, so any previous fling with Dayna must have been before that - when Dayna was only just in her teens, 15 at the most. Now, we don't know exactly went on between them back on Sarran, but it's hard to resist thinking that Justin might have been a bit of a dirty old man, taking advantage of an innocent girl eager for new horizons to explore. Scurrilous, I know, and innocent 'til proven guilty and all that so we'll just have to give Justin the benefit of the doubt. Dayna seems to be looking forward to seeing him again at the start of the episode, and her negative reaction thereafter seems to be based more on the nature of his work and his association with the Federation, of which she was previously unaware. Two remarks of Justin's are suggestive - an unelaborated reference to "a young love resurrected", which it is tempting to suspect refers to her rather than to him, and his "Still trying to think the best of me?", which may hark back to old times on Sarran. The episode strives to make it clear that Dayna really does love Justin (as confirmed by Servalan's lie detector chair), though as with other members of the crew, losing her beloved doesn't seem to settle her unduly and she's back to normal for the next jolly romp through outer space.
In conclusion, Dayna can be regarded as the most frequently disregarded regular character in fan discussion, and yet - paradoxically one of the best defined in the episodes regarding her background and the effect it has on her future development. She is, in many respects, a B7 character par excellence, with a good mix of positive and negative qualities. Intelligent yet recklessly spontaneous, undoubtedly brave yet hardly invulnerable to fear (witness her reaction to Doorman's cave monster), quick to form an opinion but nevertheless open to reasoned argument. She is petty, immature and potentially quite spiteful, but also loyal, trustworthy and dependable. I'm also inclined to think she was rather lonely' alienated from the others by her age and her isolated upbringing, and it was this that brought out both the best and worst in her.
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