Monday, June 16, 2014

Deep Space Nine, Season 5: Looking for par'Mach in All the Wrong Places

Deep Space Nine, Season 5
"Looking for par'Mach in All the Wrong Places"
Airdate: October 14, 1996
99 of 173 produced
99 of 173 aired


Quark's ex-wife Grilka comes to the station looking for his help. She immediately attracts the attention of Worf. Comic hijinx ensue. Meanwhile, Kira and the O'Briens continue to adjust to life together since Kira became a surrogate for their child.
 See? Now you're no longer thinking about a woman you've just met and never talked to, and you're finally paying attention to someone you've known for a year. HA HA HA HA....


Kevin: The comedy of the A-plot is good, but it's a bit of retread. The source of the humor, and the people doing it are the same as in "The House of Quark." That's not to say it's not fun. It's buckets of fun. The 24th century take on Cerano de Bergerac was pretty well done, and I like any time we get a nuanced look at Worf's Klingoness. Dax calling him out both on being obsessed with traditional while being untraditional and for not seeing a real thing in front of him were great, and certainly kept the silliness balanced. I will say I think the material on the page is probably just "okay" but is elevated by some great performances, but overall, I enjoy this half of the episode about as much as I enjoyed it the first time around in House of Quark, so that's certainly not a bad day.

Matthew: So, my reaction to the A plot is mixed, though mostly positive. On the bad side, Worf's attraction for Grilka is near the top of the "happened way too fast for any non-insane person" list on Star Trek (close competitor: "Requiem For Methuselah"). That said, it precipitates a relatively enjoyable take on the Cyrano story - assuming you can forego questioning how Worf could possible have a first-person view of the fight, and whether the fight would contain itself to the room Worf was in with Dax. I had a somewhat difficult time understanding how Worf would go along with helping Quark, unless he either had an ulterior motive to swipe her away at the last moment (which was not evident in the script), or he was extremely insecure and suffered from extremely low self esteem, a la the actual Cyrano character (which doesn't seem consistent with his character).

Kevin: How do I feel about putting Worf and Dax together? I have lots of feelings. On the one hand, it does feel a little like checking a box by having two leads fall for each other. On the other hand, they actually follow through unlike the half measures with Troi/Riker and Picard/Crusher. The characters, or at least the actors actually have chemistry, so there's that. In the balance, I'm glad they did it. It may not be as emotionally resonant at Tom and B'Elanna will eventually be, but it was a far better call that Kira/Odo will.

Matthew: Dax and Worf make sense together, given her history with Klingons, and his strangeness as a Klingon. I do not think, however, that the advance work was done last season to make this feel organic or inevitable. This particular plot works, making it sort of a double Cyrano tale, with Dax offering Worf advice while Worf offers it to Quark. But Terry Farrell had it right when she said that she felt the script, though fun, sprung lots of big changes really quickly on characters.

Kevin: I like the B-plot a lot actually. First, it's probably one of the few episodes of DS9 whose and A and B plots are actually about the same subjects and not in a hamfisted way. The main reason I like it is the maturity with which it treats the subject and the characters. I think where it really succeeds is that it presents O'Brien's attraction to Kira as organic and a result of their bizarre circumstances, and not as a defect in his relationship with Keiko. One of the dumbest tropes of the modern romantic comedy is that if love someone enough you will somehow not feel attraction to other people ever. Certainly, out of respect for your partner and your relationship, you can choose not to act the attraction, which of course he chooses not to, but you have only to thumb through the letters of anything from Dear Abby to Savage Love to see people treat the mere existence of feeling attraction for another person as tantamount to infidelity. The story is helped that Kira and O'Brien actually have chemistry and it's plausible that absent the facts of their actual lives, they might really be attracted to one another. They were both scarred by their experiences with the Cardassians. They've worked together, and well, for several years. They have that Hepburn/Tracy sparring that's just a few notches away from flirting. I also like that it's an interesting look at the personal toll of the science fiction set up of Kira's pregnancy. Sure, there are surrogates in modern society, but all those people go in knowing and planning for that relationship. Here, this insane amount of intimacy was instantly hurled at all them, and it's interesting to see how it plays out. You could argue that they chickened out by having them not go anywhere with it, but I'm actually glad they didn't. It would have been a bit too soap-operatic for my tastes. Acknowledging the attraction existed and choosing not to act on it felt like the emotionally mature decision we would expect from O'Brien and becomes another step in Kira's development from someone who was constantly getting herself in trouble by acting impulsively on her emotions to someone to the more balanced happier person she'll be by the end of the series. If I have any complaints about the story, it's that Keiko's response to it was left out. I almost wish this were the A plot and the Quark comedy stuff was the B plot used to break this story. Given previous scenes of her nudging O'Brien and Bashir back to the holodeck together shows she can read her husband, so I choose to believe she has to see this for what it is, but it would have been fun to see how she responds to that. Even if she understands intellectually that this is a temporary crush brought about by insane circumstances almost certain to never be repeated anywhere, it would still probably have to cause her at least some emotional discomfort. I know this analysis has gone on for a while, but Star Trek has a sad history of treating love and sex a tad two-dimensionally. There is a real, honest portrayal of complicated human(oid) emotions in here that actually becomes more interesting because of the science fiction elements behind Kira being pregnant, so I want to draw attention to how much I like it in the hopes that the writers will do it again.

I simply cannot believe that Keiko has no jealousy in this situation, and I agree that it is the major flaw in the B story. It kind of ripped me out of it, actually, because her reactions were so unbelievable. Her character has been shown to be prickly before when it comes to her marriage, and here she is blithe to the point of stupidity. Then again, I was never really involved by this story, because I felt the story was completely artificial from the get go. I also have a hard time believing that Kira would rely on O'Brien to perform all of these intimate tasks - she could just as well seek treatment from the Doctor, any number of nurses, or in the holodeck. I did not really like the way the final scene played out, either, their acknowledgement of their attraction seemed too pat (e.g. agreeing that a romantic spot on Bajor was a bad idea), as if they had both had a totally acknowledged horniness for each other already.


Kevin: What could easily have been an inoffensively funny but somewhat bland outing was elevated by top notch performances all around. Armin Shimerman is a gifted actor, but I don't recall another episode where the comedy was so physical. I don't know how you learn to make it look like the bat'leth is leading you around, but he really did it. The sparring with Dorn was spot on. "You people have a ritual for everything except waste extraction," and "It's attitudes like that that keep your people from being invited to the really good parties," continue to crack me up.

Matthew: Almost all of the acting positives were undone by the terrrrrrrrrible stage laugh to end the episode.I think Farrell did the most subtle work, especially since it was nearly entirely up to her to make the Worf/Dax thing feel organic, with no script support and no indications from Worf, who was entirely involved with Grilka. Shimerman's comedy while under bodily control was quite good.

Kevin: Ruskin was fun again as Grilka's majordomo. I also liked Grilka's performance. It felt self possessed and as if the attraction, while unexpected, was genuine. She certainly had more life than a lot of objects of desire of the main characters over the years.

Matthew: Mary Kay Adams sells the part, which is crucial to the story. If we can't believe that she would do it with Quark, the episode is completely sunk. It is also at least somewhat explicable that Worf could have formed such an instant attraction to her, given her regal bearing.  Joseph Ruskin has six Trek appearances spanning 4 series and one movie. He should ave 60. His voice and his cheekbones are just too perfect for Star Trek.

Production Values

Kevin: The Klingon holosuite program was fun and had lots of extras. Beyond that, this was pretty much a bottle show. I liked the props for the control device on Worf and Quark. This is as much the actors as the directing, but the choreography for the fight scenes was really exquisite. The puppet effect was really well achieved.

Matthew: The choreography definitely sold an inherently silly idea. I was impressed by the Klingon Opera Qorf was listening to on the Defiant. It was the first time it really sounded like something a sentient being would consent to listening to.


Kevin: I am going with a 3. The comedy in the A plot is solid, if not exactly revolutionary, and the B plot is a refreshingly mature look at grown up relationships. Flipping them and giving more layers to the Kira/O'Brien story and using the lighter story to break it up may have allowed a 4, but as it stands, I thoroughly enjoy the episode.

Matthew: I think the O'Brien story is extremely problematic on its face, because it has humans not behaving like humans in it. I'd have been happy to see it jettisoned in favor of a more fully developed A story, which had Worf not falling instantly for a woman he had never even talked to, and had shown a more organic development between him and Dax. Nonetheless, there is a basic entertainment value which keeps this in 3 territory, for a total of 6. I've been saying that a lot so far in this season. Here's hoping that this will be married to tighter plots very soon.


  1. Quark saved this episode for me!! He really did. I remember when I used to watch DS9 as a teen/kid/what have you, I was really annoyed with Ferengi and never paid attention to Quark, but he is hilarious. How could I miss that?

    That said, I was mortified by the way Worf was talking to and about him. At one point he called him a parasite - sort of as-a-matter-of-factly and freaking Dax nodded or something. It was SUCH AN OFFENSIVE THING TO SAY and she just nodded, like he had a point.

    Worf does not just not like Quark, he really views him as less than, as some worm, some parasite, as he said. I mean we have characters around here that may not be the best of friends or get along, but they never say such deeply disparaging things about the other, but Worf always does about Quark. I understand Ferengi are sort of the antithesis to Klingons in that they are small, physically meek, not warriors, greedy, conniving (hence have no honor as the Klingons would say) etc. but Worf is not a soldier in the Klingon empire and he has been with Starfleet and humans long enough as to not walk around calling a species whose ways he doesnt agree with such names. Again, I was deeply appalled at Quark's treatment by Worf. None of the others (maybe except for Kira and even she comes around) have ever treated Quakr with such hostility. There comes a point where comedy gives way to silence as the jokes/offenses cross the line and Worf crossed that line several times here, I couldnt stand it. What an asshole I thought.

    All this brings me to my next point: I cannot, for the life of me, get what Dax sees in this cave man. Dax is interesting, quirky, she pals around with Quark and all sorts of people, she is fun, adventurous, caring, kind...she has a sense of humor, is a free spirit, someone who likes to let her hair down - what the hell does she see in him?

    Worf listens to dreadful music, he is a curmudgeon, kinda anti-social, he has absolutely no sense of humor and cannot relax. For him it is all about war and fighting and honor and breaking your bones after fucking you and then wanting to get married, ceremony blah blah blah. Q said it right when he asked if in TNG once whether he had eaten any good books lately.

    So, that said, what the hell does Dax see in him? IS she one of those women with low esteem who are attracted to anal retentive cave men?

    I dont knoe. This whole Dax/Worf arc just bothered me because I dont understand what the writers thought these two have in common other than their love for Klingon martial arts. What does a person like Dax see in him? Why pair them up? The Risa episode later really made it clear for me why Worf is just kind of a dick...

    Finally, I really liked the B story of O'Brien and Kira. As you guys said, it felt organic and i can see why these two may be attracted to one another.

    I also agree that O'Brien not acting on his feelings and Kira not on hers really did feel like the emotionally mature decision we would expect from both O'Brien and Kira. I did find Keiko's trust in MIles absolutely amazing and admirable, though. I wish I could ever trust someone so unconditionally. I mean here he is performing all these quite inappropriate imo, intimate acts on her and she DOES NOT SUSPECT A THING. For real?

    The thing is, the things O'Brien was doing WERE way out of line if you ask me. Helping her out of the tub? Come on. No wonder Bashir joked and asked if he looked. Or massaging her half naked - up her legs.... Is it just me? Wouldnt more people find it inappropriate?

    That said, I quite chuckled at how she, in the end, described this place on Bajor as the most romantic spot on the planet and how Miles was panicking and how the comedy of that then flowed into the serious and they really had to hold themselves back from not crossing that line.

    I especially liked it when she said "maybe in another life." That really was a very mature way of treating love and I am glad Star Trek took this sophisticated approach.

    1. Worf's characterization has been a bit off on DS9 since "The Sword of Kahless" if you ask me, and in exactly the direction you describe. He's become something of a bitter, cranky tool. I'm sure the writers see it as an extension of existing character traits, but I think they went too far. It's kind of reminiscent of Neelix in S1 and S2 of VOY, actually. So it will be interesting to see if they dial it back a bit soon (but as you say, we'll have to slog through "Without Sin" first...).