Friday, July 4, 2014

Deep Space Nine, Season 5: Let He Who Is Without Sin...

http://www.treknobabble.net/p/rating-system.html
Deep Space Nine, Season 5
"Let He Who Is Without Sin"
Airdate: November 11, 1996
103 of 173 produced
103 of 173 aired

Introduction

Worf and Dax go on vacation. Also, Worf is apparently an enormous, possessive jerk. Also, sadly, unlike television, uptight fundamentalists make it into the 24th century. There. Intro finished. Ugh.
When this is as wild and crazy as your pleasure planet gets, you've got some conceptual problems with your episode.






Writing

Kevin: Oof. This one is a misfire. I almost don't want to go to the effort of reviewing it. According to Memory Alpha, Ira Steven Behr said they wanted this episode to be an exploration of sexuality in the 24th century, but were hamstrung by the limitations of Star Trek being considered a family show that aired in several markets before prime time. I get that problem, but I honestly think that's a reason to scrap the episode. The constraints of the medium make telling this story largely impossible. The portrayals of sex we get have the same explicitly antiseptic ones we got in Justice. It's almost like they asked a 12-year-old boy to describe it. The skin tight outfits are there, and some light moaning, but none of the sense of a vital, interesting connection between actual people is achieved.

Matthew: Yeah. If you're not going to show the sex, then you need to get into the consequences of it. The setup specifically precludes that. Bashir and Leeta are breaking up, so there is no consequence to their dalliances.  Quark is single. Dax and Worf never stray from each other, so there is also no opportunity to display a radically different sexual morality having an ill effect on someone. In the end, it just kind of raises more questions than it answers. How did this society evolve? How are they not taken complete and total advantage of by offworlders? Can a Risian refuse sex, ever?

Kevin: As character work, this also fails. First, who the hell cares about Bashir and Leeta breaking up? No one. Not even them. Second, Matt tagged this in some earlier episodes this season, but the writers are really writing Worf as a jerk. I get he's a traditional Klingon, but his last girlfriend was K'Eylehr for Pete's sake. Can you imagine her putting up with being told with whom she can have lunch? It read as creepy and borderline abusive. I liked the backstory that explained the basis of Worf's stoicism, especially compared to the carpe diem attitude of most Klingons. It makes sense, and had it come in a more organic part of a better episode, it would have been an interesting insight. It still doesn't explain why he is such a possessive jerk.

Matthew: This episode waited WAAAAAAY too long to get to Worf's reveal, and in the meantime it totally assassinated his character. He is an oppressive jerk in a relationship. He is a total stick in the mud at a party. And he is exceptionally simple-minded when it comes to being taken in by a guru. It was just interminable. And then, the reveal itself was completely grotesque, and difficult to believe given past scenes we've had with Worf's parents, who several times chuckle amiably about how tough it was to raise such a rambunctious child, with not even an inkling of his having killed another child.

Kevin: The plot here is also not great. There's no real sense that the Federation is in any kind of decay. Maybe had there been some concrete examples cited, like a slowdown in technological advancement or something. I did like Arandis' line that if lecturing people makes him happy, who is she to stop him? It's an analysis I share about the fundamentalists of my time, that they just enjoy disapproving of people. I also liked the couple of lines about Risian culutre, but they should have gone farther. They could have really developed a three dimensional culture that fall somewhere on a scale between epicurean and hedonist, and explain what values lead to that culture. Do they lay awake at night agonizing over creating the ideal vacation experience for others? Do they search for new pleasures at the cost of everything, like the faux-French guy on Voyager? There is an actual story in there, they just didn't tell it.

Matthew: Pascal Fullerton, in addition to having an absolutely ridiculous name, was wholly unbelievable as someone who would attract even one follower, let alone dozens. His speeches were unduly brief and superficial in nature. Alixus in "Paradise" was much more convincing, and that plot was way better realized (in that it didn't spend thirty minutes portraying Sisko as a complete dickwad).

Kevin: In the sundry list of plot absurdities, even if the 'attack' on the solarium was excused, Worf committed an outright act of terrorism cause he was pissed at his girlfriend. It borders on character assassination. What exactly does Dax see in Worf? Aside from a few clunky attempts at poetry, it's largely being carried on the strength of the actors' chemistry, and that's quickly getting to not be enough. When they pitch Worf's stoicism for a chuckle, like around wedding planning, it makes a little more sense.

Matthew: I get that justice is more harmonious and ameliorative in the 24th century. But why is Worf not in jail for an act of eco-terrorism? And yes - as far as Worf-Dax were concerned, the only reasonable development by about minute 20 was their breaking up. It just never happened, and the story went from annoying to unbelievable as a result. Dax has her character impugned just as well as Worf does, by her staying with him.

Acting

Kevin: Siddig gets a pass. He was spaced out the whole episode, but his wife had just given birth the day before. His head was not in the game, but he didn't miss much anyway. Quark got a few good lines, and Shimerman ran with them. The cracks about the Ferengi words for rain and the lack of one for crisp really landed for me.

Matthew: Shimerman was about the only bright spot in the show. I think they should have made him a sex addict, and gone into what he plot was supposed to illuminate - the effects of a hedonistic lifestyle on the characters of people who might not be able to maintain it (and even those who might). 

Kevin: Vanessa Williams is a good actress. I have liked her in many things. Also, the woman has not aged a day in the last twenty-five years. It's kind of scary. She was sadly underutilized here, though. I think she inhabited the universe well. She read her lines well and had the demeanor over someone that manages a large resort and takes personal pleasure and pride in her guests' experience. I don't think she had great chemistry with Farrell. I bought that they were friends, but I got no real vibe beyond that, and it makes Worf's reaction both misogynistic and actually stupid.

Matthew: Williams was about the only person Farrell had chemistry with in this one. I agree that she delivered her lines adequately and never seemed mentally checked out, as some actors can some time with the material. 

Kevin: In a fit of irony only I would find this interesting, the actor portraying Fullerton, Monte Markham, also played Blanche's gay brother on the Golden Girls. I had to stop myself from calling him Clayton at several points in this review. He certainly didn't phone it in, but without an actual underpinning for his beliefs, his bombast reads as comical, never menacing or even interesting.

Matthew: Markham was bland, without edge or charisma.  All of his pals were non-entities, too.

Production Values

Kevin: In the plus column, there were lots of outdoor shots, and they did look a piece with precious Risa sets, which I liked. The horga'hn was a nice continuity touch. I also liked both Farrell suit and hair in this episode. The woman was at one point a model, and it's easy to see why. Williams outfits and hair were at least okay. I liked her red wrap number.

Matthew: I liked the digital matte of the buildings against the mountains, and I liked the final double sunset. All of the other locations shots were underwhelming. There was a general lack of props and architecture that made this one quite unsatisfying compared to either "Captain's Holiday" or "The Game."

Kevin: I have to ask this...BUT IS THERE NOT ONE PERSON ON THE CREATIVE STAFF OF THIS SHOW THAT IS SEXUALLY ATTRACTED TO MEN OR HAS EVER DEVOTED ANY ENERGY TO CONTEMPLATING HOW TO BEST PRESENT THE MALE BODY??? Sorry for the caps, but seriously...neon tank tops and hammer pants? Ugh. I'm not even saying you need to show a lot of skin, but men are shaped differently than women and the clothes that flatter them are different. Siddig is not buff by any stretch, but his outfit made him look anemic and that he physically lacks shoulders. He's a slender man with olive skin and good cheekbones. It's not that hard to make him attractive. Solid, bright colored shorts that stop mid thigh, and a white, light-weight fabric, short-sleeve button up shirt that is not buttoned. There. Done. Took me six seconds. And the bizarre midriff baring skintight tanks on the male extras were super-unflattering. They'll find the fairway when they put one Charles Tucker III in a nice pair of blue, square-cut shorts, but for now, again...ugh.

Matthew: Everyone's vacation wear was unflattering, not just the menswear. I've never seen so many svelte women wear one-piece suits in my life. I never got the feeling that people were really outside, or experiencing anything other than on-set conditions - and this despite the fact that they actually shot two days on location. 

Conclusion

Kevin: This a 1. "Justice" has a certain absurd yet enduring charm because it's so damn ridiculous. This one is boring, and oddly upsetting for many reasons. I would love to tackle Star Trek's sexuality outside the realm of slash fiction, but this was certainly not the episode to do it.

Matthew: A complete waste of time. Bad character stories, an even worse half-baked political one, and enough missteps plotwise to make this an interminable slog. This one is not "So bad it's good." It's not even close. I have to agree with the 1 for a total of 2.

3 comments:

  1. "Oh Worf, how many times did I want to slap you in the face in this episode, let me count the ways...."

    I really am not sure what the writers were thinking here with the characterization of Worf, but this episode officially turned him into a gigantic and tumbling dick weed. He is mean, rude, hurtful, anal retentive; he has no sense of humor or any redeeming qualities even. And I disagree that his behavior merely borders at abuse. It IS abuse. From the way he was treating Dax - following her every move, questioning her and her "loyalty" all the time and accusing her of not being loyal to him (like she was a dog) to the way he was (again) talking about and to Quark ("tell the Ferengi to go back into his room"), judging Bashir and Leeta, ruining the fun for everyone by constantly pissin' and moaning about stuff and being this black cloud of misery hanging over everyone's head (like the Death Eaters in Harry Potter), to the terrorist act he engaged in and for which he barely got a soft slap on the wrist, if that. That is abusive behavior - emotional abuse.

    What we saw isnt a model for romance. It's a blueprint for abuse.

    Because someone who constantly pressures their partner to be someone they're not in order to sufficiently prove their love will never just be okay with anything less than their bullshit ideal. I cannot imagine people, Dax including, finding this type of coercion and manipulation romantic, appealing or evidence of love.

    I think the writers were going for the "asshole who is endearing and soft on the inside" trope or something. I really believe at this point, especially with respect to the ending where he is sort of "redeemed" by Dax and all after he confesses his (phony may I add) childhood story about having learned the hard way to be reserved around us fragile, soft boned humans blah blah fart - is telling me the writers really were thinking they are creating a multi layered, fascinating character here. Like the toughie with a heart of gold (see all those episode where he is the only one getting along with babies - yoshi etc.) Only that in this case it backfried as the line between assholish and endearing is a thin one and the writers just generously crossed it.

    See, if you make the character completely unlikable and cross that line, so to speak, you missed the mark and he no longer is endearing.

    Watching this episode was aggravating as Worf's complaining didnt stop - it went on and on and what was most annoying to me is how everyone took it - even Dax. Everyone was giving this unevolved caveman the benefit of the doubt and a break. Dax was pathetic and a totally codependent. Like women who end up in abusive relationships but keep making excuses for the abuser (he had a bad day, rough childhood etc etc).

    And really nothing was explained in the end except for that truly lame and desperate attempt to put a vulnerable face to Worf's assholishness with that story of him having caused the death of a human as a kid when playing rough. One would think that such a, rather relevant fact, would have been mentioned at some point in the course of two series.

    Because, this way it sounded just made up (which it probably was); like the writers came up with this retroactively in order to make sense of this clusterfuck of a character they had just created. It just did not fit into the character and was very internally inconsistent in that regard.

    ReplyDelete
  2. continued: Speaking of lame: that scene where Dax takes off her robe and Worf goes on about how he once saw a sunset in some nebulae or something and thought it was the most beautiful thing ever until he took a look at her bikini bottom/crotch - was so lame and made me wanna puke. Seriously.

    Another reason why I believe the writers were seriously thinking they were creating this oh so romantic and endearing persona here, completely oblivious to the fact that nothing about what Worf did was either endearing or romantic. I cannot imagine that any woman with two ounces of brains on her would find a man who thinks a piece of ass in a bathing suit is more beautiful than ANYTHING HE HAS EVER SEEN IN HIS WHOLE VIVID COLORFUL LIFE romantic or endearing - especially when he delivers said line with the same kind of passion and vigor with which he orders a prune juice at the replicator. It was pathetic, as was Worf and that entire scene.

    Is that Behr's idea of romance? or what he thinks women view as romantic? I dont even...

    As to the story line about Fullerton: that was also just another clichee. Like the writers wanted to show us that even in the world of Starfleet, even in Paradise, there are radicals like that - entities who just oppose everything for the sake of opposing it and they enjoy it too.

    The idea of a society whose entire culture is that of prostitution essentially does seem weird too and it begs all sort of questions about how they evolved, how they managed to not be conquered or even make it this far - what their culture is about, their family structure etc. if all they do is be a tourist planet, did they start of this way? How? If they did, who would have conducted R&D and all the other stuff that leads to technological innovation, including warp capabilities etc? I mean who is running that weather control system? The natives or some other third planet in exchange for...? what?

    But alas I couldnt think about all this for too long because of that thorn in my sight, Worf, obliterating all such concerns with his constant whining and complaining....:) That fucking guy...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Tell us how you REALLY feel, Poppy...

      Yeah. I think the two potentially interesting stories were totally skirted here - how Risa can exist, and the effect its existence might have on the denizens of the rest of the Trek universe.

      Delete