Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: “You Are Cordially Invited…”/“Resurrection”

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: “You Are Cordially Invited…”/“Resurrection”

“You Are Cordially Invited…”(season six, episode seven; originally aired 11/10/1997)

In which Dax and Worf get hitched…

So, Worf and Dax are getting married. Huh. I guess that makes sense? I mean, they’ve been dating for a while, and Worf did propose, and Dax did say yes, so, well. That’s that, really. Hurrah for them. Had to happen eventually, or whatever.

It’s hard to work up much enthusiasm for the nuptials of a relationship which has never been entirely believable. Terry Farrell and Michael Dorn do their best, and the constant attempts to hammer home that these two characters are deeply committed to, and deeply passionate about, each other has at least managed to make the couple vaguely plausible. Dax is into strong, stern types who give her someone to bounce off of while keeping her grounded; Worf digs a woman who can love him and poke fun at his self-seriousness (which actually makes sense, given the little we know of his romantic history). Sure, I’ll buy it. I’m not exactly happy about it, and the two of them sucking face in a corridor is never going down in the history of TV’s steamiest scenes, but everybody knows that one couple that doesn’t make a damn bit of sense, but ends up together anyway. It doesn’t seem like a tragedy, but it also isn’t a connection that can sustain a lot of dramatic weight. It’s character wallpaper. If the writers want to make it happen, fine, but I don’t want to stare at it.

Which means I was understandably nervous about watching a wedding episode specifically centered on the Dax and Worf nuptials. Thankfully, there wasn’t much to worry about. “You Are Cordially Invited…” keeps things light throughout, and with enough character moments and subplots that the script (by Ronald D. Moore) never gets overly bogged down in needing to be romantic or passionate or anything all that serious. As some of you noted, there’s some fine O’Brien and Bashir banter. Martok continues to be the ideal Klingon. The Odo/Kira story moves forward in a small, but satisfying, way. And while sure, there’s a plot about Dax trying to impress her prospective mother-in-law that gets mildly intense, it all ends up happy without a whole lot of fuss. After six intense episodes of war and betrayal and sacrifice, it’s good to have something pleasant to remind us the show has settings other than “despair” and “hard-fought, mildly ambiguous victory.”

Really, it’s just great to see everyone back on the station where they belong. Sisko is especially pleased; his charming/slightly awkward conversation about how glad he is to be back sets the tone for an hour of people not quite seeing what the other person is getting at, but going along with it anyway. The most obvious pay-off for this comes in the hour’s most obvious joke. Haha, Worf invites his friends to a Klingon bachelor party, and we all know what that means! If you guessed, “deprivation and physical suffering in the name of elusive symbolism dedicated to Klingon history,” then yeah, that’s it. Everyone else, including Bashir and O’Brien, seem to expect some kind of crazed drink-and-fuck party. While I get that Klingons can have a great time when they want to, you’d think somebody in the group would do some research before the actual event to get an idea of what they were in for. Worf is not exactly the crazy-bachelor type.

But that would’ve spoiled Bashir and O’Brien’s reaction, and since thinking you’re going to have a good time and getting a bad time instead is one of the tried and true comedy scenarios, it seems poor sporting to nitpick. The scenes are well-handled, too: They convey the idea without focusing too much on the particulars (the highlight being Bashir’s decision that he needs to kill Worf while he and O’Brien are hanging over a pit of, I want to say lava?). This storyline also brings back Alexander, who has settled in nicely to a routine of being kind of a klutz, but not hating himself about it. He’s more likeable now that he’s eager, and Worf seems to clearly value his son again, without judging him for his imperfections. It’s a surprising choice. Normally, I would’ve expected Alexander to make sudden miraculous improvements in skill level, and to see Worf be proud of how far the young man has come. Instead, we get a well-meaning, but not particularly adept, young warrior, and Worf is cool with it. This isn’t stressed or underlined, but it makes both characters come off better.

Dax also comes off well in this episode, although maybe not in quite the way the writers intended. In order to marry Worf, Dax needs to be accepted by Worf’s adoptive family; Martok is fine, but Martok’s wife Sirella (Shannon Cochran) has some basic objections to inter-species relationships. She’s also the classic stiff-backed, shout-centric Klingon woman, which goes with Dax’s more laid-back approach to life about as well as you’d expect. The whole thing comes to a head at Dax’s bachelorette party, where everyone is having a hell of a time right up until Sirella storms in and demands Dax put an end to the festivities. Which, it soon becomes clear, is basically what Dax is going for; she has second thoughts about the wedding, she doesn’t want to change, she still thinks of herself too much as Curzon, that sort of thing. Sisko tells her to shape up, reminds her she still loves Worf, and makes way for the happy ending.

What’s interesting about this sequence is that Dax is at her most compelling when she’s fighting back against Sirella’s demands. It’s not even a simple matter of an underdog showing her teeth. The whole relationship with Worf has been a constant run of Dax having to adapt herself to Worf’s values and needs; he dictated the course of the wedding, he makes the demands. Admittedly, Dax has chosen to accept this, and there’s no sense that he dominates her, or that he’s somehow forcing her to accede to his wishes. Dax is, in a sense, the older and more experienced of the two, and the symbiote has been married a number of times before. In terms of basic decency, I don’t think this is some kind of ugly pairing based on sublimated abuse. But in terms of narrative, and in terms of Dax’s presence on the show, she’s been swallowed up by Worf. Either she’s reacting to him sarcastically, she’s demonstrating her love for him, or she’s in the background. It’s not a total disappearance, and hopefully the marriage will get her some autonomy again, but the few times she stands up for herself, even if it’s ill-advised—well, at least it’s something.

Other than that, there’s little to report. Jake “sold” his first book of short stories—i.e., he’s getting a book published, but since the Federation doesn’t have money, he’s not getting a thing in return for it but pride. Martok gives good relationship advice. And Odo and Kira are, after a brief period of awkwardness, speaking with each other again. The last is a slight storyline, occupying no more than a handful of scenes, but it’s worth taking the time to make sure these two characters are able to put the events of the recent past behind them. To pretend they could simply ignore what had happened would be dishonest, but to imply that their friendship was beyond repair would’ve been needlessly melodramatic. The station was saved, Rom wasn’t executed, and in the end, Odo did the right thing. There’s nothing that happened that a night spent talking in a closet can’t fix.

Stray observations:

  • “There’s going to be a party, isn’t there?” “You’re asking me?” Oh Alexander, you are delightfully dorky.
  • Quark calls Worf a “walking frown.” Quark is the best.
  • Hey, remember how Ziyal is dead? No one else seems to. I understand the limits of serialization, but considering how the character was shot at the end of the previous episode, you’d think we’d at least get a moment of sadness for someone. But then, Garak isn’t around. Maybe he’s off plotting revenge somewhere.
  • That was some dress, huh?
  • “How hollow is the sound of victory without someone to share it with?”—Martok, speaking truth

“Resurrection” (season six, episode eight; originally aired 11/17/1997)

In which we had to hit a road bump eventually…

I’ve made all the objections I can think of to the show’s ongoing interest in the Mirror Universe. It’s a fun idea that has run its course. There’s little dramatic investment in characters we only occasionally see, regardless of who’s playing them. The whole concept of a mirror universe is difficult to sustain, especially since the more we see of it, the more the “good guys” have to win, which goes against the whole point of thing in the first place. It’s awful to watch writers you trust latch on to a bad idea and refuse to let go, and the one shining light in all of this is that no one working behind the scenes on DS9 has let this get completely out of hand. Every once in a while, we get a MU episode. They tend to get worse as the show goes on, but it’s not like there’s a saga or anything. In a way, it’s a bit like Lwaxana Troi’s once-a-season visits to the Enterprise on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Sometimes they’d be entertaining, and if they weren’t, well, you just accepted the sacrifice and moved on.

So I’m hoping against hope this will be the last we see of the MU this season, even if we don’t actually see the universe itself at any point in the hour. Getting it out of the way early is a relief. But man, did it have to be so boring? Of all the people to bring back, of all the regulars and secondary characters and guest stars to give the spotlight to, who the hell thought Bareil would be a good idea? To his credit, writer Michael Taylor at least tries to give the other Bareil a more interesting past than the dead Vedek had; this new version is a rogue in the Han Solo vein, and makes his entrance by beaming into Ops and taking Kira hostage at disruptor-point.

But Philip Anglim isn’t suited to the lovable rogue type. He tries his best, but his performance largely consists of mumbles and strained smiles. More than anything, he reminded me of the scientist-hero-forehead-delivery-system of the 1956 B-movie The She Creature. If you get a chance, look it up on YouTube; I saw it through the Mystery Science Theater 3000 treatment, and Mike and the bots’ mockery of the lead’s acting style ran through my head this entire episode.

That made it difficult to take anything seriously, but to be honest, there isn’t much of anything that deserved the attention in “Resurrection.” The central conflict: Kira sees the new Bareil (who I’m just going to refer to as “Bareil” from now on, since the Vedek is dead, and this version isn’t a Vedek), is confused, then slowly but surely ends up falling for him—and he for her. But it’s all a ruse because he’s there on orders from Kira’s crazy double, the Intendant. (Does she even have her old job anymore? I can’t remember.) The other Kira is also on DS9, presumably having beamed over at the same time Bareil did in order to cover her tracks, and she’s still all campy and kind of evil and pretty much insane. She wants Bareil to steal the Bajoran’s Orb so they can bring it back to their reality. Which I guess makes sense if you think of her as a floating ball of malevolence, which is basically what she is at this point.

I used to like the Intendant. I used to think it was fun to watch Nana Visitor go all sultry and wicked and what-not. But it gets old, like caricatures are wont to do, but the character is embarrassing now—forced and needy and pointless. I don’t know if Visitor’s performance has gotten worse, although I don’t think that’s it; there’s just no core threat behind her anymore. Outside the context of her universe, she’s just a goofball playing dress up and wanting to fuck everything that movies. Which, hey, bully for her, but it’s like watching someone try and keep the party going after everyone else has left. There’s no menace, no allure, no mystery. She’s just an easily betrayed twerp who doesn’t seem capable of learning lessons from her past.

Watching someone get foiled again by yet another duplicitous lover isn’t the most fun way to spend an hour, and “Resurrection” also makes the strange mistake of downplaying Kira’s experience with Bareil over Bareil’s experience of becoming a (slightly) better man. This is partly because a good third of the episode has Bareil and the Intendant plotting and Kira being none the wiser, which limits the amount of time we can spend on Kira wondering if she’s making good life choices. But there’s still Bareil’s slow spiritual shift, and his struggle between normal amazing Kira and rabid sex kitten Kira, and who really cares about that? It would be one thing if Anglim was charismatic or fun to watch, but he isn’t, really. He’s as dull as he was back when he played the Vedek—but then, his stillness was supposed to indicate a kind of inner peace. Here, it’s just a lot of nothing.

Which is unfortunate. Kira-centric episodes don’t happen every week, and this one is a waste of everyone’s time. The romantic relationship at the center never digs into the creepiness that drives it: How much is she hooking up with Bareil because she’s interested in him, and how much is it just the fact that he looks like the dead man she once loved? If Kira had started going full Vertigo on Bareil, then we might have had something. Additionally, the actual plot stalls early and often. What used to make the Mirror Universe episodes so exciting was their sense of scope; a whole other setting to play in where everything was almost, but not quite, completely different than it ought to be. But over time, that scope has narrowed to the point where where it’s almost painful to watch. It’s time to close the door on this particular concept for good. (I know the show won’t, though.)

Stray observations:

  • So, we get two Dax-and-Kira scenes this week, and both of them fail the Bechdel test. Why can’t they have as much fun as O’Brien and Bashir?
  • There’s a moment early on when Bareil is dragging Kira out of Ops that I was fairly convinced the actor was copping a feel.
  • Bareil and Kira have dinner with Worf and Dax. I was convinced this would be a terrible idea, but it was fine. Which is the whole hour, in the dullest possible way.

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