Mar 21, 2018
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine “Let He Who Is Without Sin...” (part 1 of 7)
| SUMMARY: Dax, Worf, Bashir, and Leeta all travel to Risa, the infamous pleasure planet referenced in many a mediocre TNG episode. Dax and Worf have much to discuss, but none of it terribly interesting. Bashir and Leeta are there to have lots of sex, er, I mean, jamaharon, after which they end their torrid affair. Wait, did we even know they were together in the first place?
After lots of sex-related humor that’s about as sophisticated as stuff written in public bathroom stalls—most of it involving Special Guest Star Vanessa Williams!—Worf reveals a deep, dark secret that’s not terribly deep, or dark, let alone necessary to the plot.
Bring your Horga’hns, your blue floral lingerie, your purple mesh tank tops, and get ready to have lots of meaningless sex. But most of all, pray that nobody crosses paths with a horny guy with a beard answering to the name Will. Put him on Risa, and things get ugly, real fast.
As much as I admire Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, I have to admit it had more than its share of episodes that could best be called “aggressively painful”. And most of them were Ferengi episodes (and I’m sure you knew I was going to say that). I already recapped the worst Ferengi episode there ever was, “Profit and Lace”, and I’m still working through those issues with my therapist, so unfortunately, more Ferengi episodes are off-limits for the time being. At least until after they discharge me from this place, anyway.
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So, what then does that leave us? Well, once you subtract all the Ferengi episodes, most of DS9’s bad episodes aren’t that bad, really. Of course, your definition of “really bad” might differ from mine. When I think of a really bad Star Trek episode, I think of an episode where either A) it takes serious effort to keep watching until the end, or B) the plot is so hopelessly preposterous that you can hardly believe real people spent time and effort and money on writing it and filming it and acting in it. The original series episode “And the Children Shall Lead” certainly fits into category A, and the Star Trek: Voyager episode “Threshold” (relax, I’m getting to that one soon) certainly fills the bill for B. But neither of these categories really applies to the worst DS9 episodes.
No, most of DS9’s bad episodes were bad because they were just a great big load of nothing. The kind of episode you watch from start to finish, and literally can’t remember anything about it. Okay, fine, there are worse ways to spend an hour, and even the Worst of Trek is better than the greatest, most legendary episode of, say, Room Raiders. But for a series as involved as Deep Space Nine, there’s a significant disappointment factor at work here.
I know one of the main criticisms of DS9 was that it often felt like you needed Cliff Notes to follow some episodes, and I can certainly sympathize with that sentiment. But you can give me an episode where too much is going on, as opposed to an episode where nothing is going on, any day.
And that’s what we have here with “Let He Who Is Without Sin…” At this point in DS9’s run, they were developing a major story arc involving a new, lethal threat from the Gamma Quadrant, a merciless alliance of species known as the Dominion. In most episodes of the fifth season, there’s the specter of war hanging over every move the characters make. So when the writers just blow off that central story arc, like they do here and in a few other episodes that aired around the same time, fans were understandably disenchanted.
But the biggest problem with this episode is that it tries to be a lighthearted outing, but it’s just. Not. Funny. The Star Trek franchise has a very spotty track record when it comes to being funny, sometimes hitting the mark (“Shore Leave”, “Trials and Tribble-ations”, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home), but mostly inducing groans and winces (Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, “The Outrageous Okona”, “Unexpected”, and of course, the aforementioned “Profit and Lace”).
I can’t tell you exactly why Trek writers have always whiffed it when they try for comedy. I’m tempted to say it’s because comedy and sci-fi just don’t mix. But I think it’s really that Trek’s (post-TNG) too-stiff variety of sci-fi and comedy that just don’t mix. Given how straight-laced and upright we see the characters behave in the serious episodes, all attempts to be funny just come off as forced. You can almost see the production team checking off boxes as they work towards hitting their “comedy” quota for the season, and it just doesn’t do the characters any justice.
Actually, by the time this episode aired, DS9 was well over its quota for the season. As a matter of fact, this was the third “comedy” episode in just over a month. Granted, the episode that aired immediately before this was “Trials and Tribble-ations”, a DS9 tour de force. This is the episode that saw the crew of Deep Space Nine travel back in time to Kirk’s Enterprise, with the folks at Paramount utilizing their new-fangled Forrest Gump technology to digitally insert the DS9 actors into footage from “The Trouble with Tribbles”. If you haven’t seen this episode, I highly recommend you seek it out. It’s about as brilliant as a Trek “comedy” episode ever was.
So, already with “Let He Who Is Without Sin…”, there were two things working against it: 1) it was the third “lighthearted” episode in five weeks, and 2) it followed what could be considered the series’ high water mark. Did I say two things? I meant three things. 3) It was a Risa episode. And Risa episodes invariably suck.
Risa, in a nutshell, is a planet where Federation citizens go to have lots of meaningless sex. Of course, they never actually say that in so many words. It’s always presented in that opaque wink-nudge way, because Trek has always been unfairly saddled with that “family entertainment” label, mainly because the original series aired at a time when prime time TV couldn’t be open about sexual matters. So, Trek writers were always forced to play it coy about sex, which is bad enough. But making matters worse, they actually seemed to enjoy being overly coy and cute about sex. And trips to Risa are all about cuteness and coyness.
See the Next Generation episodes “Captain’s Holiday”, or the opening of “The Game”. And if you must, see the Enterprise episode “Two Days and Two Nights”. Sheesh. You want to talk about a great big load of nothing? “Without Sin” has nothing on “Two Days”. Watch that episode and experience one hour of missing time.
“Let He Who Is Without Sin…” focuses primarily on the uninteresting romance between Worf and Jadzia Dax. As I mentioned in my previous recap, the DS9 producers added TNG’s Worf to the mix to try to prop up declining ratings. We knew from prior seasons that Dax was closely involved with Klingons in one of her past lives, so I guess the writers thought it only natural that she would hook up with the new Klingon in town. Unfortunately, their personalities are so incompatible, and Worf in particular acts like such a dick to Dax, that you have to wonder if she would just jump on whatever Klingon happened to be within eyesight.
Despite the name, this website isn’t specifically targeted towards hardcore Trek fans, so indulge me while I explain the character of Dax for a minute. Dax is a Trill, and if you’ve only seen the TNG episode “The Host” that introduced the Trills, you can forget everything you know about them. DS9 Trills are completely different from TNG Trills. Their appearance, their culture, the Federation’s familiarity with them, all of that was completely rewritten by DS9. The only thing the two races share is the notion of a humanoid with a large sentient slug living inside of him or her.
These slugs, long-lived beings known as “symbionts”, get passed from person to person. When one host dies, the slug is transferred to a new host. In the DS9 version, when the symbiont is “joined” with a new host, the slug and host combine to form a completely new identity. The joined Trill retains all of the memories of previous hosts, but by all rights is an entirely unique individual.
So, theoretically, a Trill should have the wisdom and charisma that comes with hundreds of years of experience. Unfortunately, the character of Jadzia Dax was never able to project that kind of gravitas. I don’t know if it’s the fault of actress Terry Farrell, or a failing of the writers for not quite knowing how to get across the idea of a very old person living in a young person’s body. But either way, I think there was huge potential there that remained largely untapped.
(Maybe Farrell agreed, because once her contract ended after the sixth season of Deep Space Nine, she quit the show to become a regular on Becker. Now, Becker is one of those shows that was a huge, huge hit, and was on forever—actually, I’m not even sure if I should be saying “was” or “is” in this context, because I haven’t the faintest clue if it’s still on the air or not—but to this day I have not met one single person who admits to watching it. Its existence makes me happy for Ted Danson, I mean, I’m glad he wasn’t forever typecast as Sam Malone or anything like that, but I haven’t got the slightest idea what Becker is about, and to be honest, I don’t really care to know.)
Anyway, Dax’s previous host, a guy named Curzon Dax, was really chummy with Klingons, hanging out with the likes of Kang, Koloth and Kor, guys who were tight with Jim Kirk back in the day. (Curzon also happened to be a mentor to DS9’s Captain Benjamin Sisko, which is why Sisko sometimes calls Dax “old man”.) Not long after Worf joined the crew of Deep Space Nine, Dax started to get all hot and horny, so inevitably they hooked up (in the episode “Looking for Par’Mach in All the Wrong Places”, which was also supposed to be lighthearted, in addition to being a Ferengi episode, so I’m sure you can guess all the myriad ways in which it went wrong).
And with that, I think I’ve got you up to speed on everything you need to know about Dax and Worf in order to understand this episode. So let the hurting begin.
Oh, and I’m sure there’s some deep relevance behind the use of the Biblical quote in the title of this episode. But, frankly, I couldn’t care less. Just let it be known that I will be casting the first stone. Directly at Worf’s head.