Star Trek: Deep Space Nine “Let He Who Is Without Sin...” (part 5 of 7)
Cut to an exterior shot of Risa, with a large life-size Whorega’hn and a geodesic dome, and a tall building that looks like it was made from two ionizing air filters from the Sharper Image, and a waterfall in the background, all edited together (relatively) believably. The dome is obviously a matte painting, and the waterfall is obviously a still picture, but I guess it’s good enough for a shot that lasts two seconds. And I would much rather they save their FX budget for genuinely good episodes that season like “By Inferno’s Light” or “In Purgatory’s Shadow”.
I’m not too clear why we were shown all these structures, however, because the next scene takes place outside. I think Worf and Dax have arrived at the site of the rally, but it’s a little confusing, because they both spot Bashir there, reclining on an oversized lawn chair and making out with a random girl in Sears blue floral lingerie. Worf is aghast, once again, that he’s not with Leeta. Dax says there must be a “reasonable explanation”. It’s called “two people getting sick and tired of being with each other”, and you both may want to look into it.
Anyway, Vanessa L. Williams shows up again. I guess this is the location of the rally, after all, because Vanessa asks if they’re here for “the show”, and she says she finds Pascal Fullerton “very entertaining”. Boy, I hate it when people just outright lie like that. Nothing in this episode is “very entertaining”. She claims that “one man” can’t stop the powerful, pleasurable, happiness-inducing power of Risa, but Worf brings up the ancient Klingon warrior Kahless, who fought off an entire army all by himself while simultaneously eating a hoagie, or something. To be honest, I always tune out when this Klingon warrior “honorable battle” bullshit comes up. Sadly, in any episode featuring Worf, it always comes up.
Vanessa says Fullerton has been giving speeches for a month, but “the water is still warm, and the wind still smells sweet.” Cringe. A smattering of applause breaks out as the New Essentialists show up, all clothed in long, thick wool coats, because they’re uptight squares, do you get it? Personally, I preferred the Old Essentialists way more than these guys. Kind of like how I preferred the Old Jack Swing, but maybe I’m in the minority on that one.
As far as I can tell, the Essentialists seem to all be human, except for one token blue-skinned Bolian standing behind Fullerton. Fullerton speaks, acknowledging that he must look like a “middle-aged, ponderous academic” to those in attendance. But to him, they all look like “pampered, spoiled children!” That’s gonna win people over to your side. Also, he sounds almost exactly like John O’Hurley when he talks, and John O’Hurley is absolutely brilliant at playing a total pompous gasbag (when he’s not a dancing fool, of course), so that should give you some indication of how well this entire speech goes over. He stars pontificating about how easy life is for Federation citizens, with their replicators and holosuites and Starfleet protecting them, and not having to walk to school ten miles uphill through the snow every day. Both ways. We see Worf nodding along.
Fullerton says if they look like children to him, then the Borg and Klingons and Romulans and Dominion will look at them as an easy target. Oh brother, someone had to play that old Borg and Klingons and Romulans and Dominion Card again, right? This entire argument is dumb on multiple levels. First of all, would the Federation really be better off without replicators? Think about all the toil and labor that goes into cultivating and distributing food, and think about how much time that would take away from other, more vital pursuits (such as military strategy) if Federation citizens suddenly had to worry about living off the land.
And as far as holosuites and pleasure planets go, my god, it’s called a diversion. It’s called a vacation. If people were spending their entire lives on Risa, or in holosuites, then I would buy his argument. But the episode makes it clear that this is just stuff they do for a tiny fraction of their time, simply as a way to relax or blow off steam or have a good time every once in a while. Even soldiers in wars get a little R&R. Is he really implying that the Federation is weak because its citizens don’t want to worry about fighting the Dominion 24 hours a day?
And finally, what’s with the diss against Klingons? Didn’t Fullerton actively recruit Worf, a Klingon, to come to this rally in the first place?
Then he tosses out some analogy about napping in the sun and waking up with Jem’Hadar guns pointed at their heads, but I am really over him. His entire argument makes no sense, and it makes no sense that anyone would even listen to him, much less Worf, so the plot of this episode has totally collapsed before it even started. And, I might point out, we’re nearly twenty minutes into the episode. I don’t know what the record is, as far as how long a Trek episode has spent totally avoiding any semblance of a plot. But this episode has certainly surpassed “The Outrageous Okona” on that front. It’s definitely not the all-time champ, because there were several episodes of Enterprise that hit the 45-minute mark before the plot kicked in. No wonder it got canceled.
Anyway, Fullerton’s dopey evangelizing ends, and so does this Trekkian send-up of religious leaders and the Christian right and the Moral Majority, without anybody mentioning God once.
Cut to Worf and Dax and Bashir, in some random interior drinking juice together, or something that I hope is juice. Actually, Dax could be pounding back the Cape Cods right now, which would really make me happy, as well as envious. Dr. Bashir correctly pegs Worf’s newfound allegiance to the Essentialists as “nonsense”, but Worf says the Klingons would have never attacked DS9 (in last season’s “Way of the Warrior” two-parter) if they hadn’t considered the Federation to be “vulnerable”. Well, um… there’s that, and also the thing with the Klingons unknowingly being under the command of a Dominion shapeshifter at the time. But point taken.
Bashir then takes this episode and shoots it straight through the heart, basically, when he says, “None of this has anything to do with Risa!” Then Dax pretty much takes this whole worthless story and pounds it in the head with a fire extinguisher until its skull caves in, by pointing out that she’s defended the Federation for several lifetimes and she deserves a vacation.
You know, in some ways, I think when a talented writer is trying to write to a plot that makes absolutely no sense, that writer will always subconsciously insert characters pointing out just how stupid the plot is. On a conscious level, I’m sure they wanted to show Worf’s inner conflict as reasonable. They wanted to show the other points of view, and have Worf refute them, in order to make his later actions seem more logical. But really what all of this is saying is, “Help. I’m the screenwriter. I’ve painted myself into a corner with this idiotic story. I already sold my treatment and there’s no way out. But really, I think this story is just as stupid as you do. Please don’t hurt me.”
(Actually, after I wrote the above paragraph, I found out it may not be too far off from the truth. Robert Hewitt Wolfe, who co-wrote this episode, posted on Usenet a few times during the run of DS9. He freely admitted that this episode was one of the worst ideas he ever had: “We should’ve put a bullet through that one’s eyes while it was in development.” When asked what was going through his mind while he was writing it, he responded with the memorable “‘Please don’t let this suck. Please don’t let this suck.'”)
So, anyway, Leeta shows up and parts the curtains, back in her bright pink Ujena swimsuit. She and Bashir meet, both of them ecstatic about totally cheating on each other. Worf has finally had enough, and yells at them about how they “dishonor each other”. Leeta and Bashir suddenly realize they never told anybody why they came.
Apparently, they’re conducting “the Rite of Separation”. Supposedly, it’s “an old Bajoran custom” where you sleep around with as many people besides your significant other as you possibly can before you go blind. Not in so many words, I guess, but that’s the gist of it. Leeta tries to justify this custom with some ancient sounding babble, about how when you decide to break up, you celebrate it by exploring new opportunities, or something, but honestly the bullshit is so thick right now that every scene in this episode has now taken on a distinctly brownish tint.
And then if all that weren’t bad enough, the two of them leave to go have a goodbye fuck. I swear to you, that’s what they immediately run off to go do. I don’t know about you, but personally, I don’t watch Star Trek, or any other TV show for that matter, to see the gross aspects of anybody’s relationship. You want to have some kind of contest to see who can have the most sex in public places? More power to you, and have fun doing it, but please don’t rub my face in it—literally as well as figuratively. I bet the writers thought they were “pushing boundaries” with this kind of material, but it’s seriously undercut by how gross it all is. I’ll even admit that maybe we’re supposed to be repulsed by their behavior, so that we’ll side with Worfie even more later. If that was the intention, then I must say “well played” to the writers. But that doesn’t make any of this any easier to sit through.
And as they talk, I can’t help but notice the wall behind them. I guess it’s a symptom of becoming a Trekkie and seeing a whole bunch of episodes of different series around the same time, but I actually recognize this wall. It’s been redressed a number of times, most recently for a scene in the Enterprise series finale “These are the Voyages…”, but it’s also been used as a backdrop on a Son’a ship in Insurrection, and also in Enterprise‘s own Risa episode, “Two Days and Two Nights”. This wall, I think, deserves an Emmy for withstanding so much crap. Anybody know where else it shows up?
So, back to Worf being judgmental about Bashir and Leeta. Dax excuses it all by saying that relationships don’t have to end “like a Klingon opera”. Well, I’d wager hard-earned money that it’s better than ending like a Klingon sitcom, which is what’s happening here.
Suddenly, there’s a clattering and a crashing and a banging, so they both get up and push back the curtains. They soon find themselves face to face with a Bolian pointing a phaser rifle at them. Specifically, it’s the New Essentialist Bolian, still wearing a long thick coat. Behind him, it’s complete and utter chaos. And in this case, “utter chaos”, on a frame by frame analysis, turns out to consist totally of half-naked extras running around aimlessly, and Essentialists ripping down curtains and throwing pillows around. So, not so much “utter chaos”, I guess, as it is a “panty raid”. But that’s good enough of a cliffhanger for this teleplay, because the music rises and we go to commercial.
When we return from break, the Essentialists are still going all Achille Lauro on everybody, and one of the female Essentialists tips over the table of Whorega’hns. Oh no! How will we advertise our availability for meaningless sex now?! We’ll have to resort to doing things the old fashioned way, by wearing lots of glitter and silvery tops!
As the Risians get shoved around, Dax expresses her desire to jump in and kick some ass, and possibly take names as well, but Worf stops her. Fullerton enters and announces that they’ve “proved [their] point.” His appearance creates kind of a lull in the “mayhem”, and in this lull, Dax immediately snatches away the Bolian’s phaser rifle, and finds that it’s not loaded. Or rather, “the power cells are empty”, but same diff.
Fullerton reveals this was all some kind of Dominion preparedness drill, and points out if the Essentialists had been Jem’Hadar, everyone would be dead by now. And if you lived here, you’d be home by now. So what? You can’t deal in hypotheticals, because it never ends. I mean, there’s a chance that a jet engine will randomly fall out of the sky and crash into my bedroom like Donnie Darko, but should I spend all my days and nights preparing for it? (Though, hypothetically speaking, I will admit what Dax did was a pretty dumb move. If the Essentialists’ phaser rifles had been loaded, and she had snatched one away like that, she would have been outgunned here by at least four to one, and probably gotten herself and Worf killed.)
Fullerton even makes a special deal of pointing out that even two bad-ass Starfleet officers like Dax and Worf could be taken unawares. He says he just wanted to remind everyone that “the galaxy is a hostile place”, and returns them to their regularly scheduled sex tour. And then, the New Essentialists just walk out, because they… did nothing wrong? So, hey, I can just walk into a bank waving a shotgun, but as long as it’s not loaded, I can tell everybody I was just doing it to keep everybody on their toes? And not get a night stick shoved so far up my rectum that it comes out of my mouth? Right?
Dax steps forward, saying she has the authority to arrest Fullerton, but he replies that “the Risians won’t prosecute,” [?] though no one ever really explains why. Then he addresses Worf personally, because he knows that Worf is down with the Essentialist movement, and is totally up in their grill. I mean, Worf is feeling him like Braille feeling him. Worf doesn’t deny it, which kind of gets Dax peeved, and then P. Fully finally exits.