WARNING: Spoilers of the world unite -- you have nothing to spoil but DS9's "Bar Association".
In brief: The season's first major clunker, and how. O'Brien has a couple of good lines, but that's pretty much it.
Brief summary: When Quark finally goes too far in exploiting his employees, Rom organizes them into a union and goes on strike against Quark's business practices -- breaking millennia of Ferengi tradition.
"Bar Association" was a throwback to the sort of show DS9 had a great deal of last season, and the sort of show I was hoping was gone for good. It's basically an episode of FTV, Ferengi Television: "all Ferengi, all the time". These allegedly satirical looks at Ferengi culture are certainly sniggering at something, but usually it's either so muddled or so wrapped up in horrible storytelling that the satire's unsuccessful. "Bar Association" is cut from the same mold as last year's "Prophet Motive" or "Family Business", and fares no better than either of them.
As with many other Ferengi shows, the story was by-the-book. We have Quark behaving substantially more grasping than usual (so as to provide proper contrast with his "reformed" persona later), and at least one other regular character makes some comment which we as twentieth-century humans are supposed to identify with better -- in this case, it was Bashir's "what you need is a union". Someone (be it Rom, Quark's mother, or someone else) tries to use Federation values to fix the situation, "with hilarious results": nothing seems to work, but Quark eventually comes around anyway and ends up contributing in whole or in part to the solution. Everything's back to normal, a few Rules of Acquisition get quoted along the way, and viewers can go back to ogling the Dabo girls. Whee.
Too harsh? I don't think so. Consider this particular Ferengi episode's pack of nonsense necessary to fit the above outline:
-- Rom acts like he's never heard of a union, despite the fact that every other Ferengi on the face of the station appears to have heard of it in rather unpleasant ways.
-- We get a couple of gratuitous Ferengi masturbation jokes early in the first act, just in case we weren't already primed to be annoyed at the show.
-- The excuse for Quark's particular depredations this week is the "Bajoran Month of Cleansing", during which all Bajorans are supposed to abstain from all worldly pleasures. Gee, we've only been seeing regular Bajoran characters for three and a half years now on the series; wouldn't someone have mentioned this before? (Leeta
also doesn't appear to be observing said month, but that's certainly not a problem -- she may just not be a particularly spiritual Bajoran.)
-- Rom gets to quote Marx -- not Chico, as might be appropriate, but Karl. That's believable.
That's the quick list, but I think it's sufficient. Virtually nothing about the A-plot to "Bar Association" caught my interest, and the fact that I wasn't particularly fond of any of the Ferengi actors didn't help (particularly Jeffrey Combs this time around; Brunt was virtually a grotesque, and not one I felt like watching).
There were one or two moments in the A-story that I did like, however. The best moment that was directly related to the main plot was Sisko's blackmailing Quark into talking to Rom. Sisko's used similar tactics on Quark before, dating all the way back to "Emissary", and it's a pairing that generally works well. (That particular scene also felt particularly well-constructed and well-directed, too; it did what it had to do efficiently and with some flair, then got out of the way without lingering on how clever Sisko was.) The use of O'Brien
as the regular character most interested in the union and its fate also made sense: while having an Irish union man as an ancestor of O'Brien may have been a slightly obvious idea, it felt right, and Colm Meaney's proven many times over how good he is at giving even the obvious ideas the right flourish.
As far as the B-story goes, that being Worf's adjustment or lack thereof to station life, it was substantially more successful, probably because it was the background story and thus didn't get a great deal of focus. While Worf himself had only one priceless line during his storyline (that being his last, "Perhaps in the end, it will be all of you that have to adapt to me."), all kinds of things happened around him that, if not necessarily high drama, were nonetheless very entertaining. Odo reciting Worf's litany of security glitches on the Enterprise when Worf got huffy was a prime example, and I also particularly liked the image of O'Brien, Bashir, and Worf in a holding cell after a bar fight. Just as importantly, I liked the very idea that Worf is still so uncomfortable in his new circumstances (perhaps even more so after the events of "Sons of Mogh") that he's going to try to hide from them as best as he can. If anyone's going to try to be unadaptable, it's Worf, so this idea makes sense for him, and I'll definitely confess to a certain curiosity about how well it's going to work out.
That, however, is pretty much all the appeal that "Bar Association" has. While the B-plot is worth watching, the A-plot definitely isn't -- so anyone who wants to watch just the B-story would be advised to tape the show and fast-forward over any scene with more than one Ferengi in it. Trust me, it will make things work far better.
So, a few short takes and then I'm outta here:
-- Leeta is suffering from a serious case of plot convenience. We've seen her a grand total of three times that I can recall, and the two most recent have only been times when an extra body (more to the point, an extra cute body) has been needed on-camera: as one of Dax's hosts in "Facets", and now here as someone to cheer up Rom and make Brunt drool. When she's not on camera, she apparently doesn't exist, despite the fact that she appears to be involved with Bashir. A little consistency would be nice.
-- O'Brien managed to get virtually all of the best scenes this week: placing bets with Bashir about who would or wouldn't go into Quark's, talking to Worf about how bored he was on the Enterprise, and complaining to Bashir about the cyst on his neck. Great fun.
That should about cover it. DS9's still having a very good season, but "Bar Association" had better be the exception rather than the renewal of a rule. So, wrapping up:
Writing: More Ferengi Lunacy [tm], with all of its attendant frailties. The Worf stuff worked better, and many of the non-Ferengi characters were fine.
Directing: The Sisko/Quark scene came off rather well, as did a few moments sneaking out from under the plot.
Acting: No complaints about the non-Ferengi, and Shimerman did what he could.
OVERALL: 3, and that's mostly because of the B-story. No, thank you.
Is Sisko really the Emissary?
Tim Lynch (Harvard-Westlake School, Science Dept.)
"Oh, I'm perfectly healthy, except that I have this disgusting cyst on the back of my neck. Now, either I paint a nose, eyes and mouth on it and pretend I've got two heads, or you take it off."
"Well ... I'll get you some paint."
-- O'Brien and Bashir