WARNING: This article contains spoiler information for DS9's "Fascination". Those individuals not fascinated by the idea of being spoiled should back away.

In brief:Okay, good joke -- so where's the *real* show this week? What? That was it? Uh-oh... "Fascination" was, in brief, one of the weakest shows DS9's ever done.

More after the usual quick-and-dirty synopsis:

Brief Summary: An unknown virus causes the DS9 crew to behave strangely, falling in love with each other at the drop of a hat.

Now, as I was saying ... bleah.

Actually, I should try to say something good about the show, and I can without too much trouble. I liked most of the O'Brien/Keiko plot -- and in a different show, that could have been a strong segment carrying the whole. Instead, it's the only part of the tape I don't particularly want to erase.

Let's start off with a point that's been concerning me for some time. I don't recall if I've mentioned this before, but if so it bears repeating, namely this:

We've seen Lwaxana as sexual predator before, certainly. Why is it, though, that behavior which would rightfully be considered harassment when performed by almost any other individual is instead presented as simply a running joke in Lwaxana's case? We just had a show, in fact, where Kira had a "suitor" whose interest might be considered sinister -- but apparently while that's not okay, Lwaxana attaching herself to Odo like a barnacle is. Sorry. I don't buy it, I don't appreciate it, and I particularly dislike it being used as the McGuffin for a "crew goes silly" show, which is usually of iffy quality anyway. Please, no more.

Moving from characters we see too much to characters we rarely see ... I feel extremely sorry for Philip Anglim and for the character of Vedek Bareil. Until now, Bareil has primarily been a character with hidden depths, and one who has for the *most* part lent extra gravity to a show. Not now, though -- now, he's this hormone-ridden oaf stuck saying some of the most godawful lines on the face of the planet. The character deserves better, and offhanded references to "gee, it's a good thing Winn made me one of her advisers" only cheapens the plot he's been associated with, at least in my view.

Speaking of plots, it would have been nice had this show had one beyond the bare-bones "premise full of wackiness". "The Naked Time" and its TNG successor may have been a little thin at times, but they had a story with reasoning beyond the "let's have everyone jump everyone else" idea -- they told us something about the characters. So far as I can tell, this one didn't.

On to specific scenes. As I said, the O'Brien plot was the show's real saving grace; conflicting careers certainly _can_ put a strain on a marriage, and it's sensible that the subject be addressed. Both parties, particularly Colm Meaney, were up to the job of it as well; O'Brien had moments where you felt really sorry for him *and* where you agreed with his later admission that "[he's] an idiot." The way the story played out was somewhat by-the-numbers, maybe, but that doesn't much matter if it's done well, and this one was. (The ending was also a little more up-in-the-air than usual for me, because of the persistent rumors about Colm leaving the series; I wondered if the resignation really *would* go through.)

Besides the "I'm an idiot" scene, the other O'Brien stuff that got my attention the most was the opening scene with Bashir. The two of them have got a nice little patter going by now, and it was highly amusing to hear about their racquetball playing. That would have been cute by itself, but the final scene of the show, with O'Brien leaving the airlock only to catch a racquet, was a scream.

Unfortunately, now we've left the realm of the good portions of the show, and are heading downhill rapidly. The Jake/Sisko opener about the breakup with Marta was decent, especially on Jake's side of it (I hear kids talking in just that tone of voice, oh, roughly every few hours :-) ), but the worries I mentioned last time about Brooks's performance are still very much prevalent; I don't know exactly what's up with his delivery these days, but far from seeming more human it seems overplayed.

After that, I could write about all the various "romance" scenes we saw played out, but I can pretty much sum it up by saying that none of it worked for me whatsoever. Not Jake/Kira, not Bareil/Dax, not Dax/Sisko, not Lwaxana/Odo, not Quark/Keiko, and not Kira/Bashir. Forget not seeming realistic, since they weren't meant to -- these seemed pretty much insulting all around, and _nobody_ ended up in a situation that did the actors any justice whatsoever. Everybody looked like fools, to be blunt; and I don't care for fools on Trek any more than I do anywhere else.

The "reason"for all of this, namely Lwaxana's illness, is a cliche that's been overused where the character is concerned. In "Manhunt", her entrance into "the phase" triggered the main story; in "Dark Page", her brain shutdown *was* the main story. Do we really need Yet Another Episode devoted to Lwaxana's mental functions wreaking havoc? And while most of the situations with Lwaxana affecting people were actually shown, we're never given any sense of her infecting, say, Bareil. What's more, we're apparently meant to conclude that Sisko has no latent attraction to *anyone* on the station, and that Keiko and O'Brien have no attractions to anyone but each other. I don't care how happily married they are; both of those claims are pretty tough to swallow, particularly Sisko. (Lisa suggested that vomit might be a cure, which would explain both Keiko's and Miles's immunity. :-) ) I also think the projection of Lwaxana's desires outward should make everyone hot for *Odo*, not others, but that's a minor point I'm willing to drop.

As for the continued Odo/Kira issue ... well, I still dislike it, but the one positive I saw here was that it's semi-established that it's one-sided. While I still think the whole idea is a bad one, at least we're meant to conclude Kira is oblivious rather than intentionally being a twit.

Other than that, I've little to say about "Fascination" beyond a few short points, so here goes:

-- Molly retching on Miles at the start of the show was good, but entirely too symbolic for the episode's own good. That, combined with the gong being sounded during the Renaissance ... er ... Gratitude Festival, was sending off very loud hints about the quality of the show that may not have been intended.

-- Cirroc Lofton hopping around like Quasimodo during the party sequences was amusing. I'm not sure why. :-)

-- I don't know how many of you watch "My So-Called Life" as well, but for those that do, there was a quote from Brian there a few weeks ago that irresistibly jumped to mind when Dax started slithering all over Sisko and Sisko got that silly grin on his face. I have *some* standards, and I'm a mean person by nature, so I won't quote it -- but for those that know what I'm talking about: isn't it completely appropriate? :-)

-- I do not buy for a moment that news of the Founders being Odo's people has made it out far enough into the public that Lwaxana knows about it.

-- Lwaxana: "You know where to find me." Lisa: "Yes, madam; and which *particular* circle of Hell might that be?"

That's it. "Fascination" held fascination, all right; the same sort of morbid fascination that keeps you staring at traffic accidents. It's among DS9's worst shows, though thanks to the O'Brien story not *the* worst -- and if I never see it again, it'll likely be far too soon.

All in all, I think we're talking about a 2.5 here. Ugh.

NEXT WEEK: A rerun from last year -- and a break from reviewing! :-)

Tim Lynch (Harvard-Westlake School, Science Dept.) "And you know what all those games taught me? That I'm a poor substitute for your *wife*." "I coulda told you that 60 games ago." -- Bashir and O'Brien Copyright 1994, Timothy W. Lynch. All rights reserved, but feel free to ask... This article is explicitly prohibited from being used in any off-net compilation without due attribution and *express written consent of the author*. Walnut Creek and other CD-ROM distributors, take note.

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