WARNING: Spoilers for DS9's "His Way" lurk below.
In brief: Five words or less: "Plays like bad fanfic."
Somehow, somewhere, there's someone who thought "His Way" was the best DS9 episode ever made, a show which epitomized the sort of characterization to which every dramatic television series should aspire.
That someone is not me.
Lest people jump to conclusions, however, I didn't despise "His Way" because I'm opposed to the Odo/Kira pairing. I'm not overjoyed by the relationship, but "Children of Time" last season convinced me quite well that there are good ways to handle it. As such, the simple fact that this was an Odo/Kira show didn't turn me off.
The episode itself, however, did -- and did in such a way as to completely undo any and all goodwill generated by "Children of Time". If what promise there was in the Odo/Kira relationship is to be used in episodes like this, forget it. Put another way: if the only way to advance the Odo/Kira pairing was to pull some sort of contrived hogwash like "His Way", then that should be sending up a very large warning signal that the relationship is a very, very bad idea.
Plot-wise, the story of "third party tricks two people into confessing their feelings" is an old one -- and like most old stories, it sometimes works well and sometimes doesn't. The Trek twist on the tale was to make the third party a hologram who knows everything about women and relationships, namely Vic Fontaine the lounge singer. Bad idea, folks.
Firstly, Vic is entirely too aware and too capable. A few insights into the human condition are all well and good, but the fact that he can read anyone, of any culture and any species, and near-instantly know what sort of feelings they're hiding, smacks of plot convenience more than anything else. Perhaps more importantly, Vic can apparently change himself from one program to another, make phone calls outside the holodeck, and change the parameters of the program he's in (e.g. his creation of "Lola" the Kira-lookalike). This is not a simple holodeck program: this is bordering on sentience, which is either dangerous to include in a simple entertainment program or veering dangerously close to slavery. (Let's not forget that the last hologram which became sentient on its own tried to take over the Enterprise in the TNG era -- twice.)
What's worse, keeping so much of the episode in Vic's program wasn't so much a plot as it was a convenient excuse to let guest stars (and some regulars) use that Ultra-Hep '60s Slang, Baby. In a word: ack. I really felt no overwhelming need to hear Odo say "Cool!" or especially Bashir say "Catch ya later, baby." Plus, of course, we got to hear everyone else get clueless in the face of topical references (Odo to Victor Borge, O'Brien to the term "square", etc.), which was equally mind-numbing. Vic's patter itself was at least true to his persona, but there's nothing about the '60s Rat Pack persona that I find entertaining in the least. Those who are big Dean Martin/Frank Sinatra fans may feel differently.
On to the topic of characterization, however. I've seen Kira happy, I've seen Kira sobbing, I've seen Kira boiling and raging, I've seen Kira passionate about Bajor, I've seen Kira calmly accepting her own death. I've never before seen Kira simpering like a fifteen-year-old girl who bats her eyes and acts dumb because she thinks it's what the boys all want -- and I never want to again. There were aspects of the show that Visitor and Auberjonois managed to carry by sheer force of will, but the dinner scene was not one of them.
Odo was equally out of character. Consulting one of Bashir's toys for advice is bad enough, but even before that we find him baring his deepest feelings to Quark, of all people -- and apparently without any prompting. The two may have some sort of slight understanding that they don't detest each other as much as they always pretend, but Odo is not going to unload his personal baggage on Quark, or very likely on anyone else.
As the episode meanders on, we find Odo having great fun receiving adulation from a holodeck audience (for something he himself isn't even doing; now that's a way to build a relationship), going for a night on the town with a showgirl, and eventually spouting off dialogue like "French is ze language of love," which is so abominably cliched that it should make even Will Riker back off and say, "sorry, I have a headache."
The only slight bright spot, as I alluded to earlier, is that Visitor and Auberjonois do at times have the chemistry to let the scene come off better than the script should allow. In particular, although the dinner leading up to their dance is awful, the dance itself is reasonable -- and the subsequent bickering-to-a-clinch scene, while no different from similar scenes in "Cheers", "Moonlighting", or about a zillion other shows, managed to exude a goofy charm for a millisecond or two. (Dax's smile helped, too.) On the whole, though, the show certainly did not make up for its plot problems with stellar character work.
There's also the question of how exactly everyone can feel so free to run around the holodeck for hours on end when there's a monstrous war going on. In "In the Pale Moonlight", just realizing that no personal friends that week was a victory: now everyone's decided to check out Bashir's latest kitschy craze? No, thank you. (I'm not saying everyone should necessarily be tortured; since Sisko's the only one who knows the truth of what brought the Romulans into the fold, I think he should be, but the rest can wait.) Even a mention of a lull in the war would have helped slightly.
Lastly, the show was incredibly thin and slow-paced. How little material did they have to work with? Enough that we had not one, not two, but four different musical interludes: the interminably long number where Odo learns how to deceive an audience, Nana Visitor's "Fever" (which, admittedly, was cute), the "I've Got You Under My Skin" number during the Odo/Kira dance, and "Come Fly With Me" at the end. (That's not counting Vic's opening number, or the mini-duet between Odo and Sisko.) Even leaving aside for a moment that it's a style of music I don't particularly care for, the sheer weight of padding was nearly enough by itself to sink the show.
-- It's been over a year since Kira and Shakaar broke up? Not so far as I can tell; it was a fresh enough event that it surprised everyone in "Children of Time", which was less than a season ago.
-- The reference to getting Kira's holo-image was a cute one, but I thought much of the point of "Our Man Bashir" was that those were only temporarily stored images, not permanently saved ones.
-- An interesting credit appeared at the end of the show that we don't usually see: one of the show's choreographer. Given the show, that's understandable, but the name of said choreographer was interesting: Laura Feder Behr. I don't know for certain if Ms. Behr is related to Ira Steven Behr, but it's certainly likely. (If so, I suppose the latter can at least comfort himself that this show got a relative a week's work.)
There's probably more that could be said, but I don't think there's much of a need. If the sole motivating force of your life is to see Odo and Kira together whatever the cost, then "His Way" might manage to send lovely shivery feelings all up and down your spine. If not, then avoid this episode unless you're a completist's completist. Believe me, the fact that Odo and Kira are now a couple should be enough to let you understand future shows; you don't need to see how it happened.
Writing: None of consequence. Okay, Quark's line about Odo not being lovable was cute. Directing: Some minor pluses here and there, but generally nothing to speak of. Acting: Most everyone was game, but it's not enough to save a show.
OVERALL: 1.5, the worst DS9 episode of the year. With only five left, it had better stay that way.
Sisko, Winn, the Prophets, and Jake's life. Hmm...
Tim Lynch (Harvard-Westlake School, Science Dept.) firstname.lastname@example.org <*> "You're not exactly the most lovable person in the galaxy. You're not even the most lovable person in the sector, or on the station -- or even in this room." -- Quark Copyright 1998, 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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