WARNING: "Looking for Par'Mach in All the Wrong Places" ...looking for Par'Mach in too many faces ... searching your ridges, looking for -- er -- for -- oh, the hell with it. Spoilers ahead for the aforementioned DS9 episode.
In brief: Avoid.
Brief summary: When Quark's Klingon ex-wife Grilka comes aboard, Quark decides to woo her for real, and enlists the help of a similarly smitten Worf to win Grilka's heart.
Did you think "The House of Quark" was hilarious fun? Did you think "Fascination" was the epitome of entertaining DS9 character interplay? Do you think the primary purpose of DS9 as a series is to pair off as many characters as possible on a level usually reserved for junior-high dances? Then you are gonna love "Looking for Par'Mach in All The Wrong Places" (which I'll abbreviate as "Par'Mach" from here on in) -- but then again, if that's your mindset about the series you probably wrote off my reviews as useless for your purposes two or three years ago. (That's not meant as a disparagement; if our fundamental bases of comparison are that different, my reviews really wouldn't be particularly useful.)
To summarize the above: I found "Par'Mach" unpleasant -- rather insultingly so, in fact. And moving from a taut, stressful tour de force like "The Ship" to a juvenile "Cyrano" retelling only with more sexplay in "Par'Mach" is a fall sudden enough and fast enough that the air resistance alone could cause serious burns.
So what precisely didn't I like? In a word: sniggering. No one, and I mean no one on this show was depicted behaving in a mature manner. Bashir is listening at doorways and relying on Quark's exceptional ears to help him, then joking around with O'Brien that "I bet you looked" at Kira bathing. O'Brien and Kira suddenly jump
from a foot massage to a hidden passion, which they then cover up so ineptly that it's a wonder Keiko didn't figure it out immediately. Odo is about as jealous-sounding and petty as I've ever heard him, Keiko is the classic oblivious soap-opera or sitcom wife, Worf is falling hard for a woman he's never even exchanged two words with, Dax is a jealous "notice me, dammit" sexpot, and Quark ... well, Quark is Quark, looking for a one-night stand (oh, excuse me -- TWO nights, as he corrects Dax). Perhaps Sisko manages to seem above the fray -- but I rather suspect that's more because he only had a handful of lines than anything else. (Okay, so Jake came off really well; he wasn't in the show at all. :-) ) If this is how Trek is going to depict intimate
relationships, then I'm all for a program of mass sterilization commencing immediately.
Perhaps more astonishingly, there was a major lapse of history surrounding Worf that Ron Moore of all people should not have missed. In the attempt to make Worf seem as pathetic as possible, there was an exchange of dialogue where Worf admitted he had never "pursued a Klingon woman." Pardon me? Does the name "K'Ehleyr" ring a bell at all? The two of them definitely had a relationship going, and at times Worf definitely was the aggressor -- and as one of the writers of the incredible and K'Ehleyr-heavy "Reunion", Moore should have remembered that. I was already feeling pretty unimpressed by the show up to that point, but as soon as that line came up, it became clear that nothing about these characters was going to be kept remotely true to their roots and thoughts, and the bottom fell out.
In many ways, there's not that much else I have to say about "Par'Mach" -- the last few paragraphs really summed up my primary sense of the show. The plot didn't seem particularly full of holes -- for instance, Quark did think of the same solution to his duel that he'd used last time -- but when you've mischaracterized your entire cast of characters, saying "the story made sense" is a doubtful bit of phrasing at best. I had a few questions, such as how it was that Worf could tell exactly what Quark was doing while Worf was playing "puppeteer", but questions such as those were truly secondary compared to sights like Worf letting Quark play-act as Kahless in the holosuite.
Were there any good moments? Yes, a few -- mostly the odd line of dialogue here and there, combined with direction from Andrew "Garak" Robinson that at least gave scenes a little flair. I liked the veiled acknowledgment that Klingon stories tend to invent at least one new ritual per show -- at least, that's what I assume Quark's line to Worf about having a ritual "for everything except waste extraction" and his own claim of a "Rite of Proclamation" meant. I also rather enjoyed Bashir's reaction to the two new "couples": "I don't need that image, either; in fact, I'm going to stop asking that question [of "what happened?"] altogether. People can come in, I will treat them, and that's all." (I was reminded a bit of Jeff Goldblum's character in "The Big Chill" towards the end of the film; let's leave it at that.) There were isolated fifteen-second spots of the show that were entertaining, but they weren't nearly enough.
A few additional points:
-- When Grilka discussed how the war had altered her family's fortune, Quark's response of "War? What is it good for? If you ask me, absolutely nothing" almost made me turn off the tape in disgust. First it was Quark mouthing King's "I have a dream" speech, now he's adapting rock lyrics. Can we put an end to this, please?
-- I notice that even though Kira's uniform has been altered to fit her condition, she's kept the silly high heels -- boy, THOSE ought to help those swollen ankles. Yep.
-- Hands up, anyone who didn't know that Worf's magical connection to Quark would break at just the wrong time. (It is worth pointing out that Quark didn't manage to win the fight on his own, however; that mistake, at least, was not made.)
That should cover it. This review's a fair bit shorter than the last few, but there's not much left to say. It was a particularly unwatchable piece of half-soap, half-sitcom that mangled its characters virtually beyond recognition -- and frankly, I'd just as soon forget the whole thing happened.
So, wrapping up:
Writing: Well, the story made sense -- assuming that it was being written either for, about, or by lovesick eighth-graders.
Directing: Some fresh perspectives; no complaints.
Acting: It's hard to tell when the material's this off.
OVERALL: 3; the worst rating I've given to DS9 since season 3. Let's all hope this was a fluke.
Jake gets a sense of the true horrors of war.
Tim Lynch (Harvard-Westlake School, Science Dept.)
"This is ridiculous!"
"...but I cannot watch this any longer!"
"Oh, amen to all three..."
-- Worf, Quark, Grilka's guard Fo'Pok, and me