Warning: As usual, there are DS9 spoilers here. This time, it's for "Q-Less", so those not wanting to be spoiled should, well, *leave*. :-)
Well, it beat the *last* time we saw Vash...
But not by much -- and as you may recall, I gave "Qpid" a 1.
Though not all of the show's problems relate to Vash, many of them do -- and thus, I'll be focusing much of the early discussion on her.
I quite honestly do *not* understand the appeal this character has, or even *could* have, for anyone. I have always found the character unlikeable in ways not conducive to wanting to watch her (and there is a distinction; for instance, Commander Maddox in "The Measure of a Man" was unlikeable for me, but in ways that made you want to stick around and see him get a comeuppance), and that was *amplified* here. I have also yet to see Jennifer Hetrick give a decent performance in the role.
Neither one of those preconceptions about "Q-Less" was challenged in the least here; in fact, the end product turned out significantly worse than I hoped. With some very, very short-lived exceptions, every single scene featuring Vash provoked, at best, a reaction of "God, who *cares*?", and sometimes rather stronger reactions.
Q's repeated temptations and pleadings with Vash didn't work for me, primarily because Vash is such an unworkable (and one might even say unworthy) character for it. Temptation is a powerful storytelling tool, but only if you're given a reason to care about what the temptee actually chooses. Picard being tempted to talk in "Chain of Command, Part II", or to leave Starfleet in "Family" both made for excellent drama for just that reason. Vash being tempted to stay with Q did not, as the only issue I care about concerning Vash is whether I'll be stuck sitting through another episode with her.
It is perhaps understandable that Vash and Quark made a reasonable team, but the net effect, unfortunately, was to give Quark the most one-dimensional portrayal he's had to date rather than to give Vash any needed depth. The only time I saw anything in Quark entertaining this week was his evident, and warranted, paranoia about Odo's ability to gather information. ("What were you this time?" I think people have been asking Odo that question for a *long* time.)
The "seduction" scene in which Vash lowers Quark's end of their bargain struck a particularly sour note. I don't know if anyone else had the same reaction I did, but I found myself more disgusted than anything else. I saw Vash's actions as basically casual prostitution, and a particularly sleazy form of it at that. Perhaps my take on the situation was somewhat atypical, but my mind took that sleaziness on the characters' parts and extrapolated it onto a certain sleaziness on the part of the episode itself (not to mention how it reflects on Picard, a decidedly *un*-sleazy character). Perhaps that makes me repressed (although I doubt it). So be it -- regardless, that scene did a good deal to destroy whatever respect I might have had for the show.
The exchanges between Q and Vash were often reasonable, but little more. John de Lancie did his usual wonderful job, but it's difficult for his flair to really shine if he's not playing off a superb "straight man" such as Stewart or Dorn (or Avery Brooks, for that matter -- but I'll get to that). With someone as unable to carry the ball as Hetrick appears to be, de Lancie sometimes was stuck appearing frantic, pestering *us* as much as he was her.
(This is not to say there weren't any good pieces there, however. One of my favorite exchanges in the entire episode was in the middle of a Vash/Q scene: "What was it they called you, the god of lies?" "They meant it _affectionately_." *That* is a classic Q line if I've ever heard one, and "But, I *do* know everything" was a nice comment as well.)
Enough about Vash. Were a decent plot contained in the non-Vash elements, I could reconcile myself to the scenes I've already mentioned. Unfortunately, this is the first time the "crew = idiots" effect has hit DS9 with full force, and it had me absolutely scoffing all the while.
Just think, folks. The station begins to undergo a strange power drain, and it's extremely similar to the way in which power was drained from the runabout that contained three people. Yet, strangely enough, NOBODY seems to think of checking those three people or whatever objects they had with them. Some may argue that with Q around, Sisko and O'Brien might have thought they had their culprit -- but at the time the initial drain occurred, nobody except the viewers even *knew* Q was around. This is an astounding lack of reasoning, and of basic common sense, on the part of the characters and the writers. Bah, I say.
As for the eventual resolution of the station-endangering threat, it seems far too similar to the end of "Encounter at Farpoint" to me. (On the other hand, at least this looked like a Cosmic Manta Ray [TM] instead of a Cosmic Jellyfish [TM], so DS9 is showing a little more backbone. ;-) )
On the brighter side, however, Q's interaction with some of the other DS9 personnel was quite lively. The showpiece of these encounters (by design, I'm sure) was the Sisko/Q encounter that began at Quark's. Given Q's particular "friendship" with Picard, it was inevitable that his arrival would spark many Picard/Sisko comparisons. So, those comparisons were not only allowed, but explicitly made, and made reasonably well. (I do have to wonder at the resigned look on Sisko's face after socking Q out, though. Something about it didn't quite fit the mood.) The exchange "You hit me! Picard never hit me!" "I'm not Picard." neatly summed up _that_ issue, thank you very much.
Two things about the Q/Sisko scene there bothered me slightly, however. The first was Q's response that Sisko's hot temper was "fortunate for me". That suggests that he really *did* want to come to annoy Sisko et al., rather than to pursue Vash. The second is that, well, the fact that Sisko *is* so much more easily provoked than Picard will make any future Sisko/Q encounters far less interesting. At least half the fun of the Q/Picard exchanges is Q trying desperately to make Picard lose his reserve, and Sisko doesn't have much of it to lose.
Q's dealings with everyone else were fairly good, particularly O'Brien. In fact, this is the first time O'Brien's ties to the Enterprise have proven helpful; he was able to recognize Vash and Q easily without either of them taking much notice of him. That's something that could prove useful if too many more Enterprise visitors make their way over to DS9; I guess being one of the "little people" has its advantages. :-) (And O'Brien's muttered "Bloody hell!" upon seeing Q seemed so utterly O'Brienish that it brought a smile.)
That's all my main points. Some shorter comments:
-- The Quark/Odo scene worked fairly well. Quark's paranoia was perfect, and although Odo's speechmaking about how pointless he thought possessions were fell flat, Quark's attempts to tempt Odo are quite entertaining. Here's a long-running temptation that *will* be worth watching. :-)
-- Didn't anyone give any thought to *beaming* Dax et al. out of the runabout in the teaser? Even if it wouldn't work, it might be a reasonable idea to suggest...
-- What in the *world* was going on with Bashir this week? Until now, he's been a slightly frustrating, puppydog-like naive nebbish. Suddenly, he's being portrayed as a womanizer. This works very *slightly* with his interest in Dax, but only a bit, and I've no clue at all why the character's evolving in this direction. Please, we can do without yet another Kirk/Riker sexual dynamo. (The scene in the teaser was saved primarily by O'Brien's reactions to Bashir, which were terrific.)
-- It appears that "gold-pressed latinum" is going to be the "Valuable Item" catchphrase of the series. We'd better actually *see* some soon, in that case.
-- Now I know why I never attend auctions. Heavens, that was dull.
-- Why is the Daystrom Institute mentioned here? If I remember right, the DI has only been concerned with cybernetics and robotics during its past mentions. Why is it suddenly evolving into the 24th-century equivalent to the National Academy of Sciences? (Daystrom was not exactly an archaeologist, after all.)
-- Either Jennifer Hetrick has aged significantly in the past two years, or the makeup and lighting jobs on her were *awful*. During the auction sequences she looked like the Bride of Frankenstein. Given that the one apparent reason for her appearances on the show was her physical attractiveness (which, quite honestly, I've never quite agreed with), it's probably best *not* to undercut that.
That should about do it. Last week, DS9 acquitted itself honorably with "Captive Pursuit", while TNG bombed with "Aquiel". This week, it's just the reverse. Let's hope that next week, they can both be on the money.
So, the numbers:
Plot: 3. Very routine.
Plot Handling: 3. See above.
Characterization: 5. Q and most of the regulars were often good, which should make this higher -- but Quark was brought down and so much of the episode's focus was on Vash that I can't see giving it any more.
TOTAL: 4, rounding up because I'm generous (and because I know I have a built-in bias against Vash by now). Even so, DS9's worst offering by far. Let's not make this a habit, folks...
Dax gets her turn in the spotlight. Pity it's for a third degree...
Tim Lynch (Harvard-Westlake School, Science Dept.)
"They're all ridiculously wealthy ... and not too bright."
--Quark, describing his select clientele--
Copyright 1993, Timothy W. Lynch. All rights reserved, but feel free to ask...