WARNING: Break out the replicated rice: spoilers for DS9's "You Are Cordially Invited" lie below.
In brief: A typical Trek-wedding show: cute moments combined with typical cliche.
Given that "You Are Cordially Invited" was both a Worf/Dax show and a "wedding" show, the only thing I was really expecting was that there wouldn't be a lot of depth.
I wasn't disappointed. "You Are Cordially Invited" was in some ways a nice change of pace from the darker tone of the last six weeks, but simultaneously fell victim to so many quick changes of heart and typical wedding cliches that even as fluff, it never even approached the level of DS9's last "fluff" piece, "In the Cards".
For instance, there's the standard "engaged couple have a spat and call off the wedding" trope. Keiko and O'Brien had theirs, Rom and Leeta had theirs, and now Worf and Dax get to have theirs. In my experience, that is *not* actually a particularly common occurrence: I certainly didn't have a spat like that leading up to my wedding, and I can't recall any friends who did either. Now, maybe we just missed that page in the manual and it's actually _de rigueur_ to have such a spat -- but to me, it feels more like "well, we've got to create some conflict here; hey, let's break up this impending wedding!"
Of no more surprise but far greater value was the rift between Dax and Martok's wife Sirella. On the one hand, it's very plausible; Dax *is* an alien to Sirella, and Klingons are so proud of their bloodlines that a fair bit of xenophobia is pretty much expected. It's also plausible that Dax would refuse to knuckle under to Sirella's badgering. On the other hand, there were also bits of this plotline that were very entertaining, particularly the Worf/Martok dialogue when Worf wants to set Sirella straight. Martok's "The truth is ... she doesn't like *you* much, either" didn't exactly have me rolling on the floor, but it definitely brought a smile or two, as did the rest of the scene.
It was little incidentals in the dialogue that went a long way towards saving "You Are Cordially Invited" from being total cliche, really. The Worf/Martok scene I mentioned is one example, but the O'Brien/Bashir banter was another; the choice to see most of the ritual-ridden "bachelor party" through their eyes was definitely a good one, as they provided some levity in what could otherwise have droned on and on. (I particularly liked Bashir inadvertently "volunteering" to be first in the trial of blood, and his eagerness to start the mock-attack on Worf later.) The repetition of "it's a Klingon bachelor party; use your imagination" helped there as well.
Beyond the issues of this particular show, there's also the question of how well this seems to fit in with the last several weeks' worth of episodes. On the general count of "the war's still going on," I think things went fine; Sisko acknowledged as much in his log, and mentioned a few minor changes going on behind the scenes -- beyond that, a temporary reprieve from the fighting is plausible, particularly if it's only been a week since they retook the station. It was also nice to see some lingering tension between Kira and Odo; at least my fears from last week that Odo's character changes would be completely forgotten haven't been realized.
On the other hand, the Kira/Odo question this week also frustrated me, for two reasons. The smaller reason was a one-line annoyance: the idea that Dax hadn't heard what Odo had done during the Dominion occupation came as a surprise. I have difficulty envisioning both Kira and Odo keeping their mouths shut to Sisko, Dax, etc. about what happened -- and even if they did, can you imagine *Quark* saying nothing? Or Rom? Me neither.
The larger reason was the Kira/Odo "conversation" they finally got around to having halfway through the show. I don't have any problem with them having it -- but it's so important a relationship for both characters and such an important issue to put to rest that *we need to see it*. Maybe I'm atypical, but I would have readily sacrificed *any* five minutes in this show to see Kira and Odo really come to grips with what's happened in a well-written scene. If showing that scene would have conflicted with the levity elsewhere in the show, then perhaps we shouldn't have had those first steps at reconciliation this show at all. I'm feeling a little like things are being swept under the rug -- and they're such important things that they shouldn't be.
Not showing crucial developments was a substantial problem with the episode in general, actually. Beyond the Kira/Odo question, one's left to wonder pretty seriously exactly how Dax reconciled with Martok's wife. We saw Worf's turnaround and Dax's turnaround (both in scenes that were reasonably good, if hardly earth-shattering) -- but given that Sirella had spit on the ground Dax walked on and pronounced that there would be no wedding, I for one would like to know what convinced her otherwise. In particular, the idea that Dax would have to go begging to her doesn't ring true; as a Klingon woman, I imagine Sirella's reaction to that would be "so you're not just an alien, you're a mealy-mouthed simp; get the hell out of my sight!" Whatever Dax did, I think we should have found out what it was rather than just being asked to accept that "and then they all lived happily ever after."
Overall, then, "You Are Cordially Invited" was basically an hour's diversion -- it annoyed me in a few spots and never got me particularly enraptured, but most of the time it was simply a few minutes' worth of light entertainment. The light-hearted scenes were handled quite well (particularly poor Bashir and O'Brien's attempt to get food, even if the punchline was telegraphed half a scene away); it was the more weighty material that felt a little thin.
-- I'm not sure I like the statement that Curzon Dax negotiated the Khitomer Accords. If he had, he'd be a nearly legendary figure in both the Empire and the Federation, which means that she'd have been far better known from the moment she came on DS9 five years ago.
-- The idea that Alexander has been his ship's "good luck charm" is reasonable, and he appeared so briefly this week that the idea of "Alexander as eternal klutz" was mentioned without being emphasized over and over.
-- J.G. Hertzler has a fairly decent singing voice; Martok and Worf made an interesting pair in the holosuites.
-- I really, *really* liked Dax telling the unvarnished history of Sirella's family. It fits Klingon traditions, traditions of nobility in general, and it's something that should have both impressed and disturbed Sirella, which is just what it did.
-- When Dax befriended Lieutenant Atoa (the nearly naked fire-juggler at her party), she mentioned that he got a day off work because "Captain Shelby" owed her a favor. I guess she got that promotion before Riker after all.
-- The wedding itself was a ritual that felt *right*, unlike many Klingon rituals we've seen over the years. I rather liked it.
That about covers it. Fans of Worf/Dax will undoubtedly think "You Are Cordially Invited" was terrific; those who've loathed the relationship will think it was miserable and a waste of time. I'm somewhere in the middle on their relationship, so I think the show was an entertaining waste of my time. :-)
Writing: Too many things were dodged (Kira/Odo in particular) to make me happy, and there were more than a few unneeded cliches -- but lots of cute moments here and there, too. Directing: Fine. Acting: Shannon Cochran worked surprisingly well as Sirella, and the incidental players (Atoa, O'Brien, Bashir) definitely made the show.
OVERALL: 6, I think; decent, but not something to go out of your way to see again.
Another trip to the mirror universe -- with a long-dead Vedek awaiting Kira.
Tim Lynch (Harvard-Westlake School, Science Dept.) firstname.lastname@example.org <*> "Sirella is a woman of strong convictions; she believes that by bringing aliens into our families, we risk losing our identity as Klingons." "That is a prejudiced, xenophobic view." "We *are* Klingons, Worf." -- Martok and Worf Copyright 1997, 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.