|Dax gets a bit too close for Sisko's comfort.|
It's time for the annual Bajoran Gratitude Festival. Kira is presiding, and Lwaxana Troi (Majel Barrett) is coming to the station to act as Betazoid representative to the festival. Vedek Bareil (Philip Anglim) is also coming, much to Kira's delight, while O'Brien eagerly awaits a visit from his wife and daughter.
It isn't long before people begin acting strangely. First Jake develops a crush on Kira, proposing his undying love to her. Then Bareil, who only hours earlier couldn't wait to spend private time with Kira, suddenly is chasing down the station's corridors in search of his beloved... Dax? Dax has herself decided to proposition Sisko. It seems likely that some kind of virus is the culprit. But Dr. Bashir is too busy occupying himself with Kira to investigate. Love is in the air... and the results seem likely to spell disaster!
Commander Sisko: Though I think Avery Brooks misjudged his direction this time, he doesn't misjudge his performance. He overacts, definitely. But the wealth of expressions that crosses his face when Dax comes onto him is a wonder: Shock, resistance, a momentary temptation, amusement, and finally bemused concern. It all flashes across his face in a matter of seconds, right before a commercial fadeout, and is one of the few genuinely funny moments in the episode.
Odo: Finally directly acknowledges his feelings for Kira, though it's obvious that he has no expectation of ever seeing those feelings returned. After an initial panic at Lwaxana's attachment to him, he shows admirable patience with her clinginess. Instead of actively trying to escape, he simply allows her to cling to him with the occasional long-suffering sigh. For Odo, that's actually downright cuddly.
O'Brien: The O'Briens are the one consistent element with dignity in this episode. O'Brien may behave a bit like a jealous ass when Keiko delivers her news about extending the dig, but this is both realistic and in-character. Very in-character; I recently reviewed TNG's Night Terrors, an episode from not long after O'Brien married Keiko. What comes out under the telepathic influence in that episode? Jealousy. A little bit of advice from Quark causes him to realize how he has behaved, prompting an offer to resign his commission to stay with Keiko - an acknowledgement that for at least some characters in the Trek universe, career isn't the center of their lives.
Vedek Bareil: After all of Winn's manipulations to force him out of the race for Kai, she turned around and made him one of his closest advisors! Bareil insists to Kira that the new Kai has actually changed under the responsibilities of her office. Me, I suspect she is following the old mafia wisdom with regard to Bareil: "Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer."
Lwaxana Troi: Has heard about the discovery of Odo's people as the force behind the Dominion. Her response is to grab hold of the first excuse to get to Deep Space 9 that she can find in order to offer comfort. This being Lwaxana, that comes in the form of an amorous pursuit. Some of this is irritating - it is Lwaxana, after all. But as with Season One's The Forsaken, Lwaxana gradually reveals a self-awareness that she too often lacked on TNG, and her final scene with Odo is genuinely sweet. I'm not saying I want her back anytime... well, ever. But Lwaxana is definitely less of a caricature on this series than she was on the parent show, and Majel Barrett's performance is much the stronger for it.
Quick question: Why does Meridian get so much attention as a DS9 stinker, with this sitting just two episodes down the running order? Meridian was a bit dull and pedestrian, but it was also well-made and never less than watchable. Fascination, however, is just a turgid lump. A cheap-looking, blandly directed mass that is all the more irritating because of how very, very hard it strives for cheap laughs. There are one or two laughs, I'll admit, such as the sight of a very disconcerted Sisko having no idea what to think when Dax suddenly comes onto him. But the laughs are few, with most of the running time devoted to the tiresome spectacle of watching characters chase each other around like rejects from a Moliere bedroom farce. The difference being, Moliere's plays were actually funny.
This episode is Avery Brooks' third time in the director's chair for this series. After two very good episodes, I suppose it was time for him to be given a turkey. He tries to inject the proceedings with the frenetic energy of a stage comedy. But the material just isn't good enough to provoke the needed hysteria... and honestly, it's a directorial misstep to push the frenetic tone. "Frenetic" can work on stage, but on film it almost always just ends up being annoying.
A few nuggets of dignity save the episode from absolute bottom marks. The first Act isn't bad at all. A few long-absent recurring characters are brought back, we touch on the political situation on Bajor for the first time this season, and we get some good character scenes with the O'Briens, Odo, and Kira. The material with the O'Briens feels genuine throughout, with Colm Meaney projecting his usual authenticity into his scenes. Lwaxana also continues to be far less annoying on Deep Space 9 than she was on TNG, with a nub of sadness and even wisdom glimpsed beneath the surface - though she isn't half as well used here as she was in Season One's The Forsaken.
Those few kernels of worth aren't enough to save this from being a bad episode, though. Not quite the series' worst, if only because Melora continues to exist. But bad just the same.
Overall Rating: 2/10
Previous Episode: Defiant