|No easy ceremony: The wedding of Worf and Dax.|
A mood of celebration runs through the station in the wake of Sisko's retaking of Deep Space 9. As Sisko observes, the war is far from over and the station will continue to be "one of the most tempting targets in the entire Quadrant." But with business returning to normal and not a Jem'Hadar in sight, the war "seems very far away."
Worf and Dax had agreed to wait until after the war to marry. But when they learn that Worf's son Alexander (Marc Worden) will be transferred to a new ship at the end of the week, they decide to move the wedding up so that he will be a part of it. Both bride and groom have much to do to prepare for the ceremony. Worf gathers his closest friends - Sisko, Martok, Bashir, and O'Brien - to join him for a four-day Klingon bachelor party... which turns out to be an ordeal of deprivation, pain, and violence ("Sounds like marriage all right," Bashir notes).
Meanwhile, Dax greets Martok's wife, Sirella (Shannon Cochran). As mistress of the House of Martok, Sirella must approve of every wedding... which, since Worf joined Martok's House, includes his. Sirella is a Klingon traditionalist, believing that admitting aliens will dilute their sense of identity - leaving Dax fighting an uphill battle to keep this formidable Klingon woman from cancelling the wedding!
Capt. Sisko: One of his first acts after retaking the station is to recommend Martok for the position of Supreme Commander of the 9th Fleet. He brushes off Martok's gruff irritation with sincere congratulations. In an amusing bit of nonverbal business, Sisko becomes protective of his prized baseball when the Klingon shows a little too much interest in it. After a confrontation between Dax and Sirella temporarily derails the wedding, Sisko is the one to confront his old friend, pushing her to set aside her pride and make the needed apologies.
Major Kira: Grins almost constantly at Sisko throughout their first scene in Ops, and tells him how much she hated to say "Good morning, Dukat," during Sisko's absence. She and Odo attempt to avoid each other, not wanting to talk about either his betrayal or his feelings for her. She's the one who finally decides it's silly to dodge each other in hallways and corrals him at Dax's bachelorette party, pulling him into a private room for a long discussion. We don't see the talk, but based on its aftermath - which sees both of them having lost track of time just talking to each other for the first time in a long time - it would appear to have been a good talk.
Worf: As we glimpsed in earlier episodes this season, he has been obsessing over the wedding ever since Dax told him she would marry him. Worf is much like the stereotypical "bridezilla." He has dreamed of his perfect Klingon wedding, obsessed over it, and needs it to be perfect in every detail. When Dax announces that she doesn't really care about Klingon tradition and just wants to get married, he takes it as a direct assault on all he holds dear. In conversation with Martok, he lists all the ways in which he and Dax are mis-matched... Which are also all the ways in which they complement each other so well: "When she is laughing, I am somber. When I am happy, she is crying... She mocks everything, while I take everything seriously. She is nothing like the woman I thought I would marry."
Dax: If Worf has been given the traditional "bride" traits of obsessing ridiculously over the wedding, then Dax has been given the traditional "unconcerned husband" role. She doesn't particularly care about the wedding details, and is perfectly happy to leave all that to Worf. Her very long life-span has cured her of any excitement for weddings: "I've gone through five Trill ceremonies: Three as a bride, two as a groom... I'm a little bored with it." She takes an instant (albeit warranted) dislike to Sirella. When one of her tasks for the Klingon matron is to recite "the chronicle of the women of (Sirella's) family," Dax keeps interjecting with facts from Klingon history that are at odds with the mythology of the chronicle, deliberately baiting her.
O'Brien/Bashir: Or the episode's comedy double-act. Looking forward to a debauched, drunken, four-day Klingon bachelor party, they are gobsmacked when Worf and Martok inform them that they are in for an ordeal. When the wedding is temporarily called off, there's a moment when it seems like they plan to do something to save the day... but their plan of action is to immediately order themselves a feast to celebrate an end to their four-day fast (only to predictably, but still hilariously, have the wedding back on course just as they are about to take their first bite). As he undergoes a particularly painful ritual, Bashir announces that his consciousness has genuinely expanded: "I've had a vision about the future. I can see it so clearly... I'm going to kill Worf!" O'Brien is enthusiastically on-board with the idea.
Quark: In an unguarded moment, he lets slip to Jake that he feels jealous of Worf. He probably doesn't actually "have feelings" for Dax, but he's certainly fond of her. She is a rare non-Ferengi who genuinely enjoys the Ferengi pastimes most of the rest of the Trek races sneer at. She gambles with enthusiasm, haggles when the occasion calls for it, and is a genuine friend to Quark, something that's been very rare in his life. It's no surprise that he thinks she's too good for Worf, a joyless man he describes as "a walking frown."
Martok: It's startling to think that Martok only truly became part of the series' framework in the middle of Season Five, only slightly more than half a season before this episode. By now, he's become an integral part of the series, which shows just how well this show does with its regular and recurring characters. He's the perfect counterpart to Worf: Every bit the true, honorable Klingon warrior, the living model of what Worf inspires to be - Yet at the same time, with a wonderful sense of irreverence and impatience with pompous ceremony for its own sake. J. G. Hertzler is perfect in every scene, and the irritable, growling old warrior steals the show right out from under the rest of the cast.
The first episode after the extended Occupation arc is a character comedy, the first comedy episode the series has provided since In the Cards. This has a nice symmetry to it. The dark, dramatic 7-episode arc that saw the station's fall, Occupation, and finally retaking is bookended with two character-based comedy episodes, allowing some levity and even silliness to counter the heavy material in between.
You Are Cordially Invited is not as splendid as In the Cards. Then again, few episodes are. This warm, smart, and very funny offering is a joy to watch on its own terms. Ronald D. Moore is hardly the first writer you'd think of for comedy. But the conviction he brings to the characters allows it to work exactly the way character comedy should work. Every person in the show is a fully-realized indivual, driven by a specific viewpoint that makes sense once given context.
Dax and Worf have radically different outlooks on the marriage, but both outlooks make sense: Why should Dax, who has been married numerous times over numerous lifetimes, be excited about yet another wedding? At the same time, why shouldn't Worf, who has always idealized all things Klingon, be insistent on making what he believes will be his only wedding exactly in-keeping with the culture his existence has centered on? Even Sirella, the villain of the piece, has her own viewpoint which is reasonable from her perspective: Why should she give her blessing to a union that, to her, diminishes the purity of her House? She already dislikes that Worf, still officially considered a traitor, is now part of her House. Why should she extend her House to that same traitor's marriage to an alien?
I'll dock the episode a point because we never see how Dax manages to convince Sirella to change her mind about the wedding. It feels like there's a big piece missing - one which in my opinion could have been accommodated by cutting the (overlong) bachelorette party scene in half.
Still, this is an overall well-paced and well-constructed hour. It's a comedy that manages to be extremely funny without ever losing sight of the truth of its characters. Definitely a good one - And quite a bit better than I had expected.
Overall Rating: 7/10.
Next Episode: Resurrection