Deep Space Nine: s03 e10 – Fascination


The Red Dress
The Red Dress

After last week’s dramatic and dynamic episode, this week we got a silly, inconsequential story that probably needed to be anchored to concrete pilings to keep from being wafted away by the breezes. Though it overused the silly brush a bit too much, the whole thing was generally good fun to watch, without ever pretending to a dramatic element.

It was all there in in the open, which was a round robin slice of life giving no clues as to the direction of the eventual story and relying upon a sting ending when Ambassador Lwaxana Troi (Majel Barratt, gleefully chewing the scenery as ever) arrived on the station.

It’s the day of the Bajoran Festival of Gratitude on DS9, Major Kira presiding. Jake’s miserable because his dabo-girl girlfriend, Marta, has gone off to college 300 light years away. Kira is eagerly awaiting the arrival of Vedek Bariel, who she plans to spend every minute she’s not presiding by shagging him into a husk. Chief O’Brien has similar plans for the two day break that Keiko is back from her botanical project on Bajor (his unexpended energy is being displaced into so many racketball games that Doctor Bashir’s arm is practically falling off, and you can keep that lewd thought in your head, please). Odo is starting to get all wistful over the Major. Oh yes, love – or certainly lust – is in the air. Enter Mrs Troi.

The Ambassador is here to see Odo, ostensibly to help him through the discovery that his people are the Dominion, but in reality because she has feelings for him. Unfortunately, she also has Xanthi fever, a disease that affects mature Betazoids and causes them to project their emotions onto others, overriding their true feelings.

Thus, every time Mrs Troi winces at a headache pain, the nearest person to her gets a brief jabbing pain above the eye and immediately sets off in hot pursuit of the nearest love object.

So the 16 year old Jake decides that the problem with Marta was that she was too young and gets the hots for Kira Nerys (this need not have had anything to do with Xanthi fever, especially as Nana Visitor spent most of the episode out of uniform), Bariel starts panting after Jardzia Dax (who gets to deck him with a single punch), whilst the Trill (with leopard spots going all the way down to her neckline) starts making google-eyes at a clearly embarrassed Sisko.

As for Nerys and Julian, played by a future married pair of actors, they get a mutual dose and get to snog and grope each other something rotten. No tongues, though.

Even Quark gets in on the act, flapping his ears at Keiko O’Brien, who was wearing the red dress Miles wanted her to wear and demonstrating clearly why he wanted her to wear it, though that only serves to give the game away.

Yes, the O’Briens were an interesting component of this episode. As I said, they were reunited after two months apart, for only two days before another four months separation and the reunion did not start at all as the eager Chief wanted to. Keiko was tired, and also troubled about how to break it to her hubby that the dig might be extended by another two to three months. Miles, thrown off balance by the way Keiko was nothing like as pleased to see him as he was her, didn’t know how to handle this and pretty much flew off the handle.

I could sympathize with him: I went through something similar pretty much thirty years ago, and the bafflement and heartbreak weren’t hard to empathize with. With all the lust sloshing round, the prospect of the episode’s one genuine couple going down the tubes was a necessary corrective. Eventually, O’Brien resolved it the only way you can resolve it, by putting the other one first and trusting in their love. Which is why Keiko wore the red dress, leading many of us to regret that she doesn’t do that more often.

Like I said, inconsequential. The episode is said to be based very loosely on A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and I can see the point of contact once it’s pointed out to me, but it’s a far looser fit than anything Happy Mondays ever sang about. Typically, it ended on a serious note that managed to be poignant. Mrs Troi’s projected amours were directed at Odo, who was unable and, giving his hidden feelings for Kira, unwilling to respond. Majel Barratt dialled it down beautifully in recognising that her feelings were not reciprocated, like those of Odo, and admitted that she would wait and hope for second best. She surprised him with a kiss, which Odo received awkwardly, but afterwards found surprisingly tender, one more moment that resonated with me.

Reset and resume next week.

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