Deep Space Nine:s06 e20 – His Way


Changeling in a Tuxedo – wasn’t that a Morrissey song?

My parents loved Frank Sinatra and Nat ‘King’ Cole. I grew up, as a little boy, on sounds like these, on the BBC’s Light Programme. It was a little terraced house, with the radio on and the music was inescapable unless I went and hid in my bedroom, or was playing outside. They hated pop music, so both there, and at the semi-detached we later moved into, I heard virtually nothing of the music of the Sixties whilst it was rolling out. Pretty much all my love for that music is retrospective.

As a result, I am virtually completely inoculated against music of that ilk. It belongs to my parents. It isn’t, and can’t be, anything of mine. It’s ineradicably severed from the music that influences me. And it has always seemed that the only music you ever hear on American TV programmes is this relic of a past now long since gone: light, snappy, a bit jazzy, light. Lacking in energy, passion and raw enthusiasm. As if the audience can’t take anything later in style than maybe 1961-62: the Rat Pack era. Frank and Dean. And Vic. Vic Fontaine, that is.

Which is why an episode of Deep Space Nine built upon that music, that style, that retrograde ethos, showcasing the kind of songs that take me back to Brigham Street and playing with plastic soldiers on the floor, with drying clothes hung on the folding maiden in front of the fire, was never going to fly with me. Four hundred years in the future and we are still aping Frank and Dean.

My great criticism of The Original Series is that I find it impossible to believe in a galaxy run according to the mores of mid-Fifties midwest America. It’s ironic to see it’s darkest and deepest sequel sinking into the music of that time.

Basically, guest star James Darren (guest? It was practically his show) plays Vic Fontaine, nightclub/lounge singer and self-aware hologram in Bashir’s latest programme. Vic sings and tells cheesy jokes but he’s also a master of love. Odo, still mooning over Kira, who’s off to Bajor to see ex-boyfriends, Shakaar, asks Vic for advice.

Put like that, you can see what a bad idea it is. Played out over 45 minutes, Odo is every bit as inept and awkward as you’d expect him to be. I was a bit surprised though, not to get any frissons of recognition from my own ineptitude and awkwardness, though it was probably the unreality of the situation that kept me from feeling too much of myself in things.

Vic teaches Odo to unwind, relax, cool it, have fun, not that Odo changes too much. He introduces him to torch singer Lola Christoff (Nana Visitor in a red sheath dress, breathily singing ‘Fever’), and having a definite thing for Our Changeling Friend, but Odo can’t take that step because though she looks like Nerys, she doesn’t act like her.

So the ever-resourceful Vic (he manages to get his hologram self everywhere) gets Kira to come for dinner in the holosuite, cons Odo into thinking this is a perfect hologram duplicate, and serves them up the perfect cliche Fifties dinner, dance and shag date.

Of course we only get the first two, because when Odo realises that this is the Kira, the real Kira, everything blows up in a perfect storm of embarrassment. Leading to the cliche ending: Odo avoids Kira, Kira decides to settle it by asking him to dinner, a real dinner, they start shouting at each other, on the Promenade, over the sequence of events: dinner, dancing, kissing, why bother with the preliminaries, lets have the massive passionate snog right here, in public, with the crowd practically holding up scorecards: 9.1, 9.6, 9.3…

Both Nana Visitor and Rene Auberjonois thought this development wrong for their characters, and so do I, but the season 7 finale was already in mind, including Odo’s resolution, if not quite yet its title, and there had to be something to lose. The story had been played out since season 2, and the showrunners wanted it to progress towards that end (the rationale is somewhat male-centric: give the guy a girl so he’s got something precious to sacrifice, but what about her?) even if the actors felt it wrong.

For once, I seem to be in with the majority, who didn’t like the episode, though they’re not as alienated by the music as I am. The showrunners still defend it, but this was one for them and not the audience. Mam and Dad would have liked it, though.