Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Odo’s Love For Kira Does Not Go "His Way" When A Hologram Interferes!

The Good: Acting, Moments of humor, Concept of Vic Fontaine
The Bad: Contrived plot to deal with an important character moment.
The Basics: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine deals with Odo’s longstanding love of Major Kira in a strangely banal romantic comedy called “His Way.”

One of the rules about having extensive serialization in shows is that there are only so many dangling threads a series can make without actually paying off the investment in the idea. In other words, as a series goes on, if there is a recurring theme or idea, the show eventually has to deliver on the promise that the idea they teased was not just a random one. When the writers commit to a course of action, like Odo’s love for Kira, made explicit in “Heart Of Stone” (reviewed here!), they have to eventually do something with that. Slowly, they have; Kira learned of Odo’s feelings in “Children Of Time” (reviewed here!) and Odo attempted to move beyond his love for Kira in “A Simple Investigation” (reviewed here!). As Star Trek: Deep Space Nine began to wind down, it was time for the writers to shit or get off the pot with the Odo attraction subplot. “His Way” is the resulting episode.

One has the sense, the more one watches “His Way,” that the writers on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine had written themselves into a corner on the subplot and “His Way” attempted to simply get the characters onto the next phase. “His Way” is about ending Odo’s uncomfortable attraction and, sadly for a show that usually involves so little in the way of plot contrivances, the episode does that in a terribly inorganic way. For a change, it is not the character who moves the story or the relationship, it is the plot and an external influence on the character.

Doctor Bashir gets in a new lounge singer program that he is very proud of and he has his friends visit him there. The remarkable aspect of the program is that Vic Fontaine, the entertainer at the club, is a fully sentient hologram. Self-aware and insightful, Vic Fontaine is the reason Julian is dating the current woman he is with. After mulling it over, Odo has Quark let him use the program and Odo is pretty accurately evaluated by Vic, at least as far as his stalled relationship with Kira goes.

Vic Fontaine, then, begins to try to loosen Odo up. Having him appear on stage pretending to play piano, Vic gets Odo to experiment with socializing. When Odo does not take to the holographic women Vic comes up with, the pair attempts a trial date with a holographic Kira. When Odo finds that more ridiculous than helpful, Vic Fontaine lures both Kira and Odo to a date on the holosuite where Odo charms the real Kira until he makes it clear he believes he is interacting with a hologram and the attempt comes crashing down around him.

“His Way” is not, it ought to be noted, bad television. In fact, it is decent television and the climax of the episode is one of the moments that fans waited almost six full years for (whether they knew it or not!). “His Way” is, however, unremarkable Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. The show usually has the characters controlling their own fate, making their decisions and then wrestling with the consequences of their actions. In “His Way,” Odo is robbed of the decision to make his own choices.

Odo, as a character, is a fascinating individual. He has a strong sense of order and while he starts the series with a well-articulated disdain for relationships, by the third season, he is emotionally aware enough to know that he has love in him. After that, Odo is plagued by a terrible sense of timing and his solution is simple; he comes to feel safe in a static non-romantic relationship with Kira. So, when he expresses an interest in becoming more romantically available for Kira, this is actual character growth.

Odo’s choice, however, puts him in the hands of a character who is not content for Odo to develop at his own pace. “His Way” is about ripping the bandage off the wound and Vic Fontaine is the empowered hand with the eager fingers to do that. As a result, viewers do not begin a new arc wherein Odo slowly becomes more and more comfortable and works his way toward a relationship. By pushing Odo and Kira into a holographic date so fast, Vic Fontaine creates the circumstances by which the two must deal with Odo’s feelings in a decisive way.

No matter how cathartic the resolution is, the journey is far more average than most fans want to admit. The plot contrivance of Vic Fontaine setting the two up after a disastrous practice date feels like what it is; a pretty standard farce plot, but not something Star Trek: Deep Space Nine does particularly well. While there are some great comedic moments in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, the show is a high drama, not a wandering comedy. “His Way,” while it is a nice interlude after the brutal Sisko episode that preceded it, still feels out of place in a very dark season.

Even so, Vic Fontaine is an interesting and likable character. Clearly based upon the popularity of Star Trek: Voyager’s Emergency Medical Hologram, Vic Fontaine is a novelty character as a sentient hologram. Fully realized in both his humanity and self-awareness as a hologram, Vic Fontaine is an excuse for Star Trek: Deep Space Nine to present some big band standards and with James Darren playing Fontaine, the music comes out delightfully. James Darren has all the charisma needed to play Vic Fontaine and he leaps into the role in a way that allows him to illustrate that sense of charm exceptionally well. Darren is not just a great male vocalist for the episode, he is a casual, fun guy who is added to the mix of serious, determined character actors with surprising ease.

“His Way” also provides Rene Auberjonois with another chance to illustrate what a versatile actor he is. Odo cannot simply become a romantic lead; that would pretty much gut the well-established character. So, “His Way” gives Auberjonois a chance to do that somewhat incrementally and Auberjonois does remarkably well with loosening Odo up without reinventing the character entirely. “His Way” also has a fun character/actor interaction wherein Auberjonois and Avery Brooks sing to one another as a distracted Odo waits for Sisko. It’s a fun scene and both actors pull it off as if it were perfectly natural for their characters.

In the end, “His Way” is something of a “necessary evil” episode that progresses Odo’s character in a way that seems forced, but essential. It is part of the essential Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, even if it is a somewhat unsatisfying addition to the vital storyline.

[Knowing that VHS is essentially a dead medium, it's worth looking into Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - The Complete Sixth Season on DVD, which is also a better economical choice than buying the VHS. Read my review of the penultimate season by clicking here!


For other Star Trek reviews, please visit my Star Trek Review Index Page for an organized listing of all the episodes and movies I have reviewed!

© 2012 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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