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Retro Review: Let He Who Is Without Sin…

Posted by Michelle - 27/09/13 at 02:09 pm


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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

Season: 05 Episode: 07 (s05e07)

Original US airdate: 11/11/1996

Worf, Dax, Bashir, Leeta, and Quark travel to Risa together, where a depressed Worf falls under the sway of a group determined to destroy the pleasure planet.

Plot Summary: Dax is excited about her upcoming vacation on Risa with Worf, though Worf has misgivings both about the crew’s discovery of their romance and about the fact that Dax has agreed to let Bashir and Leeta travel with them – plus Quark, who arrives at the last minute. Worf is even more disturbed when he learns that social director Arandis was a former lover of Curzon, and that Bashir and Leeta apparently intend to enjoy the pleasure planet by being intimate with other people even though they’re ostensibly a couple. When he encounters Pascal Fullerton, who has founded a New Essentialists Movement to try to restore traditional values and morals to the Federation, he is intrigued by Fullerton’s protests over Risa’s artificial environment and pampering of its guests. Fullerton stages a rally, then a mock attack, to demonstrate to Risa’s inhabitants and visitors that a Jem’Hadar attack could easily cripple the planet. While Dax tries to get Worf to relax, Worf accuses her of treating their relationship frivolously and decides to help Fullerton drive away the guests by shutting down the planetary weather grid, causing it to rain for days on end. Dax believes that Worf’s attack on Risa reflects not his disgust with the planet but with her, forcing him to admit that he can’t trust himself with her, since as a child he accidentally killed a human boy with his superior Klingon strength. When Dax assures him that trust works two ways, Worf stops Fullerton from causing earthquakes on Risa by reminding him that trust and self-determination are important Federation values as well as strength and restraint. He punches Fullerton and restores the weather grid, allowing him to enjoy the rest of his holiday with Dax while a shocked Bashir learns that Leeta brought him to Risa for a separation ritual so that she can date Quark’s brother Rom.

Analysis: The best thing about “Let He Who Is Without Sin…” is that the title warns viewers to expect a heavy-handed, judgmental allegory about religion. The second-best thing about it is that Sisko and Odo are only in the episode for two minutes while Kira and the O’Briens aren’t in it at all, sparing them from any association with the atrocity that follows. “Let He Who Is Without Sin…” manages to be both an opportunity for gratuitous sexploitation and a lumping together of traditional values with inherent repression and resentment of other people’s pleasures. And that’s not even touching on the Dax/Worf affair, which is a turn-off in so many ways that the first time I saw this episode, I spent the rest of the season hoping they’d break up as soon as possible. I’m sure I sound more like the New Essentialists than the nonsense being passed off here as Federation values, but I’m okay with being labeled a prude rather than a supporter of the fetishization of the female bodies – how convenient that Worf refuses to take off his uniform and Bashir keeps his shirt on, leaving swimsuit-clad Dax and Leeta plus a character played by an ex-Miss America parading their stuff without much male distraction – and a played-for-titillation sexual relationship that depends on having a professional medical staff available at all times to treat incurred injuries. Not only is Jadzia gorgeous and sexy and just bisexual enough to be a turn-on without rejecting your hunky manhood, not only will she be understanding and utterly infatuated with you even if you have the temper and impulse control of a pre-adolescent and you keep telling her how to live her life, but she’ll let you toss her and slap her and bite her and she’ll love it even when you tell her you’re afraid you’re putting her life in danger! Yeah, I’ll definitely opt for buzz-killing conservative safewords over ooh, it’s so exciting that he might lose control and break my neck.

The only positive aspect of the crew coupling off is that we’ve seen from the O’Briens and every other long-term Star Trek pairing that the writers believe monogamy is the most boring state in the universe, so the closer Dax and Worf get to impending nuptials, the less we’ll have to see the pathology of their sex lives. Then we can get the real Dax back. After ten lifetimes, has she never observed that Worf’s kind of possessiveness can get women killed? She needs professional help, and I don’t just mean counseling to find out if there’s some psychological reason she wants sex to threaten her well-being; I mean literally, to mend the muscle tears she incurs every time they do it, requiring trips to the infirmary that must be affecting her on duty if they’re making her whine and groan when she’s with Sisko and Odo (unless she’s just showing off, in which case we’re back to needing counseling). Good thing she brings her doctor on vacation with her. How bizarre to find Bashir’s soon-to-be-ex, Dabo girl Leeta – who was originally written as empty-headed and whose idea of flirting is to brag about her sex appeal – looking like a much better role model for women. She may not be a scientist like Dax, but she’s the one who’s genuinely sex-positive, who knows that wanting to hurt someone is not a sign of affection, who doesn’t believe in wallowing in relationship baggage, who enjoys her body without pushing its limits into territory that could get her maimed, who knows when to end an affair kindly and decisively, and who can see beyond a man’s physical appearance. Her mention of Rom’s cuteness here seems more calculated to mock Bashir and Quark than to celebrate Rom’s charms, but we’ve already observed the warmth, wit, and underlying intelligence she sees in Rom. Along with Kira and Odo’s eventual pairing, a real celebration of love emerges that goes beyond Hollywood attractiveness and porn industry definitions of hot sex.

I appreciate the brief moment in which we learn the reason for Worf’s asceticism, which, it’s true, seems remarkably un-Klingon compared to Gowron et al with their blood wine and loud laughs. But the five-second recovery, in which he learns to trust Dax and thus the universe because of a single conversation, is beyond ludicrous, and there’s more than just a relationship at stake when someone sabotages an entire planet because of his relationship troubles! I don’t believe Starfleet wouldn’t have suspended him or at the very least sat him down for an interrogation about what he learned from the Cheap Shot At Religious Conservatives Movement. Of course I think it’s a huge threat to liberty and American – excuse me, Federation – values when religious leaders tell not only their own followers but the political leaders of nations how people should live their private lives. But I also resent this shallow representation of traditionalists as inherently fearful, resentful, and repressed; Miss America suggests on screen that they just need to get laid. And to imply that such repression inherently leads to violent tendencies is even more irresponsible…especially when they’re defeated not by reason and intellect but by the smackdown from Worf, whom we already know gets unnatural pleasure out of smacking friend and foe alike. So in the end, we have a celebration of irresponsible personal behavior coupled with straight-up scorn for Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations. I don’t care how much preaching people on Risa do about reveling in their freedoms; these are not the values the Federation is supposed to represent. The writers have claimed this show failed because they weren’t allowed to show enough sex because kids might be watching, apparently unaware of the far worse problems of glorifying violent relationships (Curzon died from being &$%#ed to death!) and bashing what could have been voices of reason and moderation. This episode is an embarrassment to the franchise.

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  • Daniel J. Margrave

    Michelle: I would like to disagree that this show was a failure. Sure there are some cringe-worthy shows (like this one) but unlike ALL of the other Star Treks, this show succeeded in showing characters growing and changing with consequences. All of the others had so many deus ex machina, that they were unbelievable. I know that this show is often seen as not celebrating Gene Roddenberry’s original Star Trek ideals, but overall, I disagree. It is unreasonable to expect adults not to have conflict. It is unreasonable to expect people not to grow and change. Voyager had a few episodes that made us think differently about our characters, especially Janeway, but the people on THIS show do change and do grow and are very different at the end than at the beginning. But this is just my opinion and my view.

  • Guest

    “fetishization of the female bodies”

    Female bodies don’t need to be made a fetish, M.E.G. What you’re objecting to is technically known as “heterosexuality.” Not that it’s new for you to clearly be infuriated by that.

    “the far worse problems of glorifying violent relationships”

    Wait, you’re trying to equate the infirmary-after-sex jokes in DS9 to a “violent relationship?” You’re seriously equating “scratch incurred in heat of passion” to “violence inflicted on unwilling target?” And seriously, how are jokes and warnings about it in the series “glorifying” it? Even for you, this is reaching.

  • Theragen Derivative

    Granted that Michelle seems to be typing most of her reviews from inside a burqa accessorized with barbed wire, but this episode is really, truly awful. The DS9 staff readily admitted what an embarrassment it was.

    DS9 was a great show in so many respects, but its depictions of sex and relationships rarely rose above junior-high-school level giggling. “Looking for Par’Mach”‘s infirmary scene and the saga of Odo wishing he had Jessie’s Girl were the worst expressions of DS9′s romantic notions until this episode came along, but I can’t really think of a single “coupling” on this show that was watchable. Well, maybe Leeta and Rom.

    The only times in the entire Trek franchise that we saw what felt like believable romantic relationships between mature adults were “The City on the Edge of Forever” and maybe “The Inner Light”. I’ll be damned if I can think of any other examples.

  • Guest

    I certainly didn’t mean it to sound as if I thought the episode was a success. Her objections that I brought up were much more general in nature.

    I didn’t even think Risa was part of the Federation before this episode, and it arguably represents a changed premise…Riker didn’t even seem to think Picard would have *heard* of Risa, and that was only a few years before.

  • Theragen Derivative

    Oh I know; I don’t think there’s a person on the planet who actually likes this episode.

    ENT, of course, later made the Risa retconning even worse by having Tucker and Reed drop in there, 200 years earlier. “Risa” became too much of Trek cliche in the Berman era; in all the explored universe it seemed to be the only vacation option available, kind of as if Las Vegas were the default destination for anyone on Earth today. (Whatever happened to Wrigley’s Pleasure Planet? The Shore Leave planet?)

  • Bobby

    She meant that this episode was a failure, not the entire show. And she was right.

    Just so you know, Michelle has already said (on multiple occasions) that DS9 is her favorite incarnation of Trek.

    DS9 is my favorite Trek series as well – but this episode is right up there as one of the worst episodes of any Trek series. As one of those conservative types that this episode is mocking, I don’t often agree with her reviews or her views – but this one is spot on.

  • hostile_17

    Terrible episode. All those objections aside, even on just a general Trek level it was poor. And the whole backstory for Worf was just wheeled out in order to provide some depth. “I grew up with Humans and I work in Starfleet not the Klingon empire” is the logical answer to Dax’s interrogation about him being dour. Not this needlessly tacked on backstory.

  • Ward3

    That was just a terrible episode. I don’t have nearly the trouble with Dax’s sexual relationship with Worf as the author does – I have personally been in woman/woman relationships where there was more than a little bit of physical damage done, quite consensually, and without noticing it particularly in the heat of the moment (though it was a bit embarrassing at work the next day). Worf is a totally juvenile control freak, but in general I don’t see Jadzia Dax giving in for the most part – Jadzia does what Jadzia wants to do.

    I just don’t buy Worf doing what he was doing in this episode. I never bought Leeta involved with Bashir, but then again, I can’t see how ANY woman would want to be involved with him. I don’t buy any of what they are selling on this episode at all.

    I have rewatched most episodes of this show, but I will avoid this one every time I see it, on principle. It’s just terrible.