Retro Review: His WayPosted by Michelle - 25/07/14 at 06:07 pm
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Season: 06 Episode: 20 (s06e20)
Original US airdate: 04/22/1998
Odo consults with a holographic lounge singer about how to win Kira’s love.
Plot Summary: When Bashir shows off his new holosuite program, a self-aware 20th century Vegas performer named Vic Fontaine, Odo learns that the singer is an expert on relationships. While Kira is visiting Shakaar on Bajor, Odo gets Quark to let him spend time with the hologram, hoping to learn whether there’s any chance that Kira will ever reciprocate his love for her. Vic tells Odo that he needs to learn to like himself better and to express his emotions more fully, convincing Odo to take part in his show and introducing Odo to showgirls who teach him some of the lingo of their era. Odo has a good time and is cheerful enough to sing an impromptu duet with Sisko, but when he learns that Kira intends to stay on Bajor longer than planned, he becomes despondent again. Vic introduces Odo to Lola, a holographic version of Kira who’s a seductive singer, but Odo objects that the singer is nothing like Kira, and he really only wants the real thing. After Kira returns from Bajor, Vic intrudes on her Bajoran temple holosuite program to invite her to come to his club that evening for a date with Odo. Then Vic summons Odo, who believes that his dinner companion is not the real Kira but a better-programmed duplicate than Lola. The couple share a romantic dinner and talk about the difficulty of balancing work with life off-duty, but when Kira suggests a second date someplace other than a holosuite, Odo reveals that he believes her to be a hologram. He flees in embarrassment when Vic tells him the truth, but Kira, who tells Dax that she is finally seeing things clearly, confronts Odo on the Promenade, telling him that she and Shakaar are just friends now and that he’s the one she wants to take her to dinner. Odo says sarcastically that they might as well skip the courtship and go straight to the kissing, to which she surprises him by agreeing, and they do, right on the Promenade in full view of Quark and many others. When Odo later thanks Vic, the singer reports that Bashir has told him Odo and Kira are now romantically involved.
Analysis: “His Way” was never my ideal way for Odo and Kira to get together, but I stopped caring about that 15 years ago, five seconds after the episode finished airing. I had some concerns about the show creating a self-aware hologram who was neither an Einstein nor a Moriarty but a glorified version of Julie from The Love Boat, and I wondered whether this improbable excuse to get Kira and Odo together was going to be the very reason the writers later broke them apart, but I wanted to live in the moment and enjoy a pairing I’d been rooting for since the series’ second episode, when it became obvious that he was her confidant and that the two of them shared a long and complicated past that had nothing to do with the usual affairs of television romance. If “His Way” seemed a bit fluffy as a means of bringing together a couple that had come through the Occupation, revelations of murder and betrayal, and the shattering effects of the Dominion War together, I was willing nevertheless to accept it just because I was so happy that Star Trek’s writers were finally giving us some adult relationships. I didn’t voice any of my worries in my original review; on the outside chance that the producers might read it, I wrote nothing but praise for Odo/Kira and the episode. And it’s just as well, because if I had voiced those concerns, I would be taking them all back. It’s impossible to tell from “His Way” that Vic really is the extraordinary man that Bashir claims, and it’s impossible to know that, after this old-fashioned beginning with Kira playing Katharine Hepburn to Odo’s unlikely Spencer Tracy, the pair will settle back into their usual roles with this new relationship shifting and deepening many of their perspectives. Maybe they had to get together in a way that’s completely outside anything either would normally consider; maybe that was the only way to get those walls down at last.
For all of Star Trek’s optimism about the future of human(oid)s, it has generally dropped the ball on intimate relationships. The friendships and the explorations of what it means to feel emotions may be exceptional, but the romantic lives of the characters tend to be a mess when they’re not absent altogether. We see Kirk womanizing his way across the cosmos, Picard falling for a couple of clever bad-news girls while overlooking the one on his own crew with whom he has a real connection, Riker and Troi taking more than a decade to figure out what they want, and everyone else largely settling for aliens-of-the-week. As for the crew of Voyager, it’s not an accident that the holodeck plays such a big role in their private lives, whether it’s creating substitute lovers or distracting venues for intimacy, so it’s no wonder I got nervous when Kira and Odo got together in a holographic situation. The whole point of holodeck romance is that it can be erased afterward – Riker owes nothing to Minuet, and it’s a sad reflection on Janeway that she falls for her burly holographic romantic leads. We see the convention again and again: characters find excitement and love on the holodeck, then hit a reset button and return to their familiar lives. Yet after years of teasing us with Odo’s feelings for Kira, then trying to backtrack, pair them with other people, force the just-friends line, Behr and Beimler turn the holographic scenario inside out. They let Odo think he’s with a fake woman and instead give him the real thing. Even so, it would be typical of most Star Trek storylines to have Odo and Kira declare that no matter what they have shared in the unreal world of Quark’s holosuites, it can never carry over to the rest of their lives. No matter how wildly out of character it seems for this couple to share a first kiss in the middle of the Promenade in front of dozens of witnesses, it also thrills me for that very reason: There’s no taking that back, no pretending it’s a bit of playacting in a manufactured world.
So the exploration of yet another genre instead of giving us some good old science fiction? Forgiven. The failure to discuss the vast breach of trust from his coupling with his fellow Founder during the Dominion War? Forgiven. The fact that since the story is entirely in Odo’s point of view, we never discover when and how Kira’s feelings changed toward him, nor whether the Prophets were involved in her change of heart? Forgiven. The sexism of Vic’s era, epitomized by the way he objectifies both holographic women and live ones? Forgiven. Of course it helps now that I know all these things will be addressed later, since this is just the start of Vic’s wonderful run as the station’s pseudo-counselor and Odo is only beginning to accept all the things he is and can be as a shapeshifter and Starfleet adjunct, a Founder and a Federation member. He’s not completely over the female changeling any more than Kira can separate herself completely from Shakaar – they both have ties to their own people that the other can never share. But after being angry for so long about couples discarded on Star Trek, usually in the name of keeping the characters professional, though in most cases the writers later admitted they just couldn’t figure out what to do with them after getting them together – Picard denied love with a crewmember because it would box him out of alien-of-the-week scenarios, Janeway turned prematurely into a spinster stereotype out of fear that giving her a relationship with Chakotay would make her look weak – I am rejoicing in the fact that Sisko found love with a Maquis agent, that Worf sabotaged his career for love of Dax, that Kira and Odo ignored their deeply private instincts and made out on the Promenade.
I try not to spend much time in these reviews talking about the cast and crew because on this series in particular, they’re pretty uniformly excellent – even the episodes that don’t tell my favorite stories tend to have strong acting and interesting visuals – but it would be unfair of me not to mention how much I love Nana Visitor in “His Way.” She has a hard enough job playing Kira, having to show us in just a couple of scenes how Kira’s feelings are shifting, from the defensiveness in the first scene with Vic where he starts to make a comment about her and Odo then holds his tongue through the frustration she expresses when Vic asks her to come to dinner with Odo to the exasperation when Odo flees in embarrassment, then the slow sense of revelation she voices to Dax, followed by the not-backing-down attitude with which we’re all familiar when she challenges Odo to get it over with and kiss her…and on top of that, she also has to play Lola, the sexy showgirl who demonstrates why Visitor had a successful career in musical theater before she took a long-running television role. James Darren is also great fun to watch as Vic; we don’t get the same sense of his range here as we will in later episodes like “It’s Only a Paper Moon,” but we get to enjoy his singing and his banter as he effortlessly fits himself into a cast that’s been together for more than five years. But it’s really Rene Auberjonois who makes “His Way” work. His character has been jerked around though more reinventions than any other regular – the gruff constable, the secret lover, the man with the mysterious past, the shapeshifter forced to confront his origins, the changeling abruptly forced to live as a solid, the rejected lover, the solid restored to shapeshifting and desperate to explore his capabilities, and through all that, Odo has remained recognizable, consistent, his love for Kira even more certain than his devotion to law and order. All kudos in the quadrant to the actor.
Tags: Retro Review