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The Trek Nation - You Are Cordially Invited

You Are Cordially Invited

By Michelle Erica Green
Posted at January 13, 2004 - 10:51 AM GMT

See Also: 'You Are Cordially Invited...' Episode Guide

Sisko congratulates Martok on his promotion to Commander of the United Fleet. Martok asks to keep Worf on as his intelligence officer, though he's sick of hearing Worf's wedding plans. Alexander tells Dax and Worf that most of the crew of the Rotaran has been reassigned, and Dax suggests getting married before Alexander leaves.

Worf invites his closest friends - Sisko, Martok, Bashir, O'Brien, and Alexander - to participate in a pre-wedding ritual. The humans, thinking it's a four-day bachelor party, agree. Dax, meanwhile, must gain the approval of Sirella, Martok's wife and mistress of his household, before the wedding can take place. Sirella is xenophobic and scornful of Dax's fitness to marry into a Klingon noble house. While the men undergo ritual fasting and proceed through trials involving blood, pain, sacrifice, and anguish in a holosuite heated to Klingon tolerance levels, the Trill performs ceremonies for Sirella and recites the entire history of the other woman's family.

Dax throws a party to which she does not invite Sirella, and flirts with a half-naked lieutenant. Storming in, Sirella calls Dax a slut; when Dax attacks her, Sirella calls off the wedding. Worf cannot get Dax to agree to prostrate herself in apology, and refuses to let Sisko perform a civil ceremony. The two call off the wedding until Martok talks Worf into forgiving Dax, and Sisko talks Dax into forgiving Worf (and presumably prostrating herself before Sirella). The two are married in a ceremony performed by Sirella, then ritually beaten up by the men who endured the ritual with Worf.

Analysis:

I should admit that I expected to hate this episode. There was no way I could imagine that patriarchal Klingon culture, in which spousal abuse is the norm and women are subject to male domination in the public sphere, would have wedding rituals that wouldn't turn my stomach. Let me just say that this episode lived down to my expectations, but it wasn't any worse than I expected, either.

My favorite moments were the ones too trivial to be included in the broad plot summary above. I loved learning that Jake has sold his first book, about life on the station during the recent occupation. I thought the interaction - or non-interaction - of Kira and Odo was realistic and moving, and delightfully resolved. I giggled at O'Brien and Bashir suffering through the Klingon rituals, and I liked Worf's explaining that he says tomato, she says tomahto...he's somber and she's bubbly, he's traditional and she's unconventional, let's call the whole thing off. Dax's rowdy co-ed bachelorette party was a lot of fun...though I'd have gone home with Leeta rather than Morn!

But the Klingon rituals themselves were boring, cliched, and sexist in what seemed far too human a manner. In ""Looking for Par'Mach in All the Wrong Places," the episode in which Dax and Worf fell in love, the writers stole from Vulcan mating ritual to create its Klingon equivalent right down to the recitation of "Challenge was given and lawfully accepted, let no one interfere." In "You Are Cordially Invited," the theft was, "By tradition, the male is accompanied by his closest friends" on the journey to the hot seat, and the statement that, being outworlders, those same friends were welcome to leave the ritual without harm to themselves.

Do the writers have so little creativity in constructing alien cultures that they have to parrot a different species from an earlier series? These ceremony-bound, misogynistic social systems aren't only hard to swallow, they're impossible to believe. There's no way that ancient Humans, Klingons, Ferengi, Vulcans, Cardassians, etc. etc. etc. all systematically oppress women with the same mechanisms - I can buy Ferengi men thinking of women as property because they think of everything as property, but it's illogical for the Vulcans, and we've never gotten an explanation for why women are second-class citizens among the Klingons.

That Sirella has power within her household is not in dispute; that Martok loves her is clear. It's also clear that, in all matters not pertaining to family and home, he has all the power while she has none - such as his decision to invite Worf to become a Martok - and his complaint that Sirella doesn't share his bed as often as he'd like is as much his fault for being off with his troops as it is hers. Like the Duras sisters, Sirella wouldn't be eligible to sit on the High Council even if she were the smartest person in the Empire. It bugged me that Dax's attack on Sirella's family stemmed from descent from a courtesan, rather than from some political shame by an ancestor: women's history in the Empire sounds entirely domestic. Dax is supposed to cook a traditional meal and display candles for Sirella - if she's also supposed to prove her prowess in combat, we never see it. As my esteemed co-worker EdMac pointed out, Klingons being Klingons, you'd Dax wouldn't be allowed to marry Worf unless she beat her future mother-in-law in a knife fight.

I hated the creation myth told at Dax and Worf's wedding, similar to the Book of Genesis in that the male heart was created first and the female heart created as an afterthought when he got lonely. Martok may genuinely love Sirella, but she's an afterthought; I'm glad she refused to take his hand when she arrived at the station. I keep wondering whether Marta, Kang's warrior wife from the original series, came from another universe; there's no one like her in the current one, much to my regret. Sirella reminds me a lot of Quark's Grilka. Tough as she talks, she's accepted that she's never going to be her husband's equal in her society. Pity.

That said...I liked Sisko's advice to Dax, about how she knew she was getting engaged to a tradition-bound Klingon and she was going to have to respect his culture's wedding traditions. I also didn't think it weakened Jadzia to capitulate - she made a choice to put her own desires ahead of her resentment. She chose love over separation by technicalities. Being a Jew married to a Christian myself, and having assorted qualms about our common traditions as well as the discrete ones which all affected our wedding plans, I could definitely relate.

It bothered me that Worf did not compromise more, and he better be more flexible as the marriage goes on, but it's a typical intercultural problem to have to deal with the expectations of one's future mate's family. I thought it was interesting that the writers chose not to show Dax actually capitulating; this could have been a very strong scene in which we'd get to see that even though Jadzia was saying the proper words, she was still her own person. But it could also have made her look like a passive, pollyannish wimp, which is probably why the scene was left out.

The wedding was visually spectacular. The participants looked gorgeous, traditional yet alien, the symbolic combat was an effective image. I liked the speech about united hearts even if I didn't like the myth which preceded it. The ceremony made Martok's mushy streak look culturally sensible. I was irked that the Klingon ceremony ended with a kiss before the ritual beating - I'd have thought it would end with them baring their teeth at each other considering what Klingon sex is supposed to be like - Worf once said that during foreplay, the man recites poetry while the woman hurls heavy objects at him.

I believe that Dax loves Worf. What I can't figure out is why. But speaking of love...next week, Kira's dead lover Bareil crosses over, along with the Intendant. This ought to create some lovely angst for Kira and Odo both.

Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


Michelle Erica Green reviews 'Enterprise' episodes for the Trek Nation, for which she is also a news writer. An archive of her work can be found at The Little Review.