July 8, 2018

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: "Looking for par'Mach in all the Wrong Places"

It is 14 October 1996, and time for another episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

When Quark's (Armin Shimerman) ex-wife Grilka arrives on the station, Worf (Michael Dorn) is immediately smitten - but due to his exiled status in Klingon society he has no means of courting her. When Quark shows a romantic interest instead, a reluctant Worf begins teaching him how to woo a Klingon woman - with the help of Dax (Terry Farrell).

Star Trek adapts Cyrano de Bergerac in the weird, faulty little romantic comedy that absolutely not be as entertaining as it is. A lot of its appeal comes down to Armin Shimerman's consistently wonderful performance as Quark. He spars well with everybody with whom he shares the screen, from an early scene with an eavesdropping Dr Bashir (Alexander Siddig) to his courting of Grilka (Mary Crosby) to his conversations with Worf and Dax. It's funny to think that Deep Space Nine started with the Ferengi being probably the most disliked alien civilization in Star Trek; by this stage of the franchise they're one of the most fleshed-out and entertaining. That's mostly down to Shimerman working his character so hard.

The episode is, however, uneven. A lot of the problems ultimately come down to how Worf is written: he's rude, surly, self-centred - not to mention actively racist towards Quark. Dax is a more measured presence, and helps to soften the awkward edges between them. She's understanding of both Quark and Worf's respective cultures. On the other hand, she also leaps unexpectedly into romantically pursuing Worf herself. It's under-developed and fairly unconvincing, and kind of makes a mockery of Worf - who switches his affections from Grilka to Dax the moment Dax makes a move on him.

Thankfully Mary Crosby and Armin Shimerman work wonders together, and bounce their chemistry into lifting up the episode in general. There's also some great writing here for Quark: he treats Grilka with dignity and honesty (for the most part), and seems sincere in his romantic attraction towards her. He is such an interesting and nuanced character.

The episode's secondary storyline sees Miles (Colm Meaney) and Kira (Nana Visitor) get awkwardly close to one another now that Kira is carrying his and Keiko's (Rosalind Chao) baby. It all feels weirdly motivated and odd, but at least it manages to sustain the awkward sex comedy theme of the episode overall. Thankfully this is a one-off development, and we never see Miles and Kira become weirdly attracted to one another again.

Ignore the sillier elements, and particularly ignore the very 1970s ending (Dax says a lame joke, Worf laughs as if it's the funniest thing he's ever heard), and there's about enough in "par'Mach" to make it enjoyable. It is pretty mediocre, but it passes the time well enough. When it gets bad, it is that sort of egregious awfulness that inspires laughter more than irritation. Three episodes in Season 5, and the quality ratio rises to 67 per cent.

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