Quark’s Bargain Bin: DS9’s worst episodes

No show goes seven seasons without putting out some duds along the way, and DS9 is no exception. Whilst I may have spoken about its generally consistent standard in my top ten post, even I can’t deny that sometimes DS9 did scrape around at the bottom of the barrel. So, without further ado, let me present ten episodes of DS9 that left me feel distinctly underwhelmed.

Move Along Home

Allamarain! Third shap.”

When a visiting delegation from the Gamma Quadrant get cheated at Quark’s dabo tables, they decide to make Quark play a game of their own – in which Sisko, Dax, Kira and Bashir get turned into live playing pieces. Whilst the four Starfleet officers have to listen to skipping rhymes and solve puzzles in the Worst Game Ever, on the outside, Quark and Odo try to make sure no one dies inside the game. It’s all very silly and low budget, and also brings back bad memories of my arsehole of a father seeing this episode and mocking DS9 at every turn.

Fascination

I’m sorry. I don’t dance.”

Romantic hijinks abound when Lwaxana Troi’s overpowered libido telepathically infects everyone on DS9, causing people to pursue their latent attractions. As if we didn’t get enough bad Lwaxana episodes on TNG, DS9 decides to punish us some more, with this painful “rom com” episode in which everyone becomes a lovestruck fool. If you ever wanted to see Quark crave oo-mox from Keiko O’Brien, or see Jake become starry-eyed over Kira, then you probably have as many problems as this episode.

Let He Who is Without Sin

Do not hug me!”

You might expect a similarly stupid romantic comedy from this episode, in which Dax, Wof, Quark, Leeta and Bashir take a trip to Risa. However, somehow the writers manage to come up with something even worse. So grumpy is Worf about Dax being her usual fun-loving, free-spirited self, that he joins a group of eco-terrorists bent on ruining things for everyone. Not only does this move seem out of character for an honourable Klingon warrior and Starfleet officer, but it results in absolutely no repercussions for either Worf or his career. Instead, we have to put up with forty minutes of him being jealous, grouchy and controlling, before he finally loosens up the tiniest little bit.

Rapture

Bajor must not join the Federation! If it does, it will be destroyed!!”

I know lots of people like Rapture, but I’m not one of them. After years of filling out paperwork, Bajor is finally ready to join the Federation, only for Sisko to start receiving visions from the writers Prophets warning him that to do so would be a really bad idea. Cue some over-the-top acting as Sisko really hams it up, embracing his role as Emissary to a quite frankly worrisome degree. If there’s one thing we really didn’t need, it was an episode filled with ominous portents of doom.

Rivals

“Where are you going?”

“Back to Quark! At least then I’ll be cheated by family!”

When a conman brings aboard a gambling device that affects the laws of probability, he uses the good fortune it brings to set up his own gaming establishment. Whilst Quark fumes at losing all his customers, the audience is forced to endure a plot device that is implausible even by Star Trek standards. To make it worse, the conman in question is entirely dislikeable, so having to spend an entire episode in his company is hardly a fun experience.

Profit and Lace

Doesn’t wearing all those clothes make you feel like a deviant?”

When Grand Nagus Zek is deposed after granting equal rights for women, a convoluted sequence of events leads to Quark temporarily becoming a woman in order to win over an influential Ferengi businessman. At the very least, it’s painful and cringeworthy, at worst, deeply offensive and transphobic. It’s clearly an episode played for laughs, but with one important flaw – at no point is it at all funny. Quite possibly the nadir of the stupid Ferengi episodes.

Ferengi Love Songs

“Don’t you think of anyone but yourself?!”

“Of course I do. I just think about myself first.”

Speaking of stupid Ferengi episodes, this episode is another prime offender. On a trip to Ferenginar, Quark discovers that his mother has been shacking up with the Grand Nagus – by way of finding Zek hiding in his closet. The plot goes from bad to worse as an angry Quark teams up with FCA Liquidator Brunt to break up the happy couple, leading to an utterly predictable “comedy” of errors.

Second Sight

“Of course it’ll work: I never fail! Well, I did once, but I found it didn’t agree with me, so I swore never to do it again, and I never break my word.”

When Sisko falls for a mysterious woman who keeps disappearing, it turns out that she is the telepathic projection of a deeply unhappy woman. Whilst this seems like a great opportunity to give Sisko his first romance on the show, this episode fails to deliver on its promise. After a slow start, the big reveal seems just too pathetic – we have the typical arsehole Star Trek scientist, plus a wife who ‘mates for life’ and so cannot get out of her tragically unhappy situation. Good to see that relationships are healthy in the enlightened 24th century.

If Wishes Were Horses

“I’m going to have to ask you all to please refrain from using your imaginations.”

Things become awkward on DS9 when the crew’s imaginations start manifesting in reality, leading to such delights as Rumpelstiltskin and a Bashir-obsessed fake Dax wandering the corridors. This is the kind of episode that TOS could barely get away with, and it fare even worse here. If you think you can handle the ridiculous plot, consider that this episode is also a real low point for Bashir’s early DS9 sexual harassment of Dax. I defy anyone to get through the submissive fake Dax scenes without cringing.

The Reckoning

“I just had this uncontrollable urge to smash the tablet.”

“Oh, I get those urges all the time.”

As with Rapture, I know that this episode wouldn’t make it onto many people’s lists for DS9 worst 10, but I really don’t get on with it. The Reckoning features an age-old showdown between the Prophets and the Pah-Wraiths, in which they possess the bodies of Kira and Jake respectively, and shoot energy beams at each other. For a franchise that generally skirts the kind of fantasy mysticism embraced in Star Wars, Babylon 5 and Battlestar Galactica, this episode strays dangerously into that territory, and it just feels out of place here. Even the episode title is way too full of itself.

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