Quite simply the most ludicrous episode of Deep Space Nine ever created (and quite possibly the worst), this one begins in the realm of plausibility then turns ridiculous by the end of the second act—only to be one-upped by over-the-top-ness with each succeeding scene.
Though it has a few laughs and two respectably plausible subplots involving (a) the problems of the O'Briens' marriage and (b) the affirmation of Odo's affections for Kira, "Fascination" features some of the hokiest moments in Star Trek history. Most of this show ranks right up there with the scene in Star Trek V where Kirk, Spock and Bones sing "Row, row, row your boat."
Where did this script come from, and what was its intention? It appears to have been conceived as a joke. Apart from the aforementioned subplots, there's not a moment in this episode that can be believed. Here lies a plot where Jake asks Kira out, Vedek Bareil starts chasing Dax around the station, Dax comes on to Sisko, and Kira and Bashir fall into each others arms. It could've been interesting or, at least, hilarious. But the plot wastes the premise on cornball jokes instead of using the characters' personalities to explore these strange, impulsive crushes in halfway intelligent ways.
The episode culminates in the wardroom where a party hosted by Sisko turns into a ridiculous romp where Dax decks Bareil because he keeps annoying her. (Bareil's part in this is quite stupid, and the usually honorable character instead comes off looking like, well, a complete schmuck.) The insanity balances very unevenly with the B-story resolution between Miles and Keiko, who kiss and make up in the same room where a disappointed Jake utters "Nerys doesn't love me."
Why is this all happening? Because, of course, Lwaxana Troi's amorous feelings for Odo are being projected to others who come near her, due to a Betazoid virus she happens to have at the moment. Uh-huh. Welcome to Contrivance 101.
Avery Brooks, a veteran stage director, has proven capable of directing DS9 with successful episodes such as "Tribunal" and "The Abandoned." He works with this crazy teleplay, but he's way off the mark. He ultimately has a convoluted mess, missing humor opportunities too many times—the Kira/Bashir scenes are horrendously inept. But even though dead from the start, "Fascination" has a sort of manic energy that, ironically, might be most appropriate on stage.