Nutshell: Bad. Very bad. In fact, abysmal.
Well, I didn't think it was possible, but with "Let He Who Is Without Sin..." DS9 has managed to displace "Fascination" as the series' worst installment. In fact, this is among the worst episodes of Trek ever filmed—it even rivals Voyager's "Threshold" from last year. I'm just glad "Let He Who Is Without Sin..." has so little to do with anything that its degree of badness doesn't have any long-term effects on the rest of the series.
The "story," such as it's called, is something I would probably expect to see on Baywatch. It serves as little more than filler between shots of people hanging around the beach. It's so ineptly written and meaningless that I have trouble even thinking about it without having a sudden desire to queue the tape to the beginning of the episode and recording C-SPAN for an hour. It's hard to believe that Ira Steven Behr and Robert Hewitt Wolfe of all people could come up with such mindless, lobotomized drivel. This show, more than anything else, resembles a very cruel joke on the audience and the series.
Whenever an atrocity like this episode happens (as rarely as it is), it makes me wonder: How in the world could things go so wrong? Didn't someone connected with the show ever step back and look at what they were making—and realize how bad their product was and try to fix it before it was too late? Considering how much a team effort an episode of DS9 is, it's very hard to see how the vast number of checks and balances could go so wrong.
Just as I posed in my review of "Threshold" last season, I pose here the question: What the hell were they thinking when they made this?
The teaser opens as Dax announces to Sisko and Odo her plans to go with Worf to Risa, that renowned pleasure planet. As mentioned three times in as many minutes, Worf and Dax "have much to discuss" while there. Worf is not happy with how lightly Dax takes their relationship. Dax thinks he needs to lighten up. Worf finds himself even more annoyed when he discovers that Bashir, Leeta (Chase Masterson), and Quark will be coming along. This teaser is not nearly as funny as it wants to be. (Strangely enough, though, it's probably the most watchable sequence in the show.)
Once the characters get to Risa the show proceeds ever-so-rapidly downhill. Most of act one is wasted on some of the dullest, drawn-out discussion about a Trek relationship I've ever heard. (It's also horrendously characterized, as Worf goes from a state of "we should just forget it and leave" to "oh, okay, we'll stay" in the time it takes Dax to remove one more article of clothing. Ugh. Not funny, guys; just plain insulting.)
A majority of the episode's lines are spoken with such bemused and passive detachment by the actors that I began to wonder if even they were doubting the certainty of the teleplay. Really, I'm not sure who to blame for the lackadaisical performances. The material is so off-kilter that I don't know what director Auberjonois or any of the actors possibly could've done with it. Still, knowing that hardly helps countless scenes where Farrell, Dorn, Siddig, Masterson, and Shimerman come off looking pretty awful.
Near the end of act one the show finally begins to develop a plot of sorts, as the episode introduces an "essentialists" group led by a man named Fullerton (Monte Markham) who is determined to show the people of Risa how destructive their indulgence in artificially created luxury life truly is. Unfortunately, his speeches are all based on nonsensical arguments, as he condemns those who use replicators, holodecks, and weather-controlling devices as lazy and dangerous to society.
Well, okay, Risa is artificial. So what? It's a paradise vacation planet, for crying out loud. Vacationing is a simple human indulgence. For Fullerton to infer a causal relationship between vacationing and an impending downfall of the Federation is such a stretch that I couldn't help but feel cynical about the premise's whole idea. Every facet of Fullerton and his lame soapbox preaching manages to insult my intelligence. Why? Because the episode seems to want so bad to make Fullerton's ideas add up to some allegorical point, but it's so misguided that I was angry at the smug notion that it actually thought it was actually about any real comparable issue.
And Worf buying into Fullerton's cause is so ridiculous that it makes him look like a stubborn, gullible fool. (After shutting down the weather control grid he says, "If Federation citizens cannot handle a little bad weather, how will they handle a Dominion invasion?" Under serious scrutiny this has little persuasive power, but the episode assumes we'll just take it at face value. I don't buy it.) But wait—he isn't really doing any of this because he believes it, he's doing it because he's mad at Dax and wants to work out some anger by (literally) raining on everyone else's parade. And Worf's about-face at the end of the episode where he confronts Fullerton (who punches Worf for absolutely no reason whatsoever) is so horrendously handled that it's appalling. It seems to want to say "Look at Worf—he can lighten up and be a badass all at once!" Does this strike only me as way beyond the sensible actions of Worf's character? Please, no more.
While we're on the topic of characters, let's talk about Worf and Dax. "Let He Who Is Without Sin..." took the relationship between them and did exactly what I hoped we wouldn't see as a follow-up to "Looking for Par'mach in All the Wrong Places"—turned it into a series of predictable cliches and trite conversations; a mishmash of soap opera melodrama and some of the worst dialog I've ever heard Behr and Wolfe pen. (The argument about Jadzia's spots itching was particularly atrocious.) When "Par'mach" aired, I really hoped that the writers would follow up on it intelligently. Didn't happen here. At the very least, I suppose I can take comfort in that they didn't decide to end their relationship here—that way they can at least try again, hopefully (oh, my, I hope) with more success.
I realize that Worf and Dax are different in the way they see the world, and I like that aspect of them. What I do not like is the bipolar, one-dimensional stubbornness forced by the writers onto each of them used merely to create lame dialog that shoves the characters even further into a static state of non-development, only so that a contrived, three minute speech in the closing minutes can solve the characters' problems and end it on a happy note. No, thank you very much. (Worf's somber speech in and by itself wouldn't be awful, I suppose, but the context sure is bad. It comes so far out of left field that it feels positively false.)
Turning to the sideshow, Bashir, Leeta, and Quark simply came off looking silly in scenes that had little to no story-building value. Their scenes were nothing audaciously bad like much of the rest of the show, but nothing to be thrilled about, either.
Oh, yeah, and the Adrandis character (almost forgot about her) is a complete waste of time. Don't get me wrong—Vanessa Williams is a good sport (I thought she worked just fine in Eraser), but her character here makes such pointless appearances and is used for such meaningless dramatic effect (unless you count the contrived scene where Worf happens upon Adrandis giving Dax a massage as dramatic) that I would've rather opted for no character here at all. The fact that the preview last week went out of its way to mention that Williams would be guest-starring makes the entire notion little more than a ratings ploy with zero payoff—and that sure doesn't make me feel better.
I was actually embarrassed watching this show. I wanted to crawl under my chair and hide. I kept hoping that at some point the show would get better, but it didn't—it rambled for a long while and then ended. Once this review is complete I will have a new goal: to expunge this episode from my memory and, if possible, from the entire Star Trek universe itself.
There are only three things I found remotely interesting while watching this show: (1) Terry Farrell in those revealing outfits (not an intellectual observation, to be sure), (2) a one-minute trailer for First Contact (not part of the episode), and (3) the preview for next week, which includes Garak for the first time this season and looks interesting (ditto). Note that none of these are in any way useful for a critical analysis of "Let He Who Is Without Sin..."
I think I've covered everything that is (or, rather, that isn't) worth covering. "Let He Who Is Without Sin..." is a viewing experience I have no desire to repeat, unless I get the opportunity to be on MST3K the week they happen to pick it as their target. (Oh, wait... that show was canceled. Never mind.) I'm sure DS9 will bounce back with something infinitely better next week—I just hope I'll have recovered by then.