Nutshell: Pleasant, but predictable. Par for course as wedding "event" shows go.
I've said in the past that the success of a romance on the screen rides on the chemistry between the leads. The problem with Worf and Dax that I've never quite been able to get past is the fact that they don't really seem like they love each other. There just hasn't been the screen chemistry that I expected to come out of these characters' various similarities and differences. Instead, what we usually get from these characters is cliché-ridden squabbles and the hammered-home fact that these are two people who have nothing in common and probably never will.
What's most bothersome about the relationship is the fact that there's so much potential for the writers to make them a believable couple with interesting, multifaceted dimensions—yet we rarely, if ever, see it. "You Are Cordially Invited" features Worf/Dax scenes that are more believable and deeper than many past episodes have fared, but there still isn't quite enough done to overcome the clichés and make believable the passion.
Don't get me wrong. "You Are Cordially Invited" is a decent hour of fluff, and plentiful in amiable scenes. Although I wouldn't say it's a Trek episode you have to see, I wouldn't recommend you miss it either. It's a romantic comedy with some good lines, although it doesn't go the extra mile to flesh out what's most important about itself—namely, analyzing the solid character core of why the relationship exists in the first place.
For a long time I've felt like saying to Worf and Dax, "Okay, so you love each other. Fine. Why do you love each other? Can't we see some of that manifested on the screen in more-than-simply-glib terms?" The chemistry between Dorn and Farrell isn't completely absent here, but I still think this episode warranted to see the softer side of Worf (heck, we saw the harder-edged side of Dax, after all). That brings me to the whole issue of Worf: Why won't the writers let this guy lighten up just a little? Why is he such a stolid, no-fun guy? What happened the Worf on TNG who used to laugh with Guinan? You'd think that if there's anyone who could make Worf lighten up some, it's Dax. Why not explore that possibility? Hopefully, now that the wedding is over with, we won't have to listen to Worf complain about how perfect it needs to be, and better dialog between the newlyweds can prevail.
Well, the reason such dialog doesn't prevail here is because the storyline for "Cordially" centers around the most basic of wedding premises, utilizing the expected clichés that have dominated wedding stories on television and in cinema for decades. The formula states that in the eleventh hour before a wedding, the marriage must be suddenly called off (much to everyone's dismay), and then saved just as quickly as it was cancelled.
Specifically, Dax finds herself challenged by General Martok's wife Sirella (Shannon Cochran), who questions the Trill's worthiness for being accepted into her honorable Klingon house. The conflict, of course, if forced and chock-full of Klingon rituals. Meanwhile, Worf, Martok, and Alexander, along with Worf's closest male friends (read: the other male DS9 regulars of Sisko, O'Brien, Worf, and Bashir), engage in the Kal'Hyah, a series of prenuptial rituals (quickly coined a "Klingon bachelor party") which includes ... well, probably what you could imagine a "Klingon bachelor party" would include.
Many of the stand-alone comic pieces are amusing, as Sisko and the others unwittingly find themselves in a series of traditional endurance tests, including deprivation, blood, pain, sacrifice, anguish, and death. (Bashir: "Sounds like marriage, all right." O'Brien: "How would you know?" Hehe.) It's the typical sort of Klingon humor, but it's funny in its low-key portrayal—including a scene where poor O'Brien and Bashir hang from a pole over hot coals ("I can see the future: I'm gonna kill Worf."), and another where they're preparing to break their long fast with a huge meal once they've heard the wedding has been called off ... only to hear it's back on again. The blank stares on their faces are priceless.
Dax's party is also fun—a particularly fresh, energetic, festive setting. It's always nice to see the wild side of Dax emerge, and after being put through the wringer over the last seven episodes of DS9, a light break is definitely worthwhile. When Sirella interrupts, however—demanding that Jadzia leave her party and stop acting like a "Risian slut" (and I do believe this is the first episode of Trek where I've heard the word "slut" used), Jadzia hits her, and Sirella in a fury cancels the wedding.
The next morning, in a wonderful "The Day After" scene, Worf comes to Jadzia's quarters. I liked some of the dialog:
Dax: "You're mad."
Worf: "I am concerned."
Dax: "Yeah, well, I'm hung over."
But the formulaic manipulations engage at warp speed when Worf and Dax can't (immediately) come to terms over the problem that the conflict between Sirella and Dax represents. Worf is too traditional and serious; Dax is too fun-loving and unconventional. "There should be no wedding." "That's fine with me." Yadda, yadda, yadda. Fortunately, the scene is punctuated with a note of quiet, somber seriousness rather than histrionics and yelling. Dax and Worf both seem genuinely hurt by the way events have unfolded, and less caricaturish than the events could've potentially created—which is better than I expected.
But, still, this is pretty slight material. Subsequent dialog scenes feature each receiving a prodding from a close friend to give in a little and go through with the wedding. Sisko gives Dax a good kick in the rear, and Martok supplies Worf with some words of wisdom. A lot of the dialog is stiff and sounds "scripted." (Although, I did think Dax's line about "still leading with her heart after seven lifetimes" was interesting, especially considering how content she was to avoid romance in the first two seasons on the show.) What's amazing is that the dialog manages to work anyway, despite its hackneyed nature. I credit this to the actors, who do a wonderful job of believing what they're saying, helping make us believe it too. Again, it seems hard to go wrong with the Sisko/Dax and Worf/Martok relationships.
As for the actual wedding scene: I liked it quite a bit. The costumes were nice, the Klingon story was well conceived, and the music had an nice mythical aura about it. Ron Moore is the expert on Klingon milieu, and he delivers again here with a scene that has some poignancy.
There's not a whole lot more to say about "You Are Cordially Invited." It's definitely pleasant and diverting, and there are some good lightweight scenes. But there's not much meat to the story, and what "meat" there is comes packaged in a formulaic, predictable (though surprisingly palatable) plot. It's what I expected of a wedding show. Nothing more, nothing less. Suggestion of the week: Turn your brain off and relax.
Next week: Mirror, mirror on the wall: For how many Bareils will Kira fall?