Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Let He Who Is Without Sin...   Rewatch 
April 24, 2016 6:53 PM - Season 5, Episode 7 - Subscribe

Some of the crew are taking some R&R on the planet that's the Club Med of the Alpha Quadrant. What could possibly go wrong? Risa, meet Worf.

From Memory Alpha, the umbrella in Trek fans' drinks:

- A number of problems occurred during the filming of "Let He Who Is Without Sin..." at a beach in Malibu, Los Angeles. For example, Terry Farrell cannot be in direct sunlight for very long, which meant that for many of the exteriors, there needed to be shelter nearby. According to director Rene Auberjonois however, for the scenes on the beach, the producers forgot to organize a tent for Farrell, and Auberjonois himself had to hunt one down and set it up, putting the shoot several hours behind schedule. Another problem involved the extras. During Monte Markham's speech, Auberjonois picked out a small bank for the extras to stand on. However, when they got to the spot, they discovered it was covered in tackburrs, making standing still exceptionally difficult, and prolonging the shoot considerably.

- Robert Hewitt Wolfe regards this as his least favorite episode out of all of those that he wrote or co-wrote. Ira Steven Behr has commented that if he had to choose one episode he could go back and refine, it would be this one; "It was supposed to be a show that looked at 24th century morals and sexuality. We pretty much failed on both counts." Similarly, Ronald D. Moore says "it's a show we all wish we had a second crack at." Director Rene Auberjonois comments "it was not my happiest time as a director." Even Alexander Siddig disliked the episode, particularly his own performance. Nana Visitor had given birth to their son the night before he shot the scene where he and Leeta break up, and according to Siddig, he had never been so unfocused on-set as he was when shooting that scene. Ron Moore also commented: "I think everyone looks back at the Risa show and says, 'I wish we could take another crack at that one'. It was supposed to be a fun romp of an episode, but just didn't come through for whatever reason. I still don't think it was a bad idea, but it could have been a really cool, really fun episode. It was a great idea to go to Risa with Worf and Dax. It just didn't quite come together". In the eyes of Robert Hewitt Wolfe and Ira Steven Behr, the main reason the episode failed was because of restrictions placed upon how open they could be about sexuality. This was a show that was supposed to be examining sex, but it wasn't allowed to actually show any sex. As Wolfe explains, "kids watch this show, and in some markets it airs at five o'clock. That meant we couldn't show skin, so there was no sex. It became a totally asexual show, and once that happened the whole thing got flushed down the toilet because none of it made sense anymore."

- Bashir says to Worf "When in Rome", which is the second time a character has said that to Worf. The first time was in TNG: "Justice", where Riker said it to him while the Enterprise was visiting Rubicun III, also a paradise-like planet with loose sexual morals.

"Isn't there any way for the two of you to... you know..."
"Make love?"
"...without injuring yourselves?"
"Interspecies romance isn't without its danger. That's part of the fun."

- Sisko and Jadzia Dax

"Do not hug me!"

- Worf to Bashir

"I've seen drier days on Ferenginar. And we have a hundred seventy-eight different words for rain. Right now it's glebbening out there. And that's bad."

- Quark
posted by Halloween Jack (17 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Yikes, that was pretty dreadful. And I think Wolfe & Behr are crazy to blame the failure on the sexual depiction restrictions, that's the least of the episode's problems. Worf's futzing with the weather controls seems like an enormous breach of morality and Starfleet regulation. Maybe I've just been through/witness to too much severe weather in the past few years, but, bad weather kills people, and for Worf to be so blasé about things until the earthquakes started was major character assassination.

I agree with the Tor recap that Worf's confession of his childhood accidental manslaughter was a good scene, but, what a mess of an episode otherwise.
posted by oh yeah! at 7:36 PM on April 24, 2016 [2 favorites]

The Simpsons had "The Principal and the Pauper." Battlestar Galactica had "Black Market." Buffy had "Beer Bad." TNG had a lot of stinkers, for as good a show as it was, but "Shades of Gray," "Code of Honor," and "Masks" all come to mind.

And DS9 had "Let He Who Is Without Sin." What an amazing show. And what absolute fucking dreck this episode is.
posted by duffell at 8:08 PM on April 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'll grant you that Quark quote is pretty fun, though.
posted by duffell at 8:13 PM on April 24, 2016

The shame of it is, it's one of those episodes that came yea close to being really good, because the question (or set of questions) that it raises is central to the show: how far do you go to do the right thing, what do you have to give up in order to do so, and how do you deal with the aftermath? This will become an especially big thing as they get further into the war, but we've already seen some glimpses of that; the whole virtual reality thing in "The Search" was about the Dominion testing how far the crew would go to defend the Alpha Quadrant against an invasion, for example. But then the Space Party Poopers show up and scare the shit out of a bunch of people who are just trying to relax a little, and Worf thinks that it's a great idea to give them the master key to the whole planet. Has this guy ever shown the inclination to erase all the non-combat holosuite programs? No? Then why would he try to do the meatspace equivalent, at the risk of killing a whole bunch of people?

One potential alternative way that this could have been done is for Worf to be off brooding because he can't let go and have fun, strike up some conversations with other people who are similarly unable or unwilling to relax (because I sincerely doubt that he's the only one on the whole damn planet who thinks that way), and pretty soon they're getting together to hear his thrilling war stories and agree with him that the Federation are nice people, but the people that they're fighting aren't, and maybe there should be less jamaharon and hunky masseurs and more re-enacting the Battle of Kim-Chee or whatever. And one of his admirers/charter members of the nascent No Fun Gang is a Risan who happens to be a techie in the planetary weather control grid, and he gets carried away and comes up with the idea to fuck with things just to get hardcore, and Dax and the others have to talk Worf into talking this kid down from the ledge, so to speak. Not only is it a bit more plausible and takes the onus off of Worf (because I'm with oh yeah!, that's getting into court martial territory), it also addresses the idea that Worf would probably have tons of fans, and that he can't just do his brooding loner thing all the time--people look up to him and admire him, and he should deal with that. (There's a bit in a Voyager episode in which we find out that some human kids get into Klingon culture in a big way, including imitating some of their more brutal and dangerous customs. Multiply that by Worf being associated with the Enterprise and his role in the Klingon Civil War, not to mention being the first Klingon in Starfleet, and it's quite likely that people would ask for his autograph.) Probably any episode would suffer by comparison to "Trials and Tribble-ations", but this still could have been better.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:38 PM on April 24, 2016 [4 favorites]

What is the point of my post scarcity utopia if hedonism is frowned upon?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:39 PM on April 24, 2016 [6 favorites]

Halloween Jack, I like your alternate plot better than this one, though it would hinge on the Carried-Away Guest Actor being able to carry the whole emotional hook of the episode. It actually feels more like a Star Trek plot than "Let He Who" (and I mean that as a compliment). And there are Worf fanboys in another DS9 episode whose title I forget, so that's definitely a plausible thing. And most importantly, that story would salvage the quite promising (IMO) theme of strength-vs-weakness that this episode ended up with, skewing away from what would have been a disastrous (IMO) "sex" theme per the writers' original intent.

But in spite of its obvious flaws, I like this episode. We get:
- Quark on Risa, which is a great idea IF we don't spend a lot of time with him, which thankfully we don't.
- Some very good Worf moments. The soccer story, while a bit tidy, seems to fit well with everything else we know of Worf.
- Monte Markham SMACKING WORF, which, c'mon dude. I can't not laugh at that moment. I get the sense that Markham realized how absurd it was too.
- More and better development of what Risa's really like than any other episode, including the TNG one with Picard and Vash at Risa (his arms wide).
- A leisurely pace, which is nice sometimes, especially in a show as dense as this one can be. Admittedly I'm reaching here.
- As much Trek skin as we're ever gonna get before (shudder) the Enterprise pilot. The tiny 19-year-old living inside me wishes he had not given up on the series in season 1.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 7:32 AM on April 25, 2016 [2 favorites]

Man is this awful. I'm fifteen minutes in and not sure I can focus long enough to finish it.

I thought we were going to get an examination into cross species/cultural relationships. That would have been bad. But still a huge step above this.
posted by 2ht at 9:08 AM on April 25, 2016

Please tell me Worf is being affected by some sort of parasitic alien spore.
posted by 2ht at 9:18 AM on April 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

I think that every Starfleet officer gets one, and only one, Yeah Captain It Was That Darn Space Virus That Made Me Do It card, and once it's used, that's it, even if they actually get a space virus.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:12 AM on April 25, 2016 [4 favorites]

I guess maybe we should cut them some slack for the last few excellent episodes, but boy is this one dire. The only good thing is it reinforces my standpoint that Worf is dumb, and boy, is he ever dumb in this one.

The two main things for me are:

1) Worf would be courts martialed for aiding religious terrorists, and be out of Starfleet.

2) Jadzia would leave him because his actions are just so fucking ludicrous, and the way he treats her all through this episode.

I mean seriously, I understand he is conflicted and all, but please, do you really need to write him as a terrorist sympathiser? And as for the speechifying "I killed a boy when we played footie"- jeez. And all Jadzia can say is, "That must have been difficult for you." She is 300 years old, she would have been angry as all hell, and ripped him a new one, she should have said "and that gives you the right to side with terrorists and destroy peoples vacations? To decide what people's lives should be like in the Federation? Are you fucking kidding? We are over, over and done. Bye, asshole."

The whole episode is a mess, nothing works, the stories are jumbled up, and for all that we got "More and better development of what Risa's really like than any other episode, including the TNG one with Picard and Vash at Risa" - Captains Holiday is a way way better episode.

In fact, for me, the only way to read this episode as anything meaningful or good is to see it as a metaphor for the struggle between the different types of Trek, Roddenbery and Maizlish on one side and Berman and Piller on the other.. Unfortunately that means Berman and Piller are represented by the religious nutters!
posted by marienbad at 2:13 PM on April 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

In fact, for me, the only way to read this episode as anything meaningful or good is to see it as a metaphor for the struggle between the different types of Trek, Roddenbery and Maizlish on one side and Berman and Piller on the other.. Unfortunately that means Berman and Piller are represented by the religious nutters!

Hah! That's interesting. Although, to be fair, it was never STATED that the Essentialists were religious-- they just look, speak, and act that way. And certainly, all that talk about "traditional values" should probably have seemed like code for "Jeebus" to any Earthlings present just as much as it seems to us. They probably should've made the Essentialists seem more martial, more brash, more--well, 23rd-century. That also would have reduced the absurdity of the Monte Punching Worf scene.

I like to think the only reason Jadzia didn't say "That's it, we're done" to Worf in this episode is because she's 300 years old. On other occasions, she's demonstrated incredible patience, and I feel like that was the intent here.

But then--tangent, sorry--I also can't help but wonder whether a huge part of what drove Dax to get close to Worf was mere curiosity about his highly atypical background, but that's not very charitable to Dax! And the more I think about it, the more I feel like Worf must seem to be a troubled child to her-- and so would Bashir, and so would just about everybody. It raises some awkward questions about how common it might be for joined Trills to only really get together with joined Trills, and if it IS the norm, whether that should have led to some sort of Trill aristocracy.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 2:57 AM on April 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

I don't even mind that the sexual themes got lost, because I've always thought that Trek handles sexuality clumsily.

TNG and DS9 are both undeniably products of the 90s, but they're never more 90s than when they're on Risa. Maybe it's the clothing. Starfleet uniforms just become part of the wallpaper after a while – but then you see the characters in all these other varieties of garb, and suddenly 2373 is 1996.

Worf acted totally out of character in this episode. I mean, he hears some crank spouting off, and within a day he's all "you're right; the Federation is full of sin, and we should stage an insurrection!"? Like, why would Worf do that? Nothing about it makes sense for his character.

(And then the authorities are all like "oh, you rascally insurrectionists; it was a real hoot when you stormed into a room with giant laser rifles and smashed things up, but please don't do it again". And then everything is right back to normal by the end of the episode. I mean, Trek never shied away from that trope – but when you're talking about such a big and inexplicable shift in character, it's especially jarring.)

At least everyone involved seems to understand that this one was a flop. It happens.

Man, I love Worf...but am I totally off base in thinking that Michael Dorn was just phoning it in in a lot of DS9 episodes? Sometimes he just, like, reads his lines in this stiff, formal, emotionless way. And I know he's supposed to be a duty-bound warrior who's all obsessed with honor and stuff, but that's not how it comes across.

I see that y'all are rewatching the show in order, so: yay! I'll join your nerd party.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 6:51 PM on April 26, 2016

Welcome, escape from the potato planet! And I agree with a lot of what you say.

Also, in the next episode, Worf is in charge of fucking DS9 while Sisko and Kira are away! Where was the fucking courts martial? Wtf?
posted by marienbad at 8:07 PM on April 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

Man, I love Worf...but am I totally off base in thinking that Michael Dorn was just phoning it in in a lot of DS9 episodes?

I'd say, sometimes, yeah. But less often than on TNG... or to put it another way, I think he had more genuine moments of *definitely not* phoning it in on DS9 than he ever had the opportunity for on TNG. And more range-- e.g., TNG made him seem like a humorless oaf a lot, whereas DS9 gives him moments of wit, and now and then Dorn has the great little glimmer in his eyes to match the great writing.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 5:30 AM on April 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

And the more I think about it, the more I feel like Worf must seem to be a troubled child to her-- and so would Bashir, and so would just about everybody. It raises some awkward questions about how common it might be for joined Trills to only really get together with joined Trills, and if it IS the norm, whether that should have led to some sort of Trill aristocracy.

I'm with you on Worf and Bashir seeming like troubled children to someone who's done relationships and raised kids multiple times over the course of hundreds of years.

Maybe one reason that there isn't a joined Trill aristocracy is the relative scarcity of symbionts plus the taboo against reassociation. There would be some point where you've dated every other symbiont who's part of a joined Trill.

I found the soccer match accident story over-the-top. I know from personal experience that just looking significantly different from everyone else can make you guarded and obsessed with proper behavior--because you're getting a lot of attention for something that you can't control, you try to handle the stuff that you can control in order to fit in. I don't think we needed a traumatic dead child story to motivate Worf's inability to relax.
posted by creepygirl at 9:49 PM on April 30, 2016

This guy DID NOT just back hand Worf! That was so ridiculous that I can forgive the soccer story and the weather controls and Worf being a butthead (to be fair, he didn't want to go to Risa in the first place).

I kept waiting for them to say, "if we are going to take freedom and liberty away, then why are we fighting?" Which might have salvaged this go no where story a bit. Instead it just kind of...ended. I determined that this episode was just an excuse to exploit Dax' spots.

The Dominion have already visited Risa by this episode. I'm surprised it doesn't have a permanent Starfleet security mission.

Fun fact: at Warp 5 (top speed of a Runabout), it takes FIVE MONTHS to get from Earth to Risa. It takes three months to get from Earth to Deep Space Nine. It takes a Runabout "6 hours" to get to Risa from Deep Space Nine. Someone failed Stellar Cartography. Deep Space Nine is on the "frontier". It doesn't feel like much of an isolated location if the most popular vacation planet in the quadrant is only 6 hours away.
posted by Brocktoon at 4:16 PM on August 1, 2018

Worf really was kinda irredeemable here.

In a classic standalone monster of the week style storytelling you can pull this off, but with DS9's more serialised approach it really stands out that Worf gets no kind of censure for joining a religious terrorist cult and threatening the security of a whole planet!
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 3:12 AM on October 2, 2019 [2 favorites]

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