Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: His Way   Rewatch 
September 8, 2016 4:53 AM - Season 6, Episode 20 - Subscribe

I know I'll be a mess until you choose to acquiesce to holosuite-ing with me / And if we dance at Vic's then there's a chance it could malfunction catastrophic-a-lly / But if the grid still works, then we might order up from Quark's for a synthetic dram / And then I go and spoil it all by saying something stupid like "You're a holo-graaaam"

MAJOR SPOILER from the series finale in the following background info from Memory Alpha:

- In terms of the writing of this episode, Ira Steven Behr explains, ""Children of Time" basically gave us the impetus to do. We'd pulled on that thread for so long without really doing anything with it, and we were running out of time. I already knew that at the end of the series Odo would be going back to the Founders to become goo. And even though I didn't know the title "What You Leave Behind" yet, I knew that Odo had to leave something behind of real value. And it just seemed to me that Kira was that value."

- The title of this episode is a reference to the Frank Sinatra hit song "My Way."

- This episode marks the first appearance of James Darren as Vic Fontaine on the series. Ira Steven Behr had been planning a character like this for several years; a Rat Pack type guy who would dispense advice on love and life to the crew of Deep Space 9. He originally tried to introduce the character during the fourth season, where he would be played by Frank Sinatra, Jr. Behr and Robert Hewitt Wolfe wrote a sample scene and casting director Ron Surma brought it to Sinatra, but he was only interested in playing an alien - he didn't want to play a human, and he certainly didn't want to play a character partly based on his own father. During the fifth season then, Behr and René Echevarria decided to introduce the character in the episode "A Simple Investigation". This time, a proper scene was written, and the character was given the name Vic Fontaine. Behr wanted Steve Lawrence to play the role, but when the first draft of the script ran long, and Lawrence proved unavailable, the scene was dropped altogether. Over the course of the following year, the role was offered to Robert Goulet, Tom Jones and Jerry Vale, all of whom turned it down. Then, Behr and his close friend Frederick Rappaport ran into James Darren at a memorabilia sale in Beverly Hills. Neither of them knew him, but Rappaport went up to him and starting chatting like they were old friends. According to Behr, "I see this guy is handling Fred so well, and is so smooth, and so friendly, and so likable, and looks so good." As such, Behr decided to offer Darren the role. The next day, Surma sent the script of "His Way" to Darren, and Darren agreed to come in for a talk, although he emphasized he wasn't going to audition or do a reading, he was just coming in for a conversation. When he came in, he began to discuss how he owns a pair of Dean Martin's shoes, and, as Behr explains, "Suddenly, he starts talking about him and Frank and Dean and gambling and making all this money, and suddenly, we realize that he's doing the part. It catches us totally by surprise. We're sitting there with the script pages and don't even realize it. He had gone right from being Jimmy to being Vic – without a beat."

- Neither Nana Visitor nor Rene Auberjonois wanted Kira and Odo to become romantically involved, with both of them feeling that the characters should remain just close friends. According to Visitor, "I'm not much of a fan of Odo and Kira being together, but they found a way to make it all make sense. I've always felt I have to open my mouth and pick my fights. And even though I know there's a certain amount of fights I'm going to lose, I always do it anyway. That was one I lost."

- Although the first take of the kiss between Odo and Kira was the one seen in the finished episode, the experience of acting in the scene was not particularly enjoyable. As Auberjonois explains, "We started the scene and when we got to the mark, boom, we kissed each other. When they yelled cut, we stopped. I looked at Nana, and her face was sort of orange, and weird, and Dean Jones, my makeup artist, looked at me and went, 'Oh God.' We had been so anxious about it we just sort of went 'Khuh,' and kissed, and my makeup got all over her face and I tore my mask! Now when people ask, 'Well, what was it like to kiss Nana?' I say, 'The definition of safe-sex is this latex mask. It was the most unsensual kiss I'd ever had. I didn't feel anything'."

- This episode was not entirely well received by some fans, something which bitterly disappointed Behr; "The quality of the show is not apparent to everyone, and that's really, really sad. Because that show is as perfect an episode as we ever did. You would be hard-pressed to find moments that don't work. It does exactly what it's supposed to. As loony as the show might seem, it's a real triumph. I'm not saying it's the only triumph by any means, but it's the one that's most masked, I guess, the one that's toughest for the audience to recognize."

- Rene Auberjonois commented "When I got the script for "His Way", I resisted it the first time I read it. I thought, 'oh, this is silly'. I thought that because I was so into the painful aspects of Odo, the tortured hidden love aspect of his relationship with Major Kira, I could feel myself sort of going into the place of 'my character wouldn't do that'. I then did what I always try to do. I took a deep breath and I sat down, then read the script right through again. By the time I read the script for the second time I was convinced that it was the right way to go and I really looked forward to doing it. It turned out to be one of the most enjoyable experiences I've had so far on the show".


"A square – You know what a square is, right?"
"One side of a cube?"
"I guess that answers my question."

- Vic Fontaine and O'Brien


"By the way, this is a high-class joint. That means coats and ties for the gents, dresses for the ladies. You guys look like a trapeze act."

- Vic Fontaine, to the uniformed DS9 staff as they leave his club


"Look, pally, you want to win the girl, we've got to thaw you out a little... It's time to have some fun!"
"What does fun have to do with Major Kira?"
"I'll pretend I didn't hear that."

- Vic and Odo


"The only chick he wants to swing with is you."
"I take it that's a good thing."

- Vic Fontaine and Kira Nerys
posted by CheesesOfBrazil (21 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
"The quality of the show is not apparent to everyone, and that's really, really sad. Because that show is as perfect an episode as we ever did. You would be hard-pressed to find moments that don't work. It does exactly what it's supposed to. As loony as the show might seem, it's a real triumph. I'm not saying it's the only triumph by any means, but it's the one that's most masked, I guess, the one that's toughest for the audience to recognize."

"This is a fucking great episode. Youse are all fucking idiots. Now get out."
posted by dng at 7:13 AM on September 8, 2016


I like the Odo and Kira relationship, partly because it was such a slow burn and because they were clearly such good friends. I don't love the way this episode is set up- I find it kinda cheesy- but I'm glad they finally went there.
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:31 AM on September 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


Much as I like the Vic Fontaine Character, and his cool logo, the idea of a 24th Century British Doctor loving 60s Americana seems a bit much. I know he loves Bond style stuff, but still, the lounge singer thing is so American it seems off to me.

And I love James Darren as Vic, he is perfect in the role, he is so believable. Also the idea he knows he is a hologram is ace, but having him able to shift between holodecks seems a bit iffy - what if you were running one of Riker's "special" holodeck programs, or an Orion Slave Girl Episode?

The start and run up is all a bit slow paced, until Kira turns up and then it gets better, as the chemistry between the two runs the show.
posted by marienbad at 8:22 AM on September 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


This episode was not entirely well received by some fans, something which bitterly disappointed Behr; "The quality of the show is not apparent to everyone, and that's really, really sad.

It's funny: I'm one of those fans who really did not like this episode. Not, like, Worst Episode Ever territory, it just fell flat for me on a number of levels, including that I find 'Starfleet guys want to inhabit idealized historical fiction' a pretty tired trope. (I honestly found Trek era meets Modern Day dead horse territory by the end of TOS, and very little that happened later worked that well for me. Amusingly, it's one of the only places Voyager ever took the cake for me: Captain Proton was hilarious, and much more where I would expect holodeck tech to go.)

At the same time, I really feel for him, ever having sold a story myself. I understand what it's like - on a microscopic scale by comparison - to toil at something, love it... and be told 'meh.' I guess I'm glad I never posted a screed about it anywhere he might see, because Behr did good work, and was certainly entitled one of these every so often.

"I've always felt I have to open my mouth and pick my fights. And even though I know there's a certain amount of fights I'm going to lose, I always do it anyway. That was one I lost."

I really need to write Nana Visitor some fan mail or follow her Twitter or whatever people do to indicate 'you are awesome.' in our cyberpunk dystopian present.

Although the first take of the kiss between Odo and Kira was the one seen in the finished episode, the experience of acting in the scene was not particularly enjoyable. As Auberjonois explains, "We started the scene and when we got to the mark, boom, we kissed each other. When they yelled cut, we stopped. I looked at Nana, and her face was sort of orange, and weird, and Dean Jones, my makeup artist, looked at me and went, 'Oh God.'

This anecdote makes the entire episode worthwhile for me.
posted by mordax at 12:43 PM on September 8, 2016


First of all, happy 50th birthday to Star Trek!

I'd known that some fans didn't/don't like Vic, either because they found the character grating, or they didn't like the trope of "future always digs modern/Earth culture the most" (not sure what the formal trope name is), such as having TNG do the Dixon Hill holodeck stuff. (I don't really have a problem with that, both because it's obvious that it would be really expensive to have them go to a really exotic culture and design the props, costumes, makeup, etc. just for a brief throwaway bit, and also because our culture would be pretty exotic to people 400 years from now, and at the same time it's not completely improbable that it might also be still popular; we still listen to baroque music, and Shakespeare is still performed, regressive attitudes, Elizabethan puns and dirty jokes, and all.) I kind of admire the DS9 showrunners for deciding to do a character like this simply because they felt like it.

The thing that I really find interesting about Vic is how they establish, without quite coming out and saying it, that he's a sentient being. They show him talking to holo-Kira after Odo leaves, and then there's his request to leave the program running for a while after Odo leaves at the end. Trek had historically not done really great with AI before that; it was shown as almost always a menace in TOS (including The Motion Picture), and although TNG did better, because of one of the characters being an AI, they also had the episode in which Starfleet considered retroactively declaring him an un-person because they wanted to crank out more copies of him. Regarding holographic AIs, the one example they had ended up being coaxed into a box and then... being put on a shelf, I guess, since we never saw him again. That's a weird difference in fates for two AIs, especially since the franchise has traditionally been about respecting life in all forms; they can respect a silicon-based life form such as the Horta, and even Data who's got a stand-alone body, but someone that they created and that needs to live in their machinery, not so much. Some of it may be some uncertainty about just what makes an AI fully sentient; Vic and Moriarty are seen as being exceptional compared to almost every other holodeck character, even though most other characters could probably pass the Turing test. (The videogame series Mass Effect makes a formal distinction between an AI and a VI (virtual intelligence), with the former being illegal because of one race's nearly being wiped out by a successful robot rebellion, although the games' resident AI, EDI, successfully fakes a sort-of reverse Turing test and poses as a VI.) Of course, the franchise would explore this in more depth and at more length with the Doctor in Voyager. Probably one of the reasons why Vic is sentient is that he effectively functions as a counselor, which requires more subjective judgment, as does the EMH.

The above is mostly in the context of the franchise as a whole, though, and the episode's real strength is its humor and generally playful attitude. Odo gets to delight in faking his way through piano playing, and Nana Visitor gives a great performance of "Fever"; it's a shame that she didn't get to sing more on the show, as she's got a lot of musical stage cred, as does Auberjonois, although his brief bit singing "They Can't Take That Away From Me" is AFAIK the only singing that he does on the show. It was also neat to see Avery Brooks chiming in on that as well, since he has such a great voice; we got to hear a bit of his singing in "Far Beyond the Stars", as well, and he'll have his own musical moment with Vic later on (along with a different perspective on the 60s Rat Pack milieu).
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:55 PM on September 8, 2016 [2 favorites]


The thing is, Behr was right. This episode is great, and the fans were wrong. Behr had a terrific sense of what worked in those days, he ran the hell out of the show. (You read that DS9 Companion book, and it becomes super clear that Behr was the guy who made DS9 be DS9. There were plenty of great writers and the actors contributed a lot of course, but the buck stopped with Behr.) I've sometimes wondered how he managed to be so very good for the run of DS9, and not produce anything comparable in the years before or since. His version of The Twilight Zone was a steaming pile, just unwatchably, amateurishly bad. How was Ira Steven Behr's Twilight Zone that bad??
posted by Ursula Hitler at 1:13 AM on September 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


I too am a Vic Fontaine defender, but I wasn't at first, even though I have some fondness for the Sinatra Et Al. genre of song. Where the writers nailed it wasn't so much this episode IMO—it's a solid introduction to the Fontaine character, but the story IS inescapably cheesy—but in later development of Vic. "Paper Moon" and "Badda-Bing" are wonderful, and the series finale would not have been the series finale without him.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 5:42 AM on September 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


The thing is, Behr was right. This episode is great, and the fans were wrong.

Eh. I don't think it works that way.

Like, saying the episode was garbage or not technically skilled or something is surely wrong: everyone displays skill, and the finished product on the screen is what the creators intended. They didn't make a mistake, they didn't fail to understand what they were doing, etc. Behr is good at what he does, and so is everyone else. (I dislike Vic Fontaine, but the actor's right for the role and offers a good performance, no question.) It's not bad.

However, an essential part of art is that it is a communicative act between the creator and the audience. Getting the audience on board with something is part of the dance: the right idea at the wrong time, or a good idea in the wrong place is still a misstep, unless it was done on purpose. They wanted it to be well received and it was not, and that's not really on the fans, I think - that's a 'read the room' thing.

(Sometimes making the audience uncomfortable is the point, and that's a different animal: Buffy's episode The Body, anything by Lars von Trier, etc. I'm speaking if it was not, and it was clearly not the idea in the case of His Way.)

I've sometimes wondered how he managed to be so very good for the run of DS9, and not produce anything comparable in the years before or since.

I think it's the chemistry between various creators, myself: sometimes a story isn't about the one guiding storyteller so much as people in a room bouncing ideas off each other until brilliance is achieved, each one understanding one story element intimately and with the entire group willing to listen to and work with each other.

Some of the Memory Alpha anecdotes about how stories started off and how they ended up has offered some good insight into the process on DS9 in particular, IMO. (Nana Visitor pressing on the writers about Kira Nerys, or pretty much the entire story of how In the Pale Moonlight started off as a Jake Sisko news story, and so on.)

I've seen that on a much smaller scale doing roleplaying games versus writing stories on my own: chemistry between participants can have a huge effect on the finished product, if the people in the room are all good and on the same page.
posted by mordax at 9:17 AM on September 9, 2016 [5 favorites]


Oh, hey, guess whose birthday it is today?
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:58 PM on September 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


I love that the Wayoun Tumblr is named after Wayoun-five!

Also, gotta agree with mordax, and again disagree with Hitler: the idea that the episode is great because the creator says so even as everyone dislikes it doesn't feel right to me. It works well as an introduction to Vic, and how he is/works (the self awareness stuff) and it brings Kira and Odo together nicely, although after what happened on the children of time planet I am surprised Kira still wants to get with him - imho they should have kept them apart, but I can understand (from the MA stuff in the FPP) why they brought them together. Still don't agree, but still.

But the episode fails because it is weak, there isn't much plot, and Vic is all too new and yet everyone goes along with what he says. Odo is good as a fish out of water, and the singing part in Sisko's office is fantastic, would have like to see that scene expanded, and the trick at the end, where Odo doesn't realise that she is actual Kira not holo Kira is neat, but overall I would give this episode about 4 lightbulbs out of 10.
posted by marienbad at 2:30 PM on September 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


I love that the Wayoun Tumblr is named after Wayoun-five!

Ahahaha. Yes! And Jeffrey Combs is always so much *fun*. He brings the sort of energy where I wish I could just hang out with him. (I don't feel that way about a ton of stars, but he just has good vibes.)

Oh, I actually poked my nose in here because I meant to address this:
That's a weird difference in fates for two AIs, especially since the franchise has traditionally been about respecting life in all forms; they can respect a silicon-based life form such as the Horta, and even Data who's got a stand-alone body, but someone that they created and that needs to live in their machinery, not so much.

This has always, always bothered me in Trek. It's a common theme in speculative fiction - artificial intelligence being less worthy of respect and equal treatment than organic life - and while I find it easy to believe, it's always jarring. Droids in Star Wars, every computer James T. Kirk talked to death, Superman being willing to trash Braniac but not Lex Luthor, and so on.

I think the part that bothers me the most is that, should we develop deep AI, I think that's really how it's going to go, and that's a sad notion. (Beyond what that means for sapient beings, I think it breeds callousness... and oy, I suddenly have an idea for a novel I don't have time to write. Heh.)
posted by mordax at 2:51 PM on September 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


Something else that tickles me a little: James Darren has a sort-of Trek connection--he was on T.J. Hooker. (I hadn't remembered because I didn't watch the show, except for the episode that guest-starred Leonard Nimoy.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:07 PM on September 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


Eh. I don't think it works that way.

I think it depends on the show and the creator. There are times when a show badly loses its way, and the fans have a good point when they complain. But it's worth remembering that DS9 was hammered relentlessly by the fans during its run. It was too dark, they missed the exploratory element from the other shows, there was too much Bajoran stuff and religious woo-woo, etc. A lot of great stuff in this series (including the serial element) came from Behr flying directly in the face of the fans, critics and Paramount itself, who were all telling him he was doing everything wrong. He followed his instincts, the haters be damned, and time has largely proven him right.

Sometimes that kind of stubborness can be a fiasco for a show, but in this case it worked. If they'd listened to the fans Sisko probably would have signed on as captain of the Defiant in season two to explore the galaxy, and DS9 would have become a watered-down TNG clone. I doubt we'd be talking about it 23 years after it premiered.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 6:30 PM on September 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


I think it depends on the show and the creator. There are times when a show badly loses its way, and the fans have a good point when they complain.

Mm. We're coming at this from entirely different angles, from the sound of this.

I don't think complaints - even my own special snowflake complaints that are Clearly Right - necessarily actually warrant action, acknowledgment or even notice on the part of a creator. For instance, I am actively hate watching The Strain. It's like a trainwreck, especially the episode that actually contained a trainwreck. I have a *million* ideas that might improve it. However, I don't really think that's Guillermo del Toro's problem. I don't want him to adjust trajectory to take my views into account. That would rub me the wrong way if it magically happened.

I just like to complain about it a bit in a thread here at Fanfare, because it's fun to pick apart why bad things are bad instead of just shrugging and changing the channel - part of the value of a story is in its dissection. Now that I write for money, I feel like it's a professional concern to understand what works and what doesn't.

The only time I want fan pressure to affect a finished product is to prevent harm to living people. I feel like fans agitating about poor representation of women, LGBTQA, POC and so on is worthwhile. I have real problems with the effect CSI and 24 have had on discourse in various venues. But I don't think fan pressure is a good thing beyond those kinds of confines, because you are absolutely right that it would lead to basically nothing but watered down garbage. (This sort of pressure is exactly why summer blockbusters all look alike now.)

So... yeah. it actually sounds like we agree a lot more than we disagree. I am certainly behind you about Behr being correct to air His Way in, well, his way. It was the right call, whether it succeeded or not. I also don't expect great storytellers to always succeed - I figure that the best people are going to take risks rather than always stick with safe and comfortable popcorn stories, and risks won't always pan out. It's all in the game.

I just maintain this one didn't work out. It's okay that it didn't. (I also think marienbad had better insight into why than I did - I'll admit this is the first time I've ever given this episode serious thought beyond 'meh, bet next week's is better.')
posted by mordax at 9:08 PM on September 10, 2016


The only time I want fan pressure to affect a finished product is to prevent harm to living people. I feel like fans agitating about poor representation of women, LGBTQA, POC and so on is worthwhile. I have real problems with the effect CSI and 24 have had on discourse in various venues. But I don't think fan pressure is a good thing beyond those kinds of confines, because you are absolutely right that it would lead to basically nothing but watered down garbage. (This sort of pressure is exactly why summer blockbusters all look alike now.)

It also, to my mind, explains why elements of the Hannibal finale were unsatisfying: too much obvious fan-pandering. Here's hoping Bryan Fuller doesn't repeat that pattern and listen too closely to us Trekkies, because, my god…it could turn out worse than Enterprise.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 5:42 AM on September 11, 2016


I read the other day that Fuller is seriously considering using one of those speech-synthesis programs to recreate Majel Barrett's voice as the computer on the new Trek show. I hope he does it, because that is such a sweet Easter egg for the long-time fans. Dude is a legit Trekkie, which gives me hope. (JJ Abrams has no idea who Majel Barrett was, and if he found out he wouldn't give a shit.)
posted by Ursula Hitler at 1:19 PM on September 11, 2016 [3 favorites]


The problem with your argument (and Behr's) is that the criticisms of this episode here are coming from people who love ST:DS9, and all its characters and ideas. I am a big fan and I still don't like this episode, whereas there are other episodes that some fans might dislike and I might like. So the idea that the creator can tell people who love the show which episodes are great is just wrong. I agree he shouldn't have listened to the fans who complained at the time, but it still doesn't make this a great episode, even as DS9 is a great show.
posted by marienbad at 4:02 PM on September 11, 2016


These things are subjective. I can only say that Behr was "right" insofar as I agree with him. But I do agree with him here, and I think this is a pivotal episode and one that really worked. All the stuff with Vic, and Odo and Kira's romance, that was really divisive to the fans then and still is, but to me that stuff became essential to the show. I think the show was much improved by the show's creators stubbornly fighting for stuff against the studio, the fans, the critics and sometimes even their own cast. It usually doesn't work like that, but in this case it did!
posted by Ursula Hitler at 11:11 PM on September 11, 2016


I think that Behr was right that this is a good television episode and it's good storytelling. Where he's wrong is thinking that it's a good Star Trek episode.
posted by 2ht at 6:17 AM on September 12, 2016 [2 favorites]


I thought this episode was extremely dumb, but I was okay with extremely dumb after watching In the Pale Moonlight.

I did find it odd that, given Trek's reaction to AI and the fact that they were in the middle of a war, nobody seemed to worry about the AI was able to get into the security comms. No worries whatsoever about this, guys?

And generally, between the usual romantic comedy advice that's generally creepy when applied real life (if you give a woman flowers and treat her nice, she has to fall in love with you!) and the fact that I don't really see Kira liking Odo in that way - especially after not-really-resolving the beginning of this season, this episode just didn't work for me. That horrific kiss didn't help matters, either.

I don't think that Behr needed to listen to the fans, but if I've learned anything from the Memory Alpha tidbits, it's that Behr definitely needed to listen to Nana Visitor.

I have a headcanon that AI Vic Fontaine is deliberately hiding out from Bashir because Fontaine finds him annoying, which is why he's so interested in Odo. Also, I think it's totally in character for Bashir to be REALLY INTO a very specific era of the past and will drag everyone else in with him while he geeks out. Dude's an SCA nerd if there's ever been one.
posted by dinty_moore at 2:37 PM on January 16, 2017


Oh goodness this was not a great episode

I mean

It was no Move Along Home, but it definitely felt like an episode from the first season or two

Also it felt like an episode where the A-plot was just missing, so they expanded the B-plot to fill the rest of the hour-long time slot

Guys, I did not enjoy this episode very much
posted by DoctorFedora at 2:20 AM on October 8, 2018


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