In the fifteenth episode of the seventh season of Deep Space Nine, this show went to a very weird place, and I love it. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of anti-black racism.
HOW IS THIS EPISODE REAL??? I’ll admit that “It’s Only a Paper Moon” went a long way towards justifying Vic Fontaine’s continued presence on this show. I’ve been fairly open about how bewildering it is that this character has been made recurring in season seven. Yet I adore how wacky and strange “Badda-Bing, Badda-Bang” is from beginning to end. Allow me to repeat an oft-used phrase around here: this shouldn’t work at all, BUT IT DOES.
Honestly, let’s just start with the premise: the guy who programmed the entire Vic Fontaine story hid a “secret” plot that is triggered when… things get static? Maybe? Something like that? I’m not sure I understand the very basic thing that sets this all in motion. Also, it’s embedded so deeply within the program that no one can remove it? So they just have to “solve” the problem presented in the story, and that will solve everything?
Look, I’m not gonna sit here and tell you that this makes a lick of sense. It’s such a bogus justification and I don’t care. Here I am, admitting this is flawed and bad science. You know why it’s worth it? ONE GIANT HEIST. And “Badda-Bing, Badda-Bang” doesn’t even really subvert the tropes that come along with heist films! IT PLAYS IT ALL PRETTY STRAIGHT, AND I LOVE IT. Oh my god, I have to do this.
Reasons I Love This Episode
- Let’s first start with how game everyone is for this right from the start. (Well, except for one person, but I’ll get to that. Once everyone hears that an old rival from Vic’s past has taken over his bar, ALL of them are like, “Yep, I’m devoting all of my free timeÂ to this fucking holosuite.” NO ONE QUESTIONS THIS AT ALL.
- Everyone gets into character immediately. NO ONE QUESTIONS IT AT ALL.
- This episode reveals that Kassidy has been going to Vic’s in her time off, too, and I’m just… I love it. Even if Vic’s would never be my thing, I love how deliciously nerdy this all is.
- EVERYONE’S OUTFITS ARE SO GOOD HERE AND IT’S AMAZING.
- Seriously, Kira playing the femme fatale is EVERYTHING.
- The montage. The montage. Many of my favorite heist films have them, and this episode joins the time-honored tradition of using a montage to show us how the heist is supposed to work, assuming all goes to plan.
- WHICH IT DOESN’T. EVERYTHING IS A MESS. But in that, the show finds a way to give these characters a chance to improvise, and it’s so satisfying. Look how Julian figures out how to replace the drink that got spilled! Or how Kasidy further distracts the security guard! YES, THANK YOU.
- Through their behavior, the characters inherently value Vic Fontaine. After the end of “It’s Only a Paper Moon,” we learned that Vic’s program would be allowed to run most of the day, something that is unheard of for holosuite programs. Thus, this is a continuation of that, a way for these people to say that Vic, despite being a hologram, still matters to him. They respected his growth and refused to let him get reset! And I’m so fascinated with this because I feel like modern Trek â€“ from The Next Generation through Voyager â€“ has catalogued a new era in the Federation. How often have these people dealt with new forms of life and sentience? From Data to the Doctor to Seven of Nine to Vic… oh, I just love it so much.
- And then there’s Sisko. I feel a little iffy about how his issue is addressed, but let me just tell you: I was shocked to see this episode outright criticize this kind of fantasy. Look, there are many things that I myself have no information playing with, and it’s honestly why I’ve stayed away from things like RP or LARP, or Dungeons and Dragons, or… well, you get the idea. I understand that not everything can be entertaining to everyone, but there’s a context here that’s SO IMPORTANT. I like a good time travel story, but there are entire periods where I couldn’t travel to. I’d probably have a good time with D&D if I ever learned how to play it, but what about all the stereotypes built into the game?
- I’ll take it a step further: I doubt I could get any real joy out of the Alamo holosuite that Julian and Miles are so obsessed with. I’m Latinx, and it would be just weird to fight on the side of people who stole land from people who are like my ancestors! That’s weird.
- However, I don’t want to divorce this from the specific thing that Sisko brings up: Las Vegas in 1962 was not even remotely friendly to black people, and even if this is just an aesthetic re-creation of that time, I 100% understand why Sisko never had any interest in playing with that period. Why erase such a vital part of history? Thus, I felt weird about how the show “convinced” Sisko that it was okay. Yes, I really love his duet at the end of the episode, but the means to get Sisko there felt kinda dismissive, you know? That whole line about how Sisko was “limiting” himself was a low blow because it’s such a common refrain from people who want to deny racism and it’s power. (And coming from the mouth of a black woman on the show, that made it even more insidious.) I assure: Sisko was not the person responsible for “limiting” himself. THAT WOULD BE A HISTORY OF ANTI-BLACKNESS IN THE UNITED STATES, THANKS.
That’s my only nit-picking of the episode because other than that? This was a whole lot of fun. Seriously, it’s a much-needed break from endless pain.
The video for “Badda-Bing, Badda-Bang” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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