“Badda-Bing, Badda-Bang” DS9 7X15

The fabulous Anne Thériault joins me for another evening of feminist Trek commentary. As with our last reviews (“Justice” and “Wrongs Darker Than Death or Night”), her comments are in bold.

Miles and Julian

We begin in the holosuite, where Bashir and O’Brien are trying to convince Vic to come hang out in the Alamo program. Vic’s not sure whether he’d look good in a coonskin cap, so he deflects their inquiry by crooning a song. 

(Evidently his band is on-call any time Vic is even in the room – no coffee breaks for you, musicians!)

Julio’brien (my new bromance couple name for them) listen to the song and chuckle good-naturedly.

They’re such weirdos.

But then…everything changes…

dancer strutting into the screen

Where there once was an empty casino floor there are now crowds of rowdy mobsters. And Vic’s all-male band is getting pushed off the stage by women dancers.

Miles and Julian look confused

Bashir and O’Brien are like, “Ewww. I came here to get away from girls.”

(Seriously. Remember, Julio’brien just tried to recruit Vic for a holoprogram they consider too private to share with Kira and Dax.) 

Enter one Frankie Eyes. Frankie has bought the hotel and he’s firing Vic. Julio’brien try to put a stop to this by freezing the program and deleting the offending characters, but no dice. 

The dice come later in this episode. 

Our attention is briefly redirected to what is possibly the least scandalous burlesque that’s ever occurred in Las Vegas. 

Burlesque dancers

Hello, look at us – we’re fully clothed.

So things are looking bad for Vic. After the opening credits, nearly the entire crew is talking about the situation while on duty in Ops.

Sisko finds everyone talking in Ops

Sisko comes out and is like, “Do none of you have jobs?”

Team Sisko.

I also feel the need to point out when Kira’s the one shutting down non-work-related conversations in Ops, everyone on the station gossips about how irritable she is. Bet they aren’t going to pull that on Sisko.

Kasidy at dinner

He cannot, however, escape Kasidy’s scrutiny. Over dinner (which he cooked because he is awesome), she seems to touch a nerve when she brings up Vic’s, and he refuses to say why he’s never been there. Kasidy drops it for the time being.

Miles and Julian with an injured Vic

O’Brien and Bashir go to Vic’s hotel room to tell him they’ve figured out what’s going on – the program designer, Felix, has designed this “jack-in-the-box” in the program to add excitement. The only way to get rid of it is to beat Frankie Eyes. 

They find find Vic and find him with a black eye. He collapses into their arms. Apparently Frankie sent his goons to hustle Vic out of the hotel because Vic used to beat Frankie at stickball as kids.

You know how it was, those New Jersey stickball rivalries.

Down in the casino, Odo and Kira are scoping things out. Well, Odo, is mostly scoping out the cabaret girls, who appear to be staging a number from the musical Cabaret with Vic’s band.

Dancing girls sitting on chairs

Kira laughs and tells him to enjoy himself, which might be less weird if he hadn’t practiced his courtship skills on a Kira hologram in this very lounge before he started dating her.

Kira whispers in Odo's ear

But with Odo not hanging on her arm, Kira quickly attracts the attention of Frankie Eyes, who hits on her while she’s playing blackjack by verbally abusing the dealer until he deals a card that lets her win.

Frankie: Twenty six? What’s wrong with you? (he throws the card back at the dealer). Again (he deals a Queen and Frankie throws it back again). You’re starting to aggravate me, pal (deals a five). Twenty one, finally. Pay the lady.

Frankie: “I treat everyone like garbage. Want to sleep with me now?”

Odo finally stops ogling the dancers in time to make an acquaintance with Frankie’s goon, Cheech, and to impress Cheech and his buddies with shapeshifter bar tricks.

Later, he and Kira report to the group that Frankie Eyes was able to buy the casino because a mob boss named Mr. Zeemo fronted the money. Zeemo gets the “skim” from the casino profits.

O’Brien gets the idea that the way to get rid of Frankie Eyes is to rob the casino so Frankie can’t get Zeemo his money. Frankie Eyes shows her the count room.

A plan is hatched and the groundwork begins.

Frankie Eyes and Kira

Kira scopes out the count room with Frankie Eyes. Meanwhile, Kasidy plays the slots while hitting on the count room guard.

And Odo uses his in with Cheech to get Ezri a job as a waitress.

Odo introduzes Ezri to Frankie

So in this heist, two out of three of the women’s roles are to seduce men to distract them. Ezri gets her job by being attractive and seemingly non-threatening, and ends up having to wear the most ridiculous outfit ever while doing it.

When Kasidy reports back to Ben, he’s still upset at her being involved, and finally says why.

Sisko and Kasidy argue

Sisko: You want to know? You really want to know what my problem is? I’ll tell you. Las Vegas nineteen sixty two, that’s my problem. In nineteen sixty two, black people weren’t very welcome there. Oh, sure they could be performers or janitors, but customers? Never.

Kasidy: Maybe that’s the way it was in the real Vegas, but that is not the way it is at Vic’s. I have never felt uncomfortable there and neither has Jake.

Sisko: But don’t you see, that’s the lie. In nineteen sixty two, the Civil Rights movement was still in its infancy. It wasn’t an easy time for our people and I’m not going to pretend that it was.

Kasidy: Baby, I know that Vic’s isn’t a totally accurate representation of the way things were, but it isn’t meant to be. It shows us the way things could have been. The way they should’ve been.

Sisko: We cannot ignore the truth about the past.

Kasidy: Going to Vic’s isn’t going to make us forget who we are or where we came from. What it does is it reminds us that we’re no longer bound by any limitations, except the ones we impose on ourselves.

Yeah, still on Team Sisko.

This is actually a really important scene. Sisko has a point: all his mostly-white crew members love to go out and hang out in a representation of the segregated past. That’s super problematic. 

And yet so many times in Trek the characters enjoy historical time travelling or holodeck adventures, celebrating the nostalgia for those times as if it’s a universal sentiment. See “Our Man Bashir” or the Sherlock Holmes and Dixon Hill adventures in TNG – or even the Alamo, where no one ever draws attention to the racism or sexism of the time/source material.

Bashir and Miles

Back in Vic’s room, everyone is in their leisure clothes, feeling stressed because one piece of their plan is missing. Also no one is much impressed with Julio’brien’s shirts. They’re like Picard leisure time shirts with less exposed chest.

Kasidy and Ezri

There is so much satin and crushed velvet going on. I can’t even.

Anyway, Sisko caves and offers to fill the missing role: being the high roller that Vic can draw in. This will get Vic back into the casino and provide a distraction so patrons don’t notice the casino robbing shenanigans.

Sisko and Nog

With all the players in place, the group rehearses the plan. Kira’s going to distract Frankie Eyes, Ezri is going to take a drink to Bashir, who will slip ipecac into her other drink for one of the count men. While the other count man is on his nightly phone call with his wife, Ezri will take the drink in, as well as Odo, masquerading as her tray. Kasidy will then distract the guard by accusing O’Brien of stealing her chips.

Kasidy: I go running up to the guard and tell him Chief O’Brien has stolen my chips. 
Vic: Do whatever you need to do to keep him distracted. And don’t be afraid to turn on the waterworks. And Chief, you play innocent.

Kasidy fakes crying to  the security guard

Don’t be afraid to cry like a girl. Guys dig that.

Nog, dressed as a janitor, will sneak into the count room once the count man runs out to vomit, open the safe, and walk out with Odo carrying the money in his shapeshifted briefcase.

Gotta say Bashir’s role seems pretty useless. Why couldn’t he have just given Ezri the ipecac to put in the drink? I’m guessing he really just wanted to play poker and pretend he was helping.

Everyone then goes their separate ways to practice pieces of it. Nog practices opening a combination lock on a safe door in the conference room. Did they replicate it? Seriously, things are getting out of hand.

Meanwhile, Sisko practices…rolling dice.

dice showing 2 fives

Um, I don’t think that’s how dice work. 

And it’s time to go:

The crew in period costume on the promenade on the way to Vic's

Step one: Kira slides in beside Frankie Eyes.

Frankie and Kira

Kira slides in beside Frankie Eyes and has perfect responses prepared for literally anything Frankie says. Probably helps that he’s predictable

Frankie: Looking good, as usual, dollface.

Kira: I’m glad you like what you see.

Frankie: I only wish I could see more.

Kira: Well you know what they say, good things come to those who wait.

Frankie: Who are they and how much of you have they seen?

Kira: I never kiss and tell. 

The plan starts going off the rails when Ezri’s tray of drinks gets knocked over. Bashir bails her out by grabbing someone else’s drinks.

Ezri carrying a drink on a tray

I feel like instead of timing Nog practicing opening the safe, Ezri should’ve been practicing waitressing. Seriously, she’s holding one drink on one tray with two hands.

This is taking all my concentration.

Another hitch in the plan when the count man isn’t the usual guy and doesn’t want to drink the martini. Ezri tries to fool him by asking if she can drink it.

Credit for good use of reverse psychology.

Back in the casino, Kasidy accuses Miles of stealing her chips.

Miles, Kasidy and the guard

Miles O’Brien in a fedora? That’s fairly appropriate.

And then another hitch: Mr. Zeemo shows up early to get the money. Kira tries to distract him but it fails, and the count-room guard sends Miles away to be strip searched (supposed to be funny but really not) so Sisko starts throwing handfuls of cash into the air and Kasidy starts crying into the guard’s chest.

Kasidy crying on the guard's chest

Luckily the extra delays work and Nog and Odo pull off the heist.

Zeemo and Frankie looking into the empty safe

Everything returns to normal.

Sisko’s like, “I hate my life.”

Vic and Sisko

It’s probably easier to forget the history of racism when you’re singing with Vic. Seriously, that guy can fix anyone’s issues. Luckily Sisko has all the songs of the early 20th century memorized.

When I was a kid I adored this episode. I loved watching all our characters get dressed up and pull off a heist. Over the years I heard a lot of people say they dislike the episode because it’s silly, because it wastes time in a packed seventh season, because it’s hard to believe the whole senior staff can spend another entire episode in the holosuite in the middle of a war, etc.

But while I think there’s a lot of fun to be had in this episode, the real problem for me is how we never really get to explore Sisko’s concern about glossing over the racism of the era they’re celebrating. As Jamahl Epsicokhan says in his review:

After decades of Gene Roddenberry “color blindness,” the producers of DS9 have tapped into something that could analyze race in an interesting way from a historic perspective without abandoning anything in the 24th century as we know it. This issue is worthy of serious screen time. But you won’t be finding it here: “Badda-Bing, Badda-Bang” raises the issue and then promptly steamrollers through it. With a few heartfelt words, Kasidy is able to change Sisko’s mind with a sentiment that isn’t unreasonable, but in a way that strikes me as too quick given Sisko’s adamancy on such matters of history. Then it quickly becomes a non-issue for the rest of the episode.

There’s also no mention of the problematic Italian mobster stereotypes running rampant in this episode. 

kira and Frankie flirting

Moreover, we get zero acknowledgment of the sexism of the era and setting. Clearly, Kira, Kasidy and Ezri are filling different roles in this plot for a reason. Their gender doesn’t let them be the high roller or the nonchalant poker player. 

As Michelle Green writes in her review at Trek Today:

Am I allowed to complain that in an episode that specifically takes note of the racism of the 1960s, no one says one word about the station’s first officer, a Starfleet counselor, and a freighter captain being reduced to a gold-digging gangster’s girl, a down-on-her-luck waitress, and a simpering Southern belle?

It wasn’t even touched on in the episode, so to help fill that gap, here are just some of the things American women couldn’t do in 1962 [sources here and here]:

  • Get a credit card. Banks could refuse credit cards to unmarried women, and married women’s cards often required their husband’s signature It was not until the Equal Credit Opportunity Act of 1974 that it became illegal to refuse a credit card to a woman based on her gender.
  • Serve on a jury. Though it varied by state, many states prohibited women from serving on juries because it would take them away from their homemaking responsibilities.
  • Attend Yale, Princeton or Harvard.
  • Keep her job if she was pregnant. Women could be fired from work if they became pregnant, until 1978.
  • Run in the Boston Marathon. Until 1972.
  • Refuse to have sex with her husband. It wasn’t until 1993 that marital rape was criminalized in all 50 states, although most criminalized it in the 1970s. Even today some states treat marital rape differently.
  • Report sexual harassment in the workplace. The first time a court recognized sexual harassment in the workplace was 1977 and sexual harassment wasn’t officially defined and recognized until 1980 by the EEOC.

Glamorizing 1962 Las Vegas is just one example of Trek nostalgia for times and spaces where straight, white men ruled the roost. At least “Badda-Bing, Badda-Bang” makes a cursory attempt to problematize the racism. But ultimately I don’t think it does enough to live up to core Star Trek principles.

Bechdel Test: Fail. Kira, Ezri and Kasidy are in the same scenes but always talking to the larger group.

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