the story: Worf and Dax vacation on Risa, but end up fighting the whole time.
what it's all about: The idea of morality in Star Trek seemed so often to veer toward the '60s counterculture ideals of total freedom (except in the case of Harry Mudd) it's extremely eye-opening for an episode to question how far, if indeed too far, they've gone. This is one of those controversial episodes for that very reason, an uncomfortable viewing experience that happens to feature Worf coming to peace with his new home.
Like every other character in Deep Space Nine, Worf was incredibly uncomfortable in his life when he first came to the station. He'd had a home, famously, with the crew of Next Generation (to the point where he appeared in every movie derived from it, even though two of them, First Contact and Insurrection, overlapped with his tenure at the station), and despite the occasional inconvenience (or outright crisis, which basically explains every time he met another Klingon) he was another happy member of Picard's merry band (though he would protest such a characterization). His addition to Deep Space Nine at the start of the fourth season was kind of apropos of nothing, just like the Klingons the studio insisted be added to the series to broaden its appeal. Subsequent appearances only compounded the problem, until someone finally realized the perfect solution in pairing him with the Klingon-loving Dax, which finally happened earlier in the fifth season ("Looking for par'Mach in All the Wrong Places").
Yet to attempt to craft a happy ending for Worf so abruptly wouldn't have been true to the series or character. So this is the episode where all the ugly details are ironed out, and once and for all Worf can either decide to make peace with the universe...or not. Even in his Next Generation glory days he never quite got to do this, but rather avoid it at every opportunity, finding temporary happiness with Troi, who was the other most likely personal in that crew to understand the desperate need to find acceptance (thanks to her overbearing mother).
So he does a lot of bad things in this episode. In short, Worf is a jerk. To Dax, to Federation principles, you name it. Never before had all those troubled Deep Space Nine characters tried to take it out on each other, even in the early days when Kira wanted to rip Sisko's throat out.
Of course, Worf serves as a metaphor, contrasting his motivations with those of his "friends" who are out to question what the Federation has become, the comparatively shallow nature of their actions compared to what we eventually learn about Worf's reluctance to truly share himself with anyone (something he got to avoid with the empathic Troi).
That it's set on the pleasure planet Risa (Next Generation's "Captain's Holiday," Enterprise's "Two Days and Two Nights") is a nice little link to franchise lore.
- franchise - The rare episode that questions the basic tenets of Star Trek's philosophy.
series- I think this has less to do with Deep Space Nine as a result.
- character - But plenty to say about Worf.
- essential - It's a fascinating case study.
Chase Masterson (Leeta)