“Too many people dream of places they’ll never go, wish for things they’ll never have, instead of paying adequate attention to their real lives.”
— Constable Odo
I’m going to level with you guys here. This is a tough one to write about. Not just because it’s bad, but because it’s bad in precisely the ways I’ve previously complained about in Season One’s other lowlights. It feels like a terrible episode of TNG. The characters have yet to come to life. It’s so very, very silly in that way only bad Star Trek can be. But, when picked apart, the episode actually does have some fascinating territory to cover.
The title comes from a Scottish proverb: “If wishes were horses, Rainbow Dash would be everywhere.” It’s possible I got that wrong. Anyway, this is a reference to the central problem the crew faces this week, namely that their imaginations have gained the power to mess with reality. Chief O’Brien, reading the story of Rumplestiltskin to his ridiculously adorable daughter Molly, accidentally incarnates the little imp himself (played by Michael J. Anderson, who you remember as the Little Man from Another Place on Twin Peaks). Jake Sisko, fresh from playing baseball in the holosuite, creates Buck Bokai, the fictional Greatest of All Time (played by Keone Young, who was the incredible Mr. Wu on Deadwood, and before you ask, no, he never says his signature line). Lastly, Dr. Bashir creates a doppelganger of Dax (a Daxxelganger?), sort of an air-headed, oversexed evil twin for the aloof Science Officer (sadly, sans Goatee of Evil). There are also emus on the Promenade. So many emus. The episode never answers the most salient question: Who on the station is thinking about emus all the time? Frankly, I’m a little scared of whoever that is.
These three apparitions seem to be intelligent, while many of the others are not. (No word on the emus, although a smash cut to the developing Emu Resistance Cell would pretty much be the best thing ever.) Meanwhile, a subspace rift has appeared next to the station and looks like it’s going to eat everything like a yonic Galactus. Now, I’m sure you, gentle reader, possessing at least two brain cells to rub together, can figure out exactly what’s going on here with the rift. Well, it takes the crew the whole hour. Yeah, it’s a figment of their imaginations too, and once the command staff claps for Tinkerbell, the rift goes away. Turns out the apparitions are avatars of some other race of explorers who want to study our imaginations. It’s so, so silly. But, that’s not to say there’s not some interesting stuff in here.
The episode opens on a wonderful conversation between Quark and Odo. I’ve probably already singled out Armin Shimerman and Rene Auberjonois as the strongest performers in the main cast, but I’m going to do so again. They’re really that good. And, it’s not just how good they are on their own, it’s how much chemistry the two men have together. The delirious verbal sparring that opens the episode is the perfect blend of rat-a-tat one-upsmanship, grudging respect, and actual character building that is DS9 at its best, and the punchline to the whole exchange, Odo’s “You’re disgusting,” and Quark’s, “It’s a living,” could not more perfectly encapsulate both of them. It’s like watching two great tennis players, or, more accurately, one great tennis player hitting balls at a grouchy bear. Quark’s plan, prompted when Jake leaves the holosuite wearing his “baseball mitten,” is to expand into family entertainment. This is right about the time Las Vegas was doing the same thing, going from the delightfully sleazy mob town to the explodegasm masquerading as a city it is today.
Harmon “Buck” Bokai addresses one of my pet peeves in sci-fi. A lot of the time, the past only seems to extend to the past of the audience, rather than the past of the characters, so you get a period of dead history between the real present and the present of the show where nothing seemed to have happened. Creating Bokai shows that at least baseball history progressed past where it had when the show aired (and in a bit of trivia, Buck is due to be born next Halloween in Marina Del Rey, a suburb in South LA). Sisko, massive baseball fan that he is, wanted to play with the greatest, and while it would have been easy to have that just be Babe Ruth (Ty Cobb might have been a little awkward for so many reasons.), Bokai cuts a far more interesting figure. The fact that he also played for a team that doesn’t exist in our world — the London Kings — and that baseball is largely confined to the history books, adds to the tapestry.
The Bashir and Dax stuff becomes interesting largely in light of the recent shift in the conversation about the dreaded Friend Zone. I know the term itself has become somewhat loaded — and with good reason — but this is exactly what happens here. Bashir comes on to Dax, and she tells him, “I value your friendship.” When I first watched this, I was more sympathetic to Bashir’s plight, because it was the early ‘90s, and I knew more about the Loch Ness Monster than I did about people with vaginas. I was an idiot, but that’s the great joy of youth. You’re stupid, but everyone is okay with it. In the twenty-odd years since, Bashir has gone from pathetic to more than a little creepy, and that’s probably the healthier way to see him. Because, seriously dude, she said no. And, the one thing I did know back then and still know now, no means no. Besides, if there’s one thing people hate, it’s neediness. The point is, back at this time, the concept of “the Friend Zone” was in its infancy, while it is currently being torn down as many people point out that being friends is a good thing and shouldn’t be regarded as a punishment. Me, I just want to slap Bashir upside the head, tell him to respect Dax, respect himself, and cut this nonsense out.
Next up: Odo gets stalked.