1.16: “If Wishes Were Horses”

The main thing I always remember about this episode is that apparently instead of Rumpelstiltskin it was originally going to be a leprechaun, and Colm Meaney was like “uh can u not”. Which…child-stealing is not really a leprechaun thing, is it? Like, Rumpelstiltskin is a much better fit for that to begin with, IMO.

And whenever I rewatch, the main thing I take away is “well, that was slightly more interesting than I remembered”. Which…yes. IDK, for all the flak that “Move Along Home” gets, “If Wishes Were Horses” is usually the first one that jumps to my mind when I’m thinking of why I don’t really like Deep Space Nine‘s first season as much as the rest of the show (though admittedly, it’s usually followed by “Move Along Home” and/or “The Storyteller”). It’s one of Trek’s obligatory “Weird Space Thing/Godlike Alien brings characters/desires/fears to life” episodes, which can be fun but can also be pretty dull, and while there are some fun character moments, it’s hard for me to find anything especially noteworthy. Or, noteworthy in a good way, more specifically.

On which note…

Noteworthy in a bad way

Oh my LORD, maybe one day I will be able to watch this episode and not cringe so hard I collapse into a singularity of second-hand embarrassment from which nothing can escape at Bashir’s fantasy Jadzia, but today is not that day.

(Being a black hole of second-hand embarrassment makes typing tough, by the way.)

Apparently their scenes were difficult to film because Terry Farrell and Alexander Siddig kept breaking, and I’m glad someone was having fun.

I do appreciate that Bashir’s very first thought is to assume that either something’s wrong with Jadzia or something’s wrong with him, implying that he does actually realize, deep down, that it’s never gonna happen. I also appreciate Jadzia’s very pointed delivery of “thoughts that should remain private” and her low-key judginess of Bashir about his fantasy version of her. Like, she’s right that it’s not really fair to judge someone on private fantasies that were never meant for the world to see! There’s a reason holosuites have strict security measures and Bashir is furious in “Our Man Bashir” when Garak sneaks into one of his programs (let alone when it looks like he’s brought the rest of the crew in on it as well); people’s fantasy lives are extremely private.

But also, if you find yourself face-to-face with someone’s fantasy version of yourself, I can’t imagine it’d be possible not to end up judging them a little.

(This is also why — coincidental foreshadowing for the next episode! — I feel like being a Betazoid would just be REAL stressful all around. Hearing people’s internal monologues would be the worst.)

Not to mention that a lot of the second-hand embarrassment and grossness starts before the aliens begin messing with people! The scene in Quark’s where he’s trying to wear the real Jadzia down is just…ughhhhhhhhhhh. I haven’t had to say this for awhile, but GET YOUR LIFE RIGHT, JULIAN. You’ve got other prospects! You’re doing just fine! Stop whining about how she’s trying to friend-zone you, stop attempting to girlfriend-zone her, just stop.

On a more “this is just kinda weird” note, why is Bashir sleeping in his uniform when Fantasy Jadzia first appears? Maybe since he lost his dress uniform he just doesn’t want to take chances. Which, as someone who generally can’t get through a day without losing three to seven things, I can actually sympathize.

Noteworthy in a good way

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:
┏┓
┃┃╱╲ In this
┃╱╱╲╲ house
╱╱╭╮╲╲ we
▔▏┗┛▕▔ appreciate
╱▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔╲
      Armin Shimerman
╱╱┏┳┓╭╮┏┳┓ ╲╲
▔▏┗┻┛┃┃┗┻┛▕

He is, as ever, all in, and I love the following things in particular:

  1. Quark’s complete dedication to calling Odo a square at every opportunity
  2. The self-satisfied delivery of the line “it’s a ‘baseball mitten'”
  3. Quark interrupting yet another attempt by Bashir to harangue Jadzia into dating him with timely raktajinos
  4. The gleefully smug delivery of the line “let me guess, another Federation experiment gone awry”

As a non-Quark-related positive, I had not appreciated until this viewing that this is the origin of the baseball Sisko keeps on his desk throughout the series, which adds a whole other layer to its symbolism. As a token of his own personality, it was significant enough, but the fact that it’s a souvenir of an encounter with an alien race is just…really cool to me??? It becomes not just a symbol of Sisko’s personal life, but of his identity as a Starfleet officer, as well.

Finally, I love that Sisko is the one who figures out what’s going on. “He’s so smart,” I am saying dreamily to myself. Y’all, if these aliens appeared around earth tomorrow I would definitely be married to Benjamin Sisko. And/or several other characters on this show.

Horniness rankings

  1. Bashir, and let’s just leave it at that.
  2. The O’Briens, which, good for them, honestly. Given all the political intrigue and traumatic pasts and dark histories on this show, some straightforward, healthy horniness between a married couple just makes for a nice change.
  3. Quark and Odo, for trying to one-up each other. Oh my lord, the fact that the aliens don’t try to appear to Odo as, say, another shapeshifter who could tell him more about his species, but as a Quark whom Odo has finally succeeded in arresting? Odo has never been horny in his life, but his feelings re: Quark are 100% horniness-adjacent.

3 thoughts on “1.16: “If Wishes Were Horses”

  1. Objectively this is probably the worst episode of the first season, but on rewatch I didn’t hate it as much as I remembered hating it. It’s not good, really, and the script is grotesquely padded with minutes of staring at the anomaly or chattering on about elevated thoron emissions in the plasma field and so on, but there’s something charming in the old school Trek-style notion of an alien species seeking to engage with and understand us through our imaginations.

    I’d also completely forgotten – or probably never noticed in the first place – that the baseball Sisko keeps on his desk comes from the alien manifested as Buck Bokai. That really is cool.

    Also, props for Jake’s imaginary version of Sisko shooting down his absurd excuses for not doing his homework. Avery Brooks plays that perfectly, not *as* Sisko, but as very much the way Jake knows Sisko would react.

    I can’t add anything to your discussion of Julian and Fantasy Dax, you nailed it, but I did kind of appreciate the delivery of the line: “I am *not* submissive! Am I?” (It is kind of awful that Fantasy Dax is portrayed as an idiot, scientifically illiterate, which basically makes the case that Bashir is into her for her body alone and has no appreciation for her intellect, which is shitty on multiple levels.)

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    1. but there’s something charming in the old school Trek-style notion of an alien species seeking to engage with and understand us through our imaginations.

      Yes! I think, as you said, the execution and pacing leave something to be desired, but “charming” is a great word for the basic concept.

      And yesss, ditto on Jake’s imaginary Sisko; their relationship is so well-done in general, so even when it’s not actually Sisko it’s 100% what a teenager would imagine his dad saying.

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