Synopsis: The first attempt at a joint operation between Bajor, Cardassia, and the Federation — building a communications relay in the Gamma Quadrant — faces setbacks after the discovery of an ancient Bajoran prophecy that seems to predict the effort will result in the wormhole’s collapse. Kira and Sisko have to reckon with his status as the Emissary in the process.
So, the main plot of this one, with two civilizations who’ve just made peace, and destroyed the devastating biological weapons they’ve been using, but also believe they must eliminate anyone who might have sufficient knowledge to recreate them, is decent. These particular aliens and their war aren’t mentioned again after this episode, but meditations around peace, and what it costs to achieve it, and who pays that price, are consistent themes throughout the show as it continues.
OK, so, first of all, it was kind of weird that they just…took the obelisk off that planet, right? Like. Y’all couldn’t just take 3D scans of it or something? Come on, you cannot just take random shit from an alien world and not expect things to go terribly wrong. Have none of you people survival instincts???
With that out of the way…
OK, let’s start with something really important: I’m pretty sure this is the first time we’ve seen the Klingon restaurant on the Promenade and its nameless proprietor. WHO I LOVE. He is just this Klingon dude who is Extremely Klingon in that he loves to yell and does everything dramatically, and he is just chilling on this station channeling all his Klingonness into making food, and sometimes he serenades his customers. He is #goals.
Okay, this is much later than I generally try to post, but it turns out I had A TON to say, and it took me ages to wrangle it into something halfway readable.
First things first: GARAK!!!!!!!!!!! He becomes such an important secondary character as the show goes on that it’s a little strange to think we haven’t actually seen him since way back at the beginning of the first season.
Honestly, I am pretty much always up for Cardassian bullshit. Cardassians make Vulcans look warm, friendly, and emotionally healthy. They make Klingons look low-drama. They make Romulans look straightforward and plainspoken. They’re always dicks, they’re always horny, and then we find out later that being dicks is also a method by which they indicate horniness for one another. Everything with Cardassians is hilariously overcomplicated and the only person who enjoys that more than I do is every single Cardassian.
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.
Note, October 7, 2019: for some reason, this post has been absolutely slammed with spam comments. No idea why this one in particular, but there it is. So, for the time being, I’m closing comments on it, just to try and cut back a bit.
So, first of all, I usually enjoy the political drama that results from the station not precisely being under Starfleet jurisdiction (or at least not solely under it), so even the little hints of that here, with the extradition treaty necessitating kidnapping Dax and the Bajoran arbiter presiding over the hearing.
In general, this is kind of a forgettable episode, though it does a decent job of doing some worldbuilding around the Trill. I do have some questions, though. Chief among them…
You know, I went into this episode expecting another one that felt a lot like The Next Generation, like the last couple. My thinking was basically this one’s plot involves characters directly from TNG, how much more TNG-like is it gonna be? And yet, weirdly, despite the presence of Q and Vash, it feels a lot more like the show Deep Space Nine will become than most of what’s come so far. Everyone is messy, everyone is horny, and absolutely no one has any chill whatsoever.
Which I say as a joke, but also, a big part of what I love about DS9, and what’s bored me about the last couple of episodes, has been the lack of any major character stuff. It’s all been pretty straightforward plot-driven Weird Space Thing Of The Week. This episode, the Weird Space Thing was almost an afterthought to the character interactions: they figure out that the Big Glowy Space Manta Ray’s thing — egg? Chrysalis? Do they even say? I don’t think they even say — is what’s causing the station’s power issues, beam it out, and it glides on its merry way in the space of maybe thirty seconds. It’s all about the characters.
Brief meditation on the bigger Star Trek picture
I get that this is one of the things a lot of the fandom doesn’t like as much about DS9 — the move away from Weird Space Thing Of The Week — and Discovery as well. I mean, I can’t help but notice that the series certain parts of the fandom complain about the most are also the ones led by Black characters, what a weird coincidence — but I do believe that at least part of the fandom does, in good faith, just prefer the Weird Space Thing Of The Week format. It’s a stylistic preference, fair enough.
But I’m also really glad that the franchise has tried to make room for other kinds of stories. There’s a whole universe sitting there — to only use it for one kind of story really seems like a waste. So while I’m as tired as the next person of the Franchise Grind in pop culture, and a little leery about the rate at which Star Trek is launching spinoffs, I’m also cautiously pleased by the fact that they don’t all appear to be TNG clones. Hell, that was my biggest criticism of DSC’s second season, that they seemed to be backing away from the things that made the first season unique — and doing so in an attempt to win over a segment of the fandom that, for the most part, they never had in the first place, at the expense of the enjoyment of those of us who actually liked what they were doing.
(See also: the Democratic Party and the ~white working class~. Liz and Anika titled their episode on the DSC S2 finale “Making the 23rd Century Great Again” and that is…not wrong.)
Also, if they want to ask me about my spinoff ideas — one about the Cardassian occupation of Bajor that covers a few years before DS9 begins, and one a half-hour sitcom that’s basically Parks and Recreation at Starfleet HQ — I am here anytime.
Uh, so, that spiraled a bit. Returning to the more immediate topic of this particular episode…
The subtle horror of Q
You know, from TOS’s “Charlie X” through to DSC’s Gabriel Lorca, Star Trek really has made a theme out of how fucking terrifying entitled white men with a lot of power can be. Q spends a lot of his time just moderately irritating people and putting them in silly costumes, and then suddenly he’ll turn around and remind us that oh, fuck, he absolutely has the power to do much, much worse.
As a woman, watching his interactions with Vash is…uncomfortably realistic. “I’m the Q and you the lowly human. I’ll decide when this partnership is over.” How many times have I been friendly and polite to a guy who I couldn’t stand because I had no way of knowing whether he would be dangerous if I didn’t?
Also, every time I rewatch one of his episodes, I remember that I really, really need to write the essay about Q as the Jewish devil that’s been bouncing around in my head for a couple of years.
Julian needs to get his life right again
…and all is right with the world once more. I didn’t even know who I was when I couldn’t yell at him to get his life right.
From O’Brien’s face while sitting next to Bashir in the opening teaser, through Q just putting him to sleep for a few days, to Dax’s “lol buddy you have no idea” expression when she realizes he slept through all the excitement, this episode continues the pattern of “everyone is trying their best to ignore Bashir until he settles down a little” and I am extremely amused by it. Like, I don’t think that’s what the writers were doing consciously, but I’m definitely enjoying it as my own interpretation.
OK, Quark, I’ll allow it
In “Babel”, Quark was mostly tolerable because he wasn’t actually doing much hitting on anyone; in this one, he and Vash actually seem to be on the same wavelength, and it’s…kind of hilarious? If Star Trek is still looking for more spinoffs, I would watch The Quark and Vash Dirtbag Variety Hour every damn week.
Also, I am perhaps disproportionately entertained by Quark taking it in stride when Q just wishes him into the cornfield and back. Armin Shimerman is all in and even when Quark is at his worst I appreciate the hell out of that commitment. (Also, given that for a couple of years there he was doing both this show and Buffy the Vampire Slayer I feel like those of us who were in our formative nerd years during the late 90’s/early 00’s really owe Shimerman our gratitude.)
- Vash hiding her PIN as she locks her stuff in the vault just struck me as a really nice little touch that made the episode that much more real.
- “Vash and Captain Picard were…friends. Close friends, if you catch my meaning, sir.” I love how O’Brien is trying to pretend to be halfway discreet about his tea-spilling. Like, that significant pause before “friends” may not have been enough, let’s just make it a little clearer. And Sisko’s comment on how Vash doesn’t seem like Picard’s type, ugh, everyone on this station is a messy bitch who lives for drama and I love it so much.
- Kira’s solution to the jammed door being to pull out her phaser, lord I love her so much.
- SISKO PUNCHES Q, LORD I LOVE HIM SO MUCH
- Quark: Isn’t there anything you desire?
Odo: I have my work. What else do I need?
Everyone. Everyone is horny. Quark is horny, Q is horny, Vash is horny, Bashir is horny, Bashir’s date in the opening teaser is horny, even Odo feels a stirring of something approaching horniness at the prospect of a latinum-plated bucket. Everyone is horny. This may be the horniest, thus far, that an episode has been without Dukat in it; truly, DS9 is coming into its own.
- Bashir’s date
Probably not a super-long post today, since A) my notes were not actually all that extensive so I guess I don’t have a ton to say, and B) most of my spare time and energy has been devoted to frantic crafting in an effort to finish my costumes before San Diego Comic Con next week.
(Can’t wait for the Star Trek: Discovery panel so I can ask, in my best Nice White Lady Voice, how they plan to address a mostly-white, mostly-male group deciding that the accomplishments of a Black woman and her extremely diverse crewmates must be erased from the Federation’s historical record!)
Regarding my first point, about not having a ton to say: like last week, this is a pretty straightforward, plot-focused episode. Which is fine, but also not where DS9 really comes to shine later. Early on, as Jason noted with “Babel”, the show tends to be very cautious, staying closer to The Next Generation in its episode structures. (And it’s even clearer how much that was a “we should play it safe for a while” decision now, nearly twenty years later, having seen the anger from a lot of the fanbase about Discovery committing the sin of not being a TNG clone.) Unlike TNG, however, which was in its sixth season when DS9 was in its first, we don’t know nearly as much about the characters, so it’s hard to know why a given situation might challenge a given character.
Speaking of which…
Oh hey what’s up O’Brien
“Babel” started with a focus on O’Brien and then shifted away once he came down with the virus, which was actually a bit of a disappointment. It was cool to get some follow-through in this one, though I would have liked a bit more, again, about O’Brien as a person rather than a plot piece. That said, Colm Meaney and Scott MacDonald, who plays Tosk, have pretty solid chemistry, and I friggin’ love O’Brien’s well I get what you’re going for here and appreciate it in that spirit but uhhh face in reaction to Tosk’s “Die with honor, O’Brien” farewell.
JUSTICE 4 SARDA
They completely dropped the whole thing from the beginning with Miss Sarda the dabo girl and I am annoyed about it. Three things I enjoyed about that opening:
- That she had the guts to speak up about Quark’s bullshit
- That we didn’t have to actually witness any of Quark’s bullshit, just hear it reported, suggesting that Sisko’s default is to believe people who report harassment to him
- That the commander of the station makes himself available for anyone to report problems to him directly rather than hiding behind layers of bureaucracy and trying to drown people in paperwork until the problem goes away
All of this speaks well to the healthy, safe place everyone is attempting to make the station! But the lack of any follow-up on it means that it’s impossible to know whether those attempts will be effective.
Other things I appreciated
- O’Brien pointedly talking over Bashir’s attempt to insert himself into the excitement by suggesting Tosk come in for a medical examination. I really love how everyone is just calmly trying to ignore Bashir until he chills a little.
- “SHUT UP, QUARK.”
- Can we all just appreciate Odo’s attempt to casually saunter away after Sisko’s “there’s no hurry”? Odo has never been chill in his life, he will never be chill in his life, he has absolutely zero chill ever, and it is hilarious. Odo makes Sisko and Kira look low-key and easygoing.
- Quark’s hunger for gossip remains #relatable as hell
The closest thing to horniness this week: Bashir and Quark’s attempts to get closer to the action. And thank goodness, because apparently the opening was supposed to involve Miss Sarda attempting to seduce Sisko later, which, whew, could have gone way too easily into some unfortunate territory.
NGL, I actually have very little to say about the A plot on this one. In part this is because I just…really don’t find Odo all that compelling as a character?
Reflecting on my last couple of rewatches, I feel like he arguably grows and changes the least of all the main characters over the course of the series. He has a black and white sense of justice at the beginning, and that’s never really challenged in any serious way. Given how much of the show is about having to deal with the gray areas, that gets kind of boring after a while.
Further, while the show makes it clear with the Founders that that black and white sense of justice is something the rest of his people share, and they examine with the Founders how easily that can turn into fascism, they never really take the next step and challenge Odo himself on that front. Last week he offered to just straight-up jail the Duras sisters because of their past record rather than anything they’d done since arriving on DS9 and waxed nostalgic for the simplicity of oppressive Cardassian rule, this week he wants to throw Ibudan off the station without any apparent cause. Sisko flat-out tells him that he cannot take the law into his own hands, but even after Odo is on the other side of that equation — after an angry mob literally tries to lynch him for no other reason than that a troublemaker has convinced them he can’t be trusted — the show never has anyone explicitly address the fact that Odo’s been behaving pretty similarly. Just the opposite: Odo is instead vindicated in his suspicions and actions.
That said, the other part of why I don’t have much to say about the A plot is that I am all about space operas that are just that: literally soap operas in space. Give me hot aliens and hotter gossip and I am content. (It seems worth noting here that most of this rewatch thus far has been done while I’ve been sewing, sometimes in my Pride t-shirt, so possibly I am just Garak at heart.)
Julian can u not
Good lord, I wasn’t even ten when this episode first aired, but even then Bashir’s inability to take a hint from Dax and back the heck off wasn’t cute, it was at best embarrassing and at worst creepy. Jason commented last week that his parents must not have paid for the “picking up on subtext” upgrade when they had him genetically enhanced and TRUTH.
I feel like they drop a lot of what Dax says about the Trill view on relationships later, or rather, they amend it to be about the expectations around joined Trill, who (it’s later explained as well) make up a pretty small portion of the Trill population. I think that’s a good choice, and adds more depth to the worldbuilding, since her initial comments make them seem a bit like Vulcans-lite. As an adult woman, however, my alternate explanation is that she’s just leaving out some of those key details in order to get Bashir to back the heck off.
Spilling the Tarkalean tea
I hate myself a little for that subhead but let’s be real, it was gonna happen eventually, and now it’s done and we can all move on with our lives.
Quark’s barely-contained glee in spilling all the local gossip to Odo is #relatable, honestly. I stand by what I said when I was introducing Mindi to this show last year:
one of the best things about deep space nine is how everyone on the station is a messy bitch who lives for drama— Julia (@juleshastweets) April 11, 2018
The O’Briens’ basic conflict — a couple who moved someplace dramatically different for one partner’s job and the other is currently at loose ends and feeling frustrated, stifled, and depressed — is really lovely and realistic, which is one of the reasons it’s kind of disappointing that they wrap it up so quickly. Honestly, DS9 never really knows what to do with Keiko and w h e w does it show here. She’s a botanist, so sure, she can definitely be a teacher for kids from a wide variety of cultures and age groups! Teaching is basically a hobby you can just pick up because you always kinda wanted to try it and now you’ve got some free time.
Possibly I’m being a little unfair — it’s made clear that Jake, at least, is being educated via computer at home, so “teaching” at a Federation outpost may be more about providing a structured environment and facilitating socialization opportunities. But in that case…there’s really no need for it to be a school? They could’ve gone with the arboretum idea and have her offering science classes in person to balance out the home-schooling curriculum, for instance. I just have enough teacher friends that with every rewatch this bugs me more.
Beautiful cinnamon rolls too good for this space station, too pure
THE BEGINNING OF JAKE AND NOG’S FRIENDSHIP!!!! I also like that Sisko’s dislike/mistrust of Nog as a bad influence on Jake is mirrored by Rom disliking/mistrusting Jake as an influence on Nog. I feel like they initially play it for laughs, i.e. lol what kind of dummy would be worried about the Federation being a bad influence, but as they develop the characters of Nog, Quark, and Rom (who, at this point, is basically being written as “Quark but with less charm”) it becomes a bit less of a joke. See the episode where Quark tells Sisko that he knows he doesn’t like him or Ferengi, but maybe he should keep in mind that only one of their species has chattel slavery, nukes, and concentration camps in its history, and it ain’t the Ferengi.
Let us close on the mental image of Sisko, gazing into a vat full of an unidentified biological mass recovered from a murder scene, and then calmly asking, “Care for lunch?” I LOVE HIM SO MUCH.
- Bashir. Apparently I need to say it again: GET YOUR LIFE RIGHT JULIAN
- Odo has never been horny in his life (and seems to have gotten his understanding of relationships mostly from old sitcoms and stand-up routines?) and honestly I feel like his anti-horniness is so pronounced as to merit a spot on the ranking.
- Honorable mention for Sisko and Dax’s awkward semi-horniness for each other, particularly because they’re dealing with it in such a refreshingly grown-up way? Like, they both straight-up acknowledge that this is awkward and uncomfortable and it’s going to take time, and she even gives him the opportunity to end the relationship, and they both opt instead to just work on it! It’s so nice!
- Me: horny for hot aliens and hotter gossip.
- Quark: see #4.