August 15, 2014

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: "If Wishes Were Horses"

Chief O'Brien suddenly has the fairy tale villain Rumpelstiltskin in his quarters. Benjamin Sisko is having conversations with 21st century baseball hero Buck Bokai. Julian Bashir encounters a duplicate Jadzia Dax - only this one reciprocates his amorous advances and then some. Some unknown force is causing the imaginations of those of Deep Space Nine to emerge in the real world, while an unexplained vortex outside threatens to destroy the station entirely.

"If Wishes Were Horses" is one of those weird Star Trek episodes where you read the premise, are convinced it's going to be an irritation from beginning to end, and then discover that - by some creative miracle - it actually works. I went in dreading the episode, and remembering hating it back when I first watched it, but this time found myself being won over by its idiosyncratic charms.

It's not perfect. To be honest Rumpelstiltskin is kind of annoying, and it's pretty clear he's a hurried rewrite of a leprechaun (Colm Meaney understandably objected to that idea). Buck Bokai, however, is great: he walks around with this wide-eyed optimism, and acting as a great sounding board for Commander Sisko throughout the episode. The over-eager duplicate of Dax is an interesting one, because she forces the series to directly challenge Dr Bashir's deeply inappropriate attempts at chatting up the real Dax. There's a nice moment midway through the episode where the real Dax reassures Bashir and sympathises over just how mortifying it must be to have one's private fantasies rendered in real life for everyone to see.

The episode blends comedy and drama quite nicely. There are some particularly welcome comedic scenes between Odo and Quark, and the first-ever Star Trek appearance of an emu. I'm pretty sure it's the only appearance in Star Trek of an emu, but I love emus so it made me smile.

What's best about this episode is that it starts off as a whimsical diversion and finishes as a reasonable science fiction story. This made the episode for me, and I came away somewhat surprised at just how enjoyable it all was. This is the 15th episode of Deep Space Nine's first season, and the ninth good one. That leaves the season running at exactly 60%.

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