Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

"If Wishes Were Horses"


Air date: 5/17/1993
Teleplay by Nell McCue Crawford & William L. Crawford and Michael Piller
Story by Nell McCue Crawford & William L. Crawford
Directed by Robert Legato

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

In a rather silly "sci-fi" premise, the station is rocked by troubles arising from the station inhabitants' own imaginations. The mystery conjures three fantasy characters out of thin air, and supplies them with a few light comic moments before revealing them as alien creatures with unknown motives or intentions. The three fantasy characters: (1) Buck Bokai (Keone Young), a baseball player from the 21st century who follows Jake home from a holosuite simulation; (2) Rumpelstiltskin (Michael John Anderson), who terrorizes Chief O'Brien; and (3) Julian's fantasy version of Dax, who drools all over the young doctor.

This episode seemingly hopes to earn points for being weird (including a scene featuring a snow storm on the promenade), but the weirdness falls flat under the routine execution. No one seems genuinely concerned about the strange happenings on the station, not even when they escalate to the point of impending apocalypse in the form of a spatial anomaly which threatens to destroy DS9 and the entire Bajoran system along with it. Boy am I tired of spatial anomalies.

The entire final act drowns in a staggering quantity of forgettable technobabble, and the boring jeopardy premise is solved far too quickly when Sisko realizes the threat can be eradicated if the crew can simply control its collective imagination. A few redeeming laughs and a final dialog scene between Sisko and the Bokai alien save some face. But it's still the weakest episode of DS9's freshman season.

Previous episode: Progress
Next episode: The Forsaken

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19 comments on this review

Cail Corishev - Wed, Sep 12, 2012 - 8:02pm (USA Central)
I agree that this is the worst episode of the season. On paper, it looks like standard Trek: weird stuff starts happening, and they trace it to a Sufficiently Advanced Alien, and everyone learns a lesson about not letting your imagination run away with you.

I think it fails so badly because the characters are too busy talking to the imaginary characters, and we don't get any of the camaraderie that made the earlier episodes better than their plots deserved. No Chief/Julian or Jake/Nog, very little Odo/Quark or Ben/Jake. Just Julian/Jadzia, which was never going anywhere because he was too nice too her, and people talking to imaginary guest stars we have no reason to care about.

Curiously, in the last episode, Ben has no problem with Bajor's decision to move an old man from his home (or kill him if he won't move) for the sake of others; but here he immediately opposes Chief being given the chance to sacrifice his daughter to save everyone on the station.
Van_Patten - Fri, Jan 4, 2013 - 6:45pm (USA Central)
Often derided ( not least by Jammer) as the weakest episode of Season 1, I must confess I wasn't exactly breathless with anticipation for this one, and let's not kid ourselves, it isn't up to the best things This series has done.

So the basic plot revolves around Spacial anomaly number 7 or 8 of the season (I really do think the writers needed more imaginative Macguffins but no doubt Effects budgets played a part) which gives people's imaginations form, the three main centring on O'Brien (Rumpelstiltskin), Bashir ( a subservient Dax) and Jake (Buck Bokai- imaginary breaker of Babe Ruth's hitting streak)

That's really all there's to it - because the jeopardy premise is so lacking, the episode really drafts by, with as Cal Corishev, rightly puts it, interaction between Guest characters ( you could call the fake Jadzia A guest) and the main ensemble never really hoping to rise above the inconsequential.

Nevertheless, it is not, for me the weakest of the season. In fact in star rating terms I'd agree with the two star rating. The highlights are the always Welcome Michael J.Anderson. (The Dancing 'Man from Another Place' in Twin Peaks) as Rumpelstiltskin and the final interaction between Sisko and Bokai (although it seems odd that the Aliens have never encounterd a Species with imagination before)- I also enjoyed the scene with the fake and real Dax and Bashir a lot.

So, largely inoffensive, but definitely better scripted and less trite than 'Q-less' and not as irritating as 'Move along Home' - In the bottom 5 of the season, certainly, but definitely not the weakest episode for me.
Comp625 - Mon, Jan 14, 2013 - 12:12pm (USA Central)
I am surprised this episode even garnered a 2-star rating. The premise is extremely far-fetched and absurdly ridiculous.

At first, I thought the episode was hokey because I rewatched it in the year 2012 (and MAYBE the premise was a little bit more plausible in 1993 when this first aired). Then I started to realize how much this episode reminded me of TNG Season 1's "Where No One Has Gone Before" (and a little of "The Naked Now" with lust overpowering the show's doctor).

All imagination-gone-wild iterations are far-fetched and absurdly ridiculous, regardless if it's 1987, 1993, or 2012.

My rating: 1 star out of 4
T'Paul - Sun, Jun 30, 2013 - 5:08pm (USA Central)
Yes this was a bit weak... kind of like when Picard's granny showed up in the first traveller episode in TNG...

The only mildly interesting parts for me were Kira's burning man and Odo's locked up Quark.

It's odd how the have to come up with these kind of episodes every now and then.

I also would have thought Sisko's wife might have made an appearance... it could have been better, like the TNG episode I mentioned above... it's like they introduce an idea and then are afraid to follow it to its logical conclusion.
Adara - Wed, Jul 17, 2013 - 5:09pm (USA Central)
You all have no imaginations. (j/k) But I do love this episode, plenty enough to suspend my disbelief. I know I'm in a minority though... I thought "Move Along Home" was greatly entertaining, but no one else seems to feel that way. I guess to me, Star Trek is like pizza. Even when it's not the best it's still pretty enjoyable, and it has to be pretty bad to really be offensive. (see: TNG's "Sub Rosa" and Dominos' old recipe)
Robert - Thu, Jul 18, 2013 - 8:32am (USA Central)
@Adara: While I'd hardly rank this episode among DS9's high points I'll agree with you. I still liked it. I liked the bits of character development it lent to Dax/Bashir, I liked the introduction of the all important "desk baseball" and I even liked Rumple. The scenes of chaos on the promenade were amusing as well. Odo and Quark were good and Sisko's final solution presented him well. It showed a lot of promise I think.

azcats - Tue, Sep 10, 2013 - 2:41pm (USA Central)
You are missing the point. one of the greatest baseball hitters of all time is a 5'7 pudgy japanese player? get real!
bkster - Fri, Sep 13, 2013 - 11:46pm (USA Central)
azcats gets a time out for mean behaviour. I thoroughly enjoyed this episode second time around.

Snitch - Mon, Oct 14, 2013 - 6:38pm (USA Central)
This episode was not able to bring out a true sense of wonder and or terror, the technobabble did its part to prevent that. Baseball is also terrible to convey anything to me, that game does not have world wide appeal. It was a daring concept but unfortunately it fell short.

1 1/2 Stars
Kotas - Tue, Oct 22, 2013 - 2:04pm (USA Central)

With absurd episodes like this it either works for you or it doesn't. This one didn't work for me.

Jack - Mon, Jan 20, 2014 - 12:25pm (USA Central)
A ridiculous episode, but for once it was nice to see the bird given a truly alien name, rather than +ian ostrich.
Jack - Mon, Jan 20, 2014 - 12:32pm (USA Central)
Buck Bokai is far too dumpy looking to buy as an athlete, especially one of the caliber presented here.

And the "I could have played 5 more years if they hadn't killed the game" is beyond ridiculous. We're to beleive that it was "killed" in the midst of the career of its best player? Makes it seem as if it was outlawed rather than just gradually falling out of favor. Both are ludicrous notions, frankly, but the former is a hundred times moreso. What would be the reason to pass such a law?
Dave in NC - Wed, Feb 19, 2014 - 1:45pm (USA Central)
@ Jack . . maybe baseball ended because the Federation had phased out money?
DLPB - Thu, Feb 20, 2014 - 9:11am (USA Central)
@ Jack . . maybe baseball ended because the Federation had phased out money?

Firstly, phasing out money does not make a game redundant or boring. Secondly, the whole idea that money, want, and possessions, will ever be phased out like Trek portrays is impossible, not to mention ridiculous.

Your post simply throws up an even bigger absurdity to the you were trying to explain.
Dusty - Thu, Feb 27, 2014 - 2:54am (USA Central)
AZCATS: "You are missing the point. one of the greatest baseball hitters of all time is a 5'7 pudgy japanese player? get real!"

One of the greatest baseball players of all time was a pudgy American player with weak ankles. It's not that hard to believe.
Dwane - Sun, Mar 23, 2014 - 5:58am (USA Central)
I watched this episode on Syfy recently, and it was weird.

What stuck out to me though was the part where it was revealed that there was no danger in the first place.

My reaction was "Uh, what?!"
Yanks - Mon, Jul 7, 2014 - 1:25pm (USA Central)
Another skipper for me.

I never felt Sisko and company were ever in any real danger and I don't know why Quark felt that way.

A head shaker.

Baseball, boring?

.5 stars.
Elliott - Sat, Aug 16, 2014 - 6:37pm (USA Central)
Teaser : *, 5%

Quark and Odo have an inane conversation about fantasy and imagination, that is spared the depths of uncontestable shit only by the invested performances of Shimmerman and Auberjonois. Uck. It seems like everyone has regressed half a season—we have another painful and clichéd Dax/Bashir scene, the aforementioned Odo/Quark nothingness, random energy fluctionations—the only redeeming feature so far is the O'Briens' bedtime story—because Meaney is terrific and Molly is cute. Molly emerges from her room to announce that Rumpelstiltskin is in her room. And lo and behold, he is! I'm done. Game over. Please tell me this is Q again, or a dream, or anything but this!!...[breaks down in tears]...

Act 1 : .5 stars, 17%

And of course accompanying this idiocy is one of those typical directionless scores that paint every word and action with a faintly sick shade of beige. I can already see, it's going to be very hard to write a meaningful review—we are fed these scenes where these characters show up and spend agonising minutes explaining who they are. Well, I can at least point out that the motif for this episode seems to be pædophilia—Rumpelstiltskin appearing in Molly's room, Buck Bukai following Jake home (and that guilty shrug), and hell, Bashir is basically a child having a childish fantasy about a woman 12 times his age, so throw that one in!

So rather than trying attempting to write something clever and have these goofy apparitions be slowly discovered in a way that might at least bear a tangental relationship to entertainment, all the mystery guests are brought to to Ops along with the senior staff. Okay, we're done. Can I go home now? The sad thing is, Ferrel makes a better cheerleader than she does a scientist.

Act 2 : 0 stars, 17%

So, this Asian man with a New York accent who played baseball in London starts listing a bunch of made-up statistics which he remembers ('cause it's THE FUTURE!!). It's established that these characters have come out of the imaginations of our regulars. Wait a minute. So, one of Jake's heroes emerges from his *imagination* as a statistic-spouting drone; O'Brien (or Molly's) imagination produces this cheap community-theatre Rumpelstiltskin knock-off; and Bashir's oh so wild sexual imagination creates this Dax who is exactly like the regular Dax, but dumb and into him? Not a Dax with five breasts and a whip, wearing a TOS style uniform maybe? Not a Rumpelstiltskin who is actually terrifying (as he is supposed to be in fiction)? Not a Buck Bokai who reflects the legendary status his memory would impart? Didn't these people learn anything from "Where No One Has Gone Before"? Allow me to quote our illustrious host, Jammer, from his review of that episode : “...all of it is based on pure fantasy rather than sci-fi. When anything can happen,...it's kind of a fantasy-manufactured letdown.”

Odo calls Ops reporting a fucking snow-storm on the Promenade, only for Sisko to casually shrug it off. Dax gives us some BS technobabble explanation of why this is happening...I was too bored to pay attention, and I'm not subjecting myself to rewatching a single moment of this crap, so you'll have to look it up yourselves.

Sigh...in the aforementioned “Where No One Has Gone Before,” the goofy imagination-come-alive bit was a small part of a larger episode that had other things going for it. When Odo demands Quark's patrons refrain from using their imaginations and the best Quark can come up with is two women who are less scantily-clad than his own Dabbo girls, you know you're not even treading water anymore, episode.

Ugh, and Quark freaks out because his patrons' imaginations are letting them win every round at his games and they're “taking [him] to the poorhouse.” Gosh, if only there were some way to just imagine a giant pile of Latinum, or gee maybe your own moon orbiting Bajor? Naw, that's just a stupid fantasy.

So right after the real Dax offers a reasonable bandage over the awkwardness of Bashir's fantasy-version, she starts complaining about how submissive Julian's version of her is! You JUST admitted that private fantasies are not meant to be shared, that's why they're *private*. Then you start berating him for his fantasy disappointing you. Then, because she's a genius, she starts ARGUING WITH HER FANTASY DOUBLE. Something about “cold fish” [cue gag reflex]. I can't comment on this scene anymore, I'm sorry, moving on.

Ugh, God I guess I have to, since now we've added the jeopardy plot to this dreck—the same force that's creating these fantasies will blow everything up because fuck you.

Act 3 : **, 17%

Rumpelstilskin manages to break the chief's cool by implicitly threatening Molly, his first-born. This is still bad, but it manages to get something right, characterisation.

Meanwhile, Bokai—who just insists on walking around in full uniform...with his mitt on...because, you know, cups, cleats and caps are super comfortable to wear indoors—follows Sisko around. We get a repeat of that weird lamentation from “Evolution,” curtesy of Michael Piller, on the loss of such a noble endeavour as baseball.

So, now that we've nearly gotten through the third act, we finally get a third step in the plot (1 per 10-minute act is not really enough when your material is this bland); the three fantasy characters meet in private to discuss their progress with their imaginative targets, Bashir, Sisko and O'Brien. They intend to take “as long as it takes” to finish their experiment. My only solace is there are only....NINETEEN MORE MINUTES!?!?!? Excuse me, while I raid the liquor cabinet.

Act 4 : *, 17%

I wonder what Kira's fantasy would be like? Cardassians burning alive, screaming in agony? That would be an interesting sight...

It turns out that a Vulcan science vessel is responsible for this subspace whatever, prompting Bashir's “Vulcans don't have the most active imaginations?” What is your beef with Vulcans, DS9? I remind of you Tuvok's take: “I have a highly developed imagination, as do all of my race.” Fuck off, episode.

In this one instance, I'm not going to fault Visitor for her over-the-top, er, outburst of acting because it prevented me from actually falling asleep during this scene. On second thought, why I am I thankful for that?

...Who is imagining all these ostriches running around? Are they more playmates for Quark?

Oh, my god—I actually did not remember this next scene when I wrote that bit about Kira's fantasy. Yep, her imagination creates people on fire, running around screaming, although I think they were Bajorans, not Cardassians. Wow, episode, thanks for that. I promise, I was just kidding! Is my imagination affecting this episode now, too? Why are they ostriches in my office??? AHHH!!

is this still on? Oh, okay. Odo's big fantasy is putting Quark in jail. Yeah...nothing about finding out where his people come from or what his purpose in life is? Please, that's not what Odo's about! He's about being a policeman! That's what's interesting.

We get another DBI, with Jake trying to imagine getting away with sneaking off to the holosuite under Sisko's nose. Again, did Michael Piller think it was 1955?

So, the space vagina is expanding, much to everyone's, er, “horror” (it reads like vague disinterest). Also, we get a a 45 second sweep of the characters staring at the viewscreen. What do you think this is, TMP? You're not a film, and this ain't Jerry Goldsmith, I can tell you that.

Act 5 : .5 stars, 17%

Well we couldn't get through this mess without a heaping gob of technobabble, could we?

Blah blah blah and it looks like they made it worse; things start shaking and sparks flying, etc. Fantasy Dax gets injured, Rumpelstiltskin offers to seal the space vagina in exchange for Molly, of course.

And, Sisko just tells everyone to stop imagining things—because humans can just do that—and all the fantasies disappears. Jesus.

We get a little epilogue wherein Bokai appears to Sisko to explain that they're aliens (of course) exploring humanoid imagination. And Bokai explains that the danger to the station was really Sisko's crew's fault, not the aliens who made their fears and desires suddenly appear in reality. So what's the lesson here? I mean, shutting off their imaginations is what saves the day, right? The episode can't seem to decide whether it's pro-imagination or against...and he leaves his ball..but it's not real...but it ends up showing up in later episodes...what's happening?

Episode as Functionary : .5 stars, 10%

The only thing I can recommend about this episode is Meaney's urgent performance as a terrified father. It's a necessary and welcome addition to his character. Everything else is either ridiculous, boring, pointless, or all of the above. I am going to let Jammer sum this up with a quote from “And the Children Shall Lead,” a similarly painful hour of Trek : “A dismally frustrating, repetitive, and bland hour.” I recommend skipping over this as quickly as your remote allows.

Final Score : *
William B - Sun, Aug 17, 2014 - 9:39am (USA Central)
"We get a repeat of that weird lamentation from “Evolution,” curtesy of Michael Piller, on the loss of such a noble endeavour as baseball."

I like the idea of imagining Michael Piller watching TOS and TNG s1-2 and just thinking to himself, "well, I guess the future looks okay, BUT WHERE IS THE BASEBALL?" staying up at night pondering the implications of a world in which baseball is never discussed, then jumping at the chance to write for TNG so that he can write that very monologue.

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