Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine



Air date: 1/3/1994
Teleplay by Joe Menosky
Story by Jim Trombetta and Michael Piller
Directed by David Livingston

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

An El'Aurian con man named Martus (Chris Sarandon) visits DS9 and stumbles across a bizarre gambling device that—once replicated and integrated into his newly established casino—inadvertently changes the laws of probability so that unforeseen unlikelihoods occur on the station.

"Rivals" is an atypical attempt at light cleverness, and it almost works. This is a relaxing, diverting hour with enough sense of whimsy to be respectably entertaining. Particularly fun to watch are the humorous character moments surrounding O'Brien and Bashir's racquetball rivalry. Watching O'Brien's frustration over Julian's youth advantage is a delight, and Bashir's own problem of having to beat a person he considers a mentor is a witty twist.

Less compelling are the implications of Martus' competitive establishment stealing all of Quark's customers—though the idea isn't completely unpalatable. Quark's idea of conning O'Brien and Bashir into a "charity" racquetball tournament to regenerate his business is somewhat inspired. And the results of the tournament prove interesting when the change in the probability laws causes the ball to always go to O'Brien—a fairly clever idea.

But there's a glaring flaw surrounding this episode, which is that the writing is far too restrained and low-key for what the premise demands. Menosky should've pushed the envelope on this one so much further into comic mayhem—or at least into mild slapstick or memorable creativity. As it stands, "Rivals" is an amiable, lightweight episode with some good ideas, but just not funny or inspired enough to maintain a real sense of energy.

Previous episode: Sanctuary
Next episode: The Alternate

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12 comments on this review

Paul York - Wed, Jun 6, 2012 - 9:23am (USA Central)
It seems improbably (implausible) that the laws of probability should be altered in this way, within a local area of spacetime. And if they were, the station would probably come apart and everyone would die, not just a few changes that we see here. However, this is sci-fi, so we accept the premise for the sake of the story. Shows how DS9 attracts all sorts of shady characters ...
Ian - Sat, Jul 21, 2012 - 10:55pm (USA Central)
Sounds like they needed an Infinite Improbibility Drive...

Also sounds like somone had read The Hitchikers Guide To The Galaxy...
Asian James - Fri, Jan 11, 2013 - 9:33am (USA Central)
I'm surprised this episode received a 2.5 out of 4 stars from Jammer. The plot about changing the law of probability is very improbable in itself. The props are awful (e.g. the gambling globes that Martus sets up in his shop) and are more painful to watch almost 20 years later after the episode was produced.

The only two saving graces about the episode are as follows:

1. Seeing the B-plot of how much O'Brien hates Bashier, and how he works so hard to defeat Bashier in futuristic racquetball. ***SPOILER ALERT*** It's fun to watch since DS9 viewers know how their friendship evolves.

2. Seeing Chris Sarandon, a.k.a. Prince Humperdinck, on-screen.

My personal rating: 1.5 out of 4 stars.
Jack - Sun, Feb 10, 2013 - 9:13pm (USA Central)
We have a scene in ops where they talk about how the infirmary is swamped, then to a scene where Bashir is in Quark's, and then back to a scene in ops where again it is mentioned that the infirmary is swamped. So why is Bashir in Quark's?
ZurielSeven - Sat, Aug 10, 2013 - 9:09am (USA Central)
Sarandon's early "I'm not listening"... Quarks near-perfect manipulations to set up the match... The reactions of the Bajoran monks... C'mon - add another half-star for this one.
Kotas - Tue, Oct 22, 2013 - 3:44pm (USA Central)

Absurd episode but somehow it kind of worked for me. The Bashir O'Brien plot was fun as well.

Yanks - Fri, Jun 27, 2014 - 11:20am (USA Central)
This is a so-so episode.

Still not sure how someone's luck can be affect by these gizmos.

Bashir/Obrien racketball, blah...

Just a miffle of the road pretty boring ep. No highs and no real lows.

2 of 4 stars from me.
DLPB - Sun, Aug 31, 2014 - 7:00am (USA Central)
This episode must rank in as one of the worst episodes in Trek history. The acting is poor, probably because the script is useless. The plot is the most ridiculous thing I have ever seen. This shouldn't come under "Science Fiction", but "Fiction". There's no science here, folks. The idea that probability works this way is simply insulting the viewer's intelligence.
Scott - Tue, Sep 2, 2014 - 1:05am (USA Central)
I like this episode. Of course I like a lot of episodes that most fans think are cheesy. I can watch move along home, if wishes were horses, and any ferengi episode. It's not that I don't understand why people don't like these episodes. I just have fun with them. Then when I watch a serious masterpiece like rocks and shoals I change how I watch the show.

I liked the conflict between Martus and Quark but Martus does take away some of the mystery behind Gunans race.

House always take Blue!!!!
Dusty - Thu, Nov 6, 2014 - 11:36am (USA Central)
I have an issue with the whole "luck" thing. A whole episode based on some alien doohickey altering the laws of probability? Humans MADE UP the laws of probability in an attempt to explain and organize random phenomena via mathematics. Why would alien races buy into them? And surely we would have moved on to something more sophisticated by the time we colonized space. Jadzia tracing evidence of these alterations on a subatomic level (the "spinning neutrinos" bit) just adds to the silliness.

Beyond that, it was a fun and entertaining outing, but not very memorable. Bashir and O'Brien never even resolved their rivalry. Honestly, I only watched it as closely as I did because I wanted Bashir to get beat (legitimately).
methane - Fri, Jul 3, 2015 - 11:52am (USA Central)
This is an episode that I find more entertaining now than when it first aired. When I first watched it, I groaned at the "science". Now I just accept it and find myself amused with the character interactions.
DLPB - Wed, Jul 8, 2015 - 6:43pm (USA Central)
Humans MADE UP the laws of probability in an attempt to explain and organize random phenomena via mathematics.

No. Probability is a part of mathematics. We didn't invent it any more than we invented a quantity of something. We simply gave a name to it.

The only thing I like about this episode is Quark.

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