Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

"One Little Ship"

***

Air date: 2/16/1998
Written by David Weddle & Bradley Thompson
Directed by Allan Kroeker

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"I don't feel any smaller." — O'Brien

Nutshell: Totally absurd, but very amusing ... and surprisingly engaging.

"One Little Ship"—also known as "Honey, I Shrunk the Runabout"—is probably the most absurd episode of DS9 you'll see this season, maybe ever. This lightweight, zippy outing feels like a show that belongs in Voyager's fourth season. It's fairly inconsequential but well made. Just when you think it seems likely to spin out of control into an utterly laughable disaster (that is, from the point of seeing the trailers the week before), this show becomes strangely infectious and entertaining.

This is what they call "high concept." Or a better term might be "low concept." How an episode sold on the unfathomably ridiculous idea of "a Runabout is shrunk to about five inches long" can survive a writers staff meeting at DS9 is beyond me, but somehow it did. And how it is this idea actually works also eludes me—but somehow it does.

The question wasn't whether this plot would prove ludicrous, the question was whether it would be workable in a 1990s sci-fi realm. It strikes me as one of the goofiest things in recent memory. The premise seems more like it belongs in the 1950s, and the presentation seems more akin to the cinematic attitudes of Xena: Warrior Princess. But the funny thing is it works for most of the same reasons Xena does: it takes itself just seriously enough to be engaging, yet constantly keeps its tongue lodged firmly in cheek where it belongs.

Do you even want to know more about the plot? What more needs to be said? Well, I'll try anyway. You see, the Defiant and the Runabout Rubicon—with Dax, O'Brien, and Bashir on board—are trying this new scientific experiment involving some bizarre gravitational whatcha-ma-whozit. As the Runabout goes near the anomaly, it shrinks smaller and smaller. The plan is that the Defiant will tractor it back away from the anomaly after the experiment is over, returning the Runabout to its normal size. Well, things of course don't go as planned. The Defiant is attacked by the Jem'Hadar, who board the Defiant and take the crew prisoner before the episode's teaser is even over. The tractor beam connection is lost and the Runabout flies out of control through the anomaly. Since it doesn't exit the anomaly the same way it entered, it doesn't return to its normal size.

The rest of the episode is about how the Rubicon gets inside the Defiant and becomes instrumental in retaking the ship, unbeknownst to everybody on the Defiant for a very long stretch of the plot. With the Defiant's warp drive damaged, Sisko has time to devise a plan to retake the ship or, if all else fails, rig an auto-destruct so that it doesn't fall into Dominion hands. But since the Jem'Hadar have barred all the key officers from the bridge—forcing them instead to repair the engines—the problem is that Sisko has no command access. So he, Worf, Kira, and Nog must try to gain access to the computer while pretending to repair the battle damage, all unbeknownst to the Jem'Hadar soldiers watching over them.

This is where the mini-Runabout comes into play. Since Sisko & Co. are locked down, this leaves it to Dax & Co. in the Runabout to get to the bridge and disable the security lockout to the computer system.

A lot of "One Little Ship" is sold on its special effects. This episode is a visual delight. Watching the Rubicon fly around like a toy ship is great fun. I don't know exactly why, but it is. It's neat. And funny. And strangely infectious. The dash through the plasma conduit was an engaging mix of convincing visuals and understated suspense. The Runabout spying on the engine room was amusing as it peeked mischievously from behind objects. And the Runabout's dash to the bridge was droll, especially when the ship pushes a button on a control panel to open a door to the bridge.

One set piece involves Bashir and O'Brien beaming onto a circuit relay to manually override the commands Sisko needs disabled. Seeing the two officers standing in the middle of a huge mass of cables and computer chips was a fresh spin on the established idea of O'Brien Fixing Something [TM]. Meanwhile, Bashir and O'Brien's subtle banter was amiable as always.

Despite the fluffy aspects of the episode, not everything in "One Little Ship" is inconsequential. For example, I did find the uneasy cracks in loyalty between the "Alpha" and "Gamma" Jem'Hadar soldiers quite interesting, if maybe a little forced and overstated. The new "Alpha" Jem'Hadar (referred to as such because they were engineered and born in the Alpha Quadrant to replace the mass numbers wiped out in "Sacrifice of Angels") seem a little less hard-core in their loyalties to the Dominion, and seemingly less controllable. Their loyalty seems to be to other "Alphas" first and to the Dominion second. And they don't really have much respect for the "Gammas."

This is an idea that could have some possibilities down the road. As evidenced here, the friction between Second Ixtana'Rax (Fritz Sperberg), a Gamma, and First Kudak'Etan (Scott Thompson Baker), an Alpha who was recently promoted over Ixtana'Rax as the squadron commander, ultimately serves to undermine the Jem'Hadar effort to seize the Defiant. This seems indicative of a larger problem that the Dominion may have on their hands, and I get a strong feeling that we'll be seeing this again. (But then again, I also had a strong feeling that the cracks in Dukat and Weyoun's alliance would play out in some manner, which it ultimately didn't.)

The pivotal action turning point rides on the fact that the Jem'Hadar soldiers are worse shots than the average storm trooper—and hopelessly unobservant as well. I must admit that these Jem'Hadar are a major step down after the riveting performances in "Rocks and Shoals," but that's okay, because they serve their purpose. This episode is a comic book outing, after all, and even though the villains came off as rather bungling in the action finale, I did think that Our Heroes still came off looking surprisingly good. I'd also say the stunt coordination in the final fight was above average for Trek, and introducing a five-inch Runabout with tiny photon torpedoes into the fight was a good move, though hammy as hell. Allan Kroeker's direction made some good camera choices in this final showdown, as well as throughout the episode.

But ultimately, this show lives on its own carefully chosen tone. Through all the convincing special effects, bright ideas, and goal-oriented action, the truth of the matter is inescapable: This is absurd, even for Trek. Weddle & Thompson's screenplay knows that, and knows just when to insert a joke and when to avert seriousness. Such moments as the Bashir/O'Brien discussion on being "this tall" and Sisko announcing to Worf "Your wife is here" make all the difference, and the performances shine through the silliness to make it work better than one might have dreamed possible. Add this to a closing that features Worf reciting part of a poem (?) and then smiling (!) and Odo playing a cruel joke, and you've got a show that inspires to be an amiable and slight action comedy—and succeeds.

I was laughing quite a bit through this show. But I wasn't laughing because the show was laughable (although I admit that the premise certainly was). I was laughing because I was having fun. That's what this episode is: good fun. With "Far Beyond the Stars" last week, DS9 showed the serious, important side of Trek that makes us question ourselves. "One Little Ship" is the type of goofy entertainment that exemplifies Trek's other side.

Next week: O'Brien becomes a thief.

Previous episode: Far Beyond the Stars
Next episode: Honor Among Thieves

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28 comments on this review

Jim S - Sun, Oct 21, 2007 - 6:53pm (USA Central)
Cant agree more with Jammer. This episode was pure fun. In fact all the last episodes are really enjoyable, each for a different reason. Quality after six seasons is not something everybody can manage. DS 9 stands up to its fame as the best Trek series
Straha - Tue, Nov 4, 2008 - 3:57pm (USA Central)
Sorry, but this episode didnt`t work for me at all - seeing the tiny Runabout flying through all these rooms made me cringe.
Jakob M. Mokoru - Sun, Feb 8, 2009 - 1:50am (USA Central)
I really enjoyed this episode! It was pure fun and showed also very, very good visual effects!

Blue - Tue, Mar 24, 2009 - 9:39pm (USA Central)
Trek is not serious sci-fi and never has been. It should recognize that and stop shoving technobabble down our throats to compensate for its complete lack of plausibility. This episode does just that, focusing on entertainment through an absurd premise, and just like the Magnificent Ferengi, it succeeds. You need real emotional drama and depth of characters to sustain a series, but episodes like this are a really good way to break up the tension.
PM - Fri, Aug 28, 2009 - 9:31am (USA Central)
Man, this one rubbed me wrong. I just couldn't get behind this particular level of absurdity - it's like the DS9 version of Threshold.
Jay - Sun, Sep 6, 2009 - 3:38pm (USA Central)
So the surviving Jem'Hadar were taken prisoner at a Federation POW camp. Do they stock ketracel white there?
Aldo Johnson - Tue, Nov 24, 2009 - 8:40am (USA Central)
What would've made it better is if none of the Jem'Hadar dies. Also, when they are shot, or phasered, or proton torpedoed, they would fall while clutching their shoulders.
Nic - Mon, Jun 21, 2010 - 9:51pm (USA Central)
This is one of the few episodes I saw when it originally aired (in fact at that point it may have been the only episode I had seen from beginning to end), and to be honest I was not at all impressed. It's certainly not a bad episode, but it's not a good episode to be 'introduced' to Trek because it was really goofy and a little behind its time. There's nothing wrong with that, once or twice a season, but I'm glad my first impressions of the series turned out to be wrong.
Phil - Wed, Mar 2, 2011 - 11:54pm (USA Central)
Let me get this straight. You give this episode(a very entertaining one) 3 stars, but you wouldn't give the Magnificent Ferengi ep the same.(???)

"I was laughing quite a bit through this show. But I wasn't laughing because the show was laughable (although I admit that the premise certainly was). I was laughing because I was having fun. That's what this episode is: good fun."

"One Little Ship" is the type of goofy entertainment that exemplifies Trek's other side."

These statements can be used to describe both this episode and the past 2 Quark focused episodes yet you rate them differently. I always thought you showed bias against the Ferengi focused eps. And now I see I was right.
Justin - Thu, Apr 19, 2012 - 1:57am (USA Central)
By this point in the series I think DS9 had already done one too many goofball episodes. I mean we've already had "Who Mourns For Morn," and "The Magnificent Ferengi," representing the Silly Party; "You Are Cordially Invited," "Statistical Probabilities," and "Resurrection" weighing in from the Slightly Silly Party; and now we get "One Little Ship," which in my mind represents the Very Silly Party. Need I remind my fellow rewatchers that "Profit And Lace" isn't far behind this one?



OK, so "One Little Ship" was mildly entertaining, I'll admit, but I just think that DS9 fell too much in love with its silly side in season six especially. And this episode was shamelessly contrived. "Honey, I Shrunk The Runabout" indeed. Why? So we could see tiny torpedoes and actual model sized model ships flying about?

"Yes," you say?

OK, fine, but to quote the mustachioed Federation President from ST:VI - "Just because we can do a thing does not mean that we must do that thing."
Skywalker - Sat, May 19, 2012 - 9:07am (USA Central)
A fun and light-hearted episode I can watch over and over again. It's not as brilliant as Trials and Tribble-ations or as funny as Looking for Par'Mach ... but it's worth of 3.5 stars in my opinion.
Laroquod - Thu, Jun 21, 2012 - 10:22am (USA Central)
People who are angry at reviewers for being biased against Ferengi are hilarious. I can live with that kind of bias; it's like being biased against bad jokes and slapstick comedy. It's the kind of discrimination otherwise known as 'having good taste'.
Ian - Thu, Jul 12, 2012 - 11:21pm (USA Central)
Absurd, and silly...but...
...they should have explored the "Alpha vs Gamma," Jem'Hadar conflict again...but...
...Alpha vs Gamma? Why do ALL the aliens in the show use Hewmon terms?
Specifically Greek Hewmon terms?
Jeffrey Jakucyk - Sat, Jul 21, 2012 - 4:39pm (USA Central)
Am I the only one who noticed some striking similarities in the music score to TNG's episode "Booby Trap"? There's something about it that actually seems quite appropriate too.
Kristen - Mon, Aug 6, 2012 - 11:35am (USA Central)
I found this episode really unappealing. The tiny ship storyline was essentially stolen from Innerspace, a late-80s movie. (Which, incidentally, features music from Jerry Goldsmith and shows Robert Picardo in a supporting role.) That was a cute and silly little movie, where one could suspend their disbelief. This is Star Trek. There are just WAY too many physics and biology issues here for a hardcore sci-fi audience to ignore. It's insulting.

And the Alpha vs. Gamma conflict just pops up suddenly, seems to be based on absolutely nothing (unless the Alphas were bred to specifically be superior assholes) and is just unnecessary. I mean, are the Vortas and Founders really just trying to sabotage their own fighting force? Are they that stupid?

This episode just pisses me off. Jammer's suggestion that it belongs in Voyager's 4th season is right on the money. And that's no compliment.
Tiarfe - Sat, Sep 8, 2012 - 9:38am (USA Central)
I watched this with my 10 year old daughter and we laughed and joked the entire time. It was all in fun and should not have been taken so seriously by some. I suggest watching it again with a lighter heart and laugh away!

Things my daughter and I said:
"Where is the remote control?"
"Tiny ship!"
"I want one!"
"Look at it go!"
"Swat it!"

Even the end was hilarious where Odo showed his sense of humor with Bashir and O'Brien.
Jay - Sun, Nov 18, 2012 - 7:05pm (USA Central)
Well, another episode where one of the potential dilemmas, this time the crew having to stay shrunken, can just as easily be solved by using their most recent pattern from the transporter to restore them, had the technobabble solution not worked.
Arachnea - Wed, Nov 28, 2012 - 4:10am (USA Central)
I agree with Phil, at least the Magnificent Ferengi tapped into comedy without looking back and, the "clins d'oeil" to old westerns were really good. Now this one is halfway between serious issues that should have had bigger depth and some goofy moments.

Some say DS9 pay attention to details. When the Defiant is attacked, Sisko sits cross-legged. There's an explosion, 2 crewmen go down and the captain is still sitting casually cross-legged on his chair. Second explosion, Kira goes down and hop, it gets Sisko's attention, he runs to Kira without a glance to the others... What does that say about Sisko ? ;-)
William - Mon, Dec 31, 2012 - 1:47pm (USA Central)
This was just good ol' sci-fi fun. The tag team of Odo and Quark on the joke at the end was worth the whole thing.

And it was perfect fun coming on the heels of "Far Beyond the Stars."

And I also liked the Gamma vs. Alpha soldiers.
DavidK - Thu, Jan 17, 2013 - 3:08am (USA Central)
This episode sounds terrible on paper, but I was surprised how much I enjoyed it. I never noticed until now that Bashir, O'Brien and Dax have a nice comedic synergy between them, I wish they'd made them a trio more often. And technically, the effects are impressive. You do have to let yourself go along with the ride a little, but the way it's all put together makes that not so difficult.

I'm surprised the whole Alphas v Gammas things never came back (despite Jammer's prediction!), would have been good to see that play out.
Jonathan - Fri, Mar 8, 2013 - 4:15pm (USA Central)
Enjoyed the episode, and I like the idea of a Gamma vs. Alpha conflict, but there was absolutely no subtlety to the execution. They really bashed us over the head with it.
ProgHead777 - Sun, Aug 4, 2013 - 9:27pm (USA Central)
I'm glad Jammer lightened up on these fluff episodes. I guess once DS9 proved it had some teeth, the occasional silly episode didn't seem so threatening. I always have to remind myself that Jammer wrote these reviews as the series aired in first run whereas many of the people reading and commenting on them now a decade and a half later have seen the series in its entirety before, some of us multiple times.
Elnis - Wed, Aug 28, 2013 - 1:40pm (USA Central)
Woohooo!

Action-adventure comedy - I love it!

I don't think the premise of a shrunken ship and crew is any more far-fetched than much of the other stuff we usually just igbnore to enjoy our 45 minutes of Trek - it certainly didn't bother me!

This episode gave me the same "vibe" that I got from watching old adventure movies from the 60'ies or 70'ies. A thrill and a half, just a good romp.

I do feel, however, that we didn't see the "bigguns" through the windows of the runabout enough. We got a shot of Giant Worf at the very end, and that was more or less it - kind of disappointing.

The only thing that annoyed me as I watched the episode was that the ship was clearly large enough for a normal person to definately notice - yet, it flew around a room full of Jem'Hadar and no one saw it. What where they, drunk?

But nevermind - a fun adventure starring our beloved heroes! This is what sci-fi can ALSO do very well if only we let it.
Jack - Sun, Oct 20, 2013 - 9:54pm (USA Central)
In that massive firefight in the last act, it's hard to believe that no one hit the warp core...
Kotas - Wed, Oct 30, 2013 - 10:22pm (USA Central)

A silly ep with a premise that doesn't quite work.

3/10
Ric - Thu, Dec 12, 2013 - 11:45pm (USA Central)
I don't know why some people find this episode's premise either absurd or silly, while they love time-trevel or parallel-universe plots.

And I don't mean it only because those other plots are just precisely as fictional for nowadays science as "One little ship"'s plot. I mean it because if time-space distortion, time-space stretch, time-space manipulation, are the basis of many of the fictional stuff we see (and frequently love) in Trek universe, messing with the "space"dimension seems to me as an only natural extension of playing around so often with the "time" dimension.

And the funnier is that this was never on my mind before this episode started. Once I realized what it was going to be about, I was just blown up.
Ric - Fri, Dec 13, 2013 - 12:22am (USA Central)
Oh yes, not that the episode didn't have, in fact, its share of awkwardness, its dose of silliness and absurdity. The tiny ship crew realizing so fast the meaning of each movement of the "big" crew, the tiny ship hitting the panel to open a door, the small oxygen bubble, and some other, were in fact embarrassing.

But as Jammer and other people have said, most were just the comedy part (it has to be, it is not possible that anyone in the DS9 production team though of those ideas as serious ones)
eastwest101 - Sun, Mar 30, 2014 - 7:41am (USA Central)
Pretty poor effort that misses the mark for its intended fun and novelty factor entirely, predictable and risable script and a very derivative concept.

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