WARNING: This article contains spoilers for "If Wishes Were Horses", the latest episode from DS9. If your wishes do not involve spoilers at this time (horses being somewhat irrelevant), then avoid the article.
Well ... not bad, but uninspired -- and way too much time spent on a cheap-laughs plot.
That plot, of course, is the "Dueling Daxes" bit that we got a great deal of, and was by far the least successful element of "If Wishes Were Horses". What elements of it did work were almost entirely due to Bashir's reactions to the situation. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
"If Wishes Were Horses" was, I'd have to say, a surprisingly _routine_ outing for DS9. Given that the entire story involves imagination turning into reality, you'd tend to expect that the crafting of the show might have a
little more imagination than it seemed to to me. I didn't dislike it by any means, but it didn't really fire up my enthusiasm, either.
The obvious comparison, I think, is to elements of TNG's "Where No One Has Gone Before", which also had a strong imagination-vs-reality issue involved. However, there were two differences:
-- WNOHGB got the crew into it by their own efforts, and
-- WNOHGB didn't have an induced "jeopardy" angle to create suspense.
"If Wishes Were Horses" had such a plot, and also had no _responsibility_ for the situation on the part of the characters. All they got to do was react and attempt to figure things out. Now, it's to the show's credit that they
*did* figure things out on their own, rather than having the aliens simply wave everything away as all better later. It is also _very_ much to the show's credit that the jeopardy was merely another illusion created by the
crew itself, although the aliens did in fact give it form.
Despite doing good things with both of those weaknesses, though, they still felt like weaknesses.
The storyline involving the "figments" as actual explorers was an interesting twist, and I think I'd have enjoyed it more had the explorers themselves been a little more interesting. I've already mentioned (though not yet in detail) my distaste for the alternate Dax, and "Buck Bokai" didn't do much for me either. In fact, I was somewhat surprised to see that the observer I liked the most was Rumpelstiltskin, though with Michael John Anderson playing him I probably shouldn't have been so surprised. Rumpelstiltskin was far more sinister than I expected him to be, which probably helped a great deal.
Part of the problem I had with "If Wishes Were Horses" is that it never quite seemed to settle on what it wanted to do as an episode. Was it going to be a lighthearted look at the characters, a la "The Naked Whichever"? Was it going to be working on the dangers and the strengths of imagination? Was it a standard "the station's in danger from an outside force" show?
I think it tried to be several things at once, and as such didn't quite manage to be successful at any of them. The first two both worked up to a point, but only a point -- and much of the third didn't work at all, except
for the ending.
The problem with the "lighthearted" end is that at times the characters were simply being used *as* jokes rather than having humor come *from* them. Odo is one example. Although his imagining Quark in jail worked just fine, his chasing everything and anything around the Promenade didn't, and his request to "refrain from using your imaginations" _really_ didn't.
Then, there's the "dueling Daxes". What little of this worked worked because we were seeing Bashir's reactions to his fantasy actually coming to life. Dax and alternate-Dax themselves did not. That's a pity, because with Dax's _already_ dual nature, there could have been a nice Dax-as-Dax vs. Dax-as-Jadzia conflict here. Instead, the impression I got was Dax-as-repressed vs. Dax-as-sex-kitten, which is far better than the
Terry Farrell had a lot of work to do here, but I don't quite think she pulled it off. She did a very good job of showing the *contrast* between the two Daxes when playing the Dax-figment, but at the cost of making the normal Dax far too aloof and prickly. I didn't buy the reaction to the "cold fish" barb one bit -- even given that Dax has bad memories of Curzon Dax's amorous adventures, the _way_ she reacted to it just didn't ring true at all.
The bits of the Dax/Dax/Bashir issue that worked for me were in Bashir's reactions to having this intensely private fantasy spring full-blown into his life. Even beforehand, El Fadil was having a lot of fun this week -- his
reaction to being called a good "friend" epitomized the reaction of every single male friend (and many female friends as well) I've ever had to hearing the infamous "let's just be friends". Later, when Dax-figment shows up in
his bed, his act of being "suayve and de-bon-er" evaporated into the mist and he became a babbling idiot, as I think most people would have in that situation. (To his credit, he kept enough of his wits about him that he
thought something was wrong with her and checked it out, something which I think a lot of people would *not* do in that situation. His findings may not have been enough, but they were a good start.) And in the end, "why am I fighting this? Why _am_ I fighting this?" was just plain funny. :-)
The Sisko/Bokai relationship was interesting, but just didn't quite grab me. Part of it might be that I was never much of a baseball fan. Brooks and Keone Young certainly played off each other well, so that's not it, although
there were times when I thought Young sounded too forced in the baseball chatter. In fact, I think that's it -- I liked it whenever we got to see Bokai the *person*, but far more often we saw Bokai the *ballplayer*, which
simply failed to draw me in. (The extended epitaph for baseball _must_ have been Michael Piller's idea, given his love of the sport. Unfortunately, for me all it did was stop the show dead for about a minute.)
That leaves O'Brien and Rumpelstiltskin, which worked the best of the three for getting across the power of imagination. Firstly, O'Brien's salt-of-the-earth type of attitude suggests someone who doesn't have a whole
lot of use for imagination (which certainly lent itself well to elements of "The Storyteller"). I'm not sure I'd have taken it to the point of him being *afraid* of imagination, though -- I'd have put him with Odo as considering
it a waste of time. (I also suspect that O'Brien had to read "Rumpelstiltskin" the story a _lot_ of times before he could do it that well. He doesn't strike me as the type to improvise much.) I also rather enjoyed this because we finally got to see O'Brien as a family man in a way that _worked_, and in a way that called up Rumpelstiltskin naturally and easily.
I do have to wonder why both Rumpelstiltskin (aside: I'm getting *really* tired of having to type that all the time :-) ) and Bokai were so insistent that they were linked to the *adult* Sisko and O'Brien. Given that Bokai
turned real while playing with Jake, and that Rumpelstiltskin didn't show up until O'Brien had *left* the room, I'd have bet more that they were products of Jake and Molly, not Ben and Miles.
I have to say again that I very much *liked* the fact that the "jeopardy" angle was in fact a false one, tied into their own imaginations. Lisa guessed about two-thirds of the way in that the whole problem was Dax's
imagination, and it's a testament either to how well they covered their tracks or to how unthinking I was earlier in the week that I said that it couldn't be that. Sigh. :-)
That ending also gave Sisko a chance to truly shine in a command role, which he did in spades. I'm a little skeptical that a mere *four* people suddenly believing there was no rift actually got rid of the thing -- couldn't anyone else see it? -- but in terms of dramatic potential right that second, it was terrific.
Finally (at least in main points), I think the technobabble level was set a bit too high this week, primarily when dealing with the rift. The entire conference about what to do against it struck me as "a tech-created solution
to a tech-created problem". There wasn't a whole lot of material there to get the spirit going, y'know?
That's about that. Now, some shorter points:
-- Yet another Stephen Donaldson thought: the figment aliens struck me as very similar to Donaldson's Elohim in some ways, particularly given that they had to turn themselves into things like snow, fire, and that rift itself.
-- Much of the direction didn't quite do it for me (particularly the very opening scene -- almost no camera motion at all), but Legato must've had fun with the emus. Two emus walk offstage, and Quark's two trollops walk onstage. If the term's still used in Britain, the phrase "birds" is suddenly far more appropriate. :-)
-- Quark's opportunity made me think immediately of the Universal Studios tour. Just a thought.
That should about do it. I'll add that I may feel better about the show come summer, when I have more imagination to spare myself about it. Right now, though, I'd say it was a reasonably-done show that could've been much more.
So, numbers time:
Plot: Solid, if not entirely riveting. Call it an 8.
Plot Handling: 5. Mostly okay, with a few good bits and a few really disappointing bits (like the baseball epitaph and dueling Daxes)
Characterization: 7. It could've been much more if Bokai and Dax had been better.
OVERALL: 6.5. Not bad, but not great.
Circumstances drive Odo to melt in Lwaxana's arms.
Tim Lynch (Harvard-Westlake School, Science Dept.)
"He followed me home from the holosuite."