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The Future Will Be Carpeted: An Analysis of ‘Deep Space Nine (S1E9)’

“No favorite of mine!”
     -- Avery Brooks on this episode

The most bracing thing about the Trek universe is how different the basic pitches for each show are.  TOS is about one tiny ship exploring a huge and terrifying galaxy.  TNG is about the flagship of a mighty utopia, juggling exploration and diplomacy with aplomb.  DS9 was a highly serialized space opera, dealing with the dark side of utopia.  Voyager was a lost vessel, a survival adventure against the backdrop of unexplored space.  Yet, for the first season, every Star Trek show thinks it’s the one before it.  Voyager featured a mutiny, some imported villains from DS9, and the kind of skullduggery that a lost ship really can’t afford.  TNG had cheeseball sets, unconvincing bad guys, and scripts that seemed to date from the ‘60s.  It’s not just that the first season thinks it’s the show previous, it’s that it thinks it’s only the bad parts of that show.  This brings me to “Move Along Home,” this week’s episode of DS9, which really feels like a bad TNG episode.

The Wadi, a Gamma Quadrant species discovered by a Vulcan ship, is scheduled to come to DS9 for the purposes of establishing first contact with the Federation.  It’s a pretty big deal.  I know I was excited when I watched this back in 1993, since the Gamma Quadrant is super far away, and, thus, the aliens might be really alien, rather than just some guys in rubber masks.  This was before I understood things like “budget,” “make-up,” and “not murdering your actors.”  Well, I was disappointed, because the Wadi . . . are completely human.  Oh, the leader has an unlikely mustache, they’ve all got hairdos that look like they’re headed for their quinceaneras, they’re dressed like Vegas entertainers with severe vertigo, and they all sport a tattoo smeared across their foreheads.  It’s as if the make-up guys saw the script and were like, “Well, we’re not going to waste a good design on these dips--ts . . . just draw on their faces a little.”

Sisko is all excited for first contact, as well, since it’s sort of the whole reason for the Federation in the first place.  He wasn’t expecting to do much when he took over DS9 either, as the Bajorans had already been first contacted and all, and turned out to be a bit more surly than Starfleet was used to.  The Wadi, led by Falow (owner of the impressive-looking mustache I mentioned earlier), could not be less interested in diplomacy.  No, these space hipsters are fans of “games” and heard about Quark’s.  Which . . . what is Quark’s advertising budget that he’s known in the Gamma Quadrant?  Or was it the ship that discovered the Wadi who mentioned him?  Are Vulcans really into gambling?  I’m brimming with questions here.

Anyway, Quark introduces them to dabo, which is basically space roulette.  The Wadi get the hang of it pretty quickly and soon are winning a lot more than Quark is comfortable with.  He does what any self-respecting Ferengi would do: he cheats.  The Wadi discover that and decide to play their own game, which is called Chula.  While this game has an inverted pyramidal board with game pieces, it also abducts Sisko, Kira, Dax, and Bashir to run through a rat maze and face weird, low-budget challenges to get out.  Basically, we get a little bonding between the four senior officers of the station, but it’s not really worth mentioning.  The show does display a bizarre need to humiliate them, as at one point they’re forced to play hopscotch to win.  No, seriously.  They play f--king hopscotch.  At another point, they have to drink champagne quickly.  I swear, it’s like the writers decided to kick the concept of drama in the crotch until it wept big, fat tears of boredom.  The big twist?  It was all a game.  No one was ever in any danger.  We never see the Wadi again, and they’re just as problematic as the Hunters from “Captive Pursuit” for the same reasons.  There is a way to make their visit make sense in light of later events, but it would acknowledge this episode happened.  I’m with Avery Brooks: this is no favorite of mine.

This is Fanboy Comics, and we’re all about the positive aspects of fandom here, so I’m done talking about what I didn’t like.  I’m going to talk about what I did like, and it comes down to the first scene in the episode.  It’s nothing flashy, just a quiet moment between Commander Sisko and his son Jake (who has been gone for two episodes, which I like that they did rather than shoehorning him into plots where he didn’t belong).  Jake’s getting older, and he’s started noticing girls.  Specifically, Bajoran girls.  Sisko’s a little shocked, but it’s like, dude, you take your pubescent son to a station where 90% of the ladies are Bajoran, guess what’s gonna happen?  Get ready for a Bajoran daughter-in-law and some really awkward Thanksgivings, because she thinks you’re Jesus.  Also, what’s wrong with Bajoran women?  Jake’s love of the ladies of Bajor makes several subtle appearances on the show, which is a great nod to continuity and develops a certain symbolic import as the series progresses.

What Sisko’s really concerned about is that Jake is getting the facts of life from Nog, and, yeah, I’m with him here.  Nog is a Ferengi -- Quark’s nephew, if you recall -- and Ferengi attitudes toward women (or females, as they say, which might account for my dislike of that word used as a noun) are medieval.  Actually, scratch that.  They make one pine for the progressive and enlightened attitudes found in Dark Ages brothels.  The great part of this scene is that Sisko is a rarity, not just in Star Trek, but in science fiction as a whole: he’s a good father.  He’s talking to his son, actually listening, and making an effort to head off a legitimately troubling element in Jake’s emerging personality.  It’s a thread that goes through the entire show, and it’s nice to see that even in an episode as bad as this one, there’s a small element of the good stuff hidden away.  Also, it’s right at the beginning, so you can just cue that up and watch.

Also, this is the last appearance of Lt. Primmin, who cements my dislike for him by addressing Odo with this bizarre, condescending singsong rendition of his name.  Con-STA-bull OH-do.  Ugh, shut up, dude.  You wish you were as cool as Odo.  Primmin goes right back to being useless in this one, and he promptly disappears afterwards.  I’m going to assume Odo airlocked him.

Next up: Ferengi politics.

Justin Robinson is the author of many novels and can be found in his lair at captainsupermarket.com.  He would like to emphasize that, contrary to rumors, he is, in fact, a mammal, though still has not obtained documentation to prove it.

Favorite Golden Girl:  Rose
Favorite Cheese Form:  Melted
Favorite God: Hanuman

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