Saturday, 23 August 2014

If Wishes Were Horses written by Neil McCue Crawford, William L. Crawford & Michael Piller and directed by Robert Legato

What’s it about: Fantasies start to come true…

Single Father: Seems like Sisko has little time for his imagination but still takes a moment to tell Buck Bokai that he was the greatest baseball player of all time. Is this the first time we see the famous baseball from Sisko’s office? 

GE Doctor: Bashir is still trying to part the red sea otherwise known as Dax's legs but she is keeping him at arms length which probably a good thing considering all the ladies she lists that he has been cosying up to lately. He’s probably had to order in extra STD medication given his outrageously out of control libido. What's hilarious is how he is convinced that Dax is playing a joke on him as she tries to peel off his clothes...somewhere underneath all that egotism lies a man who is frightened that everybody is taking the piss. How embarrassing for Bashir to have his lurid fantasy sex life outed in front of everybody in Ops. To be fair it doesn't seem that much of a surprise to anybody. 

Everyday Engineer: Lovely to see a Star Trek character doing something as simple as reading a bedtime story to his little girl. What a shame that Rumplestiltskin couldn’t have stuck around for a bit because he and O’Brien have some hilarious scenes together. They could have shoved him in a uniform and forced him to work on the engineering crew. He would be perfect for crawling into all the little crawlspaces. Imagine…every time O’Brien needs him to do something he could try and bargain his firstborn! When his figment tells him he is frightened of the unknowable things that is actually a very succinct point, not only would an engineer (someone who looks at the world technically) have an issue with something this intangible and inexplicable but he is also uncomfortable with the whole idea of the changelings too which are similarly enigmatic. O'Brien calls a spade a spade and he feels a spade should definitely be a spade, if you get my meaning. 

Nine Lives: It's interesting that it is pretty much after this episode that Dax comes out of her shell and starts embodying the sexuality of eight lives worth of experiences. Maybe she saw what Bashir liked in her and decided to give it a try, no matter how much she argues that her doppleganger is so submissive. If you skip forward four or five years you really wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between Bashir’s fantasy Dax and the real one. Especially not when she jumps on Worf and starts romping him in the holosuite.

Unknown Sample: Odo gets in exactly the right mood for this episode with his own wonderfully cynical view on fantasies and imagination – that it is a complete waste of time. However when given the chance to flirt with his imagination and actualise it he has some cheeky fun throwing Quark in a jail cell and losing him a fortune at the Dabo table (well I’m sure those playing did most of that but I bet Odo gave it a little push). It's surprising how much this gruff character works in a comedy episode. 

Community Leader: When Quark suggests creating a holographic shape shifter for Odo to intermingle he declares the Ferengi disgusting to which Quark replies ‘it’s a living!’ He is expanding to try and appeal to all the hew-mons and has a vision of Ferengi selling family entertainment and fleecing them all rotten. He thinks that a Federation experiment has gone wrong and they’ve turned the station giant holosuite and naturally he conjures up a pair of buxom and scantily clad babes, one for each arm. When the Station is being destroyed around him Quark still has one of his ladies clutched to him whilst reaching for a bar of gold pressed latinum – faithful to the last.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Now you didn’t think that that would make me break in two and disappear, did you?’
‘Why are you fighting this?’ ‘Why am I fighting this? Why…am I fighting this?’

‘Oh fine! Now everyone knows my name!’
‘It's snowing on the Promenade!’
‘Yellow alert? Against our own imaginations?’ – trust Kira to point out the craziness of the situation!
‘I’m going to have ask you to refrain from using your imaginations!’
‘I’ve spend all my time chasing incarnations of the prophets, long dead lovers, Gunji jackdaws, blizzards…trollops!’ 

The Good: Don’t deny it, you find the baby Molly the cutest thing in the world too! The shot of her in her pyjamas gazing up at her folks and saying ‘Rumplestiltskin’ just makes me melt. The fantasies are of a childhood monster coming true, of a teenager wishing his hero was real, of a horny Doctor who wants to get his jollies with the frigid science officer and of a terrorist who conjures a horrific burning victim – whilst this episode is basically a bit of fun each of the fantasies whipped up is rooted in character. Bashir’s reaction to Dax salivating over him is hilarious. Odo gets some very funny moments on the Promenade coping with six centimetres of snow and trying to be gentlemanly with a genuinely demonic looking bird. The scene where all the figments sit around bitching about their creators is unusual but I love the idea of peoples imaginations confusing the hell out of them – that we wish for things that we don’t actually want in reality. Who ever said that human beings make sense? The ending is very pat but I do like the way Sisko manipulates his crew into whisking away the danger. 

The Bad: It's such a shame that they even bothered to tether on a boring technobabble plot to explain all of this but then I suppose DS9 is still Star Trek (the franchise) at this point rather than it's own unique brand that it would become. There’s a hilarious sequence where all the regulars stare in horror at the subspace fracture on the view screen that goes on forever. I think it was supposed to reveal that when they are in danger their imaginations (since they are watching them watch the fracture) are forgotten but it loses something in its execution. As they defeat the fracture the audience is swamped with a tsunami of technobabble (but at least Kira has the nerve to say ‘What the hell does that mean?’ at her own technobabble!). One odd thing about the first season of DS9 is that it keeps throwing out ideas that scream of being followed up in later seasons (Kai Opaka) and in this episode the entity even says ‘maybe next year.’ For a show that has a brilliant hit rate at following things up there are some remarkable oversights.

Moment to Watch Out For: Kira’s pyro nightmare is terrifying – imagine a man on fire running towards you like that?

Teaser-tastic: As soon as we meet Rumplestiltskin in the flesh you know this is going to be one of those TNG premises that DS9 tries out every now and again (see also Rivals, Meridian, Children of Time, One Little Ship).

Only DS9: The Quark/Odo scenes are so good I could just imagine a great sitcom with the two of them hanging out in the bar (ala the Coffee Shop in Friends) and bitching at each other. Frankly given the loose sexuality that goes on on this station I’m surprised they didn’t call the show Deep Throat Nine! It's very refreshing to have a Star Trek show that doesn’t like dull old strictures like duty get in the way of having a good time. Even Worf eventually gets his jollies on when he joins.

Result: If Wishes Were Horses is basically a load of old tat with a plot that is barely worth mentioning and yet the episode is full of insightful character moments, funny scenes, fantastic dialogue and some very interesting fantasies being brought to life. It shows the huge gulf between when DS9 tries something this nonsensical and when TNG and VOY do (which would just be dreadful in both cases – what would Harry Kim wish for, to sit in the Captain’s chair?). The three episodes that have gone down the light-hearted route this year have all tried to end on a moment of danger (and only The Nagus got away with it) and in this case I really wouldn’t have bothered. There is a terrific amount of comic mileage to be had out of the idea of peoples imaginations running out of control without having to resort to a dreary old technobabble hazard. A disposable episode that just so happens to be an enormous amount of fun for two thirds of its running time: 7/10

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