Those of you who use Netflix on the Xbox 360 are doubtless aware of the Netflix app’s upsetting new feature: sit on any title too long, and, unbidden, the poster is replaced with a random still from somewhere in the middle of the feature. Thus begins the story of today’s synopsis: as I navigated to our episode for today, I was confused to see the DS9 cover art replaced with a terrifying gnome-man refugee from Shelley Duvall’s Faerie Tale Theatre. Remember that, internet? Maybe in your nightmares.
I sat there, perplexed for a moment, and then I moaned “oh, dear God, this one.”
Yes. That is the sort of episode we’re dealing with today. I would say to buckle your seat belts because it’s going to be a bumpy night, but I don’t need another excuse to skip this recap and watch All About Eve instead.
Synopsis: We open in Quark’s, where Quark is scolding Odo for monitoring his bar even on a slow day like this one. He offers to set Odo up with a holosuite program, but Odo says he has no time for fantasies, and people should pay attention to what’s actually going on in their actual lives. Silly. Quark offers that he could set Odo up with a sexy virtual shape-shifter lady, a suggestion that makes Odo take umbridge – even more so when he sees Jake coming down from the holosuite floor.
“You’re not allowing young Mr. Sisko in your holosuites, I hope,” Odo says icily to Quark, as though the holosuite can be used for porn purposes only. This leads me to imagine what other porn-capable devices they have in the future, and makes me wonder if Odo approves of young men using any technology at all.
Quark assures Odo that Jake just uses the holosuite for baseball games, explaining that Sisko brought along a program that recreates famous players throughout history so you can play with them, Field of Dreams style. Quark says that Family Entertainment is the future, describing his dream to one day have a functional Six Flags over Bajor in his holosuites, in addition to his porn programs (including Porn Six Flags Over Bajor). Odo says he’s disgusting.
Speaking of disgusting (cheap shot!) we cut to Bashir hitting on Jadzia elsewhere in the bar. He says Jadzia is constantly in his thoughts, and Jadzia points out that a lot of ladies seem to be on his mind, and then formally Friend Zones him. And then she literally tells him to take a cold shower. Ouch!
Jadzia makes her way to Ops, where the team has spotted an unusual energy reading, which they need her help deciphering.
Meanwhile, in Chez O’Brien, Irishy is reading his daughter Molly a bedtime story as his shrewish wife Kieko looks on, smiling for once in her miserable life. I guess it’s because they’re reading Rumpelstiltskin, a story about a woman who takes credit for someone else’s work and then breaks the deal she made with that person and then lives happily ever after. Burn!
Side note: Irishy does amazing voices, I want him to read all my books to me forever.
At the end of the story, Molly insists that she’s not tired, but her parents put her to bed anyway because they want to have sex. But no sooner do they leave Molly in her dark room than she runs out in her footie pajamas to alert them that Rumpelstiltskin is in her room. They chuckle indulgently and explain that he isn’t real, the story is just a story. Um, guys? This little girl was brought up on the Enterprise, where hallucinations took human form and vengeful alien life forms pretended to be imaginary friends of children, I think she just might have a firm grasp on what’s real and what’s not. Luckily, Irishy agrees to investigate, if only to make her feel better, and finds the terrifying dwarf-man himself sitting on his daughter’s bed.
Hey! You got fantasy in my sci-fi! You got sci-fi in my fantasy!
After credits, we see the first of many demonstrations that Irishy O’Brien is second only to Sisko in dealing with emergencies (possibly because he finds himself in the middle of so many, the poor man was an everyman whipping boy of crises): he picks up his daughter and walks calmly but quickly to his wife and hands her off, saying, “get her out of here. Now.” He doesn’t even explain when she’s all “what the hell is that little person doing there?” he’s just like, “move it, sister, I got business to take care of.”
As his wife and daughter clear the blast zone, he notifies security, and Rumpelstiltskin starts messing up his shit, explaining that he’s looking for the straw that needs turning into gold. Irishy is all, “who are you?” and he’s all, “who do you think, dumbass?” and Irishy is all, “RUMPELSTILTSKIN,” the pronunciation of which actually causes the little guy to wince. I always thought he was just hella pissed in the story because he lost his idiotic bet, but apparently the awfulness of his name causes him actual physical pain. Take note, baby-having celebrities.
Rumpelstiltskin explains that he “doesn’t make deals like that anymore,” (well, good to know he’s identified his problem) as two extremely burly Federation security gentlemen show up. Rumpelstiltskin says that there’ll be no trouble if they’re nice, and they look at him as though they doubt he is capable of causing trouble, and also as if they are already formulating the amusing names they will call Irishy at breakfast tomorrow morning for calling security about this.
But when they go to grab him, he vanishes and reappears behind them, and calmly says that Irishy only needs to explain what he needs, and he, Rumpelstiltskin, will name the price and make it happen. Irishy knows when to call in the big guns, and immediately comm badges in to Sisko that he needs him in his quarters, STAT. Sisko says he’ll be right there, but as he’s going out the door, Jake runs up in great distress. Before we can find out what’s up, Sisko is confronted by a rotund Asian gentleman in a baseball uniform who greets him by name. Sisko looks at Jake like he’s seen a ghost, and Jake explains that the man followed him home from the holosute (can we keep him, Dad, huh?)
When we cut to Bashir’s quarters, you can actually hear the nerds across the decades screaming “YEEEEESSSSSSS,” because there is clearly a pattern here, and the next logical step in the sequence involves a semi-naked Jadzia. Actually, she’s fully clothed, but she’s definitely all over Bashir, waking him from his nap with her caresses. It speaks to the insecurity of Bashir’s character that his first move while making out with Jadzia is to scan her with his tricorder because he assumes she’s in the midst of some sort of fever delirium. When she checks out fine, he starts yelping, “must be me, must be me,” and turns the tricorder on himself.
Jadzia asks why he’s fighting this (because he has a weaker grasp on reality than Molly O’Brien, apparently), and he seems to agree that it doesn’t make sense, and just as they’re about to get down and dirty (their heads leave the frame and everything!) Kira comm badges in that all senior officers need to report to the bridge. Bashir then decides that Jadzia’s sudden affection is a practical joke.
When the two of them get to Ops, Siko introduces them to the baseball player, Buck Bokai, who’s been dead for 200 years, and to Rumpelstiltskin (“Now everyone knows my name,” he mutters to Irishy, disgruntled). Sisko asks if this could be related to the increased Technobabble emissions in the Technobabble field, and Jadzia makes doe eyes at him, all like, “I’m too pretty to know anything about emissions, unless they’re nocturnal, *wink*, *giggle*.” Just at this moment, the real Jadzia (you had to see that coming, right?) comes up in the turbolift, looking amused.
After the commercial break, Bashir is scanning all of the new additions, who, he says, all seem real enough. Sisko tries to explain to Buck Bokai that he is a hologram, and even though he remembers everything that ever happened to him, it’s just because he was programmed that way. Irishy notes dryly that Rumpelstiltskin didn’t come out of a holosuite, and looks longingly at him like he’d just love to give him a firm swift kick to see how far he’d fly. As all this is going on, Jadzia Two keeps trying to make out with Bashir, and he keeps trying to move her hands off of him.
Sisko explains that both Rumpelstiltskin and Buck Bokai came out of imaginations. “His imagination?” Rumpelstiltskin says dubiously, as though he thinks Irishy is too limited to have created him in all his splendor.
Jadzia Two joyfully exclaims that she must have come out of Julian’s imagination, and apparently she considers that a fine hometown, since she starts trying to reach it with her tongue. Bashir demands to know how this could have possibly happened, and why the Jadzias aren’t making out right now.
Jadzia stops smirking long enough to start musing on what could be going on. Just then, all of the fantasy people vanish, and Odo comm badges in to report that it is snowing on the promenade (just in time for Space Christmas!). Incidentally, who was sitting around imagining that it was snowing on the space station? Was there a screening of White Christmas in the movie theater that no one mentioned to us?
Sisko says to take it to yellow alert, and Jadzia thinks she’s figured something out. She says that they are dealing with a subspace anomaly, which is dangerous, I guess. Rumpelstiltskin reappears to ask if Irishy needs anything, and Irishy hilariously slaps his hand away from a control panel.
Odo reports back that the snow is gone, but now there’s a Space Emu just wandering around down there. OK, that’s just dumb. Who was like, you know what I wish I had right now? A GODDAMN SPACE EMU. Odo herds it out of the way and checks in at Quark’s, where everyone is of course winning spectacularly. He makes a general announcement that everyone must stop using their imaginations, to much booing. “Just because you don’t have an imagination,” Quark says as he parades down the stairs with what appear to be two of Jabba’s more becoming slave girls, “don’t ruin it for the rest of us.” The ladies, by the way, are not Ferengi: Quark doesn’t discriminate, he has fine tastes in inter-species lovin’.
Odo says they’re looking in to the phenomenon, and Quark says no rush. Odo says he’s surprised Quark isn’t more concerned by how much money he’s losing, and Quark suddenly realizes that his imagination is not the only one in overdrive. He becomes very sad very quickly.
In the lab, Bashir and Jadzia are scanning stuff while Irishy works on a probe to launch out into the Technobabble field. Bashir is clearly feeling very awkward, and when he tries to apologize, she says he doesn’t have to, and she feels like his privacy is what’s been invaded here. Well, that’s a pretty enlightened way of looking at it, I guess, but maybe that’s just how you handle things in a space military organization with no clear workplace sexual harassment policy. She says she understands that everyone has private thoughts that should stay private, and that she herself was once a young man, so she understands his compulsion to fap about everyone around him.
However, she seems to take issue with how submissive Julian’s fantasy version of her is – unfortunately, Jadzia Two overhears and says “I am not submissive! Am I?” Bashir tells her she’s not, and she says she just isn’t the cold fish the real Jadzia is, and if the Real Jadzia got off her high horse she’d be really into Bashir. Jadzia is starting to get pissed, and it only gets worse as her doppelganger tells her to embrace her secret Julian yearnings. “Yearnings, hmmm?” the Real Jadzia asks.
Bashir is saved by the bell as the computer announces that it’s found a match. There was a similar rupture in another system in the 23rd century, and it destroyed that system. Dun-dun-DUN!
So they launch a probe to check things out as more than half the ship’s population has experienced their imaginations coming to life. In Ops, Rumpelstiltskin bothers Irishy about cutting a deal as he tries to calibrate the probe. He says Irishy is afraid of him, which Irishy denies, saying Rumpelstiltskin is only a figment of his imagination. Rumpelstiltskin says that doesn’t change anything, and hypothesizes that Irishy is subconsciously afraid for Molly, who is, naturally, his firstborn. Irishy looks at him like he wishes he’d been reading a letter from Penthouse Forum aloud to Molly last night.
Over in ScienceLand on the other side of the room, Sisko, Jadzia, and Bashir find that the anomaly is getting larger, drawing in all the surrounding space, so that’s bad. Sisko leaves Ops to stroll along the promenade with Buck Bokai, who is taking issue at being a hologram. Sisko banters a while, and Buck reveals that he was involved in the twilight of baseball, and that there were only 300 people in the stands when he won the series. “301 in my version,” Sisko grins, and Buck says that it meant a lot to his holo-self that Sisko was there and cheering so loud. This is kind of sweet, especially since it seemed to predict the death of baseball about 100 years late, and it’s nice to know that Sisko’s hobbies are sort of archaic, the equivalent of someone today who knows all about the titans of world archery and trains on the weekends.
In the next scene, we discover that there is more to the figments of imagination than it seems: they’ve all materialized in private to have a round-table discussion, and seem perplexed about the humans who created them (“why would mine create a dwarf that could terrify him?”), and talking like they’re on a mission to understand humans. Buck proudly says that he “made a connection” with “his”, and the others demand to know how much more time they’re expected to sink into this project. Buck says as long as it takes.
After the commercial break, Sisko voices over that they still don’t know what’s up, but have redirected all incoming ships for the time being, presumably to avoid adding additional imaginations to the mix. The senior staff are in his office, discussing strategy. Apparently some Vulcans ran into a similar rupture a while back, but it swallowed them up and then imploded.That says a lot about Vulcans, I think. Irishy argues that the best way to seal the rupture is by shooting special torpedoes at it, because why the fuck not? They meet some resistance from Kira, but Sisko thinks it’s a good idea.
Kira goes the pylons to check for people to evacuate, and has a vision of horrible fire and a screaming on-fire person and freaks out (maybe she’s still feeling guilty about lighting that old coot’s house on fire last week?).
Odo is on the promenade herding more Space Emus, so someone is apparently still thinking about them. Is it the same person, thinking about additional Space Emus, or has the original thinker lured more people into his Space Emu discussion group? Maybe it’s a vicious cycle, like, when someone tells you not to think about a Space Emu because it will materialize on the promenade, that’s all you can think about.
As Odo herds, Quark chases him down to complain about the quality of his Slave Girls, who apparently keep going on and off-line. Fortunately they return to him, just as the Space Emus, who have rounded the corner, go silent (hmmmm). Quark cheerfully asks what Odo’s dreamed up, and Odo says he’s spent his day chasing incarnations of the Bajoran prophets, long-dead loves, various animals, and, he adds pointedly, “trollops.” Quark laughs gaily, accuses Odo of having no imagination, and weaves off.
Returning to his office, Odo makes a surprising discovery: there is an angry Quark in his brig, demanding to be let out and saying Odo put him there. Odo smirks to himself as he says, “I guess I did. No imagination indeed.”
In his quarters, Jake is tossing a ball back and forth, when suddenly Buck appears to entice him with additional baseball time. Jake says that he really has to finish his homework first, saying his dad would kill him. Suddenly, Jake accidentally conjours up his dad, who refuses to accept his “broken computer” excuse, and Jake settles in to do his homework in earnest.
In Ops, Jadzia tells Sisko that the rupture is expanding faster than ever, and it’s now big enough to look at on visual scanners, so they all gaze at it awhile. Tellingly, the fantasy people have come to watch, too, but seem more interested in watching the watchers than watching the anomaly. Jadzia Two notes that Bashir is afraid, and asks that he hold her. He does. Sisko has them crank the shields all the way up, put them at red alert, and fire the torpedoes.
At first, it seems to work, but then the camera starts shaking and you know shit’s serious. Everything starts exploding and stuff and the computers go on and off. Minor shield damage, our main characters seem fine. Jadzia Two is down with a head injury, though, and Bashir starts treating her for a concussion, and she passes out after saying she “never meant to bother him *sob*.”
Meanwhile, the Real Jadzia is frustrated that her sensor readings don’t make sense (I’ll take her word on that). Apparently the rift is going to begin expanding again in a few minutes. Luckily, Rumpelstiltskin says he can help! He snaps his fingers and Kaiko and Molly are suddenly there, and he says that he’ll fix the rift in exchange for Molly – it’ll be a snap. For a minute, Irishy seems like he’s about to do it, and then he’s all, “wait, I’m sorry, this is crazy talk.” Rumpelstiltskin is all, “NEED OF THE MANY IS GREATER THAN THE NEED OF THE FEW, BITCHES, GIVE ME YOUR DAUGHTER TO SAVE YOUR SPACE STATION.”
This is the lovely moment we reach in episodes of every Star Trek series (yes, haters, even Enterprise) where there is raging chaos on the bridge and the Captain steps in, clear-eyed, and calmly says, “no thank you, we will not be compromising today.”
Sisko says, “No. He doesn’t have to.”
He asks Jadzia when they first started picking up on the rupture, and Jadzia says it was when they were trying to figure out what was up. Sisko points out that everyone, spurred on by Jadzia, imagined that there was an horrendous anomaly, and then there was. Here is how awesome a leader Sisko is: as his crew stands on the brink of death, he talks them down and makes them believe that there is no danger so well that there suddenly isn’t. This crew trusts Sisko over their fear, their computers, and their own eyes.
Things return immediately to normal, with all the fictional people vanishing along with the rift. Sisko tells Jadzia to continue her analysis, but avoid speculation, and tells Irishy to take his family home. Sisko sits on the couch in his office, and, just as he’s trying to relax, Buck appears and reveals that they’re space-surfing aliens. Sisko asks why they didn’t just say that in the first place, and Buck says that they’re never sure how they’re going to be treated. Sisko says he understands, and he says it pretty goddamn calmly considering what they just put his station through. Buck says they were just trying to understand, and wanted to see where their imaginations took them, because they don’t have imaginations in their species.
He’s very impressed by Sisko’s affection for the real Buck, who he never met, and says he should appreciate his imagination and all it can do. Sisko is all, “but we don’t know anything about you,” and the alien says, “after all this crap the writers we too worn out to give us even the shoddiest backstory,” tips his hat, and leaves (OK, he actually just said, “maybe next year,” but mine is better). Sisko, again, seems oddly sanguine about all this nonsense, and the episode ends.
Meredith’s Analysis: This episode has a lot of problems, not least that it feels like a retread of the NexGen episode “Where No One Has Gone Before,” in which the Enterprise traveled to the end of the known universe with the help of someone called “The Traveler” who kept coming on to Wesley Crusher in a really creepy way. Apparently at the end of the universe, your memories/imaginings become real, and we learned that Tasha Yar used to have a cat before she was gang raped all day on whatever her home planet was, and Picard’s mom was Queen Victoria. The episode was resolved in pretty much the same way, too: Picard got on the PA and told everyone to think really hard about going home, which supplemented the talents of the Traveler in some way and allowed them to do so. Rumpelstiltskin is also kind of idiotic, so that’s unfortunate.
But the episode does give us a little useful character development, introducing Sisko’s uncompromising, nerdcore love of baseball (while we’d touched on it before, this is the first time we really understand his devotion), Irishy’s dogged defense of his family against all comers, and Bashir’s awkward inability to interact with a woman who likes him back.
Tim’s Analysis: This is one of those “filler but we still learn things” episodes. It’s definitely a rehash of a TNG episode, but I kind of like this one a little better if I have to choose. The fantasies are goofier and more memorable, random emus included, and Sisko’s leadership actually shines better than Picard’s. I’ll take Sisko’s speech at the end over “stop thinking and trust the pale guy with a sweater fetish” any day. Alien Buck Bokai gives Sisko a baseball in this episode. While the events of the episode are certainly never mentioned again, the baseball will become an essential component of the show.