Something is very wrong aboard DS9. Objects and people from the imaginations of the inhabitants have become to appear on the station – everything from blizzards and giant birds to fairytale characters! As the crew try to figure out what’s causing this, they must also deal with a dangerous rift in space that threatens both Bajor and DS9.
It’s episodes like this one that give DS9 season one such a bad name. From the moment a real life Rumpelstiltskin appears in Molly O’Brien’s bedroom, we know that the “fiddle-dee-dee” quotient of the episode is going to be high, and indeed, from then on, it never lets up. We have Bashir enjoying a sexually compliant fantasy Dax, Odo chasing giant birds around the Promenade, and an overall plot so silly it might well have dated from the TOS era. There are few episodes which are less plausible than the likes of Catspaw, for example, but this is certainly one of them.
A world of pure imagination
• O’Brien imagines Rumpelstiltskin after reading a bedtime story to his daughter; he then spends the remainder of the episode grumpily trying to hide the fact that he’s worried the fairytale dwarf will steal Molly away.
• Jake imagines 22nd century baseball star Buck Bokai after playing a few innings with him on the holosuite. Unlike the others, who only appear during the episode, Buck previously existed as a hologram, and seems to have memories of every time the Sisko family ever played with his program.
• Bashir imagines a version of Dax who returns his affections. Bashir has been tolerable these past few episodes, but here he throws it all away by first sexually harassing the real Dax yet again, and then having the depth and detail of his fantasies revealed. He seems to genuinely believe that Dax is secretly desperate to give into her inner yearnings to make sweet, sweet love to the doctor. I mean, sure, there’s nothing wrong with fantasising, but Bashir seems to have taken it to a creepy level of detail.
• Quark imagines two beautiful Bajoran women who stroke his ears and hang on his every word. Notice how Ferengi never seem to want females of their own species – they prefer to play away from home. They even share human standards of attractiveness, by the looks of it.
• Odo takes great pleasure in imagining Quark in jail.
• Dax initiates an imagined subspace rift that threatens the station.
• Odo addresses a crowd as “ladies, gentlemen and androgynous beings”, which is one of the rare moments when Star Trek moves outside the gender binary. I’m not saying that all non-binary people would be thrilled with being called “androgynous beings”, but it’s a start.
• Why had the aliens never encountered imagination before? It seems to me that any warp capable species must have some degree of imagination in order to be able to design and invent new technologies. Yes, perhaps the aliens had never seen a culture in the Gamma Quadrant that places such emphasis on folklore and fiction, but that seems unlikely. The Wadi have sufficient imagination to appreciate their games, and the Claestrons have legends about the Changelings, to name but two.
• For that matter, why did the whole imagination coming to life thing happen anyway? Had the aliens just never noticed this power because they had never met anyone with an imagination before?
• Were all the imagined things and people actually aliens, or just Bokai, Rumpelstiltskin and fake Dax?
• Sisko keeps the baseball from Buck Bokai and displays it in his office from now on
Summary – If Wishes Were Horses: if we only believe strongly enough,, this terrible episode will disappear.