The Great Star Trek DS9 Rewatch: Rivals

When an El-Aurian con man gets hold of a gambling device, his luck suddenly changes for the better – but is it a mere coincidence, or is something affecting the laws of probability? Meanwhile, O’Brien becomes determined to prove that he isn’t past it by repeatedly challenging the younger and fitter Bashir to games of racquetball.

I knew this episode was coming up, but I couldn’t remember exactly when – only that it was one that I associated with the silliness that cropped up in early DS9. The entire premise of this episode is based on a device that can affect the laws of probability, making unlikely events – both good and bad – into near certainties. How does it work? Who knows, it’s magic even by Star Trek standards. Even if you can stomach this stupid storyline, the fact that it’s fronted by an unlikeable one-offcharacter hardly helps. When the best plotline an episode can offer is a hackneyed B-plot about a sporting rivalry, you know you’re in trouble. I think it’s safe to say that we haven’t had anything this tiresome since Move Along Home.

Ye canna change the laws of physics…except when you can

  • How are the devices changing the laws of probability? At the quantum level, they seem to be affecting the spin of neutrinos, and perhaps other fundamental particles – although no one thinks to check. At a macroscopic level, it changes people’s physical coordination, their decision making and even the reliability of their computer terminals. It’s entirely unclear how such a thing could work, or how it could have such specific, directed effects. If we assume that it does work, this is some game-changing technology, and should be researched at once. Could you make a device that always won and gave you good luck, whilst also creating a device that always lost and gave your opponents bad luck? Like that Ferengi teleport in Bloodlines, this important piece of technology will never be seen again, because it would break Star Trek to do so.
  • Both O’Brien and Bashir are keen racquetball aficionados. This certainly ties in with what we learnt about Bashir’s desire to become a professional tennis player.
  • Rom apparently shaves the latinum – does this mean he extracts the liquid latinum, or does he just shave bits of worthless gold off the bars for an unknown purpose?
  • Why is there such a big deal about getting blankets to orphans on Bajor? For that matter, why is there a famine, when the Federation can send down industrial replicators to provide food, blankets and anything else the Bajorans require. The Federation have been specifically called in to help Bajor, so it’s clear the Bajorans have already come to terms with accepting charity. At the very start of the series, Sisko says the planet isn’t even self-sufficient, so they must have accepted this kind of help already. They might not want to rely on Federation handouts long-term, but surely it’s better than letting people starve and children freeze to death?
  • What’s the “deep code layer” of the DS9 computer system? The operating system? The kernel? Was Dax just running a find command to locate that program she was looking for?
  • On Rom’s Naming Day, Quark sold off all his presents and replaced them with vegetables. Rom was also teased for having smaller lobes than the other boys, causing Quark to tell everyone that his brother was adopted. Poor Rom.

Summary – Sanctuary: What is it about episodes with silly alien games in them?

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