When DS9 begins to experience an epidemic of mythical, fictional, and historical figures, characters are forced to take long looks at themselves and at each other through the lens of imagination come to life.
From the previews, I was really prepared not to like this episode, to the point where I struggled to maintain interest during the first part. I thought it would be a hokey one-off episode. But right off the bat we just see some marvelous bits of worldbuilding (galaxybuilding?) which blend into a triumphant episode; by the end I began seeing everything differently, like a Banheriam hawk.
Odo and Quark’s initiating banter is always entertaining but I love that we’re seeing Quark learn about human sports in order to sell to humans. These little practical, logical changes sometimes get overlooked in the big SF dramas, but when they’re done well: wow. They make excellent plot seeds for episodes. Elsewhere on the station, Dax and Julian’s conversation takes a similar path: Dax and Odo are both maintaining positions of practical purity, while Quark and Julian riposte with lusty greed (and probably both need sonic showers.) Is DS9 making a statement about human nature? These four are really the character heart of this episode, as Sisko and Kira work with Dax to figure out the mystery behind “elevated thoron emissions in the plasma field” of the Denorios belt.
|The Smoke Monster from LOST, now cast as Elevated Thoron Emissions.|
Whatever these emissions are, they’re resulting in strange apparitions. Characters appear when stories are read, holodeck characters follow people home. Dreams come to life. For some reason I’m reminded of a Babylon 5 episode, “Day of the Dead.” Ghosts or figments, this plot device helps our characters grow. In previous reviews, I’ve bashed Julian. Here, I change; Julian humanizes a LOT in this episode. He loves the chase, clearly, but there’s something more there. Fantasy Dax is stupid, desirable, and easy, and Julian doesn’t want her. He thinks initially he’s sick, and though he’s interested in the fantasy, he doesn’t react to fantasy Dax the way he does to real Dax at all.
Quark’s greed is also entertaining; his comeuppance was hilarious.
The ending was really touching. The prospect of an alien race with a science advanced enough to look like magic has appeared on B5, ST:TNG, and dozens of novels of the science fiction and fantasy variety. In this episode, we're introduced to such a race. The aliens were struck by the human capacity for imagination, but–and they didn't say this outright–additionally the capacity for empathy as well.
Bits and pieces
–Remember, I’m watching most of this series for the first time, although I read a few DS9 novels and was familiar with the premise, and I saw the pilot as a kid. This creates some anachronisms. When I first saw O’Brien react to Rumplestiltskin, my first thought? “OMG! The Dark One! Crossover!"
–Why DO we tell them stories about evil dwarfs that want to steal children?
–I love the O’Brien family. Molly is consistently adorable.
–So is the actor Keone Young, who appeared in Dude, Where’s My Car?, Men in Black 3, Crank, and other films.
Quark: I could make a shape-shifter playmate for you. The two of you could... Intermingle. (Shakes a suggestive glass)
Dax: She really is submissive, isn't she? Is that how you want me to be, Julian? So submissive?
notDax: I am not submissive. Am I?
Bashir: No, er, well, I don't think so.
notDax: I'm just not the cold fish you are.
Dax: Cold fish?
Bashir: Now, I never said that.
notDax: If you'd get down off your high horse, you'd start to appreciate Julian.
Bashir: She has a sense of humour, as, as I've always imagined you do.
notDax: I could use one about now.
Four out of four holodeck baseballs.