They should've taken it as a sign that they're about to embark on the Mother of All Losing Streaks.
Yes, folks. It's true. The home team is about to go 0-2 in the First Contact game.
While it's too early to tell for sure (unless, of course, you've seen the whole series), a picture is beginning to emerge: First Contact is not actually something the folks on Deep Space Nine do well.
Or, y'know, competently.
Episode 09: Move Along Home
This episode is what I call a stand-alone soap bubble. It’s interesting in that it shows that the DS9 crew (with the exception of Sisko and Dax) really are inexperienced when it comes to First Contact situations, and it has some nice character moments. Other than that, there’s absolutely nothing substantial here.
The plot itself is on the thin side: A delegation of aliens from the Gamma Quadrant are coming to visit, thanks to an invite from a Vulcan exploratory ship. That means it’s time for the senior staff of Deep Space Nine to break out the dress uniforms and play official welcome wagon. Of course, Bashir forgot to pack his dress uniform and Kira doesn’t actually have one, but they are present for the line-up.
One quickly suspects, however, that the Vulcans played a nasty trick on Our Heroes.
The Vulcans are nowhere present when our alien delegation disembarks and Sisko is cut off in mid-sentence when the aliens demand to know where Deep Space Nine keeps its games. While the station’s senior staff is all, “The hell?” the aliens quietly consult and come up with a name of an establishment they heard about from the nice Vulcans who invited them over for a visit: Quark’s.
Our bemused crew takes the aliens to our friendly neighborhood bar/casino. From there, it becomes an exercise in frustration. The aliens just want to have fun, Quark just wants to get paid, and Sisko wishes so much that someone else was handling this First Contact situation that he actually confides in Quark that he’d be more than willing to drag the admiral who wrote the First Contact rules to Deep Space Nine so she could deal with the “guests” instead of him.
It appears that Deep Space Nine’s second attempt in serving as the welcome mat for the Alpha Quadrant is a total bust.
Although protocol calls this a no-no, and what’s more Sisko knows that this is a no-no, the senior staff gives up and crawls into bed during the early morning hours. Before he leaves, Sisko orders Quark to keep his guests happy and vaguely promises the Ferengi that Starfleet will cover some of the expenses. When the aliens start cleaning Quark out of gold-pressed latinum, however, all bets are off. Quark, who is free from the glowering presence of Sisko to keep him from stepping off the straight-and-narrow, resorts to cheating to stop the visiting aliens from breaking the house.
The aliens, of course, catch Quark out. Instead of getting mad, they get even. They propose a “real, honest game” and put Quark in the player’s seat.
Before it’s over, you figure out that the Star Trek writers must have decided to come up with a planet where everyone in the population is an ardent D&D player, Sisko & Co. find themselves trapped in a maze where they’re urged by various holographic representations of their alien guests to “move along home,” and Quark discovers that the plastic pieces on his board are real people.
It’s not giving away anything to say that our beloved characters escape without a scratch, the aliens head off to find greener pastures and better games, and Quark fails to learn his lesson.
The real twist, however, is how our beloved characters escape their predicament: by losing. And a losing very, very badly.
A few cool points for your enjoyment:
- The bubbling issue of Jake’s and Nog’s friendship starts building up a head of steam. Sisko increasingly dislikes the fact that our two fast friends are constantly hanging together, especially now that Jake is noticing girls and is getting all his romance tips from a…Ferengi! Considering that the Ferengi give their women no rights and no clothes, I can’t blame Sisko for being just a tad concerned here.
- Another nice touch is the Sisko-Jake interactions throughout the whole episode. Sisko’s insistence that he now has to do “damage control” and give Jake “the talk,” while Jake squirms in his seat is pitch-perfect. Then Sisko’s reaction in seeing Jake’s still up when he stumbles home in the wee hours of the morning is also pretty great. Even though Jake explains that he and Nog were putting together a project for school, Sisko just doesn’t want to hear it since, in his mind, Jake never pulled stuff like this before he met Nog.
- Dr. Bashir ends up on Sisko’s shit list for wearing his work-a-day uniform instead of his dress uniform for the First Contact. This is carried through most of the episode as Sisko constantly needles Bashir for being, well, such an embarrassing no0b, at least until Bashir comes through in a clinch and solves one of the game’s riddles.
- And because it bears repeating: Dr. Bashir is socially retarded. To the max. His inability to tell when someone’s taking the piss is breathtaking to behold.
- How “the game” tends to underscore who these characters are. Bashir as the clueless puppy who’s about to jump on the furniture at any second. Dax as the voice of logic. Sisko as the guy who’s calm and in control. And Kira’s severe lack of patience when she feels like she’s being played. (Kira pitching her fit upon realizing that she’s trapped in a game: “Yes. I’m sure all you Federation people find this just fascinating. I. Am. A. Bajoran. Administrator. THIS IS NOT WHAT I SIGNED UP FOR!”)
- Although the writers had hinted at this before now, this episode finally comes right out and says that Quark’s holosuites are nothing more than brothels at this point in time. After the aliens catch Quark cheating, he offers the aliens free time in the holosuites to make up for it and ends his offer with, “You have sex on your world, right?”
- Jazia tries to pull “a Kurzon” on Sisko after she’s injured in an effort to convince Sisko to leave her behind and get himself and Kira to safety. For the first time ever, the ploy doesn’t work and Sisko shuts her down. It shows a nice bit of growth in their relationship and an increasing comfort level between the two characters.
- More Odo vs. Federation Security. Once more, both sides are being jerks, although I give the edge of jerkiness to Odo here since the only reason he knows things have gone pear-shaped is because Jake tipped him off that daddy-o had gone missing.
What can I say? The episode amused me. There were some witty lines that made me laugh out loud, great character interaction, and a distinct lack of holosuites gone wrong that are usually the bedrock of episodes like this.
It’s a cute little episode hampered by plot holes and some leaps in logic (I suspect bad editing more than anything else). Watch it for the amusing character interactions, but don’t watch it for anything more than that.