440. Take Me Out to the Holosuite
FORMULA: DS9 does the Bad News Bears (+ Way of the Dove's ending)
WHY WE LIKE IT: "We will destroy them." "Death to the opposition!" And lots more, but those lines always make me laugh.
WHY WE DON'T: I almost feel the need to justify my love for this episode. Why is that?
REVIEW: I don't think Star Trek's ever done the sports movie thing, and though it makes perfect sense given Sisko's predilection for baseball, it's just goofy enough to fall flat on its face. It doesn't, and in fact, I think it may be one of my favorite episodes. Hey, the comedy works! It usually does when the characters react to silly situations, rather than act silly or like caricatures themselves. And though I wouldn't say it's without its plot holes, like Sisko's team not even remotely being the best he could conceivably gather, those holes still have a lot of charm. For example, though Sisko should have recruited Odo to his team, making him umpire is just plain perfect.
And it's more than a sports comedy (complete with a parody of the slo-mo moment of "victory"). The sports struggle can also be seen as a metaphor for the Dominion War - a motley collection of races banded together and outmatched by the overwhelming forces of order. And what that allegory has to say is pretty dark for the end of the series, and yet hopeful. The very first episode of DS9 represented the whole of history as a baseball game, so it's not that pretentious a conclusion. And it's a celebration of the human(oid) spirit too, an EMOTIONAL victory, an incredible feat given a losing scenario. You know what? This is Sisko's Kobayashi Maru.
It's very much a Sisko story who, as standard bearer for us "emotionally-crippled races", gets kicked out of the game because of emotion, but it's also a very strong ensemble piece. Each character gets to show his or her loyalty to the captain and to each other, and Rom in particular shines by his nobility. He accepts his own failure as well as others' successes in a moment I can't help but find touching (just like the signed baseball thrown up at the end... a great symbol of camaraderie and teamwork). In this "emotional" story, he rightly is the one to save the day. His accidental success is a triumph of the very randomness that Bashir's mutants couldn't take into account when they determined we would lose the Dominion War.
All the characters are great and true to themselves. Sisko's competitiveness and trust in the "myth" of baseball. Ezri finding the gymnast inside her to pull a Fancy Dan. O'Brien's beat-up body giving out on him once again, but how perfect is he as "the coach"? The scotch gum is also fun. Rom is as uncoordinated as he's always been shown, almost a hunchback in his physical performance, and he's only in it to get closer to his son. Kasidy is as no-nonsense as ever. Odo is the ultimate stickler for rules. And of course, Worf plays the game to the death. Throw in some robotic Vulcans who can't possibly get enjoyment out of it, and Solok who for all his contempt of humanity, comes off as almost Romulan, and you've got yourself - sorry - a ballgame. You can't wait for the good guys to stick it to him.
On the design side of things, it's fun to see baseball graphics, Star Trek-style, and the Niners' caps have a cool logo. Note the use of series fonts for the printing on the shirts, and Vulcan script on the Logicians' shirts. The Federation anthem is heard for the first and only time, and it's pretty generic. I can't decide if I'd have liked it to be a recognizable Trek theme or if it would have been too much. Probably too much.
LESSON: That I am not the worst baseball player ever.
REWATCHABILITY - High: Something potentially frivolous turns into a heart-warming and even rousing comedy with resonant thematic undertones.