|Episode:||10|||||Writers:||Frederick Rappaport and Lisa Rich & Jeanne Carrigan-Fauci|||||Air Date:||14-Mar-1993|
This week on Sci-Fi Adventures, I've reached the halfway point of Deep Space Nine season 1 with Move Along Home, an early contender to be the worst episode of the whole run!
That's what the internet seems to think anyway. After two minutes of research I've discovered it sitting in almost every '10 Worst DS9 Episodes' list I've glanced at, usually near the top. It's not one of Avery Brooks' favourites, that much I'm sure of. Personally though my biggest problem with it at this moment is that title. I keep getting Move Along Home mixed up in my head with A Man Alone, even though I know the stories are about as different as you can get. But which of them will I ultimately hate more? You'll have to keep reading to find out.
The following text will contain SPOILERS for Move Along Home and perhaps earlier Star Trek episodes too, though I won't ruin anything that came after it.
Babel, five episodes ago. That's really shoddy attendance for someone in the opening credits.
Sisko's showing off his old Next Gen-style dress uniform here as he's finally got a reason to wear it again. Seems that he didn't get invited to many diplomatic events during the last three years. It's a little baggy, but Jake points out that baggy's fashionable on Bajor right now, which he knows because despite dressing like a bus seat he's actually a keen observer of fashion. Well, he's an observer of girls at least.
And then Sisko's suddenly hit with the disturbing realisation that his son's growing up and his friend Nog is the one teaching him about women. Starfleet officers pride themselves on their respect for all cultures... except for the Ferengi, and Sisko really doesn't like that kid. Though to be fair their culture really does treat women like crap (as seen in the contract Quark was making his employees sign back in Captive Pursuit).
The important thing is that this is the first formal reception for a delegation from the Gamma Quadrant, an area of unexplored space 70,000 light years from our own, so anyone we meet from there may well be so alien that we can barely even recognise them as being life forms.
The senior staff are waiting to formally greet their guests in their smart dress uniforms (except for O'Brien who's still absent, and Bashir who can't find his), but the Wadi aren't really interested. They'd much prefer it if someone would lead them to Quark's so they can play some games.
Poor Sisko, he was really hyped up for that diplomatic reception.
Anyway, Quark wants to be a good host, so after failing to set up a Dabo franchising agreement with Falow (the group's leader), he instead talks him into making a wager on the Dabo table. Falow does have any gold-pressed latinum, but what he does have... are Klon peags.
That actress on the left is great here by the way. She's got no lines, her character's never named, and I don't think she's even credited, but she's putting in a performance anyway. She's totally into the Klon peags, and she's clearly not amused when Quark turns them down. He didn't even ask what they were used for!
Next they try to wager a drink called Alpha-currant nectar, which predictably tastes like crap. So they have to resort to the bag of jewels, which Quark seems a lot more excited about than they are. Funny thing is, Star Trek established that gems aren't worth a whole lot any more way back in the Original Series, and that's before they had proper replicators.
Armin Shimerman's also very convincing in his portrayal of a man who's sick of strange aliens winning on his Dabo table. How does anyone consistently win at space roulette? It's a game of chance. So he decides that the best way to stop the money leaking out of his pocket is to cheat, and he gets caught doing it. This displeases the Wadi.
Luckily they just happened to bring a box with them that transforms the nearest Dabo table into this... thing. You can find some weird shit sometimes when you're in space, and other times the weird shit comes to you. Fallow has to finish setting up the board manually though, as the other Wadi trade Klon peags behind him.
Emissary, but maybe they were in a rush.
It's nice to learn that the Starfleet officers don't sleep in those uniforms though. Well, not deliberately at least.
Sisko discovers a hallway lined with unmarked doors, looking slightly less impressive than the labyrinth described in the episode's script as the producers were having budget issues. But we do get some epic door-checking action as he tries each in turn, only to find that they're all locked.
My best guess (having seen the episode before) is that Sisko's been transported into a holodeck on the Wadi ship, and Sisko seems to have come to the same conclusion. He asks the computer to "end program"... but with no luck.
Suddenly he hears screaming coming from down the hallway and runs off to investigate.
Kira and Dax run up as well, so all four officers who met with the Wadi are here now (though they're not all in the same outfits). Makes me wonder if kidnapping senior officials is something that goes on in all the cool Wadi parties back home, or if this is something they only pull on aliens. They definitely seem like the 'we're so far above your level we don't even give a damn' type.
Bashir wonders if they're lab rats in a behavioural test, Kira on the other hand really doesn't care. She starts yelling that she's not Starfleet and didn't sign up to go on crazy sci-fi adventures every week. I feel like I'm listening to DS9 itself complain about the episode's premise.
Sisko's just as eager to get it over with so he decides they'll split up. After all, if Bashir gets into trouble he can just yell again.
It's such the tiniest of minor errors but I feel like pointing it out because: a. docked ships are usually composited in perfectly so a mistake like this stands out, and b. I'm boooooooooored.
You know who Odo doesn't find though? Any of the other senior staff. But Primmin's in a cheerful mood and he assures the Constable that they're probably all having a lie in after getting drunk at the reception. He didn't think to check on any them or ask the computer if they're still on the station... and it turns out that they're not. So I guess Primmin won't be sticking around much longer then.
The Wadi all start tapping their Klon peags as they wait for Quark to make the first dice roll, so we've learned one use for them at least. They won't tell him the rules of the game though, that'd take all the fun out of it!
Quark rolls the dice and moves enough places for his pieces to encounter the Chandra, but Falow won't explain that to him either. "Some will never understand, while others will consider it... mere child's play."
Then the two of them just look at the board for a while, waiting for the outcome to be revealed. It's clear to the viewer that the senior staff are going to be the ones dealing with the Chandra, but there's no screen in Quark's for the player or the audience there to see what's happening! I suppose the Wadi could have a psychic link to spectate but poor Quark has no idea what they're waiting for.
They've found a young girl playing hopscotch while singing a nursery rhyme. Over and over again, throughout the entire scene.
"Allamaraine count to four.It doesn't take them long to figure out that she's not real and she's not going answer their questions, which is a shame as they'd really like to know how she's getting through the force field dividing the room. So now we get to see the main cast of a Star Trek series solve a hopscotch puzzle. Or fail to solve it, as medical genius Bashir manages to get a faceful of force field for all his efforts. At least we're learning a lot about the characters! Now we know that Kira gets frustrated when she's kidnapped in the middle of the night and forced to solve crappy puzzles, and Dax likes to calmly state the obvious.
Allamaraine then three more.
Allamaraine if you can see.
Allamaraine you'll come with me."
It's like they're all trapped inside a third season Original Series episode. I can't tell what the actors are feeling about this, but the characters are definitely not finding the fun in this 'game'. Well, except for Quark, who just got a handful of jewels for reasons beyond his comprehension. Makes me wonder what happens if people can't figure out the hopscotch? Does the player just sit next to the board waiting for something to happen until they give up?
Now Quark has to choose between taking a dangerous shortcut or sticking to the safe route. Double peril for double winnings. Odo storms in to interrupt and asks if Quark knows anything about the four missing officers.
So Odo immediately brings in security to shut the game down and questions the Wadi about the missing crew... actually that doesn't happen. Quark just chickens out and chooses the safer route, understanding that the stakes may have just become life or death.
Q-Less! Not only does it look goofy having them all staring at their smart phones, but it also means they're not engaging with the actual set around them. Daniel Jackson in Stargate SG-1 would be all over those walls trying to figure out if the designs mean anything right now.
At least Dax has deduced that they're in a game. One of those games where you walk down identical hallways trying every locked door you find along the way. Seems obvious perhaps, knowing that games are all the Wadi care about, but Dax loves to calmly state the obvious.
I'd mock the characters for taking so long to figure it out, but I've played some adventure games where the obvious solution utterly failed to jump into my head, so I can empathise. I'm not sure I've played any adventure games quite this bad though.
With the puzzle solved all the Wadi NPCs disappear, leaving the crew alone on an isometric game board again.
This is clearly not the smartest DS9 episode so far, but it is nice to see the characters finally form a Star Trek away team and go on a mission together... kind of. It hasn't really happened yet this season, which may explain why they're so crap at working as a team. It doesn't explain why the series was having budget problems by this point though.
Odo mocks his Starfleet regulations and then asks him if pressing a few buttons is against Starfleet policy, as he needs him to operate the transporter. Of course it is, as with the correct combination of button presses he could fly this station back to Bajor and obliterate several of the planet's more interesting cities, but Odo's mocking tone cuts through his logical defences and he aides and abets his criminal action.
And this is the last time we ever see Lt. Primmin on screen, so I guess that didn't work out so well for him.
Quark assures the Constable that he'll get them out, as he's doing fine so far! Then he makes a bad roll.
All Dax needs to say here is that swirly floating lights are coming at them down the corridor and they need to get out of their way.
But 'killing' Bashir here doesn't seem like the smartest move for this episode as it pisses away any hope of tension. They're not going to pull a 'Tasha Yar' on a regular character in comedy episode, so we know he's perfectly fine, and if his death is fake then everything else is too and there's no danger here at all.
It could be that the shortcut is visibly built into the board I suppose. The game's called 'Chula' after all... as in 'Chutes and Ladders'. I had no idea until now that the board game has a different name in the US, it's always been 'Snakes and Ladders' for me. But I guess 'Snala' wouldn't have worked as well.
This does confirm though that Quark really does have a conscience. He'll cheerfully help a murderer steal a runabout and hijack a freighter full of lifesaving deuridium, but sacrificing a crew member to get a big pile of gems is past his limit. Especially as he doesn't know which piece is his beloved Dax.
Falow takes pity on him... and programs the game to choose instead.
The idea is that the pieces sacrifice one so that two can leave, but there's no way Sisko's leaving his old friend behind... and Kira won't do it either. I expected her to take the pragmatic side and argue that without her they have a better chance to escape and get help, but nope Kira puts her life on the line for Dax without hesitation.
And then they all fall off the cliff and die.
Though where they actually were all this time is a mystery. Presumably it had to have been a physical location though seeing as they're all worn out and dressed in the same clothes, but Dax's leg is fine now. Either way one thing is clear: the Wadi stripped them naked in their sleep, took their uniforms out of their wardrobes and then dressed them. Sisko isn't even close to as pissed as he should be about this.
Odo deflects blame onto Quark, as Falow wouldn't have had to kidnap them if he hadn't cheated them at Dabo, and that distracts Sisko long enough for the Wadi to escape. The episode ends with Quark thinking aloud about how the game could work in his bar... and running off after Falow to chat with him.
It won't make you any money Quark, no one will give a damn about a locked room puzzle game where the players can't see the puzzles being solved you idiot.
Move Along Home... doesn't seem plausible to me. I don't just mean the plot and the events that happened within it, I mean the fact that the Deep Space Nine producers thought it was a good idea and then spent money making it happen. Not a whole lot of money, mind you.
That said, I didn't actually dislike it and a lot of that it due to the actors. Not the folks inside the game, but the ones outside it. I'm not going to say that Quark plots are always good because they're really not, but put him with Odo and something good's going to come out of it. Plus Jake and Odo was pretty good, and it was nice to see Odo playing off Primmin for one final time until O'Brien comes back. Odo grew to respect the Starfleet crew very quickly, but he never got on with Primmin and that added something different to the series.
On the other hand it'll be good to have O'Brien back, because then maybe senior officers won't be kidnapped so often. He's been gone three episodes and in that time Dax was grabbed by the Klaestrons, Bashir was mindjacked, and the entire senior staff were put into a bad episode of original Star Trek.
Though at least OG Trek would've used godlike energy beings as the excuse for its ridiculous set-up, instead of a 'Planet of Hats' race whose 'hat' is their punchable faces and an obsession with games. Sure the Wadi do nothing with their tech that Starfleet couldn't do with theirs (if they were lunatics), but nothing about the way this plays out feels natural at all.
The fact that the game world is goofy like an Original Series episode isn't all bad though, as it pushes the characters together and forces them to act like a team in a situation outside of Ops where pressing buttons and yelling technobabble isn't an option. Plus Kira gets to throw stuff around and finally says out loud what's been written across her face these last few episodes: that she really didn't sign up for any of this weird-ass Star Trek bullshit like the Starfleet characters did. But we're also shown that she'll risk her life to save an alien co-worker she's known for just a couple of months, even when there's a pragmatic argument to leave them behind. She's spent most of her life doing crappy things to fight off an occupying force, but at her core she's as heroic as the Starfleet crew. It also turns out that Quark's got lines he won't cross. The rest of the cast haven't exactly treated him with respect so far, but when he's got their lives in his hands he freaks out. Money's literally his religion and he'd cheat and steal for it without guilt or hesitation, but he won't kill.
So personally I'd rate this as a slightly below average episode of season one. Not as good as Babel, Captive Pursuit and Dax, but better than The Passenger, Q-Less... and A Man Alone.
That's it, I've passed the halfway point of DS9 season one! Only 10 more episodes to go and I'll have watched everything I promised to write about. I have to be honest though, I'm getting a whole new appreciation for 13 episode long seasons right now.
Next on DS9: The Nagus makes his first appearance in The Nagus. But next time on Sci-Fi Adventures, I'll be watching Babylon 5's Survivors.
Thanks for reading, leave a comment if you feel like it.