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Friday, 23 September 2016

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine 1-10: Move Along Home

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.



Whoa Jake's finally back! I don't think we've seen him since 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).

Speaking of alien cultures, Sisko's dressed up because they're about to make first contact with a Gamma Quadrant race called the Wadi. Well more like second contact I suppose, seeing as the Vulcans chatted with them first a few weeks ago...

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.

Oh they’re just humans. Really tall humans with forehead tattoos and fish tail sideburns.

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.


ACT ONE.


Quark's understandably concerned about whether the Wadi in his bar actually have any money, but... wow that's a lot of names on screen right now. I'm not sure that's a good sign.

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.

Klon peags may look like small sticks of wood, but he assures Quark that they're highly valued in his culture. They have many uses.

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.

Six hours later, Sisko's had enough. He's so bored of waiting around for something diplomatic to happen that he's lost his typical Starfleet commander stiffness and he's just chatting to Quark like a regular guy. I've mentioned Avery Brooks' weird acting on occasion, but he's been very natural in this episode so far, especially earlier in his scenes with Jake. He tells Quark to keep the Wadi happy, and goes off to bed.

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.

So they give him a chance to win more gemstones in a new game! An honest game.

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.

But while he's putting pieces down in Quark's, Sisko finds he's been moved from his bed into a mysterious room without a pillow. I'm surprised they didn't match the angle to make the transition more seamless, like with the orb vision back in 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.


ACT TWO.


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.

Finally one of them reveals Falow! But he just laughs at him, drops the episode title a few times, and lets the door slams back down again.

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.

Oh it's just Bashir freaking out. The writers really are giving this character a lot of room to grow in later seasons.

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.

There's another establishing shot here, but this time they haven't quite matched the Wadi ship with the station correctly. As the camera pans over, the ship slides across to overlap part of the station it's supposed to be behind.

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.

Back on the station, Constable Odo goes up to Ops and finds that Lt. Primmin's still here! Two episodes in a row isn't bad for a guest star.

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.

Down in Quark's, Falow's finally finished setting up the board. Yes it literally took him all night.

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.

Well splitting up didn't last long.

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.
Allamaraine then three more.
Allamaraine if you can see.
Allamaraine you'll come with me."
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.

Eventually Dax works out that they have to mimic the girl's movements and sing the rhyme. And man Kira looks pained when she has to sing that bloody rhyme.

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?


ACT THREE.


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.

Four officers, four game pieces... the two of them make the connection ridiculously quickly, considering how absurd it is. But they're right.

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.

Oh no, they're at it with the tricorders again, just like in 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.

The next room features a party where everyone laughs at them and then poison gas is pumped in. The Wadi are really into laughing at people. Turns out that it's one of those cunning puzzles where people offer them drinks and then they take the drinks to win. And that's it. At least this one's possible to lose I guess.

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. 

It probably wasn't a good idea to pull the camera out quite this far for this shot, but then again they never said that the maze wasn't made of plywood.

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.


ACT FOUR.


Back in Ops, Odo can't find human lifesigns on the Wadi ship, but that doesn't mean they're not there, so he decides to beam over and have a look. Primmin freaks out about this, as you can can't just break into someone's ship without their permission!

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.

Odo finds a room full of light and heroically charges right into it... which teleports him right into middle of Quark's. Falow gives him a knowing grin and finally Odo decides to shut the game down. But Falow warns him that if he stops now he'll lose his players.

Quark assures the Constable that he'll get them out, as he's doing fine so far! Then he makes a bad roll.

Right, someone seriously needs to confiscate their tricorders. Not only would it let them make eye contact when talking, but it'd mean they'd shut up about magnetic field variations and intense flux patterns.

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.

Oh no, the swirly floating lights have gotten Bashir! They disintegrate him, and his piece is taken off the board. Then it's moved over to Star Trek: The Next Generation where he has a guest star role in the crossover episode Birthright, Part I. Dax actress Terry Farrell was apparently a bit upset that Bashir was the one written out early as it meant he got to appear in Next Gen while she was stuck filming the rest of this.

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.

But Quark still believes they're in danger at least and he decides to take the risky shortcut this time to get them to the finish in one move. I'm not sure a shortcut was offered, but hey they're just making up the damn rules as they go, so whatever.

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.

Quark even manages to convince Odo to blow on the dice for luck, which he's not happy about. Turns out that you really don't want Odo's luck on your dice though, as it's another bad roll and Falow announces that Quark must now choose to sacrifice one piece to save the other two.


ACT FIVE.


The poor Ferengi gets on his knees and starts begging Falow not to make him choose. He begs so hard he disappears under the table, to the disgust of the Wadi. Somehow I'm getting the impression that this is being played for comedy.

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.

It turns out that Dax was the one chosen, but she escapes with an injured leg. Trouble is that they're on the risky shortcut, which means getting it across a narrow rocky ledge over an endless chasm.

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.

Twist ending! Turns out that the game they were in was just a game! Quark lost, but they were never in any danger.

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.

Punch him! Do it, punch him in the face! He's right there in person, punch him! Actually better yet, declare war on him. They have games, we have phasers, we can win 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.


CONCLUSION

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.

4 comments:

  1. It looks like Bashir is stepping into the Quantum Leap Accelerator there.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That would explain why he vanished. Plus the episode is called Move Along HOME which is where Sam Beckett was always trying to get back to!

      They should've ended the episode with everyone wondering where Bashir's gone, then it cuts to him on Kirk's Enterprise wearing a miniskirt and a beehive haircut saying "Oh boy."

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    2. I should've said Archer's Enterprise.

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    3. If only the episode was that interesting!

      I blame Jake; whenever he appears he seems to suck the life out of a DS9 episode. It's true of this one and he's only in the teaser!

      Delete