“Move Along Home”
Written by Michael Piller and Frederick Rappaport and Lisa Rich & Jeanne Carrigan-Fauci
Directed by David Carson
Season 1, Episode 9
Production episode 40511-410
Original air date: March 14, 1993
Station log: Jake walks in on Sisko in his dress uniform. A Vulcan ship made first contact with a species called the Wadi, and a delegation is coming to the station. Sisko, Kira, Dax, and Bashir (who apparently forgot to pack his dress uniform, to his great consternation and Sisko’s annoyance) meet them at the docking ring. The Wadi leader, Falow, is polite about meeting Sisko and his people, but what the Wadi are really interested in is games and want to go to Quark’s. A nonplussed Kira leads them there, where they gamble, using an impressive selection of gemstones with which to wager.
Six hours later, they’re winning like crazy. Sisko is exhausted and bored from sitting around watching them play dabo for hours on end and finally calls it a night. Quark, meanwhile, has Broik rig the table so they start to lose—but Falow catches him at it. He decides to have Quark play one of their games—“an honest game”—which materializes out of a small container. It’s an inverted wireframe pyramid, with pieces placed on the second level from the top, or second shap. Quark asks why they don’t start at the beginning, but apparently only children start at the first shap.
Sisko rolls over in his bed, and then suddenly finds himself lying on a strange floor in uniform. He tries all the usual stuff—using his combadge to call for help, saying, “Computer end program,” and so on—but nothing works. He’s surrounded by several doors, only one of which opens. It leads to a corridor with more doors that won’t open—until one finally does to reveal Falow who says, “Shap two—move along, move along home!” Then the door closes despite Sisko’s attempts to question him.
Sisko finds Bashir, Kira, and Dax. Bashir theorizes that this may be some kind of behavioral test, which pisses Kira off no end.
Jake reports to Odo that Sisko has gone missing. Odo goes to ops where Primmin isn’t very concerned—he assumed that Sisko and the others are sleeping off the Wadi party the previous night—but once he realizes that the four officers aren’t hung over, they’re missing, he’s all business, and he and Odo immediately begin a search.
Quark rolls three stones, which enables his four pieces to meet the shandra, which Falow says is neither good nor bad, to Quark’s (and the viewer’s) continued confusion.
The four officers find a little girl playing a Wadi version of hopscotch while chanting, “Allamaraine, count to four / Allamaraine, then three more / Allamaraine, if you can see / Allamaraine, you’ll come with me.” Kira tries to cross to the other door and is hit with an ionic field. Bashir tries to follow in the hoptscotchy path of the little girl, complete with silly hand gestures, but he’s also hit with the field. Dax realizes that Bashir didn’t do everything she did—he didn’t say the rhyme. Dax does the rhyme, the hopping, and the gestures and gets through; the others do likewise, looking spectacularly ridiculous, and the door opens. The girl announces that they’ve reached the third shap, while in Quark’s Falow yells, “Allamaraine!” and hands Quark some gems.
Quark can now choose the long or short path. The short path doubles the peril, but also doubles the winnings. And if none of the players make it home, Quark loses everything. Odo then comes in and announces that Sisko, Kira, Dax, and Bashir are missing, and Quark realizes that the four players are those four. (How he makes this leap in logic is unclear.) He decides to take the long, safer path.
Dax figures out that they’re part of a game. As they wander they find themselves in a party filled with Wadi who refuse to engage in conversation, no matter how loudly Kira yells at them. The Wadi are all drinking as a gas gets pumped into the room. Bashir guesses that the drink is the antidote to the gas. They now go to shap four. Back in Quark’s, Falow again shouts, “Allamaraine!” Quark is enjoying his winnings, but Odo’s had enough of the game. He goes to ops where he and Primmin find an odd energy reading on the Wadi ship. Against Primmin’s better judgment, he beams Odo onto the deck where the reading is. Odo opens a door, goes through a bright light—
—and winds up back in Quark’s. He demands that the game cease, but Falow says that if you stop the game you lose your players. Quark assures Odo that he has everything under control. However, in deference to the officers’ safety, Quark continues to choose the long path. But his roll is described by Falow as “unfortunate.”
The foursome are confronted with a glowy ball of light that makes Bashir disappear. Quark insists that he should take the short path this time—it will get them home sooner, even though the risk is higher. Besides, there’s risk either way.
But Quark’s roll means he must choose one to sacrifice so that the other two will live. If he doesn’t choose, he loses all three. Unable to choose someone to die, Quark gets on his knees and grovels, begging Falow not to force him to make this choice. So Falow programs the game to select a sacrifice at random.
Sisko, Kira, and Dax hear Bashir yelling from a distance, saying he’s found a way home. Dax tracks him to a rocky cavern; an earthquake hits and hurts Dax’s leg. Sisko and Kira carry her toward the light where Bashir’s voice is coming from—but it’s Falow, not Bashir, urging them to move along home. The light disappears, and they carry Dax to a chasm that she can’t get across with her bum leg. Both Sisko and Kira refuse to leave Dax behind, and the three try to find another way around—they fail, and eventually fall into the chasm.
And then they all wind up in Quark’s again—all four of them. Quark lost all his players, so he gets no winnings. But all four officers are physically fine, and indeed were never in any danger. After all, it’s only a game….
The Sisko is of Bajor: Sisko is appalled to realize that his son is old enough to start thinking about girls. He’s even more appalled when Jake declares that he knows all about girls thanks to talking to Nog….
Don’t ask my opinion next time: Kira has no patience with the game, at one point snidely saying that she didn’t sign up for this first-contact nonsense. She also disobeys Sisko’s order to leave him and Dax behind, responding, “Court-martial me!” to which Sisko says he can’t, because she isn’t Starfleet.
The slug in your belly: Dax reveals that she’s had seven lives, meaning that Jadzia is the seventh host of the Dax symbiont. (It’s actually eight, but she won’t find that out until “Equilibrium.”) She also quotes Curzon, saying not to let sentiment get in the way of command decisions.
Rules of Acquisition: Quark quotes an old Ferengi saying that good things come in small packages. It wasn’t later retconned into a Rule of Acquisition, but it probably should’ve been, especially since, like many Rules, it’s a human saying that adapts nicely to a Ferengi mindset.
Keep your ears open: “That’s not what you said when you were groveling on the floor.”
“Oh, that’s right, you were there for the groveling.”
Odo calling Quark on his bullshit.
Welcome aboard: James Lashly returns for his second and final appearance as Primmin. The lead Wadi is played by Joel Brooks, a veteran character actor whose resumé is far too extensive to list here, but I will make note of my personal favorite role of his, a ridiculously over-the-top Italian soldier Ignazio De Simone in the M*A*S*H episode “Cementing Relationships.”
Trivial matters: Terry Farrell’s shooting schedule for this episode prevented her appearing on the TNG episode “Birthright Part I,” so her role in that script was rewritten for Bashir, since Siddig el Fadil’s schedule could accommodate it thanks to Bashir’s vanishing during game play.
Earlier drafts of the script had the game be much more complex—including one version where they were sent to a village very much like the one seen in The Prisoner. In fact, the “Checkmate” episode of that series was an influence on the story.
We don’t ever see the Wadi again onscreen, but they’re fleshed out in Last Unicorn’s Core Games Book for DS9, and several Wadi appear in the novel Rising Son by S.D. Perry, most notably Facity Sleedow, the first officer of the pirate ship Even Odds.
Primmin also is never again referenced onscreen, though he does also appear in the DS9 novel The Big Game by “Sandy Schofield” (a pseudonym for Dean Wesley Smith & Kristine Kathryn Rusch).
Walk with the Prophets: “Allamaraine!” For an episode that is generally the go-to example of why the first season of DS9 sucked, it’s actually not that bad.
First of all, Joel Brooks does an excellent job as Falow. He’s always been a master of facial expressions, and they serve him well here. Secondly, watching Avery Brooks, Nana Visitor, Terry Farrell, and Siddig el Fadil recite the “Allamaraine” chant while hopscotching and doing the silly gestures is worth the price of admission all by itself. Brooks in particular is hilarious, probably due to the deep manliness of his voice contrasting so absurdly with the kids’ rhyme.
Finally, the script does a nice job of subverting expected outcomes, starting with Sisko’s spit-and-polish first contact turning into a dabo party at Quark’s. I particularly love the fact that everyone—from Quark and Odo through to the four unwitting players to, honestly, the viewers—just assumes that anything bad that happens to the four officers in the game will have consequences in the real world. We’ve become conditioned to expect that in our science fiction TV shows and movies: if real people are used in a scenario like this, there will be consequences.
But it is just a game. Falow’s declaration at the end that it’s only a game is in some ways a cheat—but only because of the audience’s expectation. There’s never any point where Falow even hints that the four officers are in any real danger, it’s just inferred by Quark and Odo and the others.
Having said all that—and having defended this episode probably more than it deserves—it’s still kinda dumb. It’s unclear what Quark as the player actually does after rolling the dice, nor how the actions of the players in the game translates to the outside world, especially since they’re just pieces sitting there. And there’s an overall sense of no consequence to the whole thing—which is sort of part of the point, but the script never really gets into the cultural differences, using “it’s only a game” as a punchline rather than a starting point for an interesting first contact.
So not as bad as everyone says it is, but by no means good, either….
Warp factor rating: 4
Keith R.A. DeCandido is a guest at Balticon 47 this weekend in Hunt Valley, Maryland, just north of Baltimore. Sunday night at 7pm will be the official launch of his short story collection Tales from Dragon Precinct at Frankie & Vinnie’s (along with several other new titles from Dark Quest Books). Here’s the rest of Keith’s schedule for the weekend.