May 24 2013 3:00pm

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch: “Move Along Home”

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Move Along Home“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
Stardate: unknown

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.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Move Along Home

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.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Move Along Home

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.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Move Along Home

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.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Move Along Home

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.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Move Along Home

Okay, it’s not good, exactly, but the vitriol many throw at this episode is often on the same level as that reserved for the likes of “Spock’s Brain” and “Sub Rosa,” and it’s nowhere near 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.

Sean O'Hara
1. Sean O'Hara
I thought "If Wishes Were Horses" was the go-to example of what's wrong with DS9s first season.
David Levinson
2. DemetriosX
I came very close to giving up on DS9 because of this episode. They had just wasted an hour of my time on something that had no consequences for anybody. "It's only a game," is as big a cop out ending as "It was all a dream," and it righteously pissed me off.

That said, Quark's groveling was rather amusing and may have been our first hint that Quark wasn't really the ruthless businessferengi he wished he was.
Sean O'Hara
3. Patrick Depew
I didn't much care for this episode. I just thought it was waaaaay too out there. The game itself didn't make any sense to me, for the reasons mentioned. What's the point of rolling if the players are doing things themselves? Do the actions of the players determine the roles? Just too confusing.

One thing I do remember liking about this episode was that it was, if I remember correctly, the first time that Quark showed concern for anyone else. The scene where he begs Falow came off pretty genuine to me. It seemed like the first time he showed any hints of a guilty conscience.

The Wadi could have been expanded in the series, I thought, but I can see why they were never seen again either.
Sean O'Hara
4. RobinM
I find this episode silly. It makes me roll my eyes and cringe at the tv, but it is an interesting take on first contact. First contact is usually serious business and to have someones reaction be oh good someone new to play with is kind of neat. I did how ever skip it on my first season marathon.
Matt Stoumbaugh
5. LazerWulf
"Brooks in particular is hilarious, probably due to the deep manliness of his voice contrasting so absurdly with the kids’ rhyme."

Brooks was the only one, as far as I could tell, who actually sang the Allamaraine song, and with such enthusiasm, too. (Or maybe he was just the one who stood out the most.)
George Salt
6. GeorgeSalt
The Wadi have to be the most boring aliens in the Star Trek universe. Nothing about them -- certainly not the tattoos on their foreheads or their shiny costumes -- screams out "these people are from a remote corner of the galaxy!"

First we got Tosk and the Hunters and now the Wadi. I expected so much more from first contact with life from the Gamma Quadrant. A stable wormhole to the other side of the galaxy is a cool sci-fi idea, but it seems that the writers did not follow through and give enough thought to how life in the Gamma Quadrant might be different -- perhaps radically different -- from what we have seen so far.

It seems that every Star Trek series stumbles through the first season or two before finding its footing. Perhaps it is a weakness of the episodic format that Star Trek has employed since the original series. Too often the result is deck like this episode. "Move Along Home" doesn't even have a good sci-fi premise; it's just fantasy masquerading as sci-fi.

Finally, the regular cast give uncharacteristically histrionic performances. Perhaps this episode does not plummet to the depths of "Code of Honor," "Justice" or "Angel One" but this is one of the worst episodes of the Star Trek franchise.
Rob Rater
7. Quasarmodo
@2 I DID give up on DS9 after this episode. Unfortunately when I picked it back up, I didn't remember exactly where I'd left off, so I re-watched the previous 2 eps plus this one, not remembering until the very end of each episode that I'd already seen it. So this 1 hour episode cost me TWO hours of my life that I'll never get back.
jeff hendrix
8. templarsteel
this episode was part of a series of articules on I09 called worst episode ever
Sean O'Hara
9. Happytoscrap
Good review. This was a horrible episode that still wasn't nearly as bad as the amount of vitriol foisted upon it.

It kind of reminded me of "Where Silence Has Lease" from TNG only without the potential for negetive consequences. essense makes it much much worse than "Where Silence Has Lease." At least people could (and did) die in that episode.

This episode would have been a passable episode if the game made any sense at all. The fact that players don't even need instructions before they play the game means it is simplier than Shoots and Ladders. Even Shoots and Ladders has instructions. Can you imagine starting a game of chess with someone who had never played chess before and not letting them know how the pieces could move? Point is, this wouldn't work on any game that required even a drop of strategy.

We get this a lot from Deep Space 9 unfortunately. I just watched "Rivals" from season 2 and same thing....some game that wouldn't have the complexity to keep a 5 year old entertained is somehow the rage of the station. You'd like to think that people from that many different alien races would have better games than this....I mean we have more complex and interesting games here on present day Earth. You're trying to convince me that there is an entire alien race dedicated to playing games and they travel to another quadrant to play Candyland on a space station? What a joke.
Sean O'Hara
10. Happytoscrap
FWIW.....If I could pick one episode from season 1 that I would never ever ever have to watch again, I wouldn't pick this episode. I would pick, "The Storyteller."
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
11. Lisamarie
This episode gets a few points from me for just being kind of weird and out there, and I rather liked the purple and gold set.

That being said, it definitely left me with a bit of a 'huh, wtf just happened' feeling. Nothing was really explained in a cohesive manner (such as the game play issues Keith describes) and in the end, there aren't any real consequences, or even any exploration of ideas. Like, why do some cultures thing it is appropriate to do this kind of thing to people without their consent???

I liked the actor who played Falow though.
Christopher Bennett
12. ChristopherLBennett
The question I have that hasn't been addressed yet is, what actually, physically happened to the abducted crewmembers while the game was being played? Were they on a holodeck or something aboard the Wadi ship? Were they in some sort of dimensional pocket within the chula board? Were they just dematerialized with their disembodied consciousnesses stored in the game board and experiencing a simulation?

Another thing that troubled me about this one is that it made Quark a little too nice a little too early. He was too upset about the possibility of being responsible for hurting these four people whom he barely knew. Okay, I could see him not wanting anything bad to happen to Dax, but at this point I'd think he could take or leave the others. And while he might be afraid of being held accountable and punished if they died because of his actions, I'd think that he was clearly enough under coercion that he had an out. It just didn't feel like the level of concern he showed for the others was justified by what we'd seen of his character and his interactions with them up to this point. It was like they had him care about them by default because they were fellow lead characters, rather than for reasons that grew organically out of his personality and interactions to that point. Plus maybe it "domesticated" him a little too soon. It might've been better to leave more ambiguity about his potential to become a threat to the other characters.
Sean O'Hara
13. Zabeus
Aside from all the other suckage, for me this is an episode that would have been helped by a little bit of technobabble. In the last episode technobabble was and (is all too often) an excuse for lazy writing, but I'd like some convincing that this isn't just fantasy and that the abilities shown here could be possible in a naturalistic universe. (even if they couldn't) So we're expected to believe that these people with apparently godlike (Ardra-like?) powers waste them on this?
The fact that our advanced Federation technology wasn't enough to counter it made it all the worse. (or maybe Odo just gave up)
Also the "aliens" didn't seem alien at all, which ruined my suspension of disbelief from the very beginning. (yeah TOS and early TNG had human aliens too, but nowadays I expect my aliens to have ridges dammit)

On a positive note, Armin Shimmerman's performance was great for what he had to work with.
Sean O'Hara
14. RaySea
Thank you, Krad, for giving this one a fair shake. Its always been kind of a guilty pleasure of mine. I know its not great, but I've never understood why it gets lumped it with tbe worst Trek of all time. I also agree with you on one thing: the entire hour is pretty much worth it just for the rhyme. I LOVE Avery Brooks' little sing-song tone with it.
Sean O'Hara
15. Ashcom
Nope. Sorry. For me, without a single shadow of a doubt the worst episode of any of the ST franchises. And it's got some competition, particularly when it comes to Voyager and Enterprise. But it beats them all, hands down.

Nothing about this episode makes any sense. And the game itself is just so poorly thought out that a five year old could find the holes in it. Just to start with, if the people playing the game can't see what is happening to the people inside the game, then what is the point in them even being there.

Generally I like episodes where aliens think and act in a totally alien way. But it has to have some kind of internal logic, and this simply has none. The Wadi are another of those ST races that only have on single all-emcompassing defining characteristic which, in reality, would have prevented them from ever becoming a space-faring people.
Christopher Bennett
16. ChristopherLBennett
@15: Isn't it much like, say, a slot machine, though? You take a risk without knowing what's going on inside the machine to bring about the outcome, and you blindly hope that the outcome will be positive. The danger that comes from the lack of knowledge and control of the process is part of what makes it exciting (to people who find such things exciting, I suppose -- never been a gambler myself).

In this case, it's a two-tiered game, an interaction between the external player who's gambling blindly and the internal players who use their wits to overcome the challenges -- but who can be affected by the external player's choices, which they have no control over. I can see how that could be seen as an interesting game. The problem with that idea, though, is that the Wadi spectators only seemed aware of the external game, which would make it less interesting to them. Although the head Wadi did appear to be aware of the internal outcomes somehow.

And we can't assume that all Wadi have this single overarching characteristic just because this particular group of them did. Maybe the Federation just happened to contact the Wadi equivalent of a group of avid RPG players or sports fans. Even if their society is obsessed with games, maybe they aren't the only society on the planet. How many different cultures are there on Earth?
Alan Courchene
17. Majicou
@2: You may scoff at the ending as a cop-out, but I think that subversion of the just-as-hoary "If you die in the game, you die in real life" trope is the highlight of the episode. I can forgive it in The Matrix, say, where the machines don't give a damn about a relative handful of human deaths and are more than happy to have their software Agents be able to kill redpills from within the simulation. But if the Wadi explicitly designed a GAME that randomly abducted people and possibly killed them if the dice weren't feeling generous, that'd be flat-out insane. Only a society of utter psychopaths would do such a thing.

That being said, the game itself is pretty stupid. TV writers usually aren't game designers, it's true, and you can't do something all that deep or interesting with a fictional game in 45 minutes, generally. And I echo Christopher's question. This game seems like some pretty "sufficiently advanced" stuff, but nobody is curious about how the hell it works.

Actually, it seems like whenever a TV episode centers around a fictional game that's supposed to be mind-blowingly amazing, the resulting game is the worst garbage imaginable. "First Person Shooter" from The X-Files is probably the worst, with its world-changing experience of... standing in a giant alley and shooting guys who come straight toward you. Woo-hoo, 1980s technology. But of course, from Trek we have "The Game," which I assume succeeds solely on its brainwashing component, since even the laziest, most cynical cow-clicker developers would have to disdain what could charitably be called its gameplay.
Sean O'Hara
18. Mac McEntire
There’s no denying the hokeyness of the episode, and yet I wonder if more could be done with the Wadi. It’s true they have just the one defining characteristic, but this is initially true of all the major Trek races. Vulcans equal logic, Klingons equal warriors, Ferengi equal profit, and so on. So why can’t we have, Wadi equals gaming? It seems silly to have an entire society so obsessed with games, but with their “everything’s a game” mentality, they’ve developed technology for far out it looks like magic to the Federation types. I wonder what else they had come up with, and what types of personalities other Wadi might’ve had.

So, yeah, the episode is ridiculously cheesy, but it makes me wonder “What if?” so for that reason it can’t be all bad.
Sean O'Hara
19. Happytoscrap

you ever see the low lifes that play slot machines? they play them because they are incapable of playing a thinking game.

i think @15 has a great point when he notes that an alien species so incredibly one note would never have become space faring.

then again, those half wits from TNG's "Samaritan Snare" were even more unlikely to be space faring.
Chris Nash
20. CNash
I'm ok with plots that don't "mean anything"; half of the blockbuster movies released these days don't mean anything, and yet are perfectly entertaining ways to spend an hour or two.

This episode, however, not only doesn't mean anything - nothing is really learnt, either, and there are barely any character moments to make this episode notable. I mostly agree that it doesn't quite deserve all the vitriol heaped upon it, though - Armin Shimerman grovels quite well, and I enjoyed Joel Brooks' performance as Falow. Primmin again seems like he's filling in for O'Brien, as if the script was written before Colm Meaney's schedule was determined. And I said this in my comments on "Captive Pursuit", but it bears repeating: DS9 really should have someone whose job it is to help the senior staff with these first contact situations...
Christopher Bennett
21. ChristopherLBennett
@19: "i think @15 has a great point when he notes that an alien species so incredibly one note would never have become space faring."

But my point is, why assume the entire species shares the same attitudes as the single ship's complement we met? What if, say, the Bermuda Triangle were real and some wormhole opened up and sucked a gambling cruise ship to another planet? Would that planet's inhabitants be justified to assume that all of human civilization was built around gambling? What if it were a fishing boat -- would they thing all human culture was obsessed with fish? If it were a Naval submarine, would they assume all humans were in the military?

True, Trek tends to be lazy and reduce entire species to a single stereotyped behavior, but realistically, it makes no sense to assume that any planet will have only one culture or value system.

Besides, even if they were a globally "one-note" society, who says they invented their own starfaring technology? Maybe the Dominion or some other interstellar power provided it to them in exchange for some resource of theirs. Not everyone follows the Prime Directive.
Alan Courchene
22. Majicou
@CLB: The Ferengi are noted to have purchased warp technology from someone or other.
Sean O'Hara
23. tortillarat
I like this one precisely because it's so ridiculous. I think it's fun to watch, and I love Kira's facial expression and tone of voice during the Allamaraine thing. She's just sort of am I doing this for...
Sean O'Hara
24. Ashcom
@16/21 - But the Bermuda Triangle analogy doesn't work. These are not a shipload of random people who have accidentally been sucked through the wormhole. It is at least strongly suggested in the opening that these are the chosen representatives of their race attending a formally organised first contact meeting. They are arriving, ostensibly, to explore new avenues for trade and commerce with a whole new sector of the galaxy that they have never encountered before, and yet they apparently have no interest in that but just want to find out what games we have and involve us in theirs. If those are the chosen representatives of a society, you would have to ask how such a society could possibly function.

Regarding the game, I think you reiterate my point. I'm not objecting to it being a game of chance, most games are. It's the fact that the player is unaware of anything that is happening other than what he is told by the game controller. If Quark was able to see what was happening to the crew members, standing by as an impotent spectator, then it would make some kind of sense. Whey you play a slot machine, you at least get to see the wheels turning and the fruits stopping one by one in front of you. But in this game there is no such thing, from the point of view of the external viewer Quark just rolls the dice and then is told that he has either won or lost. He isn't even told that there is something else going on that affects that outcome. This appears to have been done by the scriptwriters just to create that moment when he "realises" (even though, as krad says, that realisation doesn't seem to be based on any evidence whatsoever.)
Sean O'Hara
25. Wemon
kinda unusual o.O
David Levinson
26. DemetriosX
@5 LazerWulf
Brooks was the only one, as far as I could tell, who actually sang the Allamaraine song, and with such enthusiasm, too.
That's probably because he's a trained singer with a fair amount of experience in musicals. He had a long run as Jim in the musical version of Huck Finn.
Robert Dickinson
27. ChocolateRob
I'm pretty sure that had Bashir still been in the game at that point Quark would quite happily have sacrificed him 'for the safety of the rest'.
Christopher Bennett
28. ChristopherLBennett
@24: "It is at least strongly suggested in the opening that these are the chosen representatives of their race attending a formally organised first contact meeting."

Sure, that's the impression that Sisko had about them, but that doesn't make it objectively true. As Keith said, the episode is about people's expectations being subverted -- the characters expect one thing to be the case, and it turns out to be something different. Which is just what would probably happen in a lot of first contacts, what did happen in a lot of historical cross-cultural contacts, because people bring their own baggage and assumptions into it and are thus often blinded to the true nature of the other culture and its actions. In this case, Sisko was assuming that the Wadi approached first contact with as much gravity and importance as the Federation did and had sent a formal diplomatic delegation -- but it turned out to be just a bunch of gamblers looking for new thrills. Maybe the rest of the Wadi just weren't interested in making contact.

All you can really conclude about the group chosen to make first contact is that they're the group chosen to make first contact. It's dangerous to make assumptions about why they were chosen, or how representative they were of the culture as a whole, until you have a lot more information about their culture. For instance, Imperial China had a saying, "Send barbarians to deal with barbarians." They didn't much care for traveling or dealing with outsiders, so they sent members of the minority and fringe populations within their own empire to do those things. Zheng He, the greatest explorer in Chinese history (and commander of the first "Star Fleet"), was a member of a Muslim community that had only been conquered by China in his childhood, and grew up as a captive eunuch in the imperial court. He was very, very far from a typical Ming-Dynasty Chinaman, but he and people like him were the ones that represented Ming China to the outside world.
George Salt
29. GeorgeSalt
@28: I believe Sisko said that the Vulcans had made first contact with the Wadi during a mission in the Gamma Quadrant. I find it interesting that the Vulcans, who are known for their meticulous attention to detail, did not provide Starfleet with much more information about the Wadi. Did the Vulcans make first contact with the Wadi homeworld, or simply with this group, perhaps the very same ship that came to DS9?

And how did the Wadi know about Quark's establishment? Did the Vulcans tell them about it? The more I think about this episode, the more my head hurts.
Christopher Bennett
30. ChristopherLBennett
@29: Surely the Vulcan ship docked at DS9 before passing through the wormhole for their Gamma Quadrant survey. And you mentioned their attention to detail. They probably told the Wadi about the station and its facilities as part of telling them about the Federation and the Alpha Quadrant.

And what I said about cultural baggage and assumptions may apply to the Vulcans too. They're known for having blind spots about how other, "illogical" species think and what their values are. Not to mention that sometimes one or both parties in a first contact are deliberately less than honest about themselves. Sometimes it's just the way we all try to put on our best face for company, or keep our secrets to ourselves. Sometimes it's because the ignorant questions the visitors are asking about things that everyone in your culture takes for granted seem ridiculous to you, so you decide to have fun with them and give them silly answers. That's something anthropologists have had to deal with for generations.

Indeed, maybe that's what was happening here at the station -- maybe Falow and his group were putting on an act, playing an elaborate joke on the DS9 folks in order to observe their reactions, or maybe just to laugh at their ignorance. "Oh, you should've seen it! We made up all these random, nonsensical rules, and they fell for it! They even thought their people were in danger! That poor bartender was groveling and begging for mercy by the end -- it was all I could do to keep a straight face!"
Sean O'Hara
31. Lalo
Maybe because I was only 8 when I saw this episode, but I remembering enjoying it quite a bit (including playing the children's chant during hopscotch at school and REALLY confusing my already less than tolerant classmates). Rewatching it last year, at 28, however had me questioning much of what you mention.

I think this is one of the episodes that would have worked better in novel format--it would have given the writers more time to flesh out things and work in the cultural differences of the Wadi vs. everyone else.

Also from a retconning perspective it makes sense that many of the species they 'first' meet from the Gamma Quandrant aren't the Top Tier Cool Kids--the Dominion would have indoctrinated the cooler kids so everyone left may not have been worth their time.

I do wish Worf had been around for this episode--its one of the few times that I would have preferred him to Bashir (I'm an unabashed Bashir fangirl--I just love Siddig so much).
Matt Hamilton
33. MattHamilton
No, I won't defend this episode except to say that, as usual, the acting was done well. Other than that, no. Someone said that the "If you die in the game, you die in real life" trope is done to death so the "It's only a game" ending wasn't a cop out. However, they should never have done that ending and the moment they started with the dying in reality when you die in the game, they should have changed gears and gotten a different script because, you're right, that is overdone as well.

Right before Sisko starts the rhyme and hopscotch, you could almost see on his face how much he, the actor, didn't want to be there and as they were going along, Kira, yes, in character, but you got the sense that they were all wondering just what in the hell happened to their careers. Yes, the show would get 100 percent better but they didn't know that then. I wonder if they thought that the next six and a half years were going to be BS stories like this episode.

People compare this to Sub Rosa? At least Sub Rosa had a little atmosphere and effects. The aliens in this were designed very lazily and boringly, the game makes no sense...I wouldn't have given it a four, it would have gotten a negative four from me.

Maybe it's because I don't feel well today so I'm taking it out on the rest of the world, and everyone here, up to and including our humble rewatcher, has a right to their own opinions and have a right to love this episode to bits. I, on the other hand, will say that the vitriol is entirely justified and I will spew mine own at it :)
Sean O'Hara
34. Erik Dercf
This episode was funny but it proves how difficult it is to play a complex game in just one hour. The Wadi are refreshing because we have grown so used to such formality for a First Contact. This episode might have been better if the Wadi had beings that were used as the game pieces and that Sisko and his crew played them to their survival or fate similar to how Tosk is hunted in game and is breed for it as a great honor. If would have been a chance for Sisko to tell the Wadi about what Starfleet values and for the Wadi to express their culture and values that could be in conflict with Starfleets. But the show is only less than an hour.
Sean O'Hara
35. bhebert
Anyone thinking this is the worst episode of DS9, I have three words for you... "Profit and Lace"... Now THAT'S one that makes me want to run for the hills.
Phil Parsons
36. Yakko
@35 I find "Profit and Lace" to be a pretty turgid example of DS9 (an instance where Ira Steven Behr thought loud and obvious equalled Ferengi comedy gold). However I'd rather watch Quark in drag and "Move Along Home" twice in a row than sit through "Let He Who Is Without Sin".
Pirmin Schanne
37. Torvald_Nom
@34: You mean something like Poker?
There's a really big difference between having complex rules and needing some time to wrap your head around the strategic choices a game offers.
alastair chadwin
39. a-j
I'm also one of those who doesn't share the loathing this episode inspires. I rather enjoy it, but then I do have a soft spot for episodes that try to be outside the usual sftv box and as a long time fan of The Prisoner, well maybe that explains my laid back attitude here. I also agree that the 'death in the game means real death' had bec0me such a cliché, it was refreshing to see out rather pompous Star Fleet types being told they were never in danger and that it was only a dream.
Oh, and Brooks/Sisko's look of self-loathing while he's doing the dance/song. That's worth a lot.
Jack Flynn
40. JackofMidworld
I had started diong my own rewatch of DS9 last year and posted a blurb about it on Facebook; a friend commented me why I was so excited about DS9 and I replied that I it has some of the best episodes of the entire ST universe. About ten minutes later, this episode started. I got back onto FB when it was over and replied to my own comment with "Well, SOME of them are, anyway" (but reading the review does give me a bit of a different point of view, pointing out things I had missed while I was rolling my eyes at the tv).

I see Balticon in the bio; any chance of Wizard World, too?
Rob Rater
41. Quasarmodo
@36 So glad to see that 2 of the worst eps are still ahead of me. I just started S4 and had hoped most of the bad was behind me.
Phil Parsons
42. Yakko
@41: For me DS9 gets so good in the second half of its run that it makes the occasional stinker all the more unforgivable. It's sort of the inverse of the theory that some of TNG's most highly rated Season 7 episodes (like "Lower Decks" and "The Pegasus") seem like better shows than they are when compared to the crap that surrounds them (like "Sub Rosa" and "Genesis"). By the time they did "Without Sin" they just flat out knew better. But you should be okay Quas. The good so far outweighs the bad as the show progresses that you can power through the chaff. If, on the other hand, you continue to find yourself underwhelmed by the series then the bad ones shouldn't be such a gut punch.
Christopher Hatton
43. Xopher
Assuming that krad is grading on the curve here, if this is a 4, I must breathlessly await the episodes he rates 3, 2, and (shudder) 1.
Joseph Newton
44. crzydroid
A fair review. Not really that good, but not awful.

Count me as one that loves the "it's only a game" line because it inverts the trope. I don't really feel like it was a waste, because the stuff in the game still happened, it just didn't matter as much. Whereas with the "it was all a dream" trope, it didn't even happen...and then it really doesn't matter. That's when it's a waste. I guess I don't really approach watching a tv show or movie with as much emotional investment as other people do in regards to whether the characters might die. I usually like to just watch and see what happens. Also, here we KNEW they were going to all survive. Not only because we've seen more DS9 after this, but because it's a tv show and they're in the opening credits. Usually when a show kills off a main character, it's in a more serious episode, and not a silly/whimsical/casual one like this. So it can hardly be called a cop-out or a waste of an hour when you knew they were going to survive anyway.

@12: I agree that the grovelling was too uncharacteristic of Quark, at least this early. I also remember thinking that he didn't know them well enough yet (and that maybe he would care about Dax).

@43: He's already given two 2s, the previous one--"The Passenger,", and "A Man Alone." He would also say the rating is the least important part of the rewatch...
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
45. Lisamarie
@12 and 44 - oh yeah. I wanted to throw in my two cents that, as a first time watcher, I actually was a bit taken aback by Quark's grovelling. It didn't seem like a natural development given what we've seen so far. It just kind of seemed like they were trying to make him too hard to be a sympathetic character since he's in the main credits, therefore he should be a good guy.
Matthew Clark
46. clarkbhm
While the writer seemed to be accepting of Avery Brook's singing/hopscotching, I wonder if the true actor's feelings of "what the hell am I doing here" were actually coming out instead. Can you imagine Patrick Stewart having to do that? I can't either. And to watch Avery Brooks have to go through it was just painful.

Having said that, I actually enjoyed the episode. I think insofar as it's a game that the alien kids play as well (only children start at the first shap), it seems like an enjoyable experience for them to face challenges without any danger.

And maybe the "it's only a game" is a chance to tell the audience that tv is supposed to be fun. Stop taking everything so seriously.
Sean O'Hara
47. David Sim
Move Along Home might work the first time, but once you know there's no danger, there's no more suspense, and then it just looks like our heroes doing a lot of funny stuff that becomes less and less funny with each viewing.

And wasn't it silly of Broik to rig the table while surrounded by a crowd of Wadi? One is even standing behind him when he hits the button underneath the Dabo wheel. But that's just one of many silly things in an extremely silly episode.
Sean O'Hara
48. JD5000
Rewatching myself, a year and a half later.... I like Keith's reviews and wanted to see what he said about this one. No one picked up on the (what seems to me) obvious story that reflects the experience of trying a pen and paper, dice-rolling role-playing game for the first time? Everything about this episode screams this theme. Let's put this into Dungeons and Dragons terms. The Wadi is the experienced 'Game Master' that is introducing a bunch of kids to a role-playing game. The kids don't understand the rules, and the GM is having a blast making them think that their decisions actually matter. This episode is metaphorical, I believe the writers were attempting to make a connection between RPG players and Star Trek fans with this episode. It had very little to do with the characters and the overall DS9 story. I don't know if Keith or the commenters actually have zero experience with sitting around a table, playing a game like D&D for the first time, or if it was so long ago that the memory is beyond recall. Wasn't this also about the time that the Decipher Star Trek RPG books were in the works? Possible connection there.
Joseph Newton
49. crzydroid
@48: Wikipedia says that game was published in 2002. The article has no information regarding how long it took to develop. Although apparently Last Unicorn made some Star Trek RPGs before their company was absorbed by Wizards of the Coast and Decipher acquired the Star Trek rights. This apparently happened in 2000. Memory Alpha says the first game book from Last Unicorn was published in 1998.
Sean O'Hara
50. JD5000
Even before that, there were the FASA Star Trek role-playing books in the 80's. Even if not connected to the most recent version, Star Trek and dice-based role playing games have been connected for quite a while. I still think this episode is a play off that theme.

I could have looked up those dates myself I suppose, it was just an afterthought that it was possibly a subtle marketing tool for 'current' Trek RPG material. Obviously not.
Sean O'Hara
51. Steve C.
Okay, I'm very new to DS9... finally doing a watch through after 2 decades of imagining it couldn't hold a candle to TNG. And my general thoughts so far is that the first season of DS9 looks like Shakespeare compared to the AWFUL first season of TNG.

As to this episode, perhaps I'm just not a typical Star Trek fan, but I really liked this one. Just sort of a sense of what the hell is going on here. Reminds me of Where Silence Has Lease or Allegiance, or some of the other "rats in a maze" type of TNG episodes. Also, I remember various aliens putting Kirk through absurd games like this. I'd give it a 7/10, with the disappointing ending to an otherwise interesting (to me) premise losing it at least 2 points.

Love KRAD's rewatches for TNG and now DS9...

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