|A bedtime story summons Rumpelstiltskin|
The space station finds itself affected by strange energy from a plasma field, one that makes tangible figures from people's imaginations real. The long-dead baseball great from Jake's holosuite program follows him home, alive and confused. O'Brien tells his daughter a bedtime story... and finds himself visited by Rumpelstiltskin (Michael John Anderson). Dr. Bashir dwells on his fruitless pursuit of Dax - only to find a too-willing Dax waiting in his bedroom, even as the real Dax works in Ops.
Initially, this situation falls somewhere between an annoyance and an amusement. But as Dax, O'Brien, and Bashir study the plasma field, they discover the energy is caused by a rift in space. Initially too small for their sensors to detect, it is now expanding rapidly. The last recorded instance of such a tear resulted in the obliteration of an entire star system!
Commander Sisko: Makes the closest connection with his "visitor," baseball player Buck Bokai (Keone Young), of any the three main players. He enjoys reflecting on both baseball and imagination, and is happy enough to indulge this opportunity. He also trusts his instincts, which enables him to put the pieces together at the climax - perhaps a little bit too quickly and easily for it to be dramatically convincing.
Dax: Though she isn't actively encouraging Julian's attentions, she also isn't discouraging him. She is happy to casually flirt, and to tease him about his other romantic liaisons when he tries to press his pursuit of her. It would be a little cruel, if it wasn't obvious that he's enjoying their eternally unconsummated dance as much as she is.
O'Brien: Conjures up a vision of Rumpelstiltskin - a magical dwarf who made a deal with a desperate woman to save her life, in exchange for a horrific price. The price from the story is a thought that terrifies O'Brien. Perhaps it has crossed his mind that he might at some point have to choose between family and duty. Sisko is able to take that decision away in this episode, though it might be interesting to genuinely confront him with such a decision in the future.
Dr. Bashir: On that note, it's interesting to observe how Julian reacts to a completely, enthusiastically submissive Dax. He instinctively pulls away, even before he knows this isn't the real Dax, because he senses that this situation is not right. He enjoys the pursuit; but for all of that, he doesn't necessarily want her to just hop into his bed.
Quark: With Starfleet personnel - and, more particularly, their families - coming to the station, Quark sees an opportunity for profit in "family entertainment." In a very amusing scene, he more or less describes Disneyland to Odo - amusement park rides with Ferengi ready to sell useless knicknacks at inflated prices everywhere the family turns. Once the rift hits, Quark's own imagination goes to less family-friendly areas, sticking him purely in "comedy relief" mode for the remainder of his appearances.
A lightweight episode, but an entertaining one. If Wishes Were Horses once again shows Deep Space 9's strength with character pieces. Dax, Bashir, and O'Brien get particularly good material, and the actors play their scenes well. This is a lightweight fantasy episode, Deep Space 9's equivalent to the original series' Shore Leave.
And as long as it stays within the range of entertaining gags and good character material, it works quite well. Things fall a lot flatter when it shifts gears into trying to create a sense of jeopardy. Trying to meld comedy/fantasy visions of Rumpelstiltskin and a sex-charged double of Dax with a threat to a full star system is a tonal clash at best, and the scenes involving the rift feel tacked-on, as if someone in the production office felt a "threat" was needed in an episode that didn't call for one. Whatever the case, this otherwise amiable entry comes crashing to a halt every time the focus shifts to the rift (which thankfully isn't very often).
There's not a lot else to say. Making allowances for this being 1993, the rift effects hold up reasonably well, and it's mostly good fun, with the actors seeming very comfortable in their roles by this time. Disposable but enjoyable, and well worth the ride.
Previous Episode: Progress
Next Episode: The Forsaken
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