|A friendly game of baseball...|
Capt. Solok (Gregory Wagrowski), a Vulcan Sisko knew at the Academy, visits the station for repairs and takes the opportunity to revive an old rivalry with Sisko. He sniffs at the inefficiency of the human repair schedule, diminishes Sisko's accomplishment at being awarded the Christopher Pike Medal of Valor, and ends the meeting by challenging Sisko to a "contest of teamwork, courage, and sacrifice" - a game of baseball.
Sisko accepts even before presenting the challenge to his senior staff, all of whom agree to go along with playing this completely unfamiliar, antiquated game of which their captain is so fond. But as they train, it becomes clear that Sisko doesn't regard this merely as a game. There is something deeply personal in this contest, leaving the captain regarding his upcoming game with Solok with the same ferocity as the Dominion War itself!
Capt. Sisko: Becomes extremely short-tempered toward the very people trying to help him, and temporarily loses the support of his crew when he kicks (an admittedly hopeless) Rom off the team. In a private moment, he fills Kasidy in on the background between him and Solok: The Vulcan not only defeated him in a wrestling match, he then used that match for years after as a way to show Vulcan superiority over humans. Now he has picked baseball - a game that has deep personal meaning to Sisko - determined to rub Sisko's nose in it by using his own game against him.
Odo: Sisko convinces him to act as umpire, prevailing on his ability to enforce rules impartially. Odo agrees reluctantly, but then throws throws himself into the role. A charming moment has Kira observe him practicing calling people either safe or out, as well as rehearsing ejecting people from the game. He gets to use that last against none other than Sisko himself, when Sisko touches his chest while arguing a call. This cues the Third Act Crisis, as the team is left with a losing game and no leader. But it's a fun scene, not least because Sisko's behavior has demanded a comeuppance all episode long. It also sets up a very funny moment later on.
Kasidy Yates: She goes along with the game, seeing that it's important to Sisko. But as it becomes clear that it's a little too important, she pushes him to reveal the truth about his rivalry with Solok. He makes her promise not to tell the others, which she does with utter sincerity in her voice - And the episode then cuts immediately to her revealing all so that the others understand why their captain is acting like a maniac.
Rom: Volunteers for the team in order to connect with Nog, having spent far too little time with his son since the boy joined Starfleet. He is hopeless at baseball, unable to grasp any of the rules and unable to do anything with even the slightest competence, no matter how hard he tries. Sisko cuts him from the team with clear anger in his voice and face, leading to almost all of the others offering to quit if Rom isn't reinstated. Rom begs them not to do so, telling Nog and the others how badly he wants to see them play. Max Grodenchik is terrific, managing to be funny, sympathetic, and even dignified in his ineptitude, and Rom's subplot lends the episode a bit more emotional heft than Sisko's personal rivalry would otherwise have sustained.
In the middle of the Dominion War, our heroes - and the series - take an episode out to play a game of baseball on the holodeck. It's fair to say that Take Me Out to the Holosuite could have been truly dire.
Thankfully, character comedy has proved to be something Deep Space 9 does rather well. Take Me Out to the Holosuite doesn't climb the same heights as such past delights as The House of Quark or In the Cards, but it's still a charming little episode, with the characters well-captured, the regulars all giving committed performances, and the script providing enough small gems to keep a smile on my face through most of the run of the show.
Particular points to writer Ronald D. Moore and actor Gregory Wagrowski for making Solok so instantly punchable. The viewer wants to wipe away his ever-present smirk just as badly as Sisko does. Given that Sisko is far from on his best behavior for most of the episode, Solok being so hateable goes a long way toward making sure we're invested in the game's outcome.
While most of the episode tries for amiable comedy (and, more often than not, succeeds), it shifts gears effectively into drama for the scene in which Sisko recalls his past with Solok. The scene is critical to making us understand Sisko's motives. Avery Brooks sells the emotion... and then the cut from Kasidy promising to keep it secret to her spilling all to the team restores the comedy in time for the game.
The ending is also well-judged, allowing our characters a victory of a sort without straining credibility. The real win isn't the outcome of the game, it's Sisko remembering that the game is meant to be fun. The enjoyment he's able to take in the end of the game, and the unpredictability of the key point scored, remind him of all the reasons he loves the sport, allowing him a pleasure Solok - playing simply to spite Sisko - cannot appreciate. The final shot, of the baseball signed by every member of the team, ends it on a perfect note.
Overall Rating: 7/10.
Previous Episode: Afterimage
Next Episode: Chrysalis
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