WARNING: "Take Me Out to the Holosuite", and watch out for spoi-lerrrrrs... [yes, I know; I can hear the wincing from here]
In brief: Intensely goofy fun; it's not deep or meaningful, but it definitely brings a smile.
Brief summary: Sisko agrees to a baseball game with an old Academy rival, then faces the challenge of building his crew into a team.
I'm not generally that much of a baseball fan. I don't particularly dislike the sport, but it does very little for me; I almost never find the game interesting enough to watch an entire game straight through. Apart from tuning in earlier this year to tune in some of the McGwire-Sosa home run derby, I can't think of the last time I intentionally tuned in a baseball game.
None of which, apparently, matters worth a damn -- "Take Me Out to the Holosuite" was the most honestly fun episode of DS9 I've seen since "In the Cards" near the end of season 5 -- which, intriguingly, was also written by Ron Moore. Moore may not always hit a home run when it comes to light comedy, but he's clearly got a better touch than Behr & Beimler (unless anyone truly found "Profit and Lace" superior to this). Come to think of it, Moore also co-wrote the teleplay for "Trials and Tribble-ations". Interesting.
One thing "Take Me Out to the Holosuite" shares with the other two successes mentioned above is, at least from what I can see, a sense that everyone involved was truly having fun. "Profit and Lace" seemed to put characters in an offensively vile situation and laugh at them, and I got a little bit of that from "His Way" as well; at a minimum, "His Way" seemed to be massively out of character while claiming it wasn't. "Take Me Out to the Holosuite" made no such pretense: by the time the first act got underway, it was pretty clear here that all we were going to be in for was caution-to-the-wind goofiness. That boded well -- but what felt even better was watching the actors truly seem almost at play. I haven't seen Avery Brooks play Sisko that loosely in years, and it was a great tension reliever: even though the point of the episode was watching Sisko learn how to let go of a grudge and loosen up, Brooks's delivery left absolutely no doubt about where he'd wind up at the end. That sense of fun was infectious: it hit the rest of the cast, and it definitely hit me.
While there were a few moments I'd have expected from any "fish out of water" baseball story, I was very pleased to see that the one event I anticipated with dread didn't happen. As soon as it became clear how absolutely dreadful Rom was at baseball, my internal alarms went off, flashing "Rom's gonna save the game! Rom's gonna save the game!" at me. While I'm all for stories about redemption, if I have to see one more Uplifting Sports Loser Makes Good [TM] story, I'll start throwing large rocks at whatever is nearby. It's simply too easy and too cliched to do a story like that; fortunately, it appears that Moore thought so too. While Rom did wind up coming back into the game and did wind up bringing a run home, it helped that (a) he did it entirely by accident, and (b) it didn't actually affect the outcome of the game. Rom was an instrument by which everyone's spirits were lifted, but he wasn't the game's savior -- and that is something I appreciate greatly.
I also appreciated that Sisko's obsession with beating Solok at baseball was due to nothing much more than, as he put it, an adolescent rivalry and a seriously bruised ego. Granted, Solok's conduct was nothing to boast about either -- but I like the fact that Starfleet captains can be petty when need be, too. (I was reminded a bit of Picard's story about getting his artificial heart, particularly given that both stories took place in a bar just off the Academy campus. I wonder if it was the same bar.) Along similar lines, I liked the fact that Sisko was willing to pull strings to get Kasidy involved, and his understated "can't imagine why" when she mentioned her upcoming assignments were canceled was a scream.
It was also odd to see Vulcans as the "bad guys" in the story; this may be the first that's been true without a positive Vulcan character in the same show to provide balance. There have certainly been plenty of occasions where Vulcans' dedication to logic is shown to be as much of a hindrance as it is a help, but I think this is the first time we've seen someone with an urge to just smack the smugness out of one. It's not necessarily something I'd want a steady diet of (among other things, if it's sustained for too long it sounds too much like stereotyping against an entire race), but in this particular circumstance it worked very well.
Were there disappointments? Absolutely. Among other things, I thought the "Nog tags every Vulcan so he can catch the one who missed home" was a bit too broad; I felt like I was watching a skit that ran a little too long. I also thought that the "Quark scoffs at tryouts, then is goaded into going" bit, while not terrible, was certainly a bit too obvious. And, of course, it's perhaps a slight reach to allow for a two-week story here without even a hint of the war; given the relative quiet we saw last week in "Afterimage", however, it suggests that the war's in a bit of a lull. Overall, there were far more hits than misses here.
It's difficult to say too much else without lapsing into streams of "and then there was the bit where...", and a lot of those were things I'd rather not spoil. A smattering, then, trying to keep it relatively spoiler-free:
-- the playing of the Federation anthem. Not only was it a nice touch, but I especially liked the fact that non-Federation players (Kira, Leeta, etc.) did NOT stand at attention, but merely with some respect.
-- "I know that look. It's the 'I'd really like to smash something but she'd think I'm crazy' look."
-- Sisko's response to Rom's "I can't play?"
-- "Now, what's a Fancy Dan?" "Oh, you're making that up."
-- "Hey, batter, batter, batter!" "Hey, batter, batter, batter!" "Death to the opposition!" [One guess who said the last one, and if you guess Leeta you're in real trouble.]
-- "What were you doing, regenerating?"
-- The gleam in Odo's eyes just before he tosses Solok out of the game. You can just tell he was enjoying that (and that Auberjonois was having a blast, too).
-- And, of course, there's the final scene in Quark's, which was absolutely marvelous.
"Take Me Out to the Holosuite" is hardly the most important episode of DS9 ever made -- but it's honest, it's true to its characters, the actors seemed to have a blast, and it's an incredible amount of fun to watch. I think we could do far, far worse. So, to wrap up:
Writing: Crisp and crackling; a couple of too-easy moments, but not many.
Directing: Again, a couple of obvious moments, but overall nicely executed.
Acting: No real complaints; even Leeta was almost palatable.
OVERALL: 9. Yes, it's high, but I haven't felt this flat-out refreshed by an episode in quite some time. That's worth a lot.
Bashir's genetically enhanced friends make a return visit.
Tim Lynch (Harvard-Westlake School, Science Dept.)
"What are you eating?"
"I'm not eating; I'm chewing."
"Gum. It's traditional. I had the replicator create me some."
"They just chewed it?"
"No; they infused it with flavor."
"What did you infuse it with?"
-- Bashir and O'Brien