If Wishes Were Horses

Rumpy and Miles

Carrying on the fine tradition of little people always causing trouble for Starfleet officers

Episode: 16

Original air date: May 16, 1993

Notable guest stars: Rosalind Chao as Keiko O’Brien (recurring), Keone Young as Buck Bokai, Michael John Anderson as Rumpelstiltskin, Hana Hatae as Molly (recurring)

In a nutshell: DS9’s crew has their dreams come true and it turns out to be a real pain in the ass.

Say hello to: Nobody

Say goodbye to: Nobody

Missing in action: Nobody! The gang’s all here!

Words of wisdom: “Too many people dream of places they’ll never go, wish for things they’ll never have, instead of paying adequate attention to their real lives.” – Odo

Come with me and you’ll be in a word of pure imagination

In a mostly empty bar, Quark tells Odo that he should relax every once in a while and offers to design a holoprogram for him. As Jake enters to play some baseball in a holosuite, Quark tells Odo that the future of business is offering family entertainment for the station’s new human population.

Quark and Odo talk

Quark makes Odo an offer that he can most definitely refuse.

Meanwhile, Dr. Bashir continues his ham-handed pursuit of Dax, claiming that he can’t think of anything else but her. She quickly points out that he’s managed to keep himself busy with just about every other female that’s visited the station lately, then heads to Ops. Kira and Sisko tell her that there’s some kind energy build up in the blah-blah-blah and she sets about investigating it.

In the O’Brien quarters, Miles puts his daughter to bed with a reading of Rumpelstiltskin. As soon as he leaves, little Molly comes out of her room and claims that the titular dwarf is in her room. Miles goes into check…and finds that she’s telling the truth.

Bashir and Horny Dax kiss

Even Bashir can’t believe his fantasies could be real.

Rumpy starts poking around O’Brien’s quarters looking for straw to spin into gold. Miles calls security to his quarters, but they can’t apprehend the feisty dwarf due to his magical abilities. O’Brien calls Sisko and asks him to come immediately, but Sisko has problems of his own – baseball legend Harmon “Buck” Bokai has followed Jake home from the holosuite. And perhaps most unbelievably of all, Dax appears in Bashir’s quarters and tries to seduce him.

Sisko calls everyone to Ops, where he shows them Bokai and the Rumpster. He then asks Dax if their sudden appearance could be tied to the increase thoron emissions they’ve detected, but she doesn’t seem to know anything about any increased emissions. At the same time, the real Dax appears on the turbolift and everyone figures out that the first Dax isn’t real either.

Quark and his fantasy ladies

Quark loves art. And a little side boob.

They quickly deduce that the visions – who appear to be as real as they are – have been created from their imaginations and that they’re somehow connected to the energy surge. When Bashir becomes annoyed with Horny Dax, she suddenly disappears.

Meanwhile, Odo reports that it’s snowing on the Promenade. And then the snow vanishes and an alien bird takes it’s place. And then Quark has beautiful women draped on his arms. And every single customer in his bar is winning at dabo.

Dax and Bashir continue investigating the unexplained and seemingly very important energy surge in her lab and he attempts to apologize for his randy thoughts. Dax tells him there’s nothing to apologize for, but then Horny Dax reappears and starts insulting her and her lack of interest in the doctor. Just before they get into a full-blown catfight, the computer finds a historical match in the database: a system that experienced the same phenomenon in the 23rd Century – and was destroyed by it.

Miles talks down to Rumplestiltskin

Miles and his wee irritant

The crew launches a probe to investigate the thoron surge, which is now a giant rip in the fabric of space. They probe discovers that the fissure is sucking in matter at an increasing rate. Meanwhile, Rumpy hassles O’Brien and tries to find out why he’s so afraid of him, but O’Brien denies being afraid at all.

On the Promenade, Bokai and Sisko talk about whether the ballplayer is real or not, which then turns into discussion of how much the pair love baseball and lament its demise. Afterwards, the three main apparitions hold a secret conference to figure out if what they’re doing is worth their effort and whether they should continue or not.


In Sisko’s office, the crew reviews the situation and explores their options. According to the history record, the Hanoi system was destroyed after a Vulcan ship attempted to seal their rupture with a torpedo. O’Brien suggests that even though it didn’t work before, using a torpedo is still the best option and is more likely to work after 200 years of weaponry advances. Sisko orders them to begin preparations.

A man on fire running down the hallway

What does it say about Kira that THIS is her fantasy?

As Kira checks the pylons to make sure they’ve been evacuated, the corridor suddenly bursts into flames and a screaming man on fire runs towards her. Just as suddenly, the man and all of the flames disappear. On the Promenade, Quarks bugs Odo about finding his special ladies while the constable has his hands full chasing down everyone else’s delusions. Despite Quark’s assertion to the contrary, Odo proves that he has an imagination of his own when he wishes the barkeeper into a holding cell. In the Sisko quarters, dueling visions of Bokai and Ben Sisko appear to debate whether Jake should abandon his homework to go play baseball or not.

The energy thing – which we’re officially calling a rift now – has continued to expand and represents a growing threat to the station. As the crew members look at the rift on the viewscreen, Bokai, Rumpy and Horny Dax reappear to study their reactions.


The station launches torpedoes into the rift. Initially, it seems to work, but suddenly things go sideways and the rift emits a burst which rocks the station and knocks out most of its systems. Horny Dax is injured in the blast and Bashir tends to her. As sensors come back online, they discover that the rift is still expanding.

Bokai says goodbye to Sisko

“You tell ’em Buck Bokai sent ya.”

With the crew out of options, Rumpelstiltskin offers to lend his assistance and save the station – in exchange for O’Brien’s daughter. As Miles is pushed to make an impossible decision, Sisko realizes what’s going on. The rift itself isn’t real – it’s a manifestation of Dax’s imagination. He orders the shields lowered and suddenly the imminent threat and the visions disappear.

As Sisko decompresses in his office, Bokai appears once more. He explains that they are aliens on an extended mission of exploration and they’ve been trying to learn more about the concept of imagination. Bokai then promises to return someday and reveal more about his species and disappears for good.

Thoughts and ruminations

  • The title of this episode is an allusion to the English proverb, “If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.” Part of me wishes they had gone with “If ifs and buts were candies and nuts, everyday would be Christmas” instead.
  • Quark is quite the digital pimp. I hope Rom hoses down the holosuites regularly.
  • Which begs the question: What happens to… ahem… body fluids… that a person might expel inside a holodeck character while running one of Quark’s “physical activity programs”? If you left a real book on a holographic table and then turned off the program, the book would fall to the floor once the table disappeared, right? Just think about that.
  • It interesting that Odo has no sense of smell, but it makes sense since he doesn’t need to eat. He probably doesn’t have the sense of taste either, and the two are tied closely together. I assume he processes tactile sensations since he can interact with things by touching them, and he can obviously see and hear.
  • Poor Bashir, still getting friend-zoned by Dax.
  • It’s always some kind of random energy build-up in the whatsitdoozle, isn’t it?
  • Just in case you’re wondering, thorons are a radioactive isotope of radon produced by the disintegration of thorium. So they have nothing to do with Thor from The Avengers or Norse mythology.
  • Chief O’Brien seems to be using a Kindle Fire while reading to his daughter.
  • Shouldn’t Rumpelstiltskin have some kind of accent? A German accent? (Which in the Star Trek universe would be rendered as a British accent like all others.)
  • The London Kings’ uniform is terrible. Baseball will never have one-piece uniforms. NEVER.
  • It’s nice to see a bit of Star Trek continuity here. Buck Bokai was first mentioned in the TNG episode “The Big Goodbye,” although not by name. In that episode, Data mentioned that Bokai was a shortstop, but in this episode he offers to play third for Sisko. Maybe he had a late-career shift to the hot corner like Cal Ripken, Jr. and Alex Rodriguez.
  • How embarrassing for Bashir that his fantasy apparition is a hot-to-trot coworker. Or it would be, if Bashir had any shame.
  • The special effects in the scenes with two Daxes (Daxii?) aren’t particularly impressive. This is something they’ve done in the past with Data/Lore, and done it much better.
  • Why doesn’t Faux Dax’s sudden disappearance get more of a reaction from the crew? They don’t even seem to acknowledge it when it happens.
  • I get that Bashir would help Dax investigate the energy anomaly because he’s a curious genius, but why doesn’t she have any other crew supporting her? Starfleet couldn’t spring for a second scientific person to be stationed at the only known stable wormhole in the entire universe?
  • Rumpy’s self-awareness of his theoretically unlimited power is creepy.
  • If the rupture is drawing in all of the matter that surrounds it, isn’t it just a black hole? Why aren’t they calling it that?
  • The scene with Sisko and Bokai walking around the top level of the Promenade again points out how poorly Ds9 was designed by its original inhabitants. The two of them can’t walk side-by-side properly because the walkway is too narrow. Imagine two broad-shouldered Cardassians trying to do it.
  • With only about forty years to go, I don’t think baseball is going to disappear completely in the mid-21st century. So suck on that, baseball-hating Star Trek writers.
  • As they sit in Sisko’s office debating what to do, I have to wonder – are they filling in the Bajorans on any of this? They’re talking about taking a course of action that could destroy the entire system. Shouldn’t they at least send the planet a courtesy FYI note or something?
  • It’s amazing how much more skin they show on this series as opposed to TNG. Quark’s fantasy ladies are basically wearing strategically placed doilies.
  • Their attempt to the seal the rift results in “subspace oscillation.” A spacequake! The guys at Syfy are wondering how they didn’t come up with that one already.
  • The crew in Ops may be able to suppress their imaginations once Sisko points out what’s going on, but what about the rest of the station? As far they know, there’s a giant spacequake going on and everything’s scary. Shouldn’t the mass of their imaginations be enough to sustain the “reality” of the rift?
  • The couch in Sisko’s office doesn’t look even remotely comfortable.

The verdict

Does this plot seem vaguely familiar? It should. It really should. It really, really should. There’s a certain amount of irony in the writers unimaginatively churning out another “Oh no, our imaginations are going to kill us!” script, but this trip down the road well-traveled doesn’t have enough chutzpah to play around with it. It has a few moments that are good – the showdown between Daxes in the lab, the scene of snow on the Promenade, Odo throwing Quark in the clink with his mind, Bokai and Sisko’s connection over baseball – but mostly it feels like a lazy assemblage of Star Trek tropes.

Tricky noncorporeal aliens? Check. Vague energy/space danger? Check. Sudden resolution when the lead actor figures out they’re all being played? Check. Put them all together and you’ve got a harmless but forgettable 45 minutes of television.  One out of four Odo buckets.

The Odo Scale

The Modernish Father

Your guide to DS9 is a father of two, husband of one and inspiration for millions of sardonic bald guys. A Texas native who recently moved to San Francisco, he loves baseball, history, most science fiction and generally all things nerdy. Find out more on his blog.

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