I was kind of dreading rewatching this “trapped in a board game” episode, but it wasn’t as bad as I remembered. But that’s not saying much, because I remember it as a cringeworthy mess.
I liked Sisko’s attempt to bring up “the talk” with Jake by likening a first contact to a first date with a girl, and I liked that he got interrupted quickly — we can imagine how the rest of that lecture would have gone.
Sisko’s resolve to do the first contact thing right fades after the Wadi play games at Quark’s for six hours. To stop them from cleaning out the house, Quark signals an employee to start cheating, and gets caught. The Wadi leader doesn’t seem all that upset; in fact, he seems to relish the opportunity to take advantage of Quark’s guilty blathering.
He introduces Quark to a new game, setting up four tokens. Sisko wakes up inside a maze, along with Kira, Dax and Bashir, because TV.
I tried to enjoy the first puzzle they face, with the little girl singing a nonsense rhyme while doing a hopscotch-like dance. The actors did a perfectly job; Bashir’s comically clueless overconfidence, Dax’s matter-of-fact playfulness, Sisko’s let’s-get-it-done attitude, and Kira’s WTAF vibe. Yes it was kind of fun when they all joined in and did the little song and dance, but this is not B-plot downtime filler, this is supposed to be the A-plot.
I tried to appreciate Quark warming up to the game, and his evidently sincere discomfort when he’s ordered by the Wadi gamemaster to sacrifice one of the pawns.
I tried to remind myself that even if we know full well none of these leads are going to die, in the world of the episode, Quark doesn’t know that, so the stakes *seem* high to him.
I tried to shut off the old brain and enjoy the Alice in Wonderland vibes, but nope, it just didn’t happen.
O’Brien wasn’t in this episode to rig up a duotronic absorption matrix to dispel the subspace residual anodynes (or whatever). Primmin from last week’s episode is back, but I have no memory of whether this character keeps popping up to annoy Odo.
Quark insisting that Odo blow on his dice before a high-stakes roll was a nice touch; for all Quark’s chicanery, he’s genuinely worried and he respects Odo enough to value his support; for all Odo’s just-the-facts posturing, he’s willing to perform a pragmatically meaningless gesture to comfort Quark.
A similarly complex scene provides some comedy and character development in the middle of an action sequence, as Sisko, Kira and the injured Dax squabble over what order to escape across a bridge. (“If you were hurt, I’d leave you behind,” lies Dax unconvincingly.)
But the good character moments aren’t enough to save a low-stakes story in which nobody was ever in any danger.