"Take Me Out to the Holosuite" 
Season Seven, Episode 4
Written by Ronald D Moore
Directed by Chip Chalmers
Music by David Bell
Main Cast:
Avery Brooks as Captain Benjamin Sisko
Rene Auberjonois as Odo
Nicole deBoer as Ezri Dax
Michael Dorn as Lt Cmdr Worf
Cirroc Lofton as Jake Sisko
Colm Meaney as Chief Miles O'Brien
Armin Shimerman as Quark
Alexander Siddig as Dr Julian Bashir
Nana Visitor as Colonel Kira Nerys
 

Guest Stars:
Max Grodenchik as Rom
Aron Eisenberg as Nog
Penny Johnson as Kasidy Yates
Chase Masterson as Leeta.

Synopsis:

Sisko is challenged to a game of baseball by Solok, an arch rival from his Academy days. Solok considers Vulcans superior to more "emotionally handicapped species" and Sisko is determined to prove him wrong.  First he enrols his team players -- Jake, Kira, Bashir, O'Brien, Worf, Quark, Ezri, Rom, Nog, Leeta and Kasidy. But getting them into shape as baseball champions is something of an ordeal and despite two weeks of training, the actual game itself is little short of a disaster. The 'Niners' score only one point -- and even that was quite by accident! But having been so driven to win the game, Sisko realises he's completely missed the point of the game -- fun. He and his crew toast to their "manufactured victory", as an irritated Solok puts it. Ben may have lost the game, but by turning his defeat around on its face, he's got the upper hand against Solok.


Review: 

Now, wasn't that fun! :-) 

I was actually a little apprehensive about "Take Me Out to the Holosuite", primarily because I know absolutely squat about that great American consortium that is baseball. So, I was a little afraid that I'd be left feeling slightly left out. Couple that with the fact that DS9's last two comedy outings have been both mediocre and abysmal respectively (I'm referring, of course, to last season's "Who Mourns for Morn?" and "Profit and Lace"), which did actually leave me wondering whether the writers had simply lost the ability to do decent comedy. I needn't have worried, for I'm happy to say that both those concerns proved unfounded. First of all, it helped that the "Niners" were as clueless when it came to baseball as I was and secondly, this has to be DS9's best comedy since "In the Cards" back in the fifth season. 

Yup, it's a sheer delight from start to finish. There may be nothing particularly original about the premise itself, but it was well-done, charming and although it did bump into the odd cliche, it also managed to avoid quite a few of the ones I was expecting. Did I mention that it's funny? Oh boy, it's funny -- in parts very funny. I actually found it generated more laughs than your average sitcom, although admittedly British comedy is going through a maa-aajor slump just now (when even the TV execs are willing to admit this it's a very bad sign indeed), so that's probably not saying too much. 

One thing I particularly appreciated, in fact probably what made the episode for me, was the way it utilised the whole ensemble cast. I've said before that DS9 has one of the best ensemble casts on television, and whenever they have the chance to work together as a whole, there's just magic. It's something we didn't see much of last season and I'm hoping that's a trend that's going to be reversed with this year. The camaraderie is just scintillating -- these people have such chemistry and warmth. They really come across as a kind of large, if disparate, family and it's gratifying that the writers don't have to continue to smack us over the heads to drive this point home (as the writers over on Voyager seem to have a habit of doing). One or two of the characters were under-used (Jake and Quark in particular) but that's probably only to be expected when you're dealing with the full, extended cast. 

It's a particularly good character piece for Sisko and the "adolescent rivalry" between he and Solok was quite fun, adding some nice back-story to Ben's Academy days. Solok was perhaps the most infuriatingly smug Vulcan we've ever seen on Trek, clearly a man who deserved a good kick up his gluteous maximus (heh heh, that's a new one, ain't it. It's the Latin name for the buttock muscles). If ever you've needed proof that Vulcans and Romulans share a common ancestry, then this is it! I wasn't all that impressed by the actor who played Solok (there's stoic and then there's just plain boring. In the first scene I was just about asleep whenever he opened his mouth) but it was a whole lot of fun watching him wind up Sisko. And he certainly does succeed in getting Ben hot under the collar, not to mention bitterly determined to win this game. So much so that he kicks poor Rom off the team for, well, for being hopeless

It's not until the end that Sisko realises that he's been so blinded by his determination to beat Solok that he has missed the very point of the game -- fun. It is a game, after all. Cue a wonderful ending which thankfully eschews the old "good guys win after a shaky start" cliche. The Niners actually only scored one point (and even that was quite by accident!) but Sisko realises that basically all that matters is your attitude. Most people see their minds as in control of them but I've actually learned that you can master your mind and by trying to control your reactions you can turn defeat into victory. This ending nicely demonstrates that. It's true that experience is not what happens to you but what you do with what happens to you. This was the perfect ending -- Ron Moore didn't insult our intelligence by expecting us to believe that after a mere two weeks of training the Niners could become baseball champions and win the game (particularly after stating that Vulcans have three times the strength of humans). But Sisko still gets to take the awful Solok down a peg or two -- which, I might add, was great fun to watch. The closing scene was perhaps the best "feel-good" moment DS9 has had since the wedding of Dax and Worf in "You Are Cordially Invited" a year ago. And as I said, these actors just work so well together. Loved it! 

And I also loved Rom! I know, I know, he's got about as much depth as a teaspoon, but let's face it, some people don't have any depth. Don't you know anyone like that? Max Grodenchik is just a delight, just perfect in the role. He's funny, loveable and he just ROCKED! Okay, so it wasn't much of a surprise that he'd be bad at the game, but come on - it was supremely funny watching him bumbling about the field without a clue what he was doing. Not that I'm laughing at him -- that would have been me at baseball, too! His eventual return to the team was a bit predictable, but what the hell, it was...nice. And whilst it was Rom that scored the Niners their first and only point, the irony is that it's quite by accident. Rom's cool. He stole the episode. 

Some other highlights: 
 

The one aspect that I didn't especially like about the episode was the racist undertone of the whole Vulcan/human "superiority" challenge. While Solok's smugness and arrogance was there to fuel the competition, I think it was overdone. I mean, back in the Original Series, Spock often made smug comments about human emotionalism, but he was never unlikable or (very) condescending with it -- and never racist. Solok was in danger of sounding like Adolph Hitler. I'm not going to ponder it any further, but it was certainly a somewhat disturbing undertone. Perhaps the Federation isn't quite as free of bigots and racists as it claims to be. 

Anyway, Kasidy Yates made an odd addition to the episode. Given her long absence between "Rapture" and "Far Beyond the Stars" I'd assumed that the character had just been dropped by the writers (remember Shakaar?) but following her role in "Far Beyond the Stars" she seems to keep popping up in the unlikeliest of places. But she and Sisko seemed to "work" together a lot better here than they did in "The Sound of Her Voice", so no real complaints here. Incidentally, has anyone else been watching Penny Johnson on ER? What I'd like to know is whether she wears a wig to play Kasidy or whether it's on ER she wears the wig. Either that or she can do some pretty extraordinary stuff with her hair! 

The Federation anthem was a nice touch. And whilst in the past I've been of the opinion that David Bell's style of music is more suited to the darker, more dramatic episodes than comedies, he actually does a pretty good job here. Me like. And here's something for the nit-pickers -- during the game Kira's shirt goes from saying "Kira" to "Nerys". If Odo hadn't been the umpire, I'd have been a little suspicious. Who knows what kinky stuff he and Kira get up to. He's a changeling, just think of the possibilities. Or don't! 

Anyway, where does that leave us? Well, I liked it a lot. In fact, I loved it! I'd even go so far as to say it's a classic of its kind, ranking up there with "Trials and Tribble-ations" (though not quite as good), "In the Cards" and "Our Man Bashir" as one of DS9's best comedy offerings. I think it's actually my favourite of the year so far. 

Rating: 9


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