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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Take Me Out to the Holosuite (Review)

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is populated by losers.

There are exceptions to this blanket statement, of course. By some measures, the crew of this fringe outpost are quite distinguished. Benjamin Sisko is the Emissary of the Prophets and is a decorated combat veteran. Worf served as Chief of Security on the Federation flagship. Julian Bashir has been genetically engineered to make him stronger and faster than the average human. The Dax symbiont was heavily involved in the negotiation of the peace agreement between the Federation and the Klingon Empire.

A whole different ball game.

However, even these examples of success and prestige are somewhat tempered. Sisko arrived on this backwater outpost as a man considering resigning. Worf is a terrible father and a widower. Bashir spent most of his life hiding his abilities, to the point that he has been forced to pretend to be less than he was; although he is now “out”, his genetic engineering has arguably served to further marginalise him within Starfleet. The Dax symbiont is now joined to Ezri Tegan, a young woman who had never planned to be a host.

In the larger context of the Star Trek universe, Deep Space Nine feels like the island of misfit toys. Odo was found drifting alone through the void; when he finally found his people, he discovered that they were monstrous fascists; when he killed one of his own people, he was forced into exile. Quark is stuck managing a bar that can barely turn a profit, watching others get ahead. Garak was forced into exile by his own father, and is now a traitor to his own people. Martok lost his eye in a Dominion prison camp.

Playing games.

This is in marked contrast to the characters who usually populate the franchise. JJ Abrams’ rebooted Star Trek essentially makes a point to feature at least one sequence demonstrating how each crew member is the top of their given field. Star Trek: The Next Generation was set in one of the most professional working environments in television history. Star Trek: Voyager might have been populated by rebels and scientists, but they still trounced the Borg on a regular basis. Star Trek: Enterprise was a crew of the best and the brightest.

There are a lot of things to love about Take Me Out to the Holosuite, and one of them is the fact that it understands that Deep Space Nine is populated by losers. Take Me Out to the Holosuite also understands that this is part of what makes Deep Space Nine so winning.

Game on.

In many ways, Take Me Out to the Holosuite feels like a typical final season entry for a long-running television series. The episode has a very simple premise, focusing on a baseball game featuring the regular characters. It is the kind of idea that is casually thrown out during the early years of a series, and dismissed with a laugh from around the room. However, as the end of the show draws closer, things come into focus. Story ideas that would have been off-limits earlier in the run of the series are suddenly put on the table.

Gradually, the production team comes to one of two realisations: either desperation kicks in and the team realises that they need anything resembling a workable story idea or they realise that they literally only have so many episode slots available in which to tell all the stories that they want to tell. There were several points in the sixth season when the production team found themselves digging through the archives to revive previously dismissed story ideas; episodes like One Little Ship and Time’s Orphan come to mind.

On the surface, Take Me Out to the Holosuite seems like a ridiculous concept. It is the stock “television ensemble plays sports” episode, the kind of wacky off-concept installment that arrives when a production team is looking to pad out a season. The “baseball episode” is a common variant, one spanning the length and breadth of television history. In some ways, it would have been disappointing if Deep Space Nine did not offer its own twist on this television standard.

Stepping up to bat.

Mister Ed had Leo Durocher meets Mister EdThe Munsters had Herman the Rookie. Magnum P.I. had Squeeze PlayRemington Steele had Second Base SteeleThe Simpsons had Homer at Bat. Grey’s Anatomy had Put Me In, Coach. CSI had Altered Stakes. Arrested Development had Switch Hitter. South Park had The Losing Edge. The Power Rangers franchise had a whole subgenre of baseball episodes, including The Curve Ball and Home Run Koda.

Even shows set beyond the modern day have a tendency to indulge in the trope. Doctor Quinn Medicine Woman had Travelling All-Stars and Little House on the Prairie had In the Big Inning. Band of Brothers closed on a voice over narration explaining what happened to the characters, playing over a game of baseball. There is a sense that baseball is relatively timeless, that it has always existed in one form or another as a constant of the American experience. It is no surprise that it should turn up again in the twenty-fourth century.

Everybody pitches in.

Baseball clearly holds a unique place in the American popular consciousness, something that transcends a mere pastime. After all, while “the American football episode” is not unheard of, it is decidedly less common. What makes baseball so special? Alan Bisbort speculates:

Baseball seems to consistently engender the literary equivalent of a grand slam, a high hard one or, conversely, a mighty swing and a miss. Theories abound as to why baseball, more so than any other sport, lends itself so readily to literature. My own: Baseball crosses age, race, class, time and even gender lines. It’s a game every boy and girl at least tried to learn. It’s also played outdoors in the sunshine, and sometimes it’s played after the sun has faded from the sky (ask any parent trying to get a kid inside for dinner or bedtime on a midsummer eve). Is it too far-fetched to suggest that the paraphernalia and trappings of the game itself—bats, balls, bases, dirt infield, green outfield, bleachers—evokes something close to a national pastoral memory? That we were born knowing about Charlie Brown and his Peanuts gang’s hapless attempts to play the game?

There is something very elegant in the notion of baseball, in the way that a simple game involving a very simple set of actions (throw a ball, hit a ball with a stick, run in a set of straight lines, catch a ball) can come to capture so much of the human experience.

Uniform praise.

This is perhaps the paradox of baseball. Much like cricket, a sport with which it has a lot in common, baseball is once incredibly straightforward and incredibly complicated. While baseball is very much an American pastime, internal audiences will empathise with the early scenes of Take Me Out to the Holosuite, in which the alien characters all struggle to wrap their heads around the complicated system of bylaws and regulations governing such a simple game. Kira, Worf and Nog all try to understand the mechanics of “the infield fly rule.”

In many ways, this is the beauty of baseball. This is why Sisko could use baseball as a metaphor to explain the concept of linear time in Emissary, suggesting that the baseball game could serve as a metaphor for life itself; at once elegant in its simplicity and awe-inspiring in its complexity. Baseball is a sport than can be extrapolated to a complex series of statistics and economics, or expanded to a meditation upon the very nature of human existence. It is poetic and practical, something that can resonate with the most lyrical mind and the most practical.

“Who knew that hitting a ball with a stick could be so complicated?”

Baseball is also distinctly American, something unique to the culture. Although the sport has extended its reach in an era of globalisation, and while there might be debates about the origin of the game, there a very strong connection between baseball and the United States. As Gerald Early explained his own passion for the sport in the opening episode of Baseball:

I enjoy the game because it is a beautifully designed game – it’s a beautiful game to watch – but principally because it makes me feel more American. It makes me feel connected to this culture, and I think there are only three things that America will be known for 2,000 years from now when they study this civilisation – the Constitution, jazz music, and baseball. They’re the three most beautifully designed things this country ever produced.

In some ways, Deep Space Nine reinforces this notion, suggesting from the very first episode that baseball has somehow managed to outlast the United States itself. Take Me Out to the Holosuite even alludes to these patriotic sensibilities; the episode represents the first (and, to date, last) time that the “Anthem of the United Federation of Planets” is heard in the franchise, recreating the use of the The Star-Spangled Banner at contemporary baseball events.

“Still, it could be worse. We could be playing cricket.”

To be fair, the idea of a “baseball episode” is a good fit for Deep Space Nine. The series has a long history with the sport. Sisko used baseball as a way to communicate with the Prophets in Emissary, bonded with an alien recreation of a historical baseball player in If Wishes Were Horses…, routinely took his senior staff to games in episodes like Starship Down, and even forged a romantic relationship with Kasidy Yates in Family Business primarily rooted in their shared love of the sport.

Sisko’s baseball is an important part of the series’ iconography. In terms of plot, it played a crucial role at the climaxes of stories like Call to Arms and Tears of the Prophets. However, it also reflects the series itself. The “Niners” baseball uniforms blend the curve of the station’s pylons into the stitching of the baseball, but the truth is that the entire station is constructed to evoke the spherical shape of the ball. More than that, the ball’s circular outline evokes the way that Deep Space Nine tends to approach history and time; curved and bending, arcing in circles rather than moving straight.

Sisko is a team sport.

Baseball was just as important to Deep Space Nine behind the scenes. Its inclusion in the series was largely down to Michael Piller, an avowed fan who had even worked a baseball analogy into Evolution, his first teleplay for the franchise. As Sandra Piller recalls of her late husband:

DS9’s Captain Sisko was also a huge baseball nut/fan. Michael absolutely wanted Sisko to be a baseball fan. Michael collected baseball cards. He had many in his office at Paramount and there was a baseball on Sisko’s desk on the space station. Michael’s mom, Ruth Roberts, wrote (usually with her writing partner, William Katz) several sports-themed songs, including Meet the Mets (for the New York Mets), It’s a Beautiful Day for a Ball Game (used by the Los Angeles Dodgers for decades), and Mr. Touchdown, USA.

Piller reportedly had a collection including thousands of baseball cards. Ira Steven Behr recalls that Piller recruited him to work on Deep Space Nine while they were both attending baseball games together.

Scouting.

So, in many ways, Deep Space Nine was more suited to the concept of a “baseball episode” than most other television series. It feels like a logical episode for the final season, a casual indulgence that makes sense within the larger context of the series. It would almost be disappointing if Deep Space Nine wrapped up without getting a chance to see Sisko on the baseball field once again, without seeing the entire crew come together to celebrate a sport that he had shared with most of them on an individual basis.

The timing of the episode also seemed fortuitous. Baseball would always hold a special place in the hearts of Americans, but 1998 was a great year for the sport. More than thirteen million people watched the 1998 All-Star Game. By all accounts, Mark McGwire’s performance in the season “surpassed any individual performance major league baseball has ever seen.” It has been argued that the 1998 New York Yankees considered among the best ever, and the team was undoubtedly at the end of “a season to remember.”

The ball is in their court.

Although the sport had had a rough few years heading into that season, it seemed like the national pastime had turned things around over the course of the year:

By the end of 1998, baseball had bolstered its attendance. Fox television ratings were up 11 percent. Baseball estimated it was the beneficiary of a financial windfall of $1.5 billion from the home run race between McGwire and Sosa. McGwire was named Time magazine’s Hero of the Year and posed for the cover of Sports Illustrated wearing a Roman toga. He met the Pope and he kissed Helen Hunt on an NBC sitcom.

“There were almost as many literary references to McGwire in 1998 as there were to the Boston Red Sox in 2004, when they broke their 86-year drought and won the World Series. One book, The Persistence of Medievalism, contains the passage: ”McGwire’s beatification is similar to those of the saints from after the fourth century.” Another, written by the Fox broadcaster and former major leaguer Tim McCarver, is called The Perfect Season.

I still think it was the perfect season,” McCarver said in a telephone interview on Sunday. ”I don’t regret writing that.”

The sport had managed to capture the national attention, to reignite interest in a game that some had believed to be on the cusp of irrelevance. Baseball had a cultural currency that had been lacking (or at least diminished) in previous seasons.

Sticking out.

Of course, the 1998 season would be retroactively tainted by revelations and allegations. Twelve years later, Mark McGwire would admit that he had been using steroids when he broke baseball’s home run record. This came after years of rumours and speculation; McGwire had decline to deny using steroids at hearings conducted in 2005, and Sammy Sosa, who competed against McGwire for the record, was rumoured to have tested positive in 2008. In retrospect, the period of baseball running from the late eighties into the twentieth century came to be known as “the steroid era.”

Still, all of this was in the future. While there were commentators concerned about how widespread doping might have been within the sport, that dark cloud had yet to settle over the season. To audiences and fans watching the baseball season, it genuinely seemed that the sport was going through a renaissance. Take Me Out to the Holosuite arrived at exactly the right time. The episode aired two days before the end of the six-month season, right in the middle of the World Series. McGwire had already broken his record, but the season had not yet ended.

A crowded field.

According to Ronald D. Moore, this synchronicity was something of a happy accident:

We knew it would air close to the series, but didn’t know it would be the same week. The entire writing staff was poised to go to Game 5 — which left Ira, Rene, and I in the odd position of rooting against the Yanks in Game 4. Serves us right.

Still, it is a nice example of Deep Space Nine feeling at once perfectly in step with its cultural moment and also quite timeless.

More like the World Serious, am I right?

Even in hindsight, Take Me Out to the Holosuite feels like an appropriate counterpoint to the 1998 baseball season. The entire plot is spurred into motion when an old classmate from Starfleet Academy shows up on Deep Space Nine. After a tense reintroduction, the pair agree to a “friendly” baseball game between the senior staff of the T’Kumbra and the crew of Deep Space Nine. There is a catch. Sisko’s team is comprised of a diverse range of species, including humans, Bajorans, Ferengi and a Klingon. Solok is commanding a ship staffed entirely by Vulcans, recalling The Immunity Syndrome.

(In one of the more interesting choices in Take Me Out to the Holosuite, writer Ronald D. Moore declines to depict Solok challenge to Sisko. Sisko just arrives from his office, calls a meeting, and lays down the challenge to his senior staff. “Their Captain challenged us to a contest of courage, teamwork and sacrifice,” Sisko advises his crew. “I accepted on your behalf.” However, the dynamic revealed later in the episode suggests that Solok might have goaded Sisko into the contest. It is even possible that Solok mentioned baseball knowing Sisko would make the challenge.)

So long, Solok.

The decision to stage the baseball game against a team of Vulcans is interesting in a number of respects. Most superficially, it cements the idea that the Vulcans are essentially a race of jerks, a point of contention between the production team, to the point that Moore found himself forced to address Solok’s attitude:

Solok’s gripe was with Sisko first and Humans second. He held a grudge as long as Sisko did, which may be illogical but is not racist. Also, the analogies to 20th century Earth-bound racism begin to break down when you consider that these are different species we’re talking about here, not different races of the same species. Granted, we sometimes use the tensions between aliens as a metaphor for our own contemporary problems, but that metaphor only goes so far. Some aliens are definitely and quantitatively superior to others in the Trek galaxy and the observation of that point is not analogous to racial hatred as we experience it today. Vulcans are superior to Humans in many ways. That is a fact, not a racial slur.

Moore somewhat concedes the point, accepting that while Solok’s superiority complex may have some basis in objectively-verifiable fact, his decades-long vendetta with Sisko is highly illogical, given that Vulcans claim to have suppressed all emotion.

A Vulcan, not a Vulcan’t.

To be fair, the characterisation of Solok is at least internally consistent. Solok is not the first hyper-competitive Vulcan to appear on Deep Space Nine, with O’Brien squaring off against a similarly uncompromising opponent in Shakaar during the third season. Similar, Solok is not the only antagonistic Vulcan to appear in the seventh season as a whole, with Field of Fire featuring a Vulcan serial killer. Deep Space Nine has never been particularly flattering in its portrayal of the Vulcans.

Then again, while Deep Space Nine might really commit to the idea of Vulcans as jerks, it is hardly an outlier in the larger context of the Star Trek franchise. On the original series, Spock could often seem condescending and arrogant, even if he was also heroic and virtuous. The other major Vulcan guest stars tended to exaggerate these character flaws; consider the scheming of T’Pring in Amok Time or the behaviour of Sarek in Journey to Babel. In fact, Sarek did not really begin to mellow until after Spock died, notably in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock.

“Yeah, I watched Enterprise.”

Of course, Enterprise would controversially double-down on this portrayal of the Vulcans. The Vulcans would be portrayed as arrogant in episodes like Broken Bow, untrustworthy in episodes like The Andorian Incident, and borderline imperialist in Shadows of P’Jem. This is to say nothing of their attitudes towards their own minorities in episodes like Stigma or their refusal to help Earth in episodes like The Expanse. The problem became a fixation for a fandom that had learned to worship Spock.

Indeed, the portrayal of the Vulcans on Enterprise would prove so controversial that the production team “fixed” it in the continuity-heavy in The Forge, Awakening and Kir’Shara. There is no small irony here, as characters like Solok and T’Pring have much more in common with the Vulcans introduced in Broken Bow than those presented at the end of Kir’Shara. It is an interesting example of how fickle continuity actually is, how often expectations of later iterations of stories are more heavily shaped by the memory of earlier stories than their material reality.

Field of battle.

However controversial this portrayal of the Vulcans might be, Take Me Out to the Holosuite really commits to the idea. The episode is surprisingly candid about the challenge that Sisko and his team face as they come up against the Logicians. Vulcans are physically stronger than humans, as a result of evolving on a planet with higher gravity. Vulcans are more physically resilient than humans, having grown up on a desert world under a harsh sun. This is something that the franchise has long taken for granted, most notably in stories like Amok Time or Star Trek.

The script repeatedly acknowledges the Vulcan team’s superiority as a matter of fact. “Now, I know what some of you are thinking,” Sisko explains on the first day of practice. “How can we beat the Logicians? They’re all Vulcans. They’re stronger and faster than any one of us, except for Worf and our genetically enhanced doctor.” Later, Yates chuckles as Sisko recounts his brawl with Solok. “Oh, Ben, I don’t mean to laugh, but what did you expect?” she asks. “A Vulcan has three times the strength of a human.”

Good sport.

Take Me Out to the Holosuite acknowledges that it is all but impossible for the Niners to beat the Logicians. As Larry Granillo concedes in his analysis of the team, the episode feels like a fairly accurate account of how a game like that would play out:

Overall, while Sisko’s team is not in the ideal set-up, it is likely pretty close. Only Nog is an egregiously bad decision and, in the Logicians’ 10-1 victory, he probably factored in very little. The Vulcans’ power and the inexperienced Niners’ mistakes (they allowed 14 hits and committed four errors) almost certainly accounted for all the runs against Jake Sisko. I expect a lot out of my Starfleet captains, but even I know it was impossible for Sisko’s crew of misfits to beat a practiced crew of Vulcans. I’m glad the episode realized that as well.

The Logicians completely destroy the Niners over the course of the game, inflicting a humiliating defeat upon Sisko and his crew. Even Worf and Bashir are little help in the face of overwhelming odds.

Logic is one thing.
Friendship is a whole different ball game.

There is something strangely endearing about the way in which Take Me Out to the Holosuite allows the Logicians this victory and denies the Niners a convenient (or contrived) last-minute reprieve. The arc of the sports underdog story is familiar, pitting a bunch of plucky upstarts against a superior adversary, somehow allowing them to pluck victory from the jaws of defeat in an affirmation of the basic moral order of the universe. It is such a standard sports movie trope that Rocky still endures as a brutal subversion. (Naturally, Rocky II plays into the trope.)

Early on, it seems like Take Me Out to the Holosuite might be consciously leaning into this storytelling convention. Immediately after Sisko warns his team about the physical advantages that the Logicians possess, he reassures them, “But there is more to baseball than physical strength. It’s about courage, and it’s also about faith, and it is also about heart.” However, the beauty of Take Me Out to the Holosuite is that Sisko is entirely correct, just not exactly in the way that he thinks.

Chief coach.

Take Me Out to the Holosuite allows the Niners a moral victory while acknowledging their literal defeat. There is no way for Sisko and his crew to compete against the Vulcans, given their physical advantages. The Vulcans are stronger, faster, more rational. The Niners might have courage, faith and heart, but those are not the qualities that secure home runs or knock balls out of the park. They are not attributes that can be measured on a chart or correlated to the scores at then end of the game.

Instead, the Niners claim a victory based upon an understanding of the sport. Baseball is not so much about winning or losing. Instead, it is about the game itself. It is about what the game represents, and about the opportunities that it affords. The most crucial character in Take Me Out to the Holosuite is Rom, whose genuine well-intentioned decency serves to remind Sisko of what he loves about the game at the climax. Take Me Out to the Holosuite positions Sisko and Rom as competing philosophies; Sisko is obsessed with winning, while Rom understands the game.

Making room for Rom.

Rom is a terrible player, by any technical measure; he is not the most technically proficient player, he does not have the sharpest reflexes, he has never played the game before. However, Rom understands baseball. Rom doesn’t understand baseball in the sense that he has memorised the rules or the by-laws. In fact, the climax of Take Me Out to the Holosuite reassures viewers that Rom has not suddenly mastered the mechanics of the sport; he completely fails to decode “the sign” for “bunt.”

However, while Sisko loses his way, allowing his obsession with defeating Solok to blind him, Rom always remains focused on what baseball is supposed to be about. Showing up for training near the start of the episode, he explains, “Nog always talks about how Captain Sisko and Jake play baseball and how it brings them closer together. Since Nog and I haven’t seen much of each other lately, I thought this might be a good way of spending some time together.” Later, he refuses to let his fellow team members strike for his inclusion, refusing to allow them to miss out on his account.

Taking one for the team.

In retrospect, this little conflict at the heart of Take Me Out to the Holosuite feels perfectly attuned to the realities of baseball at the end of the twentieth century. In some ways, the humanity was being slowly peeled away from the sport. Professional athletes were taking steroids to push them beyond the limitations of the human form, allowing them to break records and to elevate the sport on a purely technical level. There was a sense that the spectacle was an object to be chased, that the point of playing was to break these limitations.

At the same time, baseball was increasingly seen as a numbers game. The sport had always been driven by statistics and numbers, to a certain extent; sabermetrics had been a discipline dating back to the middle decades of the twentieth century and baseball cards emphasised the idea of players as a collection of statistics. However, this fusion of maths and baseball really took root when Billy Beane took over as general manager of Oakland Athletics in 1997; he would use mathematical models to lead the team to the playoffs in 2002. In 1998, Forbes had just begun calculating teams’ monetary values.

Don’t hate the players.

As such, October 1998 seemed the perfect time for a story focusing on the human aspects of baseball, a celebration of the game for its own sake, rather than in service of records or economics. In many ways, Take Me Out to the Holosuite is the most archetypal of sports narratives; it is a story about how the game is not so much about winning or losing, but instead a celebration of community and togetherness. Given all the changes taking place in baseball at this point in its history, Take Me Out to the Holosuite is quite a timely baseball narrative.

However, it is also very much a quintessential Deep Space Nine narrative. It is a story about how the cast on Deep Space Nine are not the best or the brightest that the Star Trek franchise has to offer, that they are not the standard-bearers of Gene Roddenberry’s futuristic utopia. If anything, Deep Space Nine is populated with losers and screw-ups. Very few characters, with the exception of Bashir, would have gone there by choice; even then, Bashir was marginalising himself. The station is home to exiles and orphans, characters with nowhere else to go.

Okay, it’s a little rude to point it out.

However, there is something quite striking in all of this. The characters on Deep Space Nine refuse to allow their poor circumstances to overwhelm them. As Duncan Barrett and Michèle Barrett point out in The Human Frontier, this affords the characters a paradoxical victory:

This game takes place in holographic reality, but the Deep Space Nine team are all too real in their terrible standard of play – notwithstanding the fact that they have tried to practice. The match is a return fixture for a previous occasion and Sisko’s honour is at stake. The story is interesting in that there is no level playing-field: Vulcans are endowed with a massive physical superiority over the motley bunch that make up Sisko’s team. Nevertheless, the home team (having been trounced in the game) decide to celebrate their feeble score in the bar afterwards. They refuse to accept that they should be miserable – mainly to annoy the Vulcans, which it certainly does. The moral is that human idiosyncrasy has won out, together with pluckiness in the face of impossible odds. In this, as in much else treated more seriously on Star Trek, the style may well be ‘post-modern’ – but the content is most definitely not ‘post-human.’

This is the charm of Deep Space Nine, a bunch of mismatched individuals brought together by chance on what should have been a dead-end assignment, who somehow become a weird dysfunctional (but loving) family unit.

The umpire strikes back.

In its own way, Take Me Out to the Holosuite reinforces some of the core truths of Deep Space Nine. The destination is not as important as the journey. In the end, it does not matter whether Sisko defeats Solok. It would certainly be a happier ending if he did, but it does not invalidate everything that happened during those two weeks of training. It is an important reflection as Deep Space Nine draws to a close, with the writers already committed to breaking up the cast at the end of it all. The fact that this family will break up does not diminish their time together.

(To be fair, it is too much to claim that the ending does not matter at all. After all, the Federation still wins the Dominion War and Sisko still defeats the Pah-Wraiths. At the same time, What You Leave Behind tempers these larger victories with smaller losses. Sisko leaves his wife and his son to take his place in the Celestial Temple. Julian Bashir and Miles Edward O’Brien go their separate ways. Odo returns to the Great Link. The ending is more bittersweet than the conclusions to The Next Generation, Voyager or even Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.)

Something to chew over.

Take Me Out to the Holosuite reinforces this repeatedly, suggesting that the real benefit of this game is not defeating Solok, but instead allowing the crew to spend time with one another. Take Me Out to the Holosuite is a joyful and warm piece of television, a celebration of the Deep Space Nine ensemble. It is an episode that finds time for O’Brien to share the wonder of scotch-flavoured chewing gum with Bashir, that allows Worf to instruct Nog to “find [the Vulcan batter] and kill him!” while shouting “death to the opposition!”, that finds Quark practicing catching glasses with his staff.

Take Me Out to the Holosuite is an episode that finds joy in the little things, from Sisko remembering the true meaning of baseball when confronted with Rom’s innocence to Kasidy and Bashir practicing their stance in the infirmary to Odo rehearsing his umpire routine. Take Me Out to the Holosuite is heartwarming, but it is also funny, rejoicing in the small scale of its character beats in the midst of everything going on in the season around it. As befitting an episode about an American pastime, it captures the small pleasures of rehearsal and preparation between friends.

Taking a swing at it.

In some ways, Take Me Out to the Holosuite captures that feeling of friendship more closely associated with the cast of The Next Generation than that of Deep Space Nine. Of all the Star Trek ensembles, the crew on The Next Generation felt most like a single cohesive unit. This fact was reinforced through the regular poker games between the senior staff. These games became such an effective shorthand for the crew’s bond that the final scene of the series would unfold around that table, with Picard joining his staff for a game at the end of All Good Things…

The other Star Trek series never quite managed to replicate that sort of cohesive bond. On Voyager, Michael Piller tried to bring the cast together by introducing the holographic locale of Chez Sandríne in The Cloud, but it never really worked. The production team would attempt to build holographic hubs at various points in the series, like the Paxau Resort in Warlord or da Vinci’s study in Scorpion, Part I or the Captain Proton! setting in Night or the village in Fair Haven or even the holographic theatre in Repression. However, the ensemble never quite gelled.

“You’re right. If we really wanted to win, we should have invited Garak. But that would probably make for a lot less heartwarming episode.”

Deep Space Nine had a slightly different problem. Simply put, the regular and recurring cast was simply too large to support the something as communal as the poker game, although Sisko makes it clear that he has taken almost everybody on the station (minus maybe Garak) to “at least one baseball game.” However, the cast is so large that the characters tend to cluster around one another. Deep Space Nine is not so much the story of a single nuclear family like The Next Generation, it is often a story about a collection of smaller families brought together.

The characters on Deep Space Nine tended to break off into smaller sets. Benjamin, Kasidy and Jake. Quark, Rom and Nog. Odo and Kira. Bashir and O’Brien. Dax and Worf. This approach afforded the series the opportunity to tell stories focusing on these groups within the larger ensemble; Necessary Evil could focus on all the characters who had been on Terok Nor during the Occupation, while The Magnificent Ferengi could bring all the recurring Ferengi cast members together, and even Extreme Measures could give the Bashir-O’Brien bromance one last go-round.

Tying himself up in knots.

In some ways, this tended to reflect the dynamic off-screen as well, where the actors all seemed to get along quite well, but some inevitably grew closer than others. In The Fifty-Year Mission, Rick Berman compares the dynamic on Deep Space Nine to the dynamic on The Next Generation:

The Next Generation cast was a real family. We all sort of began together and started together and they were very close. So when we put together a second cast and you;’re dealing with people like René [Auberjonois] and people like Siddig, Colm Meaney, Armin Shimerman, and Nana Visitor, you’re talking about some heavy-duty actors. Remarkable actors. But still the cast did not have the solidity to it and the warmth that the Next Generation had. I think that the tensions that existed did not necessarily get in the way of the show being produced as we all wanted it to be.

Still, there were clearly strong bonds formed between certain clusters within the cast. Alexander Siddig recalls how Colm Meaney would take him to Irish bars. Max Grodénchik, Armin Shimerman and Aron Eisenberg tend to attend conventions together. Avery Brooks and Cirroc Lofton are particularly close.

“Why, yes, my origin story is quite similar to Kirk’s from Star Trek 2009, now that you point it out.”

What makes Take Me Out to the Holosuite so interesting is that it is essentially an ensemble piece that brings the bulk of the ensemble together as part of one gigantic event, rather than allowing a couple of the cast to cluster. There were plenty of other stories that were clearly written to celebrate the cast’s interactions with one another, from Our Man Bashir to Far Beyond the Stars, but Take Me Out to the Holosuite is striking because it makes a point to bring (most of) the characters together for a good time.

This feels quite strange in the context of Deep Space Nine, after years of watching the crew hang out in their own distinct groups. Perhaps it is another example of how Take Me Out to the Holosuite feels like a perfect episode for the last season of the show. After all, the production team would bring the entire cast together for another caper in Badda-Bing, Badda-Bang, the last episode to air before plunging into the sprawling ten-part series finale. Episodes like Take Me Out to the Holosuite and Badda-Bing, Badda-Bang feel like they are drawing a large extended family together.

A stellar team.

Take Me Out to the Holosuite is a light and frivolous episode, like those scattered across the sixth season. However, it works as well as the best of them, The Magnificent Ferengi. In fact, Take Me Out to the Holosuite shares a director with The Magnificent Ferengi. They are the only episodes of Deep Space Nine to be directed by Chip Chalmers, which might make him the series’ most consistent comedy director. Chalmers’ touch is relatively light, understanding that the character dynamics are the primary appeal of the show, and that the best gags (and the most heartwarming beats) are rooted in that.

Take Me Out to the Holosuite is very much a celebration of this most unlikely of extended families that has assembled at the edge of the frontier. They might be a team of losers, but they still win in their own way.

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3 Responses

  1. I know this episode gets criticised a lot and I can’t call it one of my favourites but there is something just fun to it. 🙂

  2. Moore’s comments kinda smack of the woefully deficient rationalist perspective that emotional intuition is a weakness rather than a major strength. Also, Solok might be a jerk but we don’t know that all the other Vulcans are as well!

    Oh, and a 10-1 score is pretty bad but not terribly atypical. My Reds get beat that badly every other damn day.

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