Airdate: October 21, 1998
152 of 173 produced
152 of 173 aired
Sisko receives a visit from an old Academy nemesis - the Vulcan Captain Solok. Solok challenges him to a baseball game, which means that Sisko must scramble to field a team made up of his crew.
Nog rubs his ball against some decidedly nonplussed Vulcans.
Matthew: One the one hand, this episode combines two of my favorite things, Star Trek and baseball, reasonably well. On the other hand, it also combines some of my least favorite things on DS9 - hammy acting, prominent Rom and Leeta scenes, and a muddled point (if any). So on the good stuff - the writers clearly get baseball, for the most part. They understand what is appealing about the game, how difficult it is, and they portray it mostly realistically - no team of complete amateurs could ever have hoped to compete with only two weeks of part-time practice. I really enjoyed scenes of neophytes trying to grapple with the rules, failures at practice, Odo prepping for his umpire role, and the like. I should say, I might have awarded this episode an entire bonus point if it had contained a line explaining the holodeck logic of portraying an entire baseball field with players all across its surface, not to mention in the stands. I also think this might have benefited from watching a classic game to get the players up to speed, but obviously this is a budget concern. Nonetheless, this was mostly enjoyable on a baseball level. A few notes on the game: subbing Rom for Jake makes no strategic sense, given the disparity in experience. It undercuts the moral victory angle, since there could have been no reasonable expectation that the runner from third would score. The slo-mo action on Rom's bunt defies belief, he should have been out by a country mile - and the catcher's throw home was a rookie mistake, he should have taken the easy out at first.
Kevin: I am less of a baseball enthusiast, certainly, though I enjoy baseball well enough. I was less jazzed at the idea of the episode. Given how much stronger and faster Vulcans are purported to be in just this episode, let alone the canon, why would Sisko think a team of humans would be able to compete, even if they were this year's Cubs combined with this year's Indians. I like the idea tweaking Sisko's ego a little, but this makes him look nuts. Either a game that needs less learned skill or physical prowess would have worked better, or some kind of game with a creative element that might play better to human strengths. I will say, it's pretty clear the people making the show loved baseball, and that shown through loud and clear, and that's nice to see.
Matthew: Now that my praise is out of the way, there were aspects of this show that really bugged me. I found characterizations pretty wanting across the board. Sisko really came off badly. His treatment of Rom was really egregious. This man knows how difficult baseball is, and to treat an amateur (and a physically challenged one at that) the way he did just really comes close to making me dislike Sisko permanently. Then, you have Solok. I find it really difficult to believe that a Vulcan, in Starfleet no less, would go to such absurd lengths (creating not one, but a dozen academic papers?) to humiliate a human. It borders on sociopathy. I mean, the guy trained a team of his fellow Vulcans to play baseball at an extremely high level (during wartime, apparently?) for what can only be the purpose of playing Sisko. The icing on the cake was the juvenile, cliquey way the DS9 crew treated Solok in the bar after the game, making fun of him in a very puerile and juvenile way. Basically almost no one comes off looking very good in this episode. Almost none of the behavior on display here was consistent with the best ideals of Starfleet and the Federation.
Kevin: Yeah, they were going for a joke that didn't land. I would have preferred some idea that these men were friends or at least respected each other. Something more akin to Picard and Varley in TNG's Contagion. They might not have been friends, but their exchange gave you the sense they respected each other as professionals. Or like Picard and Riker in Peak Performance. They clearly enjoyed trying to best each other, but they were both having..you know...fun and that made it fun to watch. Sisko pretty much becomes an insufferable asshole here, and one that is ultimately not fun to watch. As for the mocking at the end, I think the idea was that they were goading Solok into tipping his hand that his stake in the game was as emotional as Sisko's, but what does that get you? "Our captain's pettiness was only in response to your captain's pettiness" is not something you can put on a tshirt.
Matthew: I think there is also a lack of broader point to this episode. Where does this fit in to the broader story? "In The Cards" tied in to the paranoia of both the Dominion and the Federation. Here, it's just a baseball game being played for some (rather incredible) reason. I would have liked it much better if it had made a point about needing diversions in wartime, or that humans play hunches while other species don't, or something.
Kevin: I would have enjoyed some conversation about how competitive sports work in this world. You could easily imagine a more complex version of weight classes for boxers. Vulcans and Klingons in one group, humans in another to make competition fairer. In the end, you can have a lightweight episode without a point. Heaven knows we liked Rascals a lot, but even as dumb as that set up was, there was just joy all over that episode and none of that is here. They forgot to make their funny episode fun, and it shows.
Matthew: Auberjonois' umpire was excellent and fun to watch. He really nailed the physicality of the role, especially when he throws out Sisko and then turns his back to him. We all love to hate umpires, and this lets us see it from their perspective.
Kevin: A definite highlight for me. He pitched it perfectly to be officious and technical while making me enjoy watching it. There was a perfectly pitched haminess that was delightful to watch.
Matthew: I did not enjoy Gregory Wagrowski as Solok. At all. Yes, I understand that was kind of the point, but the actor either didn't understand how to or wasn't given the direction he needed to portray a Vulcan effectively. He just comes across like a giant, flaming asshole, and an emotional one at that. Enterprise gets a lot of flack for its Vulcans, but it nails smugness combined with emotional control. Solok is a complete failure.
Kevin: Yeah, he came off as dour rather than unemotional. His contempt kind of proceeded him, and I'm sure it's the directing and the writing, but he comes off as such a tool you kind of don't get why Sisko values his opinion so much.
Matthew: Avery Brooks is a mixed bag for me here. He really seems to get baseball, and how to act like someone who knows what he's doing at it. But he goes way over the top in chastising his crew. Part of it is the writing, of course. But Brooks should take more stewardship for his character and maintaining his likability, even when Sisko is so irrationally driven.
Kevin: One other bright spot for me was Penny Johnson. Her Kassidy is always so grounded that she gives life to her character and relationship. The jump cut of "don't tell anyone" to "he made me promise not to tell, so don't tell him I told you" made me laugh out loud. Also, "Death to the opposition!" was good Worf humor. They found a way for him to take it too seriously without making him a jerk.
Matthew: Overall this was a real visual feast for baseball fans. I loved the graphics portraying the rules of the game. The uniforms had a really neat look for both teams, although I didn't love the DS9 font being used for the names, it kind of pulled me out of things. The workout jammies looked comfortable and individual, too. The makeup on the Vulcans, especially Solok, did not hold up well to daylight.
Kevin: I liked the uniforms overall, but agree the font was a little precious. I liked the idea of the a Federation anthem. I wonder if it has words.
Matthew:The ballfield location was at a local university, and it looked fabulous. They loaded it with extras, too, and it lent a wonderful feel to the game all around.The physical actions of the players were well choreographed for both the Vulcans (who I gather were semi-pro players) and the main cast. Nothing felt "wrong" to look at, which is an achievement.
Kevin: I didn't start watching baseball until I was in college, so I didn't really think about it at the time, but I imagine it's like watching a piano player on TV not play the piano correctly. It really nags. The crew did a good job of actually looking like they were playing.
Matthew: I'm stuck between a 2 and a 3 on this one. There is an undeniable energy to the ballgame, and Odo is fun to watch. But the overall story is rather pointless, and the character dynamics are not enjoyable. I think on balance I'm going to have to go with a 2, even acknowledging how enjoyable the baseball elements are, here. It's good baseball, but not good Star Trek.
Kevin: More than any other critique, I have to say that this episode was just not a lot of fun to watch by the end. The juxtaposition and humor from watching Odo ump and the crew debate the ground rule double are cute but only get the episode so far. Tack on the fact that the character work verges on assassination, you land at a 2. That makes for a total of 4.