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If Wishes Were Horses

Production no.: 416
Teleplay by: Nell McCue Crawford & William L. Crawford and Michael Piller
Story by: Nell McCue Crawford & William L. Crawford
Directed by: Robert Legato
Stardate: 46853.2 
First satellite airdate: May 15, 1993
Rosalind Chao ................
Keone Young .................
Michael John Anderson ...
Hana Hatae ....................

It's slow at Quark's, and Odo and Quark are passing the time trading barbs. Quark offers to fix Odo up with a holosuite program, but Odo refuses, saying fantasies are a waste of time. "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." They break off for a moment to observe Jake going upstairs to play baseball, then go back to bickering. Just another day in the life.

A little way off, at a table, Bashir is flirting -- again -- with Dax, who shoots him down by telling him he's a "wonderful friend". "Stop," he groans. "You're driving a stake through my heart." Dax advises him to try a high-pitched sonic shower, and leaves him to his frustrated dreams once more. She goes to Ops, where Sisko and Kira are observing an unusual energy reading: elevated thoron emissions in the Denorios plasma field, which might be an environmental byproduct of the increased traffic in the region since the wormhole's discovery. Dax goes to work finding out if this will cause problems.

Meanwhile, O'Brien is at home, reading his little daughter a bedtime story -- the fairy tale of Rumpelstiltskin, about an evil dwarf who tries to trick a queen into giving him her daughter. After he finishes and leaves Molly to go to sleep, he and Keiko are about to go to bed themselves when Molly comes out, announcing, "He's in my room." Her parents ask who, and Molly says, "Rumpelstiltskin."

To assure Molly that Rumpelstiltskin isn't real, O'Brien goes into her room to check. And to his shock, there on the bed sits a little man with huge pointed ears, wearing medieval clothes. "Don't look so distraught," the dwarf says. "I'm only here to offer you my services, if you should need them."

O'Brien hustles Keiko and Molly out, and calls security, as "Rumpelstiltskin" looks around for straw to spin gold from. He doesn't disappear on hearing his name, however, as the dwarf did in the story ("I don't make deals like that any more," he says). When the security officers arrive, they are unable to lay their hands on the creature. "Tell me your needs and I'll tell you my price," the dwarf tells O'Brien, who calls Sisko.

As Sisko is about to head for O'Brien's quarters, he encounters Jake arriving home with an urgent expression. Behind him is an Asian-looking baseball player in full uniform and glove. "Hello, Ben," he says with a grin. It's Buck Bokai, a player who has been dead for centuries. "He followed me home from the holosuite," Jake tells his father.

Meanwhile, in Bashir's quarters, the doctor is awakened by a hand lovingly stroking his face. He sits up and gapes in astonishment at Dax, who is sitting on his bed, smiling dreamily at him and covering him with kisses. Either she's sick, Bashir thinks, or he's hallucinating; but a quick tricorder scan reveals nothing wrong with either of them. "Why are you fighting this?" she breathes. Bashir, who can't think of a good answer to that question, is about to surrender happily when Kira's voice calls all senior officers to Ops. Convinced that Dax has been playing a joke on him, Bashir stalks out, with her following.

They both arrive in Ops to see Buck and Rumpelstiltskin standing there with Sisko, Kira, and O'Brien. Sisko asks Dax if this could be related to the increased thoron emissions, but she just looks at him blankly. "I think you'd better ask me, Benjamin," says Dax, stepping off the turbolift. Her double blinks back at her. Bashir looks like he's about to swallow his tongue, but dutifully scans all the, er, unexpected personnel and reports that the tricorder registers them as quite real.

Buck says he can't figure out why he's here either. He was playing ball with Jake, got hungry, and followed him out of the holosuite. But he remembers his career, and Sisko finds it rather awkward trying to explain to the image of his longtime hero that this is because he programmed the information into the computer. Rumpelstiltskin, however, did not come from a holosuite, but he did come out of O'Brien's imagination. Which means that Dax #2 came out of Bashir's, much to the doctor's embarrassment. Dax #1 speculates that it may be the result of a subspace disruption. She didn't see an anomaly when she scanned the plasma field, but it could have been small enough that the sensors missed it.

After Rumpelstiltskin and Dax #2 disappear, Odo calls from the Promenade to report that it's snowing. The constable asks if the environmental controls are out. Ordering a yellow alert, Sisko says that he'll give Odo an explanation as soon as he has one. "Yellow alert, against our own imaginations?" Kira asks incredulously. Then Dax says she's found something. There are wave patterns outside the station converging to a single point, where the particle density rises at the center, then disappears. "Whatever falls in there is just gone," Dax says. Sisko orders a full analysis and tells O'Brien to ready a probe. Rumpelstiltskin pops back in, offering to help.

The Promenade is a very interesting place today. The snow is gone, but now there's a Gunji jackdaw running loose. Odo herds it out of the way, then goes into Quark's to make an announcement. "Ladies and gentlemen...and all androgynous creatures...your attention, please! As you may have noticed, we're experiencing some difficulties. I'm going to have to ask you all to please refrain from using your imaginations!" Quark, coming down from the holosuites with two scantily-clad bimbos, tells Odo not to ruin it for everybody. He's all for Sisko and the others taking their time investigating -- until Odo points out that all of Quark's customers are winning at Dabo. Horrified, Quark rushes over to the crowd at the wheel. "Lose!" he pleads, but they ignore him and go on winning. "You're outnumbered, Quark," Odo informs him smugly.

In the science lab, Bashir helps Dax with her study of the rupture. As she feared, the proximity of the wormhole is amplifying it. While they wait for the computer to search for historical references, Bashir awkwardly starts to bring up the subject of her doppelganger, but Dax kindly tells him there's no need to apologize. "We all have fantasies and dreams we keep to ourselves. Thoughts that should remain private...I was a young man once." Bashir is relieved -- until Dax comments, "She really is submissive, isn't she?" The doctor squirms in humiliation as his dream Dax suddenly appears, and the two Trills proceed to make catty remarks toward each other. He's saved when the computer finds a match, but the news is not good: a similar rupture was reported in the Hanoli system in the 23rd century. It ended up destroying the system.

A probe has been launched to study the anomaly, as reports of people's thoughts becoming real continue to come in. O'Brien is keeping an eye on the probe when Rumpelstiltskin materializes to pester him some more. He observes that O'Brien is afraid of him; O'Brien says he's not. The dwarf is just a figment of his imagination. "And yet you can't deny how this imagination of yours empowers me, can you?" Rumpelstiltskin says. "Empowers me in a way that somehow terrifies you...She is your first born, isn't she?" Enraged, O'Brien starts toward him, but the dwarf is gone.

The probe seems to disappear when it reaches the center of the rupture, which is getting larger. A little later, on the Promenade, Buck appears and follows Sisko as the commander heads back to Ops. Sisko insists that the player isn't real, but Buck says it hurts when he pinches himself. Supposing he doesn't disappear when this is over, what is he supposed to do? "You got room on your team for a switch-hitting third baseman with good power?" "Good power from the left side," says Sisko, smiling at Buck's protests. He doesn't have time for this, though, and Buck is sad. "That was baseball's epitaph, wasn't it?" He goes on to say he has appreciated how much Sisko cares about the game. "It meant a lot to me. I just thought you should know. You know, in case I do finally disappear."

Afterwards, Rumpelstiltskin, Dax #2 and Buck confer. Rumpelstiltskin complains that they don't know any more than when they started. Dax #2 is mystified that Bashir would create a woman only to reject her, and Rumpelstiltskin doesn't know why O'Brien would create a dwarf that terrifies him. He's ready to give up, but Buck says he's actually made a connection with Sisko. "I sensed a feeling from him, an affection for this ballplayer who died two hundred years before he was even born." Buck decides they will continue for as long as it takes. "It ain't over 'til it's over."

In Sisko's office, O'Brien notes that there was a Vulcan science mission to the Hanoli rift that detonated a pulse wave torpedo at its center. The rupture expanded and wiped out the Vulcan ship along with the Hanoli system; later it reached a critical mass point and imploded. The Vulcans didn't report any hallucinations, but they weren't there long, and Vulcans aren't known for their imaginations. No one knows what caused the rupture; however, Dax points out that there was no wormhole there and very little activity. There doesn't seem to be any common ground. O'Brien thinks that a pulse wave torpedo may still be the best approach, as the technology has advanced since the Vulcans tried it. They have to seal this thing or the Bajoran system will be destroyed either way. Sisko has O'Brien prepare a torpedo, and tells Kira to coordinate evacuation of the pylons.

When Kira arrives at one of the lower pylons, she is startled to find that it appears to be engulfed in flames. A man on fire runs toward her, but just as he reaches her, he disappears, and so does the fire. Meanwhile, on the Promenade, Odo has his hands full with the jackdaws when Quark flags him down to report that his bimbos are missing. They show up, however, when the jackdaws vanish. Quark twits Odo again about his lack of imagination and heads off. Then Odo gets a figment of his very own. It's Quark, in a holding cell. And Jake, studying in his quarters, is tempted by Buck to quit and go play baseball, until a manifestation of his father appears and puts him back on the straight and narrow.

Dax is concerned. The rupture has increased its rate of expansion. As the officers gather to watch it on the viewscreen, Buck, Rumpelstiltskin, and Dax #2 appear to watch them. Dax #2, apparently scared, asks Bashir to hold her, and he does. O'Brien fires the torpedoes, and they detonate at the rift's center, but an exothermic pattern reaction appears to be neutralizing the pulse waves. There is an explosion that throws everyone to the floor, knocks out the com lines, and damages the shields.

Dax #2 has sustained a concussion, and Bashir treats her, telling Buck to get him a medkit. "I never meant to bother you," Dax #2 whispers; Bashir tells her gently that she didn't bother him. He tries to keep her awake, but her eyes close.

Sensors come back on line, and show them that the rift is still fluctuating. There are only minutes until it expands again, and no one has any suggestions. "Run out of ideas, friend?" asks Rumpelstiltskin, offering his services once more. Since he was created with powers beyond those of mortal men, he can assist them, for a price. Abruptly, Keiko and Molly appear in Ops. "I've always wanted a daughter," the dwarf says. O'Brien gives an incredulous laugh. "This is crazy!" But Rumpelstiltskin asks him if he will give Molly up to save so many others.

"No," Sisko says suddenly. "He doesn't have to." He asks Dax when sensors first detected traces of the rupture, and the answer is when they were first trying to figure the situation out. Dax had thought that something was out there that was too small for the scanners to identify. "So you imagined that we might be dealing with a subspace rupture, which is exactly what it turned out to be," says Sisko, his confidence growing. He tells O'Brien to drop the shields, and end red alert. "There is no rupture. There is no threat to this station or this system." Sisko also exhorts O'Brien to believe it. And the shock waves disappear from the sensors. So does the rupture.

As Dax #2 opens her eyes, Bashir tells her she'll be fine. "Of course I am," she says. "I have the best doctor in the galaxy." She touches his face and then vanishes, along with the other two fantasy figures. Kira wonders why they appeared in the first place, and Dax thinks it might still be related to the elevated thoron emissions. Sisko tells her to continue her analysis, "but no speculations this time. Just facts." He then tells O'Brien to take his family home, and goes into his office to consider the events of this incredible day.

Suddenly, Buck is there. "This imagination of yours," he remarks. "It's a tough concept for us to get a handle on, Ben." He explains that he and his colleagues are on an extended mission to explore the galaxy, and followed a ship through the wormhole. They've been watching Sisko and the others ever since. Sisko asks why they didn't just talk to them, but Buck says, "We've learned you never can tell how someone will treat the visiting team." Sisko can understand that, but wonders if it was really necessary to put the station in jeopardy.

"But we didn't, Ben," Buck tells him. "It was you. It was your imaginations that created everything. We were just watching to see where it took you. This imagination of yours -- we have never seen anything like it." He expresses wonder at the fact that Sisko could have such feelings toward someone he's never met. "I wonder if you appreciate how unique that imagination of yours really is."

Buck then turns to go; Sisko protests that the alien hasn't told them anything about his own species. "I'd like to," replies Buck with a smile. "Maybe next year." He tosses his baseball to Sisko, and disappears.

  • In one early version of this episode, Jake interacted with Alice in Wonderland. O'Brien was to have been paired up with a leprechaun, but the leprechaun was changed to Rumpelstiltskin, due to Colm Meaney's objection to Irish stereotypes.
  • Odo reveals for the first time that he has no sense of smell.
  • Through pure serendipity, Keone Young, the actor cast as Bokai, happened to resemble model maker Gregory Jein, who "played" Bokai in the baseball card seen on Sisko's desk in several episodes.