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Retro Review: Move Along Home

Posted by Michelle - 09/12/11 at 03:12 pm


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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

Season: 01 Episode: 09 (s01e09)

Original US airdate: 03/14/1993

The Wadi, who like games, make Quark lead the senior crew on a trip through a complicated maze.

Plot Summary: A first contact with the Wadi from the Gamma Quadrant surprises Sisko when instead of diplomacy, the aliens are only interested in Alpha Quadrant games. Quark agrees to let the leader, Falow, bid gems at the Dabo table while the bored station officers head off to bed. When the aliens quickly learn the rules of Dabo and start beating the house, Quark instructs one of his employees to cheat. The Wadi realize that they have been duped and insist that now Quark must play one of their games, which he activates on the Promenade. At the same time, Sisko wakes not in his quarters but on the floor of an alien room. The commander quickly discovers that Kira, Bashir, and Dax have all been brought to the same alien structure, which puts them through a series of puzzles and tests, while Odo discovers that the four officers are missing and Quark slowly realizes that the four playing pieces he is using in the game represent his four associates. Falow tells Quark that his winnings will be greater if he uses a shortcut, though that will also increase the risk to his game pieces. At first Quark chooses the safer route, but realizes that a quick end to the game may be wiser and agrees to skip a level. Though Bashir disappears and Dax is injured in the game, they reappear along with Sisko and Kira when Quark loses the game. Odo reveals to Sisko that Quark’s cheating was likely responsible for the perceived peril, but Quark is too concerned with franchising this new game to atone.

Analysis: This episode is generally considered a stinker, with reason – it’s plodding, it’s more like a kid’s fantasy story than science fiction, and it requires the senior crew to behave in a very silly manner without the humorous payoffs of such Next Generation episodes as “Qpid” (there is no “I am not a merry man!” moment, nor even “A cellular peptide cake…with mint frosting”). It’s hard to avoid comparisons with TNG’s “The Game” and at least Sisko’s crew is not addicted, though they look no less ridiculous playing hopscotch than Picard’s crew did staring at miniature game boards projected before their eyes. For better or worse, the aliens look just as goofy as any crewmember and unlike in “The Game” there isn’t some clever, sinister takeover plan behind the form of recreation they introduce. But considering we’re only a few episodes away from “Captive Pursuit” and its lethal sport, one has to wonder why the spacefaring races of the Gamma Quadrant have so much time on their hands to devote to not-very-benign pursuits of pleasure. The first time I watched, I expected the game in “Move Along Home” to have a diplomatic or political point, like the aliens who restructured the Enterprise in “Masks”; apparently, however, the only moral is not to cheat someone whose more adept at gambling.

While it’s nice to meet a species with no apparent interest in violent conquest, it’s a shame that we get no insight into their formidable technology and why they choose to devote so much of their energy to games. Is it a strategic decision, have they discovered that games keep their minds sharp and help them with engineering problems, or is this all a ploy to see what sort of people occupy the Alpha Quadrant? Clearly their transporter technology and holographic skills are far beyond anything in the Federation – the computer reports that Sisko is nowhere on the station while he’s trapped in the game, and when Odo tries to enter the Wadi ship, he is instantly transported to the Promenade – yet there’s no discussion of how these scientific wonders work, to what other uses they might be put (simulating experiments and training soldiers come immediately to mind), whether there could be any sort of exchange beyond the financial transaction Quark is planning. Even if Sisko is too disgusted to want to open the first contact negotiations that are the ostensible reason for the visit, I’m astonished that Kira does not see immediate practical reasons that the Wadi might make excellent allies for Bajor.

The fact that these issues are never even mentioned underlines the degree to which “Move Along Home” isn’t a serious episode. Which isn’t to say that there aren’t some telling character moments. After a few weeks’ absence, Jake Sisko reappears to reveal that while the O’Briens have been visiting Earth, leaving the school closed, he has been hanging out with Nog, checking out pretty Bajoran women who visit the station. Sisko realizes to his horror that he hasn’t managed to have The Talk with his son before Nog filled in all sorts of details that Sisko doesn’t care to imagine. Sisko is looking rather beleaguered this episode and doesn’t really seem to be on top of things; his eagerness to get to bed, leaving Quark in charge of a group of aliens no one knows anything about, without even calling for Odo to oversee the situation, seems like a recipe for disaster, and I don’t think it’s because Sisko senses all along that the aliens are really benevolent. He frets about small details like Bashir’s inability to track down his dress uniform – as Bashir correctly points out, the aliens have no idea what is considered formal for Starfleet, for all he knows they prefer nudity – and refuses to argue with Dax about the possibility of leaving her behind in the game to rescue himself and Kira. Yet he seems detached from his role as commander responsible for everyone on Deep Space Nine, perhaps because the writers haven’t really decided who he is yet. Allamarain!

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  • Zeorangerix

    I always loved this episode. There’s no “big idea,” but it is a fun highlight of DS9′s first season.

  • Frankyyyyyyy

    This episode is easily the worst DS9 episode. Truly, truly horrific.

  • Anonymous

    This episode is for the younger kiddies. Only watched it once, and have skipped it when watching the DVD collection again. Even the actors look like they are thinking “What the heck am I doing in this series?

    Compared to the grandness and scope; “In the Pale Moonlight” (Series 6) and “The Siege at AR-558″ (Series 7), which are the very best, this is not among my favourites. [Really Series 6 "Profit and Lace" — and Alexander Siddig's last effort as DS9 episode Director, is the worst episode of all!]

    As for “While it’s nice to meet a species with no apparent interest in violent conquest,..

    I’ve always found in sci-fi most non-violent species somewhat boring. The nature of scientifically likely “evolution” is based on the ugly and brutal ‘survival of the fittest’ through conflict. Advanced cultures probably shed their violence after cycles of really terrible conflict. Earth in the Star Trek universe did during the aftermath of WWIII — coming back from near extinction. Most of the interesting Star Trek episodes are those who overcome their baseness and warlike natures and instead ditch their natures for something better and productive.

    In essence, Star Trek philosophy is about “We changed ourselves for the better, from what kind of violent and destructive creatures we once were.” You plainly don’t solve this or avoid this by playing games as a sideline. (Besides games would incite conflict because of having winners and losers. I.e Brinkmanship is also a tool of either gambling, games or war!)

    ****

    As for the Wadi, they seem to be a culture without drive or need for anything but utter fantasy. They would not survive in the real world, and even the Borg would not think them advanced enough for assimilation! Really. Pacifists make boring stories. [I note, even the advanced Q as a species are still resort to warlike species. I.e. Voyager's "The Q and the Grey"]

    As for; “Yet he seems detached from his role as commander responsible for everyone on Deep Space Nine, perhaps because the writers haven’t really decided who he is yet. Allamarain!

    I disagree. i think the plot is overall plot is the helplessness in circumstances beyond his control and coming back to some purpose in life. He doesn’t understand why he is assigned to DS9, though the prophets have been manipulating him all along.

    More intriguing is the death of his wife in the first episode. Did the prophets mean / organise to make her die so Sisko would go onto DS9? Or was she meant to be in the story, but fate, out of control of the prophets, changed the his and her storyline?

    Not knowing the certainty of future for Sisko would be immensely useful to continue the whole grand ‘epicness’ of the storyline. Like everything towards the whole seven seasons, it all leads to one final moment that is reached in the final episode.

    (Other sci-fi series are the same Babylon 5 (end of Series 4) with the final resolution of the Shadows and Vorlons by the First Ones. The BBC’s “Goodnight Sweetheart” where Gary saves Clement Attlee being poisoned, etc. [Reforming Britain with a National Health Service, NATO, Independence of India, etc.])

    It is a plot line common no many television programs — at least the ‘epic” multi-years ones.

    An interesting review considering the whole deliberate silliness of the DS9 episode — that I also have absolutely no interest in revisiting.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Toriach Roy Frank Tottie

    Personally I like Star Trek best when it is turning expectations on their heads. In this case after a very careful build up to make the AOTW (Alien Of The Week) and their game seem dire and sinister, we have the ending which I love, wherein Quark is in essence told to quit freaking out because it’s only a game.

    Now to be sure this is far from the best of the series, let alone the season, but frankly I’ve never found it as odious as most people do.

  • Guest

    “The nature of scientifically likely “evolution” is based on the ugly and brutal ‘survival of the fittest’ through conflict.”

    That’s not what “survival of the fittest” actually means, and as most of your points follow from this misunderstanding, I advise you to learn more about it.

  • Anonymous

    I agree. Not every episode has to be deep, and I think the early episodes in particular are meant to be acessible and not complicated.

    This one is pretty fun, I find.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_NHC3OFBCSE3LWZ4G2ZENZAPR6I Mike DeLaney

    How is that not how survival of the fittest would work among any sentient species? Either being able to source food better than your brethren, or to mate more successfully, those are really your only options when it comes to Darwinian theory… so, rather than simply pretending to be smarter than folks, how about you actually engage in the discussion with, oh, I dunno, discussion, rather than snark which you don’t even back up… and worse, are wrong about.

  • Anonymous

    You are perfectly correct. I was trying to be sensitive to those who disagree with evolution. …but since you asked… I simply meant playing games is not at trait that is conducive for the survival of some species. While adaptation can occur because of environmental changes it can also be be made extinct by complacency or inability to change. Again, if playing games was the means of interacting with other species, frankly, it would be difficult to understand have a species could evolve towards betterment. (Even how this species ended up n this state of thinking is more than preposterous.)

    This is the ‘hole’ in the story, IMO.

    Other interpretations would be possibly valid, but it is the way I see it — right or wrong.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jeff-OConnor/1455729587 Jeff O’Connor

    Yeah, this is one of those episodes that some fans cite as “not at all as bad as they say” but I have to actually stand in line and respond with a firm “yes, it is” over. Usually I’m in the other camp, but I make exceptions for terrors like “Move Along Home”.

    Quite possibly the only episode in DS9′s log that I’ll go ahead and skip next time I rewatch.

  • Zeorangerix

    That’s a shame. This has several good character relationship moments (Quark/Odo, Sisko/Dax) and the plot is at least a little creative. I find it hard to believe one would skip this and not “Profit and Lace.” Your call, of course.

  • Anonymous

    I did not say this before, but I do skip “Profit and Lace” too… Quark in drag… oh dear.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t think said anything about “Darwinian theory” here, and even originally placed “evolution” and “survival of the fittest” in brackets.

  • Anonymous

    Totally agreed. Because not only do I note hate Move Along Home, I think Profit and Lace is the single worst episode of Star Trek Deep Space Nine.

  • http://twitter.com/belmikey Uncle Mikey

    I think your last sentence hits it on the head. This is another story that sounds like one of a bundle of treatments that might have appeared in the initial proposals for the series as an example of the kinds of stories they could tell. There’s a lot about the story that just doesn’t fit the characters as they’ve already been developed, suggesting that it was written and queued up before other stories began to process that development, and then, for whatever reason, not adjusted to better fit.

    The most telling mis-characterization for me in this episode is Kira, who insists she’s an just an administrator. This is crap, of course. At this stage, Kira is a self-reformed terrorist who has been made into an administrator.

    The fact that we never see or hear of the Wadi again in any context suggests deep embarrassment with the story. The fact that we never get any idea how the Wadi relate to the Dominion, for example…

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_NHC3OFBCSE3LWZ4G2ZENZAPR6I Mike DeLaney

    Not sure why your contradicting me, I was writing in support of your point… but whatever.

  • http://twitter.com/belmikey Uncle Mikey

    And yet, it’s still not as bad as VOY: “Threshold”… :-)

  • DS9 Forever

    Technically he had a temporary sex change, so wasn’t in drag!

  • http://laroquodexperiment.com/hypo/0.1/ Paul Laroquod

    Kira insists she’s an administrator to make the point that she didn’t sign up for dangerous exploration for its own sake, Starfleet-style. I see no reason why having recently been associated with terrorists would make her any more pleased with that kind of duty, so there is nothing out-of-character about what she said, which was essentially, ‘This isn’t in my job description.’ Which is accurate and understandable for to say regardless of whether she might have been conflicted about taking that job.

    Also, if not revisiting alien cultures suggests deep embarrassment with them, then something like 80-90% of Star Trek stories must have been deeply embarrassing.