In the CardsBy Michelle Erica Green
Posted at January 13, 2004 - 10:40 AM GMT
See Also: 'In the Cards' Episode Guide
Jake Sisko decides to cheer up his father by purchasing a rare 21st century baseball card for him; unfortunately, Jake is outbid by a scientist working on an immortality project which requires that he obtain several rare items. Jake agrees to procure the items from various people on the station in exchange for the card, and, in the process, becomes embroiled in more and more deals. Ultimately, however, he succeeds in cheering up almost everyone - even the Dominion representative - and, for a brief respite, peace reigns on DS9.
This episode originally aired Father's Day week, so the main plot reads like a Hallmark holiday episode - son pleases father with gift, family values triumph, everyone feels good. Charming, but awfully inconsequential given the buildup to war going on in the B plot, and the theme of the yearning for immortal life being subtly ridiculed.
I liked the idea of Jake deciding to cheer his father up - terrific sentiment, without the cloying artificiality of Wesley Crusher trying to please the grownups. And the idea of trying to get Dad an old baseball card was inspired, making Jake and Ben real people, tying together generations of male family bonding over sports memorabilia.
So how come I feel like five years of Jake's character development has unraveled? OK, Jake's a teenager. He's allowed to have bad days, and whine and brag and take advantage of his friends. But this kid, the same one from "Nor the Battle To the Strong" who's been starting to look like a young Hemingway, suddenly started capitalizing on his father's name and position, lying to the command crew, threatening military officers, violating Starfleet regulations, and manipulating his best friend in a manner for which he would once have scolded the Ferengi, all to the benefit of a mad scientist whom I suspected of being a terrorist until the final minutes of the episode. I did not feel good about this "family bonding."
Worse, though, is the way Jake interfered with Bajoran politics by challenging the spiritual leader of Bajor. Is there any point in citing the Prime Directive anymore, or is that a dead concept on Star Trek? Jake's manipulation of the Kai for his own trivial purposes could have long-lasting consequences for Bajoran-Federation relations. I hope Kai Winn thinks twice about letting Bajor have anything to do with the Federation--Dominion threat or no--because I'm rather distressed at the casualness with which Bajoran politics are treated by Starfleet officers and Federation civilians alike.
I'm also unclear why that very serious issue was a subplot in this nastily comic episode about a couple of kids. Nog came across better than Jake, mostly because Jake rather than Nog was acting like a classic Ferengi - I'm tempted to wonder whether Jake picked up his tactics from years of hanging out with Nog, just as Ben used to worry he would.
The rest of the crew's depression was a little jarring, and too easily resolved. They all obviously had an inkling that Something Nasty was going to happen soon (I mean the Dominion invasion, not Rom and Leeta's wedding), but it's rare for something like an impending war to depress DS9 regulars. Usually, they march along as if they hadn't noticed their near-death experiences, tense local politics, inconsistent Federation politics, and the fact that, after five years together, their friendships and romances still seem contrived.
I have to say that everyone on this show looked rather childish, not just Jake Sisko. Kai Winn, for instance, whose inconsistencies used to make her look wily - now she just comes across as clueless. And, to quote one of Julian Bashir's predecessors, Dr. Leonard McCoy: "A teddy bear?" Julian misses his teddy bear? I wonder whether Doc Zimmerman learned about that little proclivity of the genetically enhanced LMH prototype when he was recording the intimate details of his life!
The value of collectibles as fetishistic objects was never in question in this episode, which I guess I should feel good about - the producers definitely were not laughing at people who collect trading cards and stuffed animals. This was a very fan-positive show. But it still seemed a little silly in the face of a brewing war.
Michelle Erica Green reviews 'Enterprise' episodes for the Trek Nation, for which she is also a news writer. An archive of her work can be found at The Little Review.