When a condescending Vulcan captain arrives at the station with a list of complaints, Sisko and crew decide to fight him on the baseball field.
Plot Summary: Captain Solok and the all-Vulcan crew of the T’Kumbra dock at Deep Space Nine for repairs, complaining about human inefficiency and declaring Vulcan superiority even at their new team-building exercise, a baseball holosuite program. Sisko promptly summons his own senior staff to announce that they’re going to compete with the T’Kumbra’s crew on the field, with Odo serving as referee. Though Sisko’s crew must study together to learn the baseball terms and skills, they are enthusiastic until Sisko throws Rom off the team for his ineptitude. The rest of the crew threatens to quit and Kasidy Yates asks Sisko why this game is so important to him, learning that Solok humiliated him at the Academy in a wrestling match and has never stopped mentioning it in his proclamations about the superiority of his own logic and strength. Yates tells his secret to the rest of the crew, who decide to beat the Vulcans for the captain. The Logicians quickly take a big lead over the Niners and when Odo calls a third strike on Worf with Kira on base, Sisko argues and is ejected from the game. In the stands, Sisko witnesses Rom’s enthusiasm cheering the others on, and persuades O’Brien to let Rom pinch hit for pitcher Jake. By accident, Rom pulls off a successful bunt while trying to interpret O’Brien’s signals, enabling Nog to score a run. The crew celebrates as if they’ve just won the World Series, and when Solok taps Odo on the shoulder to protest, Odo throws him out of the game, too. Later, at Quark’s, Solok expresses his derision for Sisko’s revelry when his team lost, but Sisko accuses the Vulcan of behaving emotionally by expressing his irritation, apologizes to Rom for having mistreated him, and accepts an autographed baseball from his team.
Analysis: Let me start by saying that I am a fan of baseball episodes, baseball movies, and baseball in general, particularly this week when the Orioles are in the ALCS and Million Dollar Arm has just come out on DVD. I say this because I want everyone to understand that I have nothing whatsoever against the sport when I say that “Take Me Out to the Holosuite” is not one of my favorite episodes, even though The Natural, Field of Dreams, and The Rookie are among my favorite movies and “The Unnatural” is one of my top five X-Files stories. The idea of a Starfleet-Vulcan baseball game would have made a wonderful B-story, a backdrop for a more serious Dominion War problem or some exploration of Sisko’s lurking resentment of the Vulcan-like Romulans who are now his allies. But as the focus of an episode, the baseball talk gets spread very thin very quickly, while the racist attitudes expressed by certain Vulcans and Starfleet officers alike are pretty disturbing. On the original series, it was always easy to write off McCoy’s mocking of Spock’s logic and the reverse because the two were close friends, repeatedly risked their lives for one another, and came to one another’s defense at pivotal moments; the taunting was superficial, covering a deep respect and what I suspect even Spock would admit was devotion as long as he didn’t have to say it to McCoy’s face. While it makes sense that there would be Vulcans like Solok – even Sarek had to overcome a tendency to condescend to humans – I find it very hard to believe that such outspoken contempt would be tolerated in a Starfleet officer who graduated from the Academy.
It’s easy enough to enjoy the baseball cliches for what they are, though the discussions about the infield fly rule and keeping one’s feet in position while batting get boring for aficionados who already know them and for non-sports fans alike. I wish there had been less talk, more training montages – think how much fun it would be to see Worf swinging a bat like a bat’leth and O’Brien and Bashir trying to put their hoverball skills to good use. It’s pretty obvious that although Kira may be a phenomenal stealth fighter, she can’t hit a home run to save her life, and that’s something I’d think would irritate her and reveal something about how she approaches such tasks. Watching, I keep wondering how many of the cast members can actually play ball; Siddig and Meaney didn’t grow up in the U.S., so it’s entirely possible that baseball isn’t a sport in which they’re well-versed, and it can’t be easy for Dorn or Eisenberg to catch in all that makeup, though I’ve read that Grodénchik nearly became a professional baseball player and had to play left-handed as Rom so he could look properly incompetent. Because the emphasis is on Sisko and what this game means to him, we get almost no indication of what it means to anyone else. Sure, Kira’s amused to see Odo practicing calls so diligently, and Rom and Leeta demonstrate their commitment to family and colleagues by wanting to participate, but apart from Dax’s crossness that Emony’s gymnastic skill isn’t much help on a baseball field, we don’t get to hear about how others are affected…not whether Bashir tries to hold back his genetically enhanced reflexes, not whether O’Brien dreams of tossing a baseball with his children, not whether Worf learned the game as a boy on Earth and whether he excelled or was kicked off teams for his superhuman strength.
Worf does have many of the best throwaway lines in the episode, since he repeatedly says things like, “Death to the opposition!” and suggests killing competitive Vulcan players. But it’s hard to enjoy Klingon bloodthirstiness when it becomes obvious that Sisko’s racist attitudes toward Vulcans go deeper than dislike of one longtime adversary. He’s not some kid taunting Nausicaans like Picard once was; he’s the leader of the fleet that won a big victory over the Dominion. And, one would hope, he has some experience being a grownup about sports, since Jake has apparently had some sort of Little League experience. I feel like we’re learning more about the show’s writers’ humiliating athletic experiences than an honest story about the Sisko we know. Sisko should be criticizing Solok all along for the illogic of his petty complaints, not ranting against Vulcan logic, which is no better than Solok abusing all humans including Dax, who, as she points out, isn’t even from Earth. It’s equally disturbing to believe that Starfleet would tolerate racism from a Vulcan captain at a time when Vulcan itself is under threat from the Jem’Hadar occupying Betazed. It takes Sisko much too long to remember Grantland Rice’s aphorism about how it’s not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game, that matters. That’s a good lesson when the “game” is baseball or even something like the anomaly that once forced Kirk to work with an enemy Klingon captain for the good of both their crews. When the conflict is the Dominion War, when it does matter whether you win or lose, the team-building has to encompass not just one’s own team but all those with whom one must work for victory…something not accomplished by having Solok storm off at the end. Sisko may get the last word, but it hardly counts as a victory.