“If Wishes Were Horses” – DS9 1X16

I am about as impressed with this episode as Rumplestiltskin looks in this photo, which is to say, not very.

The plot is basically thus:

1. Odo is cranky. Bashir is disappointed Dax still doesn’t want to go out with him, even though he’s flirting with anything else that moves, and Dax considering you a “wonderful friend” is actually a huge f*cking compliment.

2. Crew members’ dreams come to life. That means Rumplestiltskin appears after O’Brien reads Molly a bedtime story, Sisko’s favourite baseball player Buck Bokai turns up, and Bashir wakes up next to his dream sex-kitten version of Dax. Betcha can guess which part I had the biggest issue with.

3. Spatial anomaly threatens to destroy the station. No one connects that to the presence of the dream people/figments.

4. Sisko realizes the anomaly is also a dream and everyone just needs to stop believing it.

5. Figments are actually aliens trying to learn more about human imagination. Buck Bokai alien gives Sisko a baseball and refuses to give us any other information (This does not satisfy me!). The end.

Quark with two beautiful women on his arm

Before I get into the fantasy Dax discussion, I’ll highlight a couple other things that bug me about this episode.

  • I find it really disappointing that we get to see Quark’s fantasy girls AND Bashir’s fantasy girl but we never get to see anything romantic/sexual from Dax’s or Kira’s imagination. Basically we get a peek into the minds of five men (Sisko, Bashir, O’Brien, Quark, and a tiny bit of Odo) and for two of them that means imagining submissive women ready to please them. Dax imagines a sciencey error, and Kira imagines a fire. Not particularly enlightening.
Rumplestiltskin threatens Keiko and Molly to Miles in Ops
  • Because they need to make us think Miles’ actually fears the Rumplestiltskin figment, they create a damsel (and child) in distress-type situation where Keiko and Molly are transported to Ops to try to force O’Brien to protect them. I felt like it didn’t really work, plus disempowers Keiko, who I think probably could’ve kicked the crap out of Rumplestiltskin. I think the whole episode would’ve been better and the fear would’ve been more believable if Rumplestiltskin had been Molly’s figment instead of Miles’

On the plus side, at least they didn’t choose to make Miles’ figment a leprechaun. Colm Meaney says he stepped in, because: “Using caricatures or cliches of any nation is not something Star Trek is or should be into.”

(If only he had had the clout to do that when they were making “Up the Long Ladder.”)

Sex Kitten Dax hits on Julian, who looks surprised

So I think the sex-kitten Dax figment thing is supposed to be there mainly for laughs, but it’s one of those times when the comedy is almost entirely based on gender stereotypes, and ends up selling men and women short.

It sells men short because it implies men are more interested in a dumb, submissive woman than a smart, assertive one (this is backed up by Quark’s figments and the fact that we don’t see any examples to contradict that). The Dax figment didn’t have to be dumb; Bashir imagined her that way. 

And it sells women short because it only gives us two choices of who to be, and both options are defined by their relationship to men.

Julian looks over real Dax's shoulder while fantasy Dax watches her work

I’m talking, of course about the classic Madonna/whore dichotomy, where a man is assumed to be unable to desire the woman he respects (the saintly Madonna), and likewise to respect the woman he desires (the “whore”). Or in this case, the “cold fish” versus the submissive sex kitten.

Oddly enough, the scene that I think was supposed to address the problematic aspects of the Dax figment is the scene that actually defines the issue, as the real Dax reacts with understandable anger but is made out to be someone who needs to lighten up. Bashir is presented as the real vctim of the scene, which again is supposed to be comedic, because he has to play referee in this awkward situation.

Dax: She really is submissive, isn’t she? Is that how you want me to be, Julian? So submissive? 
Dax 2: I am not submissive. Am I? 
Bashir: No…er…well, I don’t think so. 
Dax 2: I’m just not the cold fish you are. 
Dax: Cold fish? 
Bashir: Now, I never said that. 
Dax 2: If you’d get down off your high horse, you’d start to appreciate Julian. (Dax glares at Julian)
Bashir: She has a sense of humour, as, as I’ve always imagined you do. 
Dax:  I could use one about now.

Me too, Dax, me too. 

Dax talks to Julian

Real Dax is clearly not a “cold fish”; she’s a fun-loving person who has legitreasons for not wanting to go out with Bashir. But it’s like this episode forgot that for the sake of a laugh. 

So at the end of the day we had an episode with weak plot, gender stereotypes, and a failure to really explore the deeper and weirder parts of any character’s imagination. Actually, for an episode about imagination, it’s kind of weird that “If Wishes Were Horses” didn’t really ask us to use ours.

Bechdel-Wallace Test: Pass. Kira and Dax talk about strange sensor readings. Molly and Keiko talk about bedtime

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