The episode begins with Commander Sisko in his dress uniform (a first for the show) and Jake (who we haven’t seen for a while) walking in. The father says he thinks the uniform looks baggy on him while the son says baggy clothing is in on Bajor. Jake explains his fashion knowledge by saying lots of Bajoran girls visit the station. This leads Ben to say it’s time for the talk. Jake says Nog has already told him all he needs to know. Ben is unsatisfied and schedules the talk for first thing the next morning.
That’s because the elder Sisko is off to greet the Wadi as they arrive at the station weeks after encountering a Vulcan ship. Kira, Dax, and Bashir (who can’t find his dress uniform) are at the docking port when Sisko gets there. Kira opens the door. Sisko introduces everyone. Before he can go any further, he is interrupted by Falow, the leader of this group of Wadi, who just wants to be taken to “the games.” After prompting from his associate, Falow says “Take us to Quark’s.” Apparently the Vulcans they encountered were quite informative.
Sisko obliges and the group heads to Quark’s, where the Wadi seem unable to get enough of Dabo (they are winning quite a bit). Sisko eventually goes to his quarters and even the Dabo girl’s arms are tuckered out. So, Quark has a Ferengi take over. But the Ferengi is doing something under the table that makes the Wadi start to lose. Eventually they catch on and corner Quark. They then decide Quark should play their own game, which has a field of play larger than the Dabo table and magically forms when they open a box they happened to bring along.
Quark begins play and we see Sisko roll over in bed but wake up in a strange room. He gets up (now in uniform) and starts looking around. Eventually, he finds Kira, Dax, and Bashir. Up in Ops, Odo comes to the realization that Sisko, Kira, Dax, and Bashir are missing. He goes to Quark’s to investigate and realizes what the astute viewer already has. The four game pieces in the Wadi game are the four missing crew members, and it seems that if Quark loses, they will die. In the game universe, the crew members are subjected to challenges and apparent peril. They fall off a cliff, only to re-appear safe and sound at Quark’s. You see, it was all just a game. The moral of the story: Don’t cheat people. The end.
It’s nice to see Jake Sisko again. He’s not annoying (always a strong possibility with child characters). He also brings out the wonderfully warm and demonstrative father side of Commander Sisko, who really cares, but misses some stuff because he’s so busy.
The commander refers to this welcoming of the Wadi as “first contact.” It seems the Vulcans already took care of that. I mean, if you’re sending people into the Gamma Quadrant (and the Vulcans co-founded the United Federation of Planets), shouldn’t they be equipped and qualified to initiate first contact procedures? Just saying.
Bashir says he can’t find his dress uniform for the Wadi greeting ceremony, but he’s sure he packed it. Shouldn’t he just be able to replicate a new one? I guess the Bajoran replicators haven’t yet been programmed to make Starfleet uniforms and there wasn’t time to visit Garak (remember him?).
Falow, the Wadi leader, looked familiar to me. I wasn’t sure why. Was it because I remembered this episode? I looked it up. The actor, Joel Brooks, has had a number of bit parts this year alone in shows I watch (NCIS and The Big Bang Theory), but I think it’s because he played Corpsman Ignazio De Simone in the 1980 “M*A*S*H” episode “Cementing Relationships.” That character was an Italian corpsman who became infatuated with Hot Lips. He was wonderfully over the top in that role and I really liked him in this one.
When the crew members awaken in the game world, they all seem understandably cautious about their situation, except Kira. She is annoyed. You might even say livid. She proclaims “This is not what I signed up for!” It’s appropriate. She’s a “Bajoran administrator,” not a Starfleet officer. She didn’t sign up to explore the universe and all its wonders and dangers.
A Star Trek show based on a space station has a drawback. You’re based on the station and not flying about exploring new worlds every week. This episode finds a creative way around that.
The “allamaraine” skipping sequence felt very much like a TOS episode. It was just that off-kilter, yet somehow wholesome.
Overall, I really enjoyed this rich episode. Its exploration of the characters is on-pitch (Dax tells Sisko she’d leave him behind if he was hurt). All that’s really missing is O’Brien. Hope he gets back soon. I miss him. (To be clear, I don’t think the episode suffers without him, but he’s a great character.)