One of the great joys in life is a game, a competition between two people to see who can come out on top. Hopefully, it’s not a violent game, but a contest of equals that will allow the person with the most skill to win nine times out of ten. Then there are the games of chance, where you play alone against the odds. Things like roulette, for example. Or, in the Star Trek universe, Dabo.
“Move Along Home" is a Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode about games. In fact, it introduces a culture full of people who live for games. It’s an utterly bland, completely inoffensive game of an episode that doesn’t have much payoff, much characterization, or much fun, despite it being about a game. In fact, the payoff is a cheat, which really cheapens what’s already a lackluster episode.
The Vulcans have initiated contact with a new species in the Gamma Quadrant, called the Wadi. They have been invited back to Deep Space Nine in order to have a real first contact with the Federation. Sisko (Avery Brooks), Dax (Terry Farrell), Kira (Nana Visitor) and Dr. Bashir (Siddig El Fadil) arrive at the airlock to meet the Wadi representatives and initiate first contact procedures, but the Wadi aren’t interested. They’ve heard about Quark’s (Armin Shimmerman) bar and the games that are in it, and insist on going there to play Dabo.
They go for six hours straight, before Sisko finally decides to head for his quarters. Quark, on the other hand, is getting very upset that the Wadi keep winning (implying that they’re either cheating or unnaturally lucky, but it’s never explained) so he gets the Dabo wheel spinner to start cheating. Falow (Joel Brooks), the head Wadi, catches him, and forces him to play a Wadi game. Unbeknownst to Quark, the other four crew members have disappeared, and they appear to be inside the Wadi game. Once Quark realizes what’s happened, he has to try and win the game and save the crew.
I called this episode inoffensive, and that’s the best word to describe it. It’s not especially interesting, it’s sort of clichéd, we don’t learn anything about the characters and the actors themselves seem to be going through the motions. Kira has a wonderful line (played beautifully by Visitor) where she starts to panic because of the new situation they’re in. She says that the Starfleet types are probably finding this fascinating, but she’s just an administrator and she didn’t sign up for this. It really shows the difference between the different crewmembers, and how the Bajorans (at least Kira) aren’t really interested in exploring all over the place, but more concerned with internal matters. It’s completely out of Kira’s realm of expertise, and the note of panic in Visitor’s voice is delicious.
On the other hand, a major strike against the episode is that even the Quark/Odo exchanges don’t really work that well. Oh, sure, Rene Auberjonois and Shimmerman play them with the usual gusto, but they just don’t really have a lot of meat to them. Surprisingly, the best scenes are between Odo and Primmin (James Lashley). In my review of "The Passenger," Lashley was largely uninteresting (I believe the word I used was “square”). This time, the two scenes crackle as Auberjonois gives them everything he’s got (“Is it against Starfleet regulations to push a few buttons?” when Primmin tries to tell him that he can’t board the Wadi ship). The only problem in this case is that Lashley plays Primmin almost like an incompetent rather then a 6-year veteran.
The other major guest star, Joel Brooks, is decent, though he does overact at times. His evil laugh during the game goes a bit over the top, but something about his delivery of the lines “double their peril, double your winnings” just made me shiver. He puts a wonderful tone of menace into it. He swings from the good to the bad with annoying regularity, so he ends up being just an average guest.
The main problem in terms of the plot is just Quark’s obviousness. Somebody that skilled at cheating should be much more subtle. It’s completely obvious when he’s pushing a button to make the Dabo table go his way. I understand that it has to be a bit obvious to the audience, but a much better way would have been to do some cutaways and then have the Wadi discover him with his hand on the button so we discover it along with the Wadi.
Another problem pertaining to Quark is when he has to grovel to the Wadi because he can’t decide which crew member to eliminate. Shimmerman plays it way too broadly and it really lowers Quark’s personality. It happens a few more times in DS9, and Shimmerman never really pulls it off.
And then, finally, there’s the ending. The drama of the episode completely disappears with the revelation that there really was no threat. Having the entire thing be for nothing is a cheat, and should only be used for a comic pay-off. In a dramatic story, it robs the episode of any meaning whatsoever. Nobody’s changed, nobody appears to have learned anything (Quark goes back to his greedy self afterward) and life goes on. It’s ridiculous.
I know this is one of my shorter DS9 reviews, but “Move Along Home” really doesn’t lend itself to much of an analysis. It is what it is: a way to waste 45 minutes (without commercials) with some characters that you love doing some things and then have everything work out. There are better ways to spend your time, however. But hey. At least it’s not Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle.
“If you were hurt, I’d leave you behind.” “Then it’s a good thing I’m not the one who’s hurt.” Dax & Sisko