One of our greatest qualities as humans is the capacity for imagination. There is nothing too big or too small that our brains can't create it for us. Possible or impossible, it doesn't matter. What happens when that imagination runs away from us, though? Sometimes people live only in their imaginary world and can't face reality. And sometimes, our imagination becomes real, and then what do we do? "If Wishes Were Horses" is an episode about imagination, and the consequences of an imagination run amok. It also is a relative stinker of an episode, with iffy acting and a silly plot.
We start the episode with a conversation between Quark (Armin Shimerman) and Odo (Rene Auberjonois) about the qualities of imagination, and how Odo doesn't have one. We then cut to Dr. Bashir (Siddig El Fadil) once again trying to pick up Dax (Terry Farrell). Hasn't he learned by now? He's at his most annoying yet again in this scene. Anyway, Dax then goes to Ops and discovers some strange particles around the station, but no real anomalies. We then cut to Chief O'Brien (Colm Meaney) reading the classic story of Rumplestiltskin to his daughter Molly (Hana Hatae).
Suddenly, there are manifestations of Rumplestiltskin (Michael John Anderson) and Buck Bokai (Keone Young), who is Sisko's (Avery Brooks) favourite baseball player appearing before them. There's also a nice submissive Dax for Bashir. It seems that something is causing everything that people imagine to manifest itself on the station. There's a snow storm on the promenade, Quark has two babes on his arm, and many other things. What's causing this? And will the crew have time to worry about it when a subspace rift forms and threatens to engulf not only the station, but the entire Bajoran system?
Right off the bat, I knew this was going to be a sub-par episode. The opening scene between Odo and Quark, usually the most reliable duo on the show, falls flat. It has a little bit of spark, but not the usual one that these two actors generate off of each other. There are more scenes between the two, and most of them get worse, as if the actors saw how silly the entire script was and decided to phone it in. The main exception to this is when we see Odo's imagination finally manifest itself, with Quark in a holding cell. The look on Odo's face was priceless.
Bashir is at his most annoying, especially in his opening scene with Dax. I know he has a certain arrogance, and his pursuit of Dax indicates somebody who can't take no for an answer. But El Fadil overplays it during his conversation with her, especially the "oh, you're killing me" line when Dax is telling him how good of a friend he is. I don't like him when he's being portrayed as the lady-killer. I also don't buy his fantasy. I can seem him wanting an over-sexed Dax who would be on him all the time. But a dumb one? Bashir values intelligence, and I can't see him wanting a woman who wasn't. So every time the imaginary Dax was on the screen, I felt myself scoff hard (and believe me, that can be painful).
The guest acting was also very questionable, with Young worse then Anderson (though neither were that much to write home about). I don't think Young handled being the spokesman very well, and his attempts to show wonder at suddenly being real went nowhere. Anderson isn't too bad, but he wasn't that great, either. Even the regulars weren't really that good, though Meaney was as good as he always is.
Finally, there were plot problems. Besides the inherent silliness of the plot itself, there were other questionable things. There didn't appear to be any bad imaginary episodes going on. The birds on the promenade were just annoying (and it annoyed me to watch Odo try to herd them, too). The only minor problem that manifested itself was the burning man that Kira encountered (even that came out of left field, as I have no idea why she would have been imagining something like that at that moment). Surely, in a station filled with people, somebody had to be having bad thoughts? Not that we could tell.
There was one good scene (besides the Odo smirk mentioned before). When Quark comes along with the two babes on his arms and tells Odo not to hurry in solving the problem as he's have a wonderful time with the ladies, the look on his face when Odo reminds him that all of the Dabo players are winning, running Quark into the poorhouse is also wonderful. It really shows that, no matter how much Quark likes sex (like any Ferengi, of course), money is the most important thing. While I do think Shimerman overplays the end of the scene a little bit, I thought it was great. Again, though, two scenes don't make an episode.
A story about our imaginations has endless possibilities. Unfortunately, some are good and some are bad. This particular episode was a bad one. It made a mockery of some characters and was just boring for the rest of them. None of the actors looked engaged.
Give this one a pass.
"How is our young doctor, Dax?" "Young." Sisko and Dax
"I must ask you to refrain from using your imaginations." Odo