(written from a Production point of view)
Station residents suddenly find their imaginations are manifested in physical form; a spatial rift threatens to destroy the Bajoran system.
Quark finds Odo in his bar during a particularly quiet time, continuing to oversee the area (and always keeping an eye on himself), so he starts to tell him that he needs to lighten up and have some fun, perhaps in a holosuite. Odo dismisses imagination as a sign that one is not paying attention to one's real life. Quark offers to create a Shapeshifter "playmate" to intermingle with, at which point Odo declares, "You're disgusting!" Seeing Jake Sisko walking toward a holosuite, Odo warns that Quark had better not have created any "playmates" for him. Jake's program, Quark explains, is one that includes famous baseball players from Earth, such as Tris Speaker, Ted Williams and Buck Bokai. Quark has made it his business to learn about Human customs and traditions because a wise man, he says, can smell profit in the wind. He tells Odo to try it. "I have no sense of smell," Odo says.
As Quark explains economics to Odo, on the other side of the bar, Dr. Bashir and Lieutenant Dax are having dinner. Julian wants to become romantically involved with her, but Jadzia politely refuses, pointing out that he has eyed several other women as well. She returns to Ops, where she finds there are elevated thoron emissions in the nearby Denorios belt. Dax and Sisko hypothesize that it is because the amount of traffic around the station is currently elevated.
Meanwhile, O'Brien reads his daughter Molly a bedtime story – "Rumpelstiltskin" – and tucks her in. However, Molly comes back out and claims Rumpelstiltskin is in her room. O'Brien returns with her and finds that Rumpelstiltskin truly has appeared in her room and is sitting on her bed.
O'Brien sends his wife and daughter away, and calls for security. Rumpelstiltskin wonders where the straw is, supposing he will be asked to spin it into gold. He's not making any threats, nor any other reason he is there. Two security guards arrive at O'Brien's quarters, but cannot catch Rumpelstiltskin, who disappears, leaving the guards grasping at thin air. O'Brien calls for Sisko, but before the commander can proceed, Jake interrupts him, and shows his father that the baseball player Bokai has followed him home from the holosuite. He also does not appear to know why he is there. Meanwhile, Dr. Bashir is asleep in his quarters, but he is awakened by the caresses of a very amorous Dax. He resists at first, supposing that she is sick, or that he is hallucinating. But he can't think of a good answer when Dax asks why he is resisting. He decides to accept his apparent good fortune for a moment, but then believes it to be a prank.
Just then, Sisko calls for all senior officers. Sisko introduces Buck Bokai to the senior staff, pointing out that the former baseball great had been dead for two hundred years, and Rumpelstiltskin, who expresses annoyance that now everyone knows his name. Sisko asks Dax if these puzzling events could be related to the thoron emissions, but she doesn't seem to know what he is talking about. Then the real Jadzia Dax appears, much to Bashir's embarrassment.
Bashir examines Bokai, and pronounces that he, and all the new characters, seem to be real. The "fantasy" Jadzia continues to have eyes (and hands) for Bashir, but when she suggests they return to his quarters, the doctor unequivocally rejects her, and she promptly disappears. Just then Odo contacts Sisko, reporting odd and seemingly random events, such as snow on the Promenade, occurring all over the station, apparently from people's imaginations. Sisko calls for a yellow alert while Dax determines that there is, in fact, a subspace disruption where anything that falls in disappears. They'll have to do a full analysis.
Meanwhile, Odo reports that the snow is gone, but a Gunji jackdaw is loose on the Promenade. He shoos him away and goes to Quark's, announcing to everyone to refrain from using their imaginations. There, Quark has found himself surrounded by beautiful women who are unable to resist him, and he hopes that whatever is going on lasts forever, until Odo points out every one of his customers is winning at dabo. He desperately tries to "wish" them to lose, but he is outnumbered.
Dax and Bashir, with the help of O'Brien, are developing a theory as to the cause, and the remedy. Bashir tries to apologize, but Jadzia says an apology is not necessary; we all have fantasies, she points out, and besides, she was a young man once herself. But then she comments on the "fantasy" version's submissive nature. Bashir thought she would let it go, but then the "fantasy" version of herself appears and enters the room, objecting to the description and calling the real Dax a "cold fish." As if on cue, the computer finds a match for the kind of phenomenon that is presently occurring on the station in the Hanoli system in the 23rd century – unfortunately, the phenomenon destroyed the entire system.
A probe is launched into the rupture to hopefully better understand the effects of the thoron. While O'Brien is busy working on the solution, he is heckled by Rumpelstiltskin. The Chief tries to ignore what he calls the "figment" – until Rumpelstiltskin mentions Molly, in what could be interpreted in a threatening way. When O'Brien is about to lose his temper, his "figment" disappears. The crew find that the phenomenon is getting larger, pulling in matter from nearby.
While Jadzia and Bashir continue to monitor the probe in search of a solution, Bokai follows Sisko and they briefly discuss baseball and Bokai's career. Baseball, it seems, simply fell out of favor with the general public – only 300 people were in the stands for the World Series. Bokai expressed deep gratitude for Sisko's loyalty to the game.
Rumpelstiltskin, Bokai, and "fantasy" Jadzia all discuss in the Replimat what to them seems like a surprising turn of events. "Jadzia" is annoyed and puzzled as to why Bashir would reject her, when he created her in the first place. Rumpelstiltskin wonders why O'Brien would dream up a character who frightens him. They both insists that their plan has been a failure, but Bokai says that he has made a real connection, and "it ain't over till it's over."
The subspace anomaly continues to expand while the crew discuss the earlier rift. A Vulcan vessel attempted to seal it, but ended up destroying the system. O'Brien argues they have better technology, so can perform the same procedure with better control. Sisko then orders Kira to clear all personnel from the pylons as a safety precaution before implementing their plan to seal off the anomaly (which now represents a clear threat to the entire Bajoran system). Odo was supposed to help, but he still has his hands full with Gunji jackdaws (emus) running rampant through the promenade.
As Kira reaches lower pylon one, she is nearly enveloped by a wall of flame, and calls for emergency assistance. She then sees a burning, screaming man running toward her – and she has no escape from the turbolift. Cringing in the corner, Kira expects to be roasted alive. But after a few seconds, she looks up; there is no burning man, and no evidence of a fire. Sisko calls through her comm badge, asking for her report, but Kira is momentarily too confused to respond. Finally she says "false alarm", runs a few scans, then proceeds with the evacuation, somewhat nervously.
Meanwhile, Odo is still dealing with the Gunji jackdaws (and numerous other "imaginative" problems) when Quark runs up to him to report two missing persons – a blonde and a brunette, who his imagination had conjured up earlier, but just then, the two ladies appear and resume acting affectionately to Quark. Knowing that all the strange occurrences on the station have been the result of imagination, Quark expresses no surprise when Odo confirms that none of the recent oddities originated in the unimaginative mind of Odo himself. Odo returns to his office and runs a security sweep on the pylons, only to discover that he has wished Quark into a holding cell, confirming to himself that he does have an imagination.
In the Sisko's quarters, Jake is sitting with his baseball glove, procrastinating on finishing his homework, when he hears the sounds of a baseball park, and Bokai appears, inviting him to play. Jake resists, citing the trouble he'd get into with his father if he didn't first finish his homework. Suddenly, Benjamin Sisko appears (out of thin air) behind Jake's back; Jake mutters an excuse as to why he hasn't completed his homework. His father disappears, and so does Bokai, and Jake starts getting serious about his homework.
The senior staff is still trying to contain a rapidly-growing subspace rift, which is now big enough to be seen on-screen. As Sisko looks it over, Bokai appears next to him. Rumpelstiltskin is seen observing O'Brien, and "fantasy" Jadzia is smiling at Bashir, who (like the rest of the senior staff, except Kira) is staring intently at the anomaly.
Kira appears to confirm all pylons have been evacuated and secured. The one hope is a torpedo sent into the anomaly. While the real Jadzia is at her station, the fantasy Jadzia expresses fear at the seriousness of the situation – Bashir told her that if this didn't work, all life on DS9, real or imaginary, would be ended. She asks him to hold her, which he does, but does not take his eyes off the viewing screen. O'Brien is ready with the torpedo, and Sisko calls a red alert and orders him to fire. At first, everything seems to be going well, but then it appears that they are not getting a controlled collapse of the anomaly. Despite heroic efforts by the senior staff, the station is hit by something, and Sisko immediately orders damage control. Fantasy Jadzia is seriously injured, and Bashir attends to her. Although sensors have come back online, it seems inevitable that the station is doomed.
When Sisko asks for suggestions, nobody answers – except Rumpelstiltskin, who claims to be able to solve the problem – for a price. A confused Keiko, holding Molly, suddenly appears, and Rumpelstiltskin says "I always wanted to have a daughter". O'Brien refuses to agree, and angrily insists that if Rumpelstiltskin can seal the rift, he should do so, before realizing to his own confusion that Rumpelstiltskin is a fictional character from a children's fairy tale. At this point, Sisko realizes that everything – including the anomaly, is the product of a wish, or at least an expectation, and as more people believe it exists, its size increases. Sisko orders O'Brien to lower the shields, and believe that there is no subspace rift outside the station. O'Brien complies. As the senior staff present begin understanding, and believing, all readings return to normal, and the "imaginary" characters disappear.
Though almost everything is back to normal, the unusual thoron readings persist. Sisko orders the station go to yellow alert, and asks Jadzia to continue her investigation, "but no speculation!" Sisko then goes to his office, and, soon, Buck Bokai appears, and explaining through baseball metaphors that he is part of an extended mission that followed a Federation ship through the "hole in space." His people wanted to see what "imagination" is really about in an attempt to learn more about humanoids. "Bokai" departs shortly after suggesting that he and his compatriots might return "next year" to inform Sisko about his species. As he leaves, he tosses Sisko a baseball, leaving the captain to contemplate the events.
- "Station log, stardate 46853.2. We have launched a probe to study the subspace anomaly. Meanwhile, more than half the people aboard DS9 have reported manifestations of their imagined thoughts."
- "Station log, supplemental. The subspace anomaly continues to expand. As of yet, we've been unable to find a way to contain it. As a precaution, we have diverted all incoming ships away from the station."
"Family entertainment. That's the future, Odo. There's a fortune to be made. Little holocreatures running around. Rides and games for the kiddies, Ferengi standing in every doorway selling... useless souvenirs."
"You're going to replace all your sexual holoprograms with family entertainment?"
"Oh, no! No! I'm expanding! I'm negotiating to lease the space next door so I can use the same hologenerators."
"You're still disgusting." (Odo walks off)
"Till the day I die."
- - Quark and Odo
"Julian, you are a wonderful friend." (Bashir sighs heavily) "I enjoy the time we spend together!"
"Stop! You're driving a stake through my heart!"
"Try a high pitched sonic shower. It'll make you feel better."
"No it won't!" (Dax walks off) (to self) "I've already tried it."
- - Dax and Bashir
"Sorry I'm late. I was having dinner with Julian."
"How is our young doctor?"
"Young. Anything going on?"
- - Dax and Sisko
"Why do we tell her stories about evil dwarves that want to steal children?"
- - O'Brien
"She really is submissive, isn't she?"
- - Dax, beginning to get annoyed at her double
"I am not submissive! ... am I?"
- - Illusory Dax, seeking affirmation from Bashir
"Let me out of here! Let me out of here! Get the Nagus on subspace, I want to talk to him and I mean now!" (He touches the force field holding him and gets zapped) "I'm not spending another minute in this cell!"
"How did you get in there?"
"How did I get in here?! You put me in here!"
"Ahh. Hah! I guess I did, didn't I?" (Odo chuckles)
"Yeah..." (Quark then vanishes)
(Odo chuckles) "No imagination indeed. Hah!"
- - Quark and Odo, as Odo watches his security cameras and sees Quark in a holding cell
"Perimeter sensors are picking up a subspace oscillation. What the hell does that mean?"
- - Kira
"Ladies and gentlemen, may I have your attention, please?!" (Grabs a mug from Rom's tray and bangs it on table) "LADIES AND GENTLEMEN..." (notices Morn passing by) "...And all androgynous creatures... Your attention, please!"
- - Odo
"I'm going to have to ask you all to please refrain from using your imaginations."
- - Odo
Story and script
- The story of "If Wishes Were Horses" was different from the final teleplay. Michael Piller commented, "It was a very hard concept to make work. Somebody came in and said, 'Jake brings a baseball player home from the holodeck,' and that was the pitch. Basically, I said we just did the Moriarty show, where [Moriarty] walks out of the holodeck in Next Generation, and I didn't want to do another holodeck show, but I would like to do a show that celebrates imagination, since that's really what Star Trek is, a celebration of the imagination. We knew it was sort of a 'Where No One Has Gone Before' concept, but that was six years ago on another show, so why can't we do something where strange things are happening that people are imagining?" (Captains' Logs Supplemental - The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages, p. 53)
- Ira Steven Behr commented that it was "tough to find character stuff" in this episode "in terms of the writing." (Captains' Logs Supplemental - The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages, p. 31)
- Rumpelstiltskin was originally written as a leprechaun but was changed when Colm Meaney objected, claiming that this was an offensive stereotype against Irish people. According to Meaney, "Using caricatures or cliches of any nation is not something Star Trek is or should be into." (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion (p. 55))
- Michael Piller recalled his modifications to the script to placate Meaney: "We needed a reason for it to be happening and we came up with the idea that O'Brien would be telling a bedtime story about a leprechaun. We had the script written, and Colm Meaney called Rick [Berman] and said, 'Every Irish actor I know has worked his entire life to overcome the stereotype of Irish people and leprechauns. It's really racist, and I don't want to do it.' We had no idea there was any sensitivity to leprechauns in the Irish culture and certainly we did not want to force Colm Meaney to act with a leprechaun, but what the hell do you do after you've got a whole story structured around a leprechaun stealing a child? Well, we went through story tales and Robert [Hewitt Wolfe] came in with Rumpelstiltskin, and we went by it at least once, maybe twice, because Rumpelstiltskin wasn't exactly the same thing and wouldn't work in the structure we had. When I finally sat down to rewrite it, I said, 'Okay, Rumpelstiltskin – let's see where it goes.' It was one of those scripts where I had no idea how to resolve it or where it was going to go. I wrote each scene to see if it worked and had fun with it." (Captains' Logs Supplemental - The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages, p. 53)
- Writer William L. Crawford said of the mysterious aliens in this episode, "They were a little shy. And they would use their ability to reflect the fantasies or unconscious of individuals they ran into to bring out their good and bad points, so the aliens could make a decision if they wanted to go further." (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion (p. 53))
- Colm Meaney reflected that the episode was "very difficult to shoot because we had the appearing and the disappearing. The guy who played Rumpelstiltskin would appear to be behind my back, sitting on a console. But I had to play it in the completely opposite direction. So, he spoke from behind me, but I played the response in front of me. Then we had to reverse it and shoot it the other way. It was very complicated, but it came out well". ("Colm Meaney – Miles O'Brien", The Official Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Magazine issue 5, p. 9)
- Michael Piller recalled the filming of the scenes between Bashir and the imaginary Jadzia: "I've saved the dailies of Terry's coming on to Siddig, and [Bashir] doesn't know why, for my personal collection. There were twelve takes, and he kept breaking up and fluffing the lines." (Captains' Logs Supplemental - The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages, p 53) Siddig el Fadil commented: "I had no idea where to put myself, both me and the character. Having someone nibbling your ear while you're doing a scene is something I've never actually had to do. It's funny, because in that episode, I got what I wanted and didn't know what to do with it - partly because there was a real Dax floating around as well. It became sort of spirit loyalty thing. I'd like more of that sort of stuff, please". (The Deep Space Log Book: A First Season Companion, p. 98)
- Armin Shimerman especially enjoyed the scene with Quark's imaginary women. Shimerman commented, "The writers were kind enough to give me every adolescent's fantasy. They gave me these two beautiful women and were very sweet. It was fun." (Captains' Logs Supplemental - The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek p. Voyages, p. 53)
- Hana Hatae remembered a childhood fear she experienced during the episode; "There are two episodes that really stand out in my mind. The first one being 'If Wishes Were Horses' because I was absolutely terrified of Rumpelstiltskin. I think that I legitimately thought the actor who played him was going to steal me. I was too scared to be alone with him in the same room, so I had someone else with me at all times." 
- The Gunji jackdaw which appears on the Promenade was played by an emu. It is the only appearance by an emu on Star Trek. They proved to be difficult to receive direction, so one of their trainers was dressed as a Bajoran monk. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion (p. 54))
- For Rene Auberjonois, interacting with and acting like the emu brought back memories of playing a character who transformed into a bird in Brewster McCloud. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion (p. 55))
- Ira Steven Behr commented, "This is an episode you've got to try and do. We should be awarded brass balls for doing Rumpelstiltskin. It's an interesting show and it has a high level of imagination and it's a high concept. Sometimes they work and sometimes they don't." (Captains' Logs Supplemental - The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages, p. 53)
- Stated Michael Piller, "'If Wishes Were Horses' is a real old-time Star Trek idea [….] It's a very funny and intriguing script." (The Official Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Magazine issue 3, p. 13)
- This was one of Terry Farrell's favorite episodes because of the fun she had playing two different types of Dax. (Crew Dossier: Jadzia Dax, DS9 Season 2 DVD special features) Farrell also commented that she thought that the episode "was the first time it all sort of gelled with Sid and my relationship. It took a long time before it all came together. This was the first time we as a cast were all really together. It was an interesting moment. We realized we're like this basketball team that had found our camaraderie and felt comfortable." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 24, No. 3/4, pp. 97-98)
- Aside from the aforementioned "Where No One Has Gone Before" (in which The Traveler brings the Enterprise to a remote region of space, where the crew's imagination becomes reality as well), other episodes with similar premises include TOS: "Shore Leave" and TNG: "Imaginary Friend". The notion of an exploring race testing the story's heroes before making direct contact is similar to TOS: "The Corbomite Maneuver".
- The baseball which Sisko keeps on his desk for the remainder of the series is a memento of this episode, given to him by the alien who impersonated Bokai. The ball went on to have great thematic significance in many future episodes, such as "Call to Arms", "Sacrifice of Angels", "Tears of the Prophets", and "What You Leave Behind".
- Buck Bokai, who appears in this episode, was first mentioned (although not by name) in TNG: "The Big Goodbye".
- While the aliens hinted they might return the following year, this was their only appearance. The name of their race, if they even had one, was never revealed.
- The title of this episode comes from an old English language proverb that goes, "If wishes were horses, beggars would ride."
- Odo's disgust over "intermingling" with a holographic shapeshifter foreshadows his tumultuous relationship with the Great Link and, specifically, the Female Changeling.
- In terms of stardates, the events of this episode occur before the events of "Dax" (stardate: 46910).
- The events in the Hanoli system are noted by Jadzia Dax to have taken place in the mid-23rd century. Miles O'Brien, however, later speaks about the contemporary technology being superior to the one 200 years ago, placing the incident in the 22nd century. The Star Trek Encyclopedia (3rd ed., p. 183) confirms this, placing it around 2169. However, O'Brien's remark that "The Vulcans were using a primitive device" could indicate that the Vulcans were not using a state-of-the-art device.
- Remastered footage from the episode is featured in the documentary What We Left Behind.
Video and DVD releases
- UK VHS release (two-episode tapes, CIC Video): Volume 8, 7 November 1993
- As part of the DS9 Season 1 DVD collection
Links and references
- Rene Auberjonois as Odo
- Siddig El Fadil as Doctor Bashir
- Terry Farrell as Lieutenant Dax
- Cirroc Lofton as Jake Sisko
- Colm Meaney as Chief O'Brien
- Armin Shimerman as Quark
- Nana Visitor as Major Kira
- Scott Barry as a Bajoran officer
- Ivor Bartels as a Human security officer
- Kristin Bauer as Quark's blonde fantasy woman
- Robert Coffee as a Bajoran officer
- Frank Collison as Dolak (display graphic)
- Jeannie Dreams as a Human operations division ensign
- Judi Durand as the Deep Space 9 computer voice
- Kevin Grevioux as a Human security officer
- Jeffrey Hayenga as Orta (display graphic)
- Randy James as Jones
- Norman Large as Neral (display graphic)
- Mark Lentry as a Human command division lieutenant
- David B. Levinson as Broik
- Dennis Madalone as an illusory burning man
- Chad McCord as an operations ensign
- Robin Morselli as a Bajoran officer
- Tyana Parr as a Human DS9 resident
- April Rossi as a Ktarian space hooker (display graphic)
- Mark Allen Shepherd as
- Unknown performers as
Stand-ins and doubles
- Randy James as stand-in for Colm Meaney
- Mark Lentry as stand-in for Rene Auberjonois
- Unknown actress as photo double for Terry Farrell
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- Buck Bokai baseball card: California; Crenshaw; Crenshaw Monarchs; Gotham City; Gotham City Bats; Marina del Rey; Planetary Baseball League; Planetary Baseball League, Inc.; Seibu; Tanis
- "If Wishes Were Horses" at Memory Beta, the wiki for licensed Star Trek works
- "If Wishes Were Horses" at Wikipedia
- "If Wishes Were Horses" at StarTrek.com, the official Star Trek website
- "If Wishes Were Horses" at MissionLogPodcast.com, a Roddenberry Star Trek podcast
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