Let’s face it — Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (for better or for worse) has always carried a stigma with it as being the “black sheep” of the Star Trek franchise. When it first premiered it was met with criticism on a variety of levels; some were upset with the lack of space travel, some wary of syndicated storylines, while others had qualms with the darker, grittier tone with which it approached traditional Star Trek stories and narratives. Over the years such criticisms have faded away, and now fans look back on the show’s departure from tradition to be a bold (and necessary) risk that paid off in a big way and resulted in some of the best Star Trek we’ve ever gotten.
As the seasons pass, Deep Space Nine develops its own unique sense of self, and grows into a heavily serialized war drama that explores the physical, emotional, and psychological effects that spending years entrenched in battle can have on even the brightest-eyed of crewmembers (looking at you, Bashir). The shift in tone produced some truly stellar hours of television — "In the Pale Moonlight" and "Far Beyond the Stars" are standouts from the later seasons — but at the same time, the Dominion War storyline did keep the show on its darker path.
There were times when watching our heroes try to win a war almost felt hopeless, and heading into DS9’s seventh and final season, the show wasn’t always the most uplifting thing on the air. This made “Take Me Out to the Holosuite” such an incredible, refreshing, and perfectly-placed surprise of an episode. To give a little bit of context,
By the time season seven rolls around, Starfleet is up to its elbows in a long, grueling war with a seemingly insurmountable foe, and the crew of DS9 (and the audience) are finding themselves weary as they try to navigate the harrows of war. So, imagine the surprise when you tune in for episode four of Deep Space Nine, expecting another development in the gritty war drama you’ve gotten used to, and you’re suddenly greeted with... Captain Sisko and the rest of the crew having a baseball game against the Vulcans in a holosuite?
When you look at the episode descriptions for the entirety of season seven, “Take Me Out to the Holosuite” (alongside “Badda-Bing, Badda-Bang”) sticks out like a sore thumb. It has nothing to do whatsoever with the Dominion War and the serialized plot the show has been leading up to all these years. Instead, “Take Me Out to the Holosuite” acts as a sort of tonal palette-cleanser for both the characters and the audience - giving everyone a chance to relax, take a deep breath, and really remember not only how much fun Star Trek can be, but how spectacularly written the crew of Deep Space Nine is.
On a lesser series, “Take Me Out to the Holosuite” might have turned out to be a waste of an episode. When your show’s season finale is just around the corner, it may seem futile to spend an entire episode just having your characters goof around and play baseball. But in Deep Space Nine, the absurdity and lightheartedness of watching a bunch of aliens run around a replicated baseball field and just have a good time is the perfect counterbalance to the gritty series fans have come to know from DS9.
The episode just works. It doesn’t feel out of place or forced; instead, it’s a natural development, not only because the building pressure in the series is in much need of a release at this point, but also because the bonds created between the crew of Deep Space Nine run (in my opinion), deeper than any other series in Star Trek history. Of course, it makes sense for Sisko to want to have a baseball game — we’ve known since the pilot that he’s a fan of the sport. But why Worf? Why O’Brien? Why Nog? When we first meet these characters (and the rest of the DS9 cast, to be honest) they hardly seem like the type of people who would want (or even be willing) to play some old-timey earth sport with their boss.
But that’s the beauty of Deep Space Nine. More than any other series, the show shines because of how intricately it’s developed and crafted its characters through their own individual story arcs and journeys, and also interwoven with each other. Where half the crew first started out hating each other (O’Brien couldn’t stand Bashir, Kira never had a fondness for Nog, and Worf didn’t particularly like anyone), by the time we get to season seven, the writers have not only managed to grow these beautiful characters over the seasons, but they’ve also developed interpersonal relationships. The crew of Deep Space Nine, despite their extraordinarily drastic differences in both background and personality, have become a family - there’s no other way around it.
True, it may be a family made up of a hardened commander, a former Bajoran militant, a shapeshifting puddle of goo, a green-behind-the-ears doctor, and a 300+ year old worm, among many others, but they’re a family that has bonded closer than we’ve seen any other Star Trek crew come, and under much harsher circumstances. So, when Sisko puts out the call, what else would they do other than don uniforms, replicate chewing gum, and try their damndest to beat a team of Vulcans at baseball?
The beauty of “Take Me Out to the Holosuite” is that it isn’t just a silly one-off, it’s a much-needed and much-earned episode showcasing the deep emotional bonds that have formed between a group of misfits trying their hardest to get through a grueling war, and relying — above all else — on each other.
Lauren Coates (she/her) is a Chicago-based entertainment writer and student with a passion for science-fiction, reality television, good food, and anything Disney-related. You can find her reviews and other writing at Culturess.com.