Replay Review: Baseball In Space
Over the course of a storied run, the Star Trek franchise has had its fair share of iconic, memorable episodes. Perhaps one of the most memorable of the Deep Space Nine franchise is the episode, "Take Me Out to the Holodeck." We'll be looking at this epic episode in today's Replay Review.
Perhaps best known for its brainy, philosophical and philological tales, one might be surprised to learn the venerable Star Trek franchise tackled America's pastime. Baseball seems very much an earth-bound sport, one ill-suited to zero gravity and space aliens, such as the logic-bound Vulcans. But it is the Vulcans who kick off the action of "Take Me Out to the Holosuite."
Captain Sisko, already established as a rabid baseball fan by the seventh season of Deep Space Nine, is challenged to a baseball match by his Vulcan rival, Solok. Solok and his crew believe they are superior to humans in every way. Solok hallenges Sisko and the crew of Deep Space Nine to a game of baseball, believing the Vulcans to be superior to humans even at this quintessential human sport. Of course, Sisko accepts the challenge and his crew members and family to join the game; only Sisko's son Jake and his girlfriend, Kasidy Yates, have played baseball. Everyone else will be starting from scratch.
The crew gets off to a rocky start, as can be expected, with some members proving inept at the sport, and others preferring the more cerebral aspects. Sisko takes the challenge very seriously, going so far as to force a Ferengi crew member out of the lineup due to his lack of skills. What started as a "friendly" challenge has quickly become much more for the intense, competitive Sisko. When the game begins, the Vulcans jump out to a large lead and Sisko gets into an altercation with the umpire, the shapeshifter Odo, who throws Sisko out of the game.
Forced to observe the crew's baseball game from the stands, Sisko reevaluates his priorities, choosing to invite Rom, the Ferengi player he kicked off the team, back into the lineup. With Rom on the team and Sisko observing from the stands, the Starfleet crew manage to score a run on an accidental bunt to cut into the Vulcans' lead, 10-1.
After the game, Sisko's crew celebrates at Quark's bar, toasting their team spirit and camaraderie over the Vulcans' superiority (much to Solok's disdain).
The episode was a fun, light-hearted look at crew bonding, camaraderie, teamwork, and what it means to be a leader. The episode also peers at the 'win at all costs' mentality, and the possible pratfalls. We also get to see multiple facets of the popular Sisko, as a leader, father, boyfriend, and competitor. The episode is also noted for its humor, being ranked as one of the fifteen funniest Star Trek franchise episodes.
Also notable are some cast members' baseball connections. Captain Sisko's son, Jake, was played Cirroc Lofton, the nephew of Hall of Fame baseball star Kenny Lofton. Jake Sisko dons a Braves hat in the episode in tribute to Lofton's uncle. Meanwhile, the unskilled Rom--the Ferengi who was so bad at baseball he was benched by Captain Sisko--was played by Max Grodénchik. Grodénchik was, in fact, a talented baseball player and had considered going pro before choosing to become an actor. Grodénchik, a natural righty, played left-handed to disguise his abilities. Joey Banks, the son of Ernie Banks, acted as baseball coach and brought in professional baseball players to fill out the roster of the Vulcans' Logicians team.
The episode's primary source of inspiration was an episode of the TV show Fame, written by Deep Space Nine's showrunner, Ira Steven Behr. The Trek episode recycles several plot points from the Fame episode, including a sequence where the catcher tags all the players in the opposing dugout until he tags the baseunner who failed to touch home plate. (This would not be accurate according to MLB rules; the baserunner would have been called out as soon as he entered the dugout.)
Despite the occasional mistake, the baseball still feels relatively authentic, which one might imagine would be hard to do on a show set in space. The training sequences take you into the manager's office, somewhat, showing what might go into putting a lineup together (Baseball Prospectus actually took a look at Sisko's lineup construction and the logic behind it). The baseball sequences look realistic as well; Deep Space Nine filmed the portions of the game in Loyola Marymount University's baseball stadium.
This is, on the whole, a well done, memorable episode. It's not just memorable because it's a good Star Trek episode, it's memorable for what it tells us about the Deep Space Nine crew and their relationships and work ethic, and Captain Benjamin Sisko's leadership (and how Sisko is able to recognize his loss of perspective and step back to view the whole picture). It reminds us, through the prism of America's pastime, what Deep Space Nine fans have long come to love about the show.