Star Trek Deep Space Nine’s Baseball Episode Is A Perfect Ode to the Game

October is not just for spooky season. Regular season baseball ends this week, but why watch the Yankees in the postseason when you can spend some time with the Niners of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine?

“Take Me Out to the Holosuite” (Season 7, Episode 4) is as much an ode to baseball as it is to good stories. Near the beginning of the show’s final season, this holosuite episode provides a welcome respite from the onslaught of the Dominion War. Arguably both the best use of holosuite technology and best one-off episode in all of ’90s Trek, Take Me Out” thrives because it weaves something compelling from a simple story with low stakes.

The episode begins with Captain Benjamin Sisko (Avery Brooks) seated in his office. Colonel Kira Nerys (Nana Visitor) pages to inform him that the Vulcan ship T’Kumbra has docked at the station. The T’Kumbra’s captain, Solok, (Gregory Wagrowski) prides himself on the efficiency and valor of his crew of all Vulcans. The two men regard each other with cool suspicion. Solok has come to Deep Space Nine because it is the nearest starbase to the war’s front lines and his ship desperately needs repairs to be in fighting shape. Sisko quotes him a timeframe in which the work can reasonably be completed. Solok makes some snide comment about how much better Vulcans are than humans before he mentions that his crew has been playing an ancient Earth game. One thing leads to another and a challenge is wagered: a baseball game.


Baseball as Storytelling

Sisko takes the challenge seriously and personally. He is well known in Starfleet for his love of baseball, a game that is an antique in the time of the Federation. When he brings his passion to his senior staff, they jump at the chance to study the game and defeat their Vulcan foes, taking turns quizzing each other over flashcards describing loaded bases and Fancy Dans.

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The challenge between Sisko and his former classmate could have taken any form. That it was baseball is an unexpected delight.The juxtaposition between the (mostly) non-contact nature of baseball compared to the war raging is powerful. Baseball is also the sport that is structured most like a story. The rhythms and beats of a baseball game are not dissimilar from the beats and rhythms of an episode of television or a short story. Each form has its own rules, exceptions, strategies, and tricks.

For all its tradition and ceremony, baseball fits well with science fiction. The jargon and learning curve inherent to a fluency in either genre makes baseball and sci-fi natural, if unconventional, bedfellows. It takes more or less equal specialized vocabulary to understand the specifics of the baseball game itself as it would to understand the implications of the game taking place entirely inside a holographic projector.

In this particular story, baseball is the vehicle through which every character’s arc travels. Foils Sisko and Solok get ejected from the game. Best friends Jake (Cirroc Lofton) and Nog (Aaron Eisenberg) grow even closer as pitcher and catcher. Rom’s (Max Grodenchik) deep failure and soaring triumph, all made possible by baseball.

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

You can’t win a baseball game without a great team, and this episode is about building a team despite difficult personalities and high emotions. One example of this is Sisko’s emotional journey. Professionalism requires that he treat Solok with civility and ignore his haughty but deniable antagonism. He leaves his anger and frustration for the field, where unfortunately his teammates bear the brunt of his rage. This emotionality both reinforces Solok’s preconceived notions of human intelligence and prevents Sisko from being able to contradict them.

He is harsh and impatient with his friends despite them having learned the game of baseball in its entirety in less than a week in large part just to please him. Shame prevents him from revealing to his teammates why he is so invested: that Solok has been taunting him, humans, and all “inferior” and emotional species in the galaxy for decades. Sisko yells and insults people. When Rom strikes out in batting practice while Solak is watching, he throws him off the team. Grodenchik considered playing professional baseball before he got into acting, a testament to his portrayal of Rom. The team is enraged by this decision, and they all threaten to quit unless Rom is reinstated.

What makes Sisko’s journey in this episode truly beautiful is that when he comes to his senses and understands the harm he has caused, he is able to take accountability and make a formal apology.

Everyone’s a Hero

Everyone gets a chance to be hero-adjacent in this episode, but no one better exemplifies the Star Trek philosophy of “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few” in this episode than the Ferengi Rom. From the first moments he heard about the baseball game, Rom was overjoyed about the possibility of participating in an activity with the people who mean the most to him. He gets to tryouts and practice to discover that he’s just plain bad. So bad, in fact, that he draws Sisko’s ire and is thrown off of the team just a day or two before the big game. The rest of the team, frustrated with their captain for taking the game too seriously, threaten to quit the team if he does not reinstate Rom. Rom is horrified at this display of solidarity. He expresses a desire for the team to win with or without him.

This episode brings out the hero in many characters who aren’t always portrayed as such. Though he performs his own superiority complex at first, he tries out and earns a spot on the team. Quark (Armin Shimerman), the curmudgeonly shopkeeper, gets into the game by practicing in the bar. Chief Engineer Miles O’Brien (Colm Meaney) seeks to replicate some old baseball traditions like chewing gum by infusing them with the flavor of scotch. Sisko’s girlfriend, Kasidy Yates (Penny Johnson), single-handedly saves the team and the captain’s back. Worf’s (Michael Dorn) insistence toward violence at every turn is both heartwarming and hilarious.

“Take Me Out to the Holosuite” is great both for its celebration of baseball and beautiful cast of characters. A welcome oasis in the middle of the drudgery of futuristic war, this baseball throwback is a delight that needs no real prior knowledge of Star Trek or Deep Space 9, making it a perfect introduction to the show.

It’s an episode worth returning to in celebration of baseball, of overcoming adversity and dispelling shame, and in honor of your personal team.

“Death to the opposition.”

Go Niners!

Star Trek: Deep Space 9 is available to stream on Paramount +.

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