Apparently, the original script for this episode called for a leprechaun to appear on the station, but Colm Meaney objected to such a blatant Irish stereotype being used, so the character was changed to Rumplestiltskin.
Good for Meaney.
But hold on, this isn’t Once Upon a Time or something along those lines. This is Deep Space Nine. Why in the name of any god in any religion you care to name would Rumplestiltskin be on the station? There’s a short answer for that, and it’s a simple one: anything that anyone can imagine suddenly starts appearing on the station. After telling his daughter Molly the story of Rumplestiltskin, O’Brien and his wife Keiko are unhappy to see the real thing–well, mostly real I suppose–appear in Molly’s room. Granted, Molly sees it first, but there’s no denying the fellow isn’t there. And from there, it takes to following O’Brien around.
And that’s not the only instance. Obviously, or there wouldn’t be a show. Jake has a long dead baseball player, Buck Bokai, follow him out of one of Quark’s holosuites. Quark gets some scantily clad women, but all his customers keep winning at their games of chance. It snows on the promenade at one point, and Odo, criticized for having no imagination whatsoever, gets some satisfaction when he sees Quark in a security cell. Kira finds a sudden fire that doesn’t disappear, and Buck starts following around either of the Sisko men because they are apparently the only people in the galaxy who still love baseball.
That’s not much of a joke. The sport appears to be long dead to listen to Sisko talk about how the last World Series was played to a crowd of 300 people.
And most embarrassing is Bashir, who has a much more amorous Dax following him around and hanging off him. I must say, you would think the real Dax wouldn’t take kindly to that, but I actually found her explanation for why she wasn’t going to let it bother her acceptable. She knows Bashir has an imagination, and she was a young man once herself. She should count herself lucky Bashir’s idea of Dax wears her uniform and not, say, the various outfits Quark’s women showed up in. Then again, from everything we’ve heard about Ferengi women, these girls that Quark conjured were somewhat overdressed. So, yes, real Dax won’t think any worse of Bashir as a result of this highly embarrassing situation. Heck, she figures it’s really his privacy that got violated.
That doesn’t stop her from getting angry when Imaginary Dax throws some shade. Besides, Dax, the real one, has bigger things to worry about in the form of an anomaly that is outside the station, threatening, oh, everybody. The thing came from nowhere and may be connected to all the weird stuff happening around the station.
And it is…but not the way it appears to be, and that was a rather clever bit of sci-fi work. See, these imaginary people that keep hanging around, they don’t make a lot of sense. There’s a quick scene where Buck, Imaginary Dax, and Rumplestiltskin are all rather baffled. Why did they conjure women they aren’t that interested in or things that scare them? Buck, who speaks in baseball terms, seems to be making some headway with Sisko, but the others are being rebuffed. What was the deal there?
Good question: what was the deal? What was really going on?
And one thing I was wondering: why the heck wasn’t Real Dax getting anything from her own imagination? Everyone else got something. OK, Rumplestiltskin and Buck first appeared to Molly and Jake, respectively, but then they stuck themselves like glue to the fathers of those children.
But then Sisko figures out most of what’s going on, and it made sense to me. It turned out Dax did imagine something: she imagined the anomaly. Sure, it was a “worst case scenario” to explain what was going on, but once Sisko convinced his command crew to accept, without looking at their instruments, that there was nothing out there, then there was nothing out there. The imaginary figures disappear, and everything goes back to normal.
Except, well, Buck Bokai is still hanging around, and he finishes the explanation: they were alien explorers, trying to figure out how the concept of imagination worked. Coming forward might have been dangerous, so this seemed like a safe way to observe some new species. The only danger anyone was put into was the danger they put themselves into. The aliens just wanted to know the rules of the game, so to speak.
And Sisko accepts that because this is still Star Trek, and people in this time don’t seem to hold grudges. Heck, exploration is at the core of most of these shows, so why not see how far that can go? Since the station isn’t going anywhere, let explorers come to the station. And if they do some weird sci-fi stuff, well, that’s why people watch these shows in the first place.
So, yeah, imagination can be deadly. Then again, I think the X-Files covered that one in a much more frightening concept.
I may need to do another rewatch at some point.