December 1, 2022

Gabbing Geek

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Weekend Trek “Rivals”

A new form of gambling sweeps the station as does mysterious bouts of luck both good and bad.

Jimmy and I are, as I type this, discussing the Next Generation episode “The Measure of a Man” and some of Jimmy’s research showed a rather interesting idea.  Essentially, the article Jimmy shared suggested that Next Generation is the only show in the Star Trek franchise that treats the entire main cast as one large family.  On other shows, either the show only really digs into a handful of characters or the different characters generally only hang out in smaller subgroups.  That seems to be fairly true for Deep Space Nine.  Arguably, only Sisko has had really meaningful interactions with the entire cast with various other characters only really interacting significantly with a handful of others.  I don’t think Jake Sisko has had a good scene with anyone other than his father and Nog.

So, for this episode, a mostly throw-away one, I think the most interesting aspects are the long term implications of the relationship between the more working class O’Brien and the highly educated, upper class Bashir.

I meant that about the throw-away nature of the episode.  Much of it focuses on a one-off character, an alien conman whose race is known for, well, listening.  This fellow, Martus, apparently gets various beings to trust him enough to give out sensitive information and financial interests by simply listening to them until they tell him something he shouldn’t know.  Odo arrests Martus for that in the opening minutes as an alien widow is about to share her secret plans for great financial gains.  There’s something inherently fascinating about a race that’s so good at listening that people just overshare, but the ability seemed a little vague to me as the episode described it.  Does Martus have some sort of telepathic or emphatic abilities that push people to tell him more than they should?  Is he really just that good of a listener?  The episode doesn’t really say in a particularly definitive manner, so oh well.

While that is going on, O’Brien meets Bashir for a friendly game of racquetball, and while O’Brien is just a causal player, Bashir was a champion in the Academy and, well, he beats O’Brien badly many times over.  O’Brien won’t quit because he can’t stand what he sees as the smug look on Bashir’s face as he rubs in every victory, or so he says to Keiko later to his wife’s general amusement.  Bashir, meanwhile, was genuinely worried the Chief was going to kill himself through overexertion as he explains to Dax later, but the Chief refused to quit.  A later rematch doesn’t work when the Chief knows Bashir is deliberately throwing the games and again thinks Bashir is doing this to insult the Chief.  Which, again, is nowhere near Bashir’s intentions.

What does all this have to do with anything?  The Bashir/O’Brien plot seems to be more of the B-plot and most of what’s happening deals with Martus.  While in lock-up, a dying alien says he has a device that he used to gamble and lose everything.  Apparently, you press a button and if the device lights up, you win or something.  Like I said, it’s a bit vague.  However, Martus takes it and decides to open a casino to rival Quark’s when the Ferengi was a little less than interested in a fair trade (say it ain’t so!).  Martus makes larger versions of the devices with the station’s replicators, and they are a big hit for…some reason.

I really have no idea why these machines were seen as fun.

However, something about them affects luck on the station.  Some people have a lot of sudden good fortune.  Others have a rash of bad.  Bashir is dealing with an inordinate number of falls leading to relatively minor injuries, and at some point, the luck for people changes and everything goes another way.  Martus seems to be having enough luck to poach Rom away from Quark, and things are going well until the widow comes back with more of her space mining and then Martus’s luck switches the other way.

See, somehow the devices do stuff with luck on the station by playing with various subatomic particles.  It’s enough to make O’Brien and Bashir come to an amicable conclusion to the rivalry that neither of them wanted.  O’Brien sees how things are going his way against any and all probability and calls off the game.  Bashir agrees.  Quark, who set the third match up as a charity event for people to gamble on, may be the only loser, but the real loser is Martus because by then, Sisko and Dax have gone into his casino, more or less figured out what happened, and blew up the giant light-up balls Martus had.  Probability goes back to normal, and Martus goes back to jail when Odo arrives to reveal a previously unseen but mentioned twice couple changed their mind about pressing charges.

That said, Martus’s luck wasn’t that good to begin with.  Quark hands the widow from the cold open over to Odo because that space mining thing was also a scam, the oldest in the book, and if there’s one thing a Ferengi is good at, it’s spotting scams.

Now let us never speak of Martus again.  As much as the listening concept is initially fascinating, he wasn’t that interesting to begin with.

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