To be honest, If Wishes Were Horses really didn't capture my imagination. Manufactured crises with deus ex machina endings just don't cut it. Still, there are some redeeming qualities in the episode, one of which is watching Bashir try to explain to Jadzia Dax why his subconscious created a version of Dax that has the single goal of seducing him.
This is a different twist on a First Contact story. Some wormhole aliens tap into the subconscious minds of the inhabitants of DS9, and take on forms from their imagination. Some hand wavy techno-babble is used, but the main point is to enable a story which uses the power of imagination, something which Odo refers to as a waste of time.
It's an interesting idea, but doesn't really get developed enough. Instead of focusing on the idea of a first contact story, this is really a disaster of the week type of story. If you can't yet tell, I'm not usually a fan of this type of story, unless it can offer something exceptional in the way of character development. Sadly, there is nothing really new or novel in this episode. Bashir's infatuation with Dax is already well established, and nothing really interesting occurs.
Dax, Bashir, and Dax
Aside from the usual banter between Quark and Odo, the most amusing parts of this episode are between Dax and Bashir. Bashir is, as Dax puts it "very young", especially from the perspective of a Trill. By this, she of course means that Bashir is overly amorous, towards basically any female who moves.
When the wormhole aliens take on the forms of the crew's imaginations, one of the primary manifestations is a "dream" Dax, who just seems to want to get close to Bashir. Its amusing, and I can see why this episode may be a favourite for the actors in question. It is a little awkward to kiss your coworker's clone while she watches.
A dwarf who keeps asks O'Brien what services he needs, with implied threats to his firstborn, young Molly. Quite possibly the weakest part of the episode. Apparently, this was originally written as a leprechaun, but Colm Meany protested the racial aspects of an Irish stereotype. I'm not really sure that this was much of an improvement, as I felt this was the weakest thread in the episode. Last minute changes to scripts tend to water down the script.
Buck Bokai and Baseball
As I mentioned in my review of Emissary, Deep Space 9's sport of choice is baseball. While it's useful as an analogy for linear time, in this episode, baseball is used to talk about simulations. Buck Bokai was a player for an LA Kings team, and Sisko and Jake have recreated his entire career in the holosuites. There are some nice things said about the nature of audiences.
Quark and Odo
There are some amusing scenes with Quark. As we've seen in previous episodes, he enjoys spending time with beautiful women... unless money is on the line. His wish fulfilment in the episode involves two scantily clad women, who promptly disappear once Quark realizes that everyone in his bar is wishing to win at the dabo table, and that Quark is rapidly going out of business.
Soon thereafter, it turns out that Odo does have an imagination, and his deepest desire is to hold Quark in a holding cell.
The problem of the week
In the end, the crisis of the episode was a figment of the crews imagination, something that threatened to tear the station apart. Its solved by realizing that it is a figment, and that there is no anomaly.
After the crew solves this problem, there is a final discussion between Sisko and the wormhole aliens, before they depart. They hint at returning in the future, but thankfully, this episode is never repeated.
If Wishes Were Horses first aired 16 May 1993. Teleplay by Neil McCue Crawford, William L Crawford and Michael Piller. Story by Neil McCue Crawford and William L. Crawford. Directed by Robert Legato.