Review: DS9 – Broken Link

review by Mary Shaver

“What was I thinking? How could I have fooled myself into believing she could ever love someone like me?” —Odo to Quark, from “Crossfire”

Episode Overview

Odo—the man of justice—is himself judged and is found wanting.

Episode Analysis

Odo is called into Garak’s shop thinking a crime has been committed. Instead, Odo realizes Garak has brought him there under false pretenses as a Bajoran woman named Chalan Aroya emerges from the dressing rooms. When she begins to flirt with him, Odo is nonplussed. He’s out of his element and as soon as Chalan leaves throws an accusing glare at Garak for his misguided efforts at matchmaking. As he has done before, Odo falls back on his contrived derision of humanoid mating rituals. Thanks to “Crossfire”, the audience knows it’s all an act on Odo’s part. Garak too seems to have his suspicions as he challenges Odo. “I’ll never understand you, Odo. You’re such a sensitive man, yet there’s so many aspects of humanoid life you simply refuse to explore.” The subject makes Odo uncomfortable. Perhaps he’s worried Garak may have somehow gotten wind of the events that took place in “Crossfire” and deduced Odo’s feelings for Kira.

Disgusted with the whole conversation, Odo turns to leave and is seized by a series of convulsions where his liquid form seeps through his humanoid shell and glimmers over his body. Racked with pain, he finally falls to the floor unconscious.

Odo wakes up in the Infirmary with Bashir hovering over him. Medical scans reveal that Odo’s specific density is in flux and that movement both triggers and increases the fluctuations. Beyond that Bashir can offer no theories as to why the change occurred. In an attempt to reassure his patient, Bashir speculates that Odo’s condition might be a normal Changeling biological process. Never the model patient, Odo heaves a sigh of impatient resignation when instructed to stay in the Infirmary.

Meanwhile, in the Wardroom, the senior staff is viewing a Klingon recording of Gowron reasserting a claim to a long-ago-relinquished territory. Gowron’s recent statements have become more dangerous and provocative. His saber-rattling leads the staff to speculate whether he is simply looking for an excuse to go to war with the Federation.

As the meeting breaks up, Kira falls into a fit of sneezing, establishing that this is a normal condition for pregnant Bajoran women. While Kira is annoyed to the point of hating being pregnant, the rest of the staff seems amused. Sisko recommends Kira see Bashir and this leads to a conversation about Odo and his condition. Over Worf’s objections (“I doubt Odo would want to be seen in his weakened state,” and “Odo values his privacy. He doesn’t like to socialize.”), Kira does visit Odo. She doesn’t need Worf to tell her what Odo is like. She knows Odo better than anyone and that is reflected in her short visit to the Constable. Instead of offering him company, she provides him a pleasant distraction in the form of the most recent Criminal Activity Report. Odo thanks her for her thoughtfulness and then is quickly absorbed in the contents of the dataPADD, to the point of ignoring Kira’s presence in the Infirmary. Kira’s face conveys both concern for his condition and happiness that she was able to provide him with a diversion. She leaves without him even noticing.

Something on the dataPADD catches Odo’s eye and, disregarding Bashir’s instructions to stay still, Odo makes his way to a cargo bay where he confronts a Boslic freighter captain. Just as he is about to take her into custody, Odo contorts in a spasm of pain. As he doubles over he completely loses his humanoid form and collapses into his natural state.

In the Infirmary, Odo’s condition has significantly deteriorated. He is finding it more and more difficult to maintain his humanoid form and, under a blanket, he reveals that his torso is liquefied. There are splotches of “Changeling” on his uniform and his face is slick and slightly deformed. According to Bashir, Odo is destabilizing at an alarming rate, giving him only a week or so before he can no longer hold any solid form. He and Bashir discuss and discard various ideas. Returning to Bajor to Dr. Mora’s lab is a definite non-starter (“Seven years of playing lab rat for Mora was quite enough.”), as is a trip to Star Fleet medical. Blunt and brutally honest as always, Odo says what Bashir is thinking but won’t say—that the only hope for a cure is a return to the Gamma Quadrant and the Great Link. Distasteful as the idea is to both men, the only people who can help Odo are the Founders.

Sisko prepares the Defiant for departure to the Gamma Quadrant. Due to her pregnancy, Kira won’t be accompanying the mission. She takes this news with surprising equanimity, given her friendship with Odo and her concern for him. Someone who does wish to go along is Garak. As he explains to Sisko, he believes there may be survivors from the failed preemptive strike against the Founders (Season 3, “Improbable Cause/Die is Cast”). Sisko is understandably wary about Garak and his true motivations, but ultimately agrees on the condition that Garak engage Odo’s attention on the voyage to the Founders’ homeworld.

The following brilliant dialog comes courtesy of Wolfe and Behr:

This won’t be an easy trip for Odo. He’ll need someone to occupy his attention, take his mind off his condition.

You want me to keep him company?

No. Anyone could do that. Dax, Bashir, myself. But what would we have to offer him? Kindness? Sympathy? That’s the last thing he wants.

(with pride)
But where you offer kindness, I offer mystery. Where you offer sympathy, I offer intrigue. Just give me a seat near Odo’s bed and I promise you, I will conjure up enough innuendos, half-truths, and bald-faced lies about my “career” in the Obsidian Order to keep the Constable distracted for days. If there’s one thing Cardassians excel at, it’s conversation.

Odo’s condition is far too serious to risk the cell-scattering effects of a transporter so he must walk from the Infirmary to the Defiant. He exits the Infirmary flanked by the supporting arms of Kira and Bashir and is immediately confronted by Quark. Speaking in their own specially encrypted language, Quark expresses his concern for Odo by announcing his intention to take over the station during Odo’s absence. In turn, Odo thanks Quark for his concern by promising to return before Quark can put any of his nefarious plans into motion. They end their conversation by exchanging a look that seals their unique “camaraderie-in-code.”

Bucked up by his verbal sparring match with Quark, Odo shrugs off Kira and Bashir, stands up straighter and, summoning up every ounce of dignity, marches unsteadily down the Promenade. His condition is obvious. Changeling goo is dripping from his face and his entire body is covered with large blotches of his real self. As he walks toward the ship the occasional wave of Changeling liquid washes over parts of his body. In short, Odo is falling apart and yet, through sheer force of will, is managing to hold himself together. The Promenade is lined with people—the very people Odo has sworn to protect—and the last thing he wants to do is show weakness in front of them.

Sensing Odo’s humiliation at being seen in this state, Bashir asks if he would like the Promenade cleared. As painful as it is to Odo to have his vulnerabilities on public display, he is also a proud man. Raising his head, he dismisses Bashir’s suggestion. Better to face down the crowd with a show of strength than creep silently off the station. If this is the last time the population of DS9 is to see him, Odo wants to make sure he leaves a lasting impression. As the camera follows Odo’s slow march, the people lining the Promenade watch Odo with a mixture of curiosity, concern, and sympathy. It is a powerful moment that reveals a good deal about Odo’s character. (In speaking of this scene, René said his inspiration for the walk was Alec Guinness in The Bridge on the River Kwai).

With Odo on board, the Defiant enters the Gamma Quadrant and broadcasts a request for assistance. With the Founders’ homeworld in the Omarian Nebula destroyed by the joint Romulan/Cardassian attack, their new whereabouts are unknown. By traveling uncloaked and openly transmitting, the crew is hoping to attract the attention of the Jem’Hadar.

Down in the ship’s infirmary, Garak is living up to his promise to distract Odo, whose condition continues to deteriorate. Odo is mesmerized as Garak weaves an outrageous story (or perhaps it is the truth) about being a gardener on Romulus. When Bashir, who is monitoring Odo’s condition, suggests some rest, Odo appears irritated by the interruption. Clearly Garak is just the man to take Odo’s mind off his troubles. As an aside, the episode never makes it clear why Odo is so determined to hold onto his humanoid form, especially considering how painful it is. Why wouldn’t he have simply returned to his natural state, at least for the voyage? Presumably this is one of those “set aside your disbelief” moments, since a prolonged sequence with Odo as goo doesn’t make for very interesting viewing.

It doesn’t take long for the Jem’Hadar to take notice of the Defiant. She is soon surrounded by Jem’Hadar ships and is hailed with a request to beam someone aboard. As the crew discuss their options, a small squad of Jem’Hadar, accompanied by the Female Founder, beam directly onto the bridge of the Defiant. O’Brien is the first to react and pays for his quickness by being brutally subdued by one of the Jem’Hadar. By now everyone has their weapons aimed at everyone else until the Founder orders the Jem’Hadar to stand down. Ironically, she says, “There’s no need for violence.”

Turning to Sisko, the Founder states that she has come for Odo. Since the Defiant‘s broadcast was only a general request for assistance and not specific to Odo, the Founder’s presence on the Jem’Hadar ship and her words to Sisko are the first hint that the Founders had prior knowledge of Odo’s condition. When Sisko asks if she can help Odo, she says only the Great Link can help him and that he will need to return to the Founders’ homeworld. When the Founder offers to take Odo home herself, the Captain refuses and insists that they come along. This draws a compliment from the Founder, who commends Sisko for his loyalty to Odo. Given the Founders’ opinion of Solids, are her words really sincere?

In the end, the Founder permits the Defiant to accompany them on condition that the location of the Founder homeworld is kept secret. In order to accomplish this, a Jem’Hadar takes over the Defiant’s helm and a device is installed that scrambles navigational information.

Is the Founder being so accommodating because she acknowledges that these people genuinely care for Odo? Or is it perhaps because she knows Odo might not be staying with the Founders in the Great Link and needs a taxi service? While not yet officially at war, the Dominion has made their ultimate intentions clear vis-a-vis the Alpha Quadrant and so the Founder’s actions seem somewhat incongruous.

With the Jem’Hadar navigating the Defiant, the Founder goes to check up on Odo. She is courtly and courteous as she asks Odo if she may enter the Infirmary. Odo is looking much worse. Even through the gooey mass that his face has become, Odo still manages to project a combination of fear, dread, and relief at the sight of the Founder, despite his sarcastic response to her query (“You’ll pardon me if I don’t get up.”). At her open pity at his condition, Odo agrees that he’s not a pretty sight. As she has done before, the Founder reinforces Odo’s self-doubt by scolding him for his vanity, consigning those shallow emotions to Solids and not to Changelings.

At this point, Bashir interrupts by asking the Founder if she can help Odo. She doesn’t address Bashir but instead requests Odo’s hand. Despite her reassurances, Odo now shows real fear. He is drawn to her as one of his people, but he doesn’t trust her. Certainly she’s done nothing in their previous encounters to earn his trust. Yet without her help he will surely die. Reluctantly, he offers her his hand and they briefly link. Odo’s body returns entirely to its natural state before returning to his humanoid form, and the process is quite painful, but his condition has improved considerably. Not entirely healed, but much more stable. The Founder orders Bashir and Garak out of the infirmary

Now alone, the Founder continues to batter away at Odo’s already fragile psyche, lamenting Odo’s refusal to return to the Link on his own, tormenting him with her knowledge that Kira has once again rejected Odo in favor of Shakaar, and shaming him with her assertion that despite Odo’s rejection, the Founders remain actively interested in Odo’s wellbeing. When Odo wonders aloud how they manage to stay so informed, the Founder reveals that there is very little that escapes their attention. This would seem to suggest that a Changeling infiltrator has been aboard the station, although the Founder makes no such admission. Their intimate knowledge of events on DS9 leads Odo to conclude that the Founders deliberately caused his condition in order to force him to return to the Great Link. Odo turns away from her, devastated by this latest betrayal and unconsoled by her wish that their meeting would be under better circumstances.

All this leads up to the real purpose of Odo’s enforced return to the Great Link. Odo committed the cardinal sin in the Great Link. He killed another Changeling (Season 3, “The Adversary”). Odo’s explanation that he was protecting his friends falls on deaf ears. In the Founder’s mind, this is the ultimate betrayal—choosing the Solids over one of his own people. In making that choice, Odo violated the most sacred of Changeling law.

It’s a memory that has haunted Odo for the past year. The lawman who refuses to carry a weapon, the man of justice who could proudly proclaim that he had never taken a life, was forced into a position where he had to kill, and the person he had to kill was one of his own.

The Founder had told him the Changeling mantra of “No Changeling has ever harmed another” when he first met his people. Now he was the first to be guilty of such a crime.

Odo’s actions evidently caused great consternation within the Link. As the Founder explains to Odo, there was tremendous disagreement as to what to do with him and that’s why it took so long to force him back to the Founder Homeworld. Ultimately, some sort of decision was reached and now Odo would be judged. He must open his mind to the Link and allow the collective to understand him in order to determine whether they feel his actions were justified. In the event he is found guilty, he will be punished, although that punishment is never spelled out.

The Founder makes an interesting admission. It is clear the Link doesn’t understand Odo. A Changeling who wishes to remain apart from the Great Link bewilders them, and they are appalled that a Changeling could kill another Changeling. Odo is a Changeling who chooses the Solids over them. Since the Link cannot comprehend Odo, the Founder confesses he might be the way he is because the Link sent him away. That would not only explain Odo’s behavior, but would also place the responsibility for his actions squarely on the Link’s shoulders. However, as Odo points out, he is still the one who will receive the punishment.

Odo wants to know what will happen if he refuses to join the Link and be judged. The Founders must have thought this all out because the nature of his condition requires that he enter the Link in order to be healed. If he refuses, he will die.

This brings up an intriguing point. Odo is to be judged for harming another Changeling, but has the Link itself not harmed Odo? First in shearing him off from the Link, and then in causing the destabilization of his form that will ultimately result in his death without their intervention? It would seem this Changeling law is selectively applied.

As the Founder leaves the Infirmary, she is set upon by Garak, who wishes to inquire about Cardassian survivors from their strike against the Founder homeworld. The Founder responds with what will turn out to be a prophetic statement:

There were no Cardassian survivors.

You mean, they’re all dead?

They’re dead, you’re dead, Cardassia is dead. Your people were doomed the moment they attacked us.

Only the ending of the Dominion war preempted the extermination of all Cardassians.

Out of concern for his safety, Sisko, O’Brien, and Worf brainstorm ideas for how to keep a transporter lock on Odo once he enters the Great Link. Odo enters the room and interrupts their conversation. It’s only been a short time since the Founder stabilized his condition and already he is showing significant degradation. Ignoring doctor’s orders, Odo is up and about because he realizes the crew will be strategizing. Odo has been around these people for long enough to predict that they will be trying to find a way to protect him and he wants to make it clear he appreciates but doesn’t want their help. Over O’Brien’s objections, Odo implores Sisko to refrain from intervening on his behalf, claiming he wants to be judged for his actions. To do otherwise would be the height of hypocrisy and a violation of Odo’s own moral code. While Odo might agree when the Captain questions the veracity of that justice, nevertheless he is prepared to accept whatever verdict arrived at by the Great Link.

When they reach the Founders’ homeworld, Odo and the Founder beam down to a small atoll surrounded by the Great Link. Sisko has insisted he and Bashir accompany them, despite the Founder’s warning that Odo’s judgment may take several days. While the Founder returns immediately to the Link, Odo hesitates. Uncertain of his fate and yet determined to honor his convictions, Odo gives a silent nod to his comrades and then follows the Founder into the Link.

Sisko and Bashir pace the tiny atoll for some undetermined length of time. This Founder homeworld is far different from the planet in the Omarian Nebula. Gone are the lush Changeling gardens and more intimate feel of the Changeling pool. This world is barren of land save for the single rocky islet and projects an unwelcoming and inhospitable aura to anyone not a Changeling. Perhaps the bleak appearance of this planet is a reflection of the Founders’ disdain for what Solids would find esthetically appealing. Or perhaps it is a tangible reminder of the Founders’ resolve to further isolate themselves from the Solids. In any event, Sisko and Bashir are clearly out of place here.

Back on the Defiant, Garak attempts to finish what his mentor Enabran Tain failed to accomplish—namely, launch a preemptive strike to obliterate the Founders’ homeworld. Only Worf’s forcible restraint of Garak prevents the attack. It is ironic that Worf would be the one to avert Garak, especially considering the compelling nature of Garak’s argument, which would appeal to a Klingon. Garak is proposing what would fundamentally be a suicide attack. While they would all die, they would be saving the entire Alpha Quadrant. It would be a glorious and honorable death.

Is there a moral dilemma here? There’s been no war declared between the Dominion and the Federation, despite the provocative actions taken by the Dominion and the entrenchment of Changeling infiltrators into Star Fleet. War seems inevitable, which would make Garak’s actions a little more justified.

However, is there any way to justify genocide?

Right, moral, and decent people would say “no.” Yet, in hindsight, that’s exactly what the Federation attempted to do under the guise of Section 31 and the Changeling disease. How are Garak’s attempted actions any different, except had he been successful there would have been no war and countless millions of lives would have been saved? In a way, this reminds me of the decision by the United States to drop their atomic bombs on Japan, using the rationale that killing tens of thousands of Japanese lives would ultimately save millions of American lives.

It is a thought-provoking scene that demands the audience consider both sides of the argument.

Garak’s failure to destroy the Founders’ homeworld allows Odo’s story to play out. The Changeling sea begins to roil and boil, drawing Sisko and Bashir’s attention. As they watch, a naked Odo is flung partially into the air. He gasps for breath before disappearing beneath the surface. And then he is vomited out of the Great Link and onto the shore like some offending piece of contaminated food. Bashir rushes over and runs a tricorder over him. Odo appears dazed and confused. His face is the same familiar unfinished structure, but his naked body suggests a fundamental alteration has taken place. Bashir provides the confirmation, announcing that Odo is…human.

The Female Founder emerges from the Link and declares to Sisko that Odo has been judged. In their wisdom, the Link’s proscribed punishment for Odo’s crime was to give him what he wanted: namely, to be a Solid.

In an insincere display of concern, the Founder kneels next to Odo, takes his hand, and wonders aloud if it wouldn’t have been more of a kindness to kill him rather than cruelly leaving him to live out his life as a Solid. Too weak to speak, Odo can only look at her in anguish.

The Founder’s final words to Sisko—”He’s yours. Take him and go”—sound like someone who wishes to discard an unwanted piece of rubbish. Despite her contempt, Odo raises a weakened arm in her direction as if to reach out and prevent her departure. Odo is like an abused animal that slavishly crawls back to its abuser. It is a sad, tragic, and undeserved fate for our tormented Constable.

Odo undergoes a more extensive medical examination aboard the Defiant as it returns to DS9. Bashir is amazed at Odo’s transformation and must be wondering at the Founders’ ability to perform such astonishing feats of genetic magic. He is puzzled, however, that Odo has retained the same face and Odo supplies the explanation. “They (the Founders) left it this way on purpose. To make sure I’d never forget what I was…and what I lost.”

Did Odo really wish to be a Solid, as the Founder declared? Did they glean this information by rifling through Odo’s mind while he was in the Link? Or did they infer this desire because Odo sided with the Solids and killed the Changeling infiltrator?

This is how Odo is characterized in the book Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion: “The Original Series has Spock, TNG has Data, and DS9 has Odo: the outsider, the other, the entity who can comment on the foibles of humanity precisely because he isn’t human. But there the similarity ends, for Spock was the half human who wished to be a pure Vulcan, and Data was the android who wished to be human. ‘Odo is the anti-Pinocchio,’ quips Robert Hewitt Wolfe. ‘He’s the wooden boy who wants to be a better wooden boy. He wants to be a better Changeling. He wants to be the best shapeshifter he can be. He never had any real desire to become a human, which is why becoming one is actually a tragedy. But then, it is a punishment’.”

So was the Founder lying when she said Odo wanted to be a solid? Perhaps not. Maybe the answer lies with Odo’s deep, abiding, and unrequited love for Major Kira. Rightly or wrongly, Odo believes Kira will never return his love because of who and what he is—a Changeling. The Female Founder reinforced that belief when she proclaimed, “She (Kira) will never love you. How could she? You are a Changeling.” (Season 3, “Heart of Stone”). Odo himself said the same thing to Quark in the aftermath of the tragic events in “Crossfire”. “What was I thinking? How could I have fooled myself into believing she could ever love someone like me?”

Taken from this angle, it’s possible, even probable, that on some level, maybe even unconsciously, Odo thinks that as a humanoid he has a chance at winning Kira’s heart, and that’s what the Founders sensed when they probed his mind while in the Link.

So Odo returns to DS9 a human. He’s lost his Changeling abilities and his Changeling identity and gained a whole host of new thoughts, emotions, feelings, needs, and appetites. The first order of business is to be outfitted with a Bajoran security uniform. When he comes out of Garak’s shop dressing room, he looks like the same old Odo. Except the uniform is not part of “him”, but rather a suit made out of Inkarian Wool. Grabbing his stomach, Odo admits to Garak with a twinge of disgust that he thinks he’s hungry. Where Garak sees the glass half-full—”I envy you. Think of all the wonderful food you’ll get to enjoy for the first time”—Odo sees the glass half-empty—”I can hardly wait.” It’s nice to know that Odo has retained his gloomy, pessimistic, and darkly sarcastic view of life.

Falling back on the comfortingly familiar, Odo crosses his arms and adopts his Constable persona. Garak will be spending six months in a holding cell for his actions aboard the Defiant and Odo thinks he’s getting off lightly. As he’s about to march Garak off to the Security office, the Bajoran woman Chalan Aroya enters Garak’s shop, making all sorts of generous offers to “help” Odo transition into life as a humanoid. All those new human sensations must be wreaking havoc on the Constable. He demonstrates remarkable composure and, with the exception of those hungry eyes that follow her departing form, he gives nothing away.

If the writers introduced Chalan as a possible love interest for Odo, they evidently decided not to follow up on that particular story line, as she didn’t again appear in the series. While exploring the joys of sex as a humanoid might have made for an entertaining episode, Chalan’s character was far too shallow and vapid for Odo. Even as a humanoid and full of raging testosterone, it would have cheapened Odo’s character for him to pursue a woman simply for the sake of sex.

But being a humanoid is about more than raging hormones. Odo’s whole life has been turned upside down and he’s finding it difficult to regain his equilibrium. All these new emotions he doesn’t know what to do with or how to handle. All of his life experiences up to this point are worthless to him now. He is a Changeling in the body of a Solid. If he suffered from an identity crisis before, now his life is a calamity of epic proportions. Always a private man, Odo has rarely opened up to anyone about his thoughts and emotions. However, when Captain Sisko meets up with him on the Promenade, Odo spills out his thoughts like an overflowing dam.

Constable, are you all right?

It’s nothing. Just… a headache. Every once in a while I still get flashes of memory from the Great Link. A jumble of images, or a word. But I can’t quite make sense of it.

You know, there’s no reason for you to rush things. You don’t have to go back to work right away.

Yes, I do. When I joined with the other changelings in the Great Link, I felt something I’d never felt before. In that moment, I knew…I was home. For the first time, I felt like I understood my people. Their distrust of Solids, their willingness to do anything to protect themselves. And then in an instant it was all ripped away. (a beat) I’m trapped in this body, I can never rejoin the link. My job is the only thing I have left.

Observing Sisko’s expression of sympathy, Odo is startled to realize he willingly gave up so many of his secrets—and revealed so much of his own vulnerability. He immediately shuts down and steers the conversation to more neutral territory. Reminding Sisko how good he is at his job, Odo both restores the balance and resurrects what remains of his tattered dignity. Sisko’s hearty agreement puts them both on a more comfortable footing.

A small commotion on the Promenade draws their attention to a large viewscreen. It is Gowron, who is doing more posturing and saber-rattling. The Klingons intend to reclaim their lost territory. If the Federation doesn’t cede control, then a state of war will have been declared. As Odo approaches the viewscreen he seems mesmerized by Gowron’s image. And then it comes to him. Odo remembers that during his time with the Link he sensed the Changelings trying to hide certain names and faces from him, and one of them was Gowron. Dropping the season-ending bombshell, Odo proclaims that Gowron is one of “them”—a Changeling. Of course, as we discover in Season 5, Odo was all wrong about Gowron. Turns out the Founders left Odo a little parting gift in the form of misinformation designed to further destabilize the Alpha Quadrant. Once again, his own people have betrayed Odo.

* * *

Odo regained his Changeling abilities midway through Season 5 in “The Begotten.” Given that Odo’s humanity was left largely unexplored, what was the purpose of his transformation beyond a token act of punishment by the Link? From the Founders’ frame of time reference, this was a mere nanosecond. Was the term of punishment so light because they believed Odo had some justification for his actions? Was it an accident that the dying baby Changeling returned Odo’s shapeshifting abilities? Or was this simply a nifty idea thought up by the writers with no long-term goal in mind?

Personally, I would like to have seen into Odo’s mind during this internment as a human. We get little vignettes during the fifth season. He learns to enjoy eating and drinking. He’s taken to reading bodice-ripping romance novels. He occasionally forgets that he’s no longer a shapeshifter, and is something of a hypochondriac. What is missing is seeing the world through Odo’s now human eyes. Has his outlook on life changed, and how? Does he still feel isolated and alone, or does his newfound humanity give him a connection to the people around him.

Quark provides an interesting analysis of Odo in “The Ascent.”

You know, Odo, I used to think all your problems stemmed from the fact that you were a changeling, isolated from your own kind, forced to live among strangers who didn’t understand you. (a beat) You couldn’t eat, you couldn’t drink, you couldn’t sleep, you couldn’t make love. Was it any wonder you had such a bad disposition? But now… you’re not a changeling anymore. You’re one of us. Life is yours for the taking. All you have to do is reach out and grab it. But do you? No. Because changeling or solid, you’re still a miserable, self-hating misanthrope. That’s who you are and that’s who you’ll always be.

Is this an accurate representation of the human Odo, or has Odo chosen to deny himself the pleasures and benefits of humanity because he believes that should be part of his punishment?

These answers are never provided. We never get to look through the window into Odo’s soul, which makes this whole exercise emotionally unsatisfying. While fanfiction writers had a field day exploring Odo’s humanity, the DS9 writers mostly ignored any story potentials for Odo. The audience actually got more insight into Odo’s psyche after he regained his Changeling abilities. As he and Kira are swapping out Odo’s quarters from human back to Changeling (“In Purgatory’s Shadow”), Odo admits that he enjoyed sleeping in a bed and will miss it. Kira asks why he can’t continue to do so and Odo says it’s because he will slide off when he returns to his natural state. What he says next is revealing. “The bed goes. I’m a Changeling, not a Solid. No sense in pretending otherwise.” That almost sounds wistful. Then there’s the matter of the dataPADD, “Finding and Winning Your Perfect Mate.” Odo may not have pursued any romantic relationships as a human, but he definitely thought about it. Too bad the writers didn’t think about it….

On the other hand, Odo’s experiences as a human did ultimately serve him well during the Dominion Occupation. Although under the Founder’s spell, Odo could still remember what it was like to be a human and so the Founder’s utter contempt for Solids disturbed him. Did it break the spell? No, but it did help to loosen the Founder’s grip on him.

There are three other items on my personal “wish-list.”

First, the romantic in me would like to have had Kira on the voyage to the Founders’ home world. Given their friendship, it seems to me she should have fought harder to accompany Odo when he goes to meet his maker, so to speak.

Second, I wish the writers would have removed the mask and let René play the human Odo with his own face. I think it would have been fascinating to see how René tackled the role.

However, it was never meant to be. According to Ira Behr: “Taking away the powers of one of the most popular characters of the show was a bold thing to do, especially since we don’t give them back to him in the next episode. And we knew it was going to be tough [to convince the powers that be]. But to take away that face, which to me, is Odo, you’d not only take away the powers, you’d take away the character.” (Excerpt from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion).

In other words, lost merchandising revenues.

Lastly, I remember René discussing the scene where Odo is naked on the Changeling shore. He said they did two takes. In one, he cried, but the other, non-crying take was used. I think it would have added extra poignancy to that scene for Odo to shed tears. There were so many cry-worthy moments in Odo’s life when, as a Changeling, he couldn’t express his sorrow in that way. Here was the perfect opportunity to really see Odo’s pain, and we missed it.

A few more thoughts

by Marguerite Krause

There is hardly anything more to say on the subject of this episode. For me, Mary has covered all of the important points in her thorough, insightful analysis. However, in an aside, Mary writes:

“…the episode never makes it clear why Odo is so determined to hold onto his humanoid form, especially considering how painful it is. Why wouldn’t he have simply returned to his natural state…?”

I have a theory about that.

The main symptom of the disorder that has afflicted Odo is that it interferes with his ability to control his shape, and forces—or at least tries to force—him to revert to his natural state. The word “natural” is what confuses the issue, I think. We’ve been taught to equate “natural” with “good” (and “unnatural” with “bad”). Therefore, what could be the harm for Odo in just “letting go” and existing “as he was meant to exist”, as an amorphous lump of goo?

But think about it from a Human perspective. Your “natural” state is to be naked—if you had a disease that made it painful for you to wear clothes, would you be comfortable going about your daily business stark naked… or might you struggle to continue to wear clothes, no matter how painful that was?

Or, to look at it another way: it’s one thing if you decide you want to be naked, and quite another if some outside agency forces you to be naked against your will.

There’s another complication in Odo’s case. If Odo is not in his humanoid form, he can’t communicate with the people around him. In fact, Mary touches on the general subject, where she discusses why Odo insists on leaving his quarters on the Defiant to join the conversation between Sisko, O’Brien, and Bashir. If Odo wants to have anything to say about his own fate, he needs to convey his needs and wishes to his friends.

I believe that Odo struggled to maintain his humanoid form because he was afraid that, if he relinquished control once, he would not be able to reform as a humanoid. We know from previous stories that he’s uncomfortable having people see him in his Changeling form, but I think there’s more than embarrassment at work here. Put simply, Odo is afraid of losing his status as a sentient being and reverting to what he was in Dr. Mora’s lab: nothing more than a pile of goo, mute, isolated, and completely powerless.

I think that was a powerful incentive for Odo to hold onto his form, no matter how painful it was.

Screen capture from