Review: DS9 – Things Past
review by Mary Shaver
A man comes face to face with himself, and doesn’t much like what he sees.
Sisko, Odo, Dax, and Garak are returning to DS9 from Bajor. When the station spots a problem on the runabout and is unable to raise the crew, Bashir and Worf beam over to discover the passengers are unconscious and suffering from an excess of neural energy. Baffled, Bashir transports them to the Infirmary. Simultaneously, as the four awake from their stupor, they find themselves on what they discover is the old Terok Nor. Not in Kansas anymore, they are forced to navigate in a reality very different from their own. It begins with being mistaken for Bajorans, although they appear the same to each other. But that is only the beginning as they embark on a journey full of twisted and bizarre events that culminates with a public execution—one for which Odo is responsible.
“Things Past” returns viewers to a time and place first visited in season two’s wonderful “Necessary Evil.” Terok Nor bears no resemblance to DS9. It is a dark, gritty place, and a terrifying one if you happen to be Bajoran.
The episode starts out innocently enough, with some light-hearted banter between Garak, Dax, and Sisko. Along with Odo, they are on their way home after attending a symposium on the historical implications of the Cardassian Occupation. A disgruntled Garak complains about the ingratitude of the Bajorans at the conference when he offered the Cardassian perspective of the Occupation. When Sisko defends the Bajorans as bending over backward to be polite, Garak points out that the title on his nametag—”Elim Garak, former Cardassian oppressor”—was hardly polite. Garak goes on to conclude that the whole purpose of the symposium was to lionize the “glorious Resistance.” Dax refutes Garak’s statement, saying that Odo was never part of the Resistance, but he still attracted quite a bit of interest.
Garak turns his attention to Odo and sardonically says, “It seems you have quite a fan club on Bajor. I half-expected you to be signing autographs at the end.” This must have been an inside joke in reference to Odo’s/René’s popularity with fans. All you ORACLE/RAFL members can give yourselves a pat on the back for getting a line of dialog written about you!
When Dax says Odo should be proud of what he did, Odo tries to downplay his actions as simply stemming from his desire to bring order to a chaotic situation.
But Dax and Sisko persist, praising Odo for not only bringing order, but earning the trust of both Bajorans and Cardassians. Dax goes on to quote the symposium moderator: “You may have worked for the Cardassians, but your only master was justice.” Never adept at accepting compliments, this turn in the conversation makes Odo decidedly uncomfortable.
But now trouble crops up. The station detects a problem with the runabout, and is unable to establish communications with any of the crew. Life signs are dangerously low, so Worf and Bashir beam over to the ship. All four of the runabout’s crew are unconscious in their chairs and, although Bashir’s readings indicate an excess of neural activity, he doesn’t know the cause. They are transported to the Infirmary. As the four lay on biobeds under Bashir’s care, they concurrently awaken, but not in the Infirmary. The camera pulls away, revealing that they are leaning against a group of containers in the segregated Bajoran section of Terok Nor, while armed Cardassian guards patrol from the second level of the Promenade.
As Sisko tries to get his bearings, he is jerked to his feet by an angry Bajoran who demands he “show some dignity.” As Dax, Garak, and Odo slowly rouse themselves, the Bajoran man accuses them contemptuously of being drug addicts and warns them to stay off the Promenade or risk another Cardassian “cleansing.”
While this is happening, Bashir continues to examine his patients in the Infirmary. His findings indicate their brains are conscious, but unresponsive to external activity.
Bashir’s confusion is mirrored by the quartet on Terok Nor. They find a quiet place to discuss their situation, speculating on the hows and whys of having been deposited into the past, but reach one dead end after another. The only thing they are able to deduce (although this raises even more questions) is that they aren’t attracting the attention they should. No one appears to have noticed their non-Bajoran appearance. Since they are wearing Bajoran clothing, they conclude that others see them as Bajorans. Odo has been silent throughout this discussion; in fact, he appears singularly distracted and preoccupied, as though he is wrapped in his own private nightmare within the confines of the nightmare they are all experiencing. However, when asked for his opinion, he cuts right to the heart of the matter with his typical Odo-like bluntness. The explanation for why they are here isn’t nearly as important as the necessity of leaving, as soon as possible. As if to underscore Odo’s urgency, Gul Dukat appears on the second level. They move away in an effort to put some distance between themselves and Dukat, and here is where strange things begin to happen to Odo. He runs headlong into a Bajoran man he seems to recognize, although the dull expression, sallow skin, and phaser burn on the man’s chest indicates not a man, but a corpse. Distracted, Odo looks away for a moment, but when he turns back, the man has disappeared.
Dukat is still on the second level, “master of all he surveys”. With him is another Cardassian; Odo and Garak identify him as Thrax, who was Odo’s predecessor as Chief of Security on the Promenade. This fixes the date as nine years earlier than the present.
A tall, intimidating Cardassian guard approaches them and pulls Dax away from their group. Garak approaches the guard and antagonizes him with the offer of a bribe for the release of Dax. His actions are out of character for the normally self-interested Garak, and he earns a punch in the nose for his efforts. As the guard leads Dax away and Garak winces in pain, the scene shifts back to DS9’s Infirmary, where Garak begins to bleed from the nose. Bashir’s only explanation is that the injury is psychosomatic.
Back on Terok Nor, reality continues to tilt. It turns out Garak provoked the guard in order to steal his comlink. Despite his disorientation, Odo manages to grumble about having to add the word “pickpocket” to Garak’s resume. “It’s only a hobby,” Garak responds with mild exasperation. Their bickering, so typical for them, offers a momentary respite from the oppressive tension that’s been building since their arrival on Terok Nor.
Garak punches up some data on the comlink and discovers each of their Bajoran identifies. All are from Rakantha province. Sisko is an electrical engineer named Ishan Chaye. At the mention of this name, Odo reacts visibly. Garak then identifies himself as an artist named Jillur Gueta. Again Odo reacts, but this time he appears not so much startled as defeated. As Garak begins to read out the information about Odo, Odo breaks in, reciting his own identity from memory. He is a bookkeeper named Timor Landi. His voice is flat, heavy with a resigned sense of doom. Odo is sure he is about to be asked how he knows his Bajoran identity, and his face is full of dread at the prospect of how he will answer.
But Odo is momentarily spared when Quark interrupts them from the other side of the security fence. He offers Sisko, Odo, and Garak an opportunity for temporary employment in the bar. This is not the simpering, insincerely agreeable Quark of DS9. Terok Nor’s Quark is openly disdainful and contemptuous of the Bajoran population of slave laborers who add nothing to his bottom line. He treats the trio like imbeciles as he mockingly refers to them as warp engineers for having successfully navigated the gate that separates the two sides of the Promenade. Quark’s sneering condescension continues, as he explains the process of walking from the Promenade to the bar, and asks in jeering tones if they can manage it on their own or if he will need to hold their hands.
Odo finds a way to crawl out of his own private hell long enough to ask Sisko, without a hint of humor, how much damage it would do to the timeline if Quark were to suffer a mysterious accident. Given Odo’s current state of mind, you get the idea that it wouldn’t take much for him to orchestrate just such an “accident.”
The scene shifts to Dukat’s office. Dax is led in by a Cardassian guard. Playing the part of a frightened Bajoran girl, Dax keeps her eyes downcast until Dukat instructs her to look at him. Imperious as ever, Dukat swings his finger in a small circle and Dax performs a hesitant pirouette for him. After examining her like livestock on the hoof, he pronounces that “she’ll do.” Firmly in her role, Dax’s hand trembles as she hands Dukat the requested glass of kanar. He assures her that he is a fair man and that she won’t be abused, but the quiet sense of menace that Dukat exudes belies his words. His explanation for her presence is to ease the loneliness and isolation that comes from being at the top of command. He is looking for a friend and companion and, though ironic, he nevertheless believes a simple Bajoran girl is perfect for sharing his innermost thoughts. But it’s the slimy smile at the end, when he proclaims himself to be “a complicated man,” that implies the real reason she is there. Perhaps the notion of a concubine was considered too racy and inappropriate for the show’s time slot, but in another flashback episode (season six’s “Wrongs Darker than Death or Night”), the Cardassians snatched pretty Bajoran women from the planet and brought them to Terok Nor to serve as “comfort women” for the entertainment of Cardassian officers. It is unlikely that practice was eliminated. In any event, Dax now finds herself in the unhappy position of having to “play nice” with Dukat.
Meanwhile, Sisko, Garak, and Odo have the unenviable job of cleaning up Quark’s after a busy night. As Garak complains about being reduced to such menial labor, Odo carries a large tray of plates of half-eaten food across the bar. He looks up to see three men walk past him on the Promenade. One is the same man he bumped heads with earlier. They all give him meaningful stares, and Odo is again pierced by a terrible feeling of foreboding. The tray in his hand shakes, and he can barely set it down before it falls. He gasps in distress and grabs the bar for support. When Sisko asks after him, Odo excuses his peculiar behavior as feeling sick at the smell of rotting food. It is a valid enough reason, given his fairly recent transformation into a humanoid, courtesy of the Founders. But it is obvious to everyone that there’s more going on here than Odo is saying. Sisko lets it pass, choosing instead to return to his earlier unanswered question about how Odo knew his Bajoran identity. Reluctantly, Odo explains, and for the first time the enigma of Odo’s bizarre behavior begins to make some sense. Odo claims to have recognized his own Bajoran name from the other two names. According to the security files kept by the Cardassians, Timor, Jillur, and Ichan were three Bajorans accused of an assassination attempt on Dukat. When Sisko interjects that half the Resistance tried to murder Dukat, Odo replies that these three were innocent, even though no one knew that at the time. (Odo offers no explanation as to how he knows this, however.) Wanting to make an example of them, Dukat ordered them publicly executed on the Promenade. Fully realizing the danger they are in, the urgency of getting off the station is ratcheted up. Until their shift at Quark’s is over, though, they have to keep on working. As they continue to wash and clean, the Cardassian Thrax makes an appearance in the bar. His ensuing conversation with Quark about a Talavian freighter Captain named Livara who is a known smuggler sounds eerily familiar. Not the topic, but the tenor. We’ve heard exchanges like this before. Thrax’s way of speaking, his body language and mannerisms, even his exasperated “hmph,” remind us of someone else.
And the freakish unreality just gets freakier. Garak uses the comlink to look up information on Livara and discovers he wasn’t just another smuggler but a Romulan spy who didn’t show up in this sector until seven years ago. But Thrax wasn’t on Terok Nor seven years ago—Odo was. The apparent contradiction is resolved when Garak confirms that it is seven years ago, not nine as they previously thought. So why is Thrax on the station and in charge of security and not Odo?
Odo finds this news understandably disturbing and, rather than pursue that line of thinking, he instead redirects the conversation to the matter of finding a way off the station.
Believing the Bajoran Resistance to be the best and, indeed, only hope of helping them escape Terok Nor, Sisko requests a meeting. While waiting, Odo looks down to find blood covering his hands—and is there a more universal symbol of guilt? It’s evident by now that Odo is hiding something. But the secret he’s carrying is leaking out like water through cracks in a dam. The more he tries to shore up the barrier, the more cracks appear.
A member of the Resistance sits down at their table, but before they can reach an understanding, a bomb detonates on the Promenade near to where Dukat and Dax are standing. Sisko runs to Dax and leans over her as Odo tries to stop him and Garak tries to make an unobtrusive escape. Unfortunately, their actions net them an arrest. You can see in Odo’s wild-eyed expression that history is on the verge of repeating itself.
Sisko, Garak, and Odo find themselves in the familiar holding cells behind the Security office. The cells are packed with detainees who are all yelling and shouting. It is a powerful reminder of what Odo said on the runabout—about bringing order to a chaotic situation. This scene paints a picture of what Odo experienced on a day-to-day basis as Security Chief on Terok Nor. Given Odo’s almost obsessive need for order, it’s difficult to imagine how he maintained his sanity in this frenzied environment.
Thrax enters and, after several attempts, finally gets the unruly mobs behind the force fields to quiet down. He begins reading off names and the dispositions of their cases —hard labor, fine, interrogation, etc. Thrax then turns to our trio and presents the case against them. Every time Thrax lists evidence to support the case of attempted murder, Odo refutes him. It’s as though Odo has memorized the case file. At every turn, Odo challenges Thrax to question the evidence, check deeper, run extra tests, and question the witnesses. Now, for the first time in this episode, we see the Odo we know—forceful, bold, and assertive, not fearful, nervous, and preoccupied. Throughout this give and take between Thrax and Odo, they are interrupted by the noise coming from the other cells, which only adds another layer of tension. When Odo implores Thrax to “go beneath the surface, conduct a real investigation,” it becomes clear that Odo is pleading with himself!
There follows an interesting scene between Dukat and Dax that rather underscores a statement made earlier by Garak—”(Dukat) is just another example of a swaggering, self-important Gul with too much vanity and not enough ability.” Dukat tells Dax how he thinks of the Bajorans as his “children,” and the reason he doesn’t resent the attempts on his life (this was the fourth one) is that “bad manners are the fault of the parent, not the child.” He goes on to confess that his problem is that he’s too forgiving and compassionate, choosing to indulge his “children” rather than discipline them. We’ve heard this before from Dukat, who has the uncanny ability to perceive his own attitude and actions during the Occupation in a way not shared by another living soul. Is this the definition of delusional? Dukat continues to pontificate, extolling his own virtues. He turns his back to Dax as he says, “My heart is too big.” Taking the opportunity, Dax knocks him senseless and then says to his unconscious form, “And so is your ego.” Touché.
Back in the holding cell, Odo is beginning to feel the noose tighten around his neck. Sisko asks Odo about Thrax and then wonders out loud why Thrax is so different—why he lacks the casual brutality Sisko has seen from other Cardassian security officers. Odo appears suspicious about the nature of the question, but says he didn’t know Thrax, who had already left the station by the time Odo came aboard. Sisko zeroes in, wanting an explanation for the contradiction in the timeline. If it’s only seven years ago, why is Thrax here and not Odo? On the defensive now, Odo shoots back, wanting to know if Sisko is accusing him of knowing the answers but not revealing them. That was probably not the best thing to say, given that by now it’s apparent that Odo does, in fact, know things he’s not telling.
Odo is saved from further interrogation when a large hole is burned in the back of their cell and Dax peers through. At last they have a hope of escape. Dax has messed with the station computer and they plan to leave Terok Nor in Dukat’s personal shuttle. On their way to the docking port, they are confronted by three Cardassian Security personnel, including Thrax. They fight them off, but this tilted reality tilts a little further when Thrax morphs into a Changeling and vanishes into the ceiling grating. It’s also another nail in Odo’s coffin.
There’s no escaping the nightmare, however. As they move through the airlock, they find themselves, not on the shuttle, but back in the holding cell. It’s as though they never left, except now Dax has joined the group. And it appears there’s no escape for Odo. He paces the cell like a caged animal. The appearance of the Changeling focuses even more attention on him as the other three pepper him with questions he doesn’t want to hear, much less answer. As his level of agitation and distress reach the critical point, Odo is given yet another reprieve (he thinks), when Thrax honors his request for a meeting.
Inside the Security office, Odo tries to reason with Thrax. He presents evidence to Thrax showing they couldn’t have committed the bombing—evidence Thrax dismisses as irrelevant. According to Thrax, he has a sufficient case against the three to warrant a conviction. Odo argues that it is Thrax’s job to find the truth, not obtain convictions. By now it is clear that Odo isn’t arguing with Thrax, but with himself, seven years ago. And that makes Thrax’s next statement all the more interesting. Thrax tells Odo that the truth is that none of them would be in this position if the Bajorans would simply give up, stop fighting the Cardassians, and accept their fate as a conquered people. This attitude seems to be a regression from the Odo we saw in “Necessary Evil.” Though clearly not a rebel, Odo was at least ambivalent toward Kira and the Resistance movement. And it would be natural for Odo to, if not actively side with, at least empathize with the Bajorans as an oppressed people, considering his own history of having been oppressed by Mora. So something’s happened since Odo took the job as Security Chief to make him choose to side with the Cardassians. Something he told Kira he had no intention of doing (as he says in “Necessary Evil”: “That’s why I was given this job. That’s why all of you come to me with your problems. I’m the outsider. I’m on no one’s side.”). The answer could very well lie in what the Resistance movement is all about—creating havoc and causing mayhem, something Odo detests. (As an aside, wasn’t this the very reason for Odo’s objections to Kira’s plan to pit the Cardassians against the Jem’Hadar when they were on the station during the Dominion Occupation? Hmmm.) This notion is reinforced by Odo/Thrax when he says the Resistance is fighting against order, stability, and the rule of law. In a poignant moment, Odo looks up at Thrax with eyes filled with sorrow and pain and says, “There’s more to life than the rule of law.” By now Odo knows he’s arguing with his former self, and he also knows that it is futile. There’s no possibility he will change Thrax’s mind, since he knows how his own mind operated in those years. It’s as hopeless as trying to run away from your own shadow.
Anyone left in doubt about Thrax’s real identity will surely figure it out with Thrax’s next words: “It has been my observation that only the guilty make that kind of statement.”
Frustrated and desperate, Odo makes one last-ditch effort to convince Thrax to release them, relating their true identities and that they aren’t even a part of this timeline. Thrax calmly replies that he knows this, which surprises Odo. When he demands to know what Thrax intends to do with this knowledge, Thrax says, “What I am supposed to do.” Odo and the others may be caught in a bending reality, but not Thrax. He is a prisoner of history and must act accordingly. Thrax’s next words bring the whole story into focus and get to the crux of the matter. “The question is what are you going to do…Odo?” This is the question and the issue Odo has been so frantically trying to avoid and escape.
Events move quickly now, as Odo finds himself on the second level of the Promenade, where he turns to see Sisko, Garak, and Dax lined up against the railing and a Cardassian guard with a phaser rifle, preparing to execute them. The three stare at him accusingly, as Thrax appears and tells Odo it’s too late for them. Reality may be warping and twisting for Odo, but for Thrax it’s as straight as an arrow. When Odo tries one more time to save his friends, Thrax tells him the executions have already happened. Thinking history is about to repeat itself with three more innocent victims and the blood of three more blameless people on his hands, Odo rushes the armed guard with a cry of not letting this happen again. Disarming the guard, Odo turns to Thrax and finally admits to the truth. “You can’t execute them. You don’t even belong here. I do!”
Odo’s confession bends reality once again, and he finds himself wearing his familiar Bajoran Security uniform. Sisko, Dax, and Garak are also in their normal clothing. As each one grapples with what is happening, the sound of a phaser rifle makes everyone spin around. Across the divide of the upper deck of the Promenade, a public execution is occurring. Three Bajorans are on their knees. One has already been shot and as they watch, mute with horror, the other two are executed. Odo winces at the sound and sight of each phaser blast, and then we see the Odo from seven years ago standing off to the side of the now dead Bajorans, serving as witness to their executions. The image of the dead Bajorans and their executioner dissolves away, leaving only Odo. It is perhaps a reflection of Odo’s mindset at the time that he isn’t wearing the drab gray/green clothing from “Necessary Evil,” but something black and somewhat reminiscent of a Cardassian uniform with its wide, open neck to accommodate those Cardassian neck bones. Odo and Odo stare at each other for a moment. DS9’s Odo is horrified by what he has just seen. Terok Nor’s Odo is impassive. He now fades away, and Odo is left alone with his friends to explain.
Bowing his head in shame, Odo admits he was the one who arrested and convicted the three Bajorans for a crime they didn’t commit, and that by turning them over to Dukat, he was ultimately responsible for their deaths. When a similar crime occurred three days later, Odo realized the enormity of his mistake and, as he went back over the evidence, he saw all the obvious holes in the case that should have proven they were innocent. “It was all there, but I was too busy, too concerned with maintaining order and the rule of law. I thought of myself as the outsider, a shapeshifter who cared for nothing but justice. It never occurred to me that I would fail. But I did, and I never wanted anyone to know the truth…that seven years ago, I allowed three innocent men to die.”
The other three vanish and the camera focuses on Odo. His face is a picture of anguish and guilt and confusion. It’s almost as though he still can’t quite believe that even a Changeling can have feet of clay.
If the story ended right here, it would be a powerhouse of an episode and another tour de force for René. But the writers have one more knife to sink in Odo’s back, and it comes in the form of Kira. The parallels to the last scene in “Necessary Evil” are obvious. Kira walks into Odo’s office and Odo stands, ready to face his own executioner. Never one to hide her feelings, Kira looks at him, disappointment, hurt, and a trace of anger written on her face. She’s had two days to try and make sense of it all, but she can’t wrap her mind around the fact that Odo failed—he failed Bajor but, perhaps more important at the moment, he failed her. Her trust has been breached, and the gulf separating them is much wider than the width of the Security office. Odo readily admits his guilt. He can’t put the genie back in the bottle, so he stands ready to face whatever Kira has to say to him.
Kira’s aim is true. She hits Odo in his most vulnerable spot. He may never have Kira’s love, but he’s always had her respect and admiration. When she says, “I believed in you,” the implication is clear. “You were special. You were the one man who stood apart from everyone else. The one man who stood for justice. Now what?”
When you think about Odo’s and Kira’s relationship over the years, one of the common threads is Kira’s unshakable faith in Odo as her “better self.” She did terrible things as a Resistance fighter, things that haunt her to this day. Yet Odo never judged, never condemned, simply listened and, where needed, offered sage advice. Now he is no longer special. Now he, too, is flawed and dirty. Her disillusionment with Odo devastates him. And Kira’s acceptance of Odo as less than special is conditional. “I need to know that no other innocent people died on your watch. That this was the only time.” You can see that Odo wants to give her the assurance she is looking for, but she deserves his honesty, and the best he can do is to tell her he’s not sure, but he hopes so.
The camera pulls away with Kira standing ramrod straight, her expression hard and grim, while Odo lowers his head in desolation and despair.
Unlike the ending of “Necessary Evil,” where the viewer is left with a feeling of cautious hope that Odo and Kira can mend the breach of trust, “Things Past” offers no such expectation. If Odo’s body language is any indicator, Odo certainly doesn’t believe Kira is ready to forgive him, and Kira’s own words and actions seem to support that view. Given that, only three episodes later (“The Darkness and the Light”) a heavily pregnant Kira elects to search out the killer of her old Resistance friends herself rather than leave the task to Odo, it makes you wonder at her motives and whether her loss of faith in Odo contributed to her decision. Carrying this idea to its logical conclusion, how much was her shaken faith in Odo reinforced after his Gaia counterpart destroyed the colony to save her life (“Children of Time”)? If this notion is correct, it would certainly make Kira’s discomfort over Odo’s confession of love more understandable.
I’ve deliberately omitted the nonsense technobabble by Bashir to explain the reason why they wound up on Terok Nor. It is the only part of this story that doesn’t ring true (it was as though this convenient and contrived explanation was dropped straight out of TNG and into a DS9 script). Thankfully for viewers, it was sandwiched between two highly charged and emotional scenes, and thus easily forgotten.
“Things Past” is DS9 at its best, weaving together past and present into a cohesive story that builds on long-term relationships and forces the characters into making difficult choices that have long-term implications. As with so many other DS9 stories, it only gets better with time.
Final Thoughts and Musings
I understand the reasoning behind Kira’s absence from this episode until that last devastating scene. I’m sure the impact would have been diluted had she played a larger role. Still, it defies logic that a symposium on the Cardassian Occupation would not have included Kira. She is, after all, literally the face of the Bajoran Resistance and, in fact, the face of Bajor as far as viewers are concerned. Of the conference participants from DS9, Odo and even Garak’s presence need no explanation. Sisko is the Emissary and so allowances for him can be made. But Dax??? Pardon me, but what possible contribution can a Trill make? You can’t even make the argument for any of her previous hosts, since none of them had any involvement with Bajor. The obvious choice here is Kira, and torturing logic won’t change that fact.
So close your eyes and reimagine this episode with Kira replacing Dax. Think of the wonderful possibilities. Kira being chosen by Dukat as his special friend, forcing her to play nice as she got to listen to Dukat congratulate himself on all his wonderful qualities. Not to mention the implied nature of the relationship. How well could Kira set aside her long and bitter history with Dukat? Given Nana’s extraordinary acting abilities, it boggles the mind to consider how those scenes would have played out. Of course, Kira could have irretrievably altered the time line by killing the bastard on the spot!
All fun aside, there are also deeply serious implications to having Kira as part of Odo’s self-created nightmare. Already on the verge of an emotional meltdown, imagine how it would have tortured Odo to know that Kira was in such terrible danger. Given the sadistic glee the writers took in tormenting the poor Constable, I’m surprised they didn’t throw Kira into the mix just to up the angst-o-meter to record-breaking levels.
Okay, so much for that flight of fancy. This episode provides a thought-provoking commentary on actions and their consequences. On the surface, we see Odo being forced to relive one of his worst nightmares. As viewers, we knew Odo struggled with who and what he was. We saw his self-hate and self-doubt on a number of occasions. On a personal level, he placed little value on himself (which went a long way toward explaining his reluctance to reveal his feelings for Kira). However, we knew Odo never doubted himself when it came to his professional identify. While not a braggart by any means, Odo never questioned his own abilities and didn’t hesitate to remind others about it. In season three’s “Visionary,” Odo exposes the presence of three Klingon spies on the station. His explanation is too long-winded for Sisko, who tells him to cut to the chase. Sisko then asks, “Why didn’t you just say so in the first place?” and Odo responds, “Sometimes I have to remind you just how good I am.”
With that knowledge as a backdrop, it is a shock to us when we discover that Odo has been carrying around this terrible secret for all these years, too wracked with guilt to admit he made a mistake. But I postulate that without that awful mistake, Odo wouldn’t have become the man we knew him to be.
- Consider the timeline. Odo’s first case was Vaatrik in “Necessary Evil.” By his own admission, Odo didn’t consider himself an investigator. Yet Dukat recognized Odo’s skills and employed him to supervise security on the Promenade. “Things Past” falls into this same time period—seven years ago. Therefore, at the time of these events, Odo could have been on the job for as little as only a few months. The scene in the holding cells illustrates both the chaos as well as the scope of the work. Odo was learning his job on the fly, and the Cardassians weren’t exactly known for their leniency. Odo was surely under tremendous pressure to keep control of the pressure cooker on the Promenade. So, while tragic, Odo’s mistake with the three Bajorans was understandable. But Odo couldn’t forgive himself for his lapse, and was determined never to repeat his failure.
- From order to justice. When Odo has his showdown with Thrax, we know Odo is really talking to himself. Thrax speaks of order, stability, and the rule of law. So, seven years ago, that’s what Odo thought to be the most important aspects of his job. Yet in season one, “A Man Alone” shows us a Constable with very different values. When Sisko won’t let Odo throw Ibudan off the station because he (Odo) can’t take the law into his own hands, Odo’s reply is revealing. “The law? Commander, laws change depending on who’s making them. Cardassians one day, the Federation next. But justice…is…justice.”
We also learn from “Necessary Evil” that Odo considers his penchant for justice to be something of a racial memory of his people (and did that notion ever turn out wrong!). Not order, but justice. And yet even with something that is obviously so near and dear to Odo’s heart, there is room for latitude, as he points out while recording his security log: “…Justice is blind…. I used to believe that. I’m not sure I can anymore.”
- The man on the pedestal. The symposium moderator said that, “Odo may have worked for the Cardassians, but his only master was Justice.” Judging from theribbing Odo took about his “fan club,” that sentiment was shared by a great many other people. We already know Kira’s feelings. Though she might not have voiced them until “Necessary Evil,” when she confesses to murdering Vaatrik (“What you think of me matters a lot…”), from the beginning Kira exhibited a respect for Odo and deference to his opinions.
But how did Odo come to garner such respect and esteem? By evolving from the man we saw as Thrax to the Odo we know as the Constable. What prodded that evolution was Odo’s determination to never let an injustice like the executions of those three innocent Bajorans happen again. So order and stability were abandoned in favor of justice and truth. Bajorans on Terok Nor came to understand that Odo wasn’t willing to settle for the status quo of his predecessors, but to strike a blow for real justice. Within the confines of the Occupation, they could feel secure in the knowledge that Odo wouldn’t let the Cardassians ram through false convictions with fake or insufficient evidence. While Odo couldn’t be bought by either side, he also couldn’t be swayed. They could count on Odo to treat their cases fairly. That’s what made Odo “special,” as Kira put it. But he wouldn’t have been special had he not had that one catastrophic failure. Of course, Odo doesn’t see it that way. He still sees himself as guilty. And he’s not ready to forgive himself, as long as Kira’s forgiveness is withheld.
What I take away from this episode is that, in the short term, the consequences of Odo’s mistake were tragic but, in the long term, countless lives were saved. Too bad Odo can’t see it that way.
Screen capture from TrekCore.com