Review: DS9 – Vortex

by Tracy Hemenover
(Review originally printed in ORACLE newsletter, January 2001)

I’ve always thought of this episode (written by Sam Rolfe, directed by Winrich Kolbe) as being a rather underrated one, both for DS9 in general and for Odo in particular. It’s really the only episode of thefirst two seasons that focuses in a major way on Odo’s longing to learn his origins; it hits all the right emotional notes and has a plot too, a pretty good one. There’s even a space chase and battle for those who are into that kind of thing.

Suspicious of Quark’s dealings with a pair of twinned Miradorn, Odo shapeshifts to eavesdrop on their meeting, and thus is present when a Gamma Quadrant refugee named Croden tries to rob them. In the process, one Miradorn is killed, and his brother swears revenge. From his cell, Croden casually mentions having encountered “Changelings” in the Gamma Quadrant; Odo can’t help but be interested, particularly when Croden shows him a morphing locket stone which he claims is from their colony.

Croden is engagingly played by Cliff DeYoung, who has a nice rapport with René in their scenes together. For his part, René really takes advantage of this chance to shine, perfectly conveying Odo’s mixed emotions: wanting badly to believe, yet not daring to let himself, as Croden has every reason to be lying. Seeing Odo’s conflict, Croden has no qualms about playing that card, talking about how alike they are (as exiles from the Gamma Quadrant) and pointing out the loneliness of Odo’s position here. Of course he’ll show Odo where there are others like him, no strings attached. And he’ll sell you a wormhole cheap, too.

Along with Odo, though, we learn that Croden isn’t a bad guy; he’s a desperate victim of injustice who was forced to flee after his family was killed by the government of his homeworld. Just to drive the point home, after revealing that he has hidden his daughter on the asteroid he had claimed contained a Changeling colony, Croden then saves Odo’s life.

That’s where the episode falters for me. Because in order for Croden to save his life, Odo has to do something incredibly dumb: while running through a cavern, which is quaking from torpedo hits, Odo actually stops and stares upward as part of the ceiling comes down. “Wow, there’s a rock falling on me.” (thud) As if that’s not enough, he’s knocked unconscious by a rock bouncing off his head. Hello??? And he stays humanoid! (Well, you see, they had to give Croden a chance to choose saving Odo over escaping, and he can’t drag a pile of goo out of the caverns, not to mention the budget guy would have heart failure, so…)

While I’m on the subject of “things that make you go ‘hmmm’,” there’s also the end of the teaser, when Odo morphs into the form of a glass and is carried up to the holosuite on a tray by Rom. Number one: that had to be Odo’s fastest morph ever. I mean, Rom literally turned away for only two seconds. Number two: more than any other scene, this one screams the question of where Odo’s mass goes when he shapeshifts into a smaller object. (Yes, I’ve heard the explanation about subspace pockets. I just wish someone had thought to at least make it canon so we could move on with our lives.) And number three: the combadge dilemma. This one drives me nuts. If the combadge is something Odo fashions from his substance, how can it be easier for him than a face? If the combadge is a regular combadge, what does he do with it? If he carries it inside himself, how come Rom doesn’t see a combadge in the glass? If he ditches it, how come he has it when he reforms and calls Bashir? (It’s only a show, it’s only a show.)

All quandaries about mass and combadges aside, the end scene, when Odo decides to let Croden and his daughter go, is definitely one of the most touching in the first season. That smile Odo gives the girl (René’s idea) just gets me every time. So does the closing line, as Odo gazes at the shapeshifting stone Croden has left him: “Home…where is it? Someday we’ll know…cousin.”

Be careful what you wish for.

Screen capture from