Fri
May 31 2013 3:00pm

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch: “Vortex”

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: Vortex“Vortex”
Written by Sam Rolfe
Directed by Winrich Kolbe
Season 1, Episode 11
Production episode 40511-412
Original air date: April 18, 1993
Stardate: unknown

Station log: Odo goes to Quark’s to see if Quark plans to do business with the Miradorn raider that just docked. Quark insists that he has no business with them. There’s also a gentleman from the Gamma Quadrant named Croden, who was brought through the wormhole by a Klingon ship. He wasn’t very forthcoming with Sisko and the others from Starfleet, but he’s had many drinks at the bar. Quark claims he was scared by Starfleet, which makes Odo wonder what he’s scared of.

A set of Miradorn twins, Ah-Kel and Ro-Kel, enter and nod to Quark, which makes Odo suspicious, but Quark insists they’re just nodding at the guy behind the bar, then storms off.

Rom brings a tray of drinks to a back room where Quark is (surprise!) negotiating with the Miradorn to purchase a jeweled egg. The tray includes four glasses that Rom put there, plus Odo disguised as a fifth glass. Quark’s buyer is concerned that it’s stolen. As they talk, Croden enters with a Ferengi phaser and asks for the egg. A fight ensues—in the time it take Odo to retake humanoid form, Croden shoots Ro-Kel, killing him. Odo takes all of them into custody.

Ah-Kel explains that Miradorn twins are two halves of the same self and he swears he’ll kill Croden for devastating him like this. Sisko cuts off Odo’s interrogation of Ah-Kel, but also makes it clear that the law will deal with Croden. Odo reluctantly lets Quark and Rom go—Quark himself did express concern over the egg’s provenance, which helps justify his claim of innocent bystander-hood—though he suspects Quark of setting up the whole thing.

Odo and Sisko then talk to Croden, who indicates that Odo is not the first shapeshifter—or “changeling,” as he calls them—he’s met, that he’s seen several in the Gamma Quadrant. Odo is skeptical, to say the least. He also learns that Quark and Croden had several in-depth conversations, and Odo questions Quark thoroughly, both about their business dealings and about anything Croden might have said about his homeworld. Quark, however, says nothing.

Ah-Kel and his crew gather outside Odo’s office, wanting revenge on Croden. Odo makes it clear that if he doesn’t go back to his ship and stay there, Odo will lock him up, too. Odo then queries Croden, who says that there were changelings on Rakhar centuries earlier, but they were persecuted and driven out. Croden offers to take Odo to the place where he believes some have re-settled, and to prove that he’s not lying, he shows Odo the inside of his pendant, which has a small amount of material that changes shape the same way Odo does.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: Vortex

Sisko and Dax take the Rio Grande to Rakhar. They speak with an exarch who insists that Croden be returned to them immediately. He has been declared guilty in absentia of dozens of crimes. The exarch is insistent and Sisko agrees to repatriate him.

Bashir examines Croden’s pendant, and reveals that it’s part organic, part inorganic, but somewhat resembles Odo’s own biological structure. Croden admits to finding it in a nebula near a vortex that’s uncharted. He claims there’s a changeling colony there.

Sisko orders Odo to return Croden to Rakhar. That is complicated by Ah-Kel, who is screening every ship that leaves the station, and his ship is faster than a runabout. Odo hides the runabout in the lee of a Rigellian freighter, which does the trick of hiding them from Miradorn sensors.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: Vortex

While en route to Rakhar, Croden tells a skeptical Odo that he’s a political prisoner—he spoke out against the government once too often, and the government in exchange killed his family. He escaped, killing the two guards who killed his wives, and has been on the run from his own people since.

Under threat of extreme violence, Quark and Rom tell Ah-Kel where Odo has gone. Despite the fact that Deep Space 9 is equipped with tractor beams and that the Miradorn ship is clamped to the station via the docking pylon, Sisko is inexplicably unable to stop Ah-Kel from going through the wormhole.

The Miradorn catch up with Odo’s runabout at the vortex where Croden claims the changeling colony is—and which is also filled with volatile gas pockets, so Croden proceeds gingerly. After Ah-Kel opens fire, Odo reluctantly unbinds Croden and lets him fly the ship, since Odo has no training as a combat pilot. Croden contrives an excuse to land, which Odo sees through pretty quickly. The stories he’s told about changelings aren’t recent, but millennia-old legends that he didn’t believe until he met Odo, and the stone is a common item sold by Rakhari merchants. He wanted to bring Odo to the vortex and this asteroid because that’s where he’s hidden the stasis chamber containing his daughter, the only member of his family he was able to save. (The shapechanging stone is the key to open the chamber.) He asks Odo to take his daughter to asylum on DS9 while he plans to turn himself in to the Rakhari to answer for his crimes.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: Vortex

But Ah-Kel has found them, and starts firing on the cave. There’s a rockslide that somehow renders Odo unconscious—how a being without a real cranium can suffer cranial trauma is left as an exercise for the viewer—and, after a moment’s hesitation, Croden carries him to the runabout.

Odo wakes up and takes control, navigating toward a gas pocket and then shutting the runabout down in order to lure the Miradorn in. Then Odo goes to full impulse just as Ah-Kel is about to fire—his firing photon torpedoes triggers an explosion that destroys the Miradorn ship.

A Vulcan ship that was exploring the area detected the explosion. Odo claims that Croden and his daughter are the only survivors of the explosion, whom he rescued, and asks the Vulcan captain for asylum for both of them. He says he’ll tell the Rakhari that Ah-Kel killed him when he torpedoed the asteroid.

Can’t we just reverse the polarity?: Whatever you do, do not fire weapons in a toh-maire gas field. It would be bad.

Don’t ask my opinion next time: Kira is amused by the way Sisko, Dax, and O’Brien fret about the fact that their first contact with the Rakhari will be via returning a homicide suspect—she’s the only one who thinks they’ll be grateful. (As it happens, they’re not, but she’s still closer to the reality of the situation than the others.)

Rules of Acquisition: Quark again is able to hack station security as he did in “Babel,” this time to determine Odo’s flight plan.

Preservation of mass and energy is for wimps: Odo disguises himself as a glass and places himself on a tray that Rom then carries with ease. Odo also does this without anybody in the very crowded bar noticing.

Keep your ears open: “Don’t thank me, I already regret it.”

Croden to Odo after the latter wakes up in the runabout, and then again by Odo to Croden after deciding to let them go with the Vulcans.

Welcome aboard: Randy Oglesby plays both Ah-Kel and Ro-Kel. He previously played one of Riva’s chorus in TNG’s “Loud as a Whisper,” and will return to play Silaran Prin in “The Darkness and the Light,” as well as Kir in Voyager’s “Counterpoint” and Trena’L in Enterprise’s “Unexpected.” He’ll also have the recurring role of the Xindi-Primate scientist Degra in Enterprise’s third season.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: Vortex

Cliff DeYoung, former lead singer of Clear Light and longtime character actor, plays Croden, while Kathleen Garrett and Leslie Engelberg play the Vulcan captain and Croden’s daughter, respectively.

Finally, our Robert Knepper moment is Gordon Clapp as the Rakhari exarch. Best known as Detective Medavoy on NYPD Blue, I had totally forgotten that Clapp ever even appeared on Star Trek....

Trivial matters: This episode contains the first real hints that Odo is truly from the Gamma Quadrant, as Croden tells stories he’s heard about changelings and changeling colonies. Much of it is lies, though there are grains of truth—the stories he’s heard are millennia rather than centuries old, and we’ll eventually learn that the changelings (which is really what they call themselves) did decide to live in a hidden world in a nebula, just not the one Croden took Odo to.

The Miradorn aren’t seen again onscreen, though they’ll be mentioned again in “Call to Arms.” Their homeworld is seen in the Starfleet Corps of Engineers eBook The Cleanup by Robert T. Jeschonek (collected in the trade paperback Out of the Cocoon). The Rakhari are also never again seen onscreen, nor even mentioned beyond a single reference in the novel Plagues of Night by David R. George III.

Morn is named for the first time in this episode, and the running gag about how talkative he is (when the character never ever speaks on screen) also starts here. The name is an anagram of “Norm,” the name of George Wendt’s character from Cheers who never seemed to ever leave the bar.

The basic idea of the episode from Peter Allan Fields was a riff on the film The Naked Spur, and so he hired Sam Rolfe, that movie’s scriptwriter, to do the teleplay. Fields and Rolfe worked together on The Man from U.N.C.L.E., which Rolfe created, and Rolfe previously wrote “The Vengeance Factor” for TNG. It turned out to be Rolfe's last screen credit, as he died of a heart attack later in 1993.

Walk with the Prophets: “Five glasses for four people?” This is certainly an interesting episode. It teases us for some revelations about Odo, and while we get less than Croden promised, we get more than we had before. I love yet another disappointing first contact, as the Rakhari exarch greets Sisko with all the enthusiasm I gave to the Jehovah’s Witness who rang my doorbell this morning, and makes it clear that they want Croden back and then they can leave Rakhar alone, thanks. Cliff DeYoung does a nice job with Croden, who’s chatty and vaguely charming and totally awful at being a master criminal (the whole thing starts because he really sucks at being a thief). I especially like that he spends the entire episode talking too much, and we eventually find out that he’s on the outs with the government that killed most of his family because he couldn’t keep his mouth shut.

Still, I feel like I have to grasp at straws for reasons to like the episode, as I came away from it with an overwhelming sense of meh. The Miradorn are an interesting alien species, and Ah-Kel’s motives for going after Croden are much more believable than just going with “he’s a bastard,” but nothing significant is done with them because the episode spends most of its time on the Rakhari and the changelings. Ah-Kel gets away from DS9 way too easily for someone who’s supposed to be staying on the station due to his involvement in a homicide investigation. “Babel” established that ships need ops to disengage docking clamps before leaving, so how did Ah-Kel leave? And the tractor beam worked fine on Tandro’s ship in “Dax,” so why couldn’t they use it here? Why is Kira issuing them a stern “stop, or I’ll say stop again!” warning all they can do?

And while I’m willing to suspend my disbelief regarding Odo’s near-magical shapeshifting abilities most of the time, my disbelief’s air supply is cut off in this one. First he turns into a glass that weighs as much as a regular glass, since Rom doesn’t notice the extra weight on the tray, then later in the same episode, Croden bitches that Odo’s heavier than he looks. Of course, Croden only has to carry Odo because he’s knocked unconscious by a rock hitting him on his head—except it’s not a head, it’s solidified liquid matter. How, exactly, is he rendered unconscious? His nonexistent brain sloshed against his nonexistent skull?

If the episode had more to hang itself on, I’d be willing to overlook these flaws, but the story’s just not engaging enough to care. Rene Auberjonois does a very nice job with Odo’s curiosity warring with his dedication to duty, Armin Shimerman nicely plays Quark as someone who was just doing a simple business deal that went into the waste extractor, and Randy Oglesby’s deep voice makes for a dandy villain, but it only serves to bring the episode up to average.

 

Warp factor rating: 5


Keith R.A. DeCandido reminds everyone that his newest book, the short story collection Tales from Dragon Precinct, is now on sale.

58 comments
Christopher Bennett
1. ChristopherLBennett
I like this one for the most part, mainly due to Cliff DeYoung's excellent performance and due to the way it begins developing Odo's past. The Sam Rolfe script may have something to do with it as well. I don't actually remember the episode in that much detail, but I really liked Rolfe's writing in the Man from U.N.C.L.E. pilot.

But it does have a number of annoying elements. One is the discrepancy in Odo's mass that you mentioned -- how can he be heavier than he looks yet become as light as a drinking glass? Robert Hewitt Wolfe eventually developed the behind-the-scenes rationalization that changelings shunt their mass into the fourth dimension or subspace or something when they need to be lighter, but it's a hell of a handwave.

Another is Odo being knocked out -- though maybe that's not entirely indefensible. After all, most of the human body is liquid, and the reason we can get knocked unconscious by sharp blows is because the resultant shock waves within the circulatory system cause blood pressure to spike or drop sharply and thus disrupt the proper flow of oxygen to the brain. Maybe the pressure waves from the rock's impact disrupted Odo's metabolism in a similar way -- although that doesn't explain why he'd retain his humanoid form when rendered unconscious.

Hmm... could it be that Odo just pretended to be knocked out in order to test what Croden would do? That Croden's decision to help Odo rather than leaving him behind convinced Odo to trust him?

Another is the fate of the Miradorn at the end, which is tricky to reconcile with Odo's statement in "The Adversary" that "I've never found it necessary to fire a weapon or take a life." True, it was Ah-Kel who fired and triggered the explosion himself, but Odo intentionally lured him into that situation. Then again, I think it was left unclear whether Ah-Kel's ship was actually destroyed or just disabled. We saw the explosion engulf the ship but then cut away before we saw whether it survived. For the sake of consistency, I prefer to believe that Ah-Kel survived and was eventually brought to justice.

And one thing that bugs me about the episode, and that became a pervasive part of DS9 from here on, was the misuse of the word "changeling." That word doesn't mean a shape-changer, it means a faerie child that was substituted for an abducted human child. (This is how it was used in the TOS episode "The Changeling" -- the so-called Nomad probe was actually an alien impostor, at least partly.) I guess in a way the name "Changeling" works later on when we have Founders impersonating real people all over the place, but the way it's used here, simply to mean a being that can change form, is pretty much just wrong.
Keith DeCandido
2. krad
Robert Hewitt Wolfe just informed me on Twitter that this was, in fact, Rolfe's last screen credit, as he died of a heart attack later in 1993. I just amended the Trivial Matters section appropriately, and thank RHW for the tidbit.

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
David Levinson
3. DemetriosX
It would appear that they still hadn't really nailed down the details of Odo's origins at this point. For all that the Changelings tended to pull the Dominion's strings from behind the curtains, they ought to have been rather more than ancient legends. This floundering around with the subject bothered me a lot at the time. The longer they went without knowing at least at the production level where Odo came from, the more contradictory data points there were going to be that would be impossible to reconcile. Fortunately, they seem to have realized the potential problems and set out to nail all that stuff down fairly quickly.

I can't recall. Have they explained that Odo's name comes from the Bajoran for "unknown specimen" yet?
George Salt
4. GeorgeSalt
From the very beginning, the Star Trek franchise has been an interesting and entertaining mix of sci-fi, space opera and a bit of fantasy. Personally, I prefer sci-fi over space opera and generally dislike fantasy. I am not using the term space opera in a pejorative sense: space opera often delivers great action-adventure entertainment. I've often felt that among the Star Trek TV series, DS9 leans furthest in the direction of space opera. However, after watching "Vortex" I've come to the conclusion that in the first two seasons of DS9, Berman and Piller were pioneering a subgenre that could be called space drama.

"Vortex" and most of the episodes from the first two seasons are not really space opera because the scope is too small. The scope of space opera has an epic feel to it: clashing empires, grand battles, gallant heroes. "Vortex" has the feel of a generic police procedural set in the DS9 universe. The plot is devoid of any real sci-fi elements. Although Croden shoots one of the Miradom twins with a directed energy weapon and Odo and Croden travel in a spacecraft, all of that is entirely secondary to the plot and those are nothing more than props appropriate to the setting. There is some character development and it is the beginning of Odo's search for his origins but beyond that there isn't much here to hold my attention.

Fortunately, space drama was abandoned for more traditional space opera in the third season. That's a good thing, because I doubt that DS9 would have continued after the third season if it had stuck with space drama.
Alan Courchene
5. Majicou
(That'll teach me to read more thoroughly.)

This episode mainly sticks out in my mind for its foreshadowing, which works pretty well even if they didn't know exactly where it was going to lead. However, I haven't seen it in years. From the perspective of today, it seems pretty throwaway.
Matt Hamilton
6. MattHamilton
@3 I think that comes later in this season or in season 2.

I'm glad that we brought up the mass of Odo thing because I've been wondering this for a while. Shouldn't Rom have dropped the tray immediately? I've seen people carry Odo as a bag and they weren't particularly slumped over. That always bugged me just a bit. Not too much, and certainly not as much as why Ro Laren and Laforge don't fall through the floors and into outer space when they are phased.

Overall, this episode is sort of meh, you're right on there KRAD. On one hand, the acting is nicely done and it serves to throw some Odo backstory at ya but not too much as to not give away his mystery all that quickly. And as has been pointed out, I don't think they quite knew what to do with it anyway at this point because the Founders of the Dominion, which rule over the Gamma Quadrant with an iron fist are millenia old rumor and some species that come through don't seem to worry about them too much.

About the quadrants: Why is it that they are all, except ours, ruled by a single entity? Delta Quadrant-Borg rule and there are verious species. Gamma Quadrant-Dominion and there are various species. Alpha/Beta Quadrants-Human, Klingon, Vulcan, Tellerite, Bolian, Romulan, Cardassian, Andorian, Bajoran, Betazoid, Benzite, etc.
Dante Hopkins
7. DanteHopkins
A fairly meh episode, pretty much interesting only for the beginnings of Odo's past. I felt that same way when I first watched this one in 1993, and the same way when I rewatched this one a couple weeks ago. I did like Cliff deYoung in this one, as he conveyed perfectly a complex man grappling with a lot of personal baggage, and the discovery of him hiding his daughter brought that home well. But I never understood why DS9 couldnt stop the Miradorn ship from leaving, or how Odo was knocked unconscious. CLB's suggestion that maybe it was a test from Odo was a good one, and I think I'll go with that explanation.
Christopher Bennett
8. ChristopherLBennett
@3: "For all that the Changelings tended to pull the Dominion's strings from behind the curtains, they ought to have been rather more than ancient legends. This floundering around with the subject bothered me a lot at the time."

But there's more to the Gamma Quadrant than just Dominion space. After all, it took a year or more before explorers in the GQ began coming into contact with worlds on the fringes of Dominion territory. So it stands to reason that systems closer to the wormhole would be beyond Dominion space and maybe even beyond its cultural influence. Space is big, after all.

(Yes, we have reason to believe that the Hunters and Tosk are from Dominion territory, but since they were engaged in a chase, they could've come pretty far from home.)

"I can't recall. Have they explained that Odo's name comes from the Bajoran for 'unknown specimen' yet?"

That's from "Heart of Stone" in season 3. And it's actually from Cardassian. Dr. Mora labeled him "Unknown Sample" (presumably in Bajoran), but his overseer translated it into Cardassian as Odo'ital, meaning "nothing."

@6: As I said, the Dominion didn't rule the entire Gamma Quadrant, just a portion of it that was some distance from the wormhole. And the Borg certainly didn't control the entire Delta Quadrant, since Voyager had only a handful of encounters with the Borg in their time there. Not to mention, of course, that what Starfleet was able to explore in seven years' time was only a tiny, tiny sliver of either quadrant, because the galaxy is immense.
Keith DeCandido
9. krad
DemetriosX: We'll find out the origin of Odo's name in "Heart of Stone" in the third season.

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
Keith DeCandido
10. krad
"Space is big. Really big." ---The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
critter42
11. critter42
re: Odo's mass - that whole shunting excess mass into another dimension was the one Marvel used all the time to explain shape/size shifter's mass issues.
critter42
12. phonos
The thing that particularly bothered me was that odo let a man free who he had witnessed murdering someone on his own station. Whilst its great that odo was challenged on his rigid sense of law enforcement, you don't let murderers go because they've experienced persecution in the past or because they have children.
critter42
13. Nicholas Winter
I'll say something I've note elsewhere: all science fiction is pure fantasy as it postulates technologies, both mech and bio, that simply cannot exist given present understandings of the universe works.

So Odo's mass and size changes need no explanation as they are simply plot devices which are sheer fantasy. Entertaining antsy I grant but still too fantastic to need logic applied to them!
Alan Courchene
14. Majicou
@13: Well, that's not a correct definition. Some science fiction does that, occasionally getting it placed in a Frankenstein's-monster genre called "science fantasy." Generally, though, s-f that contains apparently impossible technologies or that tends to just hand-wave strange things is placed toward the very soft end of the scale of s-f hardness. Hard science fiction is characterized by the use of technologies that are plausible given current understanding and by a general desire to make those techs work in a consistent, well-explained fashion. Star Trek is quite soft s-f because the writers were willing to chuck scientific plausibility if they ever felt it got in the way or would just be too difficult to show.
Christopher Bennett
15. ChristopherLBennett
@12: It was actually Ro-Kel who shot first, and Croden fired back in self-defense. Technically, that wouldn't legally constitute self-defense under US law, at least, because he was the one who initiated the confrontation in the first place. And since it happened during and as a result of the commission of a crime, that would make it felony murder -- again under US law. But Odo is more concerned with justice than with the letter of the law. He recognized that Croden was forced to commit his crimes because he saw no other way to rescue his daughter, and that he was basically a moral man who had only killed when he was himself threatened. More importantly, as an orphan himself, Odo didn't think he had the right to deprive a little girl of the only parent she had left. That would've been an injustice to her.

@13: You're making a false generalization about science fiction. It's a diverse genre with a lot of different approaches. Some SF is basically science fantasy, true, but there is a large field of hard SF -- the field I myself work in -- which is dedicated to postulating phenomena and future technologies that are potentially possible given current scientific understanding, or that are credible extrapolations therefrom. Some authors like Gregory Benford, Joan Slonczewski, and Robert L. Forward are working scientists who base their fiction on the same principles they research in their work, striving to make their fiction as scientifically accurate as possible.

Besides, in any genre it's lazy to say that something doesn't need to be explained or to make sense. It's important in any story that its events are plausible enough to hold together for the reader, and that they don't just seem to happen randomly or gratuitously. That's basic good writing, and it's improper to use "It's just fantasy/SF" as an excuse for sloppy work. The discrepancy between Odo being light enough to be a glass on a tray yet in the same episode being "heavier than you look" is one that's stood out for many viewers over the years. It's an inconsistency that pulls you out of the story. Regardless of genre, that's a storytelling mistake.
critter42
16. CajunCC
Maybe I'm in the minority, but I never really had an issue with Odo's apparent ability to gain/lose mass at will. Sure it violates all sorts of physics, but I guess I just never found it enough to break my suspension of disbelief.
critter42
17. Patrick Depew
Even though I only watched this episode 2-3 months ago (I kinda binge watched the whole series, finishing last week), I remembered absolutely nothing about, even while reading the recap, until the screen shot of Croden and his daughter appeared. Then I basically remembered it.

I really don't have a lot of other memories of this episode, which is silly of me because I always take notice of Cliff DeYoung appearing in something. That's what I get for having watched "Centennial" a few too many times.

I guess Odo not losing mass during transformations never bothered me because this is science-fiction, and the concept of a being that can change shapes is pretty inexplicable enough that I could accept it. The issues Krad mentioned with them already betraying the workings of the station is more annoying that anything with Odo.

Just saw the next two episodes coming up. Ugh. Still gotta go through those two before getting to a really good episode.
critter42
18. Classic Appa
Pure speculation, but couldn't Odo have changed some of his internal composition to some lighter than air substance to counterbalance his weight? That might explain how Rom was able to carry him on the tray.
Chris Nash
19. CNash
After "The Nagus", Rom's characterisation is starting to become more consistent - "Five glasses for four people?!"

No big surprise that I agree with the general sentiment of "meh"; the middle of the episode, where Croden's in a cell and Ah-Kel is stomping around threatening people, drags heavily. I was struggling to stay awake! Thankfully, the last act picks up the pace.

Cliff DeYoung turns in a good performance as Croden; I enjoyed both his botched attempt at a stick-up, where he's self-deprecating and apologetic, and later where he makes a passable con-man. I too was bothered by Odo just letting him go at the end of the episode, given that Croden instigated the confrontation in the holosuite, but his sincerity as a father alleviated that somewhat.

Finally, Quark and Odo have thus far been getting the bulk of the character development, by virtue of Quark being the comic relief in most episodes and needing someone to play off of. The rest of the cast need to get into the spotlight a little more, I think. Didn't help that O'Brien was away for a few episodes, of course.
critter42
20. CounsellorDeannaTroi#1Fan
I agree that DS9 has all the trappings of a space opera, and I view it as a positive thing. It's a recipe for lots of drama. But I do understand why some people wouldn't like it, especially for people who are more interested in fast-paced, quickly resolved storylines. I remember when I was watching an episode of DS9 in the late 1990s with my dad (who is a Star Trek fan but hadn't seen much of DS9), during one of the romance scenes between two of the main characters, he screamed at the TV, "WHAT IS THIS? AN EFFING SOAP OPERA?!?!?!" haha
Joseph Newton
21. crzydroid
I agree that it was a "meh" episode. Croden's character never drew me in. I didn't really notice the mass thing, but then again, maybe my disbelief was sufficiently suspended when I accepted that he could change shape (and size) at all. Or maybe with the knowledge he was a shapeshifter, he looked to Croden like he should only weigh a few onces, ha ha. I was bothered by the unconcious thing, but maybe the source of the impact didn't really matter, and it sent a sufficient shock to his system to render him temporarily stunned, which mimicked unconciousness in his human form. It's been established even by this point that his natural state is liquid, but since he is at least semi-solid if not all solid when he takes another shape, maybe that kind of shock is not enough to force him back into his natural state. Otherwise, I feel like I'm forced to conclude that he is continually exerting a concious effort to stay in one shape--I don't know if they come out and say that later.

One thing that nobody has mentioned: Apparently the whole thing with the interrupting the sale was organized by Quark not only to let him acquire the egg without buying stolen merchandise, but to actually get Odo killed through all the later reactions of everybody. That seemed a little too convoluted and risky to me. It also goes against his grovel scene in "Move Along Home." It might, however, explain how the ship was able to get away from the station if Quark was helping him.
@20: There does seem to be quite a difference between the format of DS9 and some of the other series. Your comment made me wonder if I would've accepted Abram's Trek as part of the Star Trek universe more if it had been a novel crew, and not a crew we were deeply familiar with.
critter42
22. CounsellorDeannaTroi#1Fan
@crazydroid: I have a very wide taste in TV I find entertaining, and believe it or not, at around the same time I the most into Star Trek, I was also a hardcore soap opera fan! My soap opera period lasted from my mid teens to my mid 20s. From 1997-2000, I was a daily watcher of "Sunset Beach" an Aaron Spelling NBC daytime soap (it only lasted 3 years). At the same time I became addicted to the final 3 seasons of "Melrose Place", which was one of Aaron Spelling's primetime soaps on FOX. In 2002, I had the chance to meet one of the stars of "Days of Our Lives" and I got into watching that show. I stopped watching "Days of Our Lives around 2005, mostly because I felt I matured out of soap operas. After watching them for a decade, I came to find they recycled the same storylines and plot devices too much, and I stopped watching them. Now, soap operas are in their final throes as a TV medium. All but 2 or 3 of them have disappeared from US TV.
Alan Courchene
23. Majicou
Ah, yes, the "soap opera" complaint. I've been thoroughly sick of that one for at least 15 years. A show spends any time focusing on interpersonal relationships? Soap opera! Romance is ever discussed? Soap opera! Characters ever have disagreements due to their strong emotions? Soap opera! To hear those people talk, I guess science fiction should be utterly sterile and feature ciphers who serve only the plot and never demonstrate that they have inner, or indeed outer, lives.
Christopher Bennett
24. ChristopherLBennett
@20: "Space opera" and "soap opera" are two different things. The term "space opera" generally refers to grand, epic interstellar adventures, usually involving vast struggles between cosmic forces of good and evil, with fairly simplistic characterization. The archetypal example in prose is "Doc" Smith's Lensman series, but the best exemplar of space opera in the mass media is Star Wars. Although in recent decades the term "space opera" has often been applied more broadly to space-based adventure fiction in general, even encompassing smarter, more character-driven things like Star Trek. Indeed, in the past couple of decades there's been a renaissance of sophisticated, wildly imaginative "new space opera" from authors like Iain M. Banks, Greg Egan, Alistair Reynolds, and the like.

So it's really got a very different connotation from "soap opera," which is used to mean character-driven melodrama with an emphasis on personal relationships. Although Majicou is right that the term is too often thrown around recklessly to dismiss any character-driven dramatic writing, when it should really apply to a specific type of serialized melodrama.

@21: Are you saying that Quark was deliberately trying to arrange Odo's murder? I can't accept that. For one thing, despite their rivalry, Quark and Odo already have an odd sort of friendship and mutual respect and wouldn't want to see each other harmed. For another, as a rule, Quark is no killer. He will occasionally work with killers and turn a blind eye if there's profit in it, but masterminding an assassination himself is beyond his comfort zone. And third, I doubt Quark could've anticipated the chain of events that led to Odo being placed in danger. He arranged for Croden to steal the artifact from the Miradorn so he wouldn't have to pay for it, but he couldn't have predicted that the outcome of the firefight would've left one of the Miradorn dead and the other seeking revenge, or that Odo would be assigned to escort Croden back to the Gamma Quadrant.
George Salt
25. GeorgeSalt
@22: I have a lot of respect for the daytime soaps. Back in the '80s I spent some time working the graveyard shift so I'd sleep from 8AM to about 1 or 2PM. When I woke, I'd switch on the TV. Often the soaps were the only thing on TV worth watching. I quickly got hooked! Five episodes a week makes for an insane production schedule and in the old days they were broadcast live. Watch closely and you'll notice that the actors occasionally forget their lines and have to ad-lib their way through a scene. I respect actors who can pull that off.

It's clear that the writers and producers of DS9 experimented with plot devices and conventions normally associated with a wide variety of TV genres, including drama and daytime soap. I don't have a problem with that per se; I just feel that in many cases it simply didn't work. "The Vortex" is a generic police procedural set on the DS9 space station and for me it's rather bland. The series was rescued by reverting to more conventional TV space opera/action-adventure. Adding Worf also helped.
critter42
26. Erik Dercf
Croden, Tosk, and many others are all interest characters who push an episode throught an episodes stages, but we don't get to revisit in other episodes. I feel like there needs to be follow up episodes because these characters have character and history that would be interesting in following.
critter42
27. CounsellorDeannaTroi#1Fan
@24: I knew that. The point I was trying to make is some people conflate the two because of some commonalities. I never thought it felt like a soap opera, just to be clear.
critter42
28. Mac McEntire
The fun thing about Trek is that it’s all kinds of different “dramas” in one show. Sometimes it’s hard sci-fi, sometimes it’s more like far-out fantasy, not to mention episodes that are whodunits, courtroom dramas, romance, comedy, and so on. If the franchise did not have such flexibility, it would be as long-lived as it is.

I’m not surprised this script has its origin in an old Western. This is another one of those season one episodes that really pushes the old-timey “frontier town” vibe. Odo’s predicament and his perhaps questionable actions all speak to DS9 taking place in a “lawless land.”

At first, it seems the teases about Odo’s past are fake-outs, but talk of changelings in the Gamma Quadrant really plants a lot of seeds for where the ongoing plot would eventually go. Everybody says the writers were making it up as they went along, but I don’t know.

At the end, when Odo meets Croden’s daughter, that’s the first instance of the “Odo creepy smile,” isn’t it?
critter42
29. wiredog
Space is big
Space is dark
It's hard to find
A place to park
Joseph Newton
30. crzydroid
@24: That's precisely what I mean about the Odo murder thing though. I found it really hard to swallow that Quark could anticipate all those events, and I thought the outright murder of Odo was out of place for him, not to mention at odds with his grovelling from "Move Along Home." So I was really confused by that line of dialogue between Quark and Rom.
Phil Parsons
31. Yakko
TO ANYONE (LIKE LISAMARIE) WHO ARE FIRST TIME WATCHERS - SPOILERS AHEAD @3: I don't really see this as an inconsistency. With everything we eventually learn about Odo's people I think it still tracks that their existence was only spoke of in legends. The entire reason the Founders bred the Vorta and the Jem'Hadar was to "pull the Dominion's strings from behind the curtain" as you say. Even among those loyal races the Founders didn't often show themselves openly. In "Hippocratic Oath", for example, the Jem'Hadar soldier Goran'Agar admits he's never seen a Founder and says "our gods never talk to us". There was never an indication on the show that subjugated worlds under Dominion rule in the Gamma Quadrant (to say nothing of independent races) were even aware that the Founders were shapeshifters. Yes it became common knowledge in the Alpha Quadrant but that was only because of Odo. If not for Odo it seems unlikely Sisko's crew would ever have been allowed to leave the Founder's homeworld alive in "The Search". But since their secret got out, the Founders just changed tactics and used Changeling paranoia (quite masterfully) to sow discord in the Alpha Quadrant.
Christopher Bennett
32. ChristopherLBennett
@30: Rom's like about Quark being clever was only about Quark's actions immediately before then, when Quark gave Ah-Kel the coordinates to find Croden. He certainly wasn't suggesting that everything from the initial robbery onward was part of some master plan to kill off Odo. As you say, that would be ridiculous.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
33. Lisamarie
I always end up commenting a bit too late to have anything to add, really. But thanks for the spoiler heads up :)

I found this episode mostly average - it seemed like it blended in with other episodes that involve some person ending up on the station that is the center of some mystery. Despite the supposed soap opera allegations, I'd actually like to see more episodes where more of the crew are involved as a whole and we can flesh out their relationships. But I'm guessing that will come.

@CLB: "That's basic good writing, and it's improper to use "It's just fantasy/SF" as an excuse for sloppy work." - I just want to say I agree wholeheartedly. There are plenty of fantasy series I read that have a very well established set of rules, even if they are magic or 'fantasy'. I think the Mistborn series is one of my favorites in terms of 'modern' fantasy. Whereas, when I read the Sword of Truth series (which I did enjoy) I felt like, at least in terms of the magic, Goodkind was just pulling stuff out of his rear end to resolve the plot at the end of each book. I would refer to it as 'magibabble' when I tried to explain it to people. YMMV, of course.
critter42
34. Lsana
@31,



Exactly the point I was going to bring up. When we first hear about the Dominion and the Founders, the Vorta woman that Sisko is with says that "the Founders are a myth," and while yes she was lying through her teeth about everything else, I always kind of believed her that that view was a common one even on the worlds of the Dominion. The Founders don't go parading around on their conquered worlds saying, "Yo, dudes, we're the Changlings and liquid beings rock while solids suck." The Founders are a semi-mythical group, with many people believing they don't actually exist and are just a convenient story that the Vorta and the Jem'Hadar use as a justification for their own conquests. So there's no contradiction in having the Changlings be a mythical race that many people don't believe exist either. It's just no one connected the two legends before Sisko.
critter42
35. Happytoscrap
I found this episode so incredibly "meh" that rewatching it was like eating spinich.

this hour episode felt more like 2 hours. the only moment of the story where i felt like time wasn't oozing like molassis out of a pin hole was at the very beginning when Quark was being Quark.
Joseph Newton
36. crzydroid
@32: It's entirely possible that I misheard or misinterpreted the line (I think I may indeed have been distracted at that point). That would certainly explain why no one else knows what I'm talking about.

@35: I like spinach.
Keith DeCandido
38. krad
Just so's folks know, the rewatch of "Battle Lines" won't go up until Wednesday. Real life and stuff....

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
critter42
40. Happytoscrap
@ 36 and @37

lol. yeah, i was going to say like eating "brussel sprouts" but I couldn't figure out how to spell brussel and I was too lazy to look it up.
Christopher Bennett
41. ChristopherLBennett
I kinda like Brussels sprouts too. I gather the problem is that most people don't know how to prepare them properly.
Christopher Hatton
42. Xopher
krad, I think you mean "Conservation" of mass/energy.

I agree with CLB about the word 'changeling'. Until you know they can masquerade as other people, it's nonsensical.

@40 It's spelled "Brussels sprouts" (named after the city Brussels, so it gets a capital B, until it joins 'hamburger' and 'frankfurter' as a city-named food that has become "improper" (common)).
critter42
43. Nix
I'm normally a bit of a fanatic about plausibility in SF -- but the changelings' mass-variation doesn't cause me any trouble at all. Because... look at what else they can do! The stuff can change in seconds between liquid, solid, and eventually we even see gases of various forms, can survive in vacuum and take a couple of dozen Klingon disrupter hits... it's intelligently mobile no matter what its form, so whatever its consciousness uses it's not anything like a nervous system. Further, it seems that changelings can see no matter what form they have, so whatever its vision uses is nothing like eyes and doesn't appear to need to intercept photons to function, though that is not necessarily true since I'm not sure we ever see one go completely transparent. Perhaps they rely on some sort of diffraction effect, or quantum weak measurement or something.

Give all of *that* and a bit of mass-changing is almost incidental. It's plain that the changelings' bombast about being far advanced over the rest of us is true, at least in a strictly biological sense (they don't appear to be mentally far advanced) -- whatever they're made of, I don't think it's matter, even if they do have the consistency of gelatine or gloopy lake water when not trying to look like something else. I was expecting throughout the series to discover that the changelings were a construct race of some kind, perhaps composed of a fabulously complex weave of warp fields so intricate that it acts like solid matter. But no. Still, tweaking your mass up and down to a degree (perhaps a wide degree) when you can tweak so many other physical properties doesn't seem hard. It's not like you'd be a very good shapeshifter if you were restricted to one mass, particularly not if you had to imitate flying or swimming creatures (swim bladders can only do so much).

(There's a bit in Greg Bear's _Eon_ where they observe the structure of the wall of the Way near the entrance to one of the gates near Thistledown. For some reason I always thought of that shimmering black-and-red-and-bronze as looking somewhat like a changeling does when it's changing form...)
Steve Nicholson
44. SSteve
@1
And one thing that bugs me about the episode, and that became a pervasive part of DS9 from here on, was the misuse of the word "changeling." That word doesn't mean a shape-changer, it means a faerie child that was substituted for an abducted human child.
Issues of translation notwithstanding, aren't they allowed to call their own race anything they want? Why should they be constrained by the meaning of a word in one of many languages on a planet on the other side of the galaxy? Maybe in their language the word "human" means "adhesive substance." That doesn't make us wrong for calling ourselves human. I hope this concept can bring you some peace of mind. :-)
Christopher Bennett
45. ChristopherLBennett
@44: I'm complaining about the writers' choice to use the word "changeling" that way, not the characters', because the characters don't exist.
Kit Case
46. wiredog
@45
"the characters don't exist."
Well, in Real Life they don't.
Christopher Bennett
47. ChristopherLBennett
@46: But the writers do exist in real life, and it's their decision that I'm complaining about.
Raymond Seavey
48. RaySea
@33: I just want to say I agree whole-heartedly about Sword of Truth. Part of the reason I found the later books lacking.

That said, I always took it as a given that Odo changed his mass in one way or another.
Christopher Hatton
49. Xopher
IIRC they called Odo a "shifter" when they thought he was unique, and it was aliens from the Gamma Quadrant who called them "Changelings." Real question: is it possible those aliens were aware of their ability to impersonate others?

I also had the impression it was intended as a slur, and Odo's people didn't call themselves that until "solids" did.

But I don't remember all this very clearly. Certainly calling Odo, who has no ability to look more than blockily humanoid, a Changeling is a bit odd at best.
critter42
50. Brendan J25
*possible spoiler*




FEMALE: Then you've been more fortunate than most Changelings.
ODO: Changelings?
FEMALE: You recognize the term.
ODO: I've been called a Changeling on occasion.
FEMALE: It's a name given to us by the Solids. They meant it as an insult, but in defiance we took it and made it our own.
Christopher Hatton
51. Xopher
THERE we go! That's the dialogue I was half-remembering. Thank you, Brendan J25!
critter42
52. Data Logan
As a scientist, I do agree that it should be "Conservation" of mass/energy. Because that is a specific scientific law agreed upon by the scientific community.

But as for the changes in denotation of "changeling" or common spelling of "brussels sprouts", I support the ability of the English language to change over time as people and culture changes. Anyone else ever read the book "Frindle"?
Tim May
53. ngogam
Classic Appa @ 18:

Couldn't Odo have changed some of his internal composition to some lighter than air substance to counterbalance his weight?

That doesn't work. A "lighter than air" substance is something less dense than air. If mass is conserved, for density to be decreased volume would have to be increased. Odo doesn't expand into a balloon, he contracts into a glass.

Now, I was going to say that Odo's mass obviously just isn't conserved when he transforms; that while it's absurd to call all science fiction pure fantasy, a lot of Star Trek science always has been; that really all you can do is note it and move on.

But something occurred to me. Mass is basically detectable through two things, gravity and inertia. Star Trek already canonically includes technologies to manipulate both these things: antigravity and inertial dampers. If Founders can do whatever these do naturally (which hardly seems less plausible than half of the things which, as Nix notes above, we're already asked to believe of them) then Odo's "true" mass can be conserved while he manipulates his weight and inertial mass to give an apparent mass of whatever he likes. (Antigravity and inertial dampers are themselves essentially magic, but if this makes anyone feel happier with Odo's abilities, I'm happy to have helped.)
Christopher Bennett
54. ChristopherLBennett
@53: I'm not sure about that. Something like antigravity or mass cancellation could be theoretically possible with the right configuration of mass and energy (though it might entail negative mass/energy), but it would nonetheless require an enormous concentration of mass and/or energy. It's relatively plausible that a Sufficiently Advanced Technology with a potent enough power source could pull it off, but a lot more unbelievable for an organic life form to be doing it.

Although, admittedly, Robert Hewitt Wolfe's "shunt the mass into another dimension" explanation is a reach too. Unless we surmise that Changelings are intrinsically 4-dimensional life forms that only extrude a portion of themselves into our 3-dimensional realm -- an idea that's been featured a number of times in science fiction and has some borderline plausibility.

To bring in an idea that also quite implausible but more established as "real" within the Trek universe... what about telekinesis? Maybe Changelings can levitate to cancel out most of their weight, or telekinetically pull themselves downward to simulate greater weight. (Which would mean that "heavier than you look" Odo would've had to be faking unconsciousness.)
critter42
55. Lunar Ed
I'm resurrecting the thread to add that I'm at the first steps of my own DS9 rewatch, and this is the first episode (aside from the debut, "Emissary") that really grabbed me and gave me a sense of where DS9 could go.

I agree with some that the story itself was so-so, and I personally found the Croden character rather wooden until the "talking too much" scene on the runabout brought him to life. But his intriguing changey-key was a great device (narratively and literally—why don't we have those by now?) that served to foreshadow the bigger troubles yet to come.

After some of the throwaway episodes this season provided up to this point (many of which I didn't remember at all, they must have been that forgettable!), it was nice to have an episode that finally felt like part of the bigger story.

Though I think it was a missed opportunity that Odo didn't warn Croden and his daughter about the Vulcans finding chatty species somewhat irksome. (And come to think of it, I always wondered why we had so little exploration of Vulcan culture between the broadcast eras of Spock and T'Pol. It's like they were barely there during the 24th century...what was that all about?)
Christopher Bennett
56. ChristopherLBennett
@55: When TNG came along, Gene Roddenberry deliberately wanted to distance it from familiar TOS races and worlds and create something new. He had to be talked into including a Klingon character (having them now be our allies made it an acceptable change), and we didn't see Romulans until the end of the first season.

I guess the feeling was that exploring Vulcans was TOS's schtick, and featuring a Vulcan character in TNG or DS9 would've had a been there, done that quality. It wasn't until Voyager that enough distance had been gained from TOS for a Vulcan regular to seem like a good idea. I think there was a fair amount of exploration of Vulcan culture through Tuvok, and later Vorik, although they were on the other side of the galaxy from Vulcan itself so it couldn't be as extensive as what ENT did.
critter42
58. Lunar Ed
@56 Ah yes, Tuvok. I watched perhaps 60% of Voyager's original run (before I lost track of the continuity and/or lost interest), but the moments I can recall of Tuvok's story are...next-to-none. Perhaps it's because he was such an isolated case (not only a black actor, but also a lonely Vulcan in the wrong quadrant).

That leads me to Vorik, who was a non-entity to me. I actually had to look him up to realize that I cannot remember a single one of his appearances. I'm not sure if that speaks to his forgettableness as a character, or merely my poor memory of the series overall, but it seems to me that the Voyager Vulcans were thinly developed compared to the memorably dour, arrogant race that showed up for Enterprise. I secretly enjoyed how unlikeable and alien the Vulcans of that era were, thereby giving Spock's struggle with his human half in TOS more resonance, retrospectively.

But thank you for the reminder, and the details on Rodenberry's thinking. (And everyone else: please excuse this dalliance in an episode where the Vulcans appeared so briefly...onward and upwards! :)

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