Written by Jim Trombetta and Don Carlos Dunaway and Michael Piller
Directed by Les Landau
Season 1, Episode 16
Production episode 40511-417
Original air date: May 23, 1993
Station log: A delegation of Federation ambassadors are on a fact-finding mission to the wormhole. Sisko has fobbed off the duty of taking charge of the diplomats—from Arbazan (Taxco, a haughty woman who insists on taking Bashir’s quarters, since the guest quarters aren’t satisfactory), Vulcan (Lojal), Bolarus (Vadosia, who has lots of ideas on how to do other people’s jobs and is oblivious to how unwelcome that advice is), and Betazed (our dear old friend Lwaxana Troi). Bashir, who is obviously under strict orders to keep the ambassadors the hell away from Sisko, tries to say that the commander is busy with a recalibration of all systems. Sadly, Lojal finds that intriguing and would like to observe it.
Bashir’s thumphering is interrupted by Lwaxana, whose hair brooch—a family heirloom—has been stolen while she was playing dabo. Lwaxana demands that the bar be sealed and everyone strip-searched—a request made while holding the most painful part of Quark’s ear (she obviously learned a lot while she was DaiMon Tog’s prisoner)—but then Odo shows up. After Lwaxana says she senses no guilt telepathically from anyone in the room, she adds that she can’t sense Ferengi. However Odo knows that Quark wouldn’t resort to petty thievery (which Quark of course takes as a compliment), but a quick glance around the bar reveals a Dopterian pickpocket. They’re offshoots of the Ferengi, so they also can’t be sensed by Betazoids. After Odo returns her brooch to her and takes the pickpocket into custody, Lwaxana—with a smile we’ve seen before when she’s set her sights on Jean-Luc Picard, a holographic bartender, and Timicin—asks Bashir for every snippet of information he can provide about Odo.
O’Brien and a Bajoran engineer, Anara, are trying to get the fusion reactor up to Starfleet specs, but they keep hitting a brick wall with a computer that is only up to Cardassian specs, which is very much not acceptable for O’Brien. And when he tries to fine-tune the reactor, the computer shuts it down for fear of an overload that O’Brien knows won’t happen. He complains to Sisko, who—after a lengthy tirade from O’Brien on the subject—authorizes him to do whatever he needs to do to make the computer work properly.
Bashir then brings Lojal, Taxco, and Vadosia to ops, to Sisko’s obvious consternation. They’re interrupted by a probe coming through the wormhole, which they observe and then Sisko makes it clear that they’re not welcome in ops after that.
Dax, O’Brien, and Anara download the data from the probe, which has a ton of computer processing power, but nothing else.
Lwaxana visits Odo in his office, complimenting him on his efficiency as “the thin beige line between order and chaos.” She starts flirting with him in her usual not-particularly-subtle fashion and Odo is at a complete loss. He runs away to ops before it can get any more uncomfortable for him and goes straight to Sisko. But Sisko refuses to help him by ordering Lwaxana to leave Odo alone, saying Odo needs to handle it himself. (Sisko obviously is taking considerable joy from how flustered Odo is by her.) Lwaxana refuses to leave Odo alone, following him in a turbolift to upper pylon 3 and insisting on having a picnic with him, despite his insistence that he doesn’t eat.
And then the turbolift breaks down between decks. Because of course it does.
The turbolift systems have failed, and when Dax tries to beam them out, the transporter is down, too. Yet there’s nothing actually wrong with any of it that anyone can find. O’Brien starts the process of rerouting the EPS taps, but he has no idea how long it’ll take with Cardassian systems.
Odo insists that they pass the time in the turbolift quietly, but Lwaxana doesn’t do quiet very well. (“Things could be much worse,” she says, to which Odo mutters, “Really?”) She starts babbling on the subject of the events of “Ménàge à Troi.”
After Sisko tells Bashir that, no matter how much it sucks, he has to keep the diplomats happy, he gets a report from O’Brien. The chief thinks that the computer is being more friendly, not resisting commands or giving arguments. And every time O’Brien leaves ops, there’s another failure that brings him back.
Dax theorizes that it may be a mechanical life form of some sort—Kira analogizes it to someone leaving a puppy at their doorstep. O’Brien tries uploading the probe data back to it, but his first attempt doesn’t work, and the second attempt kills power on the station.
Lwaxana then asks Odo to talk about himself, and despite his insistsence he is a private man, he opens up a bit: he “grew up” in a laboratory on Bajor, and patterned his hairstyle after that of the Bajoran scientist who was assigned to him. He tried to fit in by changing his shape to please other people, but he lost his taste for it pretty quickly. Also of concern: Odo is now getting very close to his regenerative cycle.
At ops, Sisko, Dax, Kira, and Anara all ask the computer for a bunch of complicated operations while O’Brien tries to manually transfer the probe data to a set of isolinear rods. The computer fights back, causing several power surges, and also a big-ass fire in the habitat ring right where Bashir and the three remaining ambassadors are.
O’Brien extends Kira’s puppy metaphor and realizes that they need to keep it in the computer where all the action is. It obviously doesn’t want to leave. So he decides to build a doghouse.
Odo is starting to become liquid, and stands with his back to Lwaxana. Aside from the Bajoran scientist, no one has seen him like this. So Lwaxana takes her wig off—nobody’s seen her like that, either. Odo thinks she’s fine like that, but Lwaxana doesn’t like it because it’s ordinary. When Odo can’t hold his shape any longer, she catches the liquid in the folds of her dress.
O’Brien and Anara transfer the probe data to a sub-program, through which all computer functions are routed so that the “puppy” can be occupied with everything that happens on the station without it interfering with daily life in the station.
It works. Sisko and Kira get the bulkhead open, only to find the corridor ravaged by plasma fire. Just when Kira thinks they have to call Starfleet Command to alert them of the death of three ambassadors, they and Bashir come out of a service crawlway, which Bashir got them into before they were crispy-fried. All three diplomats are very impressed with “Julian’s” performance under extreme circumstances.
Meanwhile, Odo and Lwaxana are at last freed from the turbolift. Odo says he appreciates her discretion and sensitivity—two words that have never been used to describe Lwaxana ever.
O’Brien and Dax explain the solution (“He adopted it,” Dax says with a smile), and O’Brien promises to keep it occupied. Sisko says to just keep it off the furniture.
Can’t we just reverse the polarity?: Cardassian turbolifts have exposed multiphase alternating currents running through the positioning mechanism, so Odo can’t shapeshift his way out of the ’lift in which he and Lwaxana are trapped. (Besides, doing so would be rude, as Lwaxana points out to him.)
The Sisko is of Bajor: Sisko’s primary goal in this episode is to have as little contact with the four ambassadors as possible, and he takes great (and unconcealed) glee in giving that job to Bashir.
Rules of Acquisition: Quark’s has a strict policy that the management is not responsible for any personal items that are lost in the bar. Said policy is on a very small sign that is very high up over the main doorway, which is damn near impossible to read.
For Cardassia!: The Cardassians built the station corridor doors with duranium inlays that can’t be cut through with phasers. It was no doubt done to be proof against rebel weapons. (Kira says they need a “bipolar torch” to burn through, which I guess is a torch that hasn’t been taking its meds...)
The slug in your belly: When Sisko was Curzon Dax’s adjutant, he used to delight in giving Sisko crap assignments very much like the one Sisko gives Bashir. When Bashir exasperatedly asks how he “graduated” from this duty, Sisko replies that it was when he hauled off and belted a VIP who was trying to get an unwilling ensign to go back to his quarters. Bashir gets a faraway look in his eyes, no doubt imagining that circumstance transplanted to his own situation, but Sisko puts the kibosh on it, as he’s less understanding than Curzon. Bashir is very obviously disappointed at having the hauling-off-and-belting option being taken off the table.
In addition, Lojal tries to insert himself into Dax’s scientific inquiry into the probe, thinking her too young and inexperienced. Bashir stops him, pointing out that she has three centuries’ experience.
No sex, please, we’re Starfleet: Lwaxana hits all over Odo. She’s particularly interested in meeting a man who doesn’t need to be molded and shaped, but can do it himself. Odo, on the other hand, finds the entire series of mating rituals that humanoids go through to be incomprehensible and rants to Sisko at great length on the subject.
Preservation of mass and energy is for wimps: For the first time, we see Odo losing cohesion and being forced into his liquid form to regenerate, with Lwaxana catching him in the folds of her dress, a special effect that is utterly unconvincing either visually or scientifically. (Seriously, how did she keep it all in there? How was she able to support his weight?)
What happens on the holosuite stays on the holosuite: Bashir tries to convince the ambassadors to try a holosuite, but Taxco is horrified by the notion of indulging in a disgusting Ferengi sex program. Bashir assures her that other programs are available even as Vadosia snidely says that such a program might loosen Taxco up a bit.
Lwaxana, though, does take advantage of the holosuites, reserving one for her and Odo to have a picnic, to Odo’s horror, not just at the notion of a picnic with Lwaxana, but Quark knowing about it.
Keep your ears open: “I don’t eat! This is not a real mouth. It is an approximation of one. I do not have an esophagus or a stomach or a digestive system. I am not like you. Every sixteen hours, I turn into a liquid.”
“I can swim.”
Odo trying to put off Lwaxana’s advances by pointing out their severe biological differences, which doesn’t even slow Lwaxana down.
Welcome aboard: Majel Barrett makes her annual appearance as Lwaxana Troi, and also her first appearance on DS9. She appeared once a season on TNG for the first through fifth seasons, but her lone guest turn in the 1992/93 season was this episode. She’ll return to TNG for its seventh season in “Dark Page,” then appear once each in DS9’s third and fourth seasons in “Fascination” and “The Muse.”
The other three ambassadors are played by Michael Ensign (making his second Trek appearance as Lojal; he was Krola in TNG’s “First Contact,” and will be a bard in Voyager’s “False Profits” and another Vulcan in Enterprise’s “Stigma”), Jack Shearer (making his first of many Trek appearances as Valdosia, including as Admiral Hayes in Star Trek: First Contact and a couple of Voyager episodes, as a Romulan named Ruwon in “Visionary,” and as Admiral Strickler in Voyager’s “Non Sequitur”), and Constance Towers (as Taxco). Benita Andre makes her only appearance as O’Brien’s assistant Anara; this was intended to be a recurring role, but Andre was replaced by Robin Christopher as a new character named Neela, who will appear in both “Duet” and “In the Hands of the Prophets.”
Trivial matters: It was established back in “Ménàge à Troi” that Betazoids can’t read Ferengi minds, and that apparently extends to Dopterians as well.
At one point, Odo exits a turoblift and looks around furtively hoping he won’t see Lwaxana only to have her pounce on him as he walks down the corridor. This was a match for a similar scene with Picard in TNG’s “Half a Life,” which was also directed by Les Landau.
When we finally meet the Bajoran scientist who “raised” Odo, Dr. Mora Pol, in “The Alternate,” we’ll see that he and Odo do, in fact, have the same hairstyle.
The “pup” is never referenced again, and one wonders if the Cardassians or Vorta found it when the Dominion takes over the station in the early sixth season.
Odo’s early days of doing “party tricks” will also be discussed in the flashbacks in “Necessary Evil,” with that episode referring to a “Cardassian neck trick” that Odo can apparently do really really well. In general, this is the first episode to refer to how Odo was “raised” on Bajor.
The odd relationship between Odo and Lwaxana will continue to recur in her other two DS9 appearances, as well as in a couple of bits of tie-in fiction, notably William Leisner’s The Insolence of Office eBook, part of the Slings and Arrows miniseries, and your humble rewatcher’s The Brave and the Bold Book 2, which has Lwaxana asking after Odo to Worf.
Walk with the Prophets: “They are the ambassadors of unhappy!” This is actually a much better episode than I remembered, and one of the stronger Lwaxana episodes (for which, to be fair, the competition is not fierce). Unlike Q, who didn’t seem to fit into DS9’s milieu very well, and Lursa and B’Etor, who were truly only minor characters in their guest appearance, “The Forsaken” really makes good use of a TNG guest. Watching Lwaxana’s usual overbearing pursuit of a man modulate into a truly touching set of revealing scenes on the turbolift is a nice inversion of the usual formula of Lwaxana episodes. The pairing of these two is ridiculous on the face of it, but it’s sold by the common ground the script finds between them, as well as some simply stellar performances by Majel Barrett and Rene Auberjonois.
The other two thirds of the plot vary in quality wildly. It’s frustrating to once again have O’Brien do most of the heavy lifting while Dax stands around a lot, but since the computer program specifically imprinted on O’Brien, it’s more forgivable (and Dax’s “He’s adopted it” at the end is beautifully delivered by Terry Farrell). The plot itself is a mostly harmless (much like a puppy) technobabble nonsense plot that wouldn’t be at all engaging without the other two parts of the episode.
Leaving us with Bashir and the snotty ambassadors (the name of my next band). This is just as bog-standard a plotline as the computer puppy (and the two-people-get-stuck-in-an-elevator notion, for that matter), but most of it works mainly because the viewer gets the same perverse satisfaction in watching Bashir squirm that Sisko does, with the added bonus of enjoying watching Sisko enjoy watching Bashir squirm. It’s a mode we can all appreciate—suffering through something in our youth forced upon us by superiors/elders and then getting the chance to pay it forward when we’re older/in authority by doing the same to the next callow youth to come along. Again, the performances help, as Avery Brooks and Siddig el-Fadil are magnificent.
This part of the story, unfortunately, has too perfunctory (and off-camera) a resolution. The corridor explodes, everyone panics, we don’t know what’s happened, and then we find out that Bashir got them into a crawlway, and apparently they bonded while trapped in there, because they’re all friends now. I would rather have been shown that than told it. (Although the look on Kira’s face when she realizes that Bashir saved the day is priceless, and a particularly good example of how great Nana Visitor is with facial expressions.)
Still, the heart of this episode is Odo and Lwaxana, as the episode reveals a great deal about both characters, allowing us to understand both of them a good deal more.
Warp factor rating: 6