Written by René Echevarria
Directed by Jesús Salvador Treviño
Season 5, Episode 12
Production episode 40510-510
Original air date: January 27, 1997
Station log: Odo limps into the infirmary with a pinched nerve. Quark then brings Odo an infant changeling that’s ill, which he obtained from a Yridian trader, and which he sells to Odo for eight strips of latinum. (Odo’s barely aware of the financial part of the transaction, so enraptured is he by the changeling. Quark pretty much places Odo’s thumb on the padd to complete the deal.)
According to Bashir, the infant has taken on a lot of tetryon radiation. While Bashir starts treatment, Odo explains to Sisko that this is the size he was when he was found in the Denorios Belt. Sisko puts Odo in charge of the changeling, to Odo’s glee, but also suggests asking Dr. Mora for help, to Odo’s lack of glee. Sisko, however, says it’s Odo’s call.
Bashir gets the radiation out, and then goes off to take care of Kira, who’s going into labor, leaving Odo to keep an eye on the infant. Odo talks to it, which Mora never did. Odo is determined to treat the infant better than he himself was treated.
O’Brien, Keiko, and a Bajoran midwife named Y’Pora are with Kira. They create a rhythm with two rattling percussion instruments (the one Keiko holds also has incense), and a gong. The rhythm is supposed to relax her, but she’s having trouble relaxing because Shakaar is running late—however, he does finally show up. Unfortunately, by then it’s too late, and Kira’s body has stopped producing endorphins because they’re building up to toxic levels. It could be days or even weeks before she goes into labor again. Kira insists on having the baby in the traditional Bajoran manner, which the O’Briens support. (Mostly because it would be incredibly churlish to object given what Kira has gone through for them.) Shakaar says he can rearrange his schedule as needs be.
Odo brings the infant around the station, showing it the replimat and other parts of the station. While he’s in the midst of telling the infant that he won’t treat it like he was treated, the guy who treated Odo badly shows up—Mora heard about the changeling, and came to the station right away. Odo doesn’t want his former tormentor’s help, but he is willing, after a lengthy argument, to let Mora observe. However, after a week, Odo has made no progress communicating with the changeling, nor in getting it to change shape. It’s only grown 17% in that time—after a week with Mora, Odo had grown a lot more. They again degenerate into an argument, Odo accusing Mora of all kinds of horrible things, Mora accusing Odo of being ungrateful and not understanding of the pressure he was under. Their yelling is interrupted by a bemused Sisko, who’s been talking to Starfleet Command. They want daily progress reports, and if Odo and Mora don’t communicate with the infant soon, Starfleet will take over the project.
A dejected Odo finally allows Mora to take a more active role. They give the changeling an electric shock—which, sure enough, works. Odo breaks into a huge smile, and Mora points out that he smiled when Odo did that, too. The changeling is making tremendous progress, changing shapes on its own, to the point where Mora suggests they show it simple lifeforms to mimic. Mora also admits that Odo’s friendlier approach seems to be working better than his more analytical one. Odo admits that he did respect Mora. And then he orders up two glasses of champagne to celebrate.
Shakaar walks in on O’Brien massaging Kira’s legs and he invites her to a performance on the Promenade. O’Brien and Shakaar start pissing on each others’ legs so much that they don’t notice Kira saying that it’s time to have the baby. However, Shakaar and O’Brien continue to piss on each others’ legs to the point where Kira throws them out of the room. However, the birth goes smoothly, and Kira even lets the boys back in as long as they stay quiet. And then Kirayoshi O’Brien is born and everyone is happy.
Odo shows up in Quark’s after hours to buy Quark a drink in gratitude for bringing the infant into his life. Quark is freaked out by Odo being happy and voluble, and Odo waxes rhapsodic on how much he’s enjoying his sorta-kinda fatherhood.
But then the computer alerts him to a problem. The infant’s morphogenic matrix has apparently been damaged by the radiation more than they realized and it’s dying. Bashir and Mora are unable to save the infant. Odo pours the child into his hands and asks it not to die. But then the changeling absorbs itself into Odo’s body—and then suddenly he finds that he can change shape again. The infant’s final act was to make Odo a changeling again. Odo is happy about it, but he wishes it had happened another way. He also apologizes to Mora for not including him in his life. They share a hug and Mora returns to Bajor on the same shuttle Shakaar is on. Kira and Odo talk about how they experienced parenthood and then lost it and then go for a walk.
The Sisko is of Bajor: When Sisko suggests Odo invite Mora to help out, he reminds Odo that sometimes it’s nice to have someone to help change the diapers, a metaphor that proves sorta-kinda prophetic.
Don’t ask my opinion next time: Kira finds that she still has an attachment to the baby that she originally only agreed to carry as a favor to the O’Briens. She never wanted a baby, but she finds that she wants to hold Kirayoshi and never let go.
Preservation of mass and energy is for wimps: Odo is bound and determined to do a better job with this changeling than Mora did with him, but while he does succeed in doing so with Mora’s help, he also comes to realize how much good Mora did in addition to the bad—and how much of the bad was due to pressure from the Cardassians.
His last words to the infant are a desire to one day teach it to become a hawk, and after he gets his mojo back, he immediately turns into a hawk. (In a nice touch, his uniform flops to the floor when he changes shape, since that’s an actual real uniform now, and has been since “Apocalypse Rising.”)
Rules of Acquisition: Quark is the one who brings Odo the infant, and he’s so totally freaked out when he sees Odo acting happy, to the point where he actually quotes William Butler Yeats (saying “the centre cannot hold,” from “The Second Coming”).
There is no honor in being pummeled: Worf is only in one scene, and he has nothing to do with the delivery of the baby, which is, like, the biggest missed opportunity in the history of the universe, especially after they went to the trouble of reminding us in “Accession” of Worf’s traumatic delivering of Molly in “Disaster” on TNG. Instead, they do nothing with it at all, not even acknowledging it. To which I say, fooey!
Victory is life: This is the second of the one hundred changelings sent out as infants by the Founders that we’ve seen, Odo being the first (we’ll meet a third in “Chimera”). Sisko asks Odo why the Founders would do such a thing to innocent children, and Odo says that it’s a great way to gather information, especially in seeing how solids treat the helpless.
What happens on the holosuite stays on the holosuite: When Bashir suggests a stretching regimen—or Worf’s mok’bara class—to help Odo with his back, Quark counters with a holosuite program he has that includes three Orion slave women (as seen way back in “The Menagerie, Part 2”).
Keep your ears open: “Do me a favor. Next time you have a baby, leave my girlfriend out of it.”
Shakaar being snarky at O’Brien.
Welcome aboard: James Sloyan reprises his role as Mora, following “The Alternate,” while Peggy Roeder makes no impression whatsoever as Y’Pora. Rosalind Chao is back as Keiko, while Duncan Regehr makes his final onscreen appearance as Shakaar. And an uncredited infant doll debuts the new recurring role of Kirayoshi O’Brien.
Trivial matters: Mora has been on Earth, consulting with Starfleet on how to detect changeling infiltrators. Presumably, this started some time after “Paradise Lost,” since if Mora had been on Earth prior to that, Odo would have mentioned it (or it would have been mentioned to him).
O’Brien missed Molly’s birth, as it happened in Ten-Forward on the Enterprise-D while he was stuck on the bridge in “Disaster,” so he’s particularly pissed that he (initially) got kicked out of the room for Kirayoshi’s birth as well.
While neither Mora nor Shakaar will be seen again onscreen, they will continue to be referenced, the former in “In the Cards” and “When It Rains...” and the latter in “Children of Time,” “Call to Arms,” “Resurrection,” “His Way,” “The Reckoning,” and “The Sound of Her Voice.” Shakaar also continues in several post-finale DS9 novels.
Again, the Bashir who treated Odo, supervised the final stages of Kira’s pregnancy, and treated the changeling infant is apparently a changeling in disguise, based on what’s learned in “In Purgatory’s Shadow,” that Bashir was replaced before the uniform change made just prior to “Rapture.”
Walk with the Prophets: “Constable, why are you talking to your beverage?” You know, it’s funny, but I didn’t realize until I rewatched this episode for this particular occasion did I realize that this script has pretty much the exact same story beats as René Echevarria’s first Trek script, “The Offspring.” Outsider character (Data, Odo) manages to have a child (Lal, the infant), goes through the pains of trying to teach the child how to survive in a world where it is unique, gets unwanted help from a cranky authority figure (Haftel, Mora) as well as pressure from Starfleet Command to make progress or else, and then the whole thing ends in tragedy as the child dies from unforeseen circumstances, but the child is absorbed into the “father” in the end (Data by storing her memories in his positronic brain, Odo by just having the kid suck into his hands and make him all changeling-y again).
This isn’t a bad thing, mind you, just amused that Echevarria dipped in the well again. Besides, it mostly works here, in part because of the continued excellence of Rene Auberjonois, who really sells Odo’s enthusiasm for the task, his bitterness toward Mora, his growing love for this infant, his joy at the infant’s progress, and his devastation at losing it at the end.
Unfortunately, the rest of the episode doesn’t quite live up to Auberjonois’s performance. For starters, sledgehammering a hearts-and-flowers resolution to the Odo-Mora conflict is unconvincing after the events of “The Alternate.” Basically, when we first met him, Mora was a prick, and a manipulative one at that. This episode would’ve been much stronger if it let Mora still be a prick, but have Odo come to the realization that there were factors in Mora’s work that he never considered—indeed, must have wilfully ignored, since Odo knows as well as anyone what crappy taskmasters the Cardassians are and how unpleasant their version of pressure from above would be.
But still, the shiny happy resolution to this conflict only works because the Mora of this episode is, basically, a nice person, unlike who he was last time we saw him. When Odo is enumerating the bad things Mora does, he conveniently leaves out trying to manipulate him into going back to the lab with him in “The Alternate,” which was an appalling thing to do.
As for the B-plot, it’s pretty much just paperwork. Nana Visitor actually went into labor several episodes previous (after the filming of “Trials and Tribble-ations”), so Visitor’s been wandering around with a basketball under her uniform for the past few episodes, and she doesn’t have to do that anymore. But the story they build around it is the hoariest nonsense ever, with a manufactured conflict between Shakaar and O’Brien that’s there to create artificial suspense that always comes across as just that. It’s nonsense, and while it’s played for laughs, to make O’Brien leave the room before the birth is unimaginably cruel, given that, as he points out, he missed Molly’s birth thanks to the Enterprise hitting a quantum filament. I wasn’t a hundred percent serious above when I said they missed an opportunity by having Worf deliver yet another O’Brien baby, but that would’ve been preferable to the paint-by-numbers nonsense we got here.
Having said all that, the parts that involve Odo being a father to a changeling are magnificent, seeing his determination to be a better father than Mora was to him, and him learning the hard truth about how difficult it is, especially with a Starfleet-imposed timetable, and his wonderful outpouring of happiness to Quark (abetted by Armin Shimerman doing a wonderful job of showing Quark both freaked out yet morbidly curious about this side of his nemesis).
Warp factor rating: 6
Keith R.A. DeCandido has a new book coming out this fall: a Sleepy Hollow novel based on the FOX TV series, entitled Children of the Revolution, to be published by Broadway Books. For more on this and other SH books, check out the Sleepy Reads web site. Also check out his latest Star Trek book The Klingon Art of War (ordering links on his web site), which he talks about on several podcasts: The Chronic Rift, The G & T Show, “Literary Treks” on TrekFM, TrekRadio, The Sci-Fi Diner, Two Geeks Talking, and Keith’s own Dead Kitchen Radio.