“The Search, Part II”
Written by Ira Steven Behr & Robert Hewitt Wolfe
Directed by Jonathan Frakes
Season 3, Episode 2
Production episode 40512-448
Original air date: October 3, 1994
Station log: We get a summary of the events of Part 1, then see Odo surrounded by fellow changelings. The female changeling explains that all of Odo’s people are part of the Great Link: a merging of thought and idea and sensation among all changelings. Against the objection of one of the others, the female changeling links with Odo, their arms merging into one for a second. It’s a profound experience for Odo, who realizes after the link that it’s all true: he’s home.
However, the issue they have is with Kira, a “solid.” Changelings have a bad history with monoforms, and they also won’t let Kira send a signal from the shuttlecraft and risk revealing the location of their planet. The changelings value their privacy. However, Kira knows some tricks from the resistance that will mask the signal, making it untraceable.
Sisko and Bashir are in a badly battered shuttle, which they’ve been in for six days. They’re rescued by Dax and O’Brien, who were last seen captured by the Jem’Hadar, but apparently they were successful in convincing the Founders of the Dominion that the Federation was interested in peace. Sisko is greeted at DS9 by Admiral Nechayev, who informs Sisko that the Founders are meeting with the Federation Council, and other Alpha Quadrant powers.
One of the Founders meets with Sisko: his name is Borath, and he’s the same species as Eris. Borath explains that the Dominion was impressed by Sisko risking his life for peace, and that an alliance between the Dominion and the Federation will be beneficial to all.
Bashir meets up with Garak, who is concerned that the treaty negotiations between the Dominion and the various AQ powers are a mistake they may or may not live to regret. As if to punctuate the point, Bashir bumps into T’Rul who says that the only AQ power that has been excluded from the peace talks are the Romulans, which T’Rul is pretty damn pissed about.
The female changeling encourages Odo to change his shape into the various items in the garden—the flowers, the rocks—in order to better understand them. He tries that, but it doesn’t work very well, as he explains to Kira with great frustration. Kira’s pretty frustrated also, as there’s a power source on the planet that’s interfering with her ability to send a signal to Sisko.
Sisko asks Nechayev why the Romulans have been excluded. The Dominion feels the Romulans would be a disruptive influence. Besides, if they balk, they won’t stand a chance against the combined might of the remaining AQ powers and the Dominion.
Odo asks the female changeling what they have against “solids.” She explains that many years ago the changelings roamed the stars to add to their knowledge of the galaxy, but they were mostly met with fear, suspicion, hatred, and violence. However, they still wished to learn about the galaxy, so after they went into hiding in the Omarian Nebula, they sent a hundred infants out to experience the galaxy. Thanks to the wormhole, Odo is the first to return—they weren’t expecting anyone to come back for three hundred years. They link once again, this time more fully combining.
A Jem’Hadar starts a bar brawl with O’Brien. Bashir defends him, but Eddington calms things down by telling the Jem’Hadar that it won’t happen again. Bashir’s more than a little pissed off that Eddington is all but letting the Jem’Hadar get away with assault. Meanwhile, Sisko’s apprehensive about the entire situation, made worse by the news of the bar brawl and Dax angrily informing him that she’s been transferred to the Lexington without his knowledge or consent. He storms into the meeting Nechayev is having with Borath to express his extreme displeasure with the situation—and his mood doesn’t improve when Nechayev informs him that the Federation is pulling out of Bajor, leaving it to the Dominion to watch over. All Starfleet personnel are being reassigned, and Sisko’s being promoted to captain.
Kira tries to trace the interference, which leads her to a big metal door. Confused as to what shapeshifters would need with a door, she tries to scan past it, but can’t. She returns to the garden, to be met by an Arbazan vulture—which is really Odo, who is finally starting to see what the other changelings get out of immersive shapechanging. Kira asks for Odo’s help in getting through that door.
Garak meets with Sisko to talk about the fact that the Bajorans are less than happy with the situation, and have signed a pact with the Romulans against the Dominion and their allies. Their conversation is interrupted by T’Rul being shot in the back by the Jem’Hadar. Sisko beats up the Jem’Hadar in retaliation, and is put in a cell. Eddington won’t let Dax, Bashir, and Garak see him, so Garak hits him with a sedative, and they break Sisko out. Next stop: the Rio Grande, where O’Brien’s waiting with a full complement of photon torpedoes to collapse the entrance to the wormhole in order to keep the Dominion on their side of the galaxy. Garak is killed en route to the runabout, but the remaining crew manage to escape and destroy the AQ mouth of the wormhole.
Odo examines the door and realizes that it’s meant to keep whoever’s inside from getting out. He uses his mad shapeshifting skillz to pick the lock—but there are two Jem’Hadar on the other side, who lead them into a room where Sisko, Dax, Bashir, O’Brien, and T’Rul are all hooked up to a virtual-reality machine. Everything that happened on the station was a VR experiment—by Borath, who explains to Odo and Kira that he ran a simulation to see how they’d respond to a Dominion foothold in the AQ.
The female changeling enters then. Odo is shocked that she was okay with this, but she drops the bombshell: the changelings are the real Founders of the Dominion. They wanted to impose order on a chaotic universe, and besides, what you control can’t hurt you.
Odo announces that he’s not remaining. The Great Link is very appealing, but he has a link to Sisko, Kira, and the rest, and he won’t allow them to be harmed—and he’s going home with them, unless they try to stop him. But the female changeling declares that no changeling has ever harmed another, and so she lets them all go. But she also says that the next time, they won’t be so generous.
The female changeling returns to the link, saying that they’ll miss Odo—but that he’ll miss them more. With that, everyone goes back to the Defiant, which is in orbit around the planet, and they all go home.
The Sisko is of Bajor: Sisko is spectacularly unhappy with the turn of events in the VR simulation, culminating in a truly epic rant at Borath and the image of Nechayev.
Don’t ask my opinion next time: Kira is incredibly supportive of Odo at first, thrilled that he’s found his people, but as the episode wears on she becomes more and more disillusioned, not aided by the not-even-a-little veiled contempt the female changeling shows toward “solids” in general and her in particular. (This will come up again when we next see the female changeling in “Heart of Stone” and several more times in the Dominion War arc of the final two seasons.)
The slug in your belly: Dax anticipates Sisko’s desire before they ever break him out of the cell, having O’Brien get the Rio Grande ready and loaded with torpedoes to destroy the mouth of the wormhole.
Preservation of mass and energy is for wimps: Odo learns a great deal about his people, and that he was sent out as an infant to learn about the galaxy. (Amusingly, they sent him and the other 99 out to seek out new life and new civilizations…) He also starts to embrace his shapeshifting ability even more than before, something he’ll continue even though he rejects the Great Link.
Plain, simple: We don’t see the real Garak, but the image of him is pretty convincing. He’s the voice of doubt from the git-go, and he’s very valuable in the plan to bust Sisko out and blow up the wormhole, getting “killed” for his efforts.
Rules of Acquisition: We don’t see the real Quark, either, but his image has a hilariously Ferengi take on Martin Luther King Jr.’s most famous speech: “I have a dream. A dream that one day all people—human, Jem’Hadar, Ferengi, Cardassians—stand together in peace around my dabo table.”
Victory is life: We’re led to believe that the Founders of the Dominion are Eris and Borath’s people (not yet identified as the Vorta) in the VR simulation, until the ending when we find out that Odo’s people are, in fact, the Founders. It’s also obvious that they still have designs on the Alpha Quadrant.
Tough little ship: We don’t actually see the Defiant, but Borath apparently had it towed to the Founders’ homeworld and repaired it enough to get it home. We never do find out how many crew lost their lives in the battle.
Keep your ears open: “I’m glad to see the plan is going as scheduled.”
“What plan is that?”
“You mean no one told you? You see, I pretend to be their friend—and then I shoot you.”
The image of Garak to the image of a couple Jem’Hadar right before he shoots them, thus saving Sisko, Dax, and Bashir’s lives after seeming to betray them.
Welcome aboard: Back from Part 1 are Martha Hackett as T’Rul; Salome Jens as the female changeling, who’ll return in “Heart of Stone”; and Kenneth Marshall as the image of Eddington, who’ll be back for realsies in “The Die is Cast.” Making her second DS9 appearance (and final Trek appearance) after “The Maquis, Part II” is Natalija Nogulich as the image of Nechayev. Andrew J. Robinson also appears as the image of Garak.
And this episode’s Robert Knepper moment is Dennis Christopher—possibly best known as Cyvus Vail on Angel and the “Jack of All Trades” on Profiler—whom I totally forgot played Borath in this episode. He’ll be back on Enterprise as a Suliban in “Detained.” (Christopher and I were both guests at the Big Damned Flanvention in 2005, a convention mostly for Firefly/Serenity—the entire main cast save for Gina Torres was there, as well as Christina Hendricks, who played Saffron, and Yan and Raf Feldman, the twins who played Fanty & Mingo—but which also featured a bunch of other Joss Whedon-related guests, including Christopher, Camden Toy, and Jason Carter. I was there because I wrote the novelization of Serenity and wrote a bunch of Buffy books.)
Trivial matters: In addition to Quark and Garak, Jake, Eddington, and Nechayev don’t actually appear in this episode either, as what we see of the five of them is all from Borath’s VR simulation. In fact, the episode truly takes place entirely in the Gamma Quadrant, the first to do so, though we don’t know that until the very end.
While T’Rul never appears again onscreen, she does appear in the short story “The Devil You Know” by Heather Jarman in the DS9 anthology Prophecy and Change.
This is Jonathan Frakes’s first time directing DS9, after having become a prolific director onTNG. He’ll direct two more season-three episodes, and also appear in one, “Defiant.”
The monolith seen in the background of the garden on the changeling homeworld is identical to the one Odo, Dax, and Dr. Mora found in “The Alternate,” referred to as a relic of Odo’s people in that episode.
Borath was originally supposed to be Eris from “The Jem’Hadar,” but Molly Hagan was unavailable, so the role was recast. While the Vorta have been identified as the administrators of the Dominion, it has not yet been established that Eris and Borath are both Vorta (since Borath spent most of the episode pretending to be a Founder).
The female changeling says she might visit Odo in the AQ to see what his life is like, a promise she’ll keep (to his surprise) in “Heart of Stone.”
Walk with the Prophets: “I don’t believe it—I’m talking to a tree.” On the one hand, I can’t really point to anything that’s actively wrong with the VR-simulation plot, but there’s nothing actively right with it, either. It’s actually more effective when you know the ending, because you can look for the clues that it’s not real—starting with the fact that way more time is passing on the station than is passing on the Founder homeworld with Kira and Odo. Also Quark and Nechayev in particular are a little off—a little too simplistic. Nechayev in particular is just way over the top in her nastiness. She’s always been an antagonistic character, going back to her first appearance in TNG’s “Chain of Command,” but she has none of the depth she had in her previous TNG appearances—then again, the only time Sisko dealt with her was in “The Maquis, Part II,” where she was an unreasonable hard-ass, and it’s primarily Sisko’s memories Borath was using.
Of course, that applies to the others, too. Quark is a pretty simplistic greedhead, but it’s likely how a lot of the crew—especially Bashir and O’Brien, who are the ones who interact with the Ferengi—view him. And Eddington is practically a blank slate, because nobody really knows him yet. (Garak, though, is spot-on, which bespeaks Bashir’s observational prowess…)
But everything just barrels forward willy nilly—and most of it irritatingly off-screen via characters talking about it rather than seeing it happening—and so much of it is arbitrary. The Romulans would be disruptive but the Klingons wouldn’t be? Abandoning Bajor to the Dominion? There’s nothing about any of that that makes sense (which calls Borath’s entire simulation into question).
However, the trick is, that isn’t the A-story, and it’s not the heart of the episode: Odo is. The entire sequence on the Founders homeworld is masterfully done, from Odo’s initially treating the female changeling like a witness he’s interrogating—it’s Kira who has to tell him to dial it down a little, amusingly—to the female changeling* basically verifying the legends about changelings that we heard in “Vortex” and “Shadowplay,” to Odo’s initial frustration and later joy at the immersive shapeshifting that the other changelings want him to do, to the brutal revelation that the changelings are the Founders.
*And while I totally understand why the character is never formally named, because that helps to make the changelings more alien, it is really really annoying from a rewatcher’s perspective to have to refer to her by so ridiculous an appellation as “female changeling.”
That revelation is a masterstroke, as it provides the episode with its bite. Initially, there’s no reason to (necessarily) connect Odo’s finding his people with Sisko’s attempts to open relations with the Dominion, especially since they’re hiding in a nebula. Tying it all together at the end is brilliant.
But best of all is what it means to Odo: he finally gets his greatest wish, to find his people, and they turn out to be assholes. It changes everything for the character, in more ways than one, underlined by a simply superb performance by Rene Auberjonois, who shows that there’s far more to Odo than the gruff constable—yet without ever completely losing the gruff constable, either. And I love his response to the female changeling telling him he’ll always be an outsider: that having an outsider’s perspective can be valuable, and that he’s sorry they’ve forgotten that.
Ultimately, while it’s not an episode I’m ever going to feel the need to watch again (that’s why Dennis Christopher was a Robert Knepper moment, I hadn’t really watched this episode hardly at all since initial airing twenty years ago, even when I did Dominion research for various bits of Trek fiction over the years), it’s an important one with a mostly clever structure that finished the job Part 1 did of setting up the show’s new status quo in general and Odo’s new status quo in particular.
Warp factor rating: 7
Keith R.A. DeCandido will be at the Morris County Library in Whippany, New Jersey on Saturday the 26th as part of an all-day celebration by the U.S.S. Justice fan club of the 20th anniversary of DS9. He’ll also be one of the instructors at the Pocono Writers Conference on Sunday the 27th, an all-day workshop being held at the East Monroe Public Library in Stroudsberg, Pennsylvania; other instructors include Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Kathryn Craft, Mike McPhail, Bernie Mojzes, and Michael Ventrella.