“Heart of Stone”
Written by Ira Steven Behr & Robert Hewitt Wolfe
Directed by Alexander Singer
Season 3, Episode 14
Production episode 40512-460
Original air date: February 6, 1995
Station log: Odo and Kira are on their way back from Prophet’s Landing in the Mekong when they pick up a distress call from a Lisseppian supply ship that’s under attack by a one-person Maquis ship. Kira and Odo go after the latter, which crash lands on a moon orbiting a gas giant in the Badlands.
Nog informs Sisko that he’s had his bar mitzvah—er, that is, his Ferengi Attainment Ceremony, which means he’s now an adult, and he must become an apprentice. He chooses Sisko as the person to whom he wishes to become apprenticed—he wants to join Starfleet. Sisko points out that handing him a bribe (a bag full of latinum) won’t cut it. He has to apply to Starfleet Academy, get in, and graduate, and before he can do any of that, he—as a non-Federation citizen—has to get a letter of reference from a command-level officer. Like, say, Sisko, who says he’ll think about it. (Sisko tries to give the bribe back, but Nog insists on him keeping it.)
Kira and Odo have checked the wreckage of the Maquis ship, and there’s no sign of the pilot. Weather conditions on the surface of this seismically unstable moon are not survivable for more than a few minutes, so they check a series of underground caverns. After the third quake, they decide to split up, search for twenty minutes, and then abandon the moon before they get killed.
A few minutes after they split up, Kira calls for Odo on his combadge—her foot got stuck in something. Tricorders are useless on this moon, but from what Odo can see, some kind of crystal has engulfed her foot and is spreading. She can’t slip her foot out of her boot, and Odo’s attempts to smash it with a rock fail. Kira tries to phaser the crystal off, but the weapons fire makes the crystal grow up to her knee. There’s too much interference to contact the runabout, so Odo has to go on foot. (Kira promises not to go anywhere while he’s gone.)
Rom and Nog are fixing the replicator power supply for the bar. Rom warned Quark that it might burn out if he didn’t do regular maintenance, but Rom quickly wilts under Quark’s anger. When Rom goes off to get a part, Jake comes in and tells Nog how amused he was by the joke Nog played on his Dad—but Nog angrily insists that it wasn’t a joke. He wants to join Starfleet—but he won’t explain why to Jake, saying it’s personal.
Odo is unable to get a transporter lock from the Mekong directly, either. He sends a communications probe with a distress call, but it could be at least two days before there’s a reply. On his way back to Kira, he hears phaser fire. When he arrives, there’s a scorch mark on the rock behind her, and Kira says that she saw their Maquis prey briefly, and they exchanged weapons fire. The crystal is continuing to move up her right leg and is making progress up her left.
Nog sees Sisko on the Promenade and asks if he’s made a decision, and Sisko admits that he doesn’t consider Nog an ideal candidate—not due to his being a Ferengi, but because of his poor grades back when there was a school, not to mention his run-ins with the law—but he all but begs for a chance to prove himself. So Sisko has Dax assign him to inventory in a cargo bay. It was already inventoried recently, so they’ll know just how good a job he does.
The crystal is now up to Kira’s waist. Odo is frustrated by his inability to analyze it with a tricorder. Odo suspects that the Maquis terrorist deliberately chose this moon because it neutralizes transporters, combadges, and tricorders. Odo comes up with a plan based on a criminal activity report from Starfleet Security that he read, but it requires him to return to the Mekong, so off he goes, with Kira promising to actually read those reports more often.
Dax assigns Nog to do the inventory, which Sisko wants done by first thing in the morning. Nog promises it to have it before he goes off-shift today. Sure enough, he does it in under five hours with no help, and did as thorough a job as Sisko has ever seen. According to Dax, he even found some things they missed on the last inventory.
A massive quake hits the cavern, forcing Odo to form a canopy to protect Kira and the generator he’s cobbled together to try to shatter the crystal—which is now up to Kira’s chest. Unfortunately, Odo is unable to shatter the crystal, even after working through the entire harmonic frequency. The crystal gets up to Kira’s neck, and she’s having a hard time talking. Eventually, Kira tells him to take the runabout and get off the moon before another tremor kills them both. She even makes it an order, but that just gets Odo to resign his commission. He won’t abandon her no matter what, because he’s in love with her. Kira shocks Odo by replying that she’s in love with him, too.
Sisko tells Nog that he’s not Academy material, and Sisko won’t put his reputation on the line for someone who won’t cut it. Whatever scheme he’s involved with, Sisko won’t be a part of it. He deliberately provokes Nog to get him to say why he wants to be in Starfleet. Nog finally admits that he doesn’t want to become his father. Rom could’ve been a chief engineer on a starship, but he went into business like a good Ferengi, and all it got him was to be Quark’s lapdog. Nog wants something more for himself—he’s got his father’s hands and his uncle’s tenacity and he thinks he can be a good Starfleet officer. Sisko, impressed with his speech, agrees to send the letter.
Odo has realized that something’s wrong with the entire scenario. He knows that Kira doesn’t love him, and that makes him realize that there are other problems with the situation. Eventually, “Kira” reveals her true face: the female changeling. She was also the Maquis terrorist, and she contrived the entire situation in order to find out why Odo stayed with the solids. She figured it had something to do with Kira, and the conversation they had while “Kira” was “trapped” proved her right. She beams away, and Odo finds Kira locked in a box (which explains how the female changeling got her hands on a working combadge and phaser). As they return to DS9, Odo tells Kira only that he saw through it because of a slip of the tongue—“nothing important.”
Quark tries to forbid Nog from joining Starfleet, but Rom says that, while Quark runs the bar, Rom makes the decisions about his son—and he wishes Nog good luck. Quark thinks they’re both insane.
Can’t we just reverse the polarity?: Rom tells Quark that the replicators might break down if he doesn’t do regular maintenance. To Quark, the “might” means he doesn’t have to actually do regular maintenance.
The Sisko is of Bajor: Sisko is utterly confused by Nog’s desire to join Starfleet (echoed by Jake and Dax). His reluctance to recommend him isn’t because he’s a Ferengi, but he plays on the traditional prejudice against Ferengi in order to provoke Nog to tell him why he wants to join.
Don’t ask my opinion next time: In the teaser, Kira and Odo have an amusing kind-of-an-argument in the runabout where Odo is cranky (well, crankier) because Kira didn’t consult him before turning down a dinner invitation. Of course, she knows Odo doesn’t eat and hates socializing with people he doesn’t know, but Odo still wanted to be asked, first. The argument is delightful, in part because it becomes so tense, but Kira can’t help break a smile at Odo’s outraged curmudgeonliness.
Preservation of mass and energy is for wimps: We learn the origin of Odo’s name: the Cardassian word for “nothing” is “odo’ital,” which was how the sample container he was put in after being found was labeled by the Cardassian overseer (Dr. Mora called it “unknown sample,” but that was how the overseer translated it into Cardassian). After he was discovered to be sentient, the Cardassians dubbed him “Odo Ital,” as if it were a Bajoran name.
Rules of Acquisition: Nog states that Rom is a mechanical genius, as seen in “Necessary Evil,” and which will continue to be a theme going forward, but he doesn’t have the lobes for business, and Nog fears that he doesn’t either, hence pursuing a career in Starfleet.
We get Rule #18: “A Ferengi without profit is no Ferengi at all.”
Victory is life: A reminder of how awesome the Dominion is: all by herself, the female changeling is able to fake a Maquis attack and lure Kira and Odo to the moon, subdue Kira and take her combadge and phaser, and then beam out from a world whose interference makes it impossible for Starfleet transporters to function.
No sex, please, we’re Starfleet: Odo finally admits out loud that he loves Kira, something that’s been fairly obvious but never stated (except by Lwaxana Troi in “Fascination”). Of course, he admits it to the female changeling rather than the real Kira, but we live in an imperfect galaxy…
What happens on the holosuite stays on the holosuite: O’Brien has been taking Odo kayaking on the holosuite. Odo enjoys it, though O’Brien does all the singing (“ancient sea shanties” such as “Louie Louie”).
Keep your ears open: “Of course it’s your fault. Everything that goes wrong here is your fault. It says so in your contract.”
Quark blaming Rom and providing eternal justification for same.
Welcome aboard: Salome Jens establishes herself as a recurring character by reappearing as the female changeling—though she agreed not to be listed in the opening credits so as not to spoil the surprise of her appearance. The only other guests are also recurring regulars, Max Grodénchik as Rom and Aron Eisenberg as Nog.
Trivial matters: One of the inspirations for this episode was the Ken Kesey novel Sometimes a Great Notion and its film adaptation. Another was Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, from whence comes the title.
In “The Search, Part II,” the female changeling said that she might visit Odo in his world to see what was so appealing about it, which she fulfills in this episode (somewhat backhandedly).
This episode has the first mention of Ensign Vilix’pran, who will be mentioned again in “Apocalypse Rising” and “Business as Usual,” as well as the novels Section 31: Abyss by David Weddle & Jeffrey Lang and Rising Son by S.D. Perry. However, he is never actually seen (not even in the novels).
O’Brien’s love of kayaking was first seen in TNG’s “Transfigurations.”
Apparently, non-Federation citizens need a reference from a command-level officer in order to be considered for admittance into Starfleet Academy. This would apply to any Bajorans in Starfleet also, though probably not to Worf (he was adopted by two Federation citizens, and so probably is a Federation citizen himself).
Walk with the Prophets: “I would be proud to have a son in Starfleet.” Earlier this week, we were talking about A plots and B plots, and here’s a case where they complement each other nicely. Both have characters expressing heretofore unexpressed heart’s desires (though in Odo’s case, only unexpressed verbally), and both revelations are problematic. Nog’s admission is met with surprise and suspicion and disbelief—to the point where his best friend thinks it’s a practical joke—and Odo’s remains a secret to everyone except for the female changeling precisely because he fears Kira’s response.
Both revelations are of even more import because they will continue to have an impact on the series moving forward. Nog’s Starfleet career will be a delight to behold (though not always a joy, as we’ll see in “The Siege at AR-558” and “It’s Only a Paper Moon”), and Odo’s relationship with Kira will continue to develop as well. In addition, we get a reminder of the Dominion threat as something other than an abstract notion—it’s been wholly in the background since “The Search, Part II”—and what’s especially notable is that this entire ruse was done for the sole purpose of finding out more about Odo. The Founders’ desire for Odo to return to the Great Link is more important than any political gain or military conquest for the Dominion, and we’re reminded of that here.
But it’s the ostensible B story that has real weight here. Nog’s sudden desire to join Starfleet seems to come out of nowhere—though that is made a plot point—but it’s made totally believable by two scenes. The first is when Quark kicks Rom when he’s down, and Rom’s sole response is to say, “You missed a rib!” which nicely sets up the heart of the episode, when Nog finally explains himself. Aron Eisenberg’s performances on the show up to this point have been hit or miss—he sometimes overenunciates to the point where it can get in the way of his actual acting—but he absolutely nails every scene he’s in here, from his eagerness with Sisko and Dax to his anger at Jake to his frustration with Quark to all of those emotions and more playing out in the scene in Sisko’s office. Eisenberg himself has cited the latter scene as his favorite piece of his own acting, and he’s right: it’s a tour de force of emotional anguish and self-realization. While Sisko and Nog jointly quote Rule of Acquisition #18, it’s Rule #9 that applies here: “Opportunity plus instinct equals profit,” only in this case the “profit” that Nog gets is a shot at a Starfleet career.
Avery Brooks plays it just as well, goading Nog into giving him the real answer, and seeing the anguish on Nog’s face, the fear in his voice, the very real possibility that he’ll become as beaten-down as Rom, and watching as his facial expression modulates slowly to one of respect and understanding. Best of all is the effect it has on Rom: for the first time that we’ve seen, Rom defies Quark, giving Nog his blessing to attend the Academy.
Eisenberg’s heartfelt anguish is matched by that of Rene Auberjonois when he bares his soul to the person he thinks is Kira. I have to admit to having never entirely being able to get my arms around the notion of Kira and Odo as a couple. For starters, they had such a good, strong, sensible friendship—the two anti-authoritarians surrounded by hidebound Starfleet morons—that adding a romance just felt, I dunno, lazy? Obvious? Pointless? Plus, while I’m all for interspecies romance, she’s a humanoid and he’s a pile of goo…..
But the only reason it ever worked is because of how well the actors sold it. And in this episode in particular it’s not only how well Auberjonois sells it, but how well Nana Visitor doesn’t—and it’s just the last in a line, as Visitor’s entire performance is just a little off-kilter the entire time that she’s really the changeling (which is as it should be). It’s nothing actively and obviously wrong, but it’s a bunch of little things, which have a cumulative effect on Odo (particularly once he gets the bucket of ice-water that is “Kira’s” admission of mutual love).
Warp factor rating: 8
Keith R.A. DeCandido has autographed copies of many of the books and comics he’s written for sale. They make dandy holiday gifts. Information, including several new books dug up in the garage recently, can be found here.