Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch: “Chimera”

“Chimera”
Written by Rene Echevarria
Directed by Steve Posey
Season 7, Episode 14
Production episode 40510-564
Original air date: February 17, 1999
Stardate: unknown

Station log: O’Brien and Odo are returning from a conference in a runabout when they’re approached by a changeling disguised as a space-based lifeform. The changeling then enters the runabout through the vent and adapts a human form. He refers to himself (and Odo) as a metamorph, and O’Brien as a monoform.

His name is Laas, and Odo believes he’s one of the hundred infant changelings who were sent out into the galaxy. He’s willing to be taken prisoner in Odo’s custody until his identity is verified. Odo vouches for him to Sisko—especially after Bashir examines him and confirms that he doesn’t have the disease the Founders have—and the captain is willing to release him as long as he remains Odo’s responsibility.

Odo fills Laas in on who his and Odo’s people are. Laas has been “alive” for two hundred years, and he has grown tired of monoforms. The Varalans who found him never accepted him completely. Laas even had a mate, but they broke up because they could not have children. (Laas reveals that after he sees a picture of Kira in Odo’s quarters.)

Laas and Odo link, a concept Laas was unfamiliar with, and it’s incredibly enlightening to him. Laas now truly understands what he is—he also understands what Odo himself won’t admit out loud: that he would return to the Great Link, Dominion War notwithstanding, if it weren’t for Kira.

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

At Kira’s request, Odo brings Laas to Quark’s to meet her, Dax, O’Brien, and Bashir. However, Laas spends the conversation dismissing sentient humanoids as interfering bastards who disrupt the natural order of things, saying that he prefers “primitive” lifeforms who function on instinct. Odo cuts the gathering short and takes Laas to task for insulting his friends, but Laas is unrepentant, convinced that Odo has done what Laas did centuries ago before getting fed up: deny his true nature to pretend to be humanoid. He wants Odo to leave the station with him and to go find the other 98 changelings.

Kira is concerned that Laas thinks that Odo is unhappy on DS9 with Kira and the others. Odo insists that it’s wishful thinking on Laas’s part and that he loves Kira. He tells Laas as much, but Odo would like Laas to stay for a while. He would like the company of another changeling, and Laas agrees, as long as he doesn’t have to socialize with the monoforms.

Later, Laas becomes fog on the Promenade (which O’Brien describes as “creepy”), prompting a couple of Klingons to start trouble. Laas is obnoxious right back at them, and one draws a d’k tahg. Laas forms a sword out of his hand, and one Klingon stabs Laas (ineffectively), and Laas kills the other one. The Klingons want to press charges and extradite Laas to the empire—Sisko says it’s up to the magistrate. Odo is pissed, feeling that Laas is being discriminated against because he’s a changeling. Quark then reminds him that humanoids have spent millions of years evolving a reasonable fear of that which is different, and that, combined with the ongoing hostilities against the Founders, means that Laas is being too provocative for anyone’s good.

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

Odo admits to Kira that, as much as he loves her, part of him wants to be out there with Laas existing as a changeling because that’s what he is. Kira then goes to Laas’s cell and provides him with an escape route and a place to wait where no one will find him until Odo meets with him. When Laas asks why, she says that she loves Odo.

Kira reports that Laas turned into plasma energy and forced his way through the force field. While Worf coordinates a search, Kira tells Odo the truth. She doesn’t want him to stay out of a sense of obligation, she wants him to be happy.

Odo goes to the rendezvous point—and tells Laas that he’s not going with him. He has only come to say goodbye. Laas thinks that this whole thing has proven that Odo belongs with Laas because even Kira knows it, but to Odo it just proves that with Kira he has something more valuable even than the Great Link.

To Kira’s surprise, Odo returns to the station—she expected never to see him again. To express his gratitude, he changes his shape into golden glowy light and surrounds Kira in what has to be the weirdest sex scene in television history…

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

The Sisko is of Bajor: Sisko has to keep reminding Odo that Laas actually killed someone, and generally is only giving Laas as many chances as he gets because Odo vouches for him. Odo is particularly unappreciative.

Don’t ask my opinion next time: Kira embodies the cliché that if you love someone, you set them free.

There is no honor in being pummeled: When Laas kills a Klingon, it’s Martok who objects—but since the actor playing him is already playing Laas, Worf gets to speak for Martok and do all the frowny Klingon stuff.

Preservation of mass and energy is for wimps: Odo is thrilled to meet another of the one hundred infants who were sent out like he was. He’s less thrilled when it turns out that he’s kind of a dick.

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

Victory is life: We’ve seen on several occasions that the Founders consider Odo’s return to the Great Link to be more important even than victory over the powers of the Alpha Quadrant. This episode reminds us that, despite everything, the feeling is very mutual. Odo’s desire to return home, confessed to Garak under torture in “The Die is Cast,” hasn’t dimmed with the advent of all-out war.

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

No sex, please, we’re Starfleet: Odo and O’Brien return from a conference, and Odo has two gifts for Kira, which guilts O’Brien into realizing he didn’t get anything for Keiko. He tries and fails to buy one of Odo’s gifts off him.

Keep your ears open: “Mine’s bigger.”

Laas’s response to a Klingon pulling a d’k tahg as he turns his hand into a sword.

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

Welcome aboard: Having already played the Saratoga captain in “Emissary,” the changeling impersonating Martok in “The Way of the Warrior” and “Apocalypse Rising,” Ritterhouse in “Far Beyond the Stars,” and the recurring role of Martok since “In Purgatory’s Shadow,” J.G. Hertzler adds another character to his resumé, playing Laas. He’s credited as “Garman Hertzler,” which is what the G in his usual credit stands for. (Hertzler started a rumor that Garman was his brother from New York.)

Trivial matters: The title of this episode comes from the daughter of Typhon and Echidna in Greek mythology, a creature with three heads, that of a lion, a dragon, and a goat.

It was established in “The Search, Part II” that the Founders sent one hundred infant changelings out into the galaxy to seek out new life and new civilizations (ahem), of which Odo was one. Laas is the second one.

It will be established in “When It Rains…” that Odo has the morphogenic virus that is affecting the Founders. This means that, when he links with Laas in this episode, he gave him the virus. This was never addressed onscreen, but it is addressed in the post-finale DS9 fiction, with Avatar Book 2 by S.D. Perry showing that Laas, like Odo, returned to the Great Link after the war ended, and Olympus Descending by David R. George III in Worlds of DS9 Volume 3 establishing that Laas was given the disease by Odo, but he was cured as Odo and the rest of the link was, as will be established in “Extreme Measures” and “What You Leave Behind.”

Walk with the Prophets: “This is just a form I borrowed.” One of the things that long-running shows can do when they reach a planned end is tie up loose ends and/or address stuff they never got around to addressing. This episode does the latter, in that we’ve known for several years now that Odo is one of many infant changelings who were sent out, but we haven’t seen any of the other 99.

It’s also a nice return to the fundamental issue of Odo as other. Since the mystery of where Odo came from was solved at the top of the third season, that element of the plotline has been inextricably tied with the simultaneous revelation that his people run the Dominion. The actual exploration of what it means to be a changeling amidst solids wasn’t really dealt with up until this point without the spectre of the Dominion warping and distorting it.

Still, the episode doesn’t quite come together as well as it should because—aside from Quark’s rather scattered (and mostly nonsensical) speech about genetic imperatives—nobody ever reminds Laas that the monoforms on Deep Space 9 have particular reason to suspect changelings because of what the Founders have done over the past few years. Indeed, the crew can’t be 100% sure that Laas isn’t a Founder trying to pull a fast one. This not being addressed is all the more frustrating by the fact that this episode suffers from a severe lack of a B-plot. Odo and Laas wind up having the same conversation over and over again, and by the time Laas is in his cell you’re just ready for the Klingons to extradite him already just to shut him up.

Still, J.G. (sorry, “Garman”) Hertzler does superb work as Laas, who sounds so calm and reasonable as he’s generalizing about how awful monoforms are. Laas is a very compelling character, even if he isn’t particularly likeable (he does actually kill a Klingon, and Odo’s self-defense argument is specious). And the episode in the end embraces the notion that species does not determine behavior: Odo and Laas are not the same, in the end, and Laas’s generalizations about monoforms are not fair or well-founded.

 

Warp factor rating: 7


Keith R.A. DeCandido is feelin’ groovy.

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