Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine



Air date: 4/19/1993
Written by Sam Rolfe
Directed by Winrich Kolbe

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

In what is perhaps the best episode since the pilot, a wanted man from the Gamma Quadrant named Croden (Cliff DeYoung) kills a Miradorn in self defense following a botched theft attempt. Odo throws Croden in a cell and prepares to release him to the authorities of his home world. "Vortex" is the first episode to deeply examine the unknowns of Odo's mysterious origins, and the result is a powerful character episode that successfully gets into the crux of the constable's loneliness and his quest for people like him.

Croden capitalizes on Odo's loneliness by telling him a number of "Changeling tales" that may or may not be part of his web of dissembling lies—hoping to take advantage of the constable's Achilles heel. Cliff DeYoung effectively forces our perception of the situation to remain in stagnant neutrality between Croden and Odo. DeYoung brings a sense of ineptitude to his character's criminal activities that makes his motives seem as sincere as they later turn out to be—but without totally winning our trust in the meantime. What also works, surprisingly enough, is an action subplot involving the dead Miradorn's vengeful twin brother Ah-Kel (Randy Oglesby) chasing after Croden and Odo's Runabout to kill his brother's murderer.

Most of this works because of the extremely high quality of the production. The special effects are outstanding, as Odo and Croden attempt to elude Ah-Kel by traveling through a dangerous, volatile vortex that looks really neat. The conclusion, which uncovers all the reasons behind Croden's lies and deceit—his need to retrieve his hidden daughter from a planet in the vortex—is a touching sentiment.

When all is said and done "Vortex" is an episode that works wonders on many levels. There are interesting suppositions about Odo's origin with engrossing character impacts, a good action plot, terrific production values, interesting performances, and affecting drama. Highly recommended.

Previous episode: The Nagus
Next episode: Battle Lines

Season Index

17 comments on this review

William - Tue, Jul 24, 2012 - 11:29pm (USA Central)
I'm not as enthusiastic as you on this one, but it was good. I did like the hints of what's to come in Odo's future.

But a lot of these guest stars and one-time characters in the first season just wash in my mind.
Van_Patten - Thu, Oct 11, 2012 - 10:10pm (USA Central)
Agree with William on this. I think you have gone a little too overboard on this one. God knows it's always desirable to see the excellent Rene Auberjonois in a starring role but I' m not sold on several of the guest performances.

Following a murder, the suspect, Croden is thrown in a cell and is revealed to be a wanted criminal. Odo must take him back, whilst evading the vengeful brother of the murder victim.

This is the first episode to tackle the issue of Odo's origins, and the narrative is fairly good at keeping is in suspense as to whether Croden (Cliff DeYoung) is merely lying to save his skin or is at least partially telling the truth. One wonders how much the writers of Early Season 3 looked at this episode before scripting it!

As always, Auberjonois is excellent, wrestling between his overriding conception of duty and finding out more about his origin. I think even my colleague Elliott would concede Odo's arc was strong throughout this series and this is strong character development. Whilst DeYoung is good, I was less impressed by Randy Oglesby as the Miradorn Ah -Kel, who gives a quite monodimensional performance.

That said, the diligence between Croden and Odo is good and the sets, as Jammer says look very impressive. A strong episode, although for me 3 stars only.
DG - Wed, Dec 12, 2012 - 5:56am (USA Central)
In my opinion, this episode starts out *awesome* and ends up... sappy.

tur1n - Fri, Feb 8, 2013 - 5:04am (USA Central)
I agree with Jammer on all points, except for the ending. Odo letting a criminal go - that seems out of character.

Minor nitpick: A tractor beam sure would've been handy when the Miradon chased after Odo.
grumpy_otter - Fri, Apr 12, 2013 - 7:42pm (USA Central)
I am surprised at how much you like this one. While exploring Odo's past was good, the villains in this one were boring.

Additionally, I have seen Cliff De Young do good work in other things, but he lacked charisma in this. Having to carry so much of the story, this failing made it tedious for me. I never felt empathy or pity for him--just annoyance--so much so that I was a little irritated at the end when he survived.

So that's three weak ones in row for me--but certainly not bad enough to quit. I still like most of the characters, though I wish there were a Worf-type character to root for. Someone big and brawny and all man/alien.

Still interesting!
Corey - Thu, Jul 25, 2013 - 5:11pm (USA Central)
@Tur1n: I'm not sure how you can call Odo's decision to release the man out-of-character. For one, Croden had the opportunity to escape when Odo fell unconscious when a rock hit his head (how can this even happen? Odo doesn't sleep (he turns to goo), nor does he have a brain in the human sense, I don't think a changeling can be made to go unconscious) - but instead risked his life and his child to rescue Odo. Also Croden explained (and his daughter confirmed) that Croden was basically wanted for self-defense, which Odo does believe in. So that, with Odo "owing him one", was enough to convince Odo to let him go.
azcats - Mon, Sep 9, 2013 - 2:06pm (USA Central)
I forgot how early Odo learns about changelings..

i enjoyed this episode...

i like the interaction between Rom and Quark.. Quark wants to be evil so badly..but he just cant do it.
Snitch - Mon, Oct 14, 2013 - 6:17pm (USA Central)
This is a great Odo episode, it worked well on that level, the little sister plot was a bit too cute but overall good suspense and entertainment. The irritable alien of the week got total cooperation from the Sisko, what was up with that?
Snitch - Mon, Oct 14, 2013 - 6:18pm (USA Central)
oh and 3 1/2 Stars from me
Kotas - Tue, Oct 22, 2013 - 1:54pm (USA Central)

A decent Odo episode. Nothing spectacular, but it has some nice character development.

Dusty - Thu, Feb 13, 2014 - 1:32am (USA Central)
One of the best of Season 1 with a really surprising ending. I was amazed to see Odo let a wanted man go, but after everything that happened between them it wasn't such a big stretch. Odo's sense of justice goes beyond simply apprehending criminals.
Yanks - Tue, Jun 24, 2014 - 8:45am (USA Central)
Aside from Odo now realizing that he may not be alone in the universe, this episode was pretty blah.

Nothing bad really (aside from the falling rock knocking Odo out).

We do learn that Odo isn't a completely by the book guy. It seems he does have a conscience. Which is a good thing. Justice can't be blind.

2.5 stars from me.
Elliott - Wed, Aug 13, 2014 - 2:37am (USA Central)
Teaser : **.5, 5%

We get a fairly routine Quark/Odo conversation which exposits the existence of the Miradorn as well as the topic of Odo's uniqueness and giving us a little hint about the Changlings. Very efficient. The teaser cut is a little weird as we are back to the generic ominous music on...Rom carting a tray of drinks. Okay...

Act 1 : ***, 17%

So Quark is doing some negotiating with a pair of twin Miradorn over some sort of Fabergé Egg. A goofball friend of Quark's comes in to hold the most awkward stick-em-up this side of “A Fistful of Datas”. A glass falls, revealing that Odo has assumed its form (best line of the episode is Quark's “Five glasses for four people?!”) and one of the twins is shot and killed.

Apparently the Miradorn are a lot like the Binars, in that the loss of one twin causes some sort of emotional crisis. Odo berates him and Sisko cuts it off, apparently trying to level some sort of balance. Point, commander. Odo demonstrates his penchant for deductive reasoning while Rom makes us wish Moogie had had an abortion (“How dare you suggest my brother set up this robbery?”). Cue facepalm.

Boy, Sisko is sure making a good run of first contacts isn't he? Tosk, the Kobliad, the Waddi, and now the Rakhari. Keep it up, big guy.

The episode has been functional but rather bland up until the last few moments before the commercial break where Croden reveals his knowledge of other Changelings (referring to them by that name no less). Odo's curiosity is naturally piqued.

Act 2 : ***, 17%

Odo and Dax head through the wormhole while Odo continues to pester Quark for more information. While at first, Odo just seems to be doing his job (as usual) just a little bit too well, his last lines to Quark about “other species in the Gamma Quadrant” cue us into his thinking here. He wants to verify Croden's story.

Meanwhile, the remaining Miradorn is causing trouble, restless in his pursuit of Croden to avenge his twin's death.

And we get some more of that signature lazy exposition: “You and I have a great deal in common, Changeling...we are both aliens here, the only ones of our kind. Each of us is alone, isolated, shut-out; others like us only exist in the Gamma Quadrant.” Gee, episode, thanks for doing my thinking for me! At any rate, we do at least get the backstory, clumsy though it is (Cliff deYoung's delivery actually helps quite a bit); the Changelings were persecuted by the solids and fled.

And Odo actually threatens to kill Croden for essentially being a slimeball. This is...um, bold. Odo has been portrayed as a kind of Pluto figure (or Batman for a more modern take), but here he is revealed to have a real passionate streak. He's dangerous actually, and that's intriguing.

Anyway, luckily for Odo (and the plot), Croden just happens to wear one piece of jewellery (which he was allowed ot retain in his cell for dramatic effect) which comes from the “colony of the Changelings” on his world. He offers it to Odo as a sign of, um, un-disassembling.

Act 3 : **.5 , 17%

Dax and Sisko make contact with the “exark” of Croden's planet who is pisses and moans and wants to hear nothing which contradicts his position that Croden be brought home for punishment (psst, I think Jammer calls these Hard Headed Aliens).

Bashir identifies Croden's trinket as a “distant cousin” of Odo's, prompting Odo to confront the prisoner again. Croden offers to take Odo to a hidden colony of Changelings hidden in some sort of Vortex. Well, wouldn't you know it, next thing, Sisko tells Odo to escort him back to his home. Alone. Well, how CONVENIENT. You're not even sending a gold shirt along? Okie dokie.

Act 4 : ***, 17%

There's a decent little bit a bantering in the cockpit (always a reliable setting for dialogue). Croden explains how he became a criminal; his was apparently a sort of Jean Valjean type—he killed only because his family was murdered in front of him by the state.

Meanwhile, the Miradorn twin confronts Quark, while Rom cowers in the corner. …. and if you pay attention, you realise that the Miradorn was physically assaulting Quark in plain view of the promenade with people milling about, apparently not giving a shit. Sucks to be you I guess.

Quark repeats his hacking trick and discovers the coordinates for Odo's destination, giving Quark a death-threat for good measure. There's a nice bit of internal conflict as Quark is seemingly at odds between wanting Odo not to submit to the Miradorn (getting himself killed and keeping Quark's and Rom's illicit plans from surfacing) and not wanting Odo to actually die.

So the Miradorn leaves and heads through the wormhole after Croden. Tractor beam, maybe? Oh well.

For some reason, the computer decides to explain the effect of weapons fire on the runabout rather than just letting Odo know that there is weapons fire. Heh... Odo hands over the controls to Croden who gets them through the Vortex (which looks suspiciously like the nebula from BoBW). He decides to land on the colony and apparently introduce Odo to his people. That's pretty exciting! How about a little god damned music to underscore that feeling episode?

Act 5 : **.5, 17%

Croden's lie is exposed and he reveals his “only reason for living”—his only remaining daughter, who is promptly awoken from stasis. In a welcome subtle bit, Odo watches Croden reunited with his kin, a dream he was foolish enough to hope for himself on this voyage.

Odo is knocked out by a rock and—what??? C'mon really? He doesn't have organs or a nervous system. How does a rock hitting him in the “head” knock him out? And this in an episode all about the origins of shape-shifters. Yeesh.

And we get a light techno-babble solution which allows the runabout to evade the pursuing Miradorn involving, of course, exploding nebular—eh, vortexual?--gas.

So Croden asks Odo to adopt his daughter, which is enough to convince Odo to let the two of them escape together on a passing Vulcan vessel.

The final shot with Odo chatting with his “cousin” is corny, but Auberjonois just manages to make it work with a subdued and defeated delivery.

Episode as Functionary : **.5, 10%

The Changeling backstory is neat stuff and Odo carries the episode well. The guest acting is all pretty lukewarm, but passable. The problem with this episode is it's very lean—there's just not really enough story to get us where we're going. Rather than giving us a real B plot or at least some sensuous scene painting, we get this bit with the Miradorn (which it seems is never really resolved). The whole story could have been written without this gratuitous chase scene at the end and I think it would have been better for them to land on the “colony” because of Odo's insistence and Croden's manipulations rather than because they were fleeing for their lives. Overall, the word is “passable.”

Final Score : *** (just barely)
Robert - Wed, Aug 13, 2014 - 8:35am (USA Central)
Nitpick time! The Kobliad are an Alpha Quadrant race that are already friendly with the Federation. Sisko did not make first contact with them.

"Odo is knocked out by a rock and—what??? C'mon really? He doesn't have organs or a nervous system. How does a rock hitting him in the “head” knock him out? And this in an episode all about the origins of shape-shifters. Yeesh."

LOL! I swear the episode loses half a star JUST for that, right?

Other than that I'm glad you liked this episode (for a S1 outing). It's one of the ones I like best from S1. Rene is excellent in it.
Black_Goat - Fri, Dec 19, 2014 - 10:30pm (USA Central)
Vortex: B+
This was a much stronger episode than the previous Odo-centric outing, and definitely one of my favorites so far. Rene Auberjonois is just so good that even the goofier aspects of this one aren’t particularly notable. It helps that Croden is one of the most compelling guest stars we’ve seen so far, and that nearly every interaction he has with Odo makes for an interesting dynamic. “Odo’s origins” hadn’t been something I was hyper-concerned with before this point despite a few past references, but this episode made me believe that the storyline is potentially pretty fascinating.

The Good:
- I like that the wormhole is getting a bit more play.
- Again, everything Odo. The straight-talking, humorless and gruff security chief must trade words with a man whose passion seems to be dissembling wordplay. I like how Auberjonois plays his restraint; you can tell there’s a part of Odo that would like nothing more than to follow Croden to the changeling enclave, but he never wavers in his duty. But his form of justice is tempered with honor and even a certain amount of benevolence, as we see from his later interactions with Croden and the girl (that smile!). While actually speaking to the crystal at the end was a bit of a stretch, I like the notion that it’s Odo’s cousin of sorts, and I hope it will make return appearances in future episodes dealing with Odo’s longing for a home.
- Speaking of that: I find it really interesting that Odo is both completely confident in his place on DS9 and extremely drawn to the notion of finding more changelings.
- Croden is an excellent character. Half of what he says is false and he manipulates Odo easily, but ends up being a sympathetic character possessed of basic decency despite all that. He’s morally grey and very ambiguous, and thus a type of character that the show has had luck with before (I’m thinking Garak and Kira’s old comrade from “Past Prologue”).

The Mixed:
- Quark and Odo were fine in this episode, (“I’m the man behind the bar!”) but I actually think Quark has been slightly overused now at the expense of some other characters. I mean, he was only significant in the early portion of this one, but the last two episodes were pretty Quark-centric and we haven’t seen much of anyone else recently. I do like how the show always stops short of making him completely amoral (notice that he doesn’t really embrace the idea of Ah-Kel killing Odo). Unlike Rom, who’s…kind of murder happy isn’t he? There’s something a little disturbing about that guy because he lacks both Quark’s cleverness and his humanity.

The Bad:
- The Miradorn are interesting in theory, but this wasn’t the right episode for them. Didn’t have time to flesh out the twins-concept, and so Ah-Kel becomes just another bad guy.
SamSimon - Wed, Jan 21, 2015 - 7:15am (USA Central)
I agree with Jammer on this review. I think that the episode is really solid. I like how DS9 can deal with violations of the prime directive (Odo clearly violated it, and it didn't bother him so much) in a more credible way than TNG.

Then, it may have been a more compelling episode without having Croden's people believing in a very strange idea of justice (killing your family to punish you!), and without having Croden so 100% innocent (although we only find out about that at the end of the episode). Nevertheless, I enjoyed the episode.

Also, they should certainly exile Quark, he appears to be at the centre of every single mess that happens on DS9, doesn't he? :--)
MsV - Wed, Feb 18, 2015 - 12:01am (USA Central)
SamSimon, I love your commentary, only one thing is incorrect, Odo doesn't have a prime directive, that is a Starfleet thing. I loved this episode.

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