Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine



Air date: 2/21/1994
Written by Robert Hewitt Wolfe
Directed by Robert Sheerer

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

This episode is an amiable outing character-wise, but rather pedestrian and all too disconnected. Odo and Dax beam down to a planet only to find a small community of humanoids who are disappearing one by one. Surprisingly early in the story, it's revealed that the entire community—people and all—is an elaborate holographic simulation, and that people are vanishing because of the projector's malfunctions.

The premise makes for an obvious definition-of-life analysis (since these holograms are all sentient)—which, fortunately isn't stressed in the slightest. Instead, the writers choose to develop a surprisingly affecting friendship between Odo and the young girl, Taya (Noley Thornton). Watching the softer side of Odo emerge is pleasant, and a final scene where Odo morphs himself into a top is, well, quite cute.

The plot, however, is more or less perfunctory. Will Odo and Dax repair the projector and save the village? Are there stars in the sky? Also present is a somewhat unfinished B-story involving a romance between Kira and Bareil. And then there's the C-story involving Jake coming to terms with telling his father that he doesn't want to join Starfleet like the old man. These character moments are pretty much all effective. But there's probably one storyline too many, and the episode is so unfocused—endlessly switching back and forth between the three stories—that it gets hard to become particularly engrossed in any of them. "Shadowplay" is light and slight.

Previous episode: Paradise
Next episode: Playing God

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15 comments on this review

The Dream - Tue, Feb 26, 2013 - 11:13am (USA Central)
No Comments? I will add the first one. I have seen this show many times due to my large number of 8 hour VHS tapes that I would play while I slept recovering from the night shift.

Anyway, great analysis. An obvious goof pointed out elsewhere on the web is the fact that Colyus says that he scanned for transporter activity and then was surprised that Odo used the transporter.

The also was another episode to drop hints about the Dominion. I thought they did a great job of gradually bringing this menace to the fore. It was nice to see Jake follow a different path, but I guess that this did not warrant its own episode or further exploration, but nicely handled by Sisko.
kavatar - Wed, Apr 24, 2013 - 9:13am (USA Central)
I agree with the above and the rating.

In retrospect this episode is quite disappointing. I mean it's fine and all but there was a lot of missed potential. Jake/Sisko, Odo/Changelings/Dominion and to a lesser extent Kira/Bareil were all major plot arcs which have a lot of ground work here. Unfortunately, it's all sort of flung together without making much impact.
Kotas - Tue, Oct 22, 2013 - 4:45pm (USA Central)

Not a compelling episode. Odo and Dax don't have much chemistry.

Corey - Thu, Feb 27, 2014 - 7:25pm (USA Central)
The FX shot that opens Shadowplay is the FX shot that opens Paradise in reverse. They just flipped the shot to save money.
Moonie - Mon, Apr 7, 2014 - 10:13am (USA Central)
Hmmm I would give this at least 3 stars. I always like episodes that deal with "what is the nature of life?" questions.

Also, it was an Odo-centric episode!! He's by far my favorite charctr, maybe in all of Star Trek.

I don't understand why this gets a worse rating than the terrible "Paradise".
Yanks - Wed, Jul 2, 2014 - 7:59am (USA Central)
I'm always a sucker for this episode. I guess I'm a pushover for cute little girls.

The "B&C" stories were OK. Of course someone has to mind the shop while Odo is gone, and of course Quark has to see if he can take advantage. So we get to see the kindling Kira/Bareil relationship. We also start to learn that Jake probably wont fall in his father footsteps and join Star Fleet.

A note about the holographic community. I believe this is the only instance in trek where "omicron particles" are used to generate the holograms. Not sure if I agree with this technobabble creation and don't really see the need to recreate the principles of holographic projection. It had no bearing on the story.

I loved how Odo and Dax met the town’s “protector” Colyus.
“ODO: Are we being accused of some kind of crime?
COLYUS: Have you committed one?”
Then of course Odo beams out, Dax says he’ll be right back etc. 

This set the appropriate tone for the story I thought.

But the whole episode for me revolves around this little girl Taya played very nicely by Nola Thornton and her developing relationship with Odo.

We see a side of Odo we haven't seen yet which was enjoyable and the dialog between these two is written and delivered incredibly well.

I don't mind that "rights" weren't dragged into this episode. It really had nothing to do with it anyways. The important part is haw Odo and Dax convince Rurigan that his feelings are real for these folks and their feeling count too. I thought it was very interesting creatively brilliant that the programming for these holograms was written in such a manner that they could have children if they chose to. Couple things caught my attention here. Holograms having children is one thing, but only if they chose to, not programed to, was very telling of the programmer intent from the start. He wasn't just creating window-dressing to make him feel better, he was creating a family(s). All this contributed to the episode and the premise of what he was trying to replace after the Dominion conquered his world. I also liked that Rurigan didn’t run the town, from what we saw the protector did.

Also, Odo's turning into a top at the end for Taya wasn't "cute", it was touching.

Very well done.

3.5 of 4 stars for me.
Jack - Thu, Aug 28, 2014 - 1:53pm (USA Central)
So this holographic system simulates illness (assuming they have any), pregnancy and childbirth, including presumably all the er, messiness, that goes with it...very thorough.

Dusty - Thu, Nov 6, 2014 - 8:50am (USA Central)
One of the best episodes of DS9 I've seen so far, and--at least here--shockingly underrated. Almost everything in it works. Odo and Dax are an interesting combination that I quite enjoyed. I love the design of the village, right down to the holo-villagers' clothes. Unlike some settlements in the series, it looks like a place where I would actually like to live.

And more importantly, THREE plot arcs are advanced, all of which will have repercussions in some way later on. "Light and slight," my foot. We have Odo's friendship with the girl, which touched me and is easily one of the best performances by a child actress in Trek. We have Jake changing his mind about going into Starfleet. And finally we have Kira and Bareil falling for each other.

Disjointed? Maybe, but well done on all counts (and I don't even like Bareil). Not every episode has to be dark and complicated. I agree with Yanks: 3 and a half stars for this one.
Dimpy - Mon, Feb 2, 2015 - 3:55am (USA Central)
I thought this ep was cute:

She goes from having an imaginary friend, to being an imaginary friend.

Typecast ???
MsV - Mon, Apr 27, 2015 - 10:01pm (USA Central)
Now that Im back on track with my viewing from the beginnning to the end. Shows like this one are very cute, just like the previous posts suggest. I loved Odo in this one; I never knew he had such sensitivity for others. He always seemed to be so hard-nosed. The type of security officer that is always suspect of everyone. Almost expecting the worst like in "Dax".

I like this version of Jadzia much better than the pretty science officer that does nothing for the part. She is brilliant and her portrayal of Dax gets better as the series goes on.

Good Story!!
SamSimon - Sun, May 10, 2015 - 12:51pm (USA Central)
Agree 100% with your analysis, Jammer. I enjoy this episode, although I clearly see its flaws and its "mildness" (not to be read negatively: it's simply a very light episode).
Quarky - Wed, Jun 10, 2015 - 9:35pm (USA Central)
I want to talk about holograms in Star Trek and if some of them are alive. Most of the time holograms in Star Trek are explained to be just that with no life at all. Yet in season 2 of Next Gen it is explained that professor moriarty does reach a level of life and self awareness. I was surprised in this episode how quick Dax who is supposedly a science officer and Odo come to the conclusion that this village is full of holographic people who are alive and worth saving. I haven't seen much Voyager so I'm not sure if the holographic doctor is ever described as becoming a real person. One thing that makes me think that "some" holograms do become alive is the silly DS9 episode The Emperors Cloak where Vic is found to be alive in an alternate universe. It makes me think that even though not all holographic characters reach the point of life some do. I could see that maybe in one of the many parallel universes there would be a Sisko hologram that is alive. It's all a silly conversation but I feel that with the Vic, Moriarty and these people in this village the writers are saying that some holograms are alive.
Dimpy - Fri, Jun 19, 2015 - 9:43am (USA Central)
According to Captain Picard, in order to be alive “brain wise” you have to have these elements to be considered a life-form: Intelligence, Self Aware and Consciousness:

Therefore as applied to holograms:

Arguments for being alive as a hologram.


- How much computer memory is devoted to storing memories and raw data.

Self Awareness

has to be aware they are a hologram.
has to be aware they were created as a hologram.
programmed with personal memories.
self determination, allowed to make choices from complex situations, not just simply programming.


Awareness of inner self ( which nobody seems to define this precisely )
Dreams, Ambitions, Emotions, Goals
( not simply survival )


Arguments against being alive as a hologram.


versus a delete button for data and memory.

Self Awareness

its easy to manipulate their programming.

easy to install fake memories, or manipulate an entire day.

most holograms are choosing from a holograph reality, therefore cannot interact with the wider universe.


Is dreams, goals, emotions, friendships just a simulation or real.

This part is extremely difficult to understand and too long a conversation.

Final Verdict:

The more complex the program, the more “alive” the hologram.


If you, as a person, feel something like love or friendship, then the hologram is alive because of your feeling toward it.

“Are you the dreamer or a part of someone’s dream.”
Dimpy - Fri, Jun 19, 2015 - 9:47am (USA Central)
Forgot to add:

A stuffed toy is NOT REAL, and NOT ALIVE, however to a child ( and some adults ), if you have love towards a stuffed toy, it is real and alive, because your feelings make-it-so.

Android, Borg, Hologram, Q and sex-bot (wink) = ALIVE
People on internet / stuffed animals = also ALIVE ??? I don't know.
methane - Fri, Jul 10, 2015 - 12:01pm (USA Central)
I agree they never really proved the holograms are alive, but I don't think it mattered greatly. If they aren't alive and Dax restarts the machine, no harm done. If they are alive and Dax restarts the machine, they've saved everyone's lives. So there's no reason not to do it.

This is an episode that plays much better on DVD or Netflix than it did on commercial TV. All those breaks on commercial TV have sort of false cliffhangers, where it seems like the story is overplaying the concern you should have for the characters. Watching it with no commercial breaks, however, it plays like a light, pleasant story. There's no real tension through the story, but it keeps you entertained for the full 45 minutes.

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