Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

"Broken Link"

***

Air date: 6/17/1996
Teleplay by Robert Hewitt Wolfe & Ira Steven Behr
Story by George A. Brozak
Directed by Les Landau

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"Come now, Mr. Worf. You're a Klingon. Don't tell me you'd object to a little genocide in the name of self-defense." — Garak

Nutshell: A lot of this feels unfinished, like merely a promise of what's to come, but what was here was handled quite nicely.

It's interesting how well the season finales of both DS9 and Voyager can sum up their respective seasons. Voyager had a fairly pointless cliffhanger installment that highlighted a basically pointless and problematic season. DS9, on the other hand, offers a finale that, while frustrating in some of its cliffhanger-like respects, offers some potentially riveting background material. "Broken Link" is a worthwhile episode to end a very good season.

The episode opens as Odo begins to literally disintegrate for reasons Bashir cannot begin to fathom. Odo begins experiencing difficulty in holding his humanoid form—in one scene, he's trying to apprehend a criminal but collapses into a puddle of Changeling goo on the floor with practically no warning (the criminal gets away). Bashir realizes that Odo's molecular structure will not hold up for more than another week or two, and with no hope for a cure in sight, Odo has only one chance for survival: to ask the Founders for their assistance. The Defiant departs for the Gamma Quadrant to begin a search for the Founders' new homeworld.

That's right, the Dominion—again. As the season finale—again. It's okay with me, though. As little of the Dominion's actions we've really seen this season (considering "The Adversary's" notion that the Changelings were "everywhere") it's nice to see some potentially groundbreaking development back in the works for this storyline. Still, "potentially" is one of the key words here. What amounts from this episode could easily have major repercussions next season, but it could probably just as easily be put off until who-knows-when (like the "Adversary" plot); and what happens in the long run is not something I can really analyze now.

And that results in a bit of difficulty for dissecting this particular show at this particular time. How are we supposed to respond to what comes out of this? I guess, for now, I'll try to take everything at face value. I don't think I have much of a choice.

"Broken Link" isn't really a Dominion story so much as it is an Odo story, and, as one could probably expect for a primarily character-driven series, this is in the show's favor. Where "The Jem'Hadar" and "The Adversary" worked well as action-driven shows, "Broken Link" has a different agenda. It doesn't center around putting the away team or Defiant crew in life-threatening jeopardy like the earlier shows did; it takes a more subtle approach with less focus on violent confrontations and more focus on the smaller-scaled, more complex human qualities.

Once the Defiant is intercepted by Jem'Hadar fighters (who disable the ship's navigational recorders in order to keep the trip to the Founders' new homeworld a one-time occurrence), the female shapeshifter who has been watching over Odo in episodes past (Salome Jens) beams aboard and explains the situation to Odo. The episode turns out to be, in fact, a personal consequence of a confrontation from "The Adversary": Odo's unavoidable killing of a shapeshifter infiltrator to save the Defiant from imminent doom, which earned him the unpopular reputation of being the only Changeling to ever harm another of his own kind. Odo's self-disintegration is being caused by the Founders to force him to return home, where he must join with the Great Link, the Founders' intertwined mental network of mass knowledge, to be "judged" for his "murderous" action.

Two substantially impacting developments result from this show: One is the sentence for Odo's judgment, the other is a revelation connected to a side-story early in the episode concerning Gowron's urgent, attention-demanding threats of war. I'll get to those in a minute. First I want to describe what "Broken Link" offers besides these two surprising moments.

In terms of screen time, the show has a surprising amount of filler, especially for a season finale. But the padding scenes work nicely, even if a bit on the lightweight side, and all manage to have some sort of decent character point for Odo. He has a number of quiet but relevant discussions with other characters—Bashir, Kira, the female Changeling, Garak. The female shapeshifter in particular, in addition to being the episode's necessary bearer of information, manages to make the Founders understandable and not simply malevolent. She doesn't want Odo to suffer needlessly, but she does require that he answer for the death of the Changeling he killed.

One interesting note about the situation is how troubling even the other Founders find it. The female Changeling explains to Odo that there was widespread disagreement in the Link on how to deal with their rogue shapeshifter. Some wanted him executed, while others thought it best just to leave his destiny to that of whatever becomes the other "solids." The consensus finally decided to bring him to the Link, where his actual thoughts and beliefs can be read, and from which an appropriate judgment can be made that will appease everyone—or, at least, all the Founders.

Then there's Garak, who is amusing in his role to "take Odo's mind off his condition" by distracting him with a concoction of "innuendoes, half-truths, and bald-faced lies" about his still-mysterious past. This makes appropriate use of his character, and Odo's suspicious yet indecisive reactions to Garak's suppositions are fun.

Garak has another purpose here, however—one that isn't so lightweight. He wants to know whether the lives of any Cardassians who attacked the Founders (in "The Die is Cast") were spared and taken prisoner. The female Changeling's answer is disconcerting to say the least, and proves that the Founders are a group that one does not want to be in a true conflict with: "They're dead. You're dead. Cardassia is dead. Your people were doomed the moment they attacked us." Quite cold.

But for that matter, I doubt I'd want to be on Garak's bad side either. After the Changeling's icy response, Garak devises, in what could have easily sustained an entire story in itself, a seriously devious plan to wipe out all the shapeshifters by attempting to gain unauthorized access to the Defiant's weapons. Worf intervenes, however, in a fiery argument scene that had my undivided attention. Being a former Obsidian, Garak's logic makes sense—what do the lives of Odo, Sisko, the Defiant crew, and his own matter when considering a plan that may very well safeguard the entire Alpha Quadrant? Garak puts his thoughts as honestly as I've heard anything said in quite a while: "Don't tell me you'd object to a little genocide in the name of self-defense." Quite cold, part two. It's surprising the range his character has, and how credible he seems in both ends of the spectrum, from humorous to sinister.

One more quick ten-second filler bit: There's a rather unlikely moment of comic inspiration where Bashir, whose brain is obviously in idle mode, almost skips a stone off the Changeling lake. Fortunately, Sisko is there to stop him ("Doctor?!"). I was laughing hard on that one.

Padding scenes aside, what "Broken Link" really rides on are the two big moments the show drops on us. First is the Founders' sentence to make Odo human and officially banish him from the Great Link, something Odo obviously would've liked to rejoin had the Dominion not operated on views he opposes as an assimilated humanoid. I'm not sure exactly how I feel about this idea yet. I'm pretty sure I like it; doubtlessly, there's heaps of potential for character building and rediscovery, and it's one of the riskier things the writers have tried with a character on the series.

At the same time, I wonder if the creators are tossing aside all opportunities for completing Odo's journey as a shapeshifter trying to find his niche in a society that operates completely differently from another one he originated from but never understood. The show introduced the intriguing notion that being in the Link gave Odo understanding of his people and himself for the first time ever, and that this understanding was all snatched away as the Founders stuck him in a human body and disowned him (which in itself brings up some questions as to how powerful they truly are). Above all, I hope this isn't some sort of ploy that the writers are going to reverse on us next season. If they change Odo back into a shapeshifter, I'm going to seriously wonder what the point of this whole idea is. I suspect that they aren't going to do something silly like that, but I bring it up because there's always the possibility.

The episode's other surprise is that Gowron himself is a shapeshifter, much unbeknownst to the Federation and the Klingon Empire—something only Odo senses while connected to the Great Link. The show ends with Gowron snarling on the viewscreen, demanding the Federation turn old territory over to the Empire lest he declare war on them. In my opinion, this idea is fine—it plausibly explains Gowron's implausibly aggressive behavior, and it will allow something new to develop along the whole Klingon/Federation (and Dominion) front that's been stuck in a state of status quo since "Way of the Warrior."

"Broken Link" has some very good character implications and storyline promises, but it still isn't quite what it could have been. While turning Odo human and revealing that the leader of the Klingon Empire is a Changeling impostor are two ideas that probably don't really belong in the same episode in the first place, the episode's one underlying problem is that it is merely a promise of what's to come. Even though I can respect what the writers are probably planning to do, I wasn't completely satisfied with what came out of the episode. Most of what I've written here is in praise of what I think and hope will result from the events of the show. Standing alone, however, it's hard not to think "so?" after the screen fades to black, because the ending proves a bit more frustrating than it really should've been—even as a season finale. Considering how long it takes to get where it's going, I was hoping the conclusion would've been a little more revealing, especially along Odo's reactions to being human.

I suppose you can't have everything. I'm quite pleased with "Broken Link" and DS9's entire fourth season in general. As always, the potential for continuing with new, intriguing developments is present. The creators just need to seize the opportunity next season.

Previous episode: Body Parts
Next episode: Apocalypse Rising

End-of-season article: Fourth Season Recap

Season Index

29 comments on this review

Brian - Tue, Sep 18, 2007 - 1:56pm (USA Central)
I really do dislike the "Gowron, the head of the Klingon Empire" bit. Anyone there not sure who he is? Also I will always wonder why all shapeshifters take a human form similar to Odo when Odo is supposed to be the only one with the kind of limitation that makes him appear as he does.
Jakob M. Mokoru - Sat, Nov 10, 2007 - 5:36am (USA Central)
Maybe the founders are just trying to be NICE to Odo...
Dimitris Kiminas - Wed, May 27, 2009 - 12:12pm (USA Central)
Or maybe thay need some extra effort to take a perfect human form, an effort that's only worth taking when there's a special objective to be accomplished (like spying!)
Durandal_1707 - Thu, Oct 8, 2009 - 4:34am (USA Central)
However, if they're so powerful that they're actually able to turn other Changelings into actual humans, why don't they do that more often? If they wanted to replace someone like Gowron or that ambassador from the Season 3 finale, why not make the impostor real? Then, the Changeling would have no need to worry about blood tests, someone noticing him turn into liquid form to regenerate at night (after all, what if the replacee has a spouse?), someone noticing that he never eats, etc.
Derek - Tue, Oct 13, 2009 - 5:22am (USA Central)
"That's right, the Dominion--again. As the season finale--again."

Pretty funny in retrospect, considering they ended up 6 for 7 on that front.
Carl - Sun, Nov 8, 2009 - 7:12pm (USA Central)
This is another great review, Jammer. However, I object to your claim that some of the changelings wanted Odo executed. That was my first thought during that scene, but the female changeling never stated that it was the case, and given that 'no changeling had ever killed another' prior to Odo in 'The Adversery', I think it very likely was not. I am not forgetting the line 'perhaps we should have killed you - it would have been far less cruel' - the way that line is delivered suggests to me that execution was never considered an option.
Nic - Wed, Nov 25, 2009 - 8:13pm (USA Central)
Here's Ron Moore's explanation of why the other Changelings take Odo's shape:
"Odo modeled his look after Dr. Mora and the Founders then modeled their look after Odo. They did this initially as a compliment and way of reaching out to their long-lost Changeling, and later they kept doing it as a dig and reminder to him of his own limitations."

I agree Garak's story could have been an episode all in itself. However, while season 4 had many great stand-alone episodes (especially the first half of the season), I am a little disappointed at how little any of the story arcs were pushed forward beyond "The Way of the Warrior". It has always been just a hint of what is to come with no payoff, which makes the individual episodes somewhat unsatisfying. I have no problem with continuing stories, but as I have said before, each episode still has to be entertaining on its own terms, otherwise, it's always the feeling that "okay, that wasn't so good, but I'm sure it will be worth it in the long run". The other thing about making 'promises' of future episodes is that you come to expect a follow-up, and thus are never surprised.
Nic - Tue, Feb 2, 2010 - 10:07pm (USA Central)
I just thought of something: if the Founders have changed the location of their homeworld, then how will the rest of the hundred get home? It seemed clear in "The Search" that Odo was the first (or among the first) to return, and that the desire to return to the Omarion nebula was "implanted into their genetic make-up" (as proposterous as that is).

If this is explained in future episodes, then just forget I said that.
Larry,ongballs - Fri, Feb 12, 2010 - 1:46am (USA Central)
I always thought they used the Odo mold as a way of establishing their identity. They are not Klingons, Cardassians, Romulans or Humans. Therefore Odo's shape is the closest they have to their own physical identity.

On the other hand perhaps it is Odo who has taken the normal physical form of the changelings without knowing. For example if you were the only man you ever knew of who had blonde hair and blue eyes then you would assume that blonde hair and blue eyes are intrinsic to you and you alone. This is not to say that nop one else in the world has blonde hair and blue eyes. I just means that there are none that you know of.
Nic - Fri, Feb 19, 2010 - 11:38am (USA Central)
I just thought of something else. It's possible that it is very easy for a Changeling to 'copy' something that already exists, but a lot harder to create something new. That could explain how Founders could impersonate lifeforms, but cannot create a new one that is as "perfect". It would also explain how Odo is able to simulate the shape of a combadge.
bigpale - Mon, Feb 21, 2011 - 2:13pm (USA Central)
Nic, to answer your first question:

The hundred have a kind of homing beacon built into their DNA which draws them to the founders homeworld, where ever it may be. Odo went to the Omarian Nebula because that's where they were.

If they had been in the Beta Quadrent, he would have been drawn there.
Stubb - Mon, Jul 11, 2011 - 8:54am (USA Central)
I just want to second Jammer's comments on Garak, and Andrew Robinson in particular. I don't know whether it's Robinson's talent, Garak's character development, good writing, Cardassian complexities, or all of the above. But for me there is little doubt that Garak is the best developed, most mysterious, and most fascinating individual character in the whole series. Gul Dukat and Damarr are great too (Cardassians rock!), but they come behind Garak, probably because he lives among the Federation and is a former Obsidian Order operative.

When Garak stared down the Founder, I got chills. Why? Because I knew that no matter how powerful, determined, or devious she might be, Garak's indomitable treachery would somehow find a way. Sure enough, it almost did. And who can argue with his logic? Much as he deviously helped Sisko bring the Romulans into the Dominion war in "Pale Moonlight", here he is willing to cold-bloodedly sacrifice a few lives to protect the entire Alpha Quadrant. Watching this scene, I came to believe Worf might just regret his interference in the future...honor be damned.
Aaron B. - Wed, Aug 24, 2011 - 9:52pm (USA Central)
Garak may be my favorite TV character of any series. He's certainly in the top 5.

It always bugged me that people kept saying Odo was the only changeling ever to harm another, and neither Odo or anyone else tried to make the case that it was self-defense. After all, the changeling he killed was trying to sabotage the ship Odo was on, which could have gotten him killed along with everyone else. When they fought, it looked like he was trying to "harm" Odo to me. It always seemed to me that Odo got pegged with that status simply because he won and wasn't obeying the Link.
Krysek - Sun, Oct 23, 2011 - 9:25pm (USA Central)
I wish the founders would die but they've just ruined Odo's character. I knew it was coming after he killed one. I don't care about him acting human, trying to fit in. But it gave the writers more mushy soap opera material I guess.
The founders are evil hateful zealots. What do they do that's so important but lay around in a big cgi blob and wait for their spies? Unbelievablly boring so they manipulate people for fun, in the excuse they are protecting themselves. They are worse than solids.
And the Jan Hadar are just as bad but apparently can't even be nurtured out of their genetic "destiny" to be antagonistic bullies.
They should die too.
Jay - Thu, Mar 1, 2012 - 3:29pm (USA Central)
A few things. [1] That's a fairly decent medical bay the Defiant has...they must have built it since Bashir complained about the lack of such a facility on the Defiant when Sisko first arrived in it. [2] It is stated that Klingons rescinded their claim to Archanus 400 years ago, presumably to the Federation, who hold it now. But that would be 1972, long before the Federation existed. [3] It's rather presumptuous of Sisko to declare that he and Bashir are accompanying Odo and the Founder to the surface...who was to say the atmosphere would be breathable to them? And what a convenient island.
Jasper - Mon, Jun 18, 2012 - 5:23am (USA Central)
@Jay

[2] Is it such a stretch to say that the Klingons gave up the system before it ended up under Federation control? Perhaps they gave it up to some race that is now a part of the Federation...

[3]With the advanced technologies we have seen and see the Founders using (great feat of changing someone's race to mention just one thing) I don't really think changing the air to be breathable or creating an island aren't beyond their capabilities (heck, that island may even have been a changeling for that matter). Still, Sisko's request (demand?) was pretentious, though it was 100% in character and the founders have also shown to be accommodating in such matters, so their response isn't out of character either.
Ian - Mon, Jul 23, 2012 - 11:55pm (USA Central)
It is unfortunate that they never pursuded the relationship between Odo and that Bajoran woman they inted at.
Also, Garak was right and Worf wrong as it turned out. Sacrificing the crew to save the Alpha quarant was actually quite logical, if you pardon the expression.
It seemed that the "bad," guys had all the common sense in the show.
William - Tue, Oct 30, 2012 - 10:51pm (USA Central)
To Ian -- I'm sure the people of Betazed and some of the other Federation worlds would come to agree with you in a couple of years!

As for the ending, I loved it. It explains the behavior of the Klingons in Season 4 and leaves open so many possibilities for Season 5.
SuicidalZerg - Thu, Nov 1, 2012 - 8:29pm (USA Central)
Jay, as for the Klingons reliquishing Archanis, Kira's speech isn't exactly clear on that, but if you listen more closely, you'll hear that she says "I don't get it. The Klingons reliquished their claim to Archanis IV a hundred years ago.", not "Archanis 400 years ago"
Jay - Sun, Sep 1, 2013 - 12:54pm (USA Central)
@ SuicidalZerg

After reading your post I listened closely and you're right, that's what Kira seems to say...
Niall - Thu, Sep 12, 2013 - 4:19pm (USA Central)
Saw this today for the first time since the 90s. It's a good character show, it stands up. Odo's ability to change his mass and the Link's ability to turn him into a biological human are obviously basically magic though. Also, I thought Odo's promenade walk was unnecessary (and very stagy and inauthentic in execution) - why should he fight to retain his form at all, why not just revert to liquid until he can be treated? They could have carried him out in a bucket without anyone noticing. Also, as Aaron points out, had the changeling in The Adversary succeeded, it would have killed Odo, so there is that hypocrisy/inconsistency.

They may claim to care about his welfare, but the Founders really show how much disregard they have for Odo in this episode - they infect him with an illness to ensure he returns to the Link for judgment and punishment for his entirely justified actions in The Adversary, turn him into a human, and even instrumentalise him by deliberately implanting him with the false idea that Gowron is a changeling. How can you so desperately want to return home to people prepared to treat you like that?

Garak and the Female Changeling great as usual.
Kotas - Wed, Oct 23, 2013 - 6:38pm (USA Central)

Another solid season finale. Garak is a great character.

7/10
eastwest101 - Sun, Nov 10, 2013 - 12:00am (USA Central)
As I work my way through the series for the first time I find that I agree with Jammers review in this case - seems like the writers have taken some risks and hopefully it will pay off in the future.
Dusty - Sun, Feb 23, 2014 - 7:01am (USA Central)
Wow. Why couldn't THAT Bajoran woman have been a recurring character? I found her much more appealing than Leeta. :)

This one sucked me in from the very beginning. Odo's problem is well depicted and well acted. The early scene with Sisko, Kira, Dax and Worf is a thing of beauty, both funny and relevant to the events of the episode. Quark and Garak both show that they care, despite having their own motives. The 'female' Changeling is fascinating; like Odo, s/he only approximates a human form, and Sisko even refers to her as 'he' at one point. Garak once again shows that he can't be completely trusted; I was glad when Worf took him down.

The Dominion has a face and a voice, but is no less mysterious. Appropriately the show ends with a hard-hitting revelation about Gowron. Is Odo right? Is the Dominion using the Klingons as pawns against the Federation? We had to wait till Season 5 to find out. Excellent cliffhanger.
Vylora - Tue, Feb 25, 2014 - 6:03pm (USA Central)
Solid ending to easily one of the best and most consistent seasons of Star Trek. Review was spot on, Jammer.

Quick asides: I didn't like the promenade scene, either. Not for logistical reasons pertaining to the plot. They couldn't use the transporter and simply reverting back to liquid state would have worsened his condition. I understand that. It just seemed out of place that those people would all be everything short of standing at attention while gawking. It just seemed unnatural somehow and not well executed.

The Garak/Worf scene on the Defiant was fantastically written and very true to their characters. If Garak had succeeded in accessing the weapons and his targeting was off or they were attacked too quickly by itchy trigger-fingered Jem'Hadar; things could be very unfortunate in its potential comeuppance. Very huge risk. But I can fathom Garak taking it. Especially following the short yet frigid responses from the female shapeshifter in an earlier scene.

Having chosen Garak to keep Odo company was also inspired and would have liked to see more dialogue here.

Poor Kira with her pregnancy-induced sneezing issues was very amusingly done and a highlight of the lighter aspects of this episode. That and Garak trying to set up a date for Odo. One of the great aspects of this show is how well of an oiled-machine the ensemble is concerning both regular and semi-regular cast. The writing has its part, definitely, but the chemistry is just here.

I agree there's a bit of filler here that could have been exchanged for more of the main plot but it was good filler. The great stuff here, for me, pushes it to near classic status. Unfortunately the episode almost seems held back in a way overall. I can't really put my finger on it and maybe it's just me.

3 stars sounds right.
robbie - Fri, Mar 7, 2014 - 10:18pm (USA Central)
Jammer, I have to say, I have started watching DS9 after growing up with TNG and DS9. At first, the idea of a continuing show bugged me, but I am really enjoying it. I love that is it so easy to watch online now -- I first saw the show when I was 12 but only saw "The Emissary" and "Way of the Warrior" as they were on VHS!

But your reviews are always good to read after watching a new episode. Thanks for posting them all.
zzybaloobah - Fri, Aug 1, 2014 - 12:14am (USA Central)
I'm re-watching the whole series, and I REALLY LOVE THIS EPISODE -- much more so than I remember from earlier viewing.
I don't think of it as a cliffhanger with some character development and padding -- it's all character driven.
* Garak trying to set up Odo on a date (too bad that never went anywhere...)
* Quark's concern -- which he could only show via bluster -- was spot on and almost touching.
* Garak's barely hidden concern for Enabrain Tain
* Garak's sparring with Odo on the Defiant
* the interchange between changeling and Odo
* The scene between changeling and Garak was downright creepy and brilliantly acted by both. And if there was ever justification for pre-emptive genocide....
* the Garak - Worf scene. Now, if only Eddington were still security chief....
* changeling society's way of dealing with their rebel

4 stars. A new "Top 10" episode, maybe Top 5 (but won't beat out Duet or ITPM)
Yanks - Fri, Aug 1, 2014 - 9:09am (USA Central)
Well, this episode is a good one but not a great one.

Of course, Odo is center stage here which normally is good, but I'm not sure why he struggled to maintain his shape when it was so stressful. Damn, just pour yourself into a bucket and let Sisko & company find the Founders.

Quark's little "nod" to Odo was expected.

His walk down the promenade was pointless. I saw it coming when Bashir said that medical was ready but it'll take a little while to get Odo on board.

But.... Odo insisting he will be judged is a big feather in the cap for the character. I would have not expected anything less from Odo and probably would have just dismissed the character all together had he copped out of it somehow.

Very interesting the exchange between Garak and the lead Founder.

"FOUNDER: They're dead. You're dead, Cardassia is dead. Your people were doomed the moment they attacked us. I believe that answers your question." Damn, how’s that for a direct answer to someone who is never direct?

Then you can see the wheels turning in Garak's head...

"GARAK: It was a pleasure meeting you."

I just knew something was coming... and it's hard to argue with his reasoning here either. BUT... I'm sure the Founders had anticipated something like that...

But a note on the Founder's wanting the Cardassians dead.

#1. What about the Romulans?
#2. I don't believe the Jem'Hadar have attacked Cardassia, have they? I know they like to influence rather than act directly, but the Jem'Hadar are expendable and quickly replaceable, the Klingons have already taken a huge bite out of the Cardassians... seems they could finish them off pretty easily.

I don't think we can assume that if the changeling that Odo killed was successful - that meant as an absolute that Odo would have been killed. Remember Odo was spared when Tain & company attacked the Founder's home world. They seem to take into account contingencies like that.

I never thought that Odo's change to a solid was permanent.

It's interesting that the Founders used Odo to further their agenda, letting him believe Gowron was a changeling.

Another season ender that has Odo making a statement about the Founders. Ho-hum…

2.5 for me. Just average.

weiss - Tue, Aug 12, 2014 - 11:36pm (USA Central)
Realized the founder was lying or wrong on all accounts... tain was alibe, garak survived, and cardassia.

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