Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

"Chimera"

****

Air date: 2/15/1999
Written by Rene Echevarria
Directed by Steve Posey

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"What's he doing?"
"Being fog. What's it look like?"

— Bashir and Odo on Laas' shapeshifting on the promenade

Nutshell: A tour de force of heartfelt choices and matters of identity.

Ah, how wonderful, complex, and deeply involving Rene Echevarria's stories can be, all the while being so extremely straightforward and honest in plot. Even though his episodes earlier this season ("Afterimage," "Chrysalis," "Covenant") haven't quite clicked for me, I almost always appreciate what Echevarria tries to do on a character level. He also seems to have been the force behind the most substantive of the Odo/Kira stories, including fifth season's "Children of Time"—one of the series' best installments—and last season's "Behind the Lines," a compelling view lessened only by what came after it.

Now we have "Chimera," a textured, gripping story full of issues and choices and relationships and feelings; it's incredible material, yet in an understated sort of way. It doesn't resort to gimmicks; it simply faces up to its characters' histories, decisions, and identities from the first scene to the last. It's a character episode that will reward those who have watched the series and come to understand Odo's angst. It also charts some new territory, even though the primary conflict is something Odo has faced before.

I didn't loathe "His Way" from last season the way a lot of people did, but I didn't really like it, either. While I found it entertaining, it seemed too superficial and trivial given the complexity of the Odo/Kira relationship, and I feared that certain story opportunities were never going to be available again. Sure, there was the opportunity to create new problems within the new relationship, but the question was whether that would actually happen, or if we'd simply get contrived soapish stuff like what, unfortunately, characterized stretches of the Worf/Dax relationship. "Chimera" answers the question, and I very much like the answer.

Romance on Trek has a shaky track record. Too frequently we receive the single-episode pair-up-with-random-guest treatment, which more often than not feels forced for the sake of fulfilling some quota ("Second Sight," "Meridian," or this season's "Chrysalis" as DS9 examples; "Unforgettable" or even the recent "Gravity" as Voyager examples). Sometimes it comes across reasonably, but rarely does it really, really work.

In "Chimera," it really, really works. For once I could feel the connection between Odo and Kira in a way that no episode before has been able to approach. A big part of that is simply because Echevarria treats the characters intelligently, with dialog that makes a great amount sense. The rest of the credit goes to performance: Nana Visitor and Rene Auberjonois sell the material so well that the Odo/Kira scenes reach a poignancy that's never been matched by two lovers on any Star Trek story I can remember.

Frankly, I didn't expect that. Odo/Kira has been an interesting relationship, and even after "His Way" it has been watchable. But I've never really been moved by their romantic scenes the way I was here. The writing usually keeps their relationship as a backdrop to an issue of plot. Here it was integral to the plot in an extremely urgent, powerful, and affecting way.

Yet this story is only partially about love; it's equally, if not more so, about identity. Namely, Odo's identity, which has always been in a state of self-doubt. Since his relationship with Kira became more intimate, he has found happy times—"the happiest of [his] life," in fact. He believes he has found where he belongs—with humanoids and, more specifically, with Kira. But In "Chimera," Odo's self-doubt is brought back to the forefront with the appearance of Laas, a shapeshifter who was one of "the hundred" like Odo—sent away from the Great Link centuries ago to make contact with other life in the galaxy—and not part of the Founders' more recent, insidious agenda to control everything in their reach.

Laas is an intriguing individual—one of the most interesting guest characters in recent memory, simply because he's allowed to exist as a believable entity whose actions and dialog grow out of the character, rather than some need to fulfill a plot element. The plot of "Chimera" grows out of characters, and that's perhaps why it's so simple and so effective.

Of course, it also helps that Laas is exceptionally well performed. Laas is played by Garman Hertzler, a.k.a. J.G. Hertzler, who is so convincing as Laas that I didn't even realize Garman and J.G. were one and the same until after I'd seen the entire show. Hertzler displays quite an acting range between Laas and Martok (who doesn't appear in "Chimera"); with that gruff voice, Hertzler often chews the scenery as Martok, and here that voice is so different and controlled that it rarely can be distinguished as the same.

But even more important is Echevarria's idea of who Laas is. Like Odo, Laas has been in search of other shapeshifters, though he doesn't know about his people in the Gamma Quadrant and the Great Link. Unlike Odo, his tolerance for humanoids has surpassed the breaking point. You see, Laas became sentient long before Odo had, and lived a longer life among humanoids before abandoning it. In that time he established plenty of opinions—opinions that he isn't afraid to voice to Odo and Odo's friends.

Laas' opinions are interesting because they challenge basic humanoid existence in a pointed, unexpected way. In one scene, where Laas meets Odo's friends, he unleashes a calm, quiet, but unmistakably unhappy monolog on why he dislikes humanoids: They expand and consume, displacing other life forms from their natural habitats, and covering worlds with farms, cities, and automation. They refuse to exist as they naturally are, instead striving for artificial advances. And they aren't tolerant of non-humanoids.

Even more: Laas tells Odo that his ability to fit in with humanoids is a denial of his true existence. With a sentiment that could send any reasonable person into an identity crisis, Laas informs Odo that he has been assimilated by humanoids to the point that he knows nothing more. And Odo isn't sure; maybe Laas is right. Odo has been so enraptured in his relationship with Kira that he hasn't thought about being a Changeling in some time.

What's fascinating about these arguments is that the story looks at them from different perspectives. Through the other regular characters we see doubt and disagreement with Laas, but through Odo we see understanding. The weight of Laas' point of view and his understandable distrust for humanoids might have been lessened if the story had supplemented his opinions with unnecessary "evil intentions" or other silly plot devices. But it doesn't do that; it delivers the dialog and points of view and puts Odo right in the middle. Then it puts Laas in the center of a situation where we can see injustice toward a shapeshifter unfolding.

That situation involves two Klingons attacking Laas, essentially because he annoyed them. They insult him and label him a "Founder." By the time the brief skirmish is over, one of the Klingons has died at Laas' hand. (Minor complaint #1: I didn't care for the portrayals of the Klingon officers, who are badly performed and written as needlessly stupid and hostile.)

What happens next is exactly what we expect. The Klingons want someone to answer for the death of one of their officers, and they plan to do anything they can to bring this Changeling to "justice." The distrust is more than obvious. Laas has been singled out by the Klingons because of what he is more than because of what he has done. It's also interesting that Laas' own attitudes don't help matters, but therein lies the problem—Laas has his prejudices, but so does everyone else.

Demonstrating this issue are a number of excellent performances from the supporting characters. Even before the death of the Klingon, Colm Meaney brings a subtle distrust to his scenes in a way that is so perfectly "O'Brien"—with subtle sarcasm that isn't anything approaching hatred, but definitely reveals a distrust for Laas that is partially based upon a prejudice. It's telling in an understated way, because it proves there's some truth behind what Laas believes (even if Laas is unwilling to work to make the situation better), yet the point is made in a way that doesn't place blame or make indictments, but simply reveals a sad fact.

And Sisko's pragmatic skepticism, and later annoyance—which comes when Odo voices one too many opinions about the way shapeshifters have suddenly and covertly become targets of injustice—is a notion that is realistic, and perfectly conveyed by Avery Brooks. Odo goes just a little too far in his insinuations, and Sisko lets him know. It's a bad situation all around, but it has to be dealt with, and Sisko handles it the best he can. Meanwhile, Michael Dorn and the director, Steve Posey, make an interesting statement with the casual reactions of Worf; as Odo describes the events leading up to the Klingon's death (including the absurdity of the two Klingons being "menaced by fog"), Worf is quietly disappointed with how the Klingons handled the situation, and the ridiculous overreaction of their government. The number of levels that this works on is fascinating.

Then, of course, there's Quark, who manages to get in a pointed speech that's at least as challenging as his speech about the human capacity for violence in "The Siege of AR-558." This time he informs Odo that the humanoid fear of Changelings and other differences stems from natural, genetic self-preservation. I've heard this argument before, in real life, and I've never bought it as a defense for prejudice, because prejudice is learned. But I appreciated Quark's blunt honesty, and that he doesn't excuse what the Klingons did, but merely explains why it happened.

Issues of war also arise; the fact that the Alpha Quadrant is at war with Odo and Laas' people is one of the driving forces of tension, meaning that unjust consequences are all but guaranteed in Laas' future. The tension is understandable given the deceptive abilities of Changelings, but there's a point where the line must be drawn, otherwise any shapeshifter would be subject to the kind of persecution and internment that, say, Japanese-Americans found themselves victim of during World War II. In short, Quark's assertion that "this is no time for a Changeling pride demonstration on the promenade" is both practical and realistic. It's just unfortunate that such a situation has to exist in the first place.

The fact this story can work in so many implicit issues without turning preachy or melodramatic and sticking solely with the truth of the characters is, well, pretty amazing.

And all through this, Odo is torn between love and identity in a way that is excruciatingly vivid. Who is Odo, really? Is he just pretending to be a humanoid? How does he cope with not knowing where he belongs? Does Kira's love go beyond the bounds of Odo's familiar humanoid form? I would say the answer to the last question is yes, but I would also say that a great deal of how others perceive us is based partially on the expectations of our physical existence. What happens when that existence could be anything? Odo has struggled with such questions his entire life, and Laas serves to remind him of where he could go—to exist with others like him in a link separate from the Great Link. (And I have a feeling this isn't the last time Odo will face having to make this choice.)

Odo isn't the only person torn. So is Kira when she realizes Odo's search for himself might require leaving her behind. She realizes Odo must be permitted to find his path—his right path—and makes a particularly difficult decision when releasing Laas from his holding cell so he can escape the station. (Minor complaint #2: I'm skeptical that Kira could so easily release Laas from confinement, leaving no evidence of her intervention and no suspicions from Sisko.) She can't bear to see Odo stuck where he doesn't belong, and she loves him enough to let him choose his path, even if that means joining Laas and abandoning his life as a humanoid.

"Love conquers all," as Laas puts it, may seem like a trite statement, but here it shows a huge difference between Laas' philosophy and Odo's. Laas faces humanoids with a cynicism that's understandable. And one could argue that Odo faces humanoids with a naivete that's equally understandable simply because his interactions haven't yet become jaded over a long period of time. Or perhaps it's simply that Odo got the luckier draw compared to Laas, whose experience with humanoids simply didn't work. (It's a telling sign that Laas once had a humanoid lover, but that the relationship fell apart.) Echevarria approaches each situation with great insight; even scenes that could've been cliche are instead full of probing dialog and ideas. (Interesting perspectives like Laas' belief that humanoids are tragically trapped in their static forms make all the difference.)

"Chimera" is a great story—the season's best so far. It's an intelligent and emotional outing, solidifying the Odo/Kira relationship in a way that, in its final scene, is exceptionally moving because it vies to capture our imaginations and emotions and senses all at once.

So many tantalizing questions, so many honest answers. This is why I watch Star Trek. At its best, like with "Chimera," it transcends plot and ends up meaning something. This episode looks at uncertainty in the universe and finds out what it means to the people involved. In the process, we discover their feelings and reflect upon them, hopefully while reflecting upon our own.

Next week: Mobsters take over Vic's lounge—badda-bing, badda-bang.

Previous episode: Field of Fire
Next episode: Badda-Bing, Badda-Bang

Season Index

49 comments on this review

Meg - Tue, Sep 11, 2007 - 9:08pm (USA Central)
This is my all time favorite episode of Star Trek. I'm glad you like it too. I love reading your reviews. You are so fair.
Jakob M. Mokoru - Sun, Nov 25, 2007 - 4:01am (USA Central)
Well, I wouldn't go as far as calling this episode the "all time favourite of Star Trek", but it undoubtetly is a great one!

Jeff - Tue, May 6, 2008 - 7:36pm (USA Central)
Great episode, great review! Question: did Odo infect Laas with the Changeling disease?
Anthony2816 - Thu, May 22, 2008 - 5:10pm (USA Central)
Jeff, I don't think so, because presumably Odo doesn't have the disease. I was more worried, despite the medical screening, that Laas was sent by the Founders to infect Odo.
Joseph Coatar - Sun, Sep 21, 2008 - 8:29pm (USA Central)
Odo does have the disease in this episode, section 31 infected him with it when Odo was on earth during the two-part episode 'Homefront/Paradise Lost', Odo gave the disease to the rest of the founders in 'Broken Link'. This is the best written episode of the Star Trek franchise, and could have easily have been a two-parter, espically if the generic klingon Lass killed turned out to be Worf's son
R.D. - Thu, Nov 13, 2008 - 1:54pm (USA Central)
I like how you mentioned how this episode managed to avoid "action" cliches and stay true to the characters. If this had been an episode of VOYAGER, for example, Laas would have turned Evil and there would have been a phaser fight through the corridors as the crew tried to prevent him from taking over the ship of "disgusting humanoids."
Straha - Sun, Dec 21, 2008 - 4:22pm (USA Central)
I have to admit that I was bored to tears by this episode. Hasn't the "Odo-in-self-doubt has to consider whether to rejoin his people or stay with the humanoids" premise grown rather stale by now? While the review convinced me that the episode is not a total loser (it has its merits regarding the Odo/Kira-relationship, and yes, it's ok that Laas does not turn out to have "evil intentions") I still cannot find it gripping. Don't get me wrong. I like character shows. But I would chose Vic's lounge over "Chimera" anytime.
EP - Thu, Mar 12, 2009 - 3:43am (USA Central)
This episode, for me, shows where Odo's loyalties truly lie. This is the same guy whose soul is tortured by his one botched investigation during the Occupation, but he, Mr. Constable and Objective Law-Man, conveniently ignores the death of the Klingon (which was probably manslaughter) to assuage his own guilt over convincing Laas to remain on the station for his own selfish feelings of loneliness. All of a sudden, he rejects any notion of impartiality on the part of the magistrate out of hand, as if there was no notion of law in the Federation. He then aids and abets in the fugitive's escape, and ignores Kira's actions in the matter as well. That Sisko can't put two-and-two together and figure out that Laas' escape was intentional just makes him needlessly stupid and inept too. This is the same guy that beat Michael Eddington at his own game and wiped out a garrison of Jem'Hadar at AR-558.
Don't get me wrong, I appreciated the themes presented, but I thought the matter of Odo's allegiance was dealt with better when he was merging with the Founder Leader.
Bligo - Sat, Jun 20, 2009 - 3:09am (USA Central)
I agree EP.

Laas simply absorbed the klingon knife,there was no need to kill something in 'selfdefence' if the attacker cant harm the defender.

Odo making a excuse that the klingon reached for his disruptor is a blunt lie and he stated more then once that he cant lie at all.

All that aside its on of the best episodes the last two season,but that says more about the other episodes then this one.
Jay - Sat, Aug 15, 2009 - 6:16pm (USA Central)
The drawn out way that O"Brien says "Laaaas" after he hears that the fog is Laas makes me laugh out loud every time.
Kim - Thu, Oct 15, 2009 - 8:00am (USA Central)
Just dropped by and totaly nodded review.
I've thought about 'the difference' and some kind of 'humanoid fantasy'(or, it can be : federalization in Trek) during watching. And I've always been moved by Kira's choice, her tryng of acception. I want to believe that is our human being's hope. While I don't agree "Love conquers all" personally haha.
Yes, this is one of my best episodes through whole DS9, even whole Trek.
Destructor - Sun, Jan 10, 2010 - 5:49pm (USA Central)
When I saw this on the first run I was unimpressed (being a teenager more interested in the war and space battles). Seeing it again last night bought tears to my eyes, TWICE. First when Kira said: "I'm sorry I can't link with you." So honest, so sad. And then of course the final scene where he becomes his true self and this taciturn, gruff guy turns into something so beautiful- which of course we all knew he was, deep down. Even thinking of it now makes me well up. Four stars indeed!
gion - Sat, Apr 3, 2010 - 9:48pm (USA Central)
Maybe my favourite moment of the episode perhaps was Quark's insight. He's done it before, think of his root beer anology for the Federation, and he always nails it. He's at his best when provides a sober, maybe even cynical, perspective. In a way he exemplifies the difference between DS9 and Star Trek series.
Marco P. - Thu, Aug 26, 2010 - 2:56am (USA Central)
Good episode, great character development, awesome final scene.
Mr. Plow - Wed, Sep 22, 2010 - 7:47am (USA Central)
Odo meets another changeling, and he's a real dick (not literally). Would've enjoyed this ep better if Laas wasn't such an unrepentant a-hole. Did enjoy his fog impression and his T-1000 takedown of the Klingon.
Nic - Wed, Nov 17, 2010 - 9:39pm (USA Central)
WOW.

This episode made me think about what love truly is. The Changelings can't understand love because they are linked most of the time. Imagine being physically and telepathically connected to every other living being on your planet for most of your life? You can't love one person under those circumstances. Love requires mystery, desire, longing. Things you can't feel if you're connected to someone all the time. In a way, despite all the disadvantages of being a humanoid, that 'weakness' allows us to feel closer to one person than any Changeling could.
Elliott - Thu, Jan 13, 2011 - 11:13am (USA Central)
Potentially one of the best episodes of DS9 I've ever seen. Well done all around. Interestingly, Sisko, Quark, the Klingons and O'Brien all have to act out of character for it to work. I don't really care that much because the episode isn't about them, but think about that next time you're tempted to VOYAGER bash.
Neil - Thu, Feb 3, 2011 - 12:33am (USA Central)
This episode was a bit annoying because Laas was such an a-hole, but it did raise a neat idea about love, as Nic points out: Changelings could never feel love as we do, despite claiming it was a pale imitation of the great link. Changelings can not, apparently, choose to link just between two of them and exclude the rest of the population.

So a key part of humanoid love is the idea that it's an intimate connection between just two people and it's like a secret you have that you don't have to share with anyone else.

Unfortunately the episode was almost ruined by the one line of dialog where Odo and Laas agree about the difficulty of emulating humanoid faces. It reminded me of the glaring inconsistency they created when they had changelings take over the positions of Bashir, Admiral Ross, and Martok. These clones were perfect in every respect yet they still persist with the idea that changelings can't 'do' human skin in detail.

How does this sort of thing get through everyone and end up as part of the script? Did I miss a bit of technobabble somewhere that explained this?

I think they could have explained it by saying the replacements *were* actual clones that they made using DNA from the source person. This would make sense because they have already established both DNA & cloning expertise, and the ability to accelerate clone growth so they reach maturity in a couple of weeks.

But I distinctly remember these replacements acting as changelings at the time they were 'caught' (except for Bashir) so the writers shot themselves in the foot.

This show already suffers from implausability, just because of the science stuff they can do which would be impossible as we currently understand the physical universe.

They have also formed bad habits that make the audience work even harder to suspend disbelief, like the random way that the deflector seems to be this magical device than can emit streams of magical particles that can apparently do almost anything that is required in order to wrap up the plot.

But on top of this, from time to time they let slip something like this changeling issue with skin detail that finally tips the scales and makes it impossible to take seriously any more.

Luckily that only last for a few minutes and I soon forget. But it really sucks.

It sucks first because it's not necessary. I can think of dozens of ways to explain their ability to insert 'replacement' humanoids as spies. The easiest is to say that they are clones, created by taking the DNA of a Vorta and then adding the necessary bits to make it look and act like the target. This is beleivable because we already know they can do this stuff.

But I've seen these spy characters act like changelings when they get found out, so the clone excuse can't be used.

Or, they could simply tell us that it takes a lot more skill to perfectly do humans than Odo is capable of, because he is self-taught. They could then show how Odo improves over time, and eventually he could not have to do 2 hours of makeup every morning. This explanation would have been easy too, but they have screwed up again by showing the female founder have the same crude facial features while obviously being a very experienced shapeshifter.

Why do the writers do this to themselves? Did I miss a bit of technobabble that explained how the spies can perfectly imitate human skin and hair?

Surely I must have missed the explanation, it's almost impossible to believe such a glaring contradiction could be left hanging in the air like the most stinky fart ever, while everyone just stands there breathing it in, making no effort to move away or anything.
Neil - Thu, Feb 3, 2011 - 12:35am (USA Central)
Sorry, I seem to repeat myself for a large chunk of that last post. Can't edit it, so you have to live with it. I think it's pretty obvious what my point is, anyway.
Elliott - Thu, Feb 3, 2011 - 12:38am (USA Central)
I never thought I'd find myself defending DS9, but they did explain this...a lot. Faces require apparently centuries of experience shape-shifting to master as per a conversation between Odo and that matriarch changeling.
Neil - Thu, Feb 3, 2011 - 1:35am (USA Central)
@Elliot:

OK, so that explains it. I guess they are telling us that the chengelings sent in as 'spies' were much much older than herself, and more skillful too.Seesa a bit weird because she seems to be the leader, but I' not going to quibble about that. AS a longtime Trek fan I only need the barest hint of an explanation to satisfy my nitpickiness.

I've skipped a few episodes on this run through the series, but only the fluff and inconsequential ones. I was pretty sure I hadn't missed anything with founders in it but I was probably distracted by email or something.

Thanks anyway
Jay - Thu, Feb 3, 2011 - 11:40am (USA Central)
Yeah...Odo and Laas were among the "Hundred" instead of sharing in the planetary soup of the homeworld.
Neil - Thu, Feb 3, 2011 - 2:20pm (USA Central)
Yeah.. planetary soup. I actually believe that the founders is just a single being. The 'baby' changelings that were sent out into space were actually just fragments of the whole thing, somehow stripped of their knowledge of themselves.

When Odo first meets the founders (and every time after that when the female is teaching him about the great link) he tries to get an idea of how many there are, and her answer is evasive enough to ring the alarm bells. She says things like 'Sometimes we are as one, sometimes we are many; it depends on how you look at it'.

That is classic cultish diversion to avoid the truth - once you are reunited with the great link, Odo, you won't have your own thoughts or personality any more. It's a single creature, capable of spiltting itself up almost infinitely, but when a piece if integrated back into the 'whole', it cases to be separate.

Bear in mind I've never read of watched any material or DVD commentary that might shed light on what the writers of the show meant. I'm just taking the show as I see it, and the singularity of the founder (not plural) seems pretty clear to me.

This theory has some holes in it. If it splits itself into 100 equal parts... which one is the 'real' founder?

I think it just knows innately which part is 'itself' and which parts are formerly 'itself'. Pretty much the same as the way our consciousness just 'knows' that I am me.

Anyone actually agree with me about this?

I think Odo was actually pretty terrified of losing his uniqueness if he joined the founder fulltime, but it wasn't shown in the series so it's probably just me making shit up to amuse myself.
Polt - Tue, Feb 8, 2011 - 6:06pm (USA Central)
I agree with Straha a bit here that the Odo will he or won't he go with the Founders stroyline is quite stale by now. So that made the episdoe a bit tedious.

However, the relationship stuff between Odo and Kira (which are NOT my favorite topic on DS9) worked VERY well. That redeemed what I thought was an otherwise boring episode. Still, I'd only give it two stars at most.
Jason - Sat, Sep 17, 2011 - 9:45pm (USA Central)
Perhaps a bizarre observation, but when Laas was fog, presumably the people on the Promenade inhaled some of him into their respiratory tracts. When he reverted back into Laas form, would those particles be sucked back up through their lungs, throats and back out their noses. That would probably be a weird feeling.
gtr - Sat, Sep 24, 2011 - 7:52pm (USA Central)
One quick point: just because the familiar 'female' founder character doesn't normally use anything but a crude approximation of a face doesn't mean she doesn't have the ability to do so.

Maybe it takes effort/skill, so most of the time they can't be bothered, but if they need to, they will. Odo, meanwhile, hasn't figured out the level of skill necessary yet.

But I agree that Sisko was acting out of character not to figure out that Kira was lying... he's usually sharper than that.
Elliott - Wed, Oct 5, 2011 - 1:57am (USA Central)
Jammer, you call this a "character story" and tend to attribute its greatness to those qualities which exemplify the serialisation and preƫminence of plot over substance. I wholeheartedly disagree--this is a story about beauty. Its greatness has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that the people involved are people we know or care about as you are prone to point out. In the long run, it IS interesting to note how the details of plots and characters add up to events and their enfolding, but is that really the emotional heart of drama? This episode works and works stunningly because it is about a truth which transcends time and space. That is why it is mythical and that is why Odo, Kira and Laas are mere vessels for that truth. That is also why Laas is as compelling a character, though we've never seen him before, as Kira and Odo, whom we've seen for nearly seven years.

While it doesn't detract from the episode, I found the attitudes of Worf and Sisko to be fairly ridiculous, redeemed only by the in-joke of the requests and frustrations of the conspicuously absent Martok.
Changling - Wed, Jan 11, 2012 - 4:00pm (USA Central)
As an Egyptian Muslim living in usa for 20+ years, I watched this episode when it aired and recently saw it again. It is very interesting how this film mirrors the innately insecure hellenistic philosophy advocated by Socrates and indeed, the entire theological worldview of the white race in general. Am I sounding like Lars? Yes. But Lars speaks in racist tones that are not a predilection for him and only come about because of the racism he has faced. This episode dealt with a subtlety of racism that most occidentals either choose to confront, because they are the propagators of it, or it is too subtle for them to pick up on.

Consider for a moment that Lars has lived among humanoids. He finds they are not very tolerant of shape shifters. He further finds out that his own people are determined to control humanoids. So the founders, one day just got up and said "Let us control all these humanoids around us"? No. Their desire to control humanoids is an act of self-defence. They never attacked humanoids as a whole people. Only when the humanoids persecuted them for thousands of years and fail to accept them as life-forms, do the founders resort to war.

It is striking how remarkable this sequence echoes the story of racism in history and real life. The founders in Chimera are races like the Blacks, Chinese and Red Indians. While the humanoids are the white race. Some of the parallels are:

- Wherever the white man has gone, he has tried to wipe out the native populations. Similar to how humanoids persecuted changelings.

- The changeling is so much superior to the humanoid. Similarly, the Black race is probably the most athletic race of all. It is hard to deny this fact.

- The founders wage a war to control solids. This is similar to how the Nation Of Islam feels that the only way for the world to be secure is to exterminate the white race. It is also a view this author shares, after not just musing but through in-depth reading of history and the current unobtrusive machinations of the United States and its allies in Europe.

- Quark informs Odo that this is due to a genetic element. There is only one race that segregates races to such an extent, and that is the white race. Quark's explanation is true but only for the occidental people. Consider that in India and China, predominantly Hindu and Buddhist respectively, Odo would never have been treated as a suspicious character. Instead, he would have been venerated as a god. Quark's generalised statement that "Our tolerance doesn't extend to beyond the two-arm, two-leg variety" is so western that anyone acquainted with different cultures will only find mirth in his words. One has only to look at the Boddhisatva and extensive stories in the sutra about many-legged gods and at the Mahabarata's Krishna (a god often depicted with 8 arms) to see that this explanation is a white man's explanation.

- Lars says that humanoids have wanted to fight nature and nature's other animals. They do this by trying to conquer nature mercilessly and with no regard to other species. Technology is their god. This is again an apt description for the occidental people's view of the earth. The amount of factory-farms where over 8 billion cows, chickens and pigs are so wantonly and inhumanely butchered so that people don't have to wait 15 minutes to get a meal, can only be run by a race that is missing a key part of the soul.

Truth is truth. Take it or leave it.

Allahbaz!
Nebula Nox - Fri, Apr 6, 2012 - 10:01pm (USA Central)
I think this is a wonderful episode, especially in how it portrays the relationship between Kira and Odo. There are things that they can't share. I also think that Kira, who is generally a bit prejudiced, grows in this episode.

But, I have another idea about Laas.

What if he is not one of the Hundred? What if he is one of the Founders but merely pretending to be one of the Hundred?

First, Julian scans Laas and determines that his matrix is just as stable as Odo's. However, we know that Odo is already infected, so if Julian is a good doctor - and we have plenty of evidence that he is one of the Federation's best - the scan result makes sense only if Laas is already infected.

Second, the Founders' main goal is to get Odo to come home, to rejoin them. It is more important to them than the entire Alpha Quadrant. They have tried to lure him once by nearly faking Kira's death. Why not by pretending to be one of the Hundred?

This actually makes Laas more credible to me. To me he was too prejudiced towards humanoids for a Hundred who had lived and loved among them. He was trying to set up a fight with the provocative fog. And his changeling abilities were inconsistent. He could do fog, fire, the space creatures but not faces? But it makes more sense if he simply pretended not to be able to do faces.

Finally, what is more likely? Odo runs into one of the Hundred - and the galaxy is enormous - or the Founders are trying to get him back?

The nice thing about this reasoning is that it means that Laas is no longer out there, dying of the disease.
Jay - Tue, Apr 17, 2012 - 2:05pm (USA Central)
That Odo was more important to the Founders than the whole Alpha Quadrant was belied by their actions on many occasions.

When they made Odo humanoid, they had no intention of restoring him, ever.
Justin - Thu, May 3, 2012 - 9:33am (USA Central)
@Changling, it's Laas, not Lars. Geez, some people!
Drachasor - Tue, Jul 3, 2012 - 1:10pm (USA Central)
I really like parts of this episode, and really dislike other parts.

Laas is an interesting and believable character. Odo and Kira's relationship is treated very well. It touches very well on Odo's desire to be with his people too. These elements compose a lot of really great scenes.

On the other hand, there are a lot of disturbing elements as well. Odo and Kira don't seem to really care that Laas kills a Klingon unnecessarily (even if the Klingon WAS reaching for a disrupting, Laas had plenty of ways to defend himself and stop the Klingon). Suddenly people are uncomfortable with Odo shapeshifting, when he's done it before and done it in public. There's a lot of forced tensions here, which might have made more sense if other episodes have built them up, but they largely come out of nowhere, even considering the war with the founders.

We also get another one of Quark's 'wonderful' speeches where he gets everything wrong. I'll grant it is perfectly in character for him to give these speeches. He's done it before talking about how Ferangi are better or the like. These talks of his never stand up to scrutiny...on the other hand, they are never scrutinized in the show.

The Federation has shapeshifters in it (I've forgotten the TNG episode, but I think they were Fed citizens). They have beings without corporeal form (Medusans). They have non-humanoids (Horta). The idea that they'd be remotely prejudiced is rather ridiculous and against one of the core elements of Trek. Maybe that wasn't meant to be one of the implications, but they don't really do much to avoid it.

I don't know...it's an odd episode. People give up on trying to get Laas and the crew to be friends very quickly. They really only have one awkward conversation that was prematurely ended and no one tried to defend humanoid civilization (which is a shame). Does Sisko not try to help Laas because of the killing or for some other reason? It's never explained and Kira's opinion that Sisko doesn't interfere for others is laughable at best.

I guess I don't care to how largely two-dimensional the people besides Odo, Kira, and Laas were this episode. It isn't like they don't understand the importance of family, which is what Laas is to Odo. It isn't like they wouldn't be fascinated by a being that can turn into fire or fog. Or simply a being that had explored a great deal. It isn't like they aren't inclusive of non-humanoid species or care if Odo shapeshifts (yet it is implied that now the latter does bother them some). It isn't like they can't give passionate defenses of their civilization (or even point out that the changelings really aren't much better, so why quibble?)

I guess even if Laas had still ended up disliking solids at the end, I would have still liked to have a bit more of an exploration between him and the rest of the crew.
Lt. Fitz - Sat, Jul 7, 2012 - 5:54pm (USA Central)
I really liked the explanation of why humanoids need love. It's lonely in here.
John - Thu, Jul 19, 2012 - 2:08am (USA Central)
Good review Jammer; Outstanding episode.
Ian - Thu, Jul 26, 2012 - 1:53am (USA Central)
@ Changling

First off, it is "Changeling," learn to spell. Second, so, you agree with the Nation of Islam wanting to commit genocide? That makes you as evil as they are. As evil as the founders are presented to be.
Third, interesting, since for all your babble about "racism," you seem to agree with the philosophy of supremacy of the founders, just like the Nation of Islam.
Fourth, as a Muslim, you should be the last to babble about the "white," race and its actions in the world. How many ancient and noble cultures has Islam either destroyed or crushed in its brutal 1,300 year history?
Fifth, finally, as to the rest, this was a poorly disguised analogy about homosexuality. Note Odo's and Laas's linking? First and only time he does it with a presumed MALE changeling. Also Quark's remark about a changeling pride demonstration? The fact that Laas is portrayed as a bad character, even a murderer, almost makes this a HOMOPHOBIC episode.
Interesting...


Allahkazam!
Elliott - Thu, Jul 26, 2012 - 11:28am (USA Central)
Man, first I found out people hated Voyager, then, the other day I heard this insane woman talking about training her 8-year-old daughter how to use her new pink rifle, then I see that people will find in the remotest places an avenue to express their genocidal fetishes.

How beauteous mankind is not...
Linguist - Sat, Aug 11, 2012 - 4:58pm (USA Central)
@Changling and @Ian and @Nic

The religious, racial, national, and anthropological critique was excellent, Changling! Ian is right to call for an inclusion of the queer voice. Nic's remark about love is very insightful, and I would like to add a linguistic critique.

The Founders in the Link are actually Immanuel Kant's aliens in his book Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View. Kant imagines aliens always to think out loud, incapable of hiding their thoughts, unlike humans. Kant feels just like Nic when Nic says, "Imagine being physically and telepathically connected to every other living being on your planet for most of your life? You can't love one person under those circumstances." As Odo says, linking is as natural for changelings as _talking_ is for humans; linking is alien language, language without the human freedom of self-editing. Humans make meaning by punctuating their words, whereas the link loses the meaning of human freedom because it the link is free of grammar, without periods or end.

@Neil

In this sense we can take Neil's criticism of Changling identity as pointing out the falseness of Laas' comment about human and changeling "limits"; we (subjects) are all limited by immutable form (i.e. LINGUISTIC BEING), as Kant said, but whereas humans know this, the Changelings are capable of disavowing their limits by performing the Link. The "metaform" of limitless Linking is a fantasy, which Neil points out by showing the incompabatility of reality (multiple previously-Linked changelings with individuality) with Laas' claims of limitlessness.

Now we can also agree with Nic's conclusion that "In a way, despite all the disadvantages of being a humanoid, that 'weakness' allows us to feel closer to one person than any Changeling could." It is humanity's eternal curse of having a "weak link in the chain" that allows us the strength of drawing meaning from the notion of freedom, independence from our nature just as Odo, for love, alienates himself from his kind and thereby gains freedom.

So Changling is right about the Founders being self-defenders and not criminals, but only insofar as the Founders maintain their queerness and avow their limits, which Odo does but the endless Linkers do not.

Besos! ;-*
DavidK - Fri, Feb 8, 2013 - 4:32am (USA Central)
@Ian

I was never sure if Changelings have a "default" gender. I always assumed that as a species that, while linked, does not have individuals, Changelings separated from the whole would be equally genderless. In theory that would mean there's nothing stopping Odo taking a female form (and not just temporarily, actually identifying as one).

Now the question of whether Odo would actually find men attractive, in either form, is a different question. I would assume a genderless race wouldn't care either way since the whole concept would be foreign, but being raised by Bajorans, Odo may be different in that regard (depending on whether orientation is learned or hard-coded).

Separate from that, I'm reminded of the female Changeling encouraging Odo to "be the rock". Maybe by holding a male form for so long he has "become" male, at least while in Odo-form. And given the unusual absence of homosexuals in Trek, "becoming" a male in this society means becoming a straight one. If he were to make the decision to change forms and live as a woman for long enough, his orientation might change. Depending on how elastic you think sexuality is (also I'm saying this in the context of a Trekkian "everyone is straight paradigm")

I prefer to think of it more like if humans encountered a species that only had one gender, or three. It's so completely non-analogous to our understanding of male/female, I suspect we either wouldn't be attracted to this new race at all, or we'd have the capacity to find any of them attractive on some level since they don't fit into our standard boxes. In that sense, Odo to us would probably qualify as gender-neutral and bisexual, since he has no understanding of male/female (except that he was raised by Bajorans, which complicates things)

Well, that was interesting!
Cyndi - Tue, Mar 5, 2013 - 11:27pm (USA Central)
What I say below is mere speculation and should not be taken as fact or canon.


Regarding the whole Changeling linking thing:

I always assumed the Changelings take their 'default' shape of a preferred gender, but they may technically not have gender since they 'average' ones spend most of their lives as parts of a greater whole. They have no need for sexual reproduction. Linking is a melding of form and sensation, of thought and feeling. It's something we can't comprehend because we're limited by our physical bodies. Our molecules can't shift to mingle with others the way those of the Changelings species can.

Odo may have taken a male form by default because he spent much of his early life around Doctor Mora and had few other humanoid models to work from. For all we know he might have taken a woman's body if Doctor Mora had been female instead of male. The female Founder may prefer the feminine shape because it looks deceptively nonthreatening. Where she learned the difference between males and females is anybody's guess. Maybe the memory of Changeling history all the way back to when they began evolving the ability is passed up through the Link.

Therefore, gender won't matter if two Changelings decide to link up. In their true liquid form there is no male or female. I recall in A Simple Investigation he told Arissa he had an experience "that some would consider sexual." Can you blame him for thinking it inappropriate to link with Laas in public? He knew the public perception might border on disgust--and because of the Founders he knew the average station humanoids (not the DS9 crew) were uncomfortable with seeing him shapeshift.

I remember the episode where Odo killed another Changeling. Remember? It was the guy who tried to force a link. If people see linking as a sexual thing, then wouldn't one Changeling forcing an unwilling Changeling to link and ripping what they know out of their mind be akin to rape? Imagine the implications of that.
Baron - Thu, Apr 4, 2013 - 5:52pm (USA Central)
I thought this was just ok. The changeling was just to much of A hole. Would have been more interesting to have a friendly changeling that loved solids.

Lots of interesting comments. Nice site.
Sintek - Fri, May 17, 2013 - 3:15am (USA Central)
Baron,

I agree. I also wish the Dominion wasn't so mean. Jem'Hadar should have been bred to give hugs, not to kill. The Founders should have sent gift baskets of chocolate out into space instead of 100 of their own. The galaxy just needs more love and understanding.
Nancy - Tue, Aug 6, 2013 - 12:29pm (USA Central)
to address an above comment about Trek never showing a genderless society: don't forget te genderless J'naii, one of whom Riker falls in love with (TNG: "The Ourcast"). Soren, the love interest, is oppressed by her people in an obvious allegory meant to make straight people consider their treatment of homosexuals in this day and age. People never seem to remember that episode.
Nancy - Tue, Aug 6, 2013 - 12:51pm (USA Central)
I wrote out a long post and lost it. Trying again....

I wasn't nearly as impressed by this episode a Jammer and some others. We're apparently supposed to approve of Odo lying for his buddy despite the fact that this guy KILLED someone, and no, it was apparent that it wasn't self defense. If some jerk tried to kill you with a spaghetti noodle, you wouldn't be justified in shooting him.

We're also supposed to applaud Kirk jail breaking a killer for the sole reason that he is the buddy of the man she loves, according to her own mouth. Fear that he won't be treated fairly never entered into it.

How unbelievable is it that Sisko just took Kira at her word? Even if we buy the implausibilities that the brig has no surveillance and it requires no access code to release someone, at the very least there would surely be a record that someone had pushed those buttons, so to speak. We must assume Sisko doesn't bother to investigate this at all because Kira is his friend, despite the fact that for all he knows that isn't even really Kira (nobody did any blood test - didn't occur to them that he might still be there - after all he said he couldn't do humans, no reason to suspect he might lie)!

How can Quark with a straight face say no humans would ever accept Odo's form after Troi's mom encouraged him to take it? After the DS9 crew has watched Odo shapeshift - even encouraged him to do so at times - for years? Even worse, I think the writers want us to take this a insightful despite its disregard for behavior of the characters in past episodes.

So many people acting out if character, simply to retread the old "Odo struggles with his identity theme" which has already Ben featured in several episodes.

I will say I enjoyed the development of Odo's relationship with Kira, but that's it. Definitely not 4 stars in my book....and calling it the best of DS9/all of Trek?! Well, no accounting for taste.

PS I think we should consider the possibility that the poster using The Dominion's logic to justify genocide might have been attempting to prove a point about the absurdity of such a position, rather than truly believing it.
Nancy - Tue, Aug 6, 2013 - 12:56pm (USA Central)
Please forgive the typos in the above post. I am using an iPad and didn't notice some of its unfortunate autocorrects, such as turning "Kira" into "Kirk."
Michael - Tue, Aug 20, 2013 - 6:43am (USA Central)
Although I have great affection for DS9 and it's moral and philosophical questions, I don't see this as a particularly strong episode. I get that they want to talk about racism, but the metaphor doesn't really hold up in an inter species Federation, and particularly not on DS9 which is even more diverse. There's many species that have metamorphic abilities. Every attempt to say that the changelings are somehow "special" just feels forced for the sake of artificial drama. For the majority of the show, no one cares that Odo is a changeling. Klingons are xenophobic and violent, but that has nothing to do with Laas being a changeling. Remember how they attacked Garak for exactly the same reason? Laas is the racist here. He's the one that insults everyone. He's the one that judges them by their species alone. Worse, Odo functions as an enabler for his anti social behavior.

As an analogy, I'm a white guy. People try to say racist or sexist things around me from time to time, and I immediately confront them and they stop. At least, they stop doing it around me. I would never be friends with someone who is racist or sexist, and I don't tolerate that behavior from anyone. It's not that I've changed their minds, but I have shown them that their behavior is unacceptable and made the space safer for others.

Odo rarely objects to racist statements made by changelings, even endorses some of them, but he gets deeply offended whenever he perceives any prejudice from "a solid". Consider how much time Odo spends lecturing other characters about their silly "solid" habits, or that he's the first to play the race card over and over again. Altogether, it seems to me that Odo is a bit of a closet racist himself.
Kotas - Sat, Nov 9, 2013 - 11:00am (USA Central)

I'm surprised so many commenters are smitten with this episode. I found it dull, irritating and not in line with the characters we know. It was out of character for Odo to ignore justice and blindly support the changeling and for Kira to help him escape and lie to the captain when the changeling was clearly in the wrong. Also Odo should know better than to blindly link with changelings left and right by now. The only good parts were scenes between Kira and Odo.

3/10
Ric - Sun, Feb 23, 2014 - 11:16pm (USA Central)
Habemus Star Trek!

Finally, an episode that reminds us this is Star Trek. Good character exploration using scifi as a starting ground. And the end, for me, was quite touching. More than that, again, quite touching using the Trek scifi possibilities as a venue.

I also second Lt. Fitz's comment:
"I really liked the explanation of why humanoids need love. It's lonely in here".

=)
Lionheart - Mon, Mar 24, 2014 - 10:48am (USA Central)
Odo didn't completely act the way I expected him to, so that was one point of criticism.

The second is that people overreacted for a silly reason. ''Oh no, he turned into a slight fog! Damn him and his evil ways!''

I think Laas was simply scarred. He didn't have great experiences with humanoids in his environment, while Odo eventually did. He was also being an ass. You don't just turn into everything everywhere if those things are normally dangerous to humanoids. ''I was just relaxing''. By turning into fog? ...Yeah. Laas should know by now not to do stuff like that anywhere he pleases (even though the fog was not exactly dangerous).

So I'm conflicted. It's not a terrible episode, but it's not terrific either.
Jack - Fri, Apr 11, 2014 - 2:10pm (USA Central)
Presumably Odo transmitted the changeling disease to Laas here. One wonders if the cure ever made its way to Laas wherever he went after this.

Submit a comment

Above, type the last name of the captain on Star Trek: TNG
Notify me about new comments on this page
Hide my e-mail on my post

Season Index

Copyright © 1994-2014, Jamahl Epsicokhan. All rights reserved. Unauthorized reproduction or distribution of any review or article on this site is prohibited. Star Trek (in all its myriad forms), Battlestar Galactica, and Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda are trademarks of CBS Studios Inc., NBC Universal, and Tribune Entertainment, respectively. This site is in no way affiliated with or authorized by any of those companies. | Copyright & Disclaimer