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.
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