Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

"Broken Link"

3 stars

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

92 comments on this review

Brian
Tue, Sep 18, 2007, 1:56pm (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
Maybe the founders are just trying to be NICE to Odo...
Dimitris Kiminas
Wed, May 27, 2009, 12:12pm (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
"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 (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
@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 (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
@ 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 (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
Another solid season finale. Garak is a great character.

7/10
eastwest101
Sun, Nov 10, 2013, 12:00am (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
Realized the founder was lying or wrong on all accounts... tain was alibe, garak survived, and cardassia.
DVMX
Wed, Apr 8, 2015, 9:54pm (UTC -5)
Odo's facial appearance is something akin to, I guess, genetic memory. All Founders in their "default" humanoid form look similar, facially, to Odo. Or rather he looks similar to them. He *thinks* its a limitation, but its not. I think its more of a mental block that the show never explored, but all Founders have the ability to mimic another humanoid perfectly ("Heart of Stone", "Apocalypse Rising"). Odo either can't or won't. But make no mistake it is some sort of mental block, as evidenced by the older Odo in "Children of Time".

As for the "magic" of making Odo "human". Its not magic, its remote genetic configuration. Bigpale above said, "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." Agreed. But I think the beacon works both ways. And it was essentially used to FREEZE Odo into a configuration that closely approximates that of a human. It simultaneously severs him from the Link and makes him effectively for all intents and purposes, human. Since it severs him from the Link, it cannot be undone remotely by the Link, hence the events of "The Begotten".

At least that's how I saw it. Regular Founders (i.e. not Odo) can already change their body type to mimic that of a humanoid both inside and out, that is why they were so hard to detect when in those forms. Odo can't/won't (mental block(?)) so they simply did it FOR him and then broke the lever so to speak so he can't change back. Plus kept his Founder face as a sort of reminder of what he lost.
MsV
Sat, Jul 4, 2015, 5:13am (UTC -5)
I had the hardest time trying to figure out when did Odo infect the founders in the Great link. I was here, This is the only time Odo was anywhere near them. I had thought it was in Season 6 during the war, but the female changeling couldn't get back to the Gamma Quadrant.

I really liked Odo in this one, he was just as loyal to the Defiant crew as they were to him, Odo looked really scared right before he entered the link.
William B
Wed, Dec 9, 2015, 3:04pm (UTC -5)
There is a nice urgency to this episode even from the beginning; while it can read a tiny bit contrived, as if Gowron knows this is a season finale so he'd better step up his game, it still sets the tone pretty well. Season four is a bit of an odd year in that it does feel like things are nearly standing still while people wait for everything to fall apart; the big events in "The Adversary" and "The Way of the Warrior" have affected everybody's lives in ways big and small, but in a lot of respects people are just waiting for the next thing. This episode's sense of urgency from the geopolitical situation intensifies what Odo is going through, and connects the very large and very small.

I like, too, how the episode takes the time to show us/update us on Odo's relationships with other people on the station before he goes off to face what may be his death; Garak and Odo remain some weird kind of friends, with Garak setting Odo up with a woman as a way of perhaps helping Odo deal with his loneliness while Garak struggles with his own, Worf and Dax debate on their opposite views on whether Odo's isolationism is a front or his true feelings, Dr. Mora's offscreen concern is mentioned, Kira brings in a criminal activity report (hearkening back to "Crossfire") and Odo still kind of gives her the cold shoulder personally even as he's obviously delighted by her gift; Odo and Quark have one of their usual touching reconciliation moments. I agree with commenters who suggested that Odo's walk to the Defiant was overwrought and silly; in general, I have no idea why no one brought some kind of bucket or pail for Odo to sink into, or at least suggest the idea (maybe Odo thought it would be undignified, but seriously). For a person who largely feels disconnected from those around him, this episode helps underline the connections Odo has made even before the Defiant crew takes big risks to get him to the people who can help him.

I do think it seems likely that Weyoun poisoned Odo in "To the Death," as a commenter suggested. The genuine caring that the main cast show for Odo in various ways of course contrast with the way His People treat him. The "no changeling has ever harmed another" line which they repeat and repeat really does seem much more propaganda than reality, considering that their definition of "harm" conveniently excludes everything that they have done to Odo (and presumably other changelings they sent out into the galaxy), beginning with sending them out to have lonely existences among solids who are so *presumptively evil and xenophobic* according to the Founders that most of those baby changelings would likely die out there, installing "homing beacons" to force them back so that he feels an intense desire to be near his people and then denying him access to the Link when he actually gets there, torturing his friends, playing elaborate mindgames ("Heart of Stone") as a way of extracting information from him,

I suspect (and I think there are elements of confirmation for this later) that the Link itself is so powerful and so reassuring that the Founders develop a kind of impenetrable groupthink, reinforced intensely by their creation of an entire Dominion of puppet races who literally worship them and give them their required narcissistic supply and dispatching violence or biological weaponry on anyone who crosses them. I don't think that the "problem" is some kind of genetic evil or anything, but a people who genuinely have become so powerful that they are unused to even considering the possibility that their way is not the only way. There is something about the Female Shapeshifter's pious superiority that makes her particularly great as a foil for Odo, who could barely handle Dr. Mora's imperfect sometimes-disapproving-father bit.

In any case, Odo agreeing, in the end, to judgment works for me. It really is wryly funny that Odo imagines that he has some left-over concept of justice from his people ("Necessary Evil"), then his people turn out to be totalitarian maniacs and then *Odo* becomes their ultimate criminal. Sisko correctly asks if Odo is really going to get justice from his people, but I think it's an open question whether "justice" is actually what Odo has meted out over the years, either (though obviously Odo's weaknesses and rigidity are nothing compared to the Founders'), but Odo knows he needs to face judgment to maintain his self-respect. The episode reminded us of Odo's glee at stopping crimes and taking names earlier with the smugglers he interrupted, and it's neat that the Founders' infection of him stops him in his tracks; he cannot be a lawman again until he resolves his identity as criminal.

The final punishment, with the Founder leader ironically intoning that he got what he has wanted, is appropriately cruel but with some sort of hope; Odo maybe *could* find something worthwhile in life as a human (well, probably he should have been Bajoran, but maybe the Founders needed to make some observations to get the biology right, and they have a Defiant full of mostly humans), as the episode's end suggests, even if the Founders deliberately keep his face frozen to remind him that he will never truly be one of the humans even as he now can no longer be one of the Founders.

I guess the biggest other note here is about Garak. I like the structure here, where Garak's dangerous past is played for comedy as he is a wry entertainer of Odo, only to turn things around at the last moment and reveal that this is still a *very* dangerous guy. Or, would be if Worf hadn't stopped him I guess. Garak's talk with the Female Shapeshifter was appropriately chilling on both sides -- Garak's actual pained reaction covered up quickly by a wry smile that signals that he has (at least internally) figured out his next step is perfect. I do think that the attempted mass-murder-suicide is something that Garak would do to save the Alpha Quadrant, with the important caveat that, as we saw in "Improbable Cause"/"The Die is Cast," Garak is actually much less pragmatic and more irrational than he seems; Garak's maintenance of the cover of professionalism obscures the fact that he's basically barely holding himself together and makes bold, extreme decisions on the spur of the moment when given the opportunity. Tain is one of Garak's weakest points, and while I do believe that Garak believes that killing the Founders will help the AQ in the long run, Garak is also intensely shaken not just by the idea that Tain is definitely dead -- which he probably could have suspected anyway -- but broadly that all of Cardassia is now dead, because of Tain's foolhardy preemptive strike, which Garak signed on for. The attempted destruction of the Founders' homeworld actually represents Garak trying to enact Tain's plan all over again and willing to die for it, perhaps since he and all of Cardassia are on the hook for Tain's attack anyway.

But, you know, the whole thing does come off as bizarre within the larger context of the episode. It's hard to believe that the Founders, who had taken over the Defiant's controls and are extremely paranoid about attacks from solids, would allow the Defiant's quantum torpedoes to remain armed near their planet anyway. And for Garak to get off with, ahem, six months in a holding cell is pretty ridiculous, when you consider that Kasidy got more than that for smuggling medical supplies and Sisko declares a personal vendetta against Eddington for stealing replicators. Depending on how much life the Founders' homeworld represents (how many is the Link anyway?) the utilitarian case for Garak's actions may be made -- maybe the loss of life from the deaths of the Founders really would be less horrifying than the results of the war which happens later on, but we're talking about killing an entire species here, and the decision being carried out by one guy. Sympathize with Garak, hate him, think he's a hero, think that he's more of an emotional wreck than he seems, think it's justified by the Founder's words, think whatever, but the sheer magnitude of what Garak almost did cannot really be just swept in as an aside in an unrelated plot, with a slap-on-the-wrist sentence.

To be clear, my issue is not that I think Garak needed to be punished more -- I don't even really know how to start to evaluate what Garak "deserves" for this. But either cut the attempted genocide/mass murder-suicide or address it; either eliminate this part of the story, or engage with Garak's arguments and demonstrate how Garak's mass-death plan changes how people view him. For contrast, Garak *did* sign on to work for Tain during Tain's genocidal assault back in "IC/TDIC" and then tortured Odo!, and the two-parter ended with Garak and Odo improbably being friends. And that worked, because things *happened*, Garak and Odo had conversations and connected and hurt and helped each other and the whole of what happened made their final positions make sense. There is none of that here, and it's IMO damaging to the show and to Garak's character story (though he's still my favourite character in the show).

Overall, it's a pretty good hour and I'd give it a low 3 stars.
Diamond Dave
Mon, Jan 4, 2016, 1:43pm (UTC -5)
A somewhat disappointing conclusion that can be summed up quickly - Odo is turned human by the Founders - and is more interesting in what it presages than in what it actually shows. There's a whole bunch of really nice character interaction as people sit around gassing. It's enjoyable but it really is little more than fluff, and suggests we were a bit story light here.

As so often happens Garak rescues things somewhat - even though he's purely on the Defiant as a plot contrivance his reaction to the "They're dead. You're dead. Cardassia's dead" is great and his subsequent attempt to wipe out the Founders seems fully in keeping. And there's a good concluding moment with the shock Gowron reveal. But this is a decidedly average effort. 2.5 stars.
Luke
Sat, Apr 23, 2016, 9:04pm (UTC -5)
You know, after starting out with such a gargantuanly explosive bang, Season Four sure ends on something of a whimper, doesn't it? Not that I'm complaining. "Broken Link" does the job it sets out to do and does it fairly admirably well.

As a character piece for Odo, it works surprisingly well. All of his interactions with the other characters (even the one with Quark) feel genuine and fully in keeping with not just his character but everyone else's as well. And, of course, there's the wonderfully evocative shot of Odo, now in Human form, stretching his arm out to the Female Changeling - very reminiscent of Michelangelo's "The Creation of Adam" from the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. I'm giving the episode a full bonus point for that shot alone. And, naturally, there's Garak. I love Garak's actions here. Once he is confronted with a serious threat against Cardassia he is willing to do whatever it takes to save them, even to the extreme of sacrificing himself and committing genocide. This is what's so great about the character, he presents himself as an intelligent, amiable guy, he gets you to begin to let your guard down around him and then BOOM - he does something like this, reminding the audience that he is actually a ruthless lone agent. He may be on the side of good most of the time, but he'd gladly kill all the "good guys" without a second thought if he thought it was in Cardassia's best interests. So multi-faceted!

However, Jammer really hit the nail in the head with the main problem of the episode. Looking back with hindsight, we all know that Odo's transformation into a Solid isn't going to last long. In fact, he'll be back to his usual shape-shifting self within twelve episodes (less than half-way through Season Five). So, I also have to ask - what was the point? Maybe if they had actually done something with this concept, (even in those upcoming twelve episodes) it wouldn't be so bad. Sadly, however, it hurts this episode, as so much of "Broken Link's" drama depends on a plot element that is, essentially, meaningless. The episode loses a point over it. Given that the episode, like most season finales for this show, really plays up the promise of things to come (with the Klingons and with Odo), it's even more unforgivable.

7/10
Quarkissnyder
Wed, Jun 8, 2016, 11:05am (UTC -5)
I loved Garak and thought the Odo stuff was pretty good.

My quibbles:

"Oh no, we're about to enter into an unavoidable war with the Klingons." "Oh well, it's far away." Fade to laughing at Kira sneezing. Really?

It occurs to me that Odo is probably not that good at catching smugglers -- otherwise why would they keep using DS9 as a stop? Sure, he catches a bunch, but how many more get away?

As said above, if Odo is sick he should revert to his liquid state as opposed to expending energy holding his form.

Is there no tv in sick bay? The poor man is just supposed to lie there without even a blanket with absolutely nothing to do?

Are there no wheelchairs in sick bay? If Odo gets worse every time he moves, shouldn't he be using one to get to the ship? If he doesn't want to be stared at he can turn himself into a moldy blanket or something.

Sisko and Bashir beam down to the planet for what might be days. Without food, water, or anything to do.
Skywalker
Tue, Jul 5, 2016, 1:42am (UTC -5)
Two questions, in order of importance:

1) Did Odo ever get with that pretty Bajoran shop owner who was throwing herself at him?

2) Did Section 31 infect Odo before this (on Earth in "Home Front"), and the Dominion additionally infect him with a different disease in order to get him back to the Link?
Peter G.
Tue, Jul 5, 2016, 9:41am (UTC -5)
@ Skywalker,

1) No
2) Yes
Luka
Tue, Aug 2, 2016, 7:37pm (UTC -5)
"You fight well... for a tailor."
Odyssey47
Mon, Sep 5, 2016, 2:58pm (UTC -5)
I always wondered how the founders knew that Odo killed the changeling in The Adversary.
Robert
Tue, Sep 6, 2016, 9:34am (UTC -5)
@Odyssey47 - "I always wondered how the founders knew that Odo killed the changeling in The Adversary. "

That's easy. There's at least one other high ranking changeling in the entire Federation and that person read Odo's report. I doubt Odo's killing of the changeling was a huge secret, and if it wasn't then anyone with a certain security clearance can be aware of it. And especially since a changeling was pretending to be an admiral I'm guessing a whole lot of people because aware of this incident.
dave
Wed, Sep 21, 2016, 11:58pm (UTC -5)
Skywalker


Odo was literally infected twice!

Once by Section 31 during his visit to earth' with hopes he would transmit it to the founders

Second, the founders via Weyoun did it to get him back for judgement.

When he went to be judged, he infected them with the Section 31 virus!

Both sides are evil to do this to an individual being. I love the complexities of DS9
Trek fan
Wed, Jan 4, 2017, 11:26pm (UTC -5)
For me, the only surprise with Gowron in this episode is that it took DS9 this long to say he is a changeling. From the very first instant he appeared in "Way of the Warrior," I said to myself: "He's acting strangely." Within a few minutes of that instant, as he turned hostile toward the Federation, I told myself: "He's a changeling." How else to explain the Klingons turning against the Federation coming out of nowhere, without any context or buildup whatsoever prior to "Way of the Warrior," as anything other than a Dominion plot to weaken the Alpha Quadrant with a changeling spy? After all, changeling spies appeared in key roles only a few episodes before "Way of the Warrior," and it seemed obvious to me the writers were returning to that well with Gowron. But no: DS9 made us wait an entire season to discover what was obvious from the beginning, drawing out the dead-end idea of putting the Klingon-Federation cold war back in place.

Watching the series on Netflix for the first time, I also ask myself: When these episodes first aired, did anyone with even a passing familiarity with Star Trek buy the Klingon betrayal in "Way of the Warrior" as remotely plausible outside of the possibility that Gowron is a changeling? Surely the writers planned this surprise when they gave us "Way of the Warrior" -- and it's one of the most poorly staged plot twists I've seen on Trek.

And dear God, how little we got in exchange for making the Klingons threatening with this plot twist. Other than the cool and totally unmotivated "look the Klingons are bad guys again" battle moment in "Way of the Warrior," we received an endless series of mediocre Klingon plots that didn't go anywhere. Other than rehashing (for the sake of nostalgia?) the old "Worf is honored, Worf is dishonored, Worf is honored" merry-go-round, we didn't really get much of interest outside of the fun "Sword of Kahless" episode. And what about poor Kurn, Worf's tragic brother who apparently had his memory wiped for no reason now that we know the real Gowron didn't strip his honor? That was an awful ep.

Anyway, even though the "Gowron as changeling" reveal has been delayed about 50 episodes too many prior to "Broken Link," I'm just oh so very happy that they finally put it to rest here. And I look forward to Season 5, as Season 4 has been one of the best seasons of Trek that I've seen. Time to put the Klingon-Federation relationship back where it belongs and move on to better things.
Nolan
Thu, Jan 5, 2017, 1:26am (UTC -5)
@Trek fan

It should be mentioned that the Klingon arc of Season 4 was the result of some executive meddling, who felt the show, while adequate in the ratings , could do better. So they went with the popular aliens, the Klingons to buoy the ratings, as well as bring bace a TNG character.

I look forward to reading your posts as you continue your journey through the rest of this series.
Robert
Thu, Jan 5, 2017, 9:45am (UTC -5)
@Nolan - I always found that bit interesting. They were able to take the network meddling and really make it not ruin everything they had set up. If nothing else, using the Klingons to stall the Dominion story for 2 years really helped stretch the show in a good way. And while I wasn't always a fan of fighting with the Klingons, the Klingons never totally left DS9 after this... and they made a great addition to the series.
Peter G.
Thu, Jan 5, 2017, 11:35am (UTC -5)
@ Robert,

I know Jammer's site is a spoiler-laden zone, but it strikes me that when joining in on a specific conversation with someone who says he's watching the series for the first time we should probably try to avoid giving spoilers (such as whether or not the Klingons never totally leave DS9).
Robert
Thu, Jan 5, 2017, 7:37pm (UTC -5)
Fair point! I should have read more carefully! That said, I'm not sure Worf remaining a main character is a spoiler (and he always brings Klingon trappings with him). But it's definitely border line.
navamske
Thu, Feb 23, 2017, 7:16pm (UTC -5)
@Kotas

"Another solid season finale."

Also, another changeling season finale.
Gooz
Sun, May 7, 2017, 11:52am (UTC -5)
Maybe Bashir and Sisko could have hopped over to the mirror universe to get a bucket to carry Odo in (the only reason I could think of why they didn't use a bucket to take Odo to The Defiant is that there are no Buckets in their universe)

Also, why do all the founders look like Odo when they take on solid form? Stupid.

Sisko over-acts as always. Very distracting.
Bill
Thu, Feb 1, 2018, 12:46pm (UTC -5)
Kind of a lackluster episode who's goal was to re-etablish the Dominion as the show's ultimate bad guys.

I've read interviews with Ira Behr and the writing staff who've basically said the studio "strongly suggested" they put aside the Dominion plot line in favor of something that would invigorate the series. (???) Hence Worf and the Klingons. ("Homefront"/"Paradise Lost" was supposed to be the third season finale/fourth season opener.)

They were always champing at the bit to get back to the Dominion and considered the fourth season as a kind of long detour. It shows here.
Mallory
Sun, Jun 17, 2018, 8:46am (UTC -5)
"You fight well, for a tailor."
Rahul
Thu, Jun 28, 2018, 8:52pm (UTC -5)
As DS9 season-ending episodes go, this one's a tad below average but on it's own, I liked it. Getting the Founders directly involved, the visuals of their world & CGI, Garak's deceit and a couple of big revelations make it a good episode. There is some padding (Kira sneezing, the Bajoran cafe owner who has the hots for Odo, some Garak) but it's not like the Rom/Quark nonsense (i.e. it is acceptable/good padding).

We circle back to Gowron being belligerent and the big reveal that he's a changeling now makes sense for his warmongering in "The Way of the Warrior". The writers have a ton of freedom for what they can do with changelings -- they can be anywhere and know anything and the viewer just has to accept it, and it isn't implausible.

Garak is a terrific character and perhaps my favorite on DS9. He's outstanding in "In the Pale Moonlight" but here he adds a good edge. The fight/argument with Worf is great as his sabotage is averted -- especially coming after what the head Founder told him -- great stuff here. Bottom line: Don't f*ck with Garak. And I guess I shouldn't be surprised that he gets off scot free for attempted genocide + killing Sisko/Bashir.

Interesting punishment for Odo being turned into a human. This is also convenient as his adaptation should provide plenty of material to work with. The bit about Odo being the first changeling to kill one of his own kind and then the judgment also gives the Founders some texture -- they're clearly not cardboard villains. Far from it. I like the head Founder's pragmatism and I think the punishment is a good one that makes sense.

The other thing I like is the unconditional support Odo gets from the DS9 crew -- this is a common theme with VOY and the other Treks. Sisko/Bashir waiting on the Founders world -- who knows how long they were there. I don't know about the part where Bashir wants to skim a rock across the Great Link!

3 stars for "Broken Link" -- pretty interesting stuff that tees you up for Season 5 and makes you wonder about a few things (like how/where did Odo get infected by the Founders, how they infiltrate the Klingons etc.) Just a good story with some good writing and interactions -- no need for phaser or starship battles.
Iceman
Mon, Aug 20, 2018, 2:35am (UTC -5)
"Broken Link" is probably the weakest finale of DS9. It's an interesting hour with ramifications for the upcoming season, but it's also far too low-key to be considered gripping or fantastic. It's interesting to see Odo face the consequences of his actions, but the true highlight of the episode are the Garak scenes. He elevates pretty much every episode he's in (besides maybe "Afterimage").

3 stars, barely.
wolfstar
Mon, Aug 20, 2018, 10:01am (UTC -5)
I agree with that. I'd probably ranks DS9 season finales as follows:

Call To Arms
The Jem'Hadar
In The Hands Of The Prophets
The Adversary
Tears Of The Prophets
What You Leave Behind
Broken Link
11001001
Sun, Oct 7, 2018, 10:54pm (UTC -5)
Just a few observations (SPOILERS)

[1] I already said this in the comment thread for "To the Death", but it's interesting that the Founders have the innate ability to turn a Changeling into a biological human, and then to reverse that process, turning a human into a Changeling. For the latter, even a sick baby Changeling with no knowledge from the Link is able to do it. So why don't the Founders simply turn every solid that they encounter into a Changeling? Isn't this a much more effective way of dealing with their fear and mistrust of the solids than trying to maintain a vast military empire to control them? I know that possible real-world explanations are that the writer's didn't think of it, or felt that this would make the Changelings too Borg-like as villains. But in-Universe, it really ruins the whole premise of the Dominion.

[2] Bashir's stone-skipping near incident, while hilarious, is not very consistent with what is later revealed to be his genetically-enhanced intellect, wouldn't you agree? This got an eye roll from me for that reason.

[3] Rewatching this episode, it is indeed very irritating that Odo is labelled as the only Changeling ever to harm another, and judgement therefore must be passed on him. The Changeling infiltrator from "The Adversary" was very clearly trying to kill Odo in "hand-to-hand" combat, not to mention attempting to destroy the Defiant with all hands (including Odo). It's not this hypocrisy on the part of the Founders that bothers me. That much is consistent with the previous characterization. It's the fact that no one *calls* them out on it on screen. Not even Odo says "you sent an agent to kill me and all my friends," when this would have been a very legitimate defense. Besides, the word "harm" presumably doesn't just mean "kill" here. The Changeling from The Adversary presumably injured Odo during their fight, or at least caused him pain, in order to achieve his objective.

[4] As others have pointed out, it's uncharacteristically lax for the Founders to allow the Defiant near their homeworld without disabling their weapons. This could have potentially led to their demise, had it not been for Worf. While it's possible the Dominion simply thought "the Federation is above genocide, and they are only here to help Odo", that isn't consistent with their usual paranoia and mistrust. It's even more bothersome that the Jem'hadar fighter escort that accompanied them the whole way there seems to go away and leave them there alone once they get there! Effects shots of the Defiant in orbit around the Founders' homeworld don't show any other ships. I suppose you could argue that these ships are simply off camera in the vicinity. But then once again I'd argue that it was very irresponsible for them to allow the Defiant to be in orbit at all without disabling her weapons. In a sneak attack, she could have gotten quite a few shots off before they destroyed her, perhaps even enough to wipe out the Founders, if they had launched their full complement of torpedoes all in one salvo.

[5] As soon as the Jem'hadar place the navigation scrambler on the Defiant's helm console, I thought to myself that this device could easily be used to obtain sensitive information from the ship's computer. Thus, I was gratified when Worf objected to its placement, presumably for this same reason. Sisko overrode him, opting to cooperate for Odo's sake. Another classic example of "Captain shuts down Worf." But unlike in TNG, where Worf often expressed support for the hostile option, or raised security concerns that were comically one-note in their lack of any wisdom or diplomacy, here his concern is totally with merit. I know people complain that Worf's character regressed somewhat in DS9, and that he became a lot more one-dimensional in his adherence to a code of honour. But at least he showed himself to be uniformly better at his job -- better at hand-to-hand combat, tactics, and security. I like the depiction on DS9 of a largely competent, intelligent Worf.
Iceman
Fri, Nov 2, 2018, 4:32pm (UTC -5)
@wolfstar-Sorry for the belated reply. I didn't know people actually replied to me!

I'd rank the finales like this:
1. "Call to Arms"
2. "The Jem'Hadar"
3. "What You Leave Behind"
4. "In the Hands of the Prophets"
5. "The Adversary"
6. "Tears of the Prophets"
7. "Broken Link"

The only difference is that I really like "What You Leave Behind". DS9 was pretty good with its finales. I'd give 4 stars to "Call to Arms", 3.5 to 2-4, and 3 to 5-7.
Springy
Sun, Jan 13, 2019, 11:42pm (UTC -5)
Very ho-hum for a season finale, though at long last, the promise of the Season 3 finale is realized: The Changelings have managed to get themselves into a position of power, with Gowron.

Season 4 had some good eps, though the follow through on the ominous "DUM-DUM-DUM!!!" "They're everywhere" Season 3 finale was disappointingly weak. We're starting Season 5 and have progressed very little. We have almost the very same ominous ending "They're highly placed amongst the Klingons and causing havoc, who knows where else they are???"

Hopefully, the Dominion finally will make whatever move they plan to make, on the Alpha Quadrant.

There's surely no way Odo is going to stay human, any more than Picard was going to stay Borg. He's a changeling, he'll surely go back to that at some point - no later than the end of the new Season would be my guess.

Loved the Garak stuff, every bit of it.

It's hard to have any sympathy for the Dominion. The Founders are horrible. I keep getting the feeling I'm meant to have some sympathy, maybe even some admiration for them, but I have none.
Star Trek Joy
Fri, Feb 15, 2019, 9:26pm (UTC -5)
Odo walking across the promenade in a half gelatinous state...really? Why is he still even trying to hold a humanoid form?

Bashir almost throws rock into Great Link...haha!!!

No good reason for Sisko to bring Garak along except to give us great lines...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...You fight well for a tailor.

Garak just gets to go back to tailoring after trying to sabotage the mission? Oh yeah, his heart was in the right place. Haha!!
Jackson
Fri, May 10, 2019, 1:08pm (UTC -5)
""They're everywhere" Season 3 finale was disappointingly weak. We're starting Season 5 and have progressed very little. "

I think adding Worf had something to do with it.

They did a lot of "Now that we have Worf, look at these stories we can do" episodes in Season 4, something happens again in Season 7 with Ezri.

We also had several other detours this season as well, with many episodes handed over to culture check-ins with Bajorans, Ferengi, Maquis, Trill, Cardassians, holodecking, and even the Jem Hadar.
Peter G.
Fri, May 10, 2019, 1:23pm (UTC -5)
@ Jackson,

Good point about taking time to get Worf integrated into the series. But there's also another weird issue with complaining about idling during S4, which is that there are two antithetical complains going on at the same time: one is that DS9 didn't spend as much time as they could have developing the broad arc in S3-4, and the other is that DS9 became a 'war-show' and lost sight of the wonder and new adventures each week that TNG had. I'm sure different people adhere to each of these, as they more or less contradict each other, but it's worth noting that the S3-4 that we do have seems to be a middle ground between losing sight of the Trek stuff while also keeping the broad game in mind. That, and the network pretty much demanded that they not descend into serialization. I think the level of balance they achieved was about as good as they could do at the time.
Chrome
Fri, May 10, 2019, 1:51pm (UTC -5)
I can't remember where, but I think the production history for "Paradise Lost" explains that they wanted to do more Changeling infiltration stories but the network demands for Klingon war stories made constant searching for changelings untenable. So "they're everywhere, but not really, and that's all part of their plan!" is what we get. I think the season is reasonably strong despite that, but I agree with Jackson on the point that the Worf/Klingon B plots this season feel the most clumsy. I'll quickly add that this quality contrast is visible precisely *because* the A stories were incredibly strong this season.
Elliott
Tue, May 14, 2019, 12:28am (UTC -5)
Teaser : **.5, 5%

As I said in the review to TWotW, I commend the writers for rolling with the punches and crafting an enjoyable story after being thrown a curve ball by the producers. “The Adversary” was fairly unremarkable, but that was a result of trying to end a season that had a clear trajectory in a different way from planned at more or less the last moment. Now at last, we are picking up the threads from “Improbable Cause”/”The Die is Cast,” which have been dangling for over a year. That re-focusing is heralded by a scene between Odo and Garak, which we haven't really seen since their strange but wonderful resolution to the aforementioned 2-parter. It's not exactly the grandest of scenes however, as Garak has chosen to finally honour his debt to Odo and secret knowledge of his loneliness by trying to get him laid. He introduces the Changeling to a sultry Bajoran woman whose eye he has caught. She makes clumsy overtures and shows off her cleavage for a few moments while Odo stutters and gapes at her per television law, then leaves.

GARAK: You're such a sensitive man, yet there are so many aspects of humanoid life that you simply refuse to explore.
ODO: I have no desire to become a slave to humanoid obsessions.
GARAK: But you have to admit, she is quite lovely.
ODO: Well, she is, isn't she?

Sigh...we all knew it was inevitable, but I can't help hating this. I'm not a big fan of Odo/Kira, but it's firmly established in the series that “his” attraction to her—and remember that Odo's gender is completely arbitrary—is based on their relationship. Odo doesn't have hormones or genitals. Odo doesn't have orgasms. If he finds himself attracted to a solid, it could only be for reasons that have nothing to do with our conceptualisations of physical beauty or sexiness. And Garak used to have such wonderful ambiguity in his own sexual proclivities. Seeing the two of them drool over this woman like cartoon hounds is cheap and profoundly disappointing.

As if to remind us why Odo shouldn't be pining after “loveliness” in this matter, he has a strange goo-spasm and collapses, unconscious. Garak calls for an emergency medical mopping crew.

Act 1 : **.5, 18%

Dr Bashir can't actually diagnose the condition, but he notes that Odo's mass, which is typically constant, is fluctuating. That's never a good sign. Fluctuations in Star Trek are like dragons on the edge of a map. Stay far away from those.

Meanwhile, we learn that, off camera, the Federation has demanded that the Klingon Empire return conquered Cardassian territories. Unsurprisingly, Gowron has not taken these demands very well and issues a demand of his own, that Starfleet abandon its bases in the Archanis sector or risk all-out war. Sisko and his staff are worried over these developments, but they realise they can't do anything about it, so instead Kira has a sneezing fit to remind us that she's pregnant. And that's the end of her characterisation for this episode. Moving on. Dax and Worf do some flirting. Oh, this is worse, go back to the sneezing.

Kira pays Odo a visit, disguising her concern over her friend by delivering the criminal activities report (c.f. “Crossfire”). Unfortunately, Odo notices something funny, which turns out to be the return of one of the giant troll doll aliens performing a smuggling job. Diamonds of course, because anything else wouldn't be clichéd as hell. When he attempts to apprehend the thief, he's overwhelmed by another attack and melts into a puddle of agonised goo. The hand reaching out in desperation is a nice visual touch.

Act 2 : **.5, 18%

Bashir reports that Odo's condition is rapidly worsening and that he won't survive more than another week or two. Dr Mora can't provide any help, but Odo already realises that there's only one option with any hope of saving his life; he's going to have to return to the Founders. It's an interesting character choice. Odo wouldn't normally be one to ask others to risk themselves for his needs, but he's not accustomed to physical suffering. We saw how radically Garak's torture affected him last time, so this condition is no doubt making him feel desperate.

I don't believe anyone has noticed the similarities here between this set-up and the one from “Basics” (which aired first). In this case, there isn't a baby but this medical condition affecting one of their own which is going to draw the crew into a trap set by the enemy. Given that, I'm a little shocked we don't get a similar tactical discussion here as we did on Voyager. We cut immediately to Sisko explaining his plan to bring Odo into the GQ and begin transmitting a message for the Founders to hear. Kira gets fridged, O'Brien readies the Defiant for launch and Bashir explains that the plot gods demand a not-at-all-contrived character moment for Odo, explaining that he cannot be transported in his current condition. The unexpected twist is that Garak has requested to come along as well.

We find him in the Mess Hall bantering with the security personnel, making a not-undeserved jab at the uniform hardline material we saw in “Learning Curve.” In another disappointment, Garak explains himself to Sisko, but completely straight, plainly and simply you might say. He isn't obfuscating or misdirecting or manipulating anyone, which makes his presence in the episode feel uncharacteristically bland.

GARAK: The Cardassian Empire lost a number of ships during their aborted attack on the Dominion. I want to know what happened to the crewmembers.

Uh-huh...so when did Garak get put in charge of paramilitary recovery operations? Who vested him with this authority? Well, Sisko doesn't have time for logical and pertinent questions, so he tells Garak that he can come along provided he use his backstory to keep Odo distracted during the trip.

Quark is already ahead of him though during the not-at-all contrived character scene on the station. Odo is walking to the Defiant looking like someone left their Barbie doll in the sun. I guess with Melora choosing not to join the staff, no one bothered to make DS9 wheel-chair accessible. Anyway, Quark makes a comment that he's looking forward to his profits soaring—which kind of deflates the resolution we came to in the LAST FUCKING EPISODE. The sentiment, showing that Quark wants Odo to live despite their rivalry is fine, but it would have been nice to see some sort of consequence to the Ferengi losing his business license and contact with his people. After all, we are witnessing Odo leaving to make contact with his own people, who have spurned him for similar cultural purity reasons. You'd think the scene would write itself.

While the Defiant warps towards the Dominion, and after some eye-roll-inducing bridge banter, we pick up with Garak providing his distractions in the Sickbay. I guess that's what Garak is reduced to now, parodying himself by spinning a web of lies and half-truths in service the characters instead of the story itself. More DBI on the bridge to make me just a little more nauseated, then finally the Dominion shows up. And boy do they, with what looks like dozens of ships encircling the Defiant.

Act 3 : ***.5, 13% (short)

Sisko moves to be diplomatic, but the Dominion has its own ideas. As soon as the shields are down, Rescusi Anne and half a dozen Jem'Hadar beam aboard the bridge and one of them attacks the chief. I should feel badly for him, but after that stupid story he just told about the women in his life overwhelming him, I just can't muster much sympathy. Anne calls him off and the weapons are lowered. She tells Sisko to leave Odo with her but he refuses. Surprisingly, she agrees to let them come along, but insists on having her men pilot the Defiant and using their tech to wipe the memory banks. This again is a subtle reminder of the culminating events from Season 3 and Tain's original plan to destroy the Founders' old planet.

Speaking of Tain, Garak is nervously awaiting her arrival in the Sickbay, hoping to get his questions answered. She appears, ignoring Bashir and the rest. She briefly links with Odo which sets his shape back to normal, although the effect, she says, is only temporary. The solids are shooed out of the room so they can have a real conversation. She reveals that the Dominion knows all about Kira and Shakaar, which is an advantage for them since we haven't seen a hint of their relationship all season. Oh, and they are also responsible for his condition.

FOUNDER: You killed a changeling, Odo.
ODO: He was trying to kill my friends. I had no choice.
FOUNDER: Of course you had a choice, and you chose to side with the solids. To protect them, you were willing to violate the most sacred law of our people.
ODO: No changeling has ever harmed another.

Others have already pointed out that her position is borne entirely of sophistry; Odo has been harmed by his people several times. What she really means is that no Changeling, until Odo, has ever defied the political consensus of the Dominion. Framing this trait as she does in, er, humanistic terms—solidarity with one's race, with one's family even—is a manifestation of the propaganda that keeps the Dominion hierarchy in place. The Founders see themselves as gods; their commands are inviolate, and deviation from their will is nothing short of heresy. That's why she calls the law “sacred,” and that is Odo's actual crime against his people.

Act 4 : ***.5, 18%

She informs him that the next step is for Odo to be judged by entering the Great Link. If his actions are deemed unjustifiable—which of course they will be—then he will be punished. The writers gloss over the timeline a bit by explaining that Odo's transgression created such chaos amongst the Founders that it took them a year of deliberating since “The Adversary” to decide how to proceed. That's allegedly why we've seen so little of them this season. It's transparent, but rather neat.

As she leaves, Garak attempts his question, but she brushes him off brusquely.

FOUNDER: There were no Cardassian survivors.
GARAK: You mean, they're all dead?
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.
GARAK: It was a pleasure meeting you.

FINALLY a bit of the Garak we know and love shows up. Marvellous stuff.

Meanwhile, Sisko and O'Brien are brainstorming ideas on how to safeguard Odo if they can, but the Constable interrupts and tells them to knock it off. He's gotten all melty again, but he insists that they let him be judged by his people. After all, if he's ever to reconcile with his people—his profoundest which, remember—then he cannot refuse the Great Link, even if it means he will be punished.

They arrive at last and the Changelings, Sisko and Bashir beam down to a small island in a sea of Shapeshifters. Anne and Odo wade into the living sea while the humans are left to wait.

Act 5 : ***, 18%

After another stupid gag (the genius doctor making to skip stones over the Changeling waves. Guess they didn't think to bring a book or something), we catch up with Worf on the Defiant. He has caught Garak messing with the weapons systems and tosses him aside. Garak was trying to launch the quantum torpedoes. Apparently, the Defiant by herself can match the firepower of the entire combined Tal-Shiar and Obsidian Order fleets. Please. Anyway, what has Garak so crazed?

WORF: We are not here to wage war.
GARAK: I'm not talking about war. What I'm proposing is wiping out every Founder on that planet. Obliterating the Great Link. Come now, Mister Worf, you're a Klingon. Don't tell me you'd object to a little genocide in the name of self-defence?
WORF: I am a warrior, not a murderer.
GARAK: What you are is a great disappointment.
[fisticuffs]
WORF: You fight well for a tailor.

Cute. William B said:

“I guess the biggest other note here is about Garak. I like the structure here, where Garak's dangerous past is played for comedy as he is a wry entertainer of Odo, only to turn things around at the last moment and reveal that this is still a *very* dangerous guy.”

True—however, aside from that veiled pleasantry he gave to Resusci Anne, we haven't seen a return of Garak's enigmatic personality. Firing all the weapons in a blaze of glory and being so inept as to get caught by the guy who once lost control of the Enterprise to a bunch of Ferengi isn't exactly the subtlest move. While I like the idea that Garak is so shaken by the news of Tain's and Cardassia's literal and/or figurative deaths, we haven't seen many signs of the “old Garak” this entire season. So, this alleged reversal doesn't pack the punch it would have had if this story were much closer to “The Die is Cast,” or if they had written him better in the intervening episodes.

Back on the planet, the Great Link coughs Odo up onto the shore, now naked and fully “human.” Anne emerges and explains that he has been transformed into a human (the ur-solid, I suppose) as punishment for his crime. This makes sense. If he is unwilling to follow Changeling doctrine, then he cannot truly *be* a Changeling. The poetry of this action fits their self-appointed divinity quite well.

The crew return to DS9, where Odo explains that they left his face unchanged so that the audience wouldn't be confused, I mean so that Odo wouldn't forget what he has lost. Garak fashions Odo a new, real uniform. Odo shows that this experience has profoundly changed him by...realising he's hungry and returning right back to his typical ways, wryly smiling as he arrests Garak for attempted genocide. Did I say DBI? Well, we put a bow on this silly scene by having Sultry Bajoran Lady return, making pouty lips and sticking her boobs in Odo's face. Now that he has a human penis, however, we are promised more painful scenes in the future.

Ah, but the epilogue has a coda.

ODO: Every once in a while I still get flashes of memory from the Great Link. A jumble of images or a word, but I can't quite make sense of it...When I joined with the other changelings in the Great Link, I felt something I've never felt before. In that moment, I knew I was home. For the first time, I felt that I understood my people. Their distrust of the solids, their willingness to do anything to protect themselves. And then in an instant it was all snatched away. I'm trapped in this body. I can never rejoin the Great Link. My job is the only thing I have left.

If Odo's character ever had a thesis statement, this is probably it. And Auberjonois delivers as always. Before the season closes, we get another broadcast from Gowron. Oh yeah, we still have all this Klingon bullshit to deal with, don't we? He makes good on his promise to retake the Archanis sector by pledging military forces to the region. While he babbles, Odo makes a realisation, however: Gowron is a Changeling. Dun dun dun!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Episode as Functionary : ***, 10%

This episode had a lot it needed to do, which makes it surprising that the plot is so thin. On the one hand, it needed to bring to a climax the events set in motion at the season's start, and technically it did—it's just that Gowron's actions are little more than a framing device for this story. That's not a criticism exactly; there hasn't been much this season directly confronting the New Empire. Most of the Klingon stories were just Worf stories or Dukat stories. But I'll get to that stuff in the season recap. What I mean is, I think the writers realised that there wasn't much material to draw on regarding the Klingon-Cardassian war and so relegating it to the prologue and the epilogue exclusively works. We are promised a follow-up to this thread in Season 5.

The principle material in this story is a follow-up to “Improbable Cause”/”The Die is Cast,” which is why Odo and Garak are the primary characters, of course. As wonderful as Andrew Robinson is, and as compelling a character as Garak has always been—I found him pretty disappointing in this episode, and season overall. His little genocide speech and reaction to Resusci Anne's cold anger were great moments, but I've lost his arc. When you compare him here to the aforementioned S3 material, it feels very much like the character is flailing about for direction.

Odo fairs much better, managing to balance the cosmic-scale implications of challenging his own people's self-importance with the almost trivial latent feelings he's harbouring for Kira. These themes are connected, of course; whether programmed or naturally-occurring, Changelings clearly possess an acute need companionship. In Odo, this serves to highlight the tragedy of his life and personal loneliness, but with the Link, we see how that interdependence has degenerated into xenophobic imperialism. I'm recalling my observations from “The Muse” in how it is precisely Odo's suffering which prevents him from becoming a tyrant, not unlike how artists' suffering allows them to create. There are whiffs of Christ and Moses allegories in Odo's story that I think work nicely because they aren't overt or forced. SPOILING for the future, we see that the conceit Anne hides behind when explaining why it took them a year to go after Odo can actually be explained by their machinations in the Klingon Empire. Neatly done.

With all of that to cover, not to mention the medical drama, there are a lot of padding scenes involving the rest of the cast, something “Improbable Cause” wasn't plagued with. Worf, Dax and especially O'Brien are pretty insufferable in these scenes which dampened the whole mood of the piece for me. All of that said, I have not really liked any of DS9's finale's so far, but this one works for me, despite its flaws.

Final Score : ***
William B
Tue, May 14, 2019, 9:49am (UTC -5)
@Elliott, alas, I agree about Garak. I do think he maybe decided to level with Sisko because his reason was so self-evident that even he could hardly obscure it, and perhaps because he was already planning some rash action should he get the "wrong answer" from, er, Anne.

Possibly the way to help the story would be to reveal that Sisko, Worf, Odo and maybe Bashir had anticipated that Garak might have some other plans, so that averting his mass murder-suicide would make the Defiant crew look smart rather than making Garak look sloppy. This might present its own problems, because really they probably shouldn't have let Garak on this mission in the first place, but especially not if they anticipated he might take some aggressive action.

I agree it's a shame there wasn't more discussion of sending the Defiant into enemy territory. In fact the episode could have pared it down by sending Odo, Bashir and Garak on a volunteer Runabout mission. That it's basically a suicide mission should the Founders be uncooperative would explain why Garak would go instead of more reliable personnel - - Bashir or Odo could vouch that his need to know what happened to Tain was genuine enough to be worth a risk to him that would not match anyone else. If the Founders' goodwill is reliable they don't need the Defiant, and if it's not the Defiant wouldn't be any good. Bashir's presence is medically necessary but could also lead to teasing out some of the Bashir VS Dominion philosophical themes from Hippocratic Oath and The Quickening. SPOILERS This Runabout setup is similar to what will be used in In Purgatory's Shadow.
William B
Tue, May 14, 2019, 9:52am (UTC -5)
(Although I guess the genocide would have been harder without the Defiant, so that wouldn't really work. Hm.)
William B
Tue, May 14, 2019, 10:00am (UTC -5)
I just want to add, Garak's plan involving self-sacrifice really makes the contrast with Tain pop. Garak is brutal and does evil things, but he does not do it for personal gain, whereas Tain planned to leverage the genocide to consolidate his own political power. It makes Garak's action no less brutal, but more desperate, emotional, and with a kind of perverse nobility despite the horror of what he's doing. L

Despite its flaws, the episode does pay off IC/TDIC by having both Odo and Garak following the code created by their tyrannical "parents" to its (self-sacrificing) conclusion. Both are aware consciously of the hypocrisy of said parents but also feel a loyalty to them, and can't deny what their code would have them do.
Jason R.
Tue, May 14, 2019, 10:27am (UTC -5)
"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. "

I always felt, in retrospect, that this was a promise the Founders always intended to keep, regardless of their subsequent alliance with Cardassia.

Of course they did eventually attempt it after the Cardassian fleet turned against them in WYLB but I feel that affected the timing only, not the end result.

For the Founders, the Obsidian Order's attempted genocide was a capital crime, for all Cardassians.
Chrome
Tue, May 14, 2019, 10:44am (UTC -5)
Elliott wrote:

"Sigh...we all knew it was inevitable, but I can't help hating this. I'm not a big fan of Odo/Kira, but it's firmly established in the series that “his” attraction to her—and remember that Odo's gender is completely arbitrary—is based on their relationship. Odo doesn't have hormones or genitals. Odo doesn't have orgasms. If he finds himself attracted to a solid, it could only be for reasons that have nothing to do with our conceptualisations of physical beauty or sexiness."

I don't see what the big deal is. We know Odo likes Kira, so it stands to reason he'd like a Bajoran woman who is beautiful like Kira. I don't know if you're married/in a relationship or whatever, but ask yourself, have you ever been attracted someone similar to your big love interest in some way? I thought this was pretty common.
Elliott
Tue, May 14, 2019, 11:19am (UTC -5)
@Chrome:

Maybe I should have elaborated—with Odo, there is the opportunity to present an allegory for non-heteronormative/gendered relationships. “He” is a bucket of goo. The humanoid male shape of him is no more real than the LCARS screens and rocks he transforms into. That Odo would seek companionship/romance or even some sort of sexual relationship (although there’s no evolutionary drive in his species for such interactions) is perfectly fine, but he shouldn’t feel physical attraction the way we do. He isn’t a straight man. He’s not even a man. So, as I said, the fact that he and Garak act like frat boys is disappointing to me because it’s lazy.

The same disappointment extends to Data and the EMH, by the way, but one can at least use the excuse that they were programmed with the personalities of straight men and thus emulate their desires.

I think “Chimera” is a good salve to all the Odo heteronormalising that goes on in the series but that’s a long way off.

Oh, and I’m married, since you asked.
Elliott
Tue, May 14, 2019, 11:24am (UTC -5)
@William B

Good points all around. If memory serves, the S5 Garak arc does a better job with him. I love Garak and usually am happy to see him on screen but I wonder if it was a mistake to pepper him about S4 like they did. If we had barely seen him—his appearances in “Our Man Bashir” and “Body Parts” would probably still work out—then I think his story here would be more satisfying. We could fill in the blanks about the brooding, second guessing, regret, etc he’s been experiencing since the loss of Tain. The exposure we got, especially vis-à-vis Ziyal, get in the way.
Jason R.
Tue, May 14, 2019, 2:47pm (UTC -5)
"The humanoid male shape of him is no more real than the LCARS screens and rocks he transforms into"

Apparently not. He is pretty explicitly gendered as male in the series. At no point is it stated otherwise nor is it suggested that Changelings are genderless a la the race from The Outcast.

While it's not the character you may have wanted, it does seem to be the character as was written. And frankly, I see nothing outlandish about Odo being explicitly male gendered.

But I will say the decision to make him Human was rather arbitrary. I would have expected him to be Bajoran if anything. Though perhaps "human" in this case is just proxy for some kind of generic solid i.e. humanoid.
Peter g.
Tue, May 14, 2019, 3:04pm (UTC -5)
@ Elliott,

I also think that this is a good one that has some imperfections. In the balance I tend to view 'really good parts' as signficiantly outweighing how much padding can take away, but there's no question that this is no The Die Is Cast for example. I would like to comment on a few points you make, however:

"Odo doesn't have hormones or genitals. Odo doesn't have orgasms. If he finds himself attracted to a solid, it could only be for reasons that have nothing to do with our conceptualisations of physical beauty or sexiness"

This is a point that's actually never made clear. In fact I think it's sort of implied that when a Changeling takes on a form it's more than just the exterior silhouette. But more on this in a moment.

"And Garak used to have such wonderful ambiguity in his own sexual proclivities. Seeing the two of them drool over this woman like cartoon hounds is cheap and profoundly disappointing. "

Garak's comments here never came across as anything other than an aesthetic appraisal for Odo's benefit. I definitively never read it as him actually desiring her.

"In this case, there isn't a baby but this medical condition affecting one of their own which is going to draw the crew into a trap set by the enemy. "

Maybe this is too much of a meta-answer, but I suspect the reason the writers didn't address it as a trap is because it wasn't one. I mean, from Sisko's perspective I agree it looked like it might be one. But in fact it wasn't, and so while this is a funny reason to omit a tactical discussion it's also a discussion that would have had no payoff. So I sorta agree with them skipping it.

"In another disappointment, Garak explains himself to Sisko, but completely straight, plainly and simply you might say. He isn't obfuscating or misdirecting or manipulating anyone, which makes his presence in the episode feel uncharacteristically bland. "

This comment of yours was the biggest surprise to me, as I never for an instant (not even when it first aired) assumed he was telling the truth here.

" Quark makes a comment that he's looking forward to his profits soaring—which kind of deflates the resolution we came to in the LAST FUCKING EPISODE."

I see how this can grate, *however* we must remember that these episodes were often written at the same time, and by different people. The sort of insane script revisions and rewrites to accomodate quickly changing continuity was needed in the later series when things were more serialized, and from what Behr says it was hectic. At this point in the series I don't think they were up to verifying that two scripts back to back included continuity with each other. That's an artifact of TV at the time.

"The Founders see themselves as gods; their commands are inviolate, and deviation from their will is nothing short of heresy. That's why she calls the law “sacred,” and that is Odo's actual crime against his people. "

Agreed. However I wonder whether their superiority compex may not be a fear-based inferiority complex, evolved over thousands of years.

"FOUNDER: There were no Cardassian survivors.
GARAK: You mean, they're all dead?
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.
GARAK: It was a pleasure meeting you."

This, I believe, was Garak's real purpose here. Not to find out about Cardassian dead, mind you, but to find out about Tain, specifically, and to further gauge whether the Founders held all Cardassians responsible or not. They do. Garak's next actions follow directly from this conversation, and was his real purpose for wanting to come. Assuming that Worf didn't stop him, Garak was possibly giving the Founder a way out if she answered correctly, and she did not. We might still ask why Sisko let him along. The cover story is sound enough, if a bit strange for Garak. However we get the gist over time that Sisko consideres Garak to be uniquely useful and that it's perhaps wise to occasionally let him have his way to see what happens. In this case Sisko made a big mistake, but I don't think anyone could have foreseen how far Garak was willing to go.

'Anyway, what has Garak so crazed?"

Were you being facetious here? The statement from the Changeling warranted fully what Garak chooses to do provided one's perspective is "them or us." It's not a Federation moral calculus, but for any other major power, yeah, it's enough to destroy them over.

"As wonderful as Andrew Robinson is, and as compelling a character as Garak has always been—I found him pretty disappointing in this episode, and season overall. His little genocide speech and reaction to Resusci Anne's cold anger were great moments, but I've lost his arc. When you compare him here to the aforementioned S3 material, it feels very much like the character is flailing about for direction. "

I think we're meant to understand that Old Garak was more or less washed away with The Die Is Cast. Not that his inherent personality was gone, but his purpose, his allegiances and desires - I would say that those began to shift. This season is certainly one where he had no proper arc, considering that he was in position for a transition into unknown territory for him. Later on we get more of a sense of where he was headed. But being a bit adrift at the moment seems for him a logical place to be at this point.

"Odo shows that this experience has profoundly changed him by...realising he's hungry and returning right back to his typical ways, wryly smiling as he arrests Garak for attempted genocide. Did I say DBI? Well, we put a bow on this silly scene by having Sultry Bajoran Lady return, making pouty lips and sticking her boobs in Odo's face. Now that he has a human penis, however, we are promised more painful scenes in the future."

Going back to my point about Odo, I think you've hit it: *he goes back to his typical ways*!!! But he's not a Changeling anymore, right? Different species, biology, and so forth. Well then what would he personality be like now? Or his needs and wants? But overally his emotional needs and wants seem more or less unchanged. This should tell us something important: he wasn't just a mass of goo all along, although he did have to return to that state to regenerate. We must now carefully consider some details about Changelings that are alluded to but never specified by the series: what does a Changeling actually do? Just change their exterior shape and color? Or much more? We have heard too many details about what Changelings do, like "actually *being* a rock" to make it plausible that only their aesthetic details change. How could a Changeling hand out with wild animals when the smells are all wrong? Or how could they actually experience "being" anything at all if they're not really becoming that thing? The only conclusion I can accept is that they do really become those things, and that Odo did, therefore, always have a penis since he learned how to become a Bajoran-type solid. It would explain why he has romantic feelins, why those prefer Bajoran-looking people, and why he's so different from the Founders: because he actually lived *as one of them* for a long time, and accepted what that was like in his own way. For a Founder changing shape is a lark, but they are the Link in reality. But "Odo" is actually the solid, not the pile of goo, and everything we know about him is his character *as a solid*. So not only do I buy the male-female hormonal romantic feelings with Kira, but also his inability to understand why he feels how he does. If he was in full control of his shape and that's all, he wouldn't have unexplained solid-type feelings at all. But we know he does. That means the Changelings can adopt forms they don't understand, and their internal workings have a savant-type skill to them, where they can copy even what they don't realize they're copying. That's probably one reason they dislike being humanoid so much: because it takes away their control of themselves. SPOILER: we can even see how out of control the female Changeling's emotions get when she has to remain a solid for a long time, and being sick no less.
Jason R.
Tue, May 14, 2019, 4:10pm (UTC -5)
I agree Peter and I would add that clearly the changelings are doing more than just imitating the appearance of physical forms a la the T1000 from Terminator. We have to presume that such a facade would easily be unmasked by a simple tricorder scan and other technologies that are standard in the Star Trek universe. Such scans can easily discern even between different humanoid groups, so just goo in a human shape would never fool anyone.

The changelings must be imitating other lifeforms right down to their DNA. So I'd infer that Odo was always "fully functional" down there, although perhaps not schooled in many techniques.
Chrome
Tue, May 14, 2019, 4:14pm (UTC -5)
Elliott, I would argue that Odo has taken his people's advice to heart:

"To become a thing is to know a thing. To assume its form is to begin to understand its existence."

Even though he can become any of these things, Odo has not chosen to live a life as a rock, a Tarkalean hawk, or a Klingon targ. He's picked a masculine humanoid form and he's spent his life "observing solids" to try and understand and emulate them better.

One of the great achievements Odo has over Laas (and other Changelings), we'll see, is that Odo didn't just assume the humanoid form for kicks then spend his life doing something else. Rather, he assumed the form and really understood the life of being a humanoid.

Now, you may be right that there's a missed opportunity to tell non-heteronormative/gendered relationships, but does not choosing to do that lower the quality of the episode?
William B
Wed, May 15, 2019, 12:05pm (UTC -5)
I think as Elliott indicates, maybe the issue with Odo and sexual attraction is more a matter of disappointment that the show was maybe not as imaginative as it could be. What we see really is that Odo denies his depth of feeling by identifying as a changeling, but of course he longs for emotional connection. Whether that emotional connection should take a sexual form, though, is sort of an open question. Given early-series Odo's distaste for solids' romantic endeavours, would it even make sense for him to replicate the *appearance* of genitals, let alone functional ones? And if he did decide to replicate them, why is he "stuck" "being" a male Bajoran rather than a female one? Because his romantic interests are Kira and, in a weird way, Lwaxana, both of whom are apparently very hetero, it does make sense that if he's going to commit to a gender it should be male, but as Elliott suggests it seems kind of unimaginative for him to suddenly be a Tex Avery cartoon wolf* when Garak brings in a hottie for him. I agree with that, though I also don't exactly *object* to the idea that Odo could have a basically functional male body that has male hormones or whatever, at this point, just that I'm not sure if it should be so much the default.

*I'm exaggerating for effect.

Another possibility, which I think is not likely intended but is maybe worth considering for a moment, is whether Garak is actually trying to give Odo tips on how to "pass" as a typical adult heterosexual male, so as to be less isolated in his day-to-day life.
Jason R.
Wed, May 15, 2019, 12:27pm (UTC -5)
William I suppose the way I see it is that emotional attraction and sexual attraction are not separate things. I have never understood the idea of loving a woman for her mind or some abstract idea as separate and distinct from her body i.e. her sexuality. Indeed, if one removes the sexuality from the equation one ends up with nothing more than a nice friendship - which is plainly something different from romantic love. The idea that Odo should love Kira for her mind or something and not care about her physicality and sexuality renders the relationship no longer a romantic one. That is fine, but clearly the writers wanted more for Odo's character.

And if you accept the premise that changelings may have a fixed gender, either by birth or through some force of habit (or combination thereof) then the idea of a male shapeshifter finding a female Bajoran attractive isn't so far fetched.

Of course I am operating within the Trek convention that two beings from separate planets would be essentially identical outside of a wrinkled nose or a ridged forehead, but once you go that far (and in serious scifi that itself would be ludicrous) then the idea of male gendered shapeshifters being sexually attracted to female solids is essentially a trivial leap.

We know Odo isn't just aping the form of a solid - as far as we know he IS what he is imitating while doing so. Why one should be distresses that he appropriates a common sexuality (cis male hetero) and not a relatively common one is beyond me.
Jason R.
Wed, May 15, 2019, 12:32pm (UTC -5)
Sorry, meant to say "relatively uncommon one"
Peter G.
Wed, May 15, 2019, 12:40pm (UTC -5)
@ William B,

The issue of whether Odo's sexuality 'should have been' explored in a non-heteronormative way seems to me no more compelling than it would for any other character. Writers have the theoretical option to make any charcter gay or anything else they choose, and Odo being a Changeling doesn't really make that easier. Sure, it does alter the manner in which such a story could be told, since a shapeshifter that looks like a guy and likes guys would be physiologically different in some manner from a Klingon guy who likes guys. But that's really an aesthetic difference at bottom; a costuming and prosthetic one if you will. If it was so desired the physiology of a given character's race could always be made to accomodate a non-hetero or non-binary sexual story. They had no agenda to do that, and so that's that. Odo being 'maleable' on a literal level doesn't say to me that he was prime material for a character sexually maleable. Sure, they could have. But they also could have with any other character too, and the lack of doing so with Odo doesn't strike me as being any more of a lost opportunity as failing to do so with Garak, or with Bashir or even Quark for that matter. That wasn't the type of story they wanted to tell, and it's also very likely it's not what the network wanted either.

I will grant, though, that if the writers had been deadset on a sexually ambiguous or even non-normative character, Odo would have been an easier time for them to slip it past the network execs if they needed to excuse themselves for why they were choosing to make a 'gay story' or whatever term they'd have had to defend themselves against. Overall, though, I don't think that type of TV at that time was quite ready for it, even though Roddenberry himself seemed intent on bringing that to the screen when TNG came about.

That said, Trek aliens have rarely been more than humans with costumes on. There is no humanoid Trek race that is significantly different than humans other than maybe the Jem'Hadar, and in some rare cases races like the Gorn or Tosk. For the most part they are, as Jason R. put it, humans with make-up, and the stories told about the various Alpha Quadrant races are typically allegorical for human behavioral or political differences. They don't often portray *truly alien* aliens, and that has always been true for Trek, which is one reason why the Borg were originally so scary. In the novels and such there is more variety (often a budgeting issue), and even then we don't get investigations into totally alien life forms like we see in Ender's Game. Trek is fundamentally about humans and always has been, so the fact that Odo is in a sense treated as a human with shapeshifting ability and a tough attitude is exactly what was intended.
William B
Wed, May 15, 2019, 12:42pm (UTC -5)
@Jason, I understand what you're saying, but I think we're talking at cross purposes a little here. There seems to be a sexual component, of some kind, in Odo's feelings for Kira, but we also know by this point in the series that it is *only* Kira for whom Odo has had these feelings. The next closest is Lwaxana, and that relationship was defined in part by him *not* being willing/able to reciprocate Lwaxana's sexual advances. Moreover by this point in the series, unless I'm forgetting something, Odo has denied being capable of having humanoid-sexual feelings for people to everyone but Quark, the Female Shapeshifter, and Lwaxana, and Lwaxana's ex-husband when he was faking. The series repeatedly stresses that despite Odo's ability to mimic humanoid forms, he *doesn't* mimic all their bodily functions, at all -- he doesn't eat or drink. The season premiere showed how he fakes drinking with Garak in a clever way by making a cup part of him. The entire premise of extracting blood to check whether someone is a changeling is that changelings are assumed not to be able to produce fluids which can then be removed from their bodies and then remain in non-changeling-gelatinous-gooey form. This might be a mislead, as we are hinted at a few times, but it's surely based on what they know of what *Odo* can do, so he clearly can't ejaculate fluid that isn't just going to become changeling goo when it exits. Garak doesn't even know that Odo has feelings for Kira at this point, so for him to assume that he is going to have sexual feelings for a humanoid when he has had zero indication that Odo *has* sexual feelings at all is a big leap for him. This is by no means an indication that Garak shouldn't test it out -- who doesn't like a little experiment? -- but there is a tacit assumption within the scene that Odo is going to be physically impressed, which seems to go against most of what Garak knows about him, and what we know about the track record of Odo's sexual history besides Kira.

I feel like there's an opportunity here to consider ways in which Odo's bizarre, unusual, not-really-human(oid) constitution, his inability to fully recreate the humanoid body (which we're reminded of constantly, if only because of his face), the way in which his obsession with Kira is repeatedly emphasized as the *one* and only thing keeping him from returning to the Link, and so on, would manifest in his sexuality. It just seems like "anyway, otherwise, he has a really standard, average sexuality" is the least interesting answer in some ways. It is an answer, and I suppose a plausible one.

In any case, I don't really know how to evaluate how primary the sexual attraction to Kira is in terms of how he relates to her. She functions for him at least in part as an anchor tying him to the solid world, and he overinvests all kinds of things in her -- basically viewing her as a gateway to the whole solid world. He seems to want a romantic relationship with her, but by this point in the series it's still unclear whether that's even possible, or, indeed, whether that's *actually* what he wants from her.

"Why one should be distresses that he appropriates a common sexuality (cis male hetero) and not a relatively common one is beyond me."

I'm certainly not distressed. What I'm getting at is that the series has up to this point left it relatively open how Odo's sexuality would even work, if it would work at all, and in this scene it made a decision on it. It's worth noting and talking about whether that decision is the most interesting one.
William B
Wed, May 15, 2019, 1:00pm (UTC -5)
@Peter, it is partly because they would have an easier time slipping Odo past the censors that I think he'd be a good candidate to. That's part of what's interesting about "Chimera," which does many different things but can be read in part as an analogy for a closeted man finding a relationship with another man, who is himself a more angry, anti-hetero gay (subtext made text with the "changeling pride parade" material). The series itself goes to that well and recognizes its value. But I also think there is potential in Odo's Alien-Outsider nature and what it means to be a changeling to explore this. I think the reason it's interesting to speculate about what could have been done is because part of what defines Odo's character is that his body is, or can be, in flux. It's an opportunity to consider how much of our identity is tied to our bodies, and what it means that the body can change. Which parts of romance are entirely tied to the physical form we take, and which parts are more general? Is it all in the form our body takes at the given moment, or does changing the body change the feelings? Sexual intercourse is one of the most *physical* aspects of human life and interaction, and Odo's body is only a fascimile, albeit a close one -- but still not one that eats, drinks, urinates. These are questions that both TNG and DS9 have addressed with the Trills. They address an awful lot of interesting questions with Odo, so I'm not upset that we don't get this particular factor all that addressed. But I also think it was a missed opportunity to at least start asking these questions.

I guess the other aspect is that unless I'm misremembering, Odo has emphatically denied having any such (romantic/sexual) feelings publicly for years, and the only time we have seen them manifest is with Kira at this point in the series. The series has been agnostic for four years on whether Odo can have heteronormative sexual feelings about someone besides his single all-encompassing obsession (and even on whether his feelings for Kira are specifically sexual or if "sexual" is the easiest frame in which to organize them), and then makes a decision in the teaser to go with "heteronormative" -- that for, again unless I'm misremembering, the first time in the series, Odo primarily interacts with another solid sexually (by being tongue-tied sexually attracted to someone he doesn't already know). Up to this point in the series it was also possible for people with less heteronormative sexualities to see some of that reflected in Odo, who initially in the series found himself completely outside the realm of romantic relationships, and only eventually came to long for something romantic once he discovered his deep emotional connection to Kira and his deep loneliness.
Peter G.
Wed, May 15, 2019, 1:00pm (UTC -5)
@ William B,

I know you haven't had a chance to reply yet to my last message, but I'll reply to your last one to Jason R. anyhow. Maybe if our timing it luckly you can reply to both of mine at once.

"The series repeatedly stresses that despite Odo's ability to mimic humanoid forms, he *doesn't* mimic all their bodily functions, at all -- he doesn't eat or drink. The season premiere showed how he fakes drinking with Garak in a clever way by making a cup part of him. The entire premise of extracting blood to check whether someone is a changeling is that changelings are assumed not to be able to produce fluids which can then be removed from their bodies and then remain in non-changeling-gelatinous-gooey form."

This is true, but the main factor in play with these examples is that while Odo can mimic physical form, he can only maintain the mimicry so long as he has possession of those parts of himself. Remove them (like his blood) and he loses the ability to maintain that form. And it *is* blood when extracted, as we visually see in The Adversary, and only reverts back when the control over it is lost. Likewise, with food or drink, I don't know that Odo could transform regular matter into his own morphogenic matrix. That said we don't know some of these details because the writers deliberately avoided turning his species into a technobabble driven sideshow when the main intent was always to explore his feelings and identity (what are his desires, where is he from, etc). His feelings of attraction for Kira are a given, so rather than ask if that makes sense we should rather ask what his nature is such that it *does* make sense. It has to make sense because the writers asserted it as a given. That we don't know why he doesn't eat is just a mystery. We might well ask what fuels any of his activities: they do require energy after all. But it's not addressed. Regeneration can't produce energy from nowhere but it's never stated how that works, and further it doesn't matter because his story is not about the writers guessing at how a Changeling might work. They rightly don't claim to know.

As far as Garak and the Bajoran woman go, don't forget also how clever Garak is. I always assume that whatever else he's doing, he's collecting information. Maybe his appeal to Odo here is a way of gauging exactly what Odo's sexual nature is in the first place?
Booming
Wed, May 15, 2019, 1:08pm (UTC -5)
Wasn't Garak the one who could be seen as a gay character?

- He is a tailor.
- He has never had any sexual relationship.
- He is interested in oddballs
- He has a certain way of talking.
I always thought that you could read him as gay (maybe a little cliched).

And about Odo. We once or twice saw him "sexing" with Kira. You talk about genitals.Pah! I always thought that he went far faaaaar beyond that. Crazy stuff.
(He also had a sexual relationship with that one agent who was undercover)
William B
Wed, May 15, 2019, 1:08pm (UTC -5)
Anyway, this isn't really my fight. I don't really care that much that Odo turns out to be a straight dude. It seems quite likely that his feelings for Kira and his longing for intimacy with her triggered a certain mode of relating to her that is probably sexual. I think that what Odo *actually longs for* with Kira is closeness and intimacy -- something of the melding which occurs in the Link -- and he recognizes that the closest humanoid equivalent to the Link is sexual intercourse. Embodied in a physical male form, his emotional/spiritual desire to meld with Kira takes on physical/sexual dimensions. And once that process starts, it makes sense that, with attractive Bajoran woman Kira off the table, he'll see other attractive Bajoran women in a similar way. He probably didn't experience sexual attraction before Kira because he never recognized that his lonely existence wasn't enough for him and he wasn't skilled enough at reproducing his humanoid body, and now post-Link/post-Kira feelings he is better at it. There's lots of ways of interpreting it that make sense to me.

What I'm saying is that I think that Elliott has a point. This isn't even my fight, and it's not really that emotionally involved a subject for me -- I'm straight and I don't really care whether Odo is or not. But there is a dearth of representation in Trek for non-heteronormative sexualities, and I think Odo was a good candidate for various reasons. He is not locked into a single body and has been celibate (in terms of humanoid sexuality) the whole time we knew him, and this scene marks the point at which a decision was made that he was *definitely* not just Kirasexual but also attracted to other Bajoran women based on their looks. An active decision was made in the scene, which winnowed down some of the possibilities of Odo's character. Maybe that's fine because maybe they do enough interesting things with Odo that it's not worth examining these possibilities.
Chrome
Wed, May 15, 2019, 1:19pm (UTC -5)
I've enjoyed this discussion and I think William B has eloquently defended Elliott's point about Odo liking Kira more on a changeling level than a sexual one. But, just to play devil's advocate, I have three words for you: "A Simple Investigation".
William B
Wed, May 15, 2019, 1:23pm (UTC -5)
@Peter,

Good points. But two things:

1. Odo has said that he doesn't eat because the results were "messy." That's neither here nor there.

2. Odo's attraction to Kira: I feel like it's worth pausing here. I might be misunderstanding. But up to this point in the series, do we know his attraction to her is definitely *sexual*? I know I said earlier that there is a sexual component, and I think there probably is. But I also don't know how well we can distinguish between different kinds of needs and feelings. Odo is jealous of Kira's sexual relationship with Bareil and Shakaar, but that does not necessarily mean he has the same feelings for her that they do. What Odo really wants of Kira seems to me to be intimacy and closeness. As I said earlier, that is something humans can do through sexual intercourse, but it's not the only way. I'd argue that what Odo *really wants* is to Link with Kira, which is of course impossible. Of course the Link is also partly a sexual metaphor -- but it's still distinct, and the meaning of gender is irrelevant with regards to the Link itself. I can see how his desire is also probably a sexual desire. I am trying to think whether there were any scenes in which Odo's feelings for Kira were distinctly sexualized -- him staring at her breasts or whatever. I don't think they ever did, and again the closest seems to be his clear jealousy of her sex with Shakaar. But even this is not *quite* the same as him having a "normal" set of sexual feelings for Kira. One could argue that there's a certain limitation that a 90's Trek show isn't going to have Odo ogling Kira and having a visible erection, and that's certainly true, but that still means that I don't think the show had conclusively established that Odo is necessarily wired in a precisely sexual adult male way. Again I'm not arguing that he definitely *isn't* wired that way. What I mean is that the show has been ambiguous in certain respects, and has also made clear at other times that his body is not like other people's bodies.

This is why for Odo to react with sexual interest in a woman he doesn't know, as opposed to a woman is a new thing. Again, I don't mean "new thing" necessarily in a bad way. It's treated in the scene as something new-ish for him. What's happening here is that Elliott regards the scene as sending Odo into a direction that is unnecessary and stupid. It appears that you, Jason, and Chrome are arguing that the scene is not establishing anything new for Odo but is merely restating what the series has already made obvious -- that Odo is a sexual male being with normal drives, when he's in his humanoid form. What I'm arguing is that I think Elliott is right that the scene is making a new statement, and that the series had not yet established definitely what Odo's sexual status was, and that there has been enough ambiguity in the treatment of Odo's body that it *is* a new development to have him react this way. Whether it's a bad development or not -- eh, I don't know. I think the scene is kind of stale. I don't really object that strongly and I don't think it's implausible. I think it can work with what we know, for reasons you have all articulated and for reasons I've added. But I do think it was a choice in this scene. And I think that it was a choice makes Elliott's arguments about it valid. I think I tend to agree, but I also don't have a strong emotional connection so it's a bit hard for me to evaluate.

"As far as Garak and the Bajoran woman go, don't forget also how clever Garak is. I always assume that whatever else he's doing, he's collecting information. Maybe his appeal to Odo here is a way of gauging exactly what Odo's sexual nature is in the first place?"

This, on the other hand, I agree with completely -- it's definitely a plausible read on the scene, and it seems to me to be very Garak (particularly mid-series Garak) to be, simultaneously, doing a favour for a friend and gathering information to use (possibly against them) later, should the need arise.
William B
Wed, May 15, 2019, 1:31pm (UTC -5)
@Chrome -- thanks! Regarding your devil's advocate: but "A Simple Investigation" takes place when Odo's a solid, and he's *completely* solidified, so that he also eats, drinks, sleeps, etc. -- all the physical things that he doesn't do as a changeling. So the ambiguities that come with him being a changeling or an alien are no longer relevant.

@Peter, just to add one more thing, you're right of course that aliens in Trek are usually only so alien and are usually humans except for one or two quirks. It's really because Odo 1) has been established as being physically ill-at-ease in his body, 2) IIRC denied having romantic feelings for anyone at all before the Kira thing started, 3) IIRC again has never shown any sexual feelings for anyone besides Kira that I think it's quite legitimate to argue that boxing Odo into a "default sexuality" at this point in the series is a new development and then to question whether it removes some of what's interesting and unique about Odo. This is I think an area where they have already *established* Odo as being different from other humanoids, at least in his own description. He is perhaps in denial about that, but it's an issue that has in some ways come up. It's not like arguing that Odo shouldn't be able to speak English because we don't know how his tongue works.
Peter G.
Wed, May 15, 2019, 1:40pm (UTC -5)
@ William B (and Elliott, by way of topic),

I do agree actually that it's a new thing for us to see Odo considering a new Bajoran woman. But the question is: what's new about it? Do we see him sexually interested? I'm not sure, and would say it's borderline. He admits noticing something, but that may also be an objective appraisal. I can say a man is attractive and not be interested. But the running theme with Odo has always been him discovering what he's really like, and us along with him. For him to finally realize he's into Kira (and finally loves her) is a big deal because even he wouldn't admit it previously. It's not because he thought it was wrong, but because he's a child and doesn't understand his own feelings yet. And that's what I always saw in this scene: him considering his own feelings in a new way and trying to put aside his preconceptions about being "all about work" (which was always a BS defense mechanism, especially during the Occupation).

I also agree that it's hard to evaluate exactly what feelings we're supposed to attribute to his desire for Kira. I might well agree it's to link with her, but here's where I'll go the other way with you: I don't think that's evidence that it's not sexual. I'd call that the *most sexual* way of framing it. To me, the idea that Changelings link while humanoids 'couple' might be a bit reductionist. For instance, can you actually say that human beings merely desire each other sexually in a physical way? That might be one way to call it, but I'd suggest that it might be reductively materialist to frame it in that manner. Christians, for instance, fervently believe that humans actually desire to literally link with each other, and that sex and marriage are temporal but lesser versions of that great link (which would occur only after physical death). But the argument they make would surely be that we truly desire the 'great link' and that sex is a weak version of it that we have to settle for at while in this world. We can call the jury out on whether this type of story depicts reality or fantasy, but I don't think it's a given that Changeling 'sexual desire' is fundamentally different from humanoid sexual desire. The Changelings think it's totally different, but as we know they are wrong about a great many things.

On the side topic of why they didn't show Odo ever ogling women, I suspect it was a combination of the tastefulness of the series, giving Odo a sort of puritanical manner (to contrast with Quark), and also the performer himself who tends to go with finesse over blunt expression of desires. Plus on a side note, to ogle women you sort of have to be quite sure you want to. Odo might well be heterosexual and not even realize it, and I think it might be more common than we think for young people to begin their sexual learning by realizing they really like one specific person, and only later realizing that their sexual desires are more general than that. I can tell you at the very least that that was the case for me.
Jason R.
Wed, May 15, 2019, 1:52pm (UTC -5)
I don't disagree with any of the points made so I will leave it be. But just a minor one: Many male characters in fiction portrayed as being in love will claim to have no sexual feelings for anyone but their love. This is, of course, nonsense. Even if the character believes it in the moment, it's physically impossible.

Given Odo's remarkable inexperience in such matters it is fair to say that even his own beliefs about his feelings cannot be taken at face value.
Jason R.
Wed, May 15, 2019, 1:55pm (UTC -5)
By the way for additonal context there is a scene of Odo being distracted by holographic burlesue dancers in Badda Bing Badda Bang. Doesn't really change the discussion (perhaps it's just another retcon) but obviously Broken Link isn't unique in its portrayal.
William B
Wed, May 15, 2019, 3:03pm (UTC -5)
@Peter G.,

I definitely agree about Odo's burgeoning sexuality matching onto how young people discover their sexuality, and I think you put it well. And in general I don't disagree too much with any particular point. Still, I'd maybe elaborate on the connection between the changelings' Link and humanoid sex. I agree that the link and humanoid sexual intercourse seem to be similar/analogous, but this reinforces even more why heteronormativity needn't be assumed. It may be that Odo really is "male" and the Salome Jens Founder is "female," as they often present themselves. But that doesn't quite match with the Great Link as a single mass of all changelings, wherein distinctions between individual bodies become irrelevant. Even if they have individual m/f genders, they seem to exist outside heteronormativity in the Link given that it would seem to match up to a kind of mass orgy, if it matches up to human sexuality. This is part of why viewing the changeling Link impulse and human sexuality as having a similar instinct is tricky, IF we also accept heteronormativity as an assumed default for the changelings as well. In their changeling form, they don't appear to be heterosexual, and seem to be outside gendered distinctions except when they put themselves in humanoid form. So I think it's worth distinguishing between "sexual" in the sense of, "having to do with sexual intercourse and desire for such" and "sexual" as in, "pertaining to male/female sex differences." Odo appears to have "sexual" (desire to merge with) feelings for Kira, but this does not necessarily mean he has "sexual" (having to do with Kira's specifically female traits, her having a vagina etc.) feelings for her. I think there are enough indications that the Founders decontextualize "sexuality" (the desire for physical merging as intimacy) from "sexuality" (the existence of biological sex differences between male and female) that it could be interesting to follow up on this some more.

Of course, there's Trek precedent for gender being so fundamental that it is not even related to biological form -- in "Metamorphosis" the Companion is a specifically *female* amorphous gas light blob. I'm not sure whether that really makes sense to me or not.

@Jason R.,

I hadn't remembered about "Badda-Bing Badda-Bang," though I do now that you mention it. As you say though that could also count as a retcon.

//

Anyway, I don't really object to Odo being a hetero male, just that I don't think it's obvious he has to be (or that it's the most interesting story choice, though "what is interesting" is a pretty big, broad topic).
Peter G.
Wed, May 15, 2019, 3:27pm (UTC -5)
@ William B,

I think what's potentially confusing about my position on this is that I'm not actually claiming that Changelings are heteronormative. I'm arguing that Odo is, and I'm basing this on my assumption that "Odo" is the humanoid male form that the Changeling pile of goo takes when it's jolted by Dr. Mora in a lab. Odo is the man, not the pile of goo. In fact Odo himself doesn't even really know all that much about being a pile of goo, especially as he's told by Laas that it's weird that he chooses to spend all of his time as a humanoid. I think he does so because the humanoid form really is his decided identity. Therefore I argue that "Odo" is a heterosexual male, whereas the Changeling taking the form of "Odo" certainly is capable of taking on another form that isn't (except he doesn't, and that's another discussion).

SPOILER

We do, in fact, see what happens later in the series when Odo spends a bit of time in the Link: the Odo we know is more or less gone, and so is his attraction to Kira. This is, I take it, not because the Link is so much better than she is, but because spending time out of his Odo form alters his perception of self and re-asserts his goo identity, whatever that is. Presumably it's more like what we see with the other Changelings. But after cutting himself off from the Link he rediscovers that his chosen identity really is Odo, even though in theory it could be anything.

Is that more clear?
William B
Wed, May 15, 2019, 3:59pm (UTC -5)
@Peter,

That is definitely clear, and makes sense to me. I guess here I just want to say I agree with Elliott that the story *could* have gone in a different direction by this point in the series. I think you probably don't disagree either, but I think we differ in the degree to which the Odo material up to this point in the series would be *particularly* fertile ground for him to be less traditionally heterosexual than he appears to be. I am actually kind of agnostic on it, but I think that there is enough up to this point in the show that for the physical, corporeal side of Odo's sexuality to be less fixed than for the other solids in the show would make sense, in a similar way to Odo's eating, drinking, sleeping etc. being different than from other humanoids. For his corporeal self, created in the image of a Bajoran man and also coinciding with his emotional development of mapping his developing feelings for a Bajoran woman, to be heterosexual, makes sense and I don't actually object.
methane
Wed, May 15, 2019, 6:28pm (UTC -5)
William B. said:

" Given early-series Odo's distaste for solids' romantic endeavours, would it even make sense for him to replicate the *appearance* of genitals, let alone functional ones? And if he did decide to replicate them, why is he "stuck" "being" a male Bajoran rather than a female one?"

Well, the easy answer would be the producers wouldn't be using the very talented René Echevarria and would have to pay for a guest actress to play that role.

To speak more generally about the conversation, it probably didn't occur to straight writers in the 1990s that there was a need for a non-heterosexual relationship to be shown on a regular basis (as opposed to an occasional 'issue-of-the-week' appearance).

The in-universe answer probably relates to the stubbornness of Odo, insecurity in his own Changeling nature, and a worry that he might frighten humanoids by drawing attention to how different he is*. He first achieved a humanoid body by imperfectly imitating the (male) body of Dr. Mora. As the series progresses, he increasingly examines all sorts of other shapes, but mostly avoids varying his humanoid form.

*Spoilers for Chimera:
This, of course, is Laas' accusation, showing the writers (probably belatedly), did think about these issues.
William B
Thu, May 16, 2019, 8:58am (UTC -5)
@methane -- I agree on all points. I think there are lots of in-universe reasons that make sense for Odo, and I also think that until "Chimera" any alternatives didn't occur to the writers. (And once again, I'm not personally saying they necessarily needed to go with any alternative courses with Odo, just that I think Odo was a good candidate.)

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