Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Vortex   Rewatch 
May 30, 2015 5:00 PM - Season 1, Episode 12 - Subscribe

The first visitor from the Gamma Quadrant causes quite a stir in Odo's personal life.
posted by Solomon (14 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
It's been a while, but I remember this as a good, solid episode, one that fleshed out Odo's character and deepened my impression that this was going to a different kind of Star Trek. I've never forgotten Cliff DeYoung's speech about slitting throats. (And he was ultimately one of the good guys!)

I'm kind of ashamed to admit it, but I've enjoyed those Nitpicker's Guide to Star Trek books and I remember the author going on about the question of Odo's weight. I think this is the episode where Odo turns into a glass on a tray and Quark carries him around with no apparent effort, yet later DeYoung complains that Odo is heavier than he looks. The author of the book pointed out that Odo would have to either be a very heavy glass or a very light changeling, that even if he can change his shape he shouldn't be able to change his actual weight like that! (I think he was missing the obvious explanation of alien space magic.)

According to Memory Alpha, this episode boasts a few firsts:

* First time we see Odo smile. (Apparently it was rather difficult to figure out with the makeup, and was only used on special occasions.)

* First time Morn is named, and the beginning of the running gag about him being a chatterbox.

* First time we learn Odo's people are called Changelings!
posted by Ursula Hitler at 1:16 AM on May 31, 2015 [1 favorite]

I really enjoyed this episode. Well, the Miradorn storyline was uninteresting to me, but the Croden storyline was cool. A little bit of justification for killing someone, a little bit of backstory about how his family were killed (but no attempting to use that as justification for shooting someone over a Fabergé egg) and a helpless daughter. That's hitting about half a dozen tropes, right there. I think the part of Croden was played particularly well, though.

Getting some more insight onto Odo's backstory was cool. I seem to recall reading somewhere the theory that "the rest" of Odo that wasn't necessary vanished into another dimension. Thinking about it, couldn't Odo turn parts of himself into something lighter than whatever substance he was turning himself into normally was? Or am I completely wrong about the laws of physics? Does a cubic centimetre of solid lead weigh more than a cubic centimetre of solid hydrogen?

One thing that occurs to me is how odd it is that the Gamma Quadrant end of the wormhole wasn't found either. There's a charged plasma field at the opening to the Alpha Quadrant end (which seems to magically vanish when the station arrives...), which explains why nobody goes near it, but with planets 3 light years away from the GQ end, it seems odd that nobody triggered the opening. I can't find any hard figures on how long it takes to travel a light year at different warp speeds (it scales, apparently; warp 9 is not nine times faster than warp 1), but with civilisations only a few light years away, it's peculiar that nobody found the wormhole before. Or perhaps they did and were destroyed in the charged plasma field that apparently Odo is immune to.
posted by Solomon at 11:34 AM on May 31, 2015

Re: Odo's weight - I think the bigger nit-pick is why a falling rock would knock him unconscious at all. Not like he has a skull with a brain inside to knock against it. But, I enjoyed the acting/characters enough that I didn't actually mind the space magic.

Now that I'm caught up to the re-watch schedule, I'm finding it very difficult to restrain myself from going ahead and letting the next episode play each time. (I guess it's good that I started my own personal Netflix binge-watch of 3rd Rock From The Sun recently, partway through S3 already.)
posted by oh yeah! at 12:16 PM on May 31, 2015 [2 favorites]

I think the bigger nit-pick is why a falling rock would knock him unconscious at all.

Oh. I was willing to give them a pass on the weight thing, because Odo's anatomy is pretty mysterious and it seems like you could come up with sort of hand-wavy explanation for how his weight could shift. But being knocked unconscious by a rock seems harder to explain.

Maybe Odo does have something like a brain, when he's in solid form. That is, maybe he's not just shaped like a humanoid on the outside, with an orange, gooey Changeling center, but he replicates a solid humanoid down to the level of having organs (like a brain) inside. Or, maybe his consciousness is always in some concentrated place, and he has something like a brain even when he's a puddle, so if you happen to clomp him in that place, it will knock him out.

Or maybe it's just more of that alien space magic.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 1:22 PM on May 31, 2015 [1 favorite]

See also the episode where the Klingon ship comes back from the Gamma Quadrant after interfering with telepathic energy orbs, and explodes on reaching the Alpha Quadrant. The energy goes for Odo's head and renders him unconscious in the doorway to Quarks. It sort of makes sense that the energy, assuming that it's somehow sentient energy, would go for the head of a humanoid, but why Odo is rendered unconscious is beyond me.
posted by Solomon at 1:42 PM on May 31, 2015

I can buy that, though. Odo has consciousness, so it seems fair that some kind of energy zap could knock him out. Even if his consciousness is spread through his whole body, a big zap would travel all the way through him and it seems like it could rattle his brains. Also, if the zap was from something sentient, maybe it could find where his consciousness is located and target it. But that's not the same as a getting hit with a rock!
posted by Ursula Hitler at 3:04 PM on May 31, 2015

It really seems like the changelings as imagined here don't match up completely with the changelings as they are later. He mentions that they were persecuted, but not that they have an army that dominates the quadrant.
posted by drezdn at 5:15 PM on May 31, 2015 [1 favorite]

Perhaps the Omarian Nebula, or wherever it was they were living, was further away from the wormhole? Croden does mention that there used to be Changelings living on his homeworld, but that it was many years ago. Maybe they left that area and sought out their hidey hole far away from anyone else. /clutchingatstraws
posted by Solomon at 2:04 PM on June 1, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'm not taking part in the re-watch just now and my memories are a little hazy, but I think this tracks with what we eventually learn about Odo's people. Wasn't the deal that they had tried to live with the solids but it all went wrong, so they become xenophobes and decided to take over the quadrant? Also, it's not impossible that Croden's planet fell outside of the Dominion. Space is a big place!
posted by Ursula Hitler at 7:26 PM on June 1, 2015

Wasn't the deal that they had tried to live with the solids but it all went wrong, so they become xenophobes and decided to take over the quadrant?

That is the story that the other changelings tell Odo on their first meeting. It is not a narrative that makes a lot of sense to me when put together with their actions of abandoning Odo and the 100 other baby changelings to the solids, and the extreme lengths they are later willing to go to try to get Odo back.

It's basically, "Yes, the solids are HORRIBLE, VIOLENT, ANTI-CHANGELING MONSTERS. So, we took over the quadrant in self-defense. Then, in the interest of gathering information, we abandoned 100 defenseless baby changelings WHO WE LOVE VERY MUCH out there to the tender mercies of the aforementioned HORRIBLE, VIOLENT, ANTI-CHANGELING MONSTERS."

(We later learn that the changelings are masters of infiltration of the solids, so the "information gathering" could have been achieved a lot more efficiently by adult changelings who knew what they were doing, rather than young changelings like Odo who don't even know what they are or where they came from. But the changelings of course did not tell Odo this on their first meeting.)

The way I reconcile it in my head is that the other changelings are lying scumbags, and we never do get the complete truth about anything from them.
posted by creepygirl at 8:02 PM on June 1, 2015 [2 favorites]

This was a solid episode. I think the repeated question of whether Odo can really be happy living on DS9 is something that's really important to the series. Eventually it doesn't matter to Odo that his people have done a lot of bad things, because they are still his people. We see this same type of conflict with other characters. Can people from two very different cultures really be friends? (Jake and Nog) Does integrating into a new culture mean you have to give up your old one? (Nog and Rom) Is it possible for someone whose parents come from two warring cultures to be happy living in either? (Ziyal)

I have lived a lot in other countries and while I formed deep and lasting friendships with some folks there, I still felt there was a barrier to true understanding with others. A lot of what DS9 has to say about this really resonates with me.
posted by chaiminda at 4:37 AM on June 2, 2015 [3 favorites]

I get what you mean, chaiminda. As much as I adore Trek in general, I think DS9 is worldly in a way that the other shows aren't. I remember reading an interview with Armin Shimmerman where he talked about a scene from a mid-series episode where Quark and Garak are in the bar, commiserating about how the Federation has marched in and disrupted their lives. Quark pours out a bottle.

Quark: I want you to try something for me. Take a sip of this.

Elim Garak: What is it?

Quark: A human drink. It's called root beer.

Elim Garak: Uh, I don't know...

Quark: Come on, aren't you just a little bit curious?

[Garak sighs, takes a sip and gags]

Quark: What do you think?

Elim Garak: It's *vile*!

Quark: I know. It's so bubbly, and cloying, and *happy*.

Elim Garak: Just like the Federation.

Quark: But you know what's really frightening? If you drink enough of it, you begin to *like* it.

Elim Garak: It's insidious!

Quark: *Just* like the Federation.

At first Shimmerman hated the scene, wondering why they were talking about root beer in the middle of all this serious Dominion War stuff. But then he realized, the scene was basically two foreign guys in wartime, talking about America. It was like something out of Casablanca, and for fans it ended up being one of the defining moments of the series.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 12:43 AM on June 3, 2015 [9 favorites]

But then he realized, the scene was basically two foreign guys in wartime, talking about America

I wonder if Shimerman or any of the writers were aware that root beer is not popular outside of North America. I can't decide if it's funnier if the writers used root beer deliberately as an example of Federation-as-stand-in-for-America, or if it was just a bit of Amero-centrism they unwittingly passed along.
posted by creepygirl at 7:07 PM on June 3, 2015

I don't recall what the first reference was, but I think they're establishing that bajor has a 26 hour day. In this episode Sisko says they'll return Croden within 52 hours, which I think is "two days". I like that they're just putting that in without explaining it.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 12:07 AM on July 18, 2022 [1 favorite]

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