Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Heart of Stone   Rewatch 
November 15, 2015 1:35 PM - Season 3, Episode 14 - Subscribe

Odo has a crush on Kira, but Kira is just getting crushed. Can he save her from Star Trek's oldest and most implacable foe, the styrofoam boulder? Also, Nog has an intriguing proposition for Sisko, but there are some things even latinum can't buy...

Mostly from Memory Alpha:

- The 'rock' prop on this episode was extremely unpopular among both cast and crew. Ira Steven Behr called it "that horrible, horrible prop of a rock". Nana Visitor was also disappointed with it; "It didn't look like I'd imagined it when I read the script. I thought it was going to be like my body turning to stone. Instead I looked like a big old hot fudge sundae, and my head was the cherry on top". Director Alexander Singer said "nothing made the pinkish lavender rock look more realistic", while visual effects supervisor Glenn Neufeld claimed of the actual shooting of the rock that "pretty much none of it worked".

- On Nog's storyline in the episode, Robert Hewitt Wolfe commented "It just struck me one day that out of Wesley, Jake and Nog, the one who will really become Starfleet and stand on a bridge to say 'engage' twenty years from now would be Nog. There was a nice irony, and something cool to do with that character, especially after Jake said he did not want to enter Starfleet".

- The origin of Odo's name is revealed in this episode. "[In Cardassian], 'Odo'ital' literally means the word 'Nothing.' Even after it became clear that I was sentient, the Bajoran scientists kept calling me that. As a joke, they split it into two words, like a Bajoran name: 'Odo Ital.' Which eventually got shortened..."

- It is revealed that a non-Federation citizen, in order to be admitted to Starfleet Academy, needs a reference from a command-level officer.

"My father is a mechanical genius. He could've been the chief engineer of a starship if he'd had the opportunity. But he went into business like a good Ferengi. The only thing is, he's not a good Ferengi... not when it comes to acquiring profit. So now all he has to live for is the slim chance that someday, somehow, he might be able to take over my uncle's bar. Well I'm not going to make the same mistake. I want to do something with my life... something worthwhile."

- Nog

"There's one thing I still don't understand. If that Founder was trying to test your allegiance to the solids, why did she impersonate me?"

"I suppose it's because you happened to be with me in the runabout. It could have just as easily been Commander Sisko, Doctor Bashir..."

"What finally made you realize the truth?"

"Well, she eventually made a mistake. She said something I know you would never say."

"What was that?"

"Just a slip of the tongue... nothing important."

- Kira and Odo
posted by Halloween Jack (16 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
This is kind of a terrible episode and a terrible concept but it still breaks my heart; aww, Odo. Also, Star Trek is full of aliens playing questionable mind games (hello, Q!), but Founder #1/Female Changeling/nude dress lady/whatever-her-official-name-is's efforts here have to be among the creepiest.
posted by thetortoise at 6:41 PM on November 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think this is a good episode and moves the Odo/Kira thing along nicely... but the rock effect is indeed pretty bad and Visitor's raspy voice has always bugged me. I think Visitor is one hell of an actor, but every now and then she goes a little broad and this is one of those times. I get that being encased in rock like that could make it hard to breathe or speak, but it's a funky-sounding, almost cartoony voice and she does it for way too long.

But the episode ratchets up the tension well, and you do feel for poor Odo. It's a real shock when the Female Changeling reveals herself, and gives you some idea of just how calculating and twisted Odo's people really are. The Nog stuff is pretty good too.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 8:29 PM on November 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


The Nog subplot: Since the episode "Shakaar" takes place 3 months after "Life Support", we know that less than 3 months have passed since That Time That Nog Verbally Abused A Girl For the Heinous Crime of Agreeing To Go On A Date With Him. I think that Sisko should have told Nog in no uncertain terms that being a Starfleet officer means treating all women, not just commanding officers, not just fellow officers, but all women, with dignity. That using a girl as a verbal punching bag for Nog's Ferengi issues, or parental issues, or Jake issues (or whatever the hell was going on with Nog in Life Support) is unacceptable behavior for a Starfleet officer, and if Nog can't handle that, he needs to find another escape from the Ferengi way of life. But the writers of the show were much more comfortable writing about daddy issues than having a Federation citizen make a serious speech about how women are people. Sigh.

The Kira and Odo plot--I won't defend the production values, but I think that they accomplished a lot here. The revelation that some changelings are a lot more skilled than Odo at impersonating humanoids will be hugely important later, and is nicely camoflaged in the angsty love plot.

And while it's unapologetically angsty, it's quality angst with consistent characterization. Odo's suspicious nature, and willingness to ferret out the truth at any cost is spot on. And his assessment of Kira--that she respects their friendship too much to lie to him--spot on as well. The female changeling's creepy obsession with Odo and his love life will continue throughout the series.

I also love that the strength of the Kira/Odo friendship is what leads Odo to save Kira's life here. If he didn't know her so well, the female changeling's ruse would have worked.
posted by creepygirl at 12:28 PM on November 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


The thing about the rock led me to think about the whole phenomenon of Star Trek in general, and DS9 in particular, owing a lot to the stage both in terms of the training of its actors (the drama cred of many of its actors is well-known; Nana Visitor has worked on Broadway, and Rene Auberjonois' theater career stretches over several decades) and in the way scenes and episodes are set up; think of "Duet", maybe the best episode of the first season, which was based on a play, The Man in the Glass Booth (which, among others, Leonard Nimoy played the title role of on Broadway). Sometimes, this even seems to extend to the way sets and costumes are done; this might just be an accident of the fashions and design trends of the time, but TOS sometimes comes off as being a bit stagey, but in a good way, because of the relative minimalism of the sets and sparse use of special effects. You end up concentrating much more on the interactions of the actors.

This is all by way of saying that, in this particular instance, it probably would have been better to have made the "trap" that "Kira" is in less showy and not worried about the mechanics of it, in favor of concentrating more on the dramatic set-up, which is a sort of one-act play in which a man has to deal with the impending death of a woman who he has a crush on and whose life he can't save. The A plot even acts as a metacommentary on acting, since what clues Odo in on the artificiality of the situation is the female Changeling's bad acting; although the Founders repeatedly claim to know what "solids" are really like and use it to justify their racism and the brutal policies of the Dominion, in reality their knowledge of solids' psychology extends mostly to the more negative emotions such as fear and hatred, which they use to divide and conquer their enemies (usually quite effectively, it should be said). They don't really get it when the solids experience and display the more positive and altruistic emotions, and really don't seem to understand Odo doing the same, such as staying to protect Kira instead of saving himself. Even as she leaves, the female Changeling insists that Kira would never reciprocate Odo's feelings toward her. It's still way too early to know if that would be true, but she doesn't get that that may not be the point for Odo.

There's also a bit of theatrics in Nog's interactions with Sisko; whether or not the knowledge of his obnoxious behavior of the last episode factors into his initial approaches to Sisko (and I agree with creepygirl that this should have been addressed explicitly, and with her comment in the "Life Support" thread that DS9 is better at addressing racism than sexism), he seems aware that he's going to have something of an uphill battle, even as he completely blows the initial request with his bag of latinum. But Aron Eisenberg doesn't oversell it; you really get that Nog doesn't want to get caught in the same trap that his father was, and Eisenberg nails that sense of despair and anger pretty well.
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:54 PM on November 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's possible that Sisko looked at Nog's tenacity and smarts and all the other good things he's seen in Nog since Jake befriended him, and said, "Nog has many flaws, but if he REALLY wants this enough to make it through Starfleet Academy, that stuff will get ironed out. He'll learn fast that women are to be respected, sneakiness and greed are frowned upon, etc." Nog is aspiring to do a huge thing, to be the first of his species to join Starfleet, and as a good Federation dude Sisko is of course going to be all over that! Making pals with other species and sharing knowledge is kind of what Starfleet's about!

I don't think Sisko is blind to Nog's flaws. I think he sees the potential in Nog, and ultimately he's proven right.

It's also possible that the writers of DS9 never even thought of Nog's recent sexist behavior when they came up with this episode, and that may not be sexism on their part so much as it's because they were neck-deep in the production of a particularly complex and ambitious TV sci-fi series, they came up with the fun idea to send Nog to Starfleet, and nobody remembered that they'd done a recent plot about how immature and creepy he was around women. It could well be that if anybody had thought of that, they would have said, "Crap, that's right! We have to address that."

I think shows like TOS and TNG demonstrated some sexism on camera and behind the scenes, because for all their progressiveness they were also products of their time. I think DS9 holds up a lot better there, because characters like Kira and Dax and Keiko (and, to a lesser extent, Ezri and Leeta) are allowed to be complex in ways that women like Uhura, Troi and Crusher weren't. Troi and Crusher were strong and independent, but they were also idealized and (if we're being honest) a little bland. Kira is a hero, but she's also flawed, angry and wounded.

(And whatever sexism may exist in Voyager was presumably forced on it by the network, stuff like Seven of Nine's silver catsuit. It was a show with a female showrunner, telling stories that were mostly about very heroic yet complex and flawed women scientists in space. Part of the reason why some male fans still get icky about it was because they couldn't stand all that damn girl power all over the place.)

Like I said in another thread, I wish we'd seen Nog with a ladyfriend later. I really doubt he made it far in Starfleet if he stayed the same sexist little rodent we saw on that double date. I don't recall offhand, but I think it's a safe bet we did see him later working under an officer who was a woman and he wasn't hissing about how he refused to obey the orders of a female hu-mon.

Good points, Halloween Jack. Trek is often at its most effective in "bottle" episodes, stuff where it's just a few actors showing what they can do. It takes real talent to make this stuff play, to make a character with no emotion compelling or convince the audience they should care about a bunch of people with rubber heads. Given just how good so many Trek actors have been, it's sad that being a part of Trek can typecast actors so badly. Trek has hired many excellent actors, and a lot of them have struggled to find work once their show was over.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 6:26 PM on November 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


It's also possible that the writers of DS9 never even thought of Nog's recent sexist behavior when they came up with this episode, and that may not be sexism on their part so much as it's because they were neck-deep in the production of a particularly complex and ambitious TV sci-fi series, they came up with the fun idea to send Nog to Starfleet, and nobody remembered that they'd done a recent plot about how immature and creepy he was around women. It could well be that if anybody had thought of that, they would have said, "Crap, that's right! We have to address that."

Having watched every single episode of DS9's entire run within the last year, I do not share your faith in the writers' interest in addressing feminist topics in a serious way.

There's the way that sexual harassment is consistently played for laughs, reaching the absolute nadir with Profit and Lace, with Quark learning nothing from being a woman and subjected to harassment, and Quark's harassee being happy with being harassed at the end. There's also an episode that starts off with a dabo girl complaining to Sisko about sexual harassment being written into her employment contract with Quark, and the plot thread goes absolutely nowhere. There is no followup from Sisko at all and we never see any resolution of that plot point, ever. When they have so much sexist harassing bullshit on the show and never have anyone from the Federation address it in a serious way, even though the Federation is supposedly egalitarian in every way, I'd say that the writers really, really didn't care, because that's just shitty world-building, on top of being annoyingly sexist.

There's also the sort of lazy, thoughtless sexism that permeates even an episode that's supposed to be about taking a woman's career seriously. In The House of Quark, Miles decides that Keiko's depressed and sets out to engineer a solution with Bashir, which they hammer out on their own, without any meaningful input from Keiko about what she thinks the problem is and how she'd like to solve it. Then when Keiko accepts O'Brien's solution to go to Bajor on a botanical survey, there's no conversation about splitting custody of Molly, or the possibility of O'Brien taking care of Molly on the station while Keiko's hiking around Bajor collecting samples. There are good arguments to be made for either the station or Bajor being the best place for Molly, but nobody makes them. Molly goes with Keiko Just Because. Even where they're trying to write about a more egalitarian choices in a marriage, they get bogged down in sexist assumptions and tropes. As for the "product of their time" defense, Rosemary Kirstein was writing about a society with real equality among the sexes in the Steerswoman books, starting in 1989, so there were people back then who had really great ideas about what a non-sexist society would really look like--it's too bad the DS9 writers didn't share her gift of imagination in this area.

I think DS9 holds up a lot better there, because characters like Kira and Dax and Keiko (and, to a lesser extent, Ezri and Leeta) are allowed to be complex in ways that women like Uhura, Troi and Crusher weren't.


I adore Kira and Jadzia. It has not escaped my notice that they are fantastic, complicated characters. But Sisko was a complex POC (much more so than Sulu or Geordi) AND got to give a righteous speech in Bada Bing Bada Boom about racism in Vegas in the 20th century. And if you read Memory Alpha about that episode, you'll see that the writers felt strongly that it was important to make that statement. I wish that the writers had felt as strongly about the need to make a serious statement about sexism as they did about racism.

I love DS9. I wouldn't be commenting on nearly every episode if I didn't. I don't hate-watch stuff. But the show's flaws don't disappear because I love it. And I really do wish it had been better in this area. I wish that when I introduced my husband to this amazing series last year, he could focus only how amazing it is, how much of it holds up today, instead of him saying "Holy shit, really? That's awful," every 10th episode or so when something distractingly sexist happened without comment within the text. I wish that I could introduce it to my friends from other fandoms, the kind of people who would write fantastic Kira/Dax femmeslash, without having to warn them that there may be episodes they just want to nope out of because their experience of sexual harassment is traumatic rather than hilarious.

I love DS9. I wish it were better. I wish I had your faith that the writers cared about creating a non-sexist show. But there's just too much unexamined garbage over the course of the series, too many missed opportunities to make a serious statement, for that to seem credible to me.
posted by creepygirl at 8:15 PM on November 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


I'm at a disadvantage here, Creepygirl, because while I've seen every episode of DS9 multiple times (with the weird exception of Profit and Lace, which I somehow missed when it was new AND when it showed up in reruns,) it's been years, I don't know the episodes by heart and you're kind of hitting me with a lot of stuff and it'd be a real job to sort it all out on Memory Alpha right now.

Creepygirl, we've yet to have a real brawl here but I fear we may be headed that way sometime. We just see this stuff so differently, but I'm hoping we can keep it civil in these threads even if we do disagree, because I don't think either one of us is an idiot or Just Wrong.

Out of the examples you put out there, I'm going to grab The House of Quark kind of at random. (I'm basing some of this on the Memory Alpha summary.) My take on the Miles/Keiko situation in that one, and the writers' intentions, is very different from yours. I think O'Brien is reacting to Keiko's sadness and restlessness realistically. (Note that this is not saying he's reacting the BEST way, just that it's how many people would react.) He doesn't want to have a hard conversation with Keiko, and she's probably avoiding it too. So he tries romantic gestures to cheer her up, but that doesn't work. Then he decides to surprise her with an arboretum, so she can do botany again. But when he seeks Bashir's input, Bashir says that O'Brien is trying to turn Keiko's career into a hobby and that's not a real solution. (And it's a good Bashir/O'Brien moment, with Bashir laying down some hard truths and O'Brien being annoyed by his friend but knowing he's right.)

The real problem is Keiko has made huge sacrifices for his sake and a botanist just has no place on DS9. So O'Brien tells Keiko about the botany job on Bajor, and encourages her to go. It's not unlikely that if Keiko had found out about the job on Bajor herself, she would have dismissed it. O'Brien had to bring it to her, suggest she should go and calm her worries about how it would affect their family. There is a moment where Keiko assumes she'd have to leave the kid behind, but they quickly agree Molly should stay with Keiko and Miles will visit. (And that arrangement feels very true to the characters. O'Brien loves his kid, but he'd make a lousy single dad.)

You could say Keiko should've had a more active role, but this episode was about him changing for the better. O'Brien knows how much Keiko has given up for him, and now he is putting her needs ahead of his own.

(That being said, I got curious how they dealt with Keiko's career after the Bajor job ended, and it's kind of grim. She visits her family on Earth "for an extended period" and then decides to move back to Earth with the kids when the station becomes unsafe during the Dominion War, eventually returning to the station before the end of the series. I can't unpack all that, but I think I've said MORE than enough about The House of Quark!)
posted by Ursula Hitler at 3:02 AM on November 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


I have no intention of brawling or being uncivil.

It's not unlikely that if Keiko found out about the job on Bajor herself, she would have dismissed it.

If Keiko is so unwilling to express her own needs and requires O'Brien to calm her fears, how do we know that the Bajor job is what she actually really wants, rather than the best thing that O'Brien offered her? Maybe she really wants to go back to Earth and go back to school in a completely different field and is afraid to tell Miles. Maybe she has a crush on Captain Boday and would like to have an open marriage, but is afraid to ask Miles. We don't know, because Miles didn't ask her, "What would you want if you didn't have me to worry about?"

(And that arrangement feels very true to the characters. O'Brien loves his kid, but he'd make a lousy single dad.)

If O'Brien's thought process was "Welp, Keiko's better at this parenting thing than me, and there is no way for me to improve my parenting skills, so she should get Molly by default," I would call that an Epic Fail on both the Not Being Sexist front and the Being a Better Person front.

There are hundreds of parenting books out now, and the Federation's resources should dwarf those. Parenting is a skill that can and should be learned.

The way that I would have liked the show to approach the Molly issue (baseline assumption of equally shared parental duties, with variations based on specific needs of the kid and parents) is not exactly bleeding edge radical feminism. It's a mainstream approach, and was mainstream back when the show was written. The family courts in Arizona in the 1990s had a default of joint custody and equal parenting time (which could be deviated from if it was in the best interest of the kids) and mandatory parenting classes for everyone, because it was obvious even then that dads can share the parenting load equally and that good parenting is a skill that can be learned.

You could say that Keiko should've had a more active role, but this episode was about him changing for the better.

I absolutely say that Keiko should have had a more active role in a plotline that involved her career and her marriage. There are 87 bazillion Bashir and O'Brien moments in the course of the series, but that's not enough. Bashir/O'Brien also has to be the focus in a story that's ostensibly about Keiko's career. And this is the heart of my complaint that started this exchange: the show consistently privileges relationships among men, and men's stories over women's relationships and women's stories. The writers were more interested in telling a good story about Bashir and O'Brien's friendship than a good story about O'Brien's marriage to Keiko. And in Heart of Stone, they were more interested in telling a good story about Nog's relationship with his dad than a good story about Nog learning that Starfleet demands respect for women. Because Nog is an outsider, this would be a perfect place to lay out exactly what Starfleet stands for regarding treatment of women, without getting into an "As You Know, Bob" kind of conversation. And they blew it. And that's sadly typical of the series as a whole IMO.
posted by creepygirl at 12:13 PM on November 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


It's not at all that I think you're by nature a rude person, it's more that we both clearly have strong opinions about this stuff (the sheer length of our posts is a testament to that!) and I get the feeling that if we ever did really throw down it could get nasty. I feel like I'm sensing irritation in your responses, and if you look at my posting history you'll see plenty of occasions where I kind of went off on people. (Almost without exception, I regret my arguments on Metafilter. Even when I felt like I'd "won," it was still a lot of stress and ugliness over a freaking Metafilter thread.)

I think on balance we agree more than we disagree, that DS9 was awesome and in many ways it was ahead of its time. The places where I disagree with you, it's tough to get too deep into specifics without it straying away from discussions of the show itself and getting into much more involved and potentially volatile personal stuff about how we see relations between men and women.

I'm going through some health stuff that makes me all too aware that time is fleeting. So rather than going over your post line by line and responding to every point in detail, I think it's best if I just say, "Well, we disagree on some stuff here, but life's too short to spend arguing."
posted by Ursula Hitler at 9:37 PM on November 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


And this is the heart of my complaint that started this exchange: the show consistently privileges relationships among men, and men's stories over women's relationships and women's stories. The writers were more interested in telling a good story about Bashir and O'Brien's friendship than a good story about O'Brien's marriage to Keiko. And in Heart of Stone, they were more interested in telling a good story about Nog's relationship with his dad than a good story about Nog learning that Starfleet demands respect for women. Because Nog is an outsider, this would be a perfect place to lay out exactly what Starfleet stands for regarding treatment of women, without getting into an "As You Know, Bob" kind of conversation. And they blew it. And that's sadly typical of the series as a whole IMO.

Couldn't agree more, creepygirl. I think I've said elsewhere that I think TNG is more overtly sexist than DS9; with DS9 it's more of a micro aggression thing.

I did like "Heart of Stone" overall. I didn't think the appearance of the rock prop was as awful as the cast/crew seems to have thought it was; maybe with lesser actors it would have been a problem, but, who cares about a stage set being a little wobbly if the play is good?

but Founder #1/Female Changeling/nude dress lady/whatever-her-official-name-is

Seriously, wish the writers had come up with some kind of official name for the character in the episode. Voice of the Great Link? One of Many? Nameless? It just feels so silly to have to resort to calling her 'the female Changeling'
posted by oh yeah! at 6:20 PM on November 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's the nature of a series to focus on the leads, to always make the story about them. At this point, that means Sisko, Bashir, Kira, O'Brien, Odo, Dax and Quark. Almost every story we see will be from the perspective of one of these people. Kira and the Daxes get plenty of stories, but if the cast is largely male we're gonna see more stories from the perspective of the men. I don't think House of Quark was about the friendship between Bashir and O'Brien. It was about O'Brien realizing he needed to make a sacrifice for his wife, just as she had sacrificed for him. Perhaps you would have preferred a story where Keiko and O'Brien went to couples counseling or something and talked this all out, but the way they did it felt true to the characters, to me.

The O'Briens have a challenging marriage, and O'Brien isn't the most sensitive guy. He makes mistakes on his way to doing the right thing. Thus, drama.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 7:11 PM on November 18, 2015


but if the cast is largely male we're gonna see more stories from the perspective of the men.

Well, that's the self-fulfilling prophecy of media misrepresentation. The cast is largely male (or white, or straight, etc.) because the writers/producers chose them to be so, and the cycle continues.
posted by oh yeah! at 8:12 PM on November 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


I think it's excessive to call this show sexist for focusing more on its male characters, when it was a, A), a Star Trek show, which tends to feature predominantly male crews, B) made in the 1990s, when these issues weren't being talked about to the same degree, and C), it DID feature complex, powerful women who had plenty of stories of their own. Pick your battles. Maybe go after a show that wasn't years ahead of its time, a show that doesn't have such indelible female characters.

DS9 blazed a lot of trails. Production on this show started more than 20 years ago, but it featured several strong women AND several POC in the main cast, well before anybody expected stuff like that. Criticizing it for stories where we see a marriage from a man's point of view (especially stories about a man realizing he needs to be more considerate about his wife's needs!) kind of seems like somebody digging for something to be upset about. If you don't like that story and you want a story directly from a woman's point of view, wait for the next Kira or Dax story. There will be plenty of them, and some of them are considered among the show's best.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 11:04 PM on November 18, 2015


I thought you were going to agree to disagree and stop yourself from getting fighty? Telling me I'm 'digging for something to be upset about' is incredibly rude. If you're not seeing the sexism that I and others are seeing in episodes, well, bully for you. But I see it, and I'm going to share my disappointment with my fellow mefites when I do.
posted by oh yeah! at 5:19 AM on November 19, 2015 [2 favorites]


Ursula Hitler,

I have disagreed strongly with you in this thread and others but have never assumed bad-faith reasons for you making the arguments that you make. I assume they come from a sincere place. You have not extended that same courtesy to me and others in this thread (assuming that we must be "digging for something to be upset about" based on nothing more than the fact that you strongly disagree with our opinions.) I am not going to respond in kind because I meant what I said about not wanting to brawl or be uncivil.

As I said in the comment above, I don't complain about stuff for fun. I don't hate-watch stuff. What you see in these threads are my genuine reactions to a show that I think has moments of greatness and moments of not-so-greatness.

Like oh yeah, I am not going to stop talking about the sexism I see on the show just because you strongly disagree with me about whether certain aspects of the show are sexist. If you want to continue to be insulting because I disagree with you, that's on you.
posted by creepygirl at 9:44 AM on November 19, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm very sorry, I sure didn't mean to be insulting.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 3:50 PM on November 19, 2015


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