Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Chimera   Rewatch 
November 17, 2016 4:00 AM - Season 7, Episode 14 - Subscribe

It's never fun when one of your more socially-underdeveloped relatives comes to where you work and embarrasses you in front of your colleagues. It's even worse when you're changelings.

Memory Alpha is more than a website, it's a…merging of thought and form. (And MAJOR SPOILERS…)

- This episode originated in the writers' desire to indicate to viewers, before they got into the final ten-hour, nine-episode arc, that Odo was deeply conflicted about his attitude to the Founders, and that despite all they'd done, he still wished to be with them a great deal. René Echevarria felt that Odo's decision to return to the Great Link in "What You Leave Behind" would only make sense to viewers, if viewers understood that Odo's conception of his people has changed. As Echevarria explains, "It was our sense that because all of the Changelings we'd seen were evil, that it was easy for Odo to say he didn't want to be involved with his people, because they were all bad guys. So it was never a fair choice for Odo. He'd never really faced his own nature. That was the spark: 'What if he meets a Changeling who's had no contact with the Founders? That would throw his life into turmoil.'"

- René Echevarria had originally composed the scene where Odo envelops Kira for the fifth season episode "A Simple Investigation", and it was to involve Odo and Arissa. It was abandoned at the time because Ira Steven Behr felt it was important for Odo to make love as a solid. When writing "Chimera", Echevarria was glad that the scene was dropped from the earlier episode, as he felt it carried a great deal more significance in this episode than it would have done in that one; "The scene was just magical. It moved their relationship to a new level, with him trying to be Human like her, and her meeting him halfway. You can see on her face that she is experiencing something special." Special effects supervisor David Stipes calls the scene, "a visual expression of love." Rene Auberjonois was on-set when Nana Visitor was filming it, and afterwards, he approached her and said, "God, you make me look like such a great lover!"

- J.G. Hertzler normally portrayed General Martok on the show, although he had also previously appeared in the pilot episode, "Emissary", as "Saratoga Captain", under the name "John Noah Hertzler". For the role of Laas, he was credited as "Garman Hertzler". Hertzler's real name is in fact John Garman Hertzler, but he dislikes the name John. Taking a cue from his friend J.T. Walsh, Hertzler decided to start going by his initials, J.G. But when shooting "Emissary", he hadn't hit on this solution yet, so he called himself John Noah (his own name, and his grandfather's name). Amusingly, during production of this episode, Hertzler himself started a rumor that Garman was his reclusive brother from New York (something which some fans still think is true, and which some websites continue to claim ).

- Hertzler has said that he partially based Laas' distinctive way of speaking on William Shatner: "I wanted to find a way to keep this character sort of annoyingly judgmental, because of his politics. He felt that these humanoids were so far beneath him that it was like talking to dogs. His pro-environmentalist point of view, feeling that humanoids ruin things, seemed like almost a passionate adherence to the Prime Directive. And that reminded me of James Kirk. William Shatner has a theatrical way of delivering lines by taking breathing pauses and holding onto the ends of words. I thought, 'That would work for Laas.' So that's where the voice came from. It's me doing my best imitation of Laas doing William Shatner doing Kirk!"

- Given the fact that Odo was actually infected with the morphogenic virus (though he believed himself not to be at the time), it is likely that he spread the virus to Laas when they linked. This issue was something of which the writers were aware, and something they guessed fans might question. According to Ira Behr they seriously toyed with the idea of bringing Laas back into an episode or two of the ten-hour, nine-episode arc so as to deal with his infection, but it proved to be impossible, and his whereabouts have become one of the great unanswered questions of the series, such as what happened to Thomas Riker. This issue was addressed in the novels set after "What You Leave Behind", wherein Laas has joined the Founders in the Gamma Quadrant, and in so doing is cured.


"You've given up a great deal to remain here."
"Yes I have...But I won't have anything to do with the Founders and their war."
"Odo, we linked. I know the truth - you stayed here because of Kira. If it weren't for her, you would be with our people - war or no war, you would be a Founder!"

- Laas and Odo


"Watch your step, Odo. We're at war with your people. This is no time for a 'Changeling Pride' demonstration on the promenade."

- Quark


"We humanoids are the product of millions of years of evolution. Our ancestors learned the hard way that what you don't know might kill you. They wouldn't have survived if they hadn't jumped back when they encountered a snake coiled in the muck. And now millions of years later, that instinct is still there."

- Quark


"They tolerate you, Odo, because you emulate them. What higher flattery is there? 'I, who can be anything, choose to be like you'?"

- Laas


"You've done many things, been many things, but you've never known love."
"Compared to the Link, it is a pale shadow. A feeble attempt to compensate for the isolation that mono-forms feel because they are trapped within themselves."
"Perhaps the fact that it's not easy is what makes it worthwhile."

- Odo and Laas
posted by CheesesOfBrazil (6 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
My biggest personal recollection about this episode is that it made Changelings *way* too powerful: Laas was able to move at warp speed under his own power, and become fire and mist. It sort of jumped Founders up from 'race maliciously impersonating gods' to 'race that has some legitimate arguments in favor of claiming godhood.' I'm glad they sort of memory-holed all that.

Apart from that, I remember liking it: DS9 is at the most fun when you don't know who to root for. Laas is an asshole and he's oversimplifying some important points, but he's not entirely wrong. The people around him are prejudiced, and likely always will be. Should he have killed the Klingon? I think I would have in his shoes, but I don't know that that makes it right. Etc.

As ever, the behind the scenes stuff is my favorite part of looking back. I especially like the notion that Hertzler was channeling William Shatner, and why. (I think the thing that most startled me about him is how ordinary he looked in Far Beyond The Stars - I can't hear that voice without picturing someone literally larger than life.)

I also like the notion that they needed Odo to interact with a Changeling without Dominion politics interfering, so we got a better sense of what they meant to him. It was a good call in terms of the bigger picture, and it did make Odo's actions later make more sense.
posted by mordax at 1:02 PM on November 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


Jeez, add Hertzler to the list of kickass, underrated actors who haven't worked nearly enough since the show ended.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 4:43 PM on November 17, 2016 [4 favorites]


Minor correction: Laas isn't moving at warp speed when he catches up to the runabout, since Odo announced that they had dropped out of warp shortly before Laas appears. His space-swimming feat is still impressive, since he's not only about the size of the runabout but also would have to have some energy-manipulating ability to propel himself through space without visibly expending any of his mass. (There's also the question of how he sensed Odo's proximity; it could be related to whatever implanted memory or ability that led Odo to the planet that the Great Link was on way back in "The Search.")

Anyway, this was a fantastic episode, and something that I got out of the rewatch was how heavily it was coded for various aspects of queerness. Even if Quark hadn't made his crack about "changeling pride", it's just soaking in it; when Odo reacts with some shock to Laas' invitation to link on the Promenade, Laas' response may as well have been, "Who gives a shit if you scare the straights?" There's also the very interestingly nuanced discussion of whether or not the Klingons (and every other solid who was there) were justified in feeling threatened by Laas' completely harmless demonstration. Even Quark's attempt to justify anti-changeling prejudice with evo-psych works, in context; I don't think that he's right, but it's a very Quark thing for him to say. And the closing scene, with Kira delighting in the aurora Odo-alis, helps explain their physical relationship; just as Odo delights in giving her physical pleasure, even though he doesn't gain any direct stimulation from it AFAWK (I think that this was more-or-less stated in "A Simple Investigation", and/or when he and the female changeling tried solid-type sex), she also delights in his doing something that's much more shape-shifty. (Or maybe it is physically stimulating for her; it's not clear, which may be the point.)

I suppose that it could be seen as regressive that he chooses to stay on the station with Kira--the more vanilla choice--rather than going with Laas and ultimately with whomever Laas finds, if anyone, but it's the choice that seems right to Odo. At least at this point; this being a rewatch, we know that it won't be long before he makes a different choice. (And there's also the unspoken fact that he will outlive Kira, probably.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:42 PM on November 17, 2016 [3 favorites]


Minor correction: Laas isn't moving at warp speed when he catches up to the runabout, since Odo announced that they had dropped out of warp shortly before Laas appears.

He wasn't that minute, but it was strongly implied he could - he was making his way across interstellar space, IIRC, which isn't a job for impulse engines. (Memory Alpha seems to concur with that line of reasoning.)

Anyway, this was a fantastic episode, and something that I got out of the rewatch was how heavily it was coded for various aspects of queerness.

This is a very good point. I mostly looked at it in terms of racism, (I'm cis het PoC), but I think you really have something with the subtext there, that I was missing in favor of how this story tracks with my own experience.

(Laas reminds me of a guy I knew in high school - transferred into my Very White honors program, thought we would be best buddies because we were the only two brown guys there. I was open to being friends, but I was sort of baffled by the way he approached my existing friends. Like, it wasn't how I thought about my circumstances at all, rightly or wrongly, and I was mostly confused by it at the time.)

I suppose that it could be seen as regressive that he chooses to stay on the station with Kira--the more vanilla choice--rather than going with Laas and ultimately with whomever Laas finds, if anyone, but it's the choice that seems right to Odo.

I actually looked at this as one of the most realistic choices in the whole deal: Odo's been nuts about Kira for ages at this point. Like, as we saw in an earlier episode, 'willing to sacrifice hundreds of lives for her' nuts. What Laas offers is seductive, but it's not unique in the way Kira is. Laas himself points out there are others out there - turning him down doesn't really close the door on finding them later, but Kira's only going to be around and even hypothetically available for a comparatively brief span of time.

... Plus, Laas really is kind of a dick, and I think it's hard for even Odo to get on board with that so quickly. I think if Laas had been able to ease Odo into 'let's start our own theme park with blackjack and hookers' over the course of a lengthy story arc, it could have plausibly gone the other way, but he pressed too hard and too fast.
posted by mordax at 12:51 PM on November 18, 2016 [3 favorites]


This is a very good point. I mostly looked at it in terms of racism, (I'm cis het PoC), but I think you really have something with the subtext there, that I was missing in favor of how this story tracks with my own experience.

(Laas reminds me of a guy I knew in high school - transferred into my Very White honors program, thought we would be best buddies because we were the only two brown guys there. I was open to being friends, but I was sort of baffled by the way he approached my existing friends. Like, it wasn't how I thought about my circumstances at all, rightly or wrongly, and I was mostly confused by it at the time.)


I'd say that the fact that it tracks with your own experience more than justifies that interpretation. And it's a testament to the validity of the concept of the episode that it can map to more than one real-life situation; that's true of the show's (and franchise's) better episodes, that they can stand as allegories to more than one situation.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:34 PM on November 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


It sort of jumped Founders up from 'race maliciously impersonating gods' to 'race that has some legitimate arguments in favor of claiming godhood.'

Also, WHERE DOES THEIR MASS GO?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:17 PM on November 20, 2016 [1 favorite]


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