Original air date: April 18, 1993
Notable guest stars: Cliff DeYoung as Croden, Randy Oglesby as Ah-Kel and Ro-Kel, Gordon Clapp as Hadran, Leslie Engelberg as Yareth, Kathleen Garrett as the unnamed Vulcan captain, Max Grodénchik as Rom (recurring)
In a nutshell: One of Quark’s smuggling deals goes bad, resulting in a murder. Unfortunately for Odo, the untrustworthy killer might be the key to figuring out where he comes from.
Say hello to: Nobody
Say goodbye to: Nobody
Missing in action: Jake Sisko
Words of wisdom: “I’m a security chief, not a combat pilot.” – Odo
The secret of the ooze
Odo and Quark are holding a conversation about some recent arrivals on the station – a secretive man that the Klingons brought back from the Gamma Quadrant and a ship full of Miradorn raiders, a species known throughout the galaxy for their particular unsavoriness. Odo suspects that Quark has some illicit business to conduct with them, but the bartender says that even he is trying to avoid them and their general unpleasantness.
Just then, a pair of twin Miradorns enter the bar and nod at Quark as they move towards the back of the establishment. Flustered, Quark tells Odo that they obviously just want to use a holosuite and that he should either order something or leave. He also asks Rom to break out some of his finest liquor for the Miradorns. When Rom takes the tray to the party, Odo has disappeared and an extra glass appears on the tray.
As Rom enters the holosuite, the Miradorns are trying to sell a decorated egg to Quark. He hesitates to complete the transaction though, saying that his buyer has expressed reservations that the item might have been stolen. As the Miradorns start to turn the screws on Quark, the mysterious stranger enters with a phaser in hand. He tells them to give him the egg.
A scuffle breaks out – one of the twins flips the table over onto the robber and Rom drops his tray of drinks. As it hits the floor, Odo reforms into his normal form and goes to stop the would-be thief. The robber manages to shoot one of the twins before Odo can stop him. As all of the parties in the holosuite are hauled off to the brig, Bashir confirms that the twin with the phaser wound has died.
The remaining Miradorn, Ah-Kel, tells Sisko and Odo that twins in his species are bonded, and he is now an incomplete individual. Before leaving Odo’s office, he tells them both that his only purpose in life now is to see his brother’s killer dead.
Sisko and Odo walk over to question the mysterious robber, a man named Croden. Sisko tells him that he’ll have the right to legal representation at his trial, but Croden seems uninterested and indifferent to legal help. He seems more jealous of Odo’s abilities and lets it slip that there are other “changelings” like him in the Gamma Quadrant. Both Odo and Sisko are intrigued by this news. Croden offers to tell them more if they bring him something to eat.
Deciding that they’ll have to unfortunately open relations with Croden’s people with news of his arrest for murder, Sisko and Dax leave the station in a runabout to try and find his planet. Meanwhile, in the bar, Odo questions Quark about his prior dealings with Croden and whether or not he’s trying to arrange passage for him back to the Gamma Quadrant in return for his role in the staged robbery. Odo then begins to ask Quark if Croden mentioned anything about his planet or other species from the Gamma Quadrant, but he’s interrupted by a hail from one of his security officers.
Odo returns to his office to run off Ah-Kel, who has blocked the entrance with some of his men. After once again promising to kill his brother’s murderer, he leaves to head back to his ship.
Odo goes into his office to speak with Croden, who once again turns the conversation back to the changelings in the Gamma Quadrant. He says that changelings used to live on his planet, but they were persecuted and left centuries ago. Croden claims to know where some are located today, but Odo doubts the truth of his statements and suspects he’s just making a play to get himself released. As proof of his claims, Croden gives Odo a locket that he’s been wearing on a chain around his neck. When opened, a purple goo inside the locket morphs into a solid shape, then returns to its gelatinous form.
Sisko and Dax make their way to Rakhar, where they get in touch with a rather cranky and xenophobic government official. He says Croden is a well-known criminal on his world and is adamant that he must be returned to them. Quickly realizing that he won’t get anywhere arguing with the official, Sisko promises to return Croden to them within 52 hours.
In the infirmary, Bashir analyzes the locket goo. He finds that it’s a weird mix between organic and inorganic materials that is probably alive. The only analogue he knows of is Odo himself.
Odo returns to the brig to speak again with Croden, who tells him that he got the substance while hiding in an asteroid field inside a nebula in the Gamma Quadrant. While he was there, he stumbled upon a colony of changelings. He claims that their location isn’t mapped and he’s the only one that could show Odo where they were.
Sisko calls Odo into his office and tells him that he will escort Croden back to Rakhar in a runabout. Since Ah-Kel is closely monitoring everything that leaves the station, they’ll have to use a departing Rigelian freighter to cover their own departure. The ruse works, and Odo and Croden make their way into the wormhole.
On board the runabout, Croden tries again to find a commonality with Odo, but the chief tells him that he talks too much. Croden then tells him his version of his story – that he doesn’t know what his crime was, but he was declared an enemy of the state. Officers entered his home in the middle of the night and murdered his family, for which he killed them in return. Odo doubts Croden’s story is true, but the prisoner tells him that it is.
Back on DS9, Ah-Kel angrily enters Quark’s bar. He’s discovered that Croden is missing and demands that Quark tell him where he is since they’re obviously partners in crime. Using some illegally obtained security chips, Quarks accesses the computer and allows Ah-Kel to find out where Odo is headed with Croden.
The crew attempts to slow Ah-Kel’s departure from the station, but fail and he enters the wormhole in pursuit of Odo’s ship. On the runabout, Croden continues to talk to Odo about the changelings, revealing that on his world they refused to assimilate and stay in solid form. He’s puzzled as to why Odo isn’t more curious about his own kind. Odo assures him that he is curious, but his duties prevent him from doing anything about it at the moment.
Their conversation is interrupted by a blast from Ah-Kel’s ship. He tells Odo to surrender his prisoner or die with him. Odo refuses and attempts to evade Ah-Kel’s vessel, but the situation quickly becomes dire. With little choice, Odo turns control of the runabout over to Croden, who steers it into the nebula’s vortex in an attempt to elude Ah-Kel’s sensors. Since Ah-Kel will be able to track their propulsion, Croden says their best bet for survival will be to land on one of the rocky planetoids – and Odo may get to meet his people after all.
Croden and Odo land on an asteroid surface and head into a cave. Croden claims that the changeling colony is inside the caverns, but Odo can sense that he’s lying. He gets Croden to admit that he as never actually seen any changelings and that he got the locket from a off-world trader. He claims, however, that it’s critical to his only reason to going on living.
The pair run deeper into the caverns where Croden shows Odo his reason for living – a stasis chamber holding his daughter, the only member of his family he was able to save. The locket goo forms itself into a key to unlock the chamber. Croden opens up the chamber and revives his daughter, then tells Odo that he must take her to safety while he turns himself in.
Suddenly, Ah-Kel’s ship fires on the their location and causes a cave-in. Odo is knocked unconscious by falling debris. Croden thinks about leaving him behind, but the presence of his daughter causes him go back and rescue Odo.
When Odo awakens on the runabout, the ship is under fire from Ah-Kel’s vessel. He suddenly has an idea – he lures Ah-Kel into a pocket of the nebula’s volatile gas, then escapes just as Ah-Kel’s weapons ignites the gas and destroys his own ship.
With the threat from the Miradorns gone, Croden prepares to return to his planet to face his punishment. He asks that Odo, as the only other outsider from the Gamma Quadrant on the other side of the wormhole, watch over her in his absence. As Odo struggles to answer, a Vulcan science vessel hails them. They detected the explosion and wanted to see if they could render assistance. Odo assures them that they are fine, but arranges for the Vulcans to take Croden and his daughter with them back through the wormhole.
As they leave Odo and begin their new lives, Croden gives him the locket as a parting gift. Although he’ll be an outsider in the Alpha Quadrant, Croden assures Odo that he’ll always be “at home” as long as he has his daughter. As he sets course back to DS9, Odo tells his “cousin” in the locket that perhaps someday they’ll find their home, too.
Thoughts and ruminations
- The Miradorn outfits are unfortunate.
- On the other hand, I always enjoy Quark’s outfits. They’re outlandish, but well-tailored and a good fit for his character.
- In hiding as a drinking glass, Odo once again demonstrates that he doesn’t need any kind of warrant or anything to just spy on people at will.
- It’s a Fabergé egg…IN SPAAAAACE!
- Whenever a character on any TV show makes a statement blatantly broadcasting their desire to kill another character, they never end up murdering anyone. Why does this continue to be a thing in scripts? Don’t writers know they’re not fooling anyone at this point?
- The term “changeling” is much more satisfying than “shapeshifter” to me. I don’t know why. I guess because shapeshifter is a generic term through science fiction and fantasy, while changelings are specific to the Star Trek universe.
- For such a vibrant, bustling hub of interstellar travel, DS9 sure does look like a station with only one ship docked to it in exterior shots.
- HOLY CRAP! PEOPLE FROM DS9 ACTUALLY GOING INTO THE GAMMA QUADRANT TO DO SOMETHING?!? WHAT AN INCREDIBLE CONCEPT! THEY SHOULD MAKE A SHOW ABOUT THIS!
- “Morn should keep his big mouth shut!” is an early contender for best line of the entire series.
- One of Ah-Kel’s men looks like Tina Turner. Well, a Tina Turner drag impersonator.
- Croden has a very Bruce Dern vibe about him. He might be stoned.
- If Croden’s planet is so close to the entrance to the wormhole, why hasn’t anyone been there yet? Wouldn’t Starfleet explore the nearest planets first? Previous episodes have alluded to Starfleet exploration vessels going through the wormhole. I guess they just warped on past Rakhar.
- Another planet that uses only single names. Must get confusing after a while.
- When you’ve got a whole station full of personell, does it really make much sense to send just one guy to keep guard over a criminal? At least send another guy for backup while Odo pilots the ship.
- How can Croden instantly know how to pilot the runabout? Or even read the controls?
- Can Odo be knocked unconscious? He’s just a gelatinous substance that’s replicating humanoid form. I would assume that he doesn’t go to the trouble of replicating internal organs as well. Wouldn’t knocking him on the head be the same as hitting him on the foot or torso? It’s all just solid goo inside, right?
- After building him up as a hard ass throughout the series thus far, the scene where Odo allows the pair to escape and his smile to Croden’s daughter when realizes that he finally knows that he’s not alone in the universe are nice little pieces of character development.
- They kind of half-assed it on the title for this episode. The vortex itself isn’t particularly relevant to the episode’s plot.
This episode started out as a standard fugitive-alien-of-the-week story, but blossomed into something much deeper and interesting halfway through. It makes the beginning of Odo’s search for his people and the series’ first tentative steps into treating the Gamma Quadrant as more than just a source of troublemakers for Quark to exploit. I like the fact that we don’t meet any Changelings in this episode. It would have been easy for the writers to blow their wad and destroy the mystery surrounding Odo early in the series (cough, cough… Lore), but instead of they’ve laid the groundwork for something that’ll become increasingly integral to the overall plot of the series. I’m not convinced they knew exactly where they were going with the Changelings when they wrote this episode, but they were smart enough not to ruin them. Three out of four Odo buckets.