When Odo and Dax pay a visit to the Gamma Quadrant, they discover a small village whose inhabitants are disappearing one by one. They decide to assist in the investigation, but are soon confronted with additional questions. Meanwhile, back on DS9, Kira receives a visit from Vedek Bareil, and Jake gets a job helping Chief O’Brien.
As with the last few episodes, the A-plot of Shadowplay could easily have been lifted from the TNG script pile – with Odo being the ‘weird outsider with strange abilities’ instead of Data. Nonetheless, it’s a decent enough story, a classically Star Trek tale of a someone using technology to recreate the life they once knew. Rurigan has basically built himself his own version of The Sims and then chosen to live in it and be a part of it as it evolves – as an alternative to the harsh reality of staying on his home world. Has he created sentient life, as Geordi once did with Moriarty, or is he just used to interacting with NPCs, with their limitations? After thirty years of continuous operation, these holograms may well have become as complex and alive as any flesh-and-blood organisms.
- One of the great relationships in this episode is that of Odo and the little girl Taya. Just as Patrick Stewart brought a warmth and humanity to the initially stiff and distant Picard, so too is Odo beginning to be more than just a gruff and uninterested security officer. At the beginning of the episode, he cares little for Dax’s gossip about crew relationships, but he still manages to forge a closeness with Taya, even overcoming his reluctance to do party pieces and shapeshifting for her at the end.
- Ironically, Odo refers to Kira as a good friend in this episode, declaring that he has no romantic interests in her or anyone else. Later in the series, he will have developed deep romantic feelings for her.
- This episode marks the point where Kira and Bareil become a proper couple. Bareil is slightly less wooden than before, but not by much.
- Jake finally owns up to Sisko that he doesn’t want to join Starfleet. When I first watched DS9, I had the impression that this was the culmination of a long arc in which Jake was expected to take the typical Starfleet brat career track, but actually the subject was only broached for the first time in the previous episode.
- O’Brien’s father originally wanted his son to become a professional cellist. We’ve previously seen Keiko play the clarinet on TNG, but this is the first indication that Miles had any interest in music.
- It should also be noted that this episode sees a rare Dax/Odo pairing, instead of the more usual Dax/Kira, Dax/Sisko, Dax/Bashir or Kira/Odo pairings.
- As the only real person in a village of holograms, Rurigan would have needed to eat real food. Where was he getting it from? The holograms could presumably only eat holographic food, unless they had complete holographic digestive systems that somehow process real organic matter? Was he sneaking out every night and subsisting on berries? Did he also build himself a secret replicator?
- This episode marks yet another mention of the Dominion, as the force which took over Rurigan’s home planet and made it an unpleasant place to live.
- It’s just as well that Rurigan knew the exact place to stand when the generator was switched back on, so that Taya didn’t rematerialise inside him.
Summary – Shadowplay: Old man spends 30 years playing The Sims, forgets it isn’t real.