Kira, Rom and Jake have begun stirring up trouble for the Dominion forces on DS9, but their co-conspirator Odo seems less than enthusiastic about their actions. Matters take a turn for the worse when the Female Shapeshifter arrives on DS9; fascinated by the prospect of learning more about his people, Odo finds himself drifting away from his friends right when they need him most. Meanwhile, Dax is assigned to command the Defiant in battle whilst Sisko and Admiral Ross plot the destruction of a key Dominion tactical advantage.
After three episodes of being the B-story, the station plot takes centre stage in this episode, which finally sees Kira starting to fight back. Unfortunately, she faces resistance from an unexpected quarter – her good friend Odo. All this time, Odo has been suppressing his urge to return to his people, and he can’t help but give in to the desire to spend time with the Female Shapeshifter. Even his continuing unrequited love for Kira isn’t enough to make him pass up this opportunity to understand his people better.
Meanwhile, the B-story takes place mostly off screen, but it still gives us an important insight into what starship life is like at the moment. Sisko is busy plotting with Admiral Ross, so Dax gets to be in charge – which is awesome, but not as awesome as it would have been if we’d actually seen her mission on screen.
Understanding the Changelings
The Changelings used to be restricted to a single form before they evolved into shapeshifters, although it’s unclear whether that form was humanoid or not. Now, the Female Shapeshifter explains that the Great Link is both one entity and many – “the drop becomes the ocean…the ocean becomes the drop”. Since I like to overthink things, let’s consider how this might work.
- The Great Link, like the Borg, is a single collective consciousness. Individual Changelings who leave for whatever reason are temporarily disconnected from that consciousness, and form their own memories and opinions. When they return, those memories and opinions are incorporated into the Great Link.
- The Great Link is a melting pot of innumerable individuals with their own thoughts and opinions, all living together and intermingling. When an individual Changeling is formed, it is made of components of those individuals, and is not necessarily identical to any individual that has formed before (like taking a glass of water out of the ocean. For example, say that the Great Link was two individuals – A, who is highly fearful and xenophobic, and B, who is friendly and welcoming to aliens. One day, they create a single being out of parts of themselves who is 70% A and 30% B. This individual is xenophobic and mistrustful. Later, that temporary individual returns to the Link. The next week, the Link needs to send out a single Changeling again, but this time it just happens to be 30% A and 70% B. This individual is different, and is a friendly, welcoming persona.
In either of these scenarios, where do infant Changelings fit in? We know that Odo was essentially an infant when he was sent out, as was the Changeling in The Begotten. If the Link is a single consciousness with no real individuality, what does it mean to be born? Wouldn’t any new individual start off with all the knowledge and memories of the Link? Or were those 100 Changelings specifically given no prior knowledge, so that they would be blank slates that better reflected the societies that raised them?
Also, as Odo has been in the Great Link, does that mean that the Odo who emerged was not quite the same person who went in? That being said, Odo was in the Link to be punished, so he was probably kept strictly separate from the majority. You don’t want to punish the wrong molecules.
Finally, the Female Shapeshifter says that the Link mostly remains in its liquid state; however, she sometimes enjoys taking the form of a solid object. All of the other Changelings are better shapeshifters than Odo, and are able to mimic humanoid faces much more accurately. Surely they couldn’t acquire this skill without some degree of practice? Odo has been shapeshifting every day for years and he still hasn’t got it right.
- Given Odo’s “I don’t care about any of that” attitude at the end of the episode, should Kira ever forgive him, or has he gone too far? I’m tempted to say that that’s something Odo can’t take back, and that they definitely shouldn’t get together as a couple in future – except of course they do. And of course, friendship and forgiveness is always a complicated subject anyway.
- As a teen, I lapped up Odo’s pain at his unrequited love, and how he wished he didn’t have to feel it.
- Although Damar seems like a drunken idiot in this episode, he will eventually become an important ally.
- Why wasn’t Damar’s secret report protected in any way? Do PADDs not have any authentication?
Summary – Behind the Lines: “We will keep on fighting until we can’t fight any more.”