Odo is delighted when he encounters Laas – another of the hundred Changelings sent out into the galaxy by the Founders. Laas is a much more experienced shapeshifter and is eager to teach Odo the full potential of his abilities – but he is also much more jaded and cynical when it comes to living with humanoids. Will Laas be able to convince Odo to turn away from his friends on DS9 and go exploring with him instead?
It’s late in the day for DS9, but there’s still time for a good one-off story. Way back in season five’s The Begotten, Odo acted as teacher and mentor for a baby Changeling, but here he meets one who is older than wiser than himself. Laas has a ‘been there, done that’ attitude to living with humanoids, and once he discovers the joy of linking with another shapeshifter, he is more enthusiastic than ever about being with one of his own kind. Essentially, Laas has embraced his nature where Odo has been suppressing and denying it, which allows the episode to ask further questions about diversity and acceptance.
For all that it pretends to be an inclusive future, mostly the denizens of the 24th century don’t have to deal with anyone that different from themselves – even the mysterious Breen have a bipedal structure. The people of DS9 accept Odo not just because they know him, but because, as Quark points out, he doesn’t flaunt his differences. Odo has spent his entire life desperately trying to fit in, whereas Laas has moved beyond that stage, and looks down on the people who hate and fear shapeshifters – almost like a Founder would. Yes, Laas is arrogant and uninterested in social niceties, but he does have a point. In the 24th century, people hate and distrust shapeshifters because of the actions of the Founders, and because of their essential differences. In the 21st century, there are those who feel the same about Muslims because of the actions of terrorists. Star Trek – the prescient gift that keeps on giving.
Points of note
- Laas can transform into fire and fog. By this point, we’ve long had to accept the magical nature of shapeshifting, and not try to analyse it too much. Maybe subspace is involved somehow – after all, a Changeling’s consciousness has to go somewhere when they take on a form that has no brain or senses.
- Now that Odo has linked with Laas, he has presumably infected him with the same morphogenic virus with which he infected the Great Link. I can’t remember why Odo shows no signs of carrying the virus (I guess he’s the Typhoid Mary of his time), but I’m sure it will be explained soon.
- Once again, we’re reminded that the only thing standing between the Alpha Quadrant and destruction is the fact that Odo loves Kira enough to keep living with humanoids.
- For those who didn’t notice, Laas is played by J.G. Hertzler (better known as General Martok) under the name Garman Hertzler.
Summary – Chimera: Odo almost leaves Kira for another Changeling.