We’ve lost a few big Star Trek names this year, and sadly a few days Rene Auberjonois became one of those names. To celebrate his life and work, I’ve put together a list of some of his essential moments as DS9’s shapeshifting head of security, Constable Odo.
Season one of DS9 introduced Odo as a brusque and blunt character whose only concerns were justice and order. This early season two episode was the first to give his character a bit more nuance, as we flash back five years to find out how Odo came to become chief of DS9 security in the first place.
An attempt on Quark’s life causes Odo to make links with an old case from the days when the Cardassians were in charge of Terok Nor, giving us the opportunity to see his first meetings with Dukat, Quark and Kira. All of these relationships would become important in different ways over the course of the series, and here we see how it all began. It’s also the first time Odo and Kira’s friendship is truly tested, although as we know, it doesn’t seem to affect them in the long run.
Season two offered a second look into Odo’s past a few episodes later, with a visit from his mentor Dr Mora Pol. This episode introduces the difficult relationship between the two men. Dr Mora Pol treats Odo both as a favourite son and a beloved specimen capable of performing amazing tricks, whilst Odo harbours both love and anger towards the man who discovered and raised him.
This complicated family set up is definitely the highlight of the episode, and makes for absorbing viewing, so much so that we can perhaps forgive the sillier “Odo turns into a B movie monster” elements of the episode.
The poacher/gamekeeper relationship between Quark and Odo is one of the staples of DS9, and this episode brings it to the fore as the pair are forced to rely on each other in order to survive a shuttle crash and make it to the top of a frozen mountain. Having been stripped of his shapeshifting powers at the end of the preceding season, Odo is forced to cope with not only being stuck in humanoid form, and even ends up breaking his leg.
The episode hits all the notes of the classic “antagonist pairing who secretly and grudgingly respect each other”, so if you want a prime example of the Odo/Quark relationship, this is the one to watch.
The Search I+II
The first two seasons of DS9 teased at the existence of the Dominion – am aggressively dominant power in the Gamma Quadrant. In the season three opener, Odo finally fulfils his lifelong dream of finding his people, only to ultimately discover that they are the Founders of said Dominion.
As well as kicking DS9 up a gear, this two-parter sets up the dilemma that haunts Odo for the rest of the series. For the next five years, he struggles with his loyalty to his Alpha Quadrant comrades, and his deep desire to return his own people.
Odo finds himself working with Dr Mora Pol to raise an infant Changeling, but the two men soon disagree over methodology. Odo is determined to provide the kind of gentle and loving environment he would have liked, but Dr Mora insists that a regime of harsher treatment and electric shocks is the only way to get the infant to respond.
This episode casts Odo in both the role of son and new parent, further exploring the difficult relationship introduced in The Alternate. Even though much of the episode concerns two men talking to a pile of goo, it is still a strong piece that delves deep into family relationships, and even goes some way towards healing old wounds. For Odo, becoming a parent of sorts gives him an insight into how Mora feels about him, and although the ending is bittersweet, it leaves their relationship on more solid ground.
A Simple Investigation
Pretty much everyone in Star Trek gets a one-off romance episode, and this is Odo’s. Odo gets drawn into the predicament of a mysterious Idanian woman named Arissa, who is on the run from the shady Orion Syndicate. Odo’s mission to protect her soon becomes personal, and they end up sharing a romantic interlude. Although not exceptional, this is a solid Odo episode. We can only speculate as to how he employs his shapeshifting talents in the bedroom.
In this season seven episode, Odo meets Laas, another of the hundred Changelings sent away by the Founders. But where Odo has spent his life desperately trying to fit in and imitate humanoids, Laas has embraced his nature and expanded his abilities.
A rare high point of DS9’s final season, this episode delves into the question of what diversity and inclusion really mean within the Federation. In principle, anyone is welcome, but do humans and Bajorans accept Odo for all he is, or just because he tries his best to imitate them and not stand out? Confronted with the character of Laas, who has unashamedly embraced his differences, Odo is left with some difficult questions to ask of both himself and his friends.
The Abandoned/Treachery, Faith and The Great River
Even though he tried to reject his people’s status as Founders of the Dominion, Odo couldn’t always escape it. I’ve grouped these two episodes together because the events therein both arise from Odo’s interactions with Dominion races genetically programmed to worship him.
In The Abandoned, Odo raises a baby Jem’Hadar to adulthood, but his attempts to teach the boy that there’s more to life than aggression and combat ultimately come to nothing. Treachery, Faith and The Great River sees Odo team up with a ‘defective’ Weyoun clone who wishes to leave the Dominion. As they face off against Damar and another Weyoun, Odo has to deal with both the fact that the Vorta consider him a god, and the revelation that his people are dying of a mysterious disease. Most of the time, Odo actively tries to avoid thinking about his status as a Founder, but these two episodes force him to acknowledge how his people have affected the races of the Gamma Quadrant.
The Forsaken/The Muse
Even though she can be pretty unbearable at times, one of the things I like about Lwaxana is her relationship with Odo. There’s a bond between the pair of them that allows them to explore their respective vulnerabilities, elevating this otherwise unremarkable pair of episodes.
The Forsaken seems like it’s going to be another “horny Lwaxana” episode, but it actually leads up to one of DS9’s most tender and memorable scenes. Stuck in a lift with Lwaxana at exactly the time he needs to revert to his gelatinous state, Odo desperately tries to save face and dignity by holding on in solid form for as long as possible. It takes Lwaxana revealing her own kindness and vulnerability for him to finally let go.
Lwaxana returns to DS9 in The Muse, this time heavily pregnant and on the run from her latest husband. While trying to help her with her predicament, Odo and Lwaxana’s relationship deepens – and although he doesn’t reciprocate her love, there’s a clear and deep chemistry between them. It’s a rare chance for Odo to actually smile and have fun, something he does far too little.
Even though this isn’t a particularly good episode, it does feel like essential Odo viewing. Thanks to some convenient plot magic, Sisko, Odo, Garak and Dax get trapped in a flashback to the Terok Nor days, reliving an episode in which Odo’s blind application of order and justice got three Bajorans killed. However, although these events were meant to represent a turning point for Odo, he was still obsessed with order and justice throughout season one – well after the events depicted here. The episode also suffers for trying to tread similar ground to Necessary Evil, and just not doing as well at the job.
Behind the Lines
Really the first six episodes of season six should be watched as a block, but I’m picking this one out nonetheless. Even though DS9 is now under Dominion Occupation, non-Federation personnel such as Kira and Odo remain aboard the station. But while Kira is deeply committed to resisting the occupation from within, Odo finds himself distracted and distanced from his allies with the arrival of the Female Shapeshifter. Even though she is leading the enemy forces, she also represents an irresistible chance to learn more about his people, and get closer to them. It also provides the audience with plenty to think about regarding the nature of the Great Link and what it even means to be an individual when you can mingle both your molecules and consciousness with hundreds of other beings.
We finish up this section with a decent standalone episode that sees Odo and Dax journeying to a planet whose inhabitants are mysteriously disappearing. Although the plot of the episode could have worked just as well in TNG, it does offer Odo some great character moments. At the start, he’s the same old gruff Odo, complaining about how he used to have to do party tricks, and taking no interest in Dax’s gossip. As the episode progresses, however, we see him forming a bond with a young girl, even opening up enough to voluntarily perform a trick just for her. During the early episodes of DS9, it was episodes like this that started to flesh out Odo’s character (no pun intended), and give him a little more depth.
Odo x Kira
I’m actually not a fan of the Odo/Kira romance. I don’t mind that Odo had unrequited feelings for Odo in the first place, but it feeds into the annoying trope that a man just needs to be patient and persistent enough, and eventually the object of his desire will fall in love with him. At the start of Children of Time, Odo seems ready to give up and move on, but coming into contact with his Kira-obsessed future self changes all that. And of course, ultimately Kira does fall in love with him, rewarding his stolid patience.
That being said, this blog would be incomplete if it didn’t touch on a couple of key Odo/Kira moments, so here we go.
Heart of Stone
When Kira gets slowly engulfed in a growing crystalline formation, there is nothing Odo can do – and in what appears to be her dying moment, he articulates his feelings for the very first time. This was a powerful moment that we’d been building towards for a while, and although the final reveal that it wasn’t really Kira at all does cheapen the moment a little, the episode is still worth a watch.
With the help of Dr Bashir’s new 1950s nightclub holoprogram, Odo decides to finally go for it and confess his feelings to Kira. A classic “quiet man finally gets the object of his desire” story, His Way isn’t outright bad, but it is all told from Odo’s perspective. At the end, it turns out that Kira is attracted to Odo after all, but we have no sense about when and how this happened. Up until this point, she only seems interested in being friends with him. However, if the story feels a little lacklustre to you, you can at least take comfort in the quality of the Rat Pack era songs.
Where else can I see Rene Auberjonois?
As an actor with many roles under his belt, it feels only right to acknowledge some of Rene Auberjonois’ other appearances. I have no intention of listing them all, but I will mention a few standout moments. Feel free to comment with your favourites.
Auberjonois takes a guest turn as Dr Walter Kerry, a skilled surgeon who also happens to have Tourette’s Syndrome. Despite being the best hope of saving the life of a newborn, Kerry’s vulgar outbursts mean that the mother is unwilling to let him operate on her child. Auberjonois’ role includes a memorable scene in which he uncontrollably starts shouting “DEAD DUCK” in front of the prospective patient’s mother, moments after being assured no such thing would happen.
Who could be more arrogant and self-assured than Frasier himself? Step forward Rene Auberjonois as Dr Tewksbury, Frasier’s former mentor, and now Roz’s latest boyfriend. Naturally, Frasier isn’t too happy with this development, and the pair soon clash – with cringeworthy yet amusing results.
The Little Mermaid
The character of a stereotypical French chef may not be the most deep or challenging role, but Auberjonois voices him with gusto – even getting a song of his own as he waxes lyrical on his love of cooking seafood.