This latest episode was virtually a two-hander, centred upon those two enemies, Odo and Quark. Indeed, in its early stages, it looked like it was going to be a second successive Quark-oriented story, with Odo no more than the crusty, ever-suspicious Constable we’ve seen him be so far.
Instead, the story used a situation set up by Quark’s constant finagling to bring Odo to the fore. It even threatened to shed a little light upon the shapeshifting Constable, although in the end this was a false expectation, used as a deliberate lure, leaving Odo as unexplained as ever, but not unchanged.
The set-up was that Quark had done a deal to buy a valuable objet d’art off a pair of Miradurian twins who had acquired it in less-then-legitimate circumstances off owners who hadn’t intended to sell. Unfortunately, but typically, Quark had also done a parallel deal with Croden, a drifter from Rocar in the Gamma Quadrant, to steal the objet, and thus reduce Quark’s cost of acquisition to the price of a flight back through the wormhole.
It all goes horribly wrong when the Miradurians attack Croden, who kills one in self-defence, resulting in his arrest by Odo (who’d been posing as a glass): Croden recognises him as a Changeling.
From there, Croden’s situation rapidly gets complicated. The Federation/Bajorans plan to try him for homicide. Ah-Kel, the surviving Miradurian, now incomplete at the loss of his twin, demands to kill him. And when Sisko and Dax contact Rocar, it turns out to be a violent and insular people who want no contact beyond the handing over of the Enemy of the People, right now, for execution.
Odo has no time for Croden. He is a killer, not to mention a thief and a liar, which is all that counts in the Constable’s book. He refuses to give his prisoner up to Ah-Kel’s revenge and has no qualms about dropping Croden in it on Rocar. But Croden claims to have met Changelings, and Odo, who has no notion of his origins or his people, who is utterly alone in the Alpha Quadrant, is nevertheless drawn, against all his professional and personal instincts, to the possibility that Croden can introduce him to a colony of Changelings, in the Gamma Quadrant.
Croden even has a ring, containing a quasi-organic substance that can change shape (into a key). It is, fancifully, almost a cousin…
All of this is a teaser for the audience more than it, on the surface, is for Odo. He might be intent on returning Croden – who seems to be more of a political exile than a criminal one – to Rocar, but we know he will end up investigating these only too tempting claims.
Pursuit by Ah-Kel forces Odo’s runaround into the Vortex where Croden claims the colony lies: but it is a lie. Changelings are a myth on his planet, and he has not met any in real life. Instead, he was angling to rescue his daughter from where he’d left her in a stasis-chamber. But in the final analysis, Croden demonstrates his good side. He rescues Odo when he could have left him to die, and Odo repays the favour. Not just by getting them out safely whilst leaving Ah-Kel and his crew to immolate themselves through their ignorance of local conditions but by beaming Croden and his teenage daughter aboard a passing Vulcan vessel, and safety.
Odo heads home, with only the shapechanging key as a reward.
Overall, a pleasant but neither deep nor significant episode, delivering neither insight nor change. One step up and one step back. It’s hard to find much more to say about it. It feels like an episode that doesn’t really have all that confidence in the concept of Deep Space Nine, in having a fixed, permanent background enabling longer, more significant stories. Just this week, a work colleague, explaining why he didn’t like DS9 from the start, described it as like a Hotel in space. I don’t agree, but I can see the point of his criticism: the focus is still upon individual stories with little relevance forward or back, but the emphasis is not on the stories the visitors bring with them.
There’s a long way to go yet, and let us not forget that this was made in 1993, for a target audience used to single episode series with little or no overall story: Twin Peaks was a couple of years in the past, having failed to make more than a short term impact on audiences who expected to be able to miss a week or two and miss nothing. I know DS9 gets better. I’m hoping it starts to show why before we get to the end of season 1.