As I have often mentioned, even if I haven’t seen much Deep Space Nine before, I do know a bit about the show thanks to what I call “cultural osmosis,” or just that some things happened so long ago that I somehow know a lot about them even if I haven’t exactly seen them.
Episodes like this work as well as they do in part because I know some things but not everything.
Let’s get the obvious out the way first: I am completely aware that Odo’s people, the Changelings, are the Founders of the Dominion. The Vorta and the Jem’Hadar work for them. And because of their shape-changing ability, they can theoretically be anybody.
As such, I spent a good chunk of this episode wondering how many of the characters I was seeing were Changelings as part of some sort of elaborate trick. After the previous episode ended with the Defiant under siege and only Odo and Kira managing to escape in a shuttlecraft, I suspected Sisko and Bashir, also somehow on a shuttlecraft, had managed to escape in an unknown fashion the same way. Sure, it seemed unlikely, but if Kira and Odo managed, or at least Odo did because Kira was unconscious, then Sisko could have done the same with the unconscious Bashir.
Then, when O’Brien and Dax, previously left behind on that planet and presumably surrounded, popped up claiming to have met the Founders, then it sure did suggest to me that those two weren’t, well, themselves. Then it’s back to Deep Space Nine where Starfleet seems intent on selling Bajor out to make peace with the Dominion and…nothing else. With Jem’Hadar running around the station and manhandling anyone who might accidentally look at them the wrong way, it sure did seem like something was very, very wrong.
Plus, some Vorta was shown as a Founder. I didn’t believe that for a second. I was waiting to find out exactly how many of the characters on the station were secretly Changelings. Did they make copies of Quark, Garek, and that Admiral? Was the real reason the Romulans were kept out of the peace treaty in order to create conflict in the Alpha Quadrant and make it easier for the Dominion to swoop in and take over later? How far would Sisko go before he figured out the truth?
Well, I was way off. Yes, Odo spends time on this planet getting to know the Female Changeling (she has no name), and Kira is just trying to get a message home, but there’s some kind of mystery door she can’t open, odd because Odo’s people don’t really need doors seeing as how they spend most of their time as one giant ocean of Changeling ooze. Neither of them are back on the station, so it stands to reason that Sisko and Bashir, at the least, are still Sisko and Bashir and someone is lying to both of them.
Then the truth comes out, and I was genuinely surprised. Sisko didn’t get off the Defiant with Bashir in a shuttlecraft. They were captured along with the Romulan, O’Brien, and Dax. They were in some kind of virtual reality to see how far they would go to stop the Dominion from pushing through to the Alpha Quadrant. Would they just quit and give up or do something more drastic? Short answer: they’d do something more drastic by blowing up the wormhole.
So, really, the station was a Dominion trick, but not the one I thought it was. That’s some clever stuff right there.
But at least now the series’s protagonists and the Dominion have a better idea of what each side can and will do, something that can set up a long term conflict as everyone goes home. Odo won’t stay either. As much as he enjoyed what he learned bonding with his people, and this was truly the happiest Odo has been for this entire series, he’s learned too much about what “the solids” are like and their sense of right and wrong to turn on them at this time. Later? Who knows?
Especially since the Female Changeling is certain he will come back to them eventually.
Should I ask now how shapeshifting blobs have gender?