I think there’s some monumental character growth in this episode, but the funny thing is, it isn’t in the A-plot. To be sure, there’s something big there, but I was far more invested in the B-plot, and I think that was for a good reason.
It means Nog made this episode what it is.
Now, to be fair, the A-plot is perfectly cromulent. Odo and Kira are returning from some routine mission when they hear of a Maquis ship attacking nearby. They chase it down to a moon with an atmosphere that interferes with a lot of their tech, and while chasing the single Maquis soldier through some underground caves, the two are separated to cover more ground. Odo doesn’t get too far before KIra calls for help. Her foot is in some kind of crystal that is growing around her, and shooting it with a phaser only makes it bigger. The caves are being hit with constant tremors, and the rocks and the atmosphere mean Odo can’t just beam Kira out, leaving him to try and find a way to get her out of the crystal before it completely covers and kills her.
The big reveal here is supposed to be Odo admitting to Kira that he’s in love with her, but quite frankly, there were a lot of things that didn’t add up here. Kira called Odo back awfully quickly. Granted, there might have been more time involved, but it sure did look like she was trapped more or less the instant she and Odo separated. Odo can’t quite figure out why none of the techniques for shattering crystals were working, and I am sitting there thinking maybe it’s alive. Finally, Kira admits she’s also in love with Odo, and while Odo doesn’t say anything at first, that was his biggest clue that there was something else going on. It was mine too considering Kira’s love interest only died in the previous episode. The whole thing just didn’t add up.
And then it came up that it was that Female Changeling the whole time, testing Odo to see why he’s so loyal to “the Solids,” guessing he’ll come back when he finally realized Kira will not reciprocate those feelings, and so forth. It was probably meant to show off Odo’s investigative skills, formidable as they are, as well as tell the story on where his name came from as a derivation of the Cardassian word for “nothing”.
So, yeah, that was fine and all, and normally that would be enough for me. But then there was the B-plot…
See, I’ve been seeing the Ferengi on the station for a while now, and Nog was there basically as Jake’s friend, a little schemer and not much more. His father Rom was just kinda dumb and a comic relief figure. Quark dominates both of them in his own way. But what if there was more to Nog and Rom?
That’s what happens here. Nog went through his Ferengi adulthood ceremony and that means he can pay someone to become an apprentice to that person. And he chooses…Starfleet. He offers Sisko a bag of latinum and asks to be enrolled in Starfleet. Sisko, who may have come to value the youth as a friend to Jake, doesn’t see him as Starfleet material. Neither did Jake who assumed it was a joke. It wasn’t. Nog legitimately wants to join Starfleet.
Why? Why would Nog want to join Starfleet? Even Dax, who thinks it would be cool to see a Ferengi in Starfleet, doesn’t see it. Sisko would have to write a letter of recommendation, but even after Nog accomplishes a difficult task of inventorying a cargo bay in record time without stealing anything, Sisko still doesn’t want to write the letter.
He changes his mind when Nog finally says why: he doesn’t want to be his dad.
“Rom is an idiot” has been a Deep Space Nine thing since the series started. He’s a lovable goof, but he’s never been depicted as very bright. But he’s also Quark’s tech guy. That’s the key there. Rom is a mechanical genius. If he were anything other than a Ferengi, he’d really be something. But he’s not good at business despite his best efforts, so as a Ferengi, he’s nothing.
Nog doesn’t want that for himself. He recognizes he isn’t good at business either, taking after his dad. That bit of honesty impresses Sisko enough to change the commander’s mind.
And, in a really nice moment, Rom for once stands up to Quark and takes Nog’s side. He’d be proud to see his son in Starfleet.
That sort of stuff is far more interesting to me than the Odo-Kira plot. This show took one of TNG‘s weakest ideas–the Ferengi–and actually made them something interesting. Heck, the fact that this series got so much out of characters that aren’t even series regulars makes it even cooler. So, while we won’t see Nog’s growth in every episode going forward, it sure was cool to see the show do something genuinely interesting and fun. It’s the kind of stuff I will gladly keep coming back for.