Something happens in this episode, something I realized I had never seen before, but I saw it here and I was, quite frankly, amazed when I realized I had never seen it before and it never occurred to me that I was missing it: Odo was genuinely happy.
There’s a lot to say about the station’s chief of security, good and bad. As popular as I suspect he is among the fans, he can be seen as a problematic character. Yes, he fills the role that every Trek series has, namely the outsider among the crew, the character that is different and not human. That was Spock in the original series, Data (and maybe Worf) on The Next Generation, the holographic Doctor on Voyager, Phlox on Enterprise, and perhaps characters like Saru and maybe Elnor on Discovery and Picard respectively. About the only Trek series I can say for certain doesn’t have that outsider character is Lower Decks, but that’s a comedy where arguably all of the characters are outsiders. But for Deep Space Nine, there was Odo, a character so mysterious even he didn’t know much about where he came from. Over time, he’s learned a lot and maybe hasn’t liked a lot of what he’s learned. The thing is, Odo sometimes displays tendencies that the character’s critics have said are a bit on the authoritarian side. He did arrange for the execution of some innocent Bajorans, and Kira of all people was awfully forgiving about that However, I later remembered that Odo and Kira have had a rather complicated relationship given their first encounter during the occupation.
Factor in as well that the only time to date that Quark and Odo have found themselves in complete agreement was when Quark’s workers were on strike and Odo came across as someone who might employ some strike breakers, and it isn’t all that surprising that some fans have found the character problematic.
Let’s set all that aside for a moment.
Here’s the thing: Quark gets his hands on something he think will be of interest to the security chief, namely what appears to be a dead baby changeling. It isn’t dead, and Odo decides to take the child under his wing and raise it. He remembers his own childhood under the care, to use the term loosely, of Dr. Mora, and he wants to make sure the nameless baby never has to go through the same thing, something that he makes very clear when Dr. Mora arrives to help.
Mora and Odo have clashed before, mostly because Mora remembers their time together a lot more fondly than Odo does, but Mora’s advice does come in handy when it becomes clear Starfleet will be expecting weekly progress reports. Odo’s more caring demeanor combined with Mora’s suggestions do bring some progress to the infant, even if it does sometimes look like Odo is talking to his beverage (Worf, in his lone appearance in the episode, asks as much of Odo when he sees that). Odo’s time with Mora and the baby allow him to not only feel a bond forming with the baby as it responds to him and his actions, but also to find some measure of forgiveness and understanding for Mora.
It even leads to a joyous Odo going into Quark’s one night to share a drink with the Ferengi who is mostly wary that Odo is looking to arrest him. No, Odo is happy in a way I don’t think I have ever seen, and it’s a credit to Rene Auberjonois that the joy radiates through that thick make-up he wears.
But then the baby dies. Odo, holding it as it seems to evaporate, does get his shapeshifting powers back, but it’s not the way he would have wanted it.
Meanwhile, in a B-plot, Kira is giving birth to the O’Briens’ baby. The thing is, Bajoran women need to be completely relaxed in order to give birth, and since this is Bajor, there’s a ceremony involving rattles and a small gong. Keiko seems to be doing OK. Miles is cranky. Shakaar, late due to the fact he’s first minister, isn’t there to help until it’s too late, and when a second attempt comes along and the men start to squabble again, Kira temporarily throws the two out. Now, Shakaar is only there because he and Kira are a couple right now, but Miles, well, he doesn’t want to miss the birth of a second child. Him I felt for. Of course, Kira does relent, and the men can return if they promise to stay quiet as the second O’Brien child comes into the world.
That actually leads to a fine conclusion as neither Odo nor Kira feel much like celebrating the birth of the new child. Odo learned he may have wanted to be a parent. Kira did as well. Neither are a parent right now. That puts them both in a strange position. Odo got back something he wanted in a way he didn’t want to get it back. Kira learned more about herself than she might have expected. It was a nice moment.
That said, there was one other thing that caught my attention. I had thought it was cruel that the Founders sent Odo off alone as an infant, and now I know why they did it: the Founders routinely send off baby Changelings to act as unwitting scouts to see what alien races treat these unknown infant lifeforms well or not. That somehow makes sense…and it still pretty damn cruel.
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