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Star Trek Deep Space Nine: Chimera

Laas: “For the first time in my life, I understand how I was meant to exist. You've given up a great deal to stay here.”
Odo: “Yes. Yes, I have. But I won't have anything to do with the Founders and their war.”
Laas: “Odo, we Linked. I know the truth. You stayed here because of Kira. If it weren't for her, you'd be with our people. War or no war, you would be a Founder.”

Odo meets another Changeling, one who is not a Founder. But love conquers all.

The episode opens with Constable Odo and Chief O’Brien in a shuttle, on their way back from a conference. Odo shows his presents for Kira to the chief – a knick-knack and a box of Rigellian chocolates – shaming Miles for not having found something for Keiko. Odo – possibly because he is not humanoid, possibly because he loves Kira so much – enjoys being attentive to detail. He took the advice in "His Way" (have fun with your partner!) seriously. Besides, even before that, when Kira and he would meet to discuss the weekly crime report, he made sure he had a Raktajino waiting for her ("Crossfire").

While Odo and O’Brien are on the shuttle, they are targeted by another shapeshifter. They – especially O’Brien – are alarmed, understandably so as the Federation is at war with the Dominion. The shapeshifter, however, is not one of the Founders. It’s one of the one hundred changelings sent out by the Founders as a “baby.” Besides Odo, it’s only the second time for us to meet one of these hundred changelings (the previous episode was "The Begotten"). Like the Founders, this changeling doesn’t understand the need for names, but for us poor humanoids, stories are easier to follow with them. So we meet Laas.

I believe the way the Founders manage their “infants” – sending them out into the galaxy to survive or to suffer – is about the cruelest thing you could do to a child. On the other tentacle, the Founders have a different attitude toward everything, and so why should they agree with my idea of parenting? Or perhaps on a third tentacle – shapeshifters have an endless supply of tentacles – the Founders want to have their negative attitudes towards solids confirmed, and so they send out their “children” in such a way that their experiences are incredibly likely to be dreadful.

Laas has not enjoyed his time among the monoforms, as he calls them, even though he once married one himself. Laas says that Odo’s relationship with a monoform cannot last. In one sense, as we learned from "Children of Time," that is true, because changelings seem to be immortal as long as nothing actually kills them. We’ve seen them die from violent trauma – "The Adversary," "By Inferno’s Light" and "The Ship" – and sicken through disease ("Treachery, Faith, and the Great River"). But they can live a very long time. Odo can expect to live much longer than Kira. He must know that, at least for him, the relationship cannot be permanent.

Laas meets Odo’s friends, which gives characters such as Ezri Dax and Dr. Bashir some screen time. It also gives Laas the chance to be incredibly rude to them, which is always fun. Then there is the less fun time: Laas, after indiscreet displays of shapeshifting on the Promenade, is attacked by a Klingon. The Klingons want revenge or justice – and we get a scene with Worf and Captain Sisko. This part seems more manufactured. Is Laas so insensitive or so arrogant that he would do this? Apparently yes, as we have seen these qualities in other shapeshifters.

Laas is arrested, but before he can be turned over to the Klingons, Kira helps him escape. I’ve gotta wonder why DS9 holding cells don’t have video and audio surveillance at all times, although Kira, as First Officer, should be capable of arranging sabotage. Besides, her excuse for how he escaped, turning himself into plasma, although false, is more plausible than other ways people have escaped in the past. We don’t know all the things a skilled changeling could do. This bit of the plot is a by-the-numbers bit, as Kira sends Odo after him but is happily surprised when he returns.

Kira is praying to the prophets while Odo is gone, saying goodbye to Laas. I’m going to mention something I mentioned in my review of "Children of Time": I think the prophets encouraged the romance between Odo and Kira. Why do the prophets do this? Because their love – and Odo’s putting Kira before the Founders – is what protects Bajor from being destroyed by the Dominion.

But in addition to what “Chimera” means for the arcs of Deep Space Nine, this episode explores profound issues. Odo, linking with Laas, is practically overwhelmed by how this is his true nature and how being a constable on a Bajoran space station is not. Kira challenges him with a serious question about who Odo has chosen to be. “Do you mean to say that man never existed?” Some philosophers say we change from moment to moment, even if it is not in the drastic manner available to a shapeshifter. Is my hair brown with gray, or the blonde that I choose? What about gender, something that we hear about much more than we did when this episode first aired?

Or, something that does not involve physical transformation: our behavior. Perhaps we behave certain ways because that is what society expects of us. Perhaps that only becomes our choice when we become aware of it. That is the moment we may transcend, accept, or be trapped by our evolution.

The episode gives us an important speech from Quark. Quark is ever the practical voice to Odo. Some Deep Space Nine fans don’t care for the Ferengis, and sometimes the comedy falls flat or has not survived the twenty years since it aired. But there are times when Quark offers a perspective that the others – especially those in Gene Roddenberry’s idealistic Starfleet – cannot. Ferengis – at least when they’re not being wretched misogynists – are generally extremely practical. When the Dominion is conducting a war on the alpha quadrant, it is not the moment for changeling pride. Quark also thinks that Kira would be repulsed by Odo’s true nature.

Kira, however, defies Quark’s expectations (despite not being directly aware of them). She has also grown. Besides showing how deeply she can love – something impossible in her earliest years in this series – she was never the most tolerant of humanoids. We’ve seen her disgust with Ferengis and her arguments with Jadzia in "Resurrection," when she said she didn’t want to be with someone because she could see his brains through his transparent skull. All of her other lovers have been Bajoran, if we don’t count "Fascination," the episode where she and Bashir couldn’t keep their hands off each other. Yet, because she loves Odo so much – a love that happened gradually – she can appreciate his gaseous state. When we compare this to who she was in the first season, her own transformation is amazing, even complete.

Title musings: “Chimera” is the title of the episode. Merriam-Webster defines chimera thus: (1) a fire-breathing she-monster in Greek mythology having a lion's head, a goat's body, and a serpent's tail, an imaginary monster compounded of incongruous parts; (2) an illusion or fabrication of the mind. Some may think that first definition applies more, because a shapeshifter can be anything. But I think the second definition applies even better: who or what is Odo, really? And who is each of us?

Bits and pieces

I have wondered if the changeling who appeared in "The Begotten" was one of the one hundred or another changeling sent out by the Founders as a way to test Odo and to return his shapeshifting abilities to him. In one episode, the female Founder just shrugs at his getting his powers back.

J.G. Hertzler, the actor who plays Martok, also plays Laas. Hertzler must have a high tolerance for the make-up process and prosthetics.

Kind of funny that General Martok is the one insisting they arrest and extradite Laas when both characters are played by the same actor.

Laas tells Ezri Dax that she can never experience what it is like to fly in space the way he does as a changeling. However, he’s wrong. In "Facets," when Jadzia Dax met her previous hosts, the memories of Curzon went into Odo. When Curzon’s memories returned to her, she understood some of his shapeshifting experiences.

The female changeling also knew all along that Kira was the humanoid who mattered to Odo.


Odo: We entered the Bajoran system a few minutes ago.
O'Brien: What's that?
Odo: The shopkeeper I bought it from called it a knick-knack.
O'Brien: I didn't know you collected knick-knacks.
Odo: It's a present for Kira.
O'Brien: Oh.
Odo: You don't think she'll like it?
O'Brien: I'm sure she'll like it. It's just I didn't get anything for Keiko.

Laas: He has bumps on his forehead. She has a wrinkled nose. But they're basically alike. They're bipeds that eat, sleep, breathe. You and I are nothing like them.
Odo: We're changelings. We can be like them when we choose.
Laas: I choose to be like them as little as possible. That's where we differ.

Kira: Tell us about Varala.
Bashir: No Federation ship's ever been there.
Laas: It's just the same as any other planet overrun with humanoids. Cities and farms everywhere, other lifeforms displaced from their habitats. Once I migrated to the southern continent with a herd of volg. When we returned to our breeding grounds the following summer, they had been fenced off. The herd died out within two generations. It's always that way where humanoids thrive. They disrupt the natural balance.

Worf: He should not have provoked them.
Odo: Provoked them? They attacked Laas.
Sisko: They claim that he surrounded them menacingly.
Odo: They felt menaced by fog?
Sisko: They weren't the only ones. There are twelve other people who filed complaints.
Odo: Is it a crime to shape-shift on the Promenade?
Sisko: It's not a crime, but obviously it's not a good idea.

Quark: You never pulled a stunt like that. You're smart enough to know that people don't want to be reminded that you're different. Who wants to see somebody turn into goo? I hope you don't do that around Kira.
Odo: Why shouldn't I?
Quark: If she's anything like me, she'd rather you didn't. Don't you get it, Odo? We humanoids are a product of millions of years of evolution. Our ancestors learned the hard way that what you don't know might kill you. They wouldn't have survived if they hadn't have jumped back when they encountered a snake coiled in the muck. And now millions of years later, that instinct is still there. It's genetic. Our tolerance to other lifeforms doesn't extend beyond the two arm, two leg variety. I hate to break this to you, but when you're in your natural state, you're more than our poor old genes can handle.
Odo: So, what are you saying, Quark? That the Klingons couldn't help what they did because of their genes?
Quark: I'm not trying to excuse what they did. I'm only telling you why it happened. Watch your step, Odo. We're at war with your people. This is no time for a changeling pride demonstration on the Promenade.

Odo: Look at me, Nerys. What do you see?
Kira: I see you.
Odo: No. No, this is just a form I've borrowed. I could just as easily be someone else or something else.
Kira: I know that. But this is what you have always chosen to be. A man. A good and honest man. A man I fell in love with. Are you trying to tell me that he never really existed?

Odo: I should have known he'd be able to escape. What's a forcefield to a changeling with his abilities?
Kira: You said you wished you were out there with him. Well, it's not too late.
Odo: I don't understand.
Kira: He's waiting for you at an abandoned mine on Koralis Three.
Odo: You helped him escape.
Kira: I don't want you to stay here out of some sense of obligation. Good luck. I hope you find what you're looking for.

Odo: I'm not going with you.
Laas: Why are you here?
Odo: I've come to say goodbye.
Laas: Don't be a fool. What are you holding on to? Kira? Even she knows that this is what's best for you. Why else would she have helped me to escape?
Odo: You really don't know, do you? You don't have any idea what it means to love someone enough to let them go.

Overall rating

This episode is both important in the story but also in the philosophical questions it shows. It has held up remarkably well. Four out of four boxes of Rigellian chocolates.

Victoria Grossack loves math, birds, Greek mythology, Jane Austen and great storytelling in many forms.


  1. I think the title of this episode comes from a quote by Blaise Pascal: "What a chimera, then, is man! what a novelty, what a monster, what a chaos, what a subject of contradiction, what a prodigy! A judge of all things, feeble worm of the earth, depositary of the truth, cloaca of uncertainty and error, the glory and the shame of the universe." In the episode itself Odo takes the view that human(oid) life has value while Laas hold the opposing view that we are "petty, limited creatures". Over the course of the episode Laas almost manages to win Odo over to his side, but ultimately Kira's selfless act of letting Odo go to find his own happiness proves to him that her love -- and humanity in general -- have value. As the great critic Michelle Erica Green said of this episode, "It's Star Trek in every best possible way."

  2. Thanks for the insight, Gary! I did not know that quote, but I am sure you are right.

  3. I don't see Quark's speech as "practical" so much as reactionary intolerance. Good for the character but an expression of his limitations.


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