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December 21, 2012

Star Trek: DS9 - Ep 11 - Vortex

One of the big mysteries as Star Trek: Deep Space Nine began was: who is Odo (Rene Auberjonois)? He's a shape-shifter who knows nothing about where he came from or who his people are. He's alone on a station full of species who can't do what he can do. When he was introduced, we figured we'd find out over the course of the series just who and what he is. "Vortex" takes a small step in that direction. We don't find out much concrete information about Odo, but we are given some tantalizing hints. We're also given a great episode with some good acting and wonderful dialogue.

Odo is ever watchful of Quark (Armin Shimmerman), the Ferengi bartender who always seems to have a scheme on the side. Today, he's sitting in the bar talking to Quark about the Miradorn freighter that had just docked, wondering if Quark knows anything about it. He also notices a strange man sitting in the corner looking away every time Odo looks at him. Quark claims innocence on both counts, but Odo is suspicious when the two Miradorn, Ah-Kel and Ro-Kel (Randy Oglesby) come into the bar, nod at Quark, and then head to a holosuite, so he changes into a nondescript form and infiltrates the meeting. Unfortunately, it's also crashed by Crodon (Cliff De Young), the quiet man in the corner. In the resulting incident, Crodon kills Ro-Kel and Ah-kel vows revenge, as Miradorns are symbiotic twins and can barely exist by themselves. Sisko (Avery Brooks) prepares to extradite Crodon back to his home planet in the Gamma Quadrant, but they have to get past the Miradorn ship first, as it's preparing to assault any ship that goes through the wormhole with Krodon on it. Odo volunteers to take him.

Crodon is trying desperately to get Odo to let him go, and keeps talking about the Changelings, paranoid and persecuted shape-shifters that he met while he was on the run from his people. He even has a token from them, a pendent that has a small piece of material similar to Odo's genetic make-up inside it. This is the first clue to his origins that he's ever had, and he's torn. But the Miradorn may make it all moot, as they discover where Krodon has gone and come charging after him.

Auberjonois takes this episode and runs with it. I have not seen a bad performance by him yet, and he again excels in his role as Odo. His scenes with Quark at the beginning of the episode are classic ("What can I get you Odo, the usual?" "Nothing, Quark." "Ah yes, the usual."), and the scenes between Odo and Crodon crackle with intensity. Odo so clearly wants every scrap of information he can get on his people, but Crodon is a proven liar ("there's that hard word again") and a thief. How can he take Crodon's word for any of this? The indecision is written painfully on Odo's face, as his sense of justice wars with his desire. The make-up for Odo is so bland (it's an expressionless face without wrinkles, marks, or anything else), I don't know how Auberjonois emotes through it, but he does a superb job. The brief, beatific smile on his face at the end of the episode as he realizes that he has obtained an admittedly small part of the whole puzzle is a delight to see.

Three more performances that are noteworthy (everybody else did fine, but unremarkable jobs) are guest appearances. Cliff De Young plays the sly trickster very well, with a mix of sarcasm and weary resignation that is great. One thing he doesn't do well, however, is intensity. While the scenes between Odo and Crodon are electrifying, it's mostly due to Auberjonois' intensity and De Young's cynicism. When it's time for De Young to get intense himself, he overplays it badly and the lines fall flat. The other guest stars overplay their roles, too. Oglesby tries too hard to be intense and in pain, and looks constipated instead. He chews off the end of his lines like he's starving. Gordon Clapp as Hadran also overacts dreadfully. While Clapp's performance is mercifully short, Oglesby's problem really lessens the threat of the episode, as you're laughing more then anything else.

On the plot front, there were a few problems that bring this down to a 4-star episode. These are all things that reasonably intelligent people would do, but there wouldn't be an episode if they were done.

1) The trip into the Gamma Quadrant to take Crodon back to his people is a dangerous one. The Miradorn ship can outrun any runabout that the station has. So why send Odo, a known technophobe and definitely not a pilot, alone with Crodon? Couldn’t they have also sent O'brien or another trained pilot? Of course, that would defeat the purpose of the Odo-Crodon bonding going on.

2) When the Miradorn attack the runabout, the first notice of it is when the ship shakes. Odo asks the computer what that was, and is told that it's a burst of energy consistent with weapons fire (I forget exactly what it said). Odo says "We're under attack?" and the computer confirms it. Isn't that just a little bit too coy for a computer? Shouldn't the sensors have picked up the ship before that and given the pilot a warning?

3) It seems odd that a changeling who's knocked unconscious doesn't turn into a puddle of goop. That one's not a deal-breaker, but it just seemed odd to me.

Overall, though, the plot was very interesting. It was nice to have Quark be the instigator for all of this, and the Crodon-Odo scenes are wonderful. When we find out what Crodon's real story is, it's quite touching. Odo makes a decision that doesn't quite jibe with his personality, but it's close enough that you can say that he's learning from his Starfleet companions.

All in all, an excellent episode, and definitely worth checking out if you happen upon it. It's one of my favourite 1st season episodes.

Memorable Quote:

"If you don't stop talking, I can sedate you for the rest of the trip" Odo

4 Stars


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