(written from a Production point of view)
Odo meets another of the hundred Changelings who were sent out to explore the galaxy.
O'Brien and Constable Odo are re-entering the Bajoran system in a runabout, having just attended a conference. While they continue on, Odo explains he purchased a "knickknack" for Kira, as well as Rigelian chocolates (her favorite), serving to remind O'Brien that he failed to get anything for Keiko. He half-seriously offers to buy the chocolates, though Odo apologetically refuses. Suddenly, an alarm goes off; something is gaining on the runabout from behind. They two watch with surprise as there appears to be a fish-like creature of some sort in space, but, as it overtakes the vessel, it falls back and seems to disappear, at least from sensors.
It seems the Changeling sensed Odo's presence and came to investigate. While O'Brien assumes the Changeling to be a Founder, Odo realizes he, like himself, is one of the Hundred Changelings, Changelings the Founders sent out to learn more about the Milky Way Galaxy. Nonetheless, the Changeling (who does not trust "mono-forms") allows himself to be taken into custody so long as Odo vouches for his safety.
They return to Deep Space 9, where Dr. Bashir confirms that the Changeling's morphogenic matrix is as stable as Odo's rather than infected with the morphogenic virus that has infected the Founders' Great Link. From this, Odo is convinced he is indeed not a Founder and therefore not a threat. Perhaps against Captain Sisko's better judgment, the Changeling is released into Odo's custody after he asks Sisko to trust him in this matter.
As the Changeling, Laas, walks along the Promenade with Odo, they have a long talk. Odo describes the Founders, and Odo's disagreement with them, clearly stating that he believes the their war with the Federation is wrong. Interestingly, Laas doesn't agree, either; he simply wishes to avoid humanoids altogether. Laas clearly doesn't trust humanoids, though Odo says the ones on DS9 are different, and have accepted him. Laas is skeptical, though. Seeing that Odo hasn't tried to find the other Hundred and he's only been taking their form for 30 years, Laas sees that it's still new to Odo. He tells of how he was discovered over 200 years prior by the Varalans, alone, as was Odo at first. He too "grew up" around humanoids, but they never really accepted him. He believes they are all intolerant of difference, but Odo disagrees, as the people on DS9 are all different species. Laas sees them all as basically the same, though.
Odo leads Laas to his quarters to stay in. When they get to Odo's quarters and Laas sees a picture of Kira, he tells of how he once had a Varalan mate, but having children was very important to her and they ended their relationship. Then Odo links with Laas, allowing the other Changeling to experience the sensation for the first time. However, during the link Odo betrays his true feelings; were he not in love with Kira, he would have returned to the Great Link and become a Founder.
The next day, Kira finds Odo sitting in the security office and is excited to hear about the Changeling, but Odo is still troubled by Laas' revelation about his true feelings. He is awkward in discussing the matter but does reveal that he linked with Laas and assures her that it is not some elaborate deception to make him join the Dominion, like the last time. In any case, Kira expresses interest in meeting Laas, and Odo promises to arrange it.
In Quark's, Kira sits with Bashir, O'Brien, and Ezri as they await Odo and Laas' arrival. Unfortunately, Laas' seems to thwart attempts at starting friendly conversation; he seems to think himself somehow superior to "mono-forms" and openly expresses his dislike for humanoids. He describes how Varalans are as disruptive to the balance of nature as any other civilization. A comment about not trusting mono-forms hits a sour note with O'Brien, who does not trust any Changelings except for Odo. In Laas' eyes, O'Brien only trusts Odo because he has convinced him that Odo is a mono-form himself. After an awkward silence, Odo graciously leaves with Laas, while making an exasperated gesture to his friends while Laas' back is turned.
Back on the Promenade, Odo expresses frustration at Laas' behavior. Laas clearly doesn't care about the humanoid's opinions and tries to cut off the argument and get Odo to link with him, but Odo refuses. Laas accuses him of being embarrassed about his true nature. In Laas' eyes, Odo's desire to shapeshift only in private is evidence of how intolerant are the creatures around them. He proposes that he and Odo search for others of "the hundred" and form a new link, away from the Founders and their war. The idea obviously appeals to Odo.
In Kira's quarters, Odo tells her about Laas' idea and she begins to worry about his happiness. After all, linking allows one to know a person much more intimately than talking. She fears Laas knows something she does not. Odo tells her he's happy on the station, with her. She expresses that she is sorry that she can't link with him, but Odo reassures her that he loves her.
He returns to his quarters to give Laas his answer. He arrives to find a fire in the middle of the room. He panics and almost activates the room's fire-suppression system until he realizes it is Laas, who scolds him for not considering the flame could be him. Laas promises to show Odo magnificent things, the likes of which he has never dreamed, but Odo intends to stay on DS9. Rather than leave, he believes Laas might like to stay as well, which Laas agrees to do "as a favor" to Odo. Laas says he's got no interest in the other monoforms; Odo says that after what happened at Quark's, he'll not have an overcrowded social schedule. They then link again.
The next day, Bashir and O'Brien arrive on the Promenade to discover a thick layer of fog is covering the ground which leads them to believe that the environmental controls are acting up. Before O'Brien can leave to check the controls, Odo reassures them that everything is fine; the fog is actually Laas, who is relaxing. When they express displeasure, Odo's attitude is markedly different from before as he sees nothing wrong with Laas' actions. The other Changeling returns to his bipedal state, but he has gained the attention of a pair of Klingon officers.
One Klingon questions the presence of a Founder on the station. Odo tries to stop the argument, insisting Laas isn't a Founder, but it isn't heard. Laas instead insults them; then the Klingon comes at Laas with a d'k tahg. The attacker's knife goes through Laas, who then uses his shapeshifting nature to create a long sword for himself. The second Klingon makes a move, and Laas immediately kills him before the man can draw his own weapon.
Captain Sisko, Odo, and Worf meet in the captain's office to discuss the matter. In an unusual gesture, the Klingon Empire is pursuing diplomatic avenues to extradite Laas to their jurisdiction in order to prosecute him for killing one of their soldiers. There appears to be no motive for doing so (it is normally not an honorable thing to do) other than Laas' nature as a Changeling. The matter is out of Sisko's hands until the magistrate can determine a rule on it. Odo says it was self-defense; but Sisko maintains that since Laas knew he couldn't be harmed by a knife attack, his use of deadly force was ultimately not justified. Odo continues to defend Laas but starts to turn on Sisko. Sisko cuts it off and informs him that General Martok has expressed concerns about security; he's not sure it's "appropriate" for Odo to be in charge of the prisoner. Odo wonders if it's because he's a Changeling; Sisko says it's because he was a witness to the crime. Odo retorts that he is relieved; he almost thought Sisko was going to say that it was because he is a Changeling.
Quark heard what happened and confronts Odo. Odo defends Laas stating that if the Klingons attacked a humanoid instead of a Changeling they would have been the ones arrested. Quark agrees, but he states that Laas' actions didn't help matters and what he did made others uncomfortable. Odo doesn't understand why, since Laas was only doing what comes naturally to his species, but Quark points out that Odo never pulled that kind of stunt and explains to him that humanoids are instinctively frightened and intolerant to beings that do not have two arms and legs. Odo asks Quark if that should excuse the Klingons behavior. Quark replies that he is merely explaining why it happened, not excusing it. As Odo is left to ponder those words, Quark reminds him that most of the Alpha Quadrant is still at war with the Founders, and until that changes the last thing that anyone wants to see is "Changeling Pride" demonstration on the Promenade.
At the cells, Odo wants to speak to Laas alone. However, the deputy on duty respectfully tells him he's not to be left alone with Laas. Odo accepts it and then tells Laas he doesn't know what to say. Laas tells him to admit that he doesn't belong with solids. The solids tolerate him because he emulates them. But he fears them, and fear can turn to hate in the blink of an eye.
Odo, conflicted, needs to talk to Kira about this. In his quarters, he tells Kira that Laas is going to be extradited because he's a Changeling; if he were humanoid, Sisko would intervene. Kira responds Odo is being unfair to Sisko by accusing him of that bias. Odo tells her he's not just what she sees, that he can become anything or anyone else, but Kira says that form is who he's always chosen to be, a good and honest man, and that's who she loves. Odo isn't sure, saying finally that he's a Changeling, not a humanoid, partly wishing to leave with Laas. Kira knows where this is going and departs in tears, saying maybe he's right.
Later, Kira visits Laas in his cell and frees him. She tells him to go to Koralis III, take an orbital tether to the surface, and wait there for Odo. He asks her why she's doing it; she says because she loves Odo.
Sisko demands answers, knowing that Martok is not going to be happy with the escape. Kira says Laas turned into a plasma and got into the vent. Worf suggests he shadowed a Corvallen freighter that was leaving at the time. Odo reminds Worf he probably left because of his distrust of their legal system, and not out of guilt. Worf insists he must be captured. Sisko deploys a search effort, and makes sure Odo agrees with him.
In the turbolift, Kira admits to Odo that she released Laas, and tells him to go to an abandoned mining complex on Koralis III to meet him. She wishes him good luck and hopes he finds what he's looking for. Odo is too shocked to respond. He goes to Koralis III, now convinced he would rather stay on DS9, and finds Laas. He tells Laas confidently that he has chosen to stay with Kira and that Laas' perspective on the 'solids' is wrong. Laas questions Odo's decision. Odo tells him that he's been many things, but has never experienced love. Laas begs Odo to travel with him; Odo refuses and wishes him good luck. Odo reaches out his hand for another link, but Laas simply walks away.
Returning to Deep Space 9, he goes to Kira, who is praying for Odo's safety. She apologizes if she's ever made him feel as though he couldn't be himself with her, and says she wants to really know him. He transforms himself into an intense golden light that envelops her. She revels in the experience.
"You've given up a great deal to remain here."
"Yes I have...But I won't have anything to do with the Founders and their war."
"Odo, we linked. I know the truth – you stayed here because of Kira. If it weren't for her, you would be with our people – war or no war, you would be a Founder!"
- - Laas and Odo
"Of course you trust Odo. Look at him. You've convinced him that he is as limited as you are."
"You've seen through our evil plan."
"Oops, foiled again."
- - Laas, Odo, Ezri and Bashir
"Watch your step, Odo. We're at war with your people. This is no time for a 'Changeling Pride' demonstration on the promenade."
- - Quark
"We humanoids are the 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 jumped back when they encountered a snake coiled in the muck. And now millions of years later, that instinct is still there."
- - Quark
"What's he [Laas] doing?"
"Being fog. What does it look like?"
"Well, can't he 'be fog' somewhere else?"
- - O'Brien and Odo
"They tolerate you, Odo, because you emulate them. What higher flattery is there? 'I, who can be anything, choose to be like you'?"
- - Laas
"The truth is, I prefer the so-called primitive lifeforms. They exist as they were meant to, by following their instincts. No words to get in the way, no lies, no deceptions."
- - Laas
"This is just a form I borrowed. I could just as easily be someone or something else."
"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 he never existed?"
"I don't know. I care for you more than anyone I've ever known. These last few months have been the happiest of my life. But, even so, part of me wishes Laas and I were out there right now, searching for the others. Existing as Changelings. Because that's what I am."
- - Odo and Kira
- - Laas
"Don't be a fool. What are you holding on to? Even she [Kira] knows this is what's best for you. Why else would she have helped me escape?"
"You really don't know, do you? You've no idea what it means to love someone enough to let them go."
"She let you go so that you could find out where you belong."
"I know where I belong."
- - Laas and Odo
"You've done many things, been many things, but you've never known love."
"Compared to the Link, it is a pale shadow. A feeble attempt to compensate for the isolation that mono-forms feel because they are trapped within themselves."
"Perhaps the fact that it's not easy is what makes it worthwhile."
- - Odo and Laas
Story and script
- This episode originated in the writers' desire to indicate to viewers, before they got into the final ten-hour, nine-episode arc, that Odo was deeply conflicted about his attitude to the Founders, and that despite all they'd done, he still greatly wished to be with them. René Echevarria felt that Odo's decision to return to the Great Link in "What You Leave Behind" would only make sense to viewers if viewers understood that Odo's conception of his people had changed. As Echevarria explains, "It was our sense that because all of the Changelings we'd seen were evil, that it was easy for Odo to say he didn't want to be involved with his people, because they were all bad guys. So it was never a fair choice for Odo. He'd never really faced his own nature. That was the spark: 'What if he meets a Changeling who's had no contact with the Founders? That would throw his life into turmoil.'" (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)
- Echevarria's original version of the story was very different from the finished episode; under the influence of Laas, Odo decides that humanoids are all racists and specie-ists, and decides to leave with Laas and go in search more of the one hundred infant Changelings. In a last ditch attempt to get Odo to stay, Sisko comes to see him, and admits that Odo is right, that all humanoids are racists, and they do fear that which is different - but that it's just the way it is, it's the way humanoids are, and it can't ever change. So impressed is Odo by Sisko's honesty that he decides to stay. Of this version of the story, Echevarria comments, "It was preposterous." (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion) It seems likely, nevertheless, that some of Sisko's dialogue about what is inherent in Humanity may have ended up in Quark's speech about genes.
- René Echevarria had originally composed the scene where Odo envelops Kira for the fifth season episode "A Simple Investigation", and it was to involve Odo and Arissa. It was abandoned at the time because Ira Steven Behr felt it was important for Odo to make love as a solid. When writing "Chimera", Echevarria was glad that the scene was dropped from the earlier episode, as he felt it carried a great deal more significance in this episode than it would have done in that one. "The scene was just magical. It moved their relationship to a new level, with him trying to be Human like her, and her meeting him halfway. You can see on her face that she is experiencing something special." Special effects supervisor David Stipes calls the scene "a visual expression of love." Rene Auberjonois was on-set when Nana Visitor was filming it, and afterwards he approached her and said, "God, you make me look like such a great lover!" (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)
- J.G. Hertzler normally portrayed General Martok on the show, although he had also previously appeared in the pilot episode, "Emissary", as "Saratoga Captain", under the name "John Noah Hertzler". For the role of Laas he was credited as "Garman Hertzler". Hertzler's real name is John Garman Hertzler, but he dislikes the name John. Taking a cue from his friend J.T. Walsh, Hertzler decided to start going by his initials, J.G. But when shooting "Emissary", he hadn't hit on this solution yet, so he called himself John Noah (his own name, and his grandfather's name). Amusingly, during production of this episode Hertzler himself started a rumor that Garman was his reclusive brother from New York (something which some fans still think is true, and which some websites continue to claim).
- The reason the producers cast a recurring actor in the role of Laas was because they wanted someone who could stand up to Rene Auberjonois, and who could pull off what is an extremely complex character. They held auditions for the role, but they found no-one in whom they were even mildly interested. Frustrated, they began to consider the possibility to giving the role to a familiar face. Initially, Ira Behr thought about offering it to Jeffrey Combs, but he was already playing two recurring characters at the time. Next they considered Andrew J. Robinson, but it was decided that his voice was unmistakable, and fans knew Garak too well and were too protective of the character to approve of Robinson playing somebody else. The producers finally decided on Hertzler. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)
- Hertzler has said that he partially based Laas' distinctive way of speaking on William Shatner: "I wanted to find a way to keep this character sort of annoyingly judgmental, because of his politics. He felt that these humanoids were so far beneath him that it was like talking to dogs. His pro-environmentalist point of view, feeling that humanoids ruin things, seemed like almost a passionate adherence to the Prime Directive. And that reminded me of James Kirk. William Shatner has a theatrical way of delivering lines by taking breathing pauses and holding onto the ends of words. I thought, 'That would work for Laas.' So that's where the voice came from. It's me doing my best imitation of Laas doing William Shatner doing Kirk!" (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)
- David Stipes based Odo's transformation at the end of the episode on the Aurora Borealis. Stipes commented: "At first the producers wanted to have Odo on the sofa, and when he turns to goo, Kira would snuggle into it. Everybody thought, 'Ugh. That sounds disgusting'. Then they decided to have snow fall on her. Well, that sure sounded warm and reassuring! Nobody knew what the heck to do. Finally, I was talking to my wife, Patricia, and she recounted the story of how she'd first seen the aurora borealis up in Michigan. She said she couldn't believe how beautiful it had been." (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)
- Stipes elaborated on his wife's experience) : "She was from the upper peninsula of Michigan, and one day she was walking on the shore on one of the Great Lakes, and she looked up in the sky and saw this great field of color shifting and shimmering. Of course, it was the aurora borealis. As a teenager she was so impressed and shocked in awe, that she fell to her knees and couldn't believe what she was seeing. I remembered that story, and I said, 'What about [Odo] becoming like an aurora borealis with magical color and shimmering iridescence?' And that's what it became. Steve Posey and Nana were able to take that imagery and do a really great job". (Cinefantastique, Vol. 32, No. 4/5, p. 64)
- With the concept of the scene decided upon, the actual filming of the scene and the development of the visual effects began. Stipes commented: "We wound up with a combination of several approaches, getting together with Steve Posey and Jonathan West who is the director of photography. Steve was involved, of course, in setting up the geography, along with Nana. Jonathan West did some very nice interactive lighting that was like little shimmers of light that danced across Nana and the set. We also had Rene [Auberjonois], who did a nice performance, moving from the two hands together and then up. We were able to segue from that, into computer generated imagery of Odo transforming into his goo state, and then from goo into energy. The transformation from goo into energy was done at Digital Muse, by David Lombardi and Matt Merkovich. It became four shots, and several different angles, finally with a push in. That became quite elaborate, as it needed to have rotoscoping. Laurie Resnick did the rotoscoping. It involved a lot of people's efforts at Digital Muse, also at Pacific Ocean Post. They had to track the environment that Kira was standing in, so that they could have the zoom in. As you zoom in, the effect moves past you. The bands of color were three-dimensional elements that were created in the computer, primarily in LightWave 3-D, that could go in front of and behind Nana. Those elements were brought back over of Pacific Ocean Post to Davy Nethercutt, the editor/compositor and Kevin Bouchez, the digital animator, painter, who also enhanced and created additional elements. We combined various levels of elements, twinkle, sparkles, stretching and shimmering colors to do the whole thing. There were some really wonderful things that Digital Muse did, where some of the textures swooped up gently and stroked across Nana's face. It really became quite lovely. I really wanted it to appeal to women, while the whole idea of snuggling into a gelatinous pile of goo doesn't sound very romantic, doesn't sound warm and cozy. After the sequence was finished, women seemed to respond favorably to it, and that was one of the things I wanted to really try and do". (Cinefantastique, Vol. 32, No. 4/5, pp 65-66)
- To represent Laas's space-dwelling form, the design team thought about reusing the footage of the computer generated model of the Space-dwelling lifeform from VOY: "Elogium" to save on budget. However, the team decided to create a brand new design, which was illustrated by John Eaves. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)
- Laas' creature form was created by Matt Merkovich at Digital Muse. David Stipes commented: "All of the actions of the creature, with the tentacle waving and undulation, are mathematical expressions. It's not frame by frame animation. It's all done by mathematical formulas that Matt was able to come up with and apply in LightWave. The creature really looks wonderful, and undulates, and is very rhythmic. It's just really elegant, all done with mathematics by somebody who is able to think in that abstract way and it is just really brilliant". (Cinefantastique, Vol. 32, No. 4/5, p. 66)
- Rene Echevarria was very pleased with "Chimera", commenting that it: "is probably one of the five shows that I have done on Star Trek that I am the most proud of. It was a hard row to hoe".
- Echevarria also remarked: ""Chimera" turned out to be one of my favorite episodes. It's a good example of how we don't guide DS9 so much as it guides us. My assumption when I sat down was that if there was a problem between Odo and Kira, it was Odo's problem. Since he's only pretending to be human, something would be missing in physical intimacy for them. I realized it was the exact opposite. It was really Kira's inability to be with him in way he could be with another Changeling. In the end, Odo transforms and they link in some way". ("DS9 Goes Out Strong and Defiant to the End", Star Trek: Communicator, issue 124)
- Quark's comment to Odo in the episode about people's suspicion to Odo and Changelings is one of Armin Shimerman's three speeches in the show that he is most proud of for what it had to say. ("The Once and Future Ferengi: Armin Shimerman Reflects on Quark", Star Trek Communicator, issue 130)
- The title of the episode is a reference from Greek mythology. The Chimera was the daughter of Typhon and Echidna, and sister to Cerberus and the Hydra. Legend says that she had three heads; the head of a lion, the head of a dragon, and the head of a goat (which could breathe fire). Obviously, the relevance for the episode is to be found in Laas's ability to be anything; similarly, Chimera was no one thing. Interestingly, Chimera was ultimately slain by Bellerophon, riding on the winged horse Pegasus. The very next episode that went into production after "Chimera", "Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges", features the USS Bellerophon.
- Given the fact that Odo was actually infected with the morphogenic virus (though he believed himself not to be at the time), it is likely that he spread the virus to Laas when they linked. This issue was something of which the writers were aware, and something they guessed fans might question. According to Ira Behr they seriously toyed with the idea of bringing Laas back into an episode or two of the ten-hour, nine-episode arc so as to deal with his infection, but it proved to be impossible, and his whereabouts have become one of the great unanswered questions of the series, such as what happened to Thomas Riker. This issue was addressed in the novels set after "What You Leave Behind", wherein Laas has joined the Founders in the Gamma Quadrant, and in so doing is cured.
- This is the second and final time after the discovery of the Dominion that Odo is referred to as a "shapeshifter" instead of a Changeling, following Damar's use in "Treachery, Faith and the Great River". Odo asks Laas "You've never met another shapeshifter?"
- When Odo is explaining to Laas what linking is like he says that it is about sharing "thought and form, idea and sensation." This is exactly the same phrase used by the Female Changeling when she is explaining it to him in "Behind the Lines", an episode also written by René Echevarria.
- Throughout the episode, Odo never mentions meeting another of the hundred – the first exchange between Odo and Laas in the promenade, in fact, strongly implies he never did. This would suggest Odo believes the infant Changeling shown in "The Begotten" was not one of the hundred.
- Cirroc Lofton (Jake Sisko) does not appear in this episode.
Video and DVD releases
- UK VHS release (two-episode tapes, CIC Video): Volume 7.7, 5 July 1999
- As part of the DS9 Season 7 DVD collection
Links and references
- Rene Auberjonois as Odo
- Nicole de Boer as Counselor Ezri Dax
- Michael Dorn as Lieutenant Commander Worf
- Colm Meaney as Chief Miles O'Brien
- Armin Shimerman as Quark
- Alexander Siddig as Doctor Julian Bashir
- Nana Visitor as Colonel Kira Nerys
- Sam Alejan as Human science division officer
- Michael Bailous as Bajoran security deputy
- Uriah Carr as Human civilian
- Kathleen Demor as Human security officer
- David B. Levinson as Broik
- Dennis Madalone as Klingon officer
- Dan Magee as operations lieutenant
- Mary Mascari as Bajoran woman
- Angus McClellan as Human operations division ensign
- Mark Newsom as Bajoran officer
- Mark Allen Shepherd as Morn
- Todd Slayton as Human operations division officer
- Susie Stillwell as Bajoran security deputy
- Unknown performers as
2170s; 2340s; ability; airlock; air vent; Bajoran system; biped; breeding ground; city; consciousness; constable; containment field; Corvallen freighter; courting; creature; Defiant-class; Dominion; disruptor; environmental system; evolution; Excelsior-class; extradition; farm; Federation; fire; fire-suppression system; fog; force field; forehead; Founders; gene; generation; Great Link; herd; holosuite; humanoid; Hundred Changelings; joy; justice system; knickknack; Koralis III (Koralis system); Laas' wife; love; magistrate; Martok; metamorph; Milky Way Galaxy; mono-form; mining; morphogenic matrix; natural state; nose; O'Brien, Keiko; operations log; orbital tether; primitive lifeform; Promenade; Quark's; riddle; Rigelian chocolate; runabout; sector; sexual reproduction; shopkeeper; snake; spacefaring lifeform; summer; Varala; Varalan; Varalan language; Vilm steak; volg; Yeager-type
- "Chimera" at StarTrek.com, the official Star Trek website
- "Chimera" at Memory Beta, the wiki for licensed Star Trek works
- "Chimera" at Wikipedia
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