(written from a Production point of view)
Searching for a Maquis raider on an unstable moon, Kira is trapped in an expanding crystal formation that threatens to engulf her if Odo cannot set her free. Meanwhile, Nog attempts to persuade a skeptical Commander Benjamin Sisko to write him a letter of recommendation to join Starfleet Academy.
Returning from security consultations at Prophet's Landing, a Bajoran colony near the Cardassian border, Kira and Odo talk in the USS Mekong. Odo is upset that Kira did not allow him to turn down an invitation to dinner with the colony's governor, Avesta. Kira is incredulous over this, given that Odo does not eat, but he explains that he would have liked the chance to voice his opinion. Soon, they detect a Maquis attack in progress on a Lissepian cargo ship. They pursue the attacking ship, a Peregrine-class vessel, in their runabout.
On the station, Nog is in Ops asking O'Brien if he can see Commander Sisko on an "urgent" matter and he's sent up to the commander's office. Nog comes bearing a quantity of latinum, which he gives to Sisko because according to Ferengi statute, Nog has completed the Ferengi Attainment Ceremony and is now at the age where he must purchase an apprenticeship. Since he considers Sisko a mentor, he says, Sisko's the one from whom he intends to make the purchase – he wants to become a Starfleet officer and asks where he can pick up his uniform. Sisko explains in brief that Nog first needs to graduate from Starfleet Academy, however as Nog is not a Federation citizen he needs a letter of reference from a command-level officer before he can take the entrance exam. Since Sisko is just such an officer, Nog is certain that Sisko will provide the reference... but Sisko says he'll "think about it." Throughout the conversation, the two are pushing the stack of Nog's latinum back and forth across the Commander's desk.
On the alien moon, Odo and Kira track the fugitive to a cave network and witness severe seismic activity. Since they need to cover ground quickly looking for the Maquis fugitive, they split up. Shortly afterward, Odo receives a combadge signal from Kira who's trapped in one of the caves. When Odo finds Kira, her right foot is completely stuck in some sort of crystal formation that grows spontaneously.
Odo suggests that Kira remove her foot from her boot, but she tells him the crystal is too tight. The crystal can't be smashed either, so Kira decides to try shooting it with her phaser. However this only causes the crystal to grow faster as it feeds off the phaser energy. Odo decides its time to leave and tries to contact the Mekong to be transported, but the moon's interference prevents the runabout from responding. Odo decides to head back to the Mekong and try transporting Kira from there.
Back on the station, Jake catches up to Nog at Quark's, under the impression that Nog's interview with his father was a joke. Nog angrily assures Jake that nothing could be further from the truth, extracting a promise that Jake will go back to his father and take back his assertion that it was a joke. Jake is confused, and asks for an explanation, but Nog refuses to give him one, mentioning that it is personal and tells him he is very busy repairing his uncle's malfunctioning replicator system.
Meanwhile, Odo returns to the runabout and attempts to transport Kira out of her entrapment, only to discover that the nature of the moon's atmosphere makes it impossible to operate transporters or send a distress signal directly from the runabout. With no other options, Odo launches a communications buoy into orbit however even with optimum conditions it'll take two days for the distress signal to reach Deep Space 9 and its clear that the crystal will completely consume Kira well before then. As he's returning to Kira's location he hears phaser fire, which Kira tells him was on account of the reappearance of the Maquis they'd been chasing. Examining the phaser blasts on a rock wall near Kira, Odo tells the major the Maquis did not miss her by much. "My lucky day," she ruefully says.
On the upper level of the Promenade, Nog collars Sisko outside Quark's and asks excitedly if he's decided to write the letter of reference. Faced with Nog's persistence, Sisko tells Nog unambiguously that he doesn't consider Nog a good candidate for admission to the Academy considering his less than stellar reputation on the station – but Nog wants nothing more than a chance to prove that he's better than Sisko's assessment suggests. With this in mind, he later tells Jadzia Dax to assign Nog to a cargo bay inventory. Dax is equally skeptical, but Sisko wants to give Nog a fair chance to live up to his promises – and that's exactly what he'll get, with "no help, no interference, no-one looking over his shoulder." Dax points out that they've already taken inventory of that cargo bay last month, which Sisko says makes it the perfect test: they'll know if anything goes missing.On the moon, Kira's still stuck. Working from information provided in one of the criminal activity reports, Odo comes up with an idea for freeing her – if he can build a ultrasonic generator from the runabout's covariant oscillator, he may be able to find a frequency that can shatter the crystal. He heads back to the Mekong to pick up the oscillator. In the cargo bay, Dax tells Nog the previous inventory was 'lost' due to a computer error so they need a fresh report. Nog in initially surprised he's been left to do the entire bay alone, but Dax tells him that Starfleet isn't just exploring and adventuring but a lot of the time is just plain hard work. Nog assures Dax this won't be a problem and takes the opportunity with extreme enthusiasm, telling Dax he will have the inventory report completed before Sisko goes off duty. Dax tells him the next morning will be just fine.
The generator has been built with Odo and Kira waiting for it to show positive results, and Odo explains that he's been going to the holosuite with Chief O'Brien and witnessing O'Brien's fascination with kayaking. In the meantime, an earthquake strikes and the cave threatens to collapse in on them.
Odo changes form to protect Kira from falling rocks. After the earthquake ends, Odo continues talking with her at a personal level. In the Replimat, Sisko and Dax are reviewing Nog's performance on the inventory, which was excellent. Dax notes that he not only finished it in under five hours, he even found a few items that the crew missed during the previous inventory. Sisko remarks that all the experience Nog gained from taking inventory in Quark's back room has now paid off. However, both of them are still completely in the dark about Nog's true motivations for joining Starfleet.
The ultrasonic generator has gone through the entire spectrum of frequencies but has had no success with shattering the crystal, much to Odo's confusion. The crystal is now up to Kira's neck and she can barely breathe. Desperate for something to take her mind off her situation, she asks how Odo got his name. Odo explains that when Doctor Mora brought him to the laboratory, he was required to label everything for the ease of his Cardassian overseers. As he didn't know what Odo was (in fact, he didn't even know Odo was sentient), he labelled him Unknown Sample which the Cardassians translated to Odo'Ital which means 'nothing' in their language. Even after Odo was discovered to be sentient the Bajoran scientists still called him that but made it into two words like Bajoran names, with Odo Ital eventually just becoming Odo. Even afterwards, when anyone used it Odo still remembered what it meant; he was nothing and had nothing. However serving on Deep Space 9 under the Bajorans and Starfleet has made him feel differently about himself and now feels like a person.
It's now clear the ultrasonic generator isn't going to work, and Odo can't help but feel something isn't right with the situation as there's no way the generator should have failed. Kira tells him that the cave is going to collapse any second, and the Maquis is likely already dead from one of the earlier quakes so there's no reason for him to stay and die as well; she then orders Odo to leave her.
Odo refuses to abandon Kira, going so far as to resign his commission rather than obey that order. Odo's normal composure begins to crack under the situation, and he finally tells Kira the truth; he is in love with her. He waits for her response, and is surprised when she tells him she's in love with him too.
Nog is sent to Commander Sisko's office, where Sisko explains that he needs to turn down Nog's request for a reference. Sisko's explanation is that near as can be told, this is another of Nog's schemes, over which Sisko can't afford to risk any of his reputation... but just as he did with Jake, Nog loses his composure and begins to explain himself. As voices raise, Sisko demands a straight answer. Pushed into a corner, Nog finally tells Sisko point blank: "I don't want to end up like my father!" Nog goes on to point out that his father shows every sign of being a brilliant engineer, but doesn't have "the lobes" for the business life that is expected of Ferengi (any more than his own father did)... and neither does he. On his current path, Rom has nothing in the future to look forward to except working at Quark's for the rest of his life or the slim chance of inheriting the bar if Quark dies first. Nog is anxious to avoid his father's fate, and is fixed on joining Starfleet exactly because that will give him one of his best likely chances to use the talents he does have. Having finally gotten a straight explanation of Nog's motivations and seeing that his reasons for joining Starfleet are genuine, Sisko changes his mind and promises Nog his reference. Nog is overjoyed, but Sisko reminds him that he's still got a lot of work ahead of him if he is to become an officer, to which Nog reaffirms that he is up to the challenge.
Matters on the alien moon also reach their denouement. Odo's been thinking about the things that Kira's told him, and they don't add up. First of all, he points out the phaser marks on the cave wall; from the Maquis' position in the cave where he'd have shot from there's no way he could have made them without hitting Kira. Also, there's Kira's 'confession'... he knows Kira doesn't love him. He knows from her body language with which he's grown familiar that she's never had any kind of romantic feelings for him. Kira suggests that she might have lied to him to make him feel better, but Odo knows Kira would never lie to him for any reason. He points a phaser at her and demands to know what's going on.
"Kira" changes form into the Female Changeling who compliments Odo on his superb investigation skills. She confesses that there never was a Maquis; she was piloting the ship Odo and Kira were chasing and she did it all because she wanted to understand fully why Odo rejected the Great Link and suspected that Kira was part of the reason, a suspicion that has now been confirmed. The plan was to make Odo think that Kira died, and by taking away his link to the solids he would rejoin his people. Odo insists that he will never join them, but the Female Changeling insists he will sometime. Odo makes it clear he's willing to shoot, but the Female Changeling tells him that no changeling has ever harmed another. When Odo refuses to back down, the Female Changeling tells him Kira's location but warns him she will never return his feelings before being transported away.
As another earthquake hits and the cave finally begins to collapse, Odo locates Kira trapped in a pod and gets her out. The two then run back to the Mekong.
Back on the station, Odo tells Kira what happened but pretends that the Female Changeling only impersonated her since she was with him at the time. When she asks what made him realize the truth, he says that the Changeling said something he knew that Kira would never say. When she asks what, he claims that it was "a slip of the tongue – nothing important.'"
In Quark's, Quark flatly refuses to allow Nog to join Starfleet only for Rom to speak up and say that Quark may be his boss, but Rom has the final word in matters concerning his own son. Quark impatiently tells Rom to tell Nog he can't leave DS9... only for Rom to wish his son luck and say he will be very proud if Nog becomes the first Ferengi to join Starfleet. "Like father, like son," Nog tells his father.
"That's right. I want to be the first Ferengi in Starfleet. Now. Who do I see about getting a uniform?"
- - Nog
"No, it's my fault. I should have explained it better."
"Of course it's your fault. Everything that goes wrong here is your fault. It says so in your contract."
- - Rom and Quark
"... it's been my observation that you humanoids have a hard time giving up the things you love... no matter how much they might hurt you."
- - Odo
"After all, we've been in worse situations than this one, and come out all right."
"Name three... I can't think of any, either."
- - Odo and faux-Kira
"So your name is 'Unknown Sample'?"
"No. "Odo'ital" literally means the word "Nothing." Even after it became clear that I was sentient, the Bajoran scientists kept calling me that. As a joke, they split it into two words, like a Bajoran name: "Odo Ital." Which eventually got shortened..."
"I thought it was the most appropriate name anyone could give me. And then I met you..."
- - faux-Kira and Odo
"No. I won't leave you."
"Because... Because, I'm in love with you."
- - Odo and faux-Kira
"My father is a mechanical genius. He could've been the chief engineer of a starship if he'd had the opportunity. But he went into business like a good Ferengi. The only thing is, he's not a good Ferengi... not when it comes to acquiring profit. So now all he has to live for is the slim chance that someday, somehow, he might be able to take over my uncle's bar. Well I'm not going to make the same mistake. I want to do something with my life... something worthwhile."
- - Nog
"Well done, Odo. You really are quite a skillful investigator."
"And you're quite a skillful Changeling."
- - Odo and the Female Changeling
"No changeling has ever harmed another."
"There's always a first time."
- - Female Changeling to Odo, who has a phaser pointed at her
"She's never going to love you. How could she? You are a changeling."
- - The Female Changeling, to Odo
"I tell you, I won't stand for it. No nephew of mine is going to disgrace our family name by joining Starfleet."
- - Quark, to Nog about going to Starfleet Academy
"When it comes to the bar, you may be in charge, but when it comes to my son, I make the decisions."
"Fine! You tell him he can't go!"
"Nog, good luck. I would be proud to have a son in Starfleet."
- - Rom and Quark
Story and script
- The Kira and Odo storyline in this episode was partly based on the 1964 Ken Kesey novel Sometimes a Great Notion and the 1971 film. In this book and the film, a character's leg is trapped underneath a large log, causing him to subsequently drown when he is unable to free his leg to prevent water rising above his head. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)
- Ira Steven Behr commented on the scene in the film adaptation of Sometimes a Great Notion, "It's a great scene in a not so great movie". (Captains' Logs Supplemental - The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages p 91)
- On Nog's storyline in the episode, Robert Hewitt Wolfe commented "It just struck me one day that out of Wesley, Jake and Nog, the one who will really become Starfleet and stand on a bridge to say 'engage' twenty years from now would be Nog. There was a nice irony, and something cool to do with that character, especially after Jake said he did not want to enter Starfleet". (Captains' Logs Supplemental - The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages p 91)
- Ronald D. Moore was also impressed with Nog's storyline. Moore commented "I think that was an interesting direction. Somehow, Captain Nog sounds cool". (Captains' Logs Supplemental - The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages p 91)
- The final draft script is dated 17 November 1994. 
- The episode was a bottle show. Robert Hewitt Wolfe commented, "We had to pay for 'Past Tense' and start saving money to do other things. So 'Heart of Stone' was a conscious attempt to do a kind of show we've always done on DS9, a show like 'Duet' or 'The Wire' where we take a couple of interesting characters and stick them in a room." (Cinefantastique, Volume 27, Issues 2-12)
- The 'rock' prop in this episode was extremely unpopular among both cast and crew. Ira Steven Behr called it "that horrible, horrible prop of a rock." Nana Visitor was also disappointed with it; "It didn't look like I'd imagined it when I read the script. I thought it was going to be like my body turning to stone. Instead I looked like a big old hot fudge sundae, and my head was the cherry on top." Director Alexander Singer said, "Nothing made the pinkish lavender rock look more realistic," while Visual Effects Supervisor Glenn Neufeld claimed of the actual shooting of the rock that "pretty much none of it worked." (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)
- Nana Visitor, who also suffers from claustrophobia, commented that she found the episode hard to film "because I thought the prop they used to encase me was an awful choice."
- Aron Eisenberg enjoyed the episode, particularly filming his scenes with Avery Brooks. Eisenberg commented: "[Avery Brooks] is awesome. He has got such presence - there is a power behind his eyes. How can I explain it? He gives to you when he looks in your eyes. He doesn't just look at your eyes but he looks in your eyes and feeds you. That was a scene we had rehearsed but, as soon as we shot it, he unexpectedly grabbed my shoulders and said, 'Tell me, Nog, what is it?' And it was awesome because it forced me to come up to that level. I didn't back down. I blurted out, 'Because I don't want to be like my father'. He is so professional. That was my favorite scene! It finally gave me, as an actor, something to really think about and deal with. It was emotional and we really got to see the heart of Nog. Also, as an actor I really had to come from a place and not just be on the surface. I was very well prepared when I did it. I didn't have any problems with the lines and I was very proud of myself". ("In For a Penny, In For a Pound", Star Trek: The Official Fan Club of the UK Magazine issue 8)
- Rene Echevarria commented that "Heart of Stone" is "one of my favorite episodes. I found it absolutely heartbreaking for Odo to finally proclaim his love for Kira, thinking she's going to die, and then realize that she's not who she says she is when she says she loves him too". (Captains' Logs Supplemental - The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages p 91)
- The scene where Nog talks to Sisko about his father is actor Aron Eisenberg's all-time favorite piece of his own acting, and this is his favorite DS9 episode. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)
- Critic Jeff Terich wrote: "One of the best if unsung episodes of the series, season 3′s 'Heart of Stone', wherein an increasingly desperate Odo attempts to save Major Kira from being killed by some kind of constrictive, growing crystal, and the once-comical Ferengi Nog decides to join Starfleet. Moments like these show that it’s not the Prime Directive that we care about, necessarily, but the people who pilot the starships and man the station. It’s a needed dose of humanity while social interaction is out of bounds".
- The title of the episode comes from, and the plot was partly inspired by, William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night.
- This episode marks the beginning of Nog's journey to become a Starfleet officer.
- It is revealed that a non-Federation citizen, in order to be admitted to Starfleet Academy, needs a reference from a command-level officer.
- The Female Changeling here fulfils the promise to visit Odo which she made in "The Search, Part II".
- The origin of Odo's name is revealed in this episode.
- This is the first episode in the series in which Odo handles a weapon.
- This episode confirms the fact that Rom is a skilled engineer, something which was hinted at in the second season episode "Necessary Evil", and something which would be revisited throughout the fifth, sixth and seventh seasons, after Rom becomes a junior engineer in "Bar Association".
- Odo's revelation that he loves Kira is actually the first time he has revealed this information. It had been hinted at in several episodes (such as "The Collaborator" and "Meridian"), and Lwaxana Troi had guessed it in "Fascination", but Odo himself had never admitted to it until this episode.
- Ensign Vilix'pran is mentioned for the first time in this episode. He would be mentioned again in the fifth season episodes "Apocalypse Rising" and "Business as Usual", but viewers would never see him on-screen.
- We learn in this episode that O'Brien's love for kayaking, first revealed in the TNG episode "Transfigurations", is still alive and well.
- This is the first episode in which Rom openly defies Quark. This theme would continue in "Prophet Motive" and "Family Business", and would ultimately culminate in "Bar Association".
- Salome Jens consented to be listed in the end credits rather than the beginning credits so as not to spoil the surprise.
- Referenced Rules of Acquisition: #18 ("A Ferengi without profit is no Ferengi at all")
- Remastered footage from the episode is featured in the documentary What We Left Behind.
Video and DVD releases
- UK VHS release (two-episode tapes, CIC Video): Volume 3.7, 12 June 1995
- As part of the DS9 Season 3 DVD collection
Links and references
- Rene Auberjonois as Constable Odo
- Siddig El Fadil as Doctor Julian Bashir
- Terry Farrell as Lieutenant Jadzia Dax
- Cirroc Lofton as Jake Sisko
- Colm Meaney as Chief Miles O'Brien
- Armin Shimerman as Quark
- Nana Visitor as Major Kira Nerys and Female Changeling
Special guest star
2368; ability; amusement; attitude stabilizers; Avesta; Badlands; Bajoran; Bajoran-Cardassian Treaty; bandwidth; bearing; Bemar; Cardassians; Cardassian border; Cardassian language; cargo bay; Central Museum of Remmil VI; chief engineer; chief of security; colony; command level officer; computer; constable; contract; covariant oscillator; crystal; detective novel; dinner; diplomacy; ensign; Enterprise-D, USS; exploration; family; family name; Federation; feeling; Ferengi; Ferengi Attainment Ceremony; Ferengi Trade By-Laws; friend; fugitive; Garak, Elim; gas giant; governor; Hatchling; hatchling pond; hazardous material; height; holodeck programs; holosuite; Human; indication; individuation; interference; inventory; ionization; kayaking; latinum; letter of reference; Lissepian; Lissepian supply ship; "Louie, Louie"; love; lunch; major; manifest; Mekong, USS; meter; Mora Pol; name; Nausicaan raiders; O'Brien, Keiko; O'Brien, Molly; Odo'Ital (aka Odo Ital); orbital sensor platform; overseer; pattern enhancer; Peregrine-class; phase matrix recalibrator; place; plasma field; platitude; police record; power coupling; power supply grid; prison; probe; Promenade; Prophet's Landing; Quark's; rapid; Remmil VI; Remmil VI native; replicator; Replimat; resignation; Rules of Acquisition; sea chantey; sensor; shoulder; slip of the tongue; solar system; Starfleet; Starfleet Academy entrance exam; Starfleet Security; starship; story; sympathetic vibration; system overload; transponder; tricorder; ultrasonic generator; ultrasonic wave; Vilix'pran; Vilix'pran's offspring; weather; worker
- "Heart of Stone" at Memory Beta, the wiki for licensed Star Trek works
- "Heart of Stone" at Wikipedia
- "Heart of Stone" at StarTrek.com, the official Star Trek website
- "Heart of Stone" at MissionLogPodcast.com, a Roddenberry Star Trek podcast
| Previous episode:|
| Star Trek: Deep Space Nine|
| Next episode:|