Metamorphic ability, shape-shifting ability, shape-shifting nature, having a metamorphic characteristic, or to simply to shape-shift was a (mostly) natural ability, shared by few species in the known galaxy, which were capable of physically assuming any shape or identity, while still being able to revert back to their natural state. (TAS: "The Survivor"; DS9: "Shadowplay") Generic terms for these types of beings included shapeshifter, metamorph, or shape-changer.
For Changelings, shape-shifting was accomplished due to their morphogenic matrix. For their young, their mass increased as their shapeshifting abilities developed, which in itself was a learned ability. (DS9: "The Begotten") Inexperienced Changelings, such as Odo, were he was only able to hold his solid form for a period of 16 to 18 hours, where after, he was forced to return to his gelatinous state to regenerate. (DS9: "A Man Alone", et al.)
According to the Female Changeling's initial story about the Changelings, as told to Odo and Kira Nerys before it was revealed that they were the Founders, "Solids feared our metamorphic abilities, so we were beaten, hunted, and killed." (DS9: "The Search, Part II")
When Betazoid Ambassador Lwaxana Troi first met Odo in 2369, she claimed, with regards to his shape-shifting abilities, "[of] all the men I've known who've needed to be shaped and molded and manipulated. Finally, I've met a man who knows how to do it himself."
Later during that same encounter, they became trapped in Deep Space 9's turbolift together. When Major Nerys became aware of their situation, she called Odo from ops, warning him of that turbolift's "exposed multi-phase alternating current" that ran through positioning mechanisms, recommending that he shouldn't "try to shape-shift your way out." (DS9: "The Forsaken")
Many years later, Odo was confronted by another lone Changeling, Laas, when he refused to link together on the Promenade. Laas sensed that Odo was embarrassed to shaft-shift in public, and accused Odo of not wanting to do anything to remind passersby that he was not truly a humanoid.
Later, Laas provided Odo with a glimpse into significantly advanced shape-shifting feats, such as becoming fire and fog. During the latter instance, the act cause a disturbance on the Promenade, causing a confrontation with two Klingon officers, provoked by his shaft-shifting, with one even warning, "don't change form in my presence again," evoking a response from Laas that, "I change form where I please." After the confrontation became violent, and one Klingon was killed, they, along with twelve others, lodged a complaint, leading Odo to question if it was now "a crime to shape-shift on the Promenade?" This was met by Captain Benjamin Sisko describing that "[i]t may not be a crime, but obviously it's not a good idea."
Later still, as Laas sat in a holding cell, he continued to discuss the matter, telling Odo that his "friends" only "[..] tolerate you because you emulate them. What higher flattery is there? "I, who can be anything, choose to be like you." (DS9: "Chimera")
Species with metamorphic abilities
- Antos native
- Biomimetic lifeform
- Coalescent organism