(written from a Production point of view)
At a colony in the Gamma Quadrant, Dax and Odo investigate the mysterious disappearance of several colonists.
- "Science officer's log, stardate 47603.3. Commander Sisko has assigned me to investigate an unusual particle field detected on the other side of the wormhole. Odo has come along to the Gamma Quadrant hoping to find clues to his origin."
When Dax and Odo investigate the particle field on a nearby planet, Dax detects omicron particles isolated in a small valley. These particles are very rare, and they appear to be interfering with other scans, so the pair beams down to the planet. Once on the planet, they find a small village, and with their limited tricorder functions determine the source to be some sort of reactor at the center of the village. Odo suggests they leave, but Dax insists on scanning it in more detail, and they are discovered by Protector Colyus who is brandishing a weapon.
Meanwhile, on Deep Space 9, Major Kira Nerys keeps her eye on Quark, and stops his cousin Kono from smuggling stolen merchandise from a museum on Cardassia V onto the station. Commander Sisko also talks to his son Jake about getting a job. He eventually talks Jake into becoming Chief Miles O'Brien's apprentice, saying it would look great on his entrance request to Starfleet Academy. However, Jake seems to do it because he has to rather than because he wants to.
Back on the planet, Colyus interrogates Dax and Odo. They both insist they have committed no crime and had just arrived. Odo demonstrates their innocence by temporarily beaming himself back to the runabout, saying if they wanted to escape capture, they would have already. They convince the Protector they did nothing, leaving Colyus disappointed; the Starfleet officers had been his last possible suspects in twenty-two unsolved disappearances occurring over a period of months. Odo offers his assistance as an investigator.
The first person Dax and Odo talk to is Rurigan, the elder of the village. He confirms that his daughter was the latest victim to disappear. After Dax scans for EM traces and detects nothing, Odo talks to Taya, Rurigan's granddaughter. She shies away from Odo, and won't talk to him because she believes her mother will eventually come back. Rurigan says the questions from Odo can wait until morning.
On the station, Commander Sisko sends Jake off on his first day on the job with O'Brien, giving him a combadge. Meanwhile, Major Kira talks to Doctor Julian Bashir about spying on Quark. She wants to make sure Quark isn't up to something while Odo is away. Bashir is happy to do it, since Garak has been teaching him surveillance techniques. Just then, Kira is informed by Sisko that Vedek Bareil's ship has just docked for an unannounced visit to the station.
Continuing his investigation the following day, Odo tries talking to Taya again. She still seems uncomfortable discussing the subject of her mother's disappearance, asking instead what happened to Odo's face. He explains that he is a shapeshifter, which she immediately understands by the term Changeling. Taya maintains that Changelings are make believe, but speaks wistfully about being one. When Taya concludes that everyone would want to be her friend if she were a Changeling, Odo assures her that it is not easy. With uncharacteristic detail, Odo shares his experiences from his early years after he was discovered, when people befriended him just so they could see him change into various items. Revealing the beginnings of a friendship, Taya offers that while others may have been afraid of him, she is not afraid. Inquiring about Odo's parents, Taya then brings up her parents. She reveals that her father died when she was four, and that the last time she saw her mother, she was in her workroom making a pot for the village's baker, Mister Depnen. When she went to get her for the midday meal, Taya continues, her mother had vanished. Probing further, Odo asks how her mother was acting, or whether she had been on a trip or vacation. Taya replies with confusion that no, no one ever left the valley. Odo seems intrigued, and when Taya morosely asks if her mother is ever coming back, Odo assures warmly, "I promise you, I'm going to do everything I can to find her and bring her back to you."
Back on the station, Jake is having trouble identifying isolinear rods with O'Brien at a table in the replimat. When he continues to be baffled, the chief reassures him he didn't even get this stuff until after his Academy training, drawing a sigh from Jake. Jake explains that he doesn't want to go to Starfleet Academy, but that he can't tell his dad. Understanding Jake's quandary, O'Brien shares how he had almost become a cello player as his father wanted. His father went so far as to send a recorded audition to the Aldebaran Music Academy. Two days before he was set to depart for music school, O'Brien enlisted in Starfleet. However, as O'Brien explains, his father eventually came around, and is even proud to introduce his as "My son, Senior Chief Specialist Miles Edward O'Brien." If Jake's father is anything like his was, O'Brien explains, he will understand.
Also on the station, Bareil and Kira exit the shrine, arguing about the merits of the Vedek's speech. After some playful banter, they discover a mutual enjoyment of springball, and leave to engage in a match using the holoprogram Kira had O'Brien create for her.
Back in the Yaderan settlement, the investigation continues. Odo interrogates Rurigan, asking him why he seems unconcerned despite his daughter being among the missing. The old man responds that there is nothing he can do about it. Odo points out the pain in his eyes. Rurigan states he is dying, but he has had a good life and only wishes he could have seen his daughter one more time. Odo presses Rurigan, asking him specifically why no one leaves the village, not even to look for the missing villagers. Rurigan only insists cryptically that he is certain there are no missing people out there.
Later, Dax, Odo, and Taya climb a hillside outside the village, with the little girl telling them a story about a foolish Changeling. Odo engages the child in the story with friendly banter. As they continue to get further from the village, Taya shows them a tree where she and her friends go out and play sometimes. Odo tells her to wait there while he takes Dax further out. As she continues walking, the scanner vanishes in her hand. When Taya starts moving toward them, Odo tells her to stop, but she tries to hand some berries to him, and the end of her arm disappears. It reappears when she pulls it back to her. Now, the nature of their village is clearer to Dax and Odo.
They return to the center of the city, and bring Colyus to the reactor. Dax explains she knows what happened to the people. After being able to use a console to make his cloak disappear and then reappear, she explains the situation. It's not a reactor; it's a hologenerator. It creates an omicron field and manipulates it to create matter. Everything in this village, his cloak, and the people, are made up of these particles. The component that controls the field is breaking down, and people are subsequently being lost.
Colyus can't believe it, sure he's not a holographic projection. Odo explains what happened to Taya's arm. Colyus insists he needs more proof before he believes he and his loved ones are holograms. To prove it, Odo and Dax agree to take anyone interested to the edge of the valley.
Back on the station, Vedek Bareil and Kira enjoy dinner after their springball match, during which Kira was victorious. Their conversation turns intimate as they begin to acknowledge their attraction to one another. Soon they are kissing when Bareil mentions in passing about how Prylar Rhit, the man who invited him to the station, had a sizable gambling debt to Quark. She suddenly bolts for the door, leaving Bareil confused. Kira, however, is convinced she knows the real reason why Bareil was invited here.
On the planet, the villagers are gathered together after seeing the vanishing effects at the edge of the field. Back in the village square, many believe it is a trick. Colyus says it is because they were programmed not to want to leave. He says the only alternative to having everyone disappear one at a time is to let Dax turn off the machine and fix it. However, if she can't, the whole village will soon cease to exist. After some murmuring, at the suggestion of Rurigan, they agree to let Dax shut it off.
Once it is disabled, the people, the buildings, everything disappears; everything except Rurigan, who appears to have expected this.
He explains he lived on Yadera Prime, with all of the people there, but after the planet was conquered by the Dominion, it changed their whole way of life and he decided to leave. He came here and set up this hologenerator, recreating the village with all his friends. He has been living among these people for 30 years, sometimes even forgetting they were holograms. He wants them to take him back to Yadera Prime.
Odo wants to know what will happen to the people in the village. While they may not be real the way biological life forms are real, perhaps they are worth keeping alive, since they appear to think, feel, and reproduce. Rurigan is also betrayed by his emotions; they are real to him, since he didn't want his granddaughter to get hurt, and he cares about them. After such a rousing speech by Odo, bringing him to tears since he does love his granddaughter, he agrees not to turn his back on them.
Back on the station, Jake finally sits down and admits to his father he doesn't want to go to Starfleet. He wants to do something that is like he is, not like his father is. Benjamin understands and simply asks Jake to find something he loves and to do it as best he can.
Kira confronts Quark with his cousin Kono in custody, and while he refuses to admit trying to distract her by suggesting Bareil be invited to the station, it is clear she is correct.
Dax fixes the machine, and Rurigan makes one last request: don't tell the holograms he isn't one. After agreeing, she turns it back on, and everything is restored, including the missing people. Colyus wonders who created all this, and Odo simply says that whoever they were, they did a fine job.
Taya says goodbye, and Odo turns into a spinning top to amuse her, just before he and Dax beam up.
"I saw the way you held her hand when she was sad… I saw the way you tried to comfort her when she was frightened."
"I didn't want her to get hurt."
"If she's not real, what does it matter?"
"It matters. It matters to me."
"Why should it matter to you if a hologram cries?"
"Because… I love her."
"And she loves you."
- - Odo, Rurigan, and Dax, talking about Rurigan's granddaughter Taya
"Nothing. It's just that – why does everyone assume that I'm going to the Academy?"
"Well, you want to go, don't you?"
- - O'Brien and Jake Sisko
"Quark, get this into that little twisted brain of yours – if you thought you were going to get away with anything while Odo's gone, think again. I'm watching you."
"Major… you make it sound like you don't like me!"
"Don't like you?! You collaborated with the Cardassians, you cheat your customers, and you're a danger to this station – I don't just not like you… I despise you!"
"Sorry I mentioned it."
- - Kira and Quark
"It's your life, Jake. You have to choose your own way. There is only one thing I want from you: find something you love; then do it the best you can."
- - Sisko, to his son when he decides not to follow in his footsteps
"Your face isn't so scary, once you get used to it."
- - Taya, to Odo
"So, what did you think?"
"Of your speech?"
"I liked everything about it, except the content."
- - Bareil and Kira
"We just have to get used to the fact that we're holograms."
- - Colyus
Story and script
- This episode was originally to be titled "Persistence of Vision", a title later used in the second season of Star Trek: Voyager. Writer Robert Hewitt Wolfe's original idea involved Dax and O'Brien trapped on an alien planet. They escape from the prison but as they attempt to leave the planet, they discover they are in fact still in the prison. They escape again, and this time make it back to Deep Space 9, but neither of them are entirely convinced that they are in fact free, and probably never will be. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)
- Elements of the alien virtual reality prison concept would make it into the third season episode "The Search, Part II", the fourth season episode "Hard Time", and a third season episode of Star Trek: Voyager, "Displaced". A similar plot appeared in an eighth season episode of Red Dwarf where the main characters are imprisoned in a virtual reality simulation of the ship to observe their escape attempt. The concept also bears some striking similarities to TNG: "Ship in a Bottle" and TNG: "Frame of Mind".
- Michael Piller commented "When you put Odo there, we realized that we could deal with idea of an odd life form and he could stand up for the values and survival of this community strictly out of his personal value system. We knew the way to do that was to connect him with somebody on the planet. The relationship between Odo and the girl worked remarkably well". (The Deep Space Log Book: A Second Season Companion, p 36)
- In a scene cut from the aired episode, it was mentioned that there was an incident on Brinda V where half the population of a village disappeared and that it was later found that they had been abducted by Orions to work as slaves in their mining camps. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion - A Series Guide and Script Library)
- Kenneth Tobey, who played Rurigan in this episode is one of Ira Steven Behr's all-time favorite actors. Behr commented: "I love Ken. He's a sweet, sweet, sweet man. I've always liked his work, and I've always wanted to use him. It was great to have him in a Star Trek, in a science fiction thing". Dan Curry was also excited that Tobey was cast in the episode. Curry commented: "It was wonderful for us, because we're all science fiction fans and he was in the great ones, like The Thing and It Came From Beneath the Sea". (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)
- Robert Hewitt Wolfe is extremely proud of this episode, particularly the thematic connections between the A, B and C-stories; "They're all about the unreality of appearances. Everyone would think Jake would want to be a Starfleet guy, but he doesn't. You'd think Bareil was on the station to see Kira, but the truth is that Quark lured him there. And then there's the girl, who seems real, but isn't." (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)
- Ira Steven Behr concurred with Wolfe on how successful the episode was, commenting: "When we saw it, we said, 'You know what? You put Odo together with a kid and you've got a winner'. It worked. The whole idea of this man creating this world for himself was actually quite sweet. Every now and then, you have to do a nice, sweet episode which DS9 isn't known for, but now we've done it, and we'd do it again". (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)
- An episode of Star Trek: Enterprise ("Oasis") aired 8 years later, in which Rene Auberjonois guest-starred, with his character, Ezral, taking on a role similar to that of Rurigan. Auberjonois noticed the similarities.
- This episode features a "twist" on the typical two (A/B) storyline episode plot: in this episode there are three (A/B/C). The main (A) storyline features Dax and Odo on the planet; the second (B) storyline surrounds Kira & Bareil's romance; the third (C) storyline deals with Jake's hesitance regarding joining Starfleet Academy.
- The blooming sexual tension between Kira and Bareil finally shows itself in this episode, as the couple share their first kiss. It was later revealed that Quark purposely urged his debtor to invite Bareil to distract Kira from interfering with his affairs with the absence of Odo.
- Noley Thornton, who played Taya in this episode, had previously appeared as Clara Sutter in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Imaginary Friend".
- This episode marks the third and final reference to the Dominion before they are finally encountered in the second season finale, "The Jem'Hadar". The Dominion had previously been mentioned in "Rules of Acquisition" and "Sanctuary".
- O'Brien says his father introduces him as "Senior Chief Specialist Miles Edward O'Brien." In the US Navy, senior chief petty officer is an enlisted rank. In Star Trek, it is the first reference to O'Brien's full rank. This changes, however, in "Hippocratic Oath", when the Jem'Hadar First Goran'Agar identifies O'Brien as a chief petty officer, which is one step down from a senior chief. However, this can be attributed to O'Brien's father deliberately exaggerating, or the U.S. Navy practice of all grades of Chief Petty Officer being considered part of the "chief petty officer" community.
- In this episode, O'Brien mentions having studied to be a musician before joining Starfleet. This refers to his cello playing in TNG: "The Ensigns of Command".
- This episode marks the first reference to the Bajoran sport of springball in the series.
- This episode establishes that Major Kira has/had two brothers. They later briefly appeared as young children in the first 2346 sequence of DS9: "Wrongs Darker Than Death or Night", which gave their names as Kira Pohl and Kira Reon. According to the non-canon novel The Soul Key, they had both died by 2375.
Video and DVD releases
- UK VHS release (two-episode tapes, CIC Video): Volume 18, 25 July 1994
- As part of the DS9 Season 2 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
- Kenneth Mars as Colyus
- Kenneth Tobey as Rurigan
- Noley Thornton as Taya
- Philip Anglim as Vedek Bareil
- Mark Lentry as Human command division lieutenant
- Mary Meinel-Newport as Bolian woman
- Unknown performers as
2340; 2360; ability; accusation; Aldebaran Music Academy; Antares-class (Bariel's transport); Arlin, Lysia; Arlin's cousin; Bajor; Bajoran wormhole; baker; blue; Cardassia V; Cardassians; cello; cello player; changeling; collaborator; combadge; crime; dabo; dabo player; debt; Depnen; docking bay; Eighth Prophecy; electrostatic charge; engineering; evil changeling; expression; face; Freyla; Gamma Quadrant; Garak, Elim; field generator; gambling; Ghergher beast; Great Minra; greenbread; harrid berry; Hedrikspool Province; hologenerator; holographic projection; holosuite; Ilvia; jumja kiosk; katterpod; Kira Pohl; Kira Reon; Kono; law enforcement; Manwaring; Milky Way Galaxy; nature preserve; Nog; O'Brien, Michael; old man; omicron radiation; physical object; Promenade; protector; prylar; Quark's; red; Relliketh; replicator; Rhit; robbing; romantic coupling; runabout; scandal; science officer; security officer; Seelee; Senior Chief Specialist; shape; shapeshifter; Singha refugee camp; Starfleet; Starfleet Academy; Strek; suspect; Tellarite freighter; thing; tornado; tricorder; troll; Vedek Assembly; village; village square; white; Yadera II; Yadera Prime; Yaderan
- "Shadowplay" at Memory Beta, the wiki for licensed Star Trek works
- "Shadowplay" at Wikipedia
- "Shadowplay" at StarTrek.com, the official Star Trek website
- "Shadow Play" at MissionLogPodcast.com, a Roddenberry Star Trek podcast
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