(written from a Production point of view)
On his homeworld, Odo learns about his people while back on the station, Sisko discovers that the price the Federation is willing to pay for peace with the Dominion may be too high; The Founders learn that the only way they are going to take over the Alpha Quadrant is through war.
On the shore of the Great Link ocean on his newly discovered homeworld, Odo faces other Changelings and Major Kira is standing on the sideline. A Changeling in female form welcomes Odo to his "home" and explains he was newly formed when he left them. Odo has many questions and, soon, it sounds like an interrogation, but Kira relaxes him, explaining that it is not a police investigation. The Female Changeling explains the Link and, when Odo says he has been alone all his life, she offers her hand to reinforce his welcome with a partial link. Another Changeling cautions her, with concern it is too soon, but she insists. This affects Odo deeply, as he realizes that he has truly found his home and his people.
- "Commander's log, supplemental. It's been six days since we had to abandon the Defiant after the Jem'Hadar attack. We still don't know what happened to the rest of the crew. Doctor Bashir and I have plotted a course back to the wormhole. Whether the shuttle can get us back there or not is questionable at best. Our engines are failing, our external sensors are barely functioning, and life support systems are at 20% and dropping."
In a shuttlecraft, a weary Sisko is dictating a report on the loss or capture of the Defiant by the Jem'Hadar and the unknown status of the rest of her crew, except Doctor Bashir, who is in the shuttle with him. Suddenly, the shuttle shudders and Bashir and Sisko try and get the sensors to work so they can find out what is causing the turbulence. They speculate that it may be a tractor beam when they hear something behind them. They both turn and note that the hatch mechanism is starting to rotate, indicating that someone is opening the hatch from the outside. Not knowing who that may be, they both arm their phasers and prepare to defend themselves.
The door slowly opens and they are surprised by the appearance of Chief O'Brien, followed quickly by Jadzia Dax. They have been rescued and other ships are looking for the rest of the Defiant's crew. Dax indicates that there is a big surprise waiting for them back at Deep Space 9.
On the Changelings' homeworld, Kira and Odo are waiting in an arboretum. Odo is getting impatient and Kira is trying to calm him down. When the Female Changeling returns, a brief discussion ensues about Changeling history and why they don't trust "solids". She enjoins Major Kira from sending any message that may be traced to the planet, as the Changelings value their isolation. The Female Changeling then begins giving Odo some shape-changing lessons. Major Kira goes off to the shuttle to try and get an untraceable message through to Sisko, disguised as elevated background radiation, something she learned while in the Bajoran Resistance.
Sisko is disembarking onto Deep Space 9 when he is met at an airlock by Admiral Alynna Nechayev, who informs him that the treaty delegation from the Dominion has already arrived. They discuss some background information and then the admiral informs Sisko that one of the delegates would like to see him the moment he arrives. Sisko enters a suite and meets Borath, a Vorta who claims that he is one of the Founders of the Dominion. They have a brief discussion about trust and future alliances.
On the upper deck of the Promenade, Bashir is greeted by Garak, the resident Cardassian tailor. As they exchange pleasantries, they pass a Jem'Hadar soldier looking down on the main Promenade deck. Garak informs Bashir that the Central Command is in favor of the treaty, but indicates his own misgivings about it, noting an old Cardassian proverb that states "enemies make dangerous friends." As they continue their discussion they encounter Romulan Sub-Commander T'Rul, who is very upset and informs them that the Romulans were excluded from the negotiations. She warns that if the Federation attempts a treaty with the Dominion without the Romulan Star Empire's approval, it will mean war.
In one of Defiant's shuttlecraft on the Changeling's homeworld, Kira configures the shuttle's communications system to transmit her signal and is informed by the craft's computer that it cannot be sent. This is due to excessive external interference from a subsurface power source and an analysis is not possible due to a polymetallic substance in the surrounding rock. While Kira is frustrated by this, Odo arrives. He is exhausted from his shape-shifting lessons and goes off to regenerate, leaving Kira alone with her frustration.
In his office, Sisko looks extremely concerned when his staff announces the arrival of Admiral Nechayev. They get into a discussion regarding the Romulans' exclusion from the treaty talks. Admiral Nechayev makes the point that if the Dominion and the Federation create this alliance then the Romulans will be irrelevant. This leaves Sisko deeply troubled.
Sitting in the garden on the Changeling homeworld, Odo and the Female Changeling have a fairly detailed discussion about Changeling history, including the fact that solids have been hunting and persecuting their kind for eons, and Odo's place in their history. They then embrace each other and merge into a link.
Meanwhile, Kira is facing a large metallic door and scanning it with a Starfleet tricorder. She notes that this is an anomaly since Changelings shouldn't have need for doors. She then contacts the shuttle's computer and asks it to scan the door, and is frustrated when the computer tells her that there is too much interference for it to do so.
In Quark's, Bashir and O'Brien are drinking synthales on the house and discussing the new treaty with Quark. The discussion is interrupted by a Jem'Hadar officer, who picks a fight with O'Brien when he tells him he is in his way and throws him across the bar. When Bashir comes to his defense, he is also attacked by the Jem'Hadar and thrown up against a wall until finally security chief Eddington breaks up the fight. Bashir insists that the Jem'Hadar be incarcerated for what he did to O'Brien, but the doctor is reminded by Eddington that the Jem'Hadar have carte blanche on the station, for the moment.
Sisko has a troubled meal in his quarters with his son, Jake. The elder Sisko is very distracted and lost in thought when Dax comes in and informs him that she has been transferred as science officer to the USS Lexington, without the commander's approval. While they are discussing this turn of events, Bashir calls him and requests that they meet concerning Chief O'Brien.
Moments later, a very angry Sisko storms into a meeting between Admiral Nechayev and Borath and demands explanations as to why Dax has been reassigned without his consent, why the Jem'Hadar who attacked O'Brien is walking the station free and why the Federation is risking a war with the Romulans to sign a treaty with an organization they barely know or trust. Nechayev tells Sisko that there's going to be some big changes in the sector… Bajor's request for Federation membership is being suspended indefinitely, and the Federation is withdrawing from Deep Space 9 and handing the station, Bajor and the wormhole over to the Dominion. All of the Starfleet officers on the station are to be reassigned, while Sisko will be promoted to Captain for his work. Sisko isn't impressed, and asks about what happens if the Bajorans aren't happy with being handed over to the Dominion. Borath tells Sisko he's sure they'll fall into line, and it's clear he'll send in the Jem'Hadar if they resist.
The admiral states that this is the price for peace and Sisko angrily answers that the price of peace is "too damned high" and that he wants to talk to the Federation's representative before the treaty is signed. At this point, the admiral tells him that it has just been signed and that Sisko is too late.
In the arboretum of the Changeling planet, Odo, in the shape of a Arbazan vulture, flies in, lands, and changes back into normal form, as Kira watches in amazement. They begin to talk and an exhilarated Odo gushes about being a vulture, feeling the air currents beneath his "wings" and soaring past treetops. Kira then asks the Changeling for help with the door that she found. Odo also wonders about the door, and who or what could be using them if the Changelings are not.
On the Promenade back at the station, Sisko is drinking a cup of coffee in the replimat when Garak walks in, complimenting Sisko on the job he has done for the past two years but notes that when Starfleet returns to the sector it will be to fight the Bajorans, who have just formed an alliance with the Romulans against the Dominion and their allies. In the ensuing conversation, Garak sits at Sisko's table and detects a tone of bitterness in Sisko's voice. The Cardassian mentions that he shares that bitterness. He further opines that, after a great deal of thought, he can only conclude that their leaders have gone insane, and that "it's a pity" that they are both committed to following the orders of their respective leadership. Sisko agrees with the "pity" part. At this point, Sisko states his surprise at at how much they seemed to think alike, to which Garak comments that "life is full of surprises."
Suddenly, from down the Promenade, T'Rul appears, yelling for Sisko while being chased by two Jem'Hadar soldiers. Sisko and Garak get up and just when T'Rul reaches them, the Jem'Hadar manage to shoot her in the back with a hand weapon. She falls into Sisko's arms, dead, just as the soldiers arrive. Sisko immediately gives her over to Garak and begins to fight the Jem'Hadar in hand-to-hand combat. The Jem'Hadar overpower Sisko while Garak looks on helplessly.
In the station's security office, Garak enters, followed by Dax and Bashir. Dax demands to see Sisko. Eddington, seated behind the security desk, states that no one is allowed to see the commander without authorization from Admiral Nechayev. Through a ruse, Garak manages to knock out Eddington with a hypospray. They free Sisko and take phasers from the office's armory. Dax informs Sisko that O'Brien is waiting for them on landing pad C with the Rio Grande and a full complement of photon torpedoes. Sisko asks Dax how she knew that they'd need the torpedoes and she answers that she anticipated that Sisko would want to destroy the wormhole to prevent further Dominion forces from arriving from the Gamma Quadrant. He agrees and they begin their run to landing pad C.
On the Changelings' homeworld, Odo is examining the door that Kira found and makes a startling discovery: the door is not meant to keep people out, rather it is to keep whatever is inside, in. The locking mechanism is a strange shape that only a Changeling can use without resorting to special tools and Odo morphs his hand to the required shape.
In the station's corridors, Dax, Garak, Bashir, and Sisko are running towards the docking ring when they encounter a Jem'Hadar patrol. During the ensuing battle, Garak is shot and killed. The rest of the group move on and there is another battle at the airlock to landing pad C. They all enter the Rio Grande safely, where O'Brien is waiting for them and they launch without further incident. As soon as they launch, they head directly for the wormhole. Thirty seconds from arrival, Admiral Nechayev, with Borath at her side, contacts the Rio Grande from the station and orders Sisko to stand down, but Sisko refuses. Borath then threatens them with the Jem'Hadar and Sisko states that they had better not expect any reinforcements for "about seventy years". Sisko turns to the forward viewport of the Rio Grande and sees the wormhole open for them. He then orders attack pattern theta and O'Brien turns hard to port and launches three photon torpedoes into the wormhole. The wormhole implodes and the blinding light of that event illuminates the interior of the Rio Grande.
Meanwhile, in the underground complex of the Changelings' homeworld, Odo is working on the lock mechanism by having his right hand shape-shifted into a lock-picking tool and it finally opens for him. As the door opens, it reveals two armed and ready Jem'Hadar guards who immediately take them into custody and march them deeper into the underground complex. They enter an underground chamber filled with various types of equipment and five inclined tables. The three tables on the left hold Bashir, Dax, and T'Rul, and the two tables in the back hold Sisko and O'Brien. Borath and two Vorta technicians are also present. A third Jem'Hadar stands guard in the chamber.
Borath invites them in and Kira runs up to Sisko and tries to talk to him. Borath informs her that they are unconscious because he is running an experiment on them. Kira is immediately suspicious and concerned, demanding to know what sort of experiment the Vorta has been running. Borath answers that it is a simulation exercise designed to determine how they would respond to an attempt by the Dominion to gain a foothold in the Alpha Quadrant, to measure how much they would be willing to sacrifice in order to avoid a war. However, according to his findings, they are extremely stubborn and Borath is thankful that he is not the one who has to solve that problem.
At that moment, a female voice states, "But I do." All within the chamber look towards the entrance where the Female Changeling has arrived. Odo is surprised that she knew about the experiment, but Kira figures it out quicker and challenges the Changeling, stating that she belongs to the Dominion. The Changeling corrects Kira by replying that the Changelings are the Dominion. Odo is awestruck as he realizes that his people are the Founders, the leaders of the Dominion. She admits to the irony that the hunted now control the destinies of hundreds of other races.
Odo now challenges her as to why the Founders should need to control anyone. She replies that "What you control can't hurt you," and that following maltreatment by solids when they were attempting to explore the galaxy many years ago, they set themselves the task of imposing order on a chaotic universe. Kira objects, stating that the order of the Founders should actually be called "murder". The Founder states that what the solids call it is irrelevant to the Founders. Odo then asks how the Founders can justify the deaths of so many people, to which the shapeshifter answers that the solids have always been a threat to them and that's the only justification they need.
Odo retorts that these solids have never harmed the Founders, implying that none of the Alpha Quadrant solids have ever harmed the Founders, and that the Federation is just like what the founders used to be, explorers and researchers. The Founder counters that the "solids are nothing like us." At this point, Odo pauses to consider and then answers that neither is he. He states that his whole life has been devoted to the pursuit of justice and that justice means nothing to the Founders. The Founder doesn't challenge that, rather, she believes that Odo would rather have order than justice and that the Great Link will satisfy his need for order. Odo declines, acknowledging the temptation of the offer, but maintaining that he already has a link to his comrades. Odo then turns to Borath and orders him to wake up the prisoners and that they are leaving. Borath objects and Odo, turning to the Founder, states that he is leaving with his friends. The Founder objects and looks shocked when Odo confirms his intent. The Founder states that "no Changeling has ever harmed another." To this, Odo replies that whatever she does to his friends, she will also have to do to him. The Founder concedes the point and confirms Odo's orders to Borath, the Vorta. But she warns him that the next time they will not be so generous.
The Vorta technicians move among the unconscious Defiant crew, removing leads, patch cords, and devices. As they do so, the crew wakes up slightly dazed and asking what happened. They all have various confused memories of the Rio Grande and collapsing the wormhole, except T'Rul, who remembers being shot by Jem'Hadar soldiers. Kira explains that none of what they remember is real and that they've been held in the chamber since the Jem'Hadar captured them on the Defiant and that they've been in a simulation. Sisko demands an explanation from Borath, but the Vorta merely informs the commander that the Defiant is in orbit and that they can transport up to it when they are ready. Odo informs Sisko that he will be remaining behind for a few moments, and Kira indicates that she'll come up with Odo. Odo promises Sisko that he will explain everything later, but that he and the others must leave immediately. Sisko then taps his combadge and has himself and his crew beamed up to the Defiant.
As Odo and the Female Changeling walk through the arboretum to the Great Link, the Founder expresses her wish that Odo will someday return to them. When Odo expresses his doubt of that, she points out that he'll always be an "outsider" with the solids. Odo states that being an outsider isn't so bad, it gives one a unique perspective and that it is a pity that the Founders have forgotten that. The Founder then states that she might visit him, but the Alpha Quadrant seems wracked with chaos, and that it could use some order. At this point, Odo warns her that imposing her form of order on the Alpha Quadrant may prove more difficult than she imagines. The Founder walks out into the Great Link and, turning back to Odo, states "We will miss you, Odo… but you will miss us even more." With that, she merges back into the Great Link.
When she is gone, Kira approaches Odo. As they hold hands, Kira taps Odo's Bajoran combadge and the two of them are transported back to the Defiant.
"You see… I have a dream. A dream that one day all people: Human, Jem'Hadar, Ferengi, Cardassians… stand together in peace… around my dabo tables."
- - Quark
"I don't believe it… I'm talking to a tree."
- - Kira
"To become a thing is to know a thing. To assume its form is to begin to understand its existence."
- - the Female Changeling to Odo
"Why would shapeshifters need a door?"
- - Kira
"Well, I guess this means the end of our Starfleet careers."
"Oh, I wouldn't worry about that, Doctor."
"Well, that's easy for you to say."
"Oh, you misunderstand me, Lieutenant. All I meant was it's a little foolish to worry about your careers at a time like this when there's a good chance we're all about to be killed."
- - Bashir, Garak, and Dax
"I'm glad to see the plan is going as scheduled."
"What plan is that?"
"You mean no one told you? You see, I pretend to be their friend… and then I shoot you."
- - Garak and a Jem'Hadar soldier
"You belong to the Dominion, don't you?!"
"Belong to it? Major, the Changelings are the Dominion!"
"You're the Founders!"
- - Kira, the Female Changeling, and Odo
"Why control anyone?"
"Because, what you can control, can't hurt you… so many years ago we set ourselves the task of imposing order on a chaotic universe…"
"Is that what you call it, 'imposing order'?! I call it murder!"
"What you call it is no concern of ours."
- - Odo, the Female Changeling, and Kira
"How do you justify the deaths of so many people?"
"The solids have always been a threat to us, that's the only justification we need."
"But these solids have never harmed you. They travel the galaxy in order to expand their knowledge, just as you once did."
"The solids are nothing like us."
"No, I suppose they're not… and neither am I."
- - Odo and The Female Changeling
"I admit, this… link, of yours, is appealing – but you see, I already have a link – with these people."
- - Odo
"It's taken you many years to find your way back home. Are you really willing to leave it again so soon?"
"Unless you intend to stop me."
"No changeling has ever harmed another."
"Whatever you do to them, you're going to have to do to me."
"They are free to go. But next time, I promise you, we will not be so generous."
- - Female Changeling and Odo
"You will always be an outsider."
"Being an outsider isn't so bad. It gives one a unique perspective. It's a pity you've forgotten that."
- - Female Changeling and Odo
"The Alpha Quadrant seems racked with chaos. It could use some order."
"Imposing your type of order on the Alpha Quadrant may prove more difficult than you imagine."
"We are willing to wait until the time is right. We will miss you Odo, but you will miss us even more."
- - Female Changeling and Odo
Story and script
- The abrupt realization that the Bajoran wormhole has not been destroyed and that none of the events Sisko and the others experienced truly happened is an example of a deus ex machina-style ending. However, rather than this being an avenue by which to create a quick resolution, the writers have claimed that the very point of the episode is to be found in this 'it was all a dream' ending; as Ira Steven Behr explains of the writers' attitude to two-parters in general, "We like to use the first part to set something up and then totally subvert the audience's expectations in part two."
- As such, the idea for the 'false reality' ending was two-fold. On the one hand, the writers wished to convey just how powerful the Dominion was – they were technologically so far advanced that they were literally playing with the Federation. On the other, in accordance with Behr's statement above, it was to show viewers that the real story of the episode was not the struggle for the Wormhole, but was in fact Odo's personal journey. Part I had focused on the larger plot, the bigger picture, and part II seemed to be doing the same, with Odo's story in a subservient position, but the conclusion exposes this interpretation as inaccurate, that it is Odo's story wherein the real meaning is to be found. Behr argues, "It was a perverse need to have some fun with the audience", and everything beyond Odo's story was "all just fireworks and mirrors."
- He says that he was trying to convey to the audience that real drama and conflict happens on a smaller personal level by tricking them into following the 'wrong' plot. However, he acknowledges that it doesn't really work and he understands why so many fans felt the conclusion to the episode was a great disappointment; "We wanted to make a point that this was a drama about people and conflict on a much smaller level. But no one seemed to get it, so maybe it wasn't such a great idea." (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion) Interestingly, Behr would do something similar in the fourth season two-parter "Homefront"/"Paradise Lost", where what seems logical, rational and right in part I is made to seem paranoid and draconian in part II.
- Jonathan Frakes commented "it was like having a Next Generation episode assignment to direct a Data story. It was that rich. Rene is a wonderful, inventive actor, much like Brent Spiner. Everyone was great. The sets on Deep Space Nine are fabulous to shoot. They're much bigger. There is more room. And it's hard to find a bad angle on that space station." (The Official Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Magazine issue 10, p. 6)
- "Empire" Magazine cited the whole two-parter, "The Search" as the best episode of Deep Space Nine when they ranked the series #47 on their list of "The 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time". 
- This is the first episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine to be directed by Jonathan Frakes, in his first directorial stint after Star Trek: The Next Generation. He directed two further episodes, "Meridian" and "Past Tense, Part II", and made a guest appearance in "Defiant" – all in Season 3 – as well as directing three episodes of Star Trek: Voyager and at least two of Star Trek: Discovery.
- The bulk of the episode continually splits between reality (Kira and Odo on the Founders' homeworld) and the psychological projections created in the experiment being conducted on Sisko and the others. This is masked by the normal formula of having "A" and "B" stories; only in the last minutes of the episode is the psychological experiment revealed.
- Discounting the psychological projections, this is one of very few episodes to not feature any scenes on the real Deep Space 9. It is also one of only two episodes (the other being "Children of Time") to be set entirely in the Gamma Quadrant.
- The Female Changeling decides in this episode that war is the only option for the Alpha Quadrant, and from this point forward a cold war existed until the episodes "In Purgatory's Shadow" and "By Inferno's Light".
- The monolith that is seen several times in the background of the garden on the Founders' planet is almost identical to the monolith which appeared in the episode "The Alternate" as a 'relic of Odo's people'.
- After this episode, the Vorta did not appear again until the season 4 episode "To the Death".
- Borath, the Vorta researcher who is also supposedly a Founder in the psychological projection Sisko and the others experience, was originally supposed to be Eris, the first Vorta encountered by the Federation in "The Jem'Hadar". The character was changed because actress Molly Hagan was unavailable.
- When Odo says he has been referred to as a Changeling "on occasion", he could be referring to the first season episode "Vortex", in which Croden calls him a changeling, and the second season episode "Shadowplay", in which Taya does so.
- The line "No Changeling ever harmed another" returned in the season 3 episodes "Heart of Stone", "The Die is Cast", and "The Adversary" and the season 4 finale "Broken Link". This is despite the fact that Odo is frequently threatened by both the Founders themselves, as well as their agents.
- The Female Changeling fulfills her promise to visit Odo in the episode "Heart of Stone", albeit by pretending to be Kira.
- In the scene where Bashir is intercepted by Garak upon arriving back at the station, in the background the end of the set can be seen as the walkway and its railing end abruptly. In addition, the whole Promenade background seems to be sloping down. This is only partially concealed by the Jem'Hadar standing in front.
- Remastered scenes from the episode are featured in the documentary What We Left Behind.
Video and DVD releases
- UK VHS release (two-episode tapes, CIC Video): Volume 3.1, 6 February 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
- Salome Jens as the Female Changeling
- Andrew Robinson as Elim Garak
- Natalia Nogulich as Vice Admiral Alynna Nechayev
- Martha Hackett as Sub-Commander T'Rul
- Kenneth Marshall as Lieutenant Commander Michael Eddington
- William Frankfather as Male Changeling
- Christopher Doyle as a Jem'Hadar Officer
- Tom Morga as a Jem'Hadar soldier
- Diaunté as Jem'Hadar Guard
- Majel Barrett as the computer voice
- Sue Henley as command officer
- David B. Levinson as Broik
- Tami Peterson as female Changeling
- Randy Pflug as Jones
- Pinky Villaseñor as female Vorta
- Unknown actors as
Alpha Quadrant; Arbazan vulture; background radiation; Bajor; Bajorans; Bajoran Resistance; Bajoran sector; Bajoran wormhole; Bolians; Cardassia; Cardassians; Cardassian Central Command; Changeling; Constable; dabo; Defiant, USS; Dominion; Dominion cold war; Dominion history; Eris; Federation; Federation Council; Ferengi; flower; Founders; Founders' homeworld; gambling gene; garden; Gamma Quadrant; Great Link; Jem'Hadar; kilometer; landing pad; Lexington, USS; meter; metamorphic ability; Milky Way Galaxy; mono-form; saying; Omarion Nebula; out of the loop; potato; Promenade; Quark's; Replimat; Rio Grande, USS; rock; Romulans; Romulan Star Empire; runabout; science officer; security officer; Solids; Starfleet; Starfleet Command; station regulation; thermal radiation; theta band frequency; tractor beam; tree; tricorder; Type 18 shuttlepod (Shuttle 01); visionary; Vorta
- "The Search" at Memory Beta, the wiki for licensed Star Trek works
- "The Search" at Wikipedia
- "The Search, Part II" at StarTrek.com, the official Star Trek website
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