(written from a Production point of view)
A fugitive from the Gamma Quadrant attempts to trade evidence about Odo's people for freedom.
Odo arrives at Quark's, suspecting that Quark is doing business with the Miradorn raider that just docked at the station. They also discuss a quiet customer who is sitting at the other end of the bar. Just then, Ah-Kel and Ro-Kel, a pair of Miradorn twins, enter the bar and nod in Quark's direction. Quark heads up to a holosuite and asks Rom to bring up a flask of a special langor. Odo morphs into one of the glasses to eavesdrop on the upcoming meeting as Rom takes the tray to the holosuite.
The twins are offering to sell a small egg-shaped object to Quark, who expresses concern that it was stolen. The twins were under the impression that he guaranteed a buyer who doesn't ask questions. Soon, however, the quiet customer from before, named Croden, enters the room and demands to be given the item at gunpoint. Ah-Kel flips the table with the tray of glasses, shattering them, one of which reforms into Odo as it hits the floor. Quark puts up his hands while Ah-Kel throws the table at Croden and Ro-Kel fires at him, but misses. Croden fires back, killing Ro-Kel, but before Ah-Kel gets a chance to fight back, Odo subdues Croden and calls for security. Bashir arrives and confirms Ro-Kel is dead.
In the security office, Ah-Kel, furious about his twin's death, is interrogated. He explains his species' dependence on their twins, but is denied direct vengeance. Commander Sisko assures him the law will deal with Croden, who is currently being held in the brig, but Ah-Kel is not happy about it. He returns to his ship in frustration, but not before clearly vowing vengeance against Croden before he dies.
They turn to Croden, who expresses that he wants something to eat. Sisko says he will be tried, but Croden says his planet won't help him, as their people don't have trials. At the end of the conversation, Croden turns to Odo and calls him a Changeling, something which piques Odo's attention since it implies he has met or heard of one before. Croden says he may tell Odo of the time he met one, asking to be fed first.
Using the USS Rio Grande, Sisko and Lieutenant Dax leave Deep Space 9 to locate Croden's homeworld to inform his people of Croden's arrest. They are disappointed a first contact must happen under these circumstances, but Major Kira suspects they may be happy to have a criminal taken off their hands.
Meanwhile, Odo goes to investigate Quark at the bar. Morn said Quark bought Croden a meal for some information. Quark denies it, that he was just "being friendly," but Odo makes his accusation: that he was securing a ship for Croden to go back to the Gamma Quadrant in exchange for the stunt he pulled earlier. Quark is nervous about Odo's volume in the bar, but Odo insists on asking him if he said anything about his homeworld or other species. Quark says no, and Odo is called away when Ah-Kel is found blocking his office along with a few mercenaries.
Odo stands Ah-Kel down with a threat to jail him as well, and goes to talk to Croden. He tells Odo Changelings used to live on his planet before they were persecuted, but he knows of a place where there are a few left. Odo is skeptical, saying of course Croden has to bring them there himself for an opportunity to escape. Odo doesn't believe him, so Croden then shows and gives Odo an unusual pendant containing a miniature Changeling that shapes into what could be described as an unusual "chess piece".
Sisko and Dax arrive at Rakhar and send out communications. Eventually, they speak to Hadran, the Exarch of Nehelik Province. It transpires that Croden is wanted for multiple crimes on his planet and Hadran demands his immediate return to face execution. Sisko says he should be tried on their station first for that crime, but Hadran interjects and says he is guilty of myriad crimes and his punishment will certainly be consistent with their crime. With an angry threat to a possible relationship with the people, Sisko reluctantly agrees and says to expect him within a couple of days.
Meanwhile, Odo takes the pendant to Dr. Bashir in the infirmary who examines it and tells him that it's organic. The only other living creature he'd encountered with a remotely similar genetic makeup is Odo. Jokingly, Bashir says that the pendant could be considered Odo's distant cousin. It could be a clue to where Odo comes from, but Odo is disappointed at the trustworthiness of the source of this information. He goes back and returns the pendant, at Croden's request. Odo goes to leave, but Croden comes close and says he found the stone in a dense asteroid field in an unusual nebula in the Gamma Quadrant. There, he came across the colony of Changelings by chance. He says it's uncharted, but he knows his way back.
Sisko calls Odo to order him to return Croden to his homeworld, having obtained the Bajoran's agreement. They use a Rigelian freighter to mask their departure from Ah-Kel's raider. He warns Odo that the station can't warn him, for it will alert the raider. He will be on his own. Odo takes Croden on the USS Ganges and successfully escapes detection, and both the freighter and runabout enter the wormhole.
Aboard the Ganges, Croden tries to appeal to Odo's loneliness on the station to relate to him. Croden goes on to tell Odo that on his homeworld he was declared an enemy of the state, the punishment of which is the execution of his family members. His two wives were killed and in response Croden killed the security officers responsible. Odo is suspicious of the story but Croden reassures him that it's true.
On the station, Ah-Kel discovers that Croden is gone. After threatening Quark's life, Quark uses his security access to give Ah-Kel Croden's whereabouts. When he leaves, Rom is excited over the prospect of Ah-Kel killing both Odo and Croden, but Quark does not share his enthusiasm. Despite some delays from Sisko and Kira, the Miradorn ship leaves the station and Ah-Kel eventually catches up with Odo's runabout in the Chamra Vortex and opens fire. Odo agrees to let Croden take the controls, since he is familiar with this area of space and Odo is not a combat pilot. Croden successfully gets the Ganges into the nebula, but must be careful due to pockets of what he calls toh-maire which threatens the ship. With a few tricks, Croden evades the attacker and directs Odo to a small planetoid, telling him that he may end up meeting one of his people after all.
When they arrive on the planetoid, they find a desolate environment. Croden immediately runs off, but Odo stops him, demanding for him to admit his stories have been false – there are no Changelings present. But Croden is anxious to get somewhere. He heads to a stasis chamber hidden deep in a cave where he uses the "chess piece" as a key to open it and revives his daughter Yareth, seemingly proving his story to be true. On the way back to the runabout, the Miradorn vessel fires upon the planetoid which causes a cave-in and Odo is knocked out. Croden considers leaving him but ultimately goes back for him and rescues him when his daughter questions what he's doing.
Odo regains consciousness on the runabout and is surprised to find that Croden didn't leave him behind. However Ah-Kel is still pursuing them, as Croden hasn't been able to shake him. Odo takes the controls from Croden and leads the Miradorn ship into a pocket of the volatile toh-maire gas. Just before the Ganges is fired upon, Odo moves it out of the way. The gas ignites, destroying the Miradorn ship.
As Croden is preparing to be returned to his people, he asks Odo to take care of Yareth, saying that they're both going to be outsiders and they'll need each other. Odo is looking for a way to decline the request when a Vulcan ship, the T'Vran, intercepts the runabout Ganges, having detected the explosion and asks if they can be of any assistance. Odo replies and, surprising to Croden, asks if they would take the two Rakhari "survivors" back to Vulcan with them. The captain agrees and, while preparing for transport, Odo tells Croden that he will say Croden was killed during the Miradorn attack on the planetoid. Croden gives Odo his pendant as a way of thanking him for his kindness and for saving his life as well as the life of his daughter before beaming over to the Vulcan ship. Odo warns him that he will be an outsider living in an alien culture, but Croden says as long as he has his daughter he has a home. After they depart Odo, holding the pendant, tells his "cousin" that one day they'll find home as well.
"The shapeshifters are harsh in their judgment."
- - Croden to Odo
"The usual, Odo?"
- - Quark and Odo
"Whoever you are... you're making a mistake."
"Well, it wouldn't be the first and probably won't be the last. Give that to me."
- - Ro-Kel and Croden
"The fact that you just killed a man doesn't affect your appetite?"
- - Odo, to Croden
"The next time you lie, I'll save Ah-Kel the trouble of killing you."
- - Odo, to Croden
"Five glasses... for four people... !?"
- - Quark, after he realizes that Odo was masquerading as a glass
"Homicide as a means to open relations – it's not exactly how they teach it at the Academy, is it?"
- - Dax
"Have you known any twinned Miradorn, commander?"
"I'm afraid I haven't met any before now."
"In my species, we are not just twin brothers... together we are a self... two halves of one being. I am incomplete now."
- - Ah-Kel, to Sisko
"You could've left me behind."
"Don't thank me, I already regret it."
- - Odo and Croden, after Croden decided not to leave Odo on the planetoid
"Oh, you are clever, brother. Now, Ah-Kel will rid us of both Croden and Odo."
"Unless Odo is sensible and gives up his prisoner."
"Oh, no! Then Croden will tell Ah-Kel the truth about our plan. We're dead. We're dead. You shouldn't have told him how to find them."
"Be quiet! Odo would never give up his prisoner. He'll just get himself killed."
- - Rom and Quark, about Ah-Kel's plan to kill Croden and Odo
"Home? Where is it? Some day we'll know... cousin."
- - Odo, looking at Croden's pendant
Story and script
- Peter Allan Fields' original idea for this episode was based upon the 1953 Anthony Mann movie The Naked Spur and, as such, Fields hired that movie's writer, Sam Rolfe, to do the teleplay. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion) Fields commented, "Sam Rolfe is a legendary writer." (Cinefantastique, Volume 24, Issue 1)
- According to Robert Hewitt Wolfe, Odo's line "I'm a security chief, not a combat pilot" is a tribute to Leonard McCoy's running line in Star Trek: The Original Series, "I'm a doctor, not a...." (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)
- The script specified that two of Ah-Kel's crewmen were Gatherers, who were first seen in another Star Trek episode that Sam Rolfe wrote: TNG: "The Vengeance Factor". (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion - A Series Guide and Script Library)
- In the shot in which Rom places the bottle of langour onto the drinks tray, we see that there are now five glasses instead of four. The script highlighted the change, and directed that the camera focus on the fifth glass in homage to Alfred Hitchcock's 1946 film Notorious. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion - A Series Guide and Script Library)
- Morn is first identified by name in this episode. His name is an anagram for a well-loved character from the television series Cheers, who, like Morn, spent a lot of time sitting at the bar. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)
Cast and characters
- Rene Auberjonois was pleased with how this episode portrays his character of Odo, stating it "developed the character wonderfully." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 24, No. 3/4, p. 95)
- Randy Oglesby portrayed both of the Miradorn twins. He also played several other characters in various Star Trek series, including Silaran Prin in the DS9 Season 5 episode "The Darkness and the Light" and the recurring role of Degra in the third season of Star Trek: Enterprise.
- Armin Shimerman was deeply concerned about how this episode has his character of Quark become involved in a murder without facing any consequences. "I had this chat with Rick Berman about whether we went over the line by having Quark participating in a really high crime," the actor recalled. "I thought so and that might be a little dangerous for the character and for the show. It means he can get away with murder, which is not what I think the show is about, and it also makes somewhat of a fool of Odo […] for that to happen under his nose and to let it get by him and Sisko for that matter, lessens their characters, as well." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 24, No. 3/4, p. 90)
- Cirroc Lofton (Jake Sisko) does not appear in this episode.
- The making of this episode was extremely costly. It was produced amongst a few other installments that were also expensive to produce. (Captains' Logs Supplemental - The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages, p. 33)
- Originally, the Miradorn throat was designed with a loose flap of skin hanging down over the Adam's apple. Costume Designer Robert Blackman wanted to use a necklace as part of the Miradorn costume, but Make-Up Supervisor Michael Westmore felt that placing a necklace over the flap of skin would render it useless and spoil the effect. As such, it was decided to let the necklace run under the flap of skin, and glue the skin down at the bottom, so it was no longer loose. (Michael Westmore's Aliens: Season One, DS9 Season 1 DVD, special feature)
- The exterior visuals of the Chamra Vortex were re-used shots of the Mutara Nebula from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, recolored slightly and flipped upside-down.
Reception and aftermath
- Michael Piller thought "Vortex" was "a very effective episode. I was mostly concerned that the sentimentality of the little girl on the planet was not going to play and that it was a little hokey. Frankly, I think it did play and I found it quite touching. I was intrigued with the mystery, and the special effects they did in the vortex were sensational." (Captains' Logs Supplemental - The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages, p. 51)
- Winrich Kolbe felt that an effective aspect of this episode was the fact that, despite mistrusting Croden, Odo follows him nonetheless. "It's intriguing," stated Kolbe. (The Fifty-Year Mission: The Next 25 Years, p. 436)
- The Miradorn makeup was one of Michael Westmore's favorite designs from the first season of Deep Space Nine. In particular, Westmore liked the throat area. (Michael Westmore's Aliens: Season One, DS9 Season 1 DVD, special feature)
- A reviewer in Cinefantastique wrote, "A brief appearance of the Vulcans give the universe of Star Trek in this show a refreshing breadth and diversity." (Cinefantastique, Volume 24, Issue 1)
- Gordon Clapp's costume from this episode was sold off on the It's A Wrap! sale and auction on eBay and may have been re-used in Star Trek Generations. 
- This episode marks the first time that we see Odo smile. Actor Rene Auberjonois felt that this scene was an important one in the development of the character, believing that "a smile is sort of a gift that Odo gives only on very special occasions." (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)
- Not only is Morn first referred to by name in this outing but it is also in this episode that the notion that he talks too much is introduced, something that became a running joke for the duration of the series, even though he never speaks onscreen.
- This is also the first episode in which the term "Changeling" is used to describe Odo.
- Croden did speak some truth about the Changelings – they did flee persecution from humanoids and did live in an unusual nebula in the Gamma Quadrant, their homeworld being a rogue planet within the Omarion Nebula, as is established in "The Search, Part II".
Video and DVD releases
- UK VHS release (two-episode tapes, CIC Video): Volume 6, 4 October 1993
- As part of the DS9 Season 1 DVD collection
Links and references
- Rene Auberjonois as Constable Odo
- Siddig El Fadil as Doctor Julian Bashir
- Terry Farrell as Lieutenant Jadzia Dax
- Colm Meaney as Chief Miles O'Brien
- Armin Shimerman as Quark
- Nana Visitor as Major Kira Nerys
- Cliff DeYoung as Croden
- Randy Oglesby as Ah-Kel and Ro-Kel
- Max Grodénchik as Rom
- Gordon Clapp as Hadran
- Kathleen Garrett as Vulcan captain
- Leslie Engelberg as Yareth
- Frank Collison as Dolak (display graphic)
- Jeannie Dreams as a Human operations division ensign
- Jeffrey Hayenga as Orta (display graphic)
- Randy James as Lieutenant Jones
- Norman Large as Neral (display graphic)
- Mark Lentry as a Human command division lieutenant
- David B. Levinson as Broik
- Chad McCord as operations ensign
- Robin Morselli as Bajoran officer
- April Rossi as a Ktarian space hooker (display graphic)
- Mark Allen Shepherd as
- Michael Zurich as a Bajoran security deputy
- Unknown performers as
- Dennis Madalone as stunt double for Cliff DeYoung
- Buck McDancer as stunt double for Randy Oglesby
- Tom Morga as stunt double for Rene Auberjonois
- Randy James as stand-in for Colm Meaney
- Mark Lentry as stand-in for Rene Auberjonois
- Unknown actor as photo double for Randy Oglesby
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- "Vortex" at Memory Beta, the wiki for licensed Star Trek works
- "Vortex" at Wikipedia
- "Vortex" at StarTrek.com, the official Star Trek website
- "Vortex" at MissionLogPodcast.com, a Roddenberry Star Trek podcast
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