Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Last Temptation Of Odo Comes From A “Chimera!”

The Good: Excellent character work, Great acting, Decent special effects
The Bad: Very light on plot/predictable
The Basics: When the Changeling Laas encounters Odo, he tempts Odo with the idea that the two can find the other Changelings sent out by the Founders.

As Star Trek: Deep Space Nine wound down, the show did a surprisingly good job of continuing to make the series feel like it was part of a greater continuum, as opposed to simply rushing toward its inevitable end. As a result, the series both revisited old ideas and set up threads that feel like they could have been continued in an eighth season of the show. “Chimera” is an excellent example of an episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine that feels like a bottle episode, but uses a lot of the series’ serialized elements.

Odo, long abandoned by his people as an explorer expected to gather information for the Founders, was revealed early in the third season to be one of one hundred Changeling children sent out into the galaxy. In “The Begotten” (reviewed here!), Odo encounters another one of the Hundred Changelings and in “Chimera,” he encounters another one. What keeps “Chimera” feeling fresh and different is that while “The Begotten” introduced another “baby” Changeling, “Chimera” presents a Changeling who is far more advanced than Odo.

O’Brien and Odo are on their way home from a conference when they encounter a giant, fish-like creature flying through space. They are bewildered when it disappears from their sensors and moments later, a humanoid appears. The creature is a Changeling, Laas, and Odo quickly determines that Laas is not a Founder. Laas is confused by Odo, but after they link Laas understands that Odo is both much older than he is and that Odo is staying on Deep Space Nine exclusively because of his love of Kira.

As one of the Hundred who were sent out to gain information for the Founders, Laas slowly pressures Odo to leave Deep Space Nine. Kira, quickly seeing just how torn Odo is, releases Odo to join him and Odo must choose where his heart and loyalties lie. Odo’s choice is made more complicated by his friends, who are wary of Laas and an encounter with visiting Klingons who attack Laas and threaten to incarcerate the Changeling.

“Chimera” is a disturbingly dark episode, but one that is dark on a psychological level, as opposed to on the plot front. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is often edgier than other Star Trek series’ and the duration of “Chimera” is one that is psychologically corrosive. As the episode goes on, especially as Laas resigns himself to his own death for killing a Klingon in self-defense, the show presents an increasingly disturbing view of humanity.

Laas argues that humanoids are inherently limited and dangerous. He tries to illustrate to Odo that, given the opportunity, virtually all humanoids will react with hostility and paranoia. Despite Kira’s willingness to provide Odo with another perspective, most of the interactions Odo has in “Chimera” only prove Laas right. Sisko, especially, works to support Martok in the Klingon desire to extradite Laas. While Odo’s friends mock Laas’s observations and suspicions, Kira sees quite clearly that Laas is serious about how he feels about humanoids.

While “Chimera” is largely an Odo episode, it ends up as a surprisingly strong Kira episode as well. Kira, in “Chimera,” is at her most loving and this is one of the episodes where she is most openly affectionate. Kira has decent chemistry with Odo and in “Chimera,” she expresses her love through sacrifice and that is compelling for a character who has experienced so much loss in her life. Kira becomes much more interesting in the way she is both protective of Odo and giving of herself in “Chimera.”

The use of Kira in “Chimera” gives Nana Visitor a chance to make Kira seem less monolithic than she sometimes does and Visitor uses the opportunity well. Presenting Kira with a softer side is something that she is seldom given the opportunity to do, but in “Chimera,” Visitor rises to the challenge. While virtually the entire cast is given a chance to get in a line each – Nicole de Boer’s moment to give Ezri Dax a chance to be memorable in “Chimera” falls unfortunately flat – it is Visitor who shines most of the episode.

J.G. Hertzler, as Garman Hertzler, appears as Laas and he adds another distinctive performance to his repertoire. Hertzler is characteristically inventive in the role of Laas. Shifting from Martok’s deep tones, Hertzler presents Laas with a higher pitched voice and it works to establish the character as someone very different from his roles as Martok, the Vulcan captain of the Saratoga and even his brief appearance on Star Trek: Voyager as a Hirogen.

Beyond the guest starring role and Visitor’s performance, it is Rene Auberjonois who truly carries “Chimera.” “Chimera” allows Auberjonois to be both emotive and kind. Auberjonois presents Odo as loving and he and Visitor use their chemistry to make their characters’ actions seem entirely viable. Rene Auberjonois also plays off Hertzler well to make a relationship between Odo and Laas compelling.

“Chimera” reminds viewers that the Changelings are in trouble and that Odo is conflicted between his loyalties to Deep Space Nine and his people. With Laas, Odo has a compelling conflict that continues to alienate his character and move him toward a sense of resolution as the series winds down.

[Knowing that the season is a much better investment, it's worth looking into Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - The Complete Seventh Season on DVD, which provides the full story for the conclusion to the series. Read my review of the final season by clicking here!


Check out how this episode compares with others in the franchise by visiting my Star Trek Review Index Page where the reviews are organized from best episode to worst!

© 2012 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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