Sunday, January 15, 2012

Odo In Judgment In “Broken Link!”

The Good: Character development, Idea, Acting, Effects, Tension
The Bad: Ending, while wonderful, feels somewhat tacked on
The Basics: When Odo is held accountable for killing a Changeling the previous year, he must return to the Founders for their particular kind of judgment in “Broken Link.”

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine had a pretty unparalleled way of having characters face the consequences of their actions. There is almost nothing that occurs that a character simply gets away with. And one character, at the end of the fourth season, still had something rather big to account for. This is the episode where he gets what is due to him.

When Odo collapses in Garak's shop, Bashir can find no distinct cause, but he does quickly determine that it will get worse and worse until Odo cannot hold a single shape any longer. Deciding to risk his crew, Sisko takes the Defiant - sans pregnant Kira - into the Gamma Quadrant to find the new Founder homeworld, figuring the Founders can save Odo. No sooner is the Defiant in the Gamma Quadrant than they are surrounded by Jem'Hadar ships and the Female Shapeshifter appears to announce Odo's condition is not random chance; he is to be judged by the Founders for killing another Changeling. And Founder justice is not to be pleasant.

It is, however, fun to watch. "Broken Link," as the episode is called, is a clever episode and a necessary one. Odo's sentencing is quick and severe and it makes a great deal of sense given the Founders and their values. Along the way, we are treated to Garak, who is along for the ride to tell Odo stories to keep his mind off his dying. One of the most frightening moments of the episode is when the Female Changeling and Garak square off, and she reveals that Cardassia has been judged and will be destroyed. It makes Garak's reaction almost understandable.

Character, in all of its forms, is at the forefront in "Broken Link." Kira is disappointed to not be able to accompany the crew, Garak is revealing more possible backstory in telling Odo stories, Bashir is desperately trying to find a cure without going to the Founders and Sisko is sticking his neck out for the officer who has caused him a great deal of friction with StarFleet. And the crew has never been closer than here, at the end of the fourth season. Deep Space Nine has become the place for outcasts and here they find the most comfort and acceptance with one another than they will find anywhere else in the galaxy. It makes for a compelling season finale.

Because of that, the "twist" at the end, which sets up the fifth season premiere, almost feels tacked on. Throughout the episode, Gowron appears to make various threats against the Federation and it comes to a head in the final scene of the season, but it is almost unnecessary. This episode does not need to be a cliffhanger and in the last thirty seconds, when it becomes one, it feels somehow cheapened.

But that's an almost overlookable flaw with "Broken Link" because of so much character and such good acting. And a lot of the quality of this episode does come down to the acting. Salome Jens once again reprises the role of the Female Changeling and she does it quite well, keeping her body language reserved and tone muted for maximum creepy effect. She seems like a saddened and vengeful leader here and it makes a great deal of sense her doing what she does. Similarly, Andrew Robinson once again gives an intriguing and convincing performance as Garak, infusing him with more mystery than ever before, making us believe in his cunning and ruthless nature.

But it is, rather naturally, Rene Auberjonois, who steals the show, which makes sense given that Odo is truly the focus of the episode. Auberjonois creates Odo in pain, which is something he has not had to do often before. Instead, here he is in more of a steady pain than an abrupt stab and Auberjonois plays Odo with a resigned quality that captures well a consistent level of discomfort. In the episode's final scenes, Rene makes Odo a character full of wonder, balancing it well with his depression over his Judgment.

Most series' could not get away with an episode that is so very much for the fans of the show, but Star Trek: Deep Space Nine does it admirably with "Broken Link." It does not try to be accessible to non-fans, it is a story that depends very much on knowledge of the significance of Odo's crime, an understanding of the Founders and their brutal need for order, and an appreciation of Garak and his unique position on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. While it may be appreciable to those who like science fiction, it will only be truly understood and enjoyed to the fullest by those who are fans of this particular Star Trek series.

[Knowing that VHS is essentially a dead medium, it's worth looking into Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - The Complete Fourth Season on DVD, which is also a better economical choice than buying the VHS. Read my review of the turnaround season by clicking here!


For other Star Trek reviews, please visit my Star Trek Review Index Page!

© 2012, 2007, 2003 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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