Thursday, February 11, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"Vortex"

“Vortex” is an homage to the 1953 Jimmy Stewart movie The Naked Spur. That being the case, the powers that be hired the movie’s screenwriter, Sam Rolfe, to pen the script. This was not Rolfe’s first foray into Trek--he wrote ’The Vengeance Factor’ for TNG-- but it was his last. He died four months after the episode aired. It is Odo-centric, so I am going to go easy on it in spite of some serious lapses in logic. All because I really like Odo.

Twin smugglers from the Gamma Quadrant arouse Odo’s suspicion, so he sneaks into a meeting between them and Quark disguised as a champagne glass. They are looking for a buyer for an artifact Quark fears is stolen. As they argue over whether the item’s legal status of ownership matters, an alien named Croden breaks in, brandishing a gun. And demanding the item. I the ensuing scuffle, Croden kills one of the twins as odo reveals himself and breaks up the proceedings.

The robbery was a scam set up by quark, although Odo cannot prove it. Too bad he did not have the Las Vegas police who caught OJ pulling the same stunt a few years ago with his sports memorabilia. He could have finally nailed quark for his past crimes like OJ would.

Croden turns out to be a skilled con man. He begins messing with Odo’s mind with his alleged knowledge of the Changelings’ home world. He even offers Odo an organic key which Bashir confirms is of similar biological material to him. Odo is turn between his natural skepticism and the desire to know his roots.

Meanwhile, Sisko and dax head to Croden’s home world in the Gamma Quadrant with hopes they will take Croden off their hands. Civil administrators there not only know him by his first name only-- just say “Jamie” at the FBI and they will know me, too-- but he is a enemy of the state they are eager to execute. The tone clearly bothers Sisko, but Bajor agrees to release Croden, so he gets marched off to his execution.

Solely for the sake of the plot and against all logic, Odo is sent alone to escort Croden back to his home world in a Federation runabout. This even though Odo is not Starfleet, is not an experienced pilot, is transporting a murderer whom the remaining twin has vowed to kill once Croden leaves the station. It is almost like the command staff placed wagers on how fast odo could get killed.

Croden continues trying to pique odo’s curiosity enough to head to a nebula beyond a vortex where he claims the changelings live. Odo is not buying it, nor does he buy the sob story Croden’s family was killed by the fascist government because he was a political activist.

The runabout is attacked by the twin. Croden has to take the controls because, as has been pointed out, Odo does not know how to handle a runabout well, much less how to defend it from the certain revenge attack. Croden goes through the vortex and lands on a planetoid near the nebulaSo he finally does get to the place he has been conning Odo to take him to all along.

But there are no Changelings there. He admits he was not telling the truth, but he has stashed his daughter here. She is in stasis and the last living relative he has. Odo helps he rescue her, but is wounded by falling rocks in the process caused by laser fire from the twin’s ship. Croden contemplates leaving the unconscious Odo behind, but relents and carries him back to the ship.

Through trickery, Odo gets the twin to blow his own ship up in the volatile nebula after he regains consciousness. Croden, knowing he is doomed when he gets back home, asks Odo to take care of his little girl. In the midst of his stuttering reply, a passing Vulcan ship hails. Odo lies that he rescued Croden and his daughter from the ship that just exploded. He requests the Vulcan ship take them to vulcan with them. The captain agrees without question. He tells Croden he will say he died in the attack on the planetoid.

You are free to speculate ether Odo felt obligated to let Croden go because saving him proved he was a good egg against the fascist government or becausehedid not want to be stuck with a young one. Either is plausible, when you think about it.

Croden gives Odo the changeling key before beaming over to the Vulcan ship. Odo speaks longingly to it about wanting to find home. I got a twinge of sadness with that. Bearing in mind how the etire series plays out, it is painful to know that Odo is going to get his wish and it will turn out to be the worst thing that ever happened to him.

Aside fro the lapses in logic I mentioned above, this is not a bad episode. Given the general tone, it does not sound like the concept of the Founders running the Dominion had been hammered out yet, so I maybe giving too much credit for foreshadowing. Nevertheless, “Vortex” fits in the overall story arc even if retroactively. I enjoyed histories dealing with Odo’s early sense of alienation as well as his later divided loyalties when he reunites with his people.

In spite of my joke, “Vortex’ also demonstrates that Odo’s sense of justice. He believes the right thing to do is not necessarily the legal one. Letting Croden go for the sake of his daughter, avoiding execution for what he probably would not consider a crime, is worth allowing the murder of a smuggler to go unpunished. It is a questionable decision based on higher principles. It will not be the last one Odo makes.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

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