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The Trek Nation - Chimera

Chimera

By Michelle Erica Green
Posted at January 13, 2004 - 12:46 PM GMT

See Also: 'Field of Fire' Episode Guide

On an away mission, Odo and O'Brien encounter a flying alien which turns out to be a changeling. Thrilled to meet another metamorph, the new changeling tells Odo that he has never met another of their kind - he adapted the physical body of the Varalians since he first learned what he was on that planet, but he does not trust humanoids. Odo must plead with Sisko to have the changeling released since Sisko and others fear he may be a Founder, but Odo identifies the thriving shapeshifter as one of the Hundred - like Odo, stranded at birth outside the Delta Quadrant to study other species, rather than a member of the dying Great Link.

Odo tells the changeling, Laas, about the war with the Founders which has alienated him from their people, and insists that he is accepted among Federation members despite Laas' skepticism. The other knows nothing of the Great Link, so Odo links with him to demonstrate it. Laas is astonished at the power of the connection and insists that that is how they were meant to live - not pretending to be humanoid. He tried that once, even taking a mate, but it did not last because his mate wanted children. Odo reluctantly admits his love for Kira, but when he insists that it is the war which keeps him from the Founders, Laas says that he learned the truth in the link; it's Kira who holds Odo back.

Kira is concerned when she learns Odo linked with the newly arrived changeling, who has actually lived hundreds of years longer than Odo. He assures Kira that Laas is not a Founder, but Laas cannot get along with the command crew nonetheless; he mocks their habits, saying that he prefers simpler life forms to lying humans. When O'Brien says that it isn't humans who go around disguising their forms, Laas takes it as a sign of his distrust and warns Odo that his "friends" will only tolerate him as long as he acts the way they do. An embarrassed Odo berates Laas for insulting his friends, but keeps calling Kira "Colonel" and distancing himself from them as well as from Laas, who wishes to link in public and remind the others that they are not like the "monoforms."

Advising Odo that he just wants to protect his fellow changeling from making the same mistakes he did, Laas says that Odo will only live to watch Kira grow old and die, and suggests that they look for the rest of the Hundred to form a new Great Link. Kira scoffs that Laas would think he could persuade Odo so easily, but then she worries that if Laas thinks Odo isn't happy, he must have learned something in their link to make him think so. She says she's sorry she can't link with him; Odo says, "It doesn't matter, Nerys - I love you." When he visits Laas (who is existing as fire at the moment) to say he won't leave the station, Laas is willing to stay awhile longer as long as Odo will link with him again.

Fog envelops the Promenade, leading O'Brien to look for an environmental problem, but it's Laas, who says he was just relaxing and shouldn't have to hide his true nature. He is attacked by a Klingon who mistakes him for a Founder, but after joking about an knife wound, the changeling stabs the Klingon with a sword created from his own matter - a wound which proves fatal, causing Martok to demand an extradition hearing. Worf says that Laas had no right to use deadly force and that he should not have provoked the Klingons, prompting Odo to remark that he didn't know it was a crime to shapeshift on the Promenade. Later, Quark tells Odo that humanoid prejudices run very deep, and he hopes Odo knows better than to turn into a puddle of goo around Kira. She may be able to tolerate his differences, but their people are at war; this is no time for a Changeling Pride display on the Promenade.

Odo goes to Kira, very upset that he cannot free Laas and ranting about the prejudices of others - even her. Kira insists that when she looks at Odo, she sees the honest, good man she fell in love with, but an agonized Odo points out that that is just his present form - he can have many others. He wonders aloud whether he belongs out in the cosmos looking for others of his kind, despite how happy he has been with her these past months. Kira swallows hard, tells Odo that maybe he's right and he should be out there, then goes to the brig and frees Laas, telling him that Odo will meet him on a planet in the Corvallis system. When Laas asks her why, Kira says, "I love him."

Sisko is enraged at Kira's report that Laas has escaped, but Odo's glee is barely contained. He privately tells her that he should have known such a talented shapeshifter would escape, but Kira shocks him by telling her lover where to find the man who's pulling him away from her. Adding that she doesn't want Odo to stay out of a sense of obligation to her, Kira tells him she hopes he finds what he's looking for, then kisses his hands. Odo stares at the humanoid appendages after she leaves. When he finds Laas on Corvallis 3, the changeling announces that this is a new beginning for them as well as their people, but Odo insists that he won't go with Laas: the other shapeshifter should realize by Kira's actions that not all humanoids are incapable of loving changelings. Scornfully, Laas calls love a pale imitation of the Great Link, refusing to link with Odo when the changeling says goodbye.

When he returns to the station, Odo finds Kira lighting candles and praying to the Prophets for his happiness. He says he couldn't go. She says she's sorry if she ever made him feel he couldn't be himself, saying she wants to know him...all of him. They clasp hands, then Odo transforms into a radiant mist surrounding and enveloping her. Kira's expression is blissful.

Analysis:

Perhaps the finest love story ever told on television, let alone on Trek, Kira and Odo's affair demonstrates that such a romance can be told with dramatic as well as emotional appeal. Before I discuss the intimate details of this episode, it's worth taking a look at the gradual arc in which it developed. I know better than to think the Trek writers planned it all out; I'm sure the consummation of the relationship was a decision made over the course of a few weeks, rather than (as with Mulder and Scully's kiss in Fight the Future) a few years. But however they did it, the powers that be created a stunning example of how relationships can be developed and sustained without ever falling into soap opera or Moonlighting traps.

I remember first suspecting that Odo had a crush on Kira in "Past Prologue," the second-ever episode of Deep Space Nine; that feeling was more pronounced in early episodes like "Duet" and "The Circle," so that by the time Kira fell in love with Vedek Bareil and confessed her feelings to a clearly shocked Odo, his devastation felt natural - not contrived like early Dax/Worf stories, not forced and overblown like Paris/Torres have been on Voyager. There have been some bad moves along the way - I disliked both "Heart of Stone," in which a changeling took on Kira's shape to test Odo's loyalty to her, and especially "Crossfire," in which Odo flew into a fit of jealous rage over Kira's relationship with Shakaar - but two of my unquestioned favorite episodes of this series, "Necessary Evil" and "Things Past," focused on the pair's history and the shaky sense of trust which emerged from their complicated pasts.

"Necessary Evil" and "Things Past" were terrific stand-alone episodes, but they also balanced each other dramatically. In the former, Kira was forced to confess to a long-buried murder which threatened Odo professionally as well as personally; in the latter, Odo was forced to confront his culpability in the execution of several Bajorans. Both episodes resonated with questions of justice versus truth, love versus loyalty; because we knew the characters, their past histories, and their complicated feelings for one another, esoteric questions about the law took on poignant immediacy. The episodes also demonstrated the height of the pedestals on which each placed the other, and the devastation of watching those pedestals collapse. "Children of Time," the episode in which Kira finally learned of Odo's love for her, was rife with even more complex moral issues; in that story, Odo chose to let an entire civilization be destroyed in order to save the woman he loved. No wonder it took Kira awhile to sort out her own feelings for him.

"His Way," which brought the pair together, had flaws particularly in its resolute Odo-centric point of view; we never really learned what changed Kira's mind about taking a risk with the relationship, other than the sudden ignition of the spark of sexual chemistry which long flared between the Bajoran and the changeling. But in the weeks after, "The Reckoning" demonstrated that pursuing the relationship was the right thing to do, for Kira and for the show; in that episode, Odo had to choose between Kira's life and her sense of what was right, and he chose the latter. That she survived was secondary to his insistence that it was not for him or anyone else to weigh her life against her values. He appeared to have learned a lesson from "Children of Time."

Now "Chimera" balances "The Reckoning"; forced to choose between her love for Odo and his need to be true to himself, Kira chooses to let him go. (This is also a reversal of her selfishness towards the dying Bareil in "Life Support," when she wanted to keep him alive against his own wishes.) It's unsurprising, even, that she would break the law for Odo. Yet her setting him free is, of course, the best possible reason for Odo to stay with Kira - as the older female changeling pointed out to him in "Heart of Stone," Odo's connection to Kira is stronger than any tie between himself and his biological kind anyway. Laas is right that Odo needs to explore what it means to be a changeling (though Odo is also the only changeling ever transformed into a solid, making him a child of none in some ways). Yet Kira has never resisted Odo's alien physiology as such; it's his complicated past among the Cardassians, his rage at his Bajoran mentor, his irrational love for her, her own ties to her planet which have caused problems between them.

I adored the scene earlier this season where Odo gave Kira a backrub by transforming into a puddle of goo on her skin; I took it for granted that they made love in unconventional ways as well. If you could have a lover who could change size, shape, texture, position, etc. with an act of will, wouldn't you take advantage of the possibilities? And if you could touch your lover everywhere at once, over every inch of skin and every erogenous zone, wouldn't you to try it? Kira and Odo have always had marvelous romantic angst, but they're also SEXY - much sexier than Dax and Worf punching each other or reciting gooey relationship cliches. Yet Laas is devastatingly correct that Odo is likely to watch Kira age and die, like the Immortals of Highlander doomed to love mortals. Has Odo learned to cope with the situation better now than he did in "Children of Time"? We have no way of knowing, but "The Reckoning" suggests that now that he knows she loves him, perhaps he can. His speech to Laas about the transformative power of love was overwhelming; difficult as it must be to live isolated in a humanoid body after sharing the Link, it's hard not to be jealous of Odo.

There's an eroticism about the Link which this episode did not shirk from, any more than it shirked from the sexual possibilities between Odo and the evidently male Laas, but despite the orgasmic imagery of the final bonding of Kira and Odo, this storyline definitely isn't about kinky alien sex. Odo does learn about physical transformation in "Chimera," but not on any base, bodily level. What he learns is that bodies don't matter; what matters is higher love, passion of the soul and the things people will do to accomodate it. It makes me weep, and I don't mean that just in a sappy love story sense - it's extraordinarily profound and beautiful, like the myth of Cupid and Psyche. Have I neglected to mention the powerful, subtle performances of Visitor and Auberjonois? The relationship between Kira and Odo exemplifies triumph over adversity, common ground over alien difference, future over past, Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations. It's pure Star Trek in every best possible way.

Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


Michelle Erica Green reviews 'Enterprise' episodes for the Trek Nation, for which she is also a news writer. An archive of her work can be found at The Little Review.