“It’s a nickname that I barely tolerate.”
“It’s an expression of affection that you find difficult to accept.”
— Dr. Mora and Odo
Traditionally, the outsider character in any Star Trek property has difficulty with emotions. Whether or not they actually can’t feel them like Data, actively resist them like Spock, or something in the middle maybe like Seven of Nine (I don’t know, I barely watched Voyager.), emotions are the enemy of the outsider. It speaks to Roddenberry’s vision of the future that the chief defining characteristic of humans — indeed, much of our power — comes from emotion. Odo is no exception, but true to DS9’s richer use of backstory and characterization, he comes to emotion from a much different place than the others.
Odo’s fundamental belief is justice. This was established way back in the third episode of the series, appropriately titled “A Man Alone,” which is pretty much the perfect description of the Constable. Well, “A Genderless Gelatinous Blob Alone” might be more scientifically accurate, but the show wanted to point out that Odo, despite his vast physiological differences, is no less a man than Commander Sisko or Chief O’Brien. Emotion is the enemy of justice, and the primary catalyst that separates it from revenge, so it’s not terribly strange that Odo might regard emotions as the dangerous province of other sentients. That’s not to say he doesn’t have them, it’s just that they’re buttoned up behind a hard, emotional shell. A figurative gooey center, that sort of goes with the literal gooey center that is Odo.
Emotions come to smack Odo in the face when Dr. Mora Pol, the Bajoran scientist who originally worked with Odo, arrives on the station. Odo previously mentioned that he modeled his “hairstyle” on the scientist, and true to form, Dr. Mora is sporting the slicked-back ‘do of the shapeshifter. Dr. Mora is also the second Bajoran we’ve seen without an earring, leading me to believe that this is an indicator of atheism. After all, atheism is much more prevalent amongst scientists, though by no means universal. It’s never mentioned in the dialogue, so I’m left to my usual, foundationless musing.
Odo and Dr. Mora have a strained relationship, which comes out in a few conversations with others on the station. When Odo arrived in Mora’s lab, he had no idea the tiny blob of matter was even alive, let alone sentient. Odo had never seen (Mora is qiuck to correct Odo here — he didn’t even have eyes, so “perceived” is a more accurate term.) anything like Mora, so it was up to him to learn to communicate. While Mora treats Odo like a son now, telling him how proud he is of what he’s accomplished, Odo withers under the praise. Though it’s not described now, it’s clear the writers had an idea of what the experiments entailed, and they’re drawing on Odo’s better reminisces to Lwaxana Troi (and referenced again by Gul Dukat in “A Necessary Evil”) about his life as a Cardassian party trick. True to the parent/grown child relationship, Mora reaches out while Odo shrinks away.
And, all of this complicated family drama happens inside of a monster movie. Kind of a weird tonal shift, but thanks largely to Rene Auberjonois and some solid writing, the show actually manages to pull it off. Dr. Mora is on the station partially to reconnect with the being he thinks of as his son, but also because some readings came back on the other side of the wormhole that bear a resemblance to Odo. Going through the Bajoran Provisional Government is a colossal waste of time, so he reaches out to Odo to see if he can get access to a Federation runabout. Sisko is no dummy and grants the request, sending his own science officer along. In a refreshing detail, Dr. Mora is instantly collegial with Dax, treating her both as an equal and a coworker of his son’s.
On the planet they find a lifeform that could be a distant cousin of Odo’s — and for those keeping track, we’re up to two of those now — as well as an obelisk with some strange writing on it. Against all odds, that obelisk will come back later, so remember it. Beaming it up touches off an earthquake, which releases some kind of gas. Luckily, Odo doesn’t breathe, so he gets everyone safely offworld.
The specimen they brought back metamorphoses so frequently the computer is having a tough time studying it. This ends up not mattering when the lab is found destroyed and the specimen is missing. O’Brien, proving that the movie Alien doesn’t exist in the 24th Century, heads up into the ducts to find the creature. And, when he hears this eerie, unearthly wailing? He goes toward it. This guy is lucky he lives in Star Trek. And, that he’s wearing gold. I mean, is he trying to be killed? Ironically enough, in the original colors, he would be wearing red, but enough nerd stuff. Instead of finding the death he so obviously seeks, he instead finds some dead slime. Problem solved!
Or not. A monster, complete with tentacles, attacks Bashir in the infirmary. Bashir fights it off with a laser scalpel and the creature disappears, leaving behind some organic residue. While Dax works to analyze it, Dr. Mora takes one look at it, and pretends he’s never seen it before. It’s a great bit of acting here from guest star James Sloyan, since he has to convey that he’s seen it, but that his character is also hiding this “Oh s–t” moment from Dax. He tells Odo what’s going on and provokes his son — by telling him that he’ll be placed in a zoo — into changing again.
Mora escapes and goes immediately to Sisko with the news. The gas changed Odo somehow, releasing a Mr. Hyde to the Constable’s Dr. Jekyll. In this form, he acts as an id, first trashing the lab to free the specimen from captivity that he remembers at the hands of Dr. Mora, then to the infirmary where Mora was on the mend, then finally in front of Mora himself. Odo was so dead set on repressing his feelings, lashing out was inevitable. Using some reversed polarity shields (Seriously, Starfleet should just install a polarity switch on all devices to save time.), they subdue Odo. After flushing his system of the gas, he’s fine.
In the end, father and son make peace with one another. Mora finally expresses the guilt over unwittingly imprisoning and torturing Odo, while Odo lets go of the resentment he was feeling and forgives the man. Mora reaches out, asking if Odo would be okay with a small relationship where they talk every now and again. Odo agrees, and becomes ever so slightly more comfortable with those strange emotions raging through his gelatinous body.
Next up: Bashir and O’Brien go on another road trip.