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Production no.: 510
Written by: René Echevarria
Directed by: Jesus Salvador Trevino
Stardate: not given
First satellite airdate: January 25, 1997
Rosalind Chao .......
Duncan Regehr .....
Peggy Roeder .......
James Sloyan ........
Odo enters the infirmary very slowly one morning, suffering from back pain, which is apparently only the latest in a series of minor ailments. Bashir diagnoses a pinched nerve, a result of Odo's habitual rigid posture, which is hard on the spinal column he's still not quite used to having. But the doctor is able to ease the pain with a hypo.
Quark enters at that moment, holding one hand behind his back. Seeing him does not improve Odo's mood; neither does the usual banter. Quark finally reveals that a Yridian has sold him something that might be of interest to Odo. Odo doesn't think so. "In that case," the Ferengi says provocatively, "can you tell me how to get in touch with the Founders? I know they'll want it." Seeing that he now has Odo's attention, he reveals what he is holding: a jar containing about a pint of goo.
The goo is unmoving, and an unhealthy-looking shade of blue. "It's a Changeling," Quark announces. "Or it was, anyway." He offers to sell it to Odo, who, staring into the jar, says that the Changeling isn't dead; it's sick. Quark raises the price accordingly, but Odo's ignoring him, so Quark simply takes his thumbprint and leaves happy. "If that is a Changeling," Bashir says, "maybe we should get it into a security field." But Odo tells him that won't be necessary. "It's not going anywhere, Doctor. It doesn't know how. It's just a baby."
Odo explains to Sisko later, as Bashir and a nurse work on purging the Changeling of tetryon isotopes, that he looked much like this when he was discovered. The Changeling will grow as its shapeshifting abilities develop. Odo is certain it poses no danger to the station. "When I was first discovered, I didn't know what I was. I had no memory of where I was from. I didn't even know I had the ability to mimic other forms." "Why would the Founders send such helpless creatures out into space?" Sisko asks. Odo replies, "To find out if the species they encountered posed any threat. What better way to gauge another race than to see how it treats the weak and vulnerable?"
Sisko can't help but think of the potential tactical advantage of the information this Changeling might be able to provide them with, once it's able to take humanoid form. When Odo says he would like to work with it, to teach it how to shapeshift, Sisko acknowledges that there's no one more qualified. He suggests, however, that Odo contact Dr. Mora for help. "He managed to find a way to communicate with you. He obviously knows what he's doing." But Odo would rather do it alone.
The purge is successful, and Bashir gets ready to leave as Odo gazes at the baby Changeling, which is now a robust shade of amber-gold. The doctor is going to go check on Kira, who is finally in labor. Odo takes this news distractedly. "But I guess you have your own baby to think about," Bashir smiles. He tells Odo that the Changeling still has a small degree of instability in its morphogenic matrix, and he has set the computer to monitor for fluctuations, just in case.
When Bashir leaves, Odo begins talking gently to the Changeling. "I realize you can't understand a word I'm saying, but that doesn't matter. I know you're aware of me. You see, I was once like you. I spent months in a lab, being prodded and poked by a scientist who didn't recognize I was a lifeform. He thought I was a specimen, a mystery that needed to be unraveled. He never talked to me. It didn't occur to him. I didn't know what I was, or what I was supposed to do. I was lost, alone. But it's not going to be that way with you. No, I'm not going to make the same mistakes that were made with me." He picks up the container, telling it he wants to show it something.
Elsewhere on the station, a set of guest quarters has been set up as a traditional Bajoran birthing room. Kira reclines on an inclined table, breathing to the slow rhythm of the noisemakers solemnly played by Miles and Keiko O'Brien along with the Bajoran midwife, Y'Pora. It's a time-honored Bajoran technique of extremely relaxed childbirth. But O'Brien has trouble banging his gong at the right time, and he's also a little cheesed because Shakaar hasn't made it yet. Kira says dreamily that the baby is moving. Then the rhythm comes to a stop as Shakaar finally breezes in. Gamely, though, the O'Briens and the midwife resume the rhythm.
Odo has brought the Changeling to the replimat, where he has put it into a mug (to avoid questions), and he is talking to it, explaining his world, when Worf comes up. "Constable, why are you talking to your beverage?" With great dignity, Odo replies, "It's not a beverage. It's a Changeling." Worf looks askance at his own glass of prune juice as Odo excuses himself and leaves.
In the science lab, Odo pours the Changeling into a large petri dish. He hasn't stopped talking to it. "You have no idea of the marvels that are in store for you," he enthuses. "Do you know what you are? You're a Changeling. A shapeshifter. You can be anything. A Tarkalean hawk, soaring through the sky, or a Filian python, burrowing deep beneath the ground. It's all yours for the taking. I was never a very good shapeshifter. If you could see the face I'm stuck with, you'd know what I mean. But I think I can be a good teacher. You'll be better than I ever was. And I promise, I'll never treat you the way I was treated. Never." At that moment, Dr. Mora arrives, much to Odo's annoyed surprise. "I heard about the Changeling. I came to help."
Odo tries to contain his dismay as Mora begins sizing up the Changeling, obviously with the intention of taking over with his scientific approach. He has been on Earth, helping Starfleet work on ways to detect Changelings, but happened to be on Bajor visiting his parents when he got word of Odo's find. Mora spares a moment to inquire about how Odo has been since his people took away his shapeshifting ability before he proposes that "we" get started.
When Mora picks up a bio-probe, he is surprised when Odo stops him from using it on the Changeling. "Dr. Mora, I understand that you want to help, but I'm going to do this alone," Odo tells him. "Alone?" Mora queries. "Odo, you don't know the first thing about teaching a Changeling how to shapeshift." "Well, then," Odo replies with an edge, "I'll just muddle through somehow. You did." However, Mora makes the point that he has information gleaned from his experience with Odo, information that Odo could use now. Odo reluctantly concedes that he'll look at the old reports, but Mora says he didn't keep extensive records. "I always wanted to move on to the next test." "Believe me, I remember your 'tests' very well," Odo retorts.
"Oh, so that's what this is about," Mora says. "You still resent the things I did to you in order to induce you to shapeshift. Well, I know they weren't pleasant for you, but really, Odo, I would hope that you would get past that by now. I am disappointed." This does not exactly endear him further to his former lab subject. However, Mora does know Odo well enough to be able to subtly maneuver him into inviting him to stay and "observe", just so he can prove himself to Mora.
The birthing ritual is still going on when Kira gasps in pain from a cramp. Y'Pora scans her and determines that she won't be having the baby today. She was in labor too long. "I wonder why," mutters O'Brien, blaming Shakaar's tardiness. Y'Pora says that Kira wasn't able to fully relax. Now she will have to wait a few more days -- or weeks. "If I don't have this baby soon, I'm going to go out of my mind," Kira groans, but even though Y'Pora reminds her that she could see Bashir and have him do something, Kira still wants to give birth according to Bajoran tradition. The O'Briens support her decision, and Shakaar agrees to rearrange his schedule so he can stay a while. Y'Pora admonishes him to be punctual next time, and O'Brien to practice his gong.
Odo begins by showing the Changeling a marble, and pouring it into a round glass, in hopes that it will get the idea of how to shapeshift into a sphere. Mora holds his tongue as he watches Odo pour it back out; the Changeling doesn't move a molecule. Odo tells it he understands the desire to remain shapeless, but it has to learn to take other forms -- after all, it can be very rewarding.
Since the sphere didn't work, Odo tries a cube. Then a pyramid. Then various other shapes. He's been at it nearly a week when he comes into the lab as Mora is measuring the Changeling's volume. It's not growing as fast as Odo did, nor has it shapeshifted even once. "I'm trying to gain its confidence, not teach it tricks," Odo declares. Both men are frustrated, their patience wearing very thin, their tempers beginning to fray, and they start to take it out on each other. Mora implies that Odo's inability to simply link with the Changeling is his fault for not being a good enough shapeshifter to resist the change that the Founders forced on him; Odo accuses Mora of only wanting to get him back into the lab for more tests -- tests which Odo still remembers with deep bitterness.
Mora defends himself vigorously. "How could I know until I tried? By the Prophets, Odo, I wasn't even sure you were a lifeform...Once I realized you were sentient, the Cardassians wanted to know everything about you. I was under enormous pressure to come up with results. And I did. My technique worked. The fact that you are standing here whining about it proves it!" "You enjoyed watching me suffer," Odo accuses. The argument only escalates from there. But it stops cold when they realize that Sisko is standing in the doorway.
The captain gives no indication of how much he's heard, but asks how it's going. "Making progress, sir," Odo prevaricates. "I'm glad to hear it," Sisko says, poker-faced. He lets them know that Starfleet Command is very eager for communication to be established with the Changeling. If they're made to wait too long, they just might take over the project. But, "as long as you're making progress, there's nothing to worry about."
When Sisko leaves, having made his point, Odo is troubled, and Mora takes the opportunity to rub it in. "Now you understand the kind of pressure I was going through." He proposes using the equipment he brought up from Bajor. Odo realizes he'll have to bend to the inevitable.
When the Changeling (which has been growing somewhat) has been placed in a dish fitted with a control panel that operates an electrostatic plate -- a device that once was used on Odo -- Mora makes sure Odo is the one to activate it. When the first attempt is too gentle, the scientist persuades a reluctant Odo to use a higher voltage. Finally the Changeling moves, to the middle of the dish, where there's no charge. Odo smiles. But Mora can't let him enjoy the moment. "I smiled the first time you did that. Little did I realize you would end up hating me for it."
Shakaar enters Kira's bedroom, where O'Brien is massaging her legs to relieve her swollen feet. The two men are polite to each other, but it's plain Shakaar would rather be alone with Kira. He starts to take over the massage, with O'Brien criticizing his efforts. Unnoticed by either of them, Kira suddenly announces that it's time. She has to say it three times before they hear her. Then they nearly pull her in two trying to help her rise, before Kira, exasperated, pulls away and gets up by herself.
Odo and Mora continue to work with the Changeling, and get it to hold a cylindrical shape, using the electrostatic-circle trick again. "I had to try that three times before you caught on," Mora says, but Odo reveals, "Actually, the first two times, I didn't hold my shape on purpose...I suppose I didn't want to give you the satisfaction." This is news to Mora, who can't help but be a little hurt. He jabs back. "Well, someday, if you're very lucky, this Changeling will give you the satisfaction of saying, 'Thank you very much. You did so much for me.' Then again, it may leave. The way you did. It will announce that it's striking out on its own, and you will never hear from it again."
As they're about to leave, they hear a sound, and turn toward the Changeling, which is still a column of goo. Now, however, it is morphing. Before Odo's stunned gaze, the Changeling spontaneously forms a crude head that looks back at him, its features very much like Odo's own. Both Odo and Mora are beside themselves with joy as the Changeling settles back to its cylindrical form.
Odo goes back to his office to catch up on work; Mora follows. Their breakthrough with the Changeling has led to one between them as well, as they make plans for the next step. "I can't wait until I can actually communicate with it," Odo exults. "There's so much I want it to see, so much I want to share." Mora says he'll get the chance sooner than he thinks; the Changeling is developing faster than Odo did. He actually admits that he was wrong, and Odo's approach has had its merits after all. "It's reaching out to you. It's curious about you." By contrast, the first time Odo did something like that was to stop Mora from zapping him.
Mora notes, "You've formed a connection with this Changeling. That's something I was never able to do with you." Odo finds himself demurring. "I respected you." "You feared me," Mora replies, but Odo can now see his point of view. "You didn't know what I was. You were experimenting on what looked like a lump of organic residue. That's what I'd still be if it weren't for you." Hearing Odo say that means a lot to Mora. Odo, having reached this new level of understanding in their relationship, decides to put his work aside and celebrate with his mentor.
Kira is back on the birthing table, breathing and relaxing, Shakaar in attendance as the O'Briens and Y'Pora play the rhythm. Y'Pora announces that the baby has turned. But Shakaar stops O'Brien from going to the foot of the table to watch the birth. O'Brien is determined not to miss it this time, as he did when Molly was born. They argue until Kira's voice stops them. "I'm trying to have a baby," she tells them sternly. "I am sick of this ridiculous little competition between the two of you. Now if one of you says one more word, you're going to have to leave." Neither O'Brien nor Shakaar can contain himself, so Kira orders them to get out. Stunned, they obey. "Nice going," O'Brien grumbles when they're out in the hallway. "Do me a favor. Next time you have a baby, leave my girlfriend out of it," Shakaar shoots back.
That night, Quark is calculating the day's receipts when he is greeted by the unusual sight of Odo behind the bar, fixing a drink. The Ferengi figures that the constable must be about to arrest him for something -- that's the only possible reason for Odo to be acting so cheerful. But instead, Odo says he's buying Quark a drink. "What are you up to?" Quark asks suspiciously. "I am happy, Quark," Odo replies. "Can't you just accept that?" "No," Quark says. "It doesn't fit. If you're happy, there's something very wrong in the world. The center cannot hold." But Odo pays him no mind and pours him a drink, thanking him for selling him the Changeling. "It changed my life." Quark still doesn't buy it. "All right, all right. I confess. I don't know what I did, but I did it. Just stop. I can't take it anymore."
"Did you ever think about having children?" Odo asks. "...See, I never did. It just seemed like too much trouble. But then fate dropped one into my lap. And I couldn't be happier. Cheers." He drinks, then grows thoughtful. "Strange -- over the past few months, I came to accept the fact that I'd never have any contact with my people again. They rejected me, they turned me into a humanoid. Part of me was lost forever." Odo actually chuckles. "But that little ball of goo back in the lab changed everything. I feel as if I'm experiencing what it is to be a Changeling again. And somehow, being a solid doesn't seem so bad anymore." There's only one thing Quark can say to that. "Fill me up."
The rare moment of camaraderie between the two enemies is interrupted by Odo's combadge. The computer informs him that the Changeling is displaying biomemetic fluctuations. Odo rushes out to meet Mora in the science lab. The Changeling has shrunk to its original size and returned to its sickly blue color. "Its morphogenic matrix is destabilizing," Mora tells Odo gravely. "It's dying."
An anxious Odo watches as Bashir and Mora scan the Changeling in the infirmary. Bashir guesses that the radiation it was exposed to before coming here must have damaged it in some undetectable way. They decide to try an enzymatic induction to stabilize the fluctuations. Mora tells Odo to wait outside while they do what they can.
The O'Briens' baby is finally about to be born, and Kira has Keiko tell O'Brien and Shakaar that they can come back in if they promise to behave. The two men try to be ultra-polite as they enter, but end up crowding each other. It no longer matters, however. Everyone watches as the baby boy comes into the world, gently and painlessly. "He's beautiful," O'Brien breathes, lost in joy at the sight of his new son.
In the infirmary, however, things are grim. Bashir lets Odo back in and breaks the bad news to him. "There's nothing we could do. I'm sorry, Odo. It won't be very long now." Mora and Bashir both watch sympathetically as Odo, in anguish, holds the dying baby Changeling in his cupped hands. "Please, don't die," he says softly. "There's so much I want to show you. I was going to teach you how to be a Tarkalean hawk, remember?" As he looks down at it, suddenly the Changeling disappears into his hands.
Odo lets out a stunned gasp -- something is happening to him. Somehow the Changeling has integrated itself into his body. Odo staggers backward for a moment. "It can't be!" Shrugging off the supporting hands, he walks slowly to the doors of the infirmary....and morphs. Passersby look up in surprise as a magnificent Tarkalean hawk flies through the Promenade, soaring across the upper level until finally it lands, shifting back into humanoid form. Odo stands there, torn by conflicting emotions. Against all odds, he's a shapeshifter again -- but his transformation has come at the cost of the baby Changeling's life.
Kira walks Shakaar to the airlock as he's about to leave for Bajor. She wants to stay here to be close to the baby. Shakaar hugs her understandingly. Odo also accompanies Mora to the same airlock, and they pause outside. When Mora gently asks how it feels to be a Changeling again, Odo replies, "I just wish it hadn't happened the way it did." "I am sorry," Mora tells him. "If it helps, think of it as a gift -- something the Changeling wanted you to have."
"I think I finally understand how much I meant to you," Odo says. "And what you must have gone through when I left." Mora smiles. "You had to find your own way in the world." "I should have included you in my life," Odo tells him sincerely, and Mora replies, "You still can." He embraces Odo, a gesture that Odo awkwardly but warmly returns. "Take care of yourself, Odo," Mora says, and leaves, passing Kira.
Odo and Kira are left facing each other, knowing what they've each been through and the mixed emotions they're feeling. "I got into this because the O'Briens needed my help," says Kira. "I never wanted a baby. But now, I just wish I could hold him in my arms and never let him go." Odo nods. "I think I know how you feel, Nerys." The two of them decide to take a walk together, and Kira puts her arm around Odo as they go down the corridor.
For the scene in which the baby Changeling imitates Odo's face, the hand of first assistant director Lou Race, covered by a cloth smeared with goo, was used (enhanced later by computer animation). The suggestion had come from Race. In other scenes, the baby Changeling was "played" by all sorts of gooey substances, including Murphy's Oil Soap.