Production no.: 417
Teleplay by: Don Carlos Dunaway and Michael Piller
Story by: Jim Trombetta
Directed by: Les Landau
First satellite airdate: May 22, 1993
Majel Barrett ...........
Constance Towers ...
Michael Ensign ........
Jack Shearer ...........
Benita Andre ...........
A delegation of Federation ambassadors has arrived on the station as part of a "fact-finding" mission to the wormhole, and Bashir has the honor of acting as their liaison. Unfortunately for him, this means he is essentially a babysitter to a group of generally arrogant, intimidating, and at the moment, quite cranky dignitaries. The Arbazan, Taxco, is unhappy with her quarters; Vadosia, a Bolian, wants to regale Sisko with his wisdom; and when Bashir tries to fob him off with an excuse about Sisko being busy with a "recalibration sweep", the Vulcan, Lojal, says he wants to observe this sweep. Bashir, who is rapidly running out of charm, desperately suggests a holosuite visit, but Taxco is outraged at the very idea of indulging in "one of those disgusting Ferengi sex programs". And they don't want to just get some rest either.
Just then the conversation is interrupted by an outraged cry from the fourth ambassador in the party -- Lwaxana Troi, Daughter of the Fifth House, etc., etc., who has discovered that her latinum hair brooch has been swiped while she was playing Dabo. Bashir calls Quark, who disclaims any responsibility for the loss of personal items. He then gasps in pain as she firmly grabs his ear and demands that the room be sealed and everyone strip-searched.
Much to Bashir's relief, Odo arrives. When Lwaxana tells him about the stolen brooch, the constable deftly handles the problem, apprehending the culprit with a swift deduction. Lwaxana is beyond impressed. Her eyes light up with speculation as she watches Odo haul off his prisoner, and asks Bashir to tell her all there is to know about the security chief.
In Ops, O'Brien is having a difference of opinion with the computer, regarding a diagnostic on the fusion powerplant. He tells it to increase the deuterium flow; it refuses, citing Cardassian operational guidelines, and won't let him do it manually. O'Brien looks about ready to reprogram it with an axe when Sisko tries to calm him down. "It's just a computer," he says. "This is no computer," the Chief fumes. "This is my arch enemy!" The only permanent solution he can think of is to tear it down and rebuild it, but Sisko is concerned by the length of time that will take -- about two or three years. O'Brien blows up briefly, and then the conversation is interrupted by the arrival of Bashir and the ambassadors. Sisko is not thrilled, but rises to the occasion, and is listening courteously to Taxco's complaints when Kira announces that there's something coming through the wormhole.
It's apparently an unmanned probe of some sort, with an extensive computer array, but giving no sign of trying to maintain contact with a mother ship. In order to learn more about it, Sisko orders it towed to a position near the docking ring, and an adaptive interface link set up to hopefully enable them to examine its data. Vadosia is eager to conduct first contact procedures, but Sisko manages to deflect him by promising a briefing later. He relaxes only when Bashir leads the ambassadors away.
Odo is working peacefully at his desk when Lwaxana enters the office, full of extravagant flattery for his act of "heroism", as she calls it. He accepts her gratitude politely, and says he hopes she hasn't lost anything else. "Only my heart," she purrs, moving in closer. It dawns on Odo that she is flirting with him -- a totally new experience for the reserved shapeshifter. "All the men I've known have needed to be shaped and molded and manipulated," Lwaxana confides. "And finally, I've met a man who knows how to do it himself." Odo practically leaves skid marks as he bolts out of his office.
O'Brien is pleasantly surprised by the sudden tractability of the computer while it downloads the data from the probe. Meanwhile, Odo visits the commander's office, where Sisko listens with barely disguised amusement to his security chief's dilemma, and asks if Odo has thought of letting Lwaxana catch him. Odo says he doesn't have time for "romantic interludes". Humanoids spend far too much time on mating rituals, in his opinion, and such things are irrelevant to him, he claims. He appeals to Sisko to tell the ambassador to leave him alone. "Constable," says Sisko, "you can handle thieves and killers but not one Betazoid woman?" "I understand thieves and killers," Odo tells him. "I don't understand...her." Realizing that Sisko isn't going to be any help, he stalks out, as O'Brien, his assistant Anara, Dax, and Kira continue to study the probe -- which, oddly, carries a computer compacity roughly equal to that of a Galaxy-class starship, yet there are no science modules or communications array.
Arriving back at the Promenade, Odo hasn't gone two steps from the turbolift when he is accosted once more by Lwaxana. He immediately presses for the lift again as she tells him brightly that she has arranged a holosuite picnic for the two of them. As the door finally reopens, Odo says he's not available, and has to get to upper pylon three immediately. Undaunted, Lwaxana joins him in the lift. "I've always wanted to see an upper pylon." She has an idea: they can have their picnic up there. Odo loses his patience. "I don't eat! This is not a real mouth. It is an approximation of one. I do not have an esophagus or a stomach or a digestive system. I am not like you! Every sixteen hours, I turn into a liquid." Lwaxana thinks it over for a millisecond, and shrugs. "I can swim."
Just when Odo thought it couldn't get any worse, the turbolift slows and comes to a screeching halt, and the lights go out as well. He calls Ops, where Kira tells him there's a turbolift failure. (No duh!) Unfortunately, the transporters are out too. "Alone at last," Lwaxana smiles.
Both the turbolifts and transporters check out fine; nobody can figure out why they're not working. O'Brien will reroute the EPS power flow, but doesn't know how long it will take. Kira gives Odo the bad news, and warns him not to try shapeshifting his way out, since there's an exposed current running through the positioning mechanisms.
Lwaxana remarks that this is an opportunity for them to get to know one another, but Odo would prefer to pass the time quietly. However, Lwaxana is incapable of staying silent for long. She proceeds to regale him with the story of how she and her daughter were once trapped on a Ferengi vessel. Finally she notices that Odo's attention has drifted, and asks what he's looking at. "I was just wondering how many volts are in that exposed circuit," he tells her.
Bashir, unable to take anymore of the delegates' behavior, appeals to Sisko, who tells him to think of it as an opportunity to make friends in high places. One of these ambassadors could someday be in the right place at the right time to help Bashir's career. All Bashir has to do is keep them happy, and away from Sisko. Bashir explodes. "Nothing makes them happy! They are dedicated to being unhappy, and to spreading that unhappiness wherever they go. They are the ambassadors of unhappy!" Sisko isn't unsympathetic, but says that he too used to get assignments like this from Curzon Dax. His "graduation" came the day he actually hit one of the VIPs. But Sisko doesn't recommend that Bashir try this himself, as he's not as understanding as Curzon was. Defeated, Bashir leaves.
O'Brien asks to talk to Sisko, and tells him that although the computer rerouted the EPS flow in record time, it still wouldn't activate the turbolift circuits. Somehow the computer's manner has changed. It's no longer arguing with him, not since they downloaded the data from the probe. Sisko wonders if some kind of program from the probe is influencing it, but O'Brien thinks there's more to it than that. Every time he leaves, something happens to bring him back. "It's like the computer doesn't want me to leave it alone."
In conference a little later, Dax suggests that there might be something in the computer, a kind of non-biological "lifeform". It's part and parcel of the computer now, but it may not be capable of direct communication, as it hasn't given any evidence of sentience. Kira analogizes that this entity is like a stray puppy that has attached itself to O'Brien, who thinks perhaps they can get it out by uploading the probe's data back up to the probe. It doesn't seem to be trying to destroy their systems; it simply connects to active areas of the computer, as if feeding off the energy of its functions. Sisko orders him to implement his suggestion.
Com lines have been down for ninety minutes, and Kira reports that Odo has now been in the turbolift for almost four hours. He will have to revert to liquid eventually as part of his normal regenerative cycle, but neither Kira nor Sisko know when.
O'Brien begins trying to upload the probe files, and the lights and power go out all over the station. "It may not be quite as easy as I thought, Commander," he says sheepishly. On the Promenade, Bashir is with the ambassadors, who, of course, are complaining. "Well, you know," Bashir says wearily, "out here on the edge of the frontier, it's just one adventure after another." He decides to escort them back toward their quarters.
On the turbolift, Lwaxana has finished her tale, and asks Odo -- who is starting to look rather moist -- to tell her about himself. The constable demurs at first, saying he's a private man, but when she asks about his hair, of all things, he replies that it's an imitation of that of the Bajoran scientist who was assigned to study him, at the research center where he "grew up", if you could call it that. It sounds like a very lonely life to Lwaxana, but Odo shrugs off her sympathy. "I was always very self-sufficient." "I'm sure you had to be," she says. "To survive, being so different from everyone else." Drawn out despite himself, Odo goes on to tell her about his days as "the life of the party", when he would try to fit in by entertaining people. "'Odo, be a chair'; I'm a chair. 'Odo, be a razorcat'; I'm a razorcat. Life of the party. I...hate parties." Lwaxana manages at last to make a connection with him when she offers to throw one just for him, where he will get to be the one entertained. Then Odo wilts slightly in pain. He admits to Lwaxana that he's in hour fifteen of his sixteen-hour cycle.
In Ops, O'Brien, Dax, and Anara try manually transferring the probe's files to six isolinear rods, one by one, while diverting the computer's attention with busywork such as diagnostics, ship traffic reports, a Bajoran music program, and so on. Suddenly, sparks fly, and Dax reads a huge plasma surge in the habitat ring, where Bashir and the ambassadors are in a corridor, on their way to guest quarters. They are knocked down by the blast. The fire suppression systems are offline, and Sisko quickly orders an emergency crew to the area with manual fire gear. He and Kira head down, to where Bashir is trapped with his charges in the corridor, behind emergency bulkheads that have slammed down and won't budge.
Phaser fire is ineffective due to the toranium inlay in the bulkheads, and Kira orders a bipolar torch. Up in Ops, it seems to both Dax and O'Brien that the entity is acting more puppylike than ever. The thing might have been alone on the probe for years -- like shutting up a puppy in a room. But puppies don't like to be left alone; they like attention. This one is certainly getting a lot of it -- so it's no wonder it doesn't want to leave, O'Brien realizes, getting a brainstorm. Instead of trying to separate it from what it craves, they have to do the exact opposite. "Lieutenant," he says, "I've got to build a doghouse."
Odo is in a very bad way. Standing with his back toward Lwaxana, he refuses to let her see his face. "No one has ever seen me like this," he says. Lwaxana tries to reassure him that it's all right; Odo insists that he's fine, but obviously, he's not: he is in great pain as he tries to hold on to his shape and his dignity for as long as he can. Suddenly, Lwaxana takes off her wig and holds it in front of him. At last, Odo turns around and sees her as herself for the first time. She looks fine to Odo, but Lwaxana says she looks ordinary, and she's never cared to be ordinary. "So you see, Odo, even we non-shapeshifters have to change who we are once in a while." "You are not at all what I expected," Odo admits, and Lwaxana smiles. "No one's ever paid me a greater compliment," she says. Odo has reached the limit of his endurance, and Lwaxana tells him gently, "Let go. I'll take care of you." She lifts her skirt, turning it into an improvised basin, and he finally melts into it.
Working fast, O'Brien and Anara have created a subprogram which they have labeled "Pup", and now O'Brien has the computer reroute all main computer backup functions through it, then transfers all probe command sequences out of core memory and into "Pup". And it works; the lights and power come back on.
In the corridor, Sisko and Kira are finally able to get past the bulkhead, and find a blackened ruin. It looks as if nothing could have survived. Then a wall hatch pops open, and out come Bashir and the ambassadors. The ambassadors are slightly singed but basically okay, and they're all very grateful to the young doctor, their hero. "We'll be putting him in for a commendation," announces Vadosia, and Bashir shrugs modestly in answer to Sisko's look. "Just in the right place at the right time," he says.
The turbolift also is now working, and Odo walks out onto the Promenade, in his humanoid form, followed by Lwaxana, who is wearing her wig again. Odo awkwardly acknowledges that this ordeal wasn't what she had in mind for her picnic, but she replies graciously that what really matters is the company. "Your discretion and sensitivity are appreciated," Odo says, and Lwaxana gives him a warm smile. "Next time you see me, I'll give you a lot more to appreciate," she tells him, touching his cheek, and walks off. He watches her go, and actually smiles a little.
Sisko returns to Ops to ask O'Brien how he managed to beat the thing in the computer, and O'Brien explains that he didn't. Instead, he adopted it. Sisko is a little dubious about the idea of leaving it in there, but O'Brien doesn't see why not. "It's happy, it's not bothering us any more. Seems to be the humane thing to do...I'll look after it; make sure it's getting enough attention and all."
There's only one thing Sisko has to say to that. "Keep it off the furniture."
The original title of this episode was "Only the Lonely". The tale Lwaxana tells Odo of being a captive on a Ferengi vessel is from the TNG episode "Menage a Troi". Kira's uniform was modified in this episode from a tunic and trousers to a one-piece jumpsuit. Anara, O'Brien's assistant, was originally supposed to appear in three episodes, culminating in "In the Hands of the Prophets", in which she would attempt to assassinate Vedek Bareil. However, actress Benita Andre was let go for undisclosed reasons, and was replaced by Robin Christopher as Neela.