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Production no.: 436
Written by: Robert Hewitt Wolfe
Directed by: Robert Scheerer
Stardate: 47603.3
First satellite airdate: February 19, 1994
Kenneth Mars .........
Kenneth Tobey .......
Noley Thornton .......
Philip Anglim ..........
Trula M. Marcus .....
Martin Cassidy ........
Female Villager
Male Villager

Dax has been sent to the Gamma Quadrant to investigate an unusual particle field. With her is Odo, hoping as ever to find a clue to his origins. He listens long-sufferingly as Dax gossips to him about the love lives of some of the station's denizens. Odo doesn't see any point to this, except to illustrate the "foolish humanoid preoccupation with romantic coupling", but Dax says the point is that "sometimes we don't see true love even when it's staring us right in the face." As an example, she brings up Lysia Arlin, the Bolian jumja kiosk operator, who has been visiting Odo's office a lot lately. Odo says Lysia has a cousin interested in a law enforcement career, and is skeptical when Dax implies that there may be a different reason. "Ridiculous. I would have noticed," he scoffs, making Dax's point for her. She asks if he's saying he's never had a female friend -- an intimate friendship, she clarifies. Odo says that's a personal question, and Dax says, "After seven lifetimes, the impersonal questions aren't much fun anymore."

The conversation is interrupted when Dax finds the field of omicron particles. Such particles are incredibly rare, created only by certain matter/anti-matter reactions. These are concentrated in one valley on a planet. Beaming down to the night side of the planet, they find a small village, where the particle field interferes with Dax's tricorder readings. She is examining a complex structure in the town square, which she guesses to be a matter/anti-matter reactor, when Odo sees a phaser-like weapon aimed at them, held by a large robed man.

Back at DS9, Quark is waiting in the bar after hours, when the door chimes. It's not the party he was expecting, but Kira. She tells him that they just caught his cousin Kono trying to come aboard the station. Quark feigns surprise as Kira goes on to say that Kono beamed onto a departing Tellarite freighter rather than be questioned. She has found out that Kono is wanted for robbing a museum on Cardassia V. "My guess is, he thought someone here would help him sell the merchandise." Kira warns Quark that she's watching him, and, having made herself clear, she leaves.

Sisko tells Jake it's time he took a job. He points out that Nog works. Jake suggests that he can work at Quark's, but Sisko had something else in mind: working with Chief O'Brien. "It'll look great on your application to Starfleet Academy." He doesn't see Jake's downcast look as his son says he'll give it a try.

In the village, Dax and Odo sit in the office of Protector Colyus, the man who caught them by the structure. It's plain that they're suspected of something, but Dax says they just arrived, and their ship's logs can prove it; Colyus says logs can be tampered with. Odo tells him if they were guilty, they wouldn't be here, and demonstrates beaming up to the runabout and back. "Now that's interesting, you disappearing like that," Colyus says. "Because I've got twenty-two people who've disappeared without a trace."

Intrigued, Odo asks if they all vanished at the same time. No, Colyus says, it started in the fall. The last disappearance was six hours ago. Dax offers to bring him to the station, where their story can be verified. Colyus seems to instinctively realize they're telling the truth, and puts down his weapon. He's just not used to dealing with serious crime here. He has tried scanning for transporter activity, but found nothing. Seeing that Colyus is at his wits' end -- having accused them solely on the basis of their being strangers -- Odo offers to help investigate.

They go out into the village square, where an old man named Rurigan is standing. His daughter Anetra was the latest victim; he says he last saw her this morning at first meal, but his granddaughter Taya saw her in her workroom around midday. Rurigan is pessimistic, believing that they'll never find his daughter or the others. Dax tries scanning for transporter activity, in case Colyus missed something, but can't get a clear reading because of the omicron particles.  Colyus says the villagers' scanners never have any trouble. He lets Dax use his, and she goes off to Anetra's workroom to check for residual electrostatic charges.

Odo tells Rurigan he'd like to speak to Taya, and the old man takes him to her. Taya is a child of ten who sits playing with a spinning top until she sees Odo, and reacts with trepidation to his strange appearance. Odo asks her if her mother seemed upset or nervous about anything the last time she saw her. Taya says she seemed fine. Protectively, Rurigan leads her away, saying any further questions can wait until morning.

O'Brien is at work in Ops when Sisko brings him his new apprentice. As the Chief leads Jake off to their first task, Sisko calls to his son, and gives him a combadge, standard equipment for station personnel. Meanwhile, in the infirmary, Kira is talking to Bashir, asking him to keep an eye on Quark when he's not busy. Bashir is eager for the chance to employ some of the surveillance techniques Garak has been lecturing him on. Then Kira hears from Sisko, who says Vedek Bareil is coming to the station. His ship just arrived. Pleasantly surprised, Kira heads off for the docking bay.

When she meets him, Bareil explains that Prylar Rhit invited him to speak at the station's shrine, and he adds frankly that he also had been hoping for an opportunity to come and see her. Kira says she's honored. "Actually I was hoping you'd be happy to see me," Bareil says. "Oh, I am," Kira says. "Very happy." And as Quark sees them together on the Promenade a little later, he smiles a self-satisfied smile.

It's morning in the village, and Odo finds Taya playing with her top again. He approaches, and in his gentlest voice, tries to begin the questioning again. But Taya has some questions of her own first. With genuine, innocent curiosity, she asks Odo about his face. He explains that he is a shapeshifter. "I just don't do faces very well." "You mean you're a Changeling," Taya clarifies, and he agrees. Skeptical, she invites him to prove it, but he declines.

"If I were a Changeling," Taya says, "I'd change shapes all the time. Everyone would want to be my friend." "I wish it were that easy," Odo says, and tells her a little about his younger days, when people often asked him to change shape for them. "They'd pretend to be my friends, but all they wanted was to see me become a chair, or animal. None of them ever really cared about me." This gets Taya's sympathy. No longer afraid of him, she asks if his parents were Changelings too. "I never knew my parents," he says. "I've been looking for them for a long time." Taya tells him her father died when she was four. Feeling a connection with Odo, the little girl is ready to talk about her mother's disappearance. She last saw her mother in her workroom, making pottery for the baker. Odo asks if her mother has ever gone off on a trip or vacation before. "Nobody ever leaves the valley," Taya tells him. "Everything we need is right here." She looks forlorn. Her grandfather has told her her mother is never coming back. Tentatively, Odo touches her arm and promises her that he will do everything he can to find her mother.

As O'Brien is teaching Jake to recognize the different types of isolinear rods, Jake feels as if he's never going to get the hang of it. O'Brien tries to encourage him by saying he himself didn't get a handle on this stuff until almost a year after joining Starfleet. "It's not like you're going off to the Academy tomorrow, is it?" But Jake just looks more glum. Finally, he confesses that he doesn't want to go to the Academy. O'Brien sympathizes. His father wanted him to be a cellist, and got him accepted to a music academy, but O'Brien secretly signed up for Starfleet instead. Though his father was furious at first, now he is proud. "The point is, you've got to live your own life." Jake doesn't want to disappoint his father, but O'Brien says his father will come around, given time.

After Bareil's speech, he and Kira meet again. She passionately disagrees with his interpretation of the Eighth Prophecy, and he suggests another topic. It turns out that they both follow springball. Kira says she had O'Brien design a springball holosuite program, and Bareil says, "Let's go." She is surprised, but willing.

Odo uses Colyus' office to question Rurigan, who was one of the founders of the colony here. Rurigan continues to hold out no hope for the return of the missing villagers. In fact, he seems rather adamant about it. Odo notices that the old man seems to be in pain, and Rurigan tells him bluntly that he's dying. "I've had a good life. No regrets. I wish I could see my daughter once again." When Odo asks him why no one ever leaves the village, Rurigan says there's no place to go. He hasn't left the village either, he says. Odo can't figure this out; he would have thought they would have searched the entire countryside. But Rurigan guarantees that the missing people are not out there.

Later, Odo leaves the village with Dax and a native tricorder. They are led by Taya, who is quite at ease now and tells Odo a fairy tale about an evil Changeling. They come to a stand of trees, which Taya says is the farthest she's ever been from the village. Odo tells her to stay put; he and Dax move on a little ways, Dax remarking that she doesn't read any other lifeforms or power sources. Suddenly the tricorder vanishes right out of her hand. Meanwhile, Taya picks a branch of berries and approaches to offer them to Odo, who stops her. As she holds them out, the branch also vanishes -- along with Taya's arm, up to the elbow. When she draws back a little; the arm reappears. Odo and Dax look at her in comprehension.

At the reactor, Dax makes some adjustments, then gives Colyus a little demonstration, making his cloak vanish and reappear. The reactor, she explains, is a holographic projector which uses omicron particles to form physical objects. The village and everything in it is a hologram -- including the people. The component that controls the particle field is now breaking down, causing the disappearances. Colyus is skeptical, but Dax and Odo tell him about Taya's arm. He goes with them to see where it happened.

Bareil and Kira eat in her quarters after their springball game, which Kira won. She tells him she learned to play at the refugee camp she grew up in with her brothers. While they are clearing away the dishes, they begin to kiss. In between kisses, Kira remarks that she'll have to thank Prylar Rhit; Bareil says she'd better do it soon, as the prylar is soon to be recalled to Bajor. Rhit has run up a sizable Dabo debt, which has caused quite a scandal in the Vedek Assembly. Kira breaks off, a suspicion growing. "Let me get this straight. The man who invited you here to the station owes money to Quark?" She rushes out to have a talk with Prylar Rhit.

A meeting is held in the village square, where the crowd gathers to voice their rather understandable skepticism at the news that they're holograms, even though all of them have seen a demonstration of this fact by now, at the edge of the field. A woman asks why they never learned of this before, and Odo replies, "Because none of you ever tried to leave the valley." Colyus adds that they may have been programmed not to leave, so that they wouldn't learn the truth. Now, they have to shut down the system so that Dax can fix it, or else the whole village will disappear. Hopefully this way, they will also get the missing people back. Dax admits that if she turns it off and can't get it back on, the village will cease to exist -- but at least this way there is a chance to save them all. "Grandfather, please let her try," Taya says, and everyone looks to Rurigan for the decision. "We can't go on like this," he finally says, agreeing to it.

Taya runs up to Odo. "Your face isn't so scary, once you get used to it," she confides, and Odo gravely thanks her. As the girl gets back into place, Dax turns off the reactor, and the village and its people all vanish, leaving an empty valley, except for Dax, Odo -- and Rurigan. "Don't look so surprised," he says. "I'm as real as you are."

Rurigan tells them his story: he is from Yadera Prime, and was happy there until the Dominion took over. In order to recreate the way of life that he had lost, he came here and used the holo-generator to create the village. "I've lived here in my village for nearly thirty years. I've watched the people marry, have children, grow old. And sometimes, I even forgot that they were holograms." Now, though, it's over, he says sadly. He asks Dax and Odo to take him back to Yadera Prime.

But Odo asks him what about the villagers and Taya? Rurigan says they're not real. "Maybe by our definition, Taya's not real," Odo agrees. "Her memories are stored in a computer, her body is made up of omicron particles. But who's to say that our definition of life is the only valid one? I'm sure if you asked her, she'd say she was real. She thinks, she feels." "She only seems to," Rurigan says. "It's all an illusion, an illusion I created."

Odo is undaunted. With Dax's support, he argues that Taya is a combination of her parents, just like a real child. And even though Taya is still a hologram, Odo has seen how Rurigan has comforted her when she was sad or frightened. "Why should it matter to you if a hologram cries?" Odo asks. "Because I love her," Rurigan says at last. And Odo's point is made. "She's real to you. And she's real to me, too. They're all real. And you can't turn your back on them now."

Back on DS9, Jake returns home, ready to face up to his father. He says it's kind of fun working with O'Brien, but then blurts out, "Dad, I don't want to join Starfleet." Sisko studies his son and asks since when. "Since forever. Starfleet is too much like you. I need to find what's me." And Sisko understands. "It's your life, Jake," he says. "You have to choose your own way. There is only one thing I want from you. Find something you love, then do it the best you can." Jake, humbled by the different responsibility he is taking on, says he'll try. "Good," his father says. "Then you'll make the old man proud."

Kira lets Quark know that his cousin has been caught trying to sneak back onto the station, and that the bone carvings he had stolen from the museum on Cardassia V have been confiscated. Kira only wishes they had caught Quark and Kono together. As an afterthought, she adds that Prylar Rhit has told her Quark "encouraged" him to invite Bareil. "I just wanted to thank you. I found him very...diverting." Kira walks away to join Bareil, and Quark is crestfallen. "Not diverting enough," he says to himself.

Dax has finished repairing the reactor and is ready to turn it back on. Before she does, Rurigan asks a favor. If this works, he doesn't want them to tell the other villagers that he's not like them. Dax and Odo agree to this, and with Rurigan back in his place, the lieutenant brings everything back to life again. The villagers are all back, including the ones who were missing. As Taya is joyfully reunited with her mother, Colyus grins happily at Dax and Odo. He doesn't seem too troubled by the prospect of getting used to the fact that he's a hologram, though he wonders who created all this. "Whoever it was did a fine job," says Odo, earning a grateful look from Rurigan. Colyus invites them back someday and wanders off with the village founder.

Taya comes up to Odo to announce that her mother is back, but she is saddened to realize that her odd-looking friend is leaving. She tells him she'll miss him, and Odo returns the sentiment. "I hope you find your parents, too," the girl says. Odo is touched. "Thank you, Taya. So do I." He goes over to join Dax in preparation for beaming out, but then stops, turns back, and calls to Taya.

Before the child's delighted gaze, Odo shapeshifts into a replica of her toy top, spins for a moment, and shifts back to humanoid. Having given this gift to the little girl, he smiles slightly as Dax tells the computer to beam them up. And Taya waves in farewell.

  • The original title of this episode was "Persistence of Vision".
  • The location scenes were shot at LA's Bronson Canyon.