Sunday, June 13, 2021

3 in Vortex (Deep Space Nine S01-E12)

Paranoia must run in your species, Odo...maybe that's why no one's ever seen another shape-shifter

First inkling we had of Odo's baggage, so to speak, was in the pilot episode The Emissary. He expressed longing to know who he is and where he came from. Odo even used the term “forced” alluding to passing himself off as human, which tells you a certain level of loneliness. 

We forget that baggage for the next 9 episodes because Odo acted as headstrong and in some cases more powerful than Worf ever was on the Enterprise. 

Vortex humanizes Odo. We see that along with his literal mask, the power that has made him a fearsome Security Chief, he also bares a figurative mask, like we all do every day. It showed signs of breaking just for the hope of not being alone.


Also in this episode is Croden who seems to be a political dissident from Rakhar in the Gamma Quadrant. Just from the short description of his troubles, his back story would have been nice to explore but unfortunately, Odo’s story takes precedence.

Here are the 3 things that stand out from the episode.


Universal Joystick

Give me the controls!

I’m not a pilot but if, like Croden, I were to take over Cessna in midflight, maybe just maybe I can get the feel of the control wheel, also known in some cases as the joystick, enough to keep the plane level after a few shakes. The joystick concept is reasonably known and straight forward to watch and learn.

How is it that Croden, who is from the Gamma Quadrant, can take over piloting from Odo? Even if we were to assume from the vastness of space, the Alpha Quadrant has universal spacecraft controls, Croden would still need baseline questions.

Like Tosk, or rather Chief O’Brien. The Chief reached common understanding with the first Gamma Quadrant visitor while learning the former's spacecraft parts. It turns out that regardless how a culture may design an aircraft or spacecraft, you’d need the same features. 


That is what this scene lacks, Croden asking question – is the thing that does the thing – before piloting Odo to safety. It is not a problematic inconsistency but if the desire is to make Croden a little more alien then he shouldn't have been more familiar with Runabout controls than Odo.

Odo and the Masks we Wear

This stone might qualify as a distant cousin of yours

As much as any shape shifter, people wear masks every day. The service economy needs to smile even if they’re tired. Can you imagine buying a burger from someone in tears? In general, I think, we put on a brave mask for all the challenges we have to face in life.

When we think of Odo we imagine him as always in control. Maybe we are even amazed at how he scoffs at the idea of companionship or coupling, not that we want to be alone ourselves, but because we can see this alien play out what is a solitary and yet productive way of life. 


So when he wavered or at least is distracted in his convictions at only the sight of an inanimate but shape shifting pendant, we feel ourselves as having gotten closer to Odo. True, he did not end up as a big emotional heap but it's the biggest crack we've seen so far.

We now see that despite his stoic and sometimes grumpy demeanor Odo bleeds the same as us all. He is alone and it pains him so. He wears a similar mask like we all do every day. 

A Good Example for the Children

My daughter. The only member of my family I could save.

I love this scene. Croden was about to walk away, Odo unconscious is an opportunity after all, but his daughter Yareth is there. It’s as if to say that even with all desperate morally ambiguous moves he has made up to this point, Croden wants only the best for Yareth. That includes being the best example.

Upon Yareth’s questioning, Croden was able to think it through that he couldn’t leave a man marooned out in an asteroid hidden in a dangerous vortex. If a cave-in didn’t kill Odo, hunger or old age would because no one would be searching for that asteroid.

Also it is worth asking, is Croden an activist? He tells Odo the start of his troubles with the Rhakari government:

Maybe you're right.  Perhaps that is how it started.  Perhaps I asked one question too many... That's as good an explanation as any...For why they came that night.  I never was told.  And to this day, I don't know.  They broke into my home just before dawn.  By the time I stopped them, they had already murdered both my wives...

Being picked up or killed in early morning raids is a familiar story in the Philippines. There are allegations of planting evidence by arresting officers in order to justify the timing of the raid in the early morning and the ensuing deaths.

By my count we already have 3: Tahna Los and Kira Nerys, now Croden. Tahna and Kira were engaged in a bloody guerilla war with the Cardassians. Of course, to the Cardassians, the two were terrorists.


Croden would just the typical person to man a picket line and hold rallies. A man who just wants to be heard, no plans of holding a weapon until desperation pushed him to it. I don’t have a better word for it but I love the exploration the series has so far been doing. 

It’s more than a new way of life which can be found in different planets and different cultures, Deep Space Nine based on the above mentioned three, is also exploring what in today’s politics would be politically undesirable. And we can use more of that understanding nowadays.

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