DS9 Season 1 Ep12: “Vortex”

Synopsis: We open on Odo pacing around the bar at Quark’s like the caged tiger he absolutely refuses to turn into no matter how much it would please me. He and Quark are trading pointed barbs about a ship that just docked, apparently it belongs to a group of shady characters, the Miradorn Raiders, which refers to a race of people who conduct raids and not an 80s new-wave band as you may have initially assumed.

Odo believes Quark is doing some under-the-table dealing with the Miradorn, his primary evidence being that Quark’s usual flunkies were not present to ply the Miradorn with fliers and coupons for the bar when they docked. Apparently, this is something Quark always does, which I think is kind of awesome and amazing. Quark knows what he’s doing: I’m sure when the tired poor huddled masses of the Gamma Quadrant show up on the station Quark will be there to personally warm them with soup in exchange for their loyalty.

“You may or may not know, Odo, that every day I go down to the waterfront with hot soup for the Irish as they come ashore, and I say, ‘come to Quark’s Quark’s is fun, come to Quark’s don’t walk run.'”

But today, Quark demures, saying he doesn’t want to go near the Miradorn because they’re known as a “quarrelsome people,” and he doesn’t want them in his place.

Odo, bored with this line of questioning (as am I) changes the subject to point out to the audience that the Klingons have also brought aboard a Gamma Quadrant visitor, and he doesn’t seem like he’s much good at eye contact, which of course makes Odo immediately suspicious. Jeez, Odo, not everybody likes cops. Maybe he’s the Rodney King of his home world, you don’t know.

Quark says the guy is harmless, which also arouses Odo’s suspicions. Quark says that the guy was scared by all the Federation attention when he boarded. I bet that’s right – after the disastrous Wadi first contact, Sisko was probably pretty serious business about making sure this one went according to textbook. Maybe they interrogated him about his hobbies to make sure the senior staff don’t get crocheted into a scarf or something (“Well, I’m sure there’s nothing unusual about this yarn where you come from, but we have regulations on this station and I’m afraid we’ll have to quarantine it in sick bay until we’re sure it won’t turn our science officers into fingerweight Space Alpaca.”)

Odo, who would have gotten that whole situation with the Maltese Falcon worked out in twenty minutes, presumes that Gamma Quadrant Guy’s discomfort means has something to hide, and wonders aloud what it is. As if in answer, two dudes we’ve never seen before come in, and they look like they’re wearing S&M Halloween costumes they made themselves. Also: are they twins or are we racist?

The game show sensation that’s sweeping the nation!

They’re the Miradorn, and Odo seems to think they’re twins too, so we’re only as racist as he is (still less racist than Kira!). Odo also thinks the Miradron gave Quark a not-so-subtle nod. Quark yells at Odo that he’s paranoid, and it must run in his species, and that’s why no one has ever seen another shape-shifter: “because they’re hiding.” Then he throws Odo out of the bar, and tells Rom to bring the good stuff up to the second level, where he is clearly plotting with the Miradorn. Rom dutifully makes up a tray.

"It's a quarter after one I'm a little drunk, and I need you now, bum-bum-bum-bum-bum..."

Upstairs in a holosuite that’s set to “not being anything” mode, the Miradorn Twins are trying to sell Quark a purple Faberge egg to the tune of 1000 bars of gold-pressed latinum. Actually, it seems that Quark is the middle man here, because he sheepishly says that the buyer has backed out, and the Miradorn Twins do not look happy.

Quark explains that there’s some concern that it’s been stolen, and he’d like to see a bill of sale. They say that he didn’t seem so interested in that before, and he had better find another buyer, STAT. Quark is all, “a buyer with no questions? You want I should make this out of the air?” Suddenly, that Gamma Quadrant Guy who was hanging out with the Klingons comes in with a phaser. He comes from one of those unfortunate Star Trek races whose makeup makes them look like they have some sort of genetic hills-have-eyes disorder – like, you know this poor actor was so excited when he heard he got to play a new kind of alien and go through full makeup, and he’s imagining he’s going to look sexy or whimsical or like a giant bug and then he comes out looking like this.

“‘Do Star Trek,’ they said. “It”ll make everybody
forget you played three different characters
on Murder She Wrote,’ they said.”

This actor actually can’t seem to catch a break, considering he was also in Steven King’s awful awful Tommyknockers as the cheating mailman husband who was eventually killed by a TV (would I make this up?).

Anyway, Mr. Tommyknockers tries to steak the Fabrege egg, but one of the Miradorn hits him in the face with the table. As the tray Rom brought in goes flying, one of the glasses turns into a familiar puddle on the floor. It was, of course, just Odo pretending to be a glass, and, after Mr. Tommyknockers shoots one of the Miradorn, Odo takes everybody into custody, except Miradorn Twin 1, who Johnny-on-the-spot Bashir confirms dead.

In the brig, Miradorn Twin 2 is explaining to Sisko that Miradorn Twins aren’t just brothers born at the same time who look exactly alike and are played by the same actor, they are two haves of the same whole, so now his life is over, blah blah blah cry me a river. Odo is still trying to get him on the stolen fabrage egg charges, all “two people were killed when this was stolen!”, math which confused me until I realized he was talking about the last time it was stolen. The guy keeps saying they didn’t do it and, man, Odo, I love you but I think there may be some more pressing issues to deal with, here.

Sisko agrees, because he gives Odo A Look and asks the Miradorn Half-Twin to return to his ship. The Half-Twin swears revenge as he hobbles out.

Quark and Rom, who have apparently been sitting there the whole time, want to know if they can leave. Sisko asks Odo if there’s enough evidence to hold them, and Quark points out that he was just as concerned as anyone that the Faberge egg was stolen. Odo confirms this, but says it’s awfully convenient that Mr. Tommyknockers just happened to have a Ferengi phaser and just happened to know that the Miradorn Twins were selling Quark something immensely valuable.

Rom, who never knows when to talk and when to shut up, says, “how DARE you suggest that my brother planned this robbery!” Quark, after shooting his brother a look that would have killed a full-grown elk, tells everyone that that “wild rumor” had better not get around, because the Miradorn Half-Twin would probably kill him over it. He and Rom leave with as much dignity as they can muster.

Odo and Sisko go to question Mr. Tommyknockers, who wonders when lunch is and doesn’t seem much put out about being a murderer at all. Sisko gives him his Space Miranda Warning, saying that there will be a trial, and he can either have an advocate assigned to him, or he can request one from his home world if that makes him more comfortable. Mr. Tommyknockers says that he doesn’t think anyone from his homeworld would much care to help out, seeing as they don’t have trials there.

SIsko says that’s too bad, and Mr. Tommyknockers says not to sweat it, he just wishes he had Odo’s shape-shifing ability. He says he’s never seen a “changeling” with such versatility, and Odo is all “Wha-wha-what? You have seen others of me?” The guys says that they’re totally all over the Gamma Quadrant, and he’s surprised if there aren’t any here yet.

Pictured: Odo losing his shit. Or solving a
mystery? Or reacting to a birthday surprise?
No, no, definitely shit-losing.

Odo loses his shit, and starts yelling that the guy is lying. Interestingly, he yells this at Sisko, like he doesn’t want Sisko to think that this trash knows anything about his species. He hypothesizes that the guy overheard Quark yelling about Odo not having any people in the bar, which is a likely scenario.

The guy is all like, “well, I am a liar, but if I hadn’t met any other shapeshifters how would I know that they’re harsh and swift in their judgements, JUST LIKE YOU?” Um, I think that is the laziest cold read I have ever seen in my entire life. Next he’ll be telling Sisko that he can tell he’s a leader because all leaders have an air of firm sexiness about them, and also because he has more pips than anybody else (“I’m getting something, it’s like you’ve had a tragedy in your life, like someone you knew died, like a woman? Like a woman close to you, like in your family, like maybe your sister or your aunt or your mom or a female cousin or your wife, yes, yes, it’s becoming clear now it was your wife, she divorced you, that is she was divorced from your life when she died…”)

After the commercial, Sisko and the senior staff are hanging out in his office, and he says he doesn’t think he has any choice but to contact Mr. Tommyknockers’s home world. Irishy and Jadzia are all, “but then they’ll think we’re dicks.” Kira says that, on the contrary, this will doubtless endear them to Planet Tommyknocker – since he’s obviously a bad dude, his home planet will be thrilled that the DS9 team executed him, thus saving them the trouble and expense, and the Federation will be greeted as liberators and when they visit everybody will throw ticker-tape parades, and she’s sure they don’t even have to check first, because, seriously, he must have killed some people over there, right? Kira diplomacy, everybody!

Sisko is all, “well, that’s an idea,” and then proceeds to completely ignore it, saying that he and Jadzia will find the guy’s home planet while Kira helps Odo beef up security around Mr. Tommyknockers. Kira looks a little put out, but acquieses.

Odo stops by the bar to taunt Quark about knowing Mr. Tommyknockers. Quark says that he didn’t really know the guy that well, and he was just being kind, and Odo says that kindness isn’t profitable. Quark says that Odo’s always suspicious of his charity, to which Odo responds “your favorite charity is your own pocket.” Damn. Said in Odo’s dignified pseudo-British accent, that kind of sounds like a line ripped off from A Christmas Carol, or maybe I’m just getting in the holiday spirit a little soon (maybe it’s good for the integrity of the show that they never had an episode called “A Quarkmas Carol.” Maybe not. Just sayin’).

Odo reveals that Quark was trying to secure a ship to the Gamma Quadrant, which leads him to hypothesize that Quark promised Mr. Tommyknockers an all-expenses paid trip home in exchange for stealing the fabrege egg and giving it to him, Quark. Wow, that’s a pretty sweet plan, really. Odo starts grilling Quark about every little thing Mr. Tommyknockers said, asking if he said anything about his home world or any other species in the Gamma Quadrant. He’s interrputed by his comm badge, a security guard telling him that Miradorn Half-Twin and his skeevy-looking crew have blocked Odo’s office.

Odo goes to deal with the situation, where the Half-Twin reiterates his desire to kill Mr. Tommyknockers. Odo orders him back to his ship under threat of arrest.

In his cell, Mr. Tommyknockers does some more cold reading on Odo, saying that have a lot in common, because each is the only one of his kind here, and it must be so lonely, but then again all changelings are distrustful of other species.

Odo makes the mistake of engaging in conversation, and the guy explains that there used to be a lot of changelings on his planet, but they got chased away many centuries ago, and he knows where some still are…

Odo cuts in, voice heavy with sarcasm, “and if you had the chance you’d take me there.” Well, good to know all his instincts haven’t flown out the window this week.

They play cat and mouse for a bit about where the planet is, and then Odo says if he lies about changelings again he’ll kill him. Then Mr. Tommyknockers pulls out his trump card – a fancy locket he’s been wearing this whole time, that is full of Odo-style goop that can turn into a weird phallic shape and then go flat again. He gives it to Odo free of charge, because that’s just the sort of guy he is.

On their runabout in the Gamma Quadrant, Jadzia says they’re in orbit of Mr. Tommyknockers’s homeworld, and Sisko hails them. He explains the situation, and a guy communicates back to say “GIVE ME MR. TOMMYKNOCKERS RIGHT NOW.” Sisko is all, “well, I don’t have him with me, per se,” and the guy is all, “Then WHERE IS HE” and Sisko is all, “on my space sation, a place I’d love to tell you about where there is no money and a pretty good bar and all of the people of the different races live in harmony. How can we live in harmony, you ask? Well, you see, about three hundered years ago on a little blue dot called Earth…” and the home world guy is all, “yeah, I’m not really interested in talking to you or anybody else from the other side of the wormshole,” and Sisko looks really disappointed that he has a whole quadrant of first contact to make and all of it’s going so badly.

Amazingly, it turns out Kira is right – this guy really really hates Mr. Tommyknockers, and his planet has already tried him in absentia and found him guilty of all kinds of crimes, and in fact they hate him so much that they want him back so that they can throw the switch themselves.

Sisko is all, “I’d kind of like to try him for our thing anyway…” and the guy is like, “NO COMPROMISES,” so Sisko reluctantly says they’ll bring him back within two days.

Back on the station, Odo has taken the locket to Bashir for examination. Bashir says it’s an amalgamation of organic tissue and some kind of crystal, and it’s alive in its own way, and he’s only ever seen one thing like it – Odo. Bashir says it might qualify as a distant cousin.

Odo goes to question Mr. Tommyknockers again, and seems really fed up with his cold reading. Odo reluctantly gives him the locket back, and the guy tells him that he found the stone in a colony of changelings on some random asteroid in some random vortex that’s completely uncharted, and he’s the only one who could possibly take Odo there. Aaaaaaaaaand Odo’s hooked.

Pictured: Odo is surprised at Sisko’s decision.
Or losing his shit again?
No, definitely the first one.

Sisko summons Odo to his office, and tells him to prepare Mr. Tommyknockers for a trip back to his home world. Odo is surprised, and clearly searching for a way to get Sisko to change his mind. “It won’t be easy to get him past the Miradorn crew…” he says hopefully, and Sisko’s all, too bad. Sisko explains that the plan is for Odo to take Mr. Tommyknockers himself in a runabout, totally on his own. This seems like a terrible, terrible idea.

So the audience is all like OH NO ETHICAL CONNUNDRUM as Odo herds DMH onto the runabout. Mr. Tommyknockers is all, “hooray, field trip to not jail!” and Odo is like, “nope, we’re headed to Execution Junction.”

The runabout leaves the station under the cover of a freighter so that the Miradorn crew won’t see them, and it seems to work. On the runabout, Mr.Tommyknockers is needling Odo out of spite, saying that it must suck not fitting in and having everybody hate you. This whole episode is basically an attempt to externalize Odo’s struggle with his own identity and his hidden belief that he is tolerated instead of appreciated.

Now, he tells Mr. Tommyknockers that he must have been convicted of “talking too much” on his world, and Mr. Tommyknockers tries to pull a “wrongly accused dissident mystery man” thing, all like, “that’s true, I guess I asked too many questions and the ESTABLISHMENT couldn’t handle my RADICAL TRUTH.”

We’re left to wonder if Mr. Tommyknockers is still working Odo as he explains that the government sent G-Men to kill his family because he was a political dissident, and then he killed the G-Men, very Law Abiding Citizen. 

Odo is also uncertain if the guy is telling the truth or not, and threatens to sedate him for the remainder of the trip. Why he doesn’t just do it I’ll never know.

Right in the middle of their bi-hourly
money counting session, too.

Back on the station, the Miradorn crew has found that Mr.Tommyknockers has departed, and finally decide to question Quark about it. Quark claims no knowledge, but the Half-Twin seems to think that Quark is hiding Mr. Tommyknockers somewhere, which isn’t totally unreasonable. Quark, in a desperate bid to save his own neck, tells the Half-Twin that it was Odo who masterminded this whole thing, and offers to find out where the two of them are if the Half-Twin will stop killing him for a moment.

Rom, in an early sign of his later technical proficiency, helps Quark hack into the station’s computer with a dummy security clearance, and the Half-Twin threatens Quark one more time before dashing off to the coordinates the computer revealed.

Rom, ever eager to ingratiate himself, tells Quark that he was very clever, because the Half-Twin will now take care of both Mr. Tommyknockers and Odo, all neat and tidy.

Quark actually looks a little guilty, and says “unless Odo is sensible and gives up his prisoner,” and Rom’s all like, “then we’d be screwed,” and Quark is all, “what are the odds of Odo giving up his prisoner, stupid?”

In Ops, they notice that the Miradorn ship is leaving and yell regulations at it to get it to stay, but, shockingly, it it doesn’t, and zooms off into the wormhole. Sisko purses his lips and looks resigned.

On the runabout, Mr. Tommyknockers tries to convince Odo to detour through the vortex because it’s supposedly faster. He then tries to butter Odo up by telling him that he’s a changeling, all right, because all changelings are so decent and just and upstanding and have such nice hair…even Odo cannot help but roll his eyes at this crap.

But then they’re under attack from the Half-Twin, who comes on-screen to say that Odo can surrender his prisoner or die. Odo says no dice, and the Half-Twin is all, then die, don’t make no nevermind to me.

Odo isn’t super awesome at the controls,so Mr.Tommyknockers convinces him to give him control of the ship so that they can go into the vortex and hide. They do, and Mr. Tommyknockers explains that the whole place is full of pockets of volatile gas that can blow them sky-high. He lands them on a planet so that the Half-Twin can’t follow their fumes, and Mr. Tommyknockers is all “I guess I’m taking you home after all.”

On the planet, Mr. Tommyknockers is running around like he’s high on coke at the peak of a manic cycle, and Odo is all, “excited to see the colony again, hmmm?” and Mr. Tommyknockers is all “OMG SO EXCITED RIGHT THIS WAY” and Odo smells a rat and slams him up against a wall and asks how much of what he says is true.

None of it for eight hundred, Alex!

Mr. Tommyknockers, leveling now, tells Odo that he had heard old folk stories about changelings, none of which he believed until he saw Odo. He says he got the necklace from some sort of travelling carnival salesman, things like that are very common and could have come from anywhere.

The equivalent situation, I think, would be one of us going into space and being thrown in jail by a lone unicorn, and to escape we told the unicorn we knew all about its people and how they were magical and super gentle and had silver blood which it was a sin to drink, and as proof we produced a Narwhal horn and asked the unicorn if it was lonely being the only unicorn there, because all the other unicorns we’d met were super nice and probably missed him.

My brain is having trouble reconciling
“cryogenically frozen” and “crockpot.”

Mr. Tommyknockers says that the necklace functions as a key to whatever he has stowed in the cavern that made him act all crazed. Odo follows him into the cave, where what looks like an old-fashioned crockpot has been buried in a cave-in. It is a stasis chamber, containing Mr. Tommyknockers’s daughter, the only family member he could save, and the locket goop shapes itself to fit the lock.

He unlocks the crockpot and his daughter wakes up, and she seems pretty pumped to see him, so I guess what he said about his family was true, unless this is one of John Hodgman’s complex super-long-form cons. Mr. Tommyknockers tells his daughter that Odo is going to take her somewhere safe, and Odo reluctantly agrees. The daughter seems sad that he’s going home to be executed, but a mini-quake disrupts her train of thought. Apparently the Half-Twin is shooting at the planet, and as Odo tries to herd father and daughter to the runabout, a falling rock knocks him out. Mr. Tommyknockers’s daughter, to her credit, seems concerned about Odo, and Mr. Tommyknockers says he can’t tell what’s wrong because he knows nothing about Odo’s anatomy.

He says they’ll just have to haul Odo back to the ship, and as he grabs Odo’s arm he pauses, and we realize that he is effing going to leave him there. His daughter is all “dad, what’s up?” and he runs to hold her close through another mini-quake. After a moment of contemplation, he says “nothing, darling,” and he picks Odo up to carry him to the runabout.

I guess it’s nice to know that his species has a less creepy bring-your-daughter-to-work-day model than the Cardassians.

On the runabout, Odo comes to to realize that Mr. Tommyknockers saved him, and seems genuinely surprised. Mr. Tommyknockers says, “don’t thank me, I already regret it.”

The Half-Twin is still chasing them, and Odo takes the controls and says they’re going to fly right into one of the volitle gas pockets and hope that the Half-Twin follows them in. They turn all of their  engines off, and the Half-Twin comes on screen to ask if Odo is surrendering the prisoner now. Odo’s all, “nope,” and the Half-Twin is all, “OK, then, blowup times.” He preps his weapons to shoot, and right before he does, Odo turns the engines back on and powers the hell out of there. They fly out of the gas pocket just as the Half-Twin explodes himself.

Odo looks back at Mr. Tommyknockers’s daughter and says “everyone back there in one piece?” Mr. Tommyknockers’s daughter looks confused to be addressed as a plurality of people, but she answers in the affirmative. Maybe Odo’s head is not doing as well as we thought, and he is seeing double.

"Nothing but twins today, I don't even know."

He tells Mr. Tommyknockers to get them out of the vortex, and Mr. Tommyknockers asks Odo to look after his daughter well. Mr. Tommyknockers says it should work out, since everyone knows how lonely Odo obviously is.

A Vulcan lady comes on skype to ask if they’re OK, because they saw the explosion over on her ship and got worried. Odo says they’re fine, and clearly perceiving a future in which he is the protagonist on a hit sitcom called The Changeling and the Girl or My Adopted Interspecies Daughter Says the Darndest Things or Diff’rent Warp Signatures, thinks fast and tells the Vulcan lady that he’d like to beam over “two survivors from a ship that wasn’t so lucky.”

The Vulcan lady says no problem, so now Mr. Tommyknockers gets to go live on Vulcan with his daughter. Odo says “don’t thank me, I already regret it.” Mr. Tommyknockers looks thrilled, but wants to know how Odo is going to explain this. Odo says he’ll say that the Miradorn killed Mr. Tommyknockers, and chuckles that the “dissembling must be catching.”

This is a huge deal for Odo, and Mr. Tommyknockers seems to understand that, because he very compassionately says they will be the only ones of their kind on an alien world, just like Odo, but unlike Odo, they will know where their home is. He says he wants Odo to know where he came from, and gives him the locket goop-key, which is less of a touching gesture than it seems like because it’s totally useless to him now.


Mr. Tommyknockers’s daughter wants to know if Odo’s really a changeling, and Odo looks at her and says, “yes, I guess I am.”

For the very first time on the series, Odo smiles. We’ll see it more as Odo comes into himself, and it’s a joy each time it happens. Odo’s smile is vulnerable and genuine and goofy, and we only get to see it on special occasions – this first time is particularly special.

Mr. Tommyknockers and his daughter beam off to the Vulcan ship. Odo tells the computer to head back to the station, and muses to himself sadly about where home is.

Meredith’s Analysis: This episode isn’t that great as a stand-alone. The con artist-cum murderer Mr. Tommyknockers is frustrating in his obvious con artistry, and Odo is frustrating because he’s so obviously drawn in despite knowing better, and it’s tough if you aren’t interested because there’s almost no one else in the episode. That said, that’s sort of the point: Odo wants to know about where and who he comes from so desperately that he’ll throw his better judgement out the window (as much as he can). Still, it feels kind of cheap, doesn’t it? The way NexGen did when it would demonstrate that an enemy was strong by having them knock out Worf, and then after a while it didn’t mean anything because Worf was getting knocked out every other episode and was therefore only hypothetically incredibly strong. This is the road this episode tries to tread with Odo – if something can corrupt the incorruptible, it must be pretty important.

The difference, and perhaps the thing that kept Odo from becoming Worf’s ethical equivalent, was that Odo never does succumb. He wavers, but he was absolutely going to complete his mission despite his personal feelings. And, at the end, he’s still the bigger man, able to send Mr. Tommyknockers and his daughter off to Vulcan even though Mr. Tommyknockers was such a dick to him.

This episode is important to larger things because it tells us that about Odo, and important because it tells us about changelings for the first time. The talk about changelings in “Vortex” are tracks rumbling in front of a very large train, so make a mental note.

Tim Analysis: This episode is kind of forgettable even though it has some importance. We see Odo’s softer side and Quark and Rom take a big leap forward, but the actual events of the episode are pretty meh. The takeaway at the end of Odo getting confirmation that changelings are at least talked about in the Gamma Quadrant is the important plot point here. It’s a competent episode, but I would be a little disappointed if I had watched this live and had to wait another week for the next one. I won’t call it filler since there’s important exposition, more like filler+.


2 thoughts on “DS9 Season 1 Ep12: “Vortex”

  1. Pingback: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine | Meredith and Tim Watch Star Trek

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