In the twenty-sixth and final episode of the third season of Deep Space Nine, EVERYTHING IS SUPER MESSED UP AND IT ALREADY WAS AND NOW IT IS MORE SO. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.
Trigger Warning: For body horror.
WHAT A FANTASTIC EPISODE. Look, I made reference to The Thing while watching this, and I know that this episode isn’t even close to the first time that Star Trek has invoked the whole IT COULD BE ANYONE trope. It’s a pervasive science fiction and fantasy trope because IT’S SUCH A TERRIFYING IDEA. I don’t even care that this episode barely distances itself from what I would expect from a tense bottle episode involving a creature that can take the form of anyone. The stakes made it stand out.
“The Adversary” is heavily based in the Dominion plot line of season three. Through it, we’ve seen the terrifying lengths that the Changelings have gone to subvert and destroy the Federation. They are The Worst, and there’s plenty of evidence of that. So, “The Adversary” starts off with a quiet unease – we know something or someone is in the Jeffries tubes – and builds to the moment where O’Brien discovers sabotage on the Defiant. Once it’s clear that there’s a Changeling on board, the writers exploit every possible scene for paranoia. There’s the sequence where each member of the senior staff is scanned for tetryon particles; then there’s the use of the buddy system, which breaks down LITERALLY MINUTES LATER; and then, in what must have been a brilliant reference to The Thing, Julian tests everyone to see if their blood remains blood after it’s removed from their body.
All of these scenes are wonderful, as is the use of the self-destruct countdown. Indeed, “The Adversary” is packed to the brim with multiple thriller tropes, and that made it a stressful episode to watch. I don’t feel the need to give a scene-by-scene examination of these aspects, though. There’s something in this story that makes it more than An Experience, and that is Odo. Obviously, the people who surround him are nervous that another Changeling is onboard, and I wondered if there was going to be a scene where the two Changelings confronted one another. (I WASN’T READY.) But I 100% missed the tragic foreshadowing in this episode. Odo stated that he didn’t want to be the first Changeling to harm another of his species, AND HE DIDN’T EVEN KNOW HOW BADLY THIS WOULD GO.
It has been heartbreaking watching Odo this season because the one thing he’s wanted has been horribly denied him. This might be the worst example of that since the season premiere. Not only has he been unable to connect with his people, but he is forced into a scenario where a Changeling has taken control of the Defiant and will use it to start a war with the Tzenkethi. I’m certain that killing that Changeling was the last thing Odo wanted to do. And yet? He was backed into a corner. With minutes left before the Defiant would self-destruct, Odo had to fight being absorbed into the Changeling and buy O’Brien enough time to take back control of the ship. In the process, he becomes the very first Changeling to harm another.
And it’s so deeply, deeply unfair. I think this all but guarantees that unless the Changelings reverse their feelings on non-Dominion species, Odo will never join the Great Link ever again. How can he? He’s done something that no other Changeling has ever done, and he knows that it is awful. Yes, he saved his friends. He prevented a disastrous war from breaking out. He’s done an incredible service for the Federation, and his actions will most likely get him celebrated as a hero. This is not mutually exclusive with his guilt and shame. We learn from Sisko’s captain’s log that once Odo returned to DS9, he didn’t speak for DAYS. Days!!! And who can blame him? The first ever to kill another Changeling, y’all.
It’s even scarier to think about how this might not be the last time. The dying Changeling’s message to Odo is that THEY ARE ALL TOO LATE. THE CHANGELINGS ARE EVERYWHERE. Oh, so the show took a bottle episode, one that was completely resolved, AND EXPANDED IT TO THE ENTIRE FOURTH SEASON? There’s no cliffhanger here, but the suspense is still very real. Who else has been replaced? If the Changelings can infiltrate Starfleet and FAKE AN ENTIRE FUCKING MISSION, who’s to say they won’t do worse?
And hell: WHAT’S WORSE THAN THAT???
Season four is going to terrify me, isn’t it?
The video for “The Adversary” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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