|Odo meets another changeling exile.|
Odo and O'Brien are returning to the station from a conference when a changeling appears on their ship. This changeling, Laas (Garman Hertzler), is not a Founder - He is instead one of the 100 sent by the Founders to learn about the galaxy.
That does not make him a friend. Laas has lived for centuries among "mono-forms," a label he sneeringly applies to all the species on Deep Space 9. Experience has taught him that humanoids cannot trust a changeling, and that their mistrust can turn quickly to anger and violence.
When a public display of shapeshifting inspires violence from a pair of Klingons, Laas feels the incident proves his point. And when he uses lethal force to fend off that attack, the Klingon homeworld demands Laas be given over to their custody - a request Odo is horrified to see Sisko seriously considering!
Capt. Sisko: If the viewer steps back and looks at the situation objectively, Sisko isn't nearly as unsympathetic as Odo views him. He's right that Laas was never in any danger from the Klingon, and that his use of deadly force was almost certainly unnecessary. He also isn't advocating turning Laas over to the Klingons - He simply believes that this should be up to the magistrate. Given the full situation, it's hard to argue that he should have behaved differently.
Col. Kira: Is uncomfortable when Odo reveals he linked with Laas. Given what happened the last time Odo linked with another changeling, I don't particularly blame her - But this episode doesn't reference that, not even by inference. Instead, Kira just says something about wishing she was able to link with him. For the most part, this episode reduces her to being the "supportive love interest," though she is at least proactive in jump-starting the final Act.
Odo: Overlooks Laas' role in the Klingon's death a little too easily. If he acknowledged that Laas had escalated the situation while still insisting that he acted in self-defense, it would feel truer to the Odo who has always valued justice above all. That aside, his delight in finding a fellow changeling who isn't a Founder is entirely convincing, as is his rage at seeing Laas treated more harshly than any solid would be in the same situation.
Quark: Acts as the bearer of harsh truths, reminding Odo that the changelings are very different than the humanoid species on the station and that this, in conjunction with the war against the Founders, guides reactions: "Don't you get it, Odo? We humanoids are a product of millions of years of evolution. Our ancestors learned the hard way that what you don't know might kill you. They wouldn't have survived if they hadn't have jumped back when they encountered a snake coiled in the muck. And now millions of years later, that instinct is still there... Watch your step, Odo. We're at war with your people." Quark's view is one that looks entirely at the worst aspects of human nature while ignoring the best (exemplified by Kira's final speech to Odo) - But that doesn't make it wrong, merely incomplete.
Laas: One suspects he'd actually get along well with the Founders, as he shares the view that shapeshifters are inherently superior to solids. His encounter with the Klingons is certainly started by them, but he does everything in his power to make sure the exchange ends in violence - And his reaction to killing the Klingon is so apathetic that it seems that in his mind, he's just swatted a particularly bothersome fly. It's to the episode's credit that while Laas isn't written as a villain, and his motives in trying to tempt Odo from the station are genuine, he is never made to be likable. The victim of bigotry has responded by himself becoming a bigot - and his attitude is every bit as ugly as the ill-fated Klingon's.
Chimera is a well-regarded episode. Rene Echevarria's script is intelligent, with a handful of outstanding scenes and exchanges. The character of Laas is entirely convincing, and all the performances are excellent. Despite some quibbles with Kira being reduced to the role of simple love interest for this episode, by any reasonable objective measure, it has to be regarded as a worthy piece.
Unfortunately, I found it to be a bit dull and distancing. If pushed, I would have to admit that I did not enjoy watching it.
That's one reason why this review took a while to appear. I've mentioned in the past how much easier it is to write about a very good or very bad episode. It's easy to rave about something that excites you, intrigues you, or makes you think; it's even easier to make fun of or rant about something you hate. Trying to express thoughts about something that doesn't evoke much response in you? Very difficult.
Chimera is objectively good, but it just didn't much hold my interest. The reactions of Sisko and Laas and, for the most part, Odo are convincingly scripted, and I hugely applaud Rene Echevarria's decision to make Laas unsympathetic. It's a well-turned script, and the few objective faults I can find aren't enough to explain my apathy toward it. This just is not an episode I enjoyed.
With such a sharp divide between objective quality and my own enjoyment (or lack thereof), a final rating is difficult. But these are my reviews, and I'm scoring according to my reactions... So I think I'll parse this one straight down the middle:
Overall Rating: 5/10.
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