Adam and I have recently finished watching Star Trek: Deep Space 9. It’s a really good show. Perhaps the best one. As Zack Handlen of the AV Club explains so well, it’s strength is in how it deconstructs the premise and tropes of the two previous series:
Cracks in the facade have been showing for a while now, though. DS9 hasn’t given up the dream of the unity, but it has addressed the way the base metals of the individual often react in ways no one can predict. It used to be that just wanting to be friends was enough; now, though, there are conflicting allegiances, religions, philosophies. Communication helps, but it’s not a cure all, and situations arise in which there is no real right answer—in which the most two sides can hope to achieve is an uneasy compromise until the next great crisis. There’s no definitive protagonist on DS9, no single hero like Picard of TNG or the Kirk/Spock/McCoy trifecta of TOS. Sisko may get top billing, but he’s first among equals. All viewpoints are welcome, all are treated with equal respect.
Still, what I want to talk about is how mind shatteringly awesome Odo is. Deep Space Nine’s chief of security is a shape shifter in a Bajoran militia uniform. He’s far better at security than Worf ever was, and he makes the most convincing case for an all seeing all knowing police state I’ve ever heard (no, really.) He has Data’s longing for connection, Spock’s vulnerability and Worf’s torn allegiances. But still, there’s so many unanswered questions about what he can do. You could ask similar questions about Q, but he’s used sparingly. Odo is a regular cast member.
Sometimes it seems like Odo had no idea what the answers are to these questions himself!
For your discussion and consideration: the grand list of questions about Odo that Adam and I have been compiling for months:
How does he get energy? Odo doesn’t eat or drink. (Except that one time in “Facets” where he was hosting Curzon’s memories and drank Tranya.) He needs to regenerate, but where does he get the fuel for that process?
How can he change his mass? We see Odo transform into a few small things, and people pick him up with ease. How can this be?
Is there a limit on how big or small he can become? We see Laas become a giant creature that can fly through space. But can changelings get even bigger than that? Could he make himself small enough to fix problems on a molecular or atomic level? The possibilities here are endless.
Why don’t O’Brien and Dax and Bashir follow him around asking him questions all day? If generating this list of questions was a fun game as we watched the show, wouldn’t the curiosity be just torture for inquisitive scientists? Perhaps they understand that he doesn’t like being treated as a science experiment but we don’t see them even asking the occasional, respectful question.
Can he see in 360 degrees? There’s no indication that he can do this, but shouldn’t he be able to?
Are all parts of his body equally sensitive to light and/or touch? And if they are…
Does he/can he echolocate? It seems like he should be able do do this too. If not, what does he hear with?
What’s a “morphogenic matrix”? Is it like a neural net?
What does he think with?
How does he understand gender – his own and that of humanoids? Odo takes the form of a Bajoran male because the doctor who studied him was a Bajoran man. If Doctor Mora had been a woman, would Odo had taken a female form? Is there anything about him that’s inherently “male?” Does changeling reproduction require two (or more or fewer) biological sexes?
How does he understand/experience friendship/love/sex etc? Does he have a limbic system? Odo seems to easily assimilate to humanoid concepts of friendship and camaraderie. He appears to approximate heterosexual cisgendered male sexuality. But he also says that changeling relationships within The Great Link are not understandable to humanoids. How is it that he can so easily adapt to our social structures?
Odo seems to equivocate The Link with other changelings with having sex with humanoids. How similar are they really though? Is The Link an erotic experience or just pleasurable and intimate? Does it have anything to do with changeling reproduction? The way he links with himself in Children of Time and with a changeling he barely knows in Chimera is very different from the way he establishes sexual relationships with humanoids.
Can he turn himself into a machine with working parts? If so how complicated? Like maybe he could be a pair of scissors or a pulley but not a power drill or a transporter?
Does Odo have Bajoran citizenship? This is implied but it never really comes up. I think it would be interesting to know how the Bajoran government classifies him.
Can he make himself rain down Sulfur? Or can he turn into any caustic or explosive substance? Could he turn himself into a bomb that explodes and still survive? Alternately, if he was on a ship that was about to explode could he turn himself into some kind of inflammable or shock absorbing material to survive?
Does he have any way of proving his own unique identity? If another shapeshifter was pretending to be him would there be any way to tell the difference? Does he have any kind of tissue with any kind of DNA like substance that he sheds? (Like dead skin cells?)
How does the universal translator work with Odo? Does he have an implant? It makes sense that he can speak Bajoran and Cardassian, but what about other languages?
Does Odo use his bucket on The Defiant? Not as important, but I’m still curious!
In case you are going to tell us to repeat to ourselves “it’s just a show” and that we should really just relax, or to get a life, we know this is a little silly. In fact, we kind of recognize ourselves in this episode of After Hours…
Michael:You guys ever think that maybe we think about movies more than the people who made the movies?
Soren: Yeah, like maybe we’re projecting? Yeah I think about that…
Michael: Right, like maybe the guys who wrote Aladdin maybe wouldn’t have if they knew a bunch of assholes were going to sit around tearing all their choices apart?
Katie: Well no matter what you make, some dickhead is going to comment on it.
Dan: I’m going to stop making things forever now, because of comments.
But we also find ourselves agreeing with SimonF: