What’s it about: A visitor from the Gamma Quadrant claims he has met a Changeling before…
Unknown Sample: Restating his place as the most compelling mystery on the show, Odo gets some gorgeous development in this episode and it forges a path ahead for him to find his people in later seasons. The carrot that Kroden dangles in front of Odo (‘feed me and maybe I’ll tell you when I met someone just like you…’) makes for some interesting conflict between his search for the truth about his people and his sense of justice. His desperation when interrogating is frantic and he tries so hard to keep his poker face the whole time he is questioning Kroden but he is desperate for any snippet of information. Rene Auberjonois plays the scene when Bashir examines the sample with a sense of awe and wonder making even the dull technobabble moments count. It shows his strength of character that he wants so badly to discover more about his people but his adherence to the law means he will take Kroden back to his people regardless. Odo is smart enough to hand over control of the ship to his prisoner in a crisis and the scene where he shoves Kroden against the wall and demands to know the truth is blisteringly good. He proves his worth as a strategist when he plays cat and mouse with the Miradorn and uses the pockets of explosive gas to his advantage and blow them away. A smile from Odo is a rare gift, it's worth a hundred of anybody else’s.
Community Leader: The Miradorn ship and its crew’s reputation has probably been tarnished just like Quark’s. Once again Quark is blissfully taking the piss out of Starfleet protocol – this time on their stuffy, bureaucratic first contact procedure. He’s such a wonderful crook, only Quark would set up a business deal and arrange for the buyer to murdered so they could steal the money and keep the object d’art. Star Trek has been waiting for a character like this for a long time.
Sparkling Dialogue: Too much quality dialogue in this episode...
‘You think the whole galaxy’s plotting around you, don’t you? Paranoia must run in your species Odo! Maybe that’s why nobody’s ever seen another shape shifter…they’re all hiding!’ – from what I have seen of this season so far rather belies the fact that Odo and Quark only share a handful of moments together in each season as Armin Shimerman would have you believe. They are often seen together and that’s a very good thing because the actors spark of wonderfully against each other and the dialogue is often sizzling.
‘Five glasses for four people!?’ – made all the funnier by Rom staring in confusion at the glass in his hand.
‘How dare you suggest that my brother set up this robbery!’ – that line makes me howl with laughter every time I hear it. Go Rom!
‘Being what you are you can pour your square shape into a round hole but you don’t really fit, do you?’ – that idea would be explored and developed right up into season seven's Chimera. It is Odo's raison d'etre.
‘Do you expect me to believe this appalling tale?’ - given Kroden has just laid his heart on the line Odo’s deadpan reaction is very funny.
‘Computer what was that?’ ‘A temporary loss of stability due to the concentrated impact of a plasma charge’ ‘We’re being attacked?’ ‘Affirmative.’
‘Don’t thank me I already regret it!’
‘Home? Where is it? One day we’ll know…cousin.’
The Good: Vortex knows how to make a quick impression with an intriguing twinned species, an illegal transaction, a murder and Odo shattering into pieces in the first five minutes. It would be specious of me to suggest that Kroden is the best guest character of the season (in a season that features Dukat, Garak, Tosk, Judge Renora, Mullibok, Maritza and Winn) but he certainly makes an impression and his marbled and ever-changing backstory makes him a fascinating foil for Odo. Look at Morn’s face when Odo grasses him up. Somehow this characters silent reactions are some of the most priceless moments in the series. Look at the lighting in the bar when Odo tries to get information out of Quark, it's really moody and properly sinister. The sequences within the Vortex feature some gorgeous special effects and even the stock Star Trek cave are given some atmospheric lighting and smoke.
Moment to Watch Out For: The shot of the Miradorn vessel sliding into the Vortex behind the runabout. An extremely menacing effects shot.
Teaser-tastic: Odo is covertly monitoring Quark’s nefarious activities in the shape of a glass!
Only DS9: Homicide as a means of opening relations with a new species? DS9 continues to find new ways to deal with old ideas. It's great to finally visit a planet that honestly couldn’t give a toss about the Federation or anybody in the Alpha Quadrant. Perhaps I should move there.
Result: When it comes to atmosphere, DS9 is in a league of its own. Vortex has a gorgeous script with a humdinger of a line every few seconds and I have had to restrain myself from quoting half the episode. To have a Star Trek episode as unpredictable as this one is a very rare thing and the way it offers gasps of hope to Odo is almost cruel. It’s a blissfully executed piece which has been atmospherically lit to provide an evocative feast for the eyes and the director shows a flair for both action sequences and the tastier character driven moments of dialogue. The episode builds to the catch-your-breath moment when Odo is out cold and you are unsure whether Kroden will help him or use the chance to escape which in turn leads to a stirring decision by Odo to release them. A phaser fight, wonderful Odo and Quark scenes, a space battle, meaty ideas and a touching ending between Odo and his ‘cousin’ – Vortex practically is another awesome episode: 9/10