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Heart of Stone

WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for DS9's "Heart of Stone". Abandon all hope of remaining unspoiled, ye who enter here.

In brief: A relatively pleasant surprise -- thanks primarily to the ending.

(If you don't know the details, I advise you _not_ to read on.)

Brief Summary: When the pursuit of a Maquis fugitive puts Kira and Odo in a situation which endangers Kira's life, Odo is forced to examine his feelings for her.

Given that summary above, plus the side plot of Nog trying to enter Starfleet, my expectations for "Heart of Stone" were, shall we say, a tad low. Given my reaction to "Life Support" last week, my sinking feeling that this show was going to be used to kick-start a Kira/Odo romance when Bareil's corpse hasn't even finished cooling, and a general dislike of Nog, I'd steeled myself for the worst. Fortunately, however, I didn't get the worst. While "Heart of Stone" had its problems, it *did* have a surprise waiting for me at the end -- one I'd never thought of even for a moment, and one that made up for a number of other weaknesses.

That surprise, of course, was the revelation that the "Kira" Odo had just been trying to separate from the crystal and save was not Kira at all, but a Founder sent to examine Odo's loyalty to the "solids". Given their past interest in "recovering" Odo and their relative power in the area, it makes sense that once in a while we'd see an attempt like this -- and that it would take a little time to sniff out. While, as I said back at the start of the season, I'm not thrilled about Odo's people being the Dominion's leaders in the first place, this show managed to do a fairly interesting thing _with_ that concept, which is a strength.

In terms of plot, the Odo/Kira/Founders story was pretty well done (if executed slowly; I checked my watch on several occasions to see how much time was left). It does raise a number of questions, however; not necessarily flaws, but things that probably should be examined later. For instance:

-- The fact that the Founder was able to mimic Kira as well as she was, not only in form but in personality, suggests that there are probably Changeling "observers" on the station. That's an item worthy of serious speculation if ever there was one. [Hey, maybe that wasn't Bareil who died last week! :-) ]

-- At one point, "Kira" fires a phaser at the crystal, only to have it expand. Given that the crystal was also part of the Founder, this implies any one of a number of things. Either Changelings are immune to phaser fire (which is unlikely, as last season's "Crossover" suggests all too vividly), the Founder shapeshifted a small hole in itself just then to allow the phaser a clear path (probably the most likely), or that the Founder also simulated the phaser beam as well as the crystal. I'm assuming the second, but it'd be interesting to see consequences of the third...

-- There are two things Odo didn't do that I think I do consider flaws in the show. One, he never seemed to give any thought to trying to use himself as a wedge between Kira and the crystal in order to separate them. That one's potentially justifiable, but Odo also didn't recognize that the crystal's growth took exactly the same form as his own shapeshifting. *That* strikes me as a problem.

While the Odo/Kira plot seemed relatively decent, then, the characterization of both ran from the quite good to the seriously questionable. One of the best moments between them had to be Odo's discussion of his kayaking trips with O'Brien -- I'm not entirely sure I can put my finger on why, but it all just felt extremely right (especially O'Brien singing "Louie, Louie" -- good heavens, what an image!) The Just So story of "How Odo Got His Name" was also fairly strong, though marred a bit by Kira's sobbing, which by then I'd grown pretty tired of regardless of how in character it was.

On the other hand, Odo coming up with the idea of the harmonic resonator was *not* in character in the slightest. I could picture him thinking of the basic idea based on the crime reports, yes -- but he's not the one who could jury-rig something he'd only read about from equipment back in the runabout. This is someone who asks O'Brien to translate his statements into English and who's been fairly technophobic ever since we've seen him, remember; to suddenly have him turn into a Scotty-type is silly beyond belief.

Then, there's the big "revelation" of Odo's feelings for Kira. As you might expect from my past opinions on the subject, I was underwhelmed (to say the least) by all of this. The best point about it, though, was that it was reaffirmed that Kira *does not* share those feelings, at least at the moment. While that doesn't shake my feeling that such a romance is being aimed for deliberately (or that Bareil was killed off primarily to facilitate such a thing), it does, at least, spare me the image of Kira trampling on Bareil's memory so quickly.

That brings us to the subplot: Nog wanting to join Starfleet. While the basic motivation behind his actions -- not wanting to end up a loser in business like his father -- was actually quite sound, there were several issues and moments in here that simply didn't work for me. Primarily, I have to say that Dax's statement applies nearly as well to my own opinion. The idea of a Ferengi in Starfleet is an intriguing one, as is the dramatic prospect of developing a Ferengi in that direction -- but *Nog*? If the writers that take this on manage to actually make it work, more power to them -- but it's not a job I would want, even for a second.

Secondly, there's the bald statement that Rom is a mechanical genius. Rom? The "idiot [who] couldn't fix a straw if it were bent"? While it's not absolutely beyond the realm of possibility -- we have seen Rom be pretty adept in, say, "Necessary Evil" -- it's such a shockingly silly statement on the face of it that I was laughing uncontrollably at the image. Any plot that revolves around making us believe Rom is an engineering wizard is in serious need of cosmetic surgery.

Even if I could somehow take that as a given, moreover, I have still more difficulty believing that Nog takes after his father in that regard, as he claims to. While we've seen some slight evidence for Rom being good with tools, perhaps, the only time we've seen Nog try anything particularly technical was in "The Jem'Hadar" on the runabout -- and his actions there did *not* suggest much of an aptitude for engineering, to put it mildly.

The subplot, then, was basically a case where Nog's reputation is simply too well entrenched for me to really be able to believe the story we're given. On an intellectual level, I can see the plausibility in most of it (barely), but not viscerally.

That pretty much covers the show -- I don't have strong feelings about it much one way or the other. The Founder-related twist at the end was a good, strong point which helped, but the majority of it was simply there.

A few short takes, then:

-- For once, great pain was taken not to let the cat out of the bag where the ending was concerned. Given some of the previews we've seen, I'm relieved to see that "Heart of Stone"'s ad didn't breathe even a whisper about a Founder's presence.

-- The timing within the episode was very much a plot convenience. Odo's told that the distress signal from the communications probe he launches won't be picked up by DS9 for two days. That is *totally* absurd. Sisko got all the way from Bajor to Cardassia Prime in less time than that on at least two occasions, and Odo himself makes reference to getting back to the station the following night from the episode's moon. Having them be able to travel faster than their communications makes about as much sense as writing a letter to the person sitting right next to you does.

-- I liked the throwaway scene with Bashir about his pregnant ensign. The best lines this show really seemed to involve O'Brien -- first the "Louie, Louie" reference with Odo, and then Bashir's line about Miles building a hatchling pond. Cute.

That would seem to do it. So, wrapping up:

Writing: Not bad in terms of plot (though not hugely engaging); spotty on characters, but not horrid. Directing: Sluggish. Acting: Nothing jumped out either positively or negatively. OVERALL: Call it a 6. Not bad, but not exactly a must-see either.

NEXT WEEK: An ill wind blows out of prophecy.

Tim Lynch (Harvard-Westlake School, Science Dept.) tlynch@alumni.caltech.edu "No Changeling has ever harmed another." "There's always a first time." Copyright 1995, Timothy W. Lynch. All rights reserved, but feel free to ask... This article is explicitly prohibited from being used in any off-net compilation without due attribution and *express written consent of the author*. Walnut Creek and other CD-ROM distributors, take note.

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