Dax and Odo go to investigate a strange particle field detected in the Gamma Quadrant. Locating the source of the field, they beam down into an isolated valley and find themselves in the middle of a small village. They are immediately apprehended by Colyus, the villager in charge of local law enforcement. Colyus tells Odo that several villagers have recently disappeared without a trace, and Odo’s curiosity is piqued. He sets to work investigating possible causes for the disappearances and, in the process, befriends Taya, the young granddaughter of village elder Rurigan.
Taya tags along with Odo and Dax as they pursue the theory that the missing people left the valley for some reason. When Taya’s arm suddenly disappears, Dax deduces that Taya and everyone else in the village are holographic projections – and that people have gone missing because the projector in the center of the village has begun to break down. Dax and Odo tell the villagers the truth about their existence, then shut down the projector to conduct repairs. The village and everyone in it disappears – except Rurigan, who explains that he fled his homeworld after it was conquered by the Dominion and settled in this valley, using holographic technology to recreate the life he had lost. Rurigan urges Dax and Odo not to fix the projector, claiming that he is ready to move on, but Odo persuades him to change his mind, arguing that the villagers, though holographic projections, are real enough to have a right to life. When the repairs are complete, Dax turns the projector back on, and the villagers – including the missing ones – reappear. Before taking his leave, Odo demonstrates his shape-changing abilities to a delighted Taya.
Meanwhile, back on the station, Kira is relentlessly hounding Quark in Odo’s place. She stops one of Quark’s relatives – a Ferengi wanted for a museum robbery on Cardassia Five – from boarding the station and enlists Bashir for extra surveillance. As we find out later, Quark responds by persuading an indebted cleric to invite Vedek Bareil to DS9 to speak at the temple in the hopes that Bareil’s presence will divert Kira. It works – for a time. Kira and Bareil enjoy a spirited game of springball, have dinner together, and even kiss (for a long time, with tongue). But then Kira puts two and two together and once again foils Quark’s attempts to smuggle his cousin onto the station.
Also, Sisko decides that Jake is now old enough to be gainfully employed and lines up an engineering apprenticeship with O’Brien, believing that such experience will increase the chances of his son being admitted to Starfleet Academy. But Jake is unhappy; he admits to O’Brien later that he really doesn’t want to be in Starfleet. O’Brien urges Jake to be honest with his father; Jake eventually comes clean, and Sisko assures him that he will be proud of Jake no matter what he decides to do.
Overall: 6.7 – The main plot lacks originality, but the sub-plots have a few enjoyable moments to offer.
First, the good: I greatly appreciate the closeness – highlighted once again here – between Jake and his father. Jake Sisko is, in my opinion, yet one more element that sets DS9 apart from its starship-based step-siblings. DS9’s predecessors (and contemporary) either avoided family life altogether or presented an extremely atomized, socialistic picture of same. Children on the Enterprise-D in particular seemed to be deprived of genuine parental contact; indeed, I can recall at least one episode that had this deprivation as its central focus. On DS9, however, Jake enjoys sustained and character-building contact with Sisko, and it’s very nice to see. I also agree with other commentators who have applauded the writer’s decision here to allow Jake to pursue a civilian profession instead of following in his father’s footsteps. Human civilians are another virtually invisible population in the Trek universe.
Second, the merely okay: You do see a glimmer of an adult approach to the burgeoning relationship between Kira and Bareil. The scene in which Kira, holding fast to her orthodoxy, forthrightly disagrees with Bareil’s homily and Bareil subsequently attempts to diffuse the situation by steering the conversation to other topics strikes me as a very credible, very genuine moment, for example. I still find myself giggling like a teenager over their extended spit-hockey session, however, despite my no longer being a fourteen year old Trek fan. Upon more mature reflection, I believe this must be because it strikes me as a little too abrupt – a little too Hollywood. The last time we saw these two characters together, Kira was quite distinctly frightened by the idea that she was destined – according to the Prophets – to get involved with a cleric - yet now, just a few episodes later, they’re French kissing each other? I think that’s a bit of a stretch.
Third, the unsuccessful: The primary plot is a touch too saccharine for an Odo vehicle – and the climactic moment feels very contrived. The writer does not effectively explain why Rurigan would suddenly wish to detach himself from the life, however illusory, that he has lived for years. To me, Rurigan’s attitude is merely a set-up for a very on-the-nose – and, for Trek, hardly innovative – defense of the sentience of holographic beings.
There are no performances here that stand out as outstanding or excessively annoying.
The controversy over how we define sentience has been treated in a much more effective, much more compelling fashion elsewhere. Moreover, this episode is, like many others, weighed down by the usual metaphysical impossibilities, which the plot is simply not interesting enough to overcome.
BAREIL: “So, what did you think?”
KIRA: “Of your speech? I liked everything about it… except the content.”
BAREIL: “You disagree with my interpretation of the Eighth Prophecy?”
KIRA: "Disagree is a bit of an understatement. Passionately disagree is more like it. The way you have of taking a prophecy and showing that it can mean exactly the opposite of the accepted interpretation is-”
BAREIL: “Brilliant? Insightful?”
BAREIL: “Maybe we should talk about something else.” – LOL!
TAYA: “And then the great Minra said to the evil changeling, 'Maybe you can turn into a mountain, or a ghergher beast, or a tornado, but those are big things and big things are easy. I bet you can't turn into something small, like a loaf of greenbread.' And so the changeling said, 'Yes I can,' and he did, and do you know what happened?”
ODO: “The great Minra gobbled him up.”
TAYA: “How'd you know that?”
ODO: “The changeling in your story wasn't very smart.” – Heh.
JAKE: “Dad, I don't want to join Starfleet.”
SISKO: “Since when?”
JAKE: “Since forever. Starfleet is too much like you. I need to find what's me. Does that make any sense?”
SISKO: “Perfect sense.”
JAKE: “It does?”
SISKO: “It's your life, Jake. You have to choose your own way. There is only one thing I want from you. Find something you love, then do it the best you can.”
JAKE: “I'll try.”
SISKO: “Good. Then you'll make the old man proud.” – Awww.
KIRA: “Just thought I'd let you know: we caught your cousin trying to slip back onto the station – and guess what we confiscated from him? Bone-carvings stolen from a museum on Cardassia Five.”
QUARK: “I always knew Kono was no good.”
KIRA: “I only wish we could have caught the two of you together.”
QUARK: “Life is full of disappointments.”
KIRA: “By the way, Prylar Rhit tells me you encouraged him to invite Bareil onto the station.”
QUARK: “Is that a crime?”
KIRA: “Not at all. I just wanted to thank you. I found him very… diverting.”
(Kira and Bareil walk off together along the upper promenade.)
QUARK: “Not diverting enough.” – Snerk!