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Deep Space Dive, a Star Trek DS9 Podcast: Necessary Evil


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Mar 19, 2024
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Film Noir has been a cultural touchstone for nearly a century, and Deep Space Nine revels in it in season 2 episode 8. In “Necessary Evil” we flashback to Odo and Kira’s very uncute meet-cute during the Occupation. Join us as we discuss Sarah Daniel Rasher’s favourite DS9 episode, unpacking all of its references and allusions while tackling some of its hard hitting substance.

From Ferengi Casablanca and the mystery of Kira’s ponytail to Odo’s multitudes and the difference between a murder and a “casualty”, this episode demands a rewatch whether you’re new to noir or a buff like Sarah and I. Because after all: it’s the stuff that podcasts are made of….

DSD “Necessary Evil” Transcript

Deep Space Nine is the Star Trek with the greatest focus on political concepts like colonialism, feminism, queerness, and post scarcity economics. Join hosts and guests who aren’t just Trekkies, but activists, academics, artists, therapists, and more as we take a deep dive into the text and subtext where few Star Trek podcasts have gone before.

Sarah: Welcome to Deep Space Dive. We’ll be discussing Deep Space Nine’s themes and characters, not doing recaps. There are many fine recap podcasts out there. Instead, we look at the show as a whole, and this episode, like all of our episodes, is probably full of spoilers.

Elana: Mm hmm.

Sarah: If you’re watching the show for the first time, we recommend finishing your watch through before starting to listen to our podcast. All of the old episodes will be waiting for you when you’re ready. I’m Sarah Daniel Rasher. When I’m not getting paid to use math to save the world, I write about film and figure skating. I was the founding captain of my high school Star Trek club and I once got Nicole de Boer to kiss me at a convention.

Elana: I’m Elana Levin, also the host of Graphic Policy Radio. I’ve worked at the intersection of comics, nerd culture, and social change for a really long time. And my biggest cred was giving a speech on fan activism at a rally organized by Leta, a.k.a. Chase Masterson.

Sarah: So this episode is a little different than the ones we’ve done before. Elana and I were talking about what our favorite episodes of Deep Space Nine are, especially the ones that we haven’t been able to go into depth about on the podcast yet. We want to talk about them not as a recap, but how they fit into the rest of the series and why they represent the best of Deep Space Nine. In this episode of Deep Space Dive, we’re looking at my favorite, “Necessary Evil”. The one where a new discovery about an Occupation era murder makes Odo reflect back on that time in his life and his relationship with Major Kira.

Elana: What’s my favorite episode? You’ll find out next time.

Sarah: People seem surprised when I say this is my favorite. They’ll say, ‘Oh yeah, that is a good one’, but it’s not the first thing that comes to mind or apparently what they associate with me. Um, but for me, it represents a lot of firsts for the series and sets up so much of what happens later in terms of character development and world building. It’s also just a really well made episode. It’s well directed, the performances are really strong, it– part of that is because it relies on some of the better actors on the show. Um, also my general taste, like beyond Star Trek, runs to quieter and more interior drama. So, I like that this episode has kind of a quiet intensity to it, that there’s no space battles, it’s a lot of talk. And the other thing about it is just like, it was kind of the right episode at the right time. It first aired right around when I started watching Deep Space Nine, and it was the first one I watched that– my reaction was ‘this is what this show is trying to accomplish that sets it apart from other Star Trek’ and I’m like 15 years old and just at the age where you’re starting to have thoughts like that. So, um, it’s an episode that means a lot to me, and we’ll get into some of the more specific reasons for that. But “Necessary Evil” is my favorite episode of Deep Space Nine. So, one of the things that I think people think about first related to it, and I know Elana, you had a lot of thoughts about this, so I kind of want to start here, is that it’s kind of the film noir episode.

Elana: Oh yeah. No, I mean, going back to when you and I were first talking about our plans for the podcast, one of the themes we had was like, ‘oh, we should do an episode about all the film noir references in the series’, but this is just a really great way to kind of talk about one of the most condensed places where it does show up. Uh, you know, the, the, even the lighting is more dramatic than usual, like more high key lighting than we normally have on the series. And it’s such a wonderful cold open on the femme fatale, just straight out of a movie from the forties, I’m just like ‘nailed it’.

Sarah: She’s in like this silk nightgown standing by a window on a rainy night, but at the same time like, she’s alien looking like she’s Bajoran, she’s got the earrings, she’s got the nose, her hairstyle is not 30s, so it’s like it’s making sure that we’re clear, ‘okay, this is an alien, we’re doing sci fi, but we’re still gonna really aggressively quote–

Elana: Mm hmm.

Sarah: this sort of pop culture touchstone.’

Elana: And she definitely wears a fascinator later– or two, a fascinator or two in the series that are very much period. So like, they have little– oh my god, but her pantsuit that she wears when you first see her. Even that being, right? Deep Space Nine, like a lot of Star Treks, that– often doesn’t have the costume budget that I wish it would, but they really, they really used it well in this episode for that.

Sarah: Yeah, it was a lot of really simple costuming that was just– it’s, I think of like, when it shifts to your first view of Odo in the earlier time frame and he’s in this kind of like turtleneck and jacket and that also looks sort of 30s and 40s in the same way, but at the same time it still looks very Odo.

Elana: Mm hmm. Yeah.

Sarah: Then it’s almost like you wonder if some of this stuff was just off the rack or off the standard sort of like costume closet stuff that they just picked very simple things because they’re not trying to make it look as sci-fi as they often do, but at the same time it ends up looking very sci-fi because the lighting is different, there’s– one of the things that I want to get into is there’s barely humans in this episode.

Elana: Mm hmm. But I would just say that her, the pantsuit, the white jumpsuit outfit that she was wearing when we first see her, if that is off the rack, like, I want to know what rack that is from because it was a bold statement outfit and I’m very happy for her.

Sarah: Yeah, it’s um, and I think that when we’re talking about like this is an especially well made episode, I think that’s what we’re talking about too. It’s not just the act-acting and the direction, but there’s a lot of costume, and hair, and makeup, and set design, and props management that’s just really smart.

Elana: Yeah, totally. One of the things that we both had in our notes when we prepared was like… I think my note was literally like ‘Quark giving his best Humphrey Bogart’ and you brought up like ‘Quark as– literally as Rick from Casablanca’ we–

Sarah: Yeah, and that’s a thread kind of. Like I feel like there’s a number of episodes where he’s– either in the way he’s being shot or like literally in the story, he’s got the one with the old Cardassian ex-lover that’s literally just Casablanca, um, but that that sort equivalence comes up a lot in the show, and it’s one of the things that I think helps humanize the character, so to speak, or make the character not a villain but a sort of relatable and morally complex individual, is like ‘let us remind you that if he didn’t have the rubber helmet on, like we definitely have human equivalents to this kind of person.’

Elana: And also just like he really has this whole thing where he tries to pretend he’s completely amoral, that’s part of how he performs Ferengi-ness, but he actually does have this moral code. I mean, it’s like so fucking Rick from Casablanca. It’s just interesting also because in that opening exchange between him and the femme fatale, I mean– and that, their dialogue lines are just so fucking good. Um, he’s, he is playing the Peter Lorre role in Casa– like that kind of like role in that moment. Like he’s, his acting performance is very much physically evoking Humphrey Bogart, but like, he is being the Peter Lorre in that scene. Um, I’m also just obsessed with her saying, ‘at least the Cardassians kept the power on’. It reminded me so much of the cuckoo clock speech from The Third Man.

Sarah: Oh wow, yeah, you’re right. And then as you’re, and then as things unfold, you see that the Bajorans are keeping the power on just fine…

Elana: Mm hmm.

Sarah: …it’s her change in circumstances.

Elana: I, uh, the quickest attempt to explain the cuckoo clock speech, if you look up The Third Man, the Carol Reed film noir, starring Orson Wells and Joseph Cotten, there’s an exchange– well, one, go watch the fucking movie. I– I love that movie so much. But there’s an exchange where, basically one of the, one– a major character sort of explains why a little fascism is okay sometimes. He’s also the villain, so remember that. Anyway, but yeah, I– the way she puts that, you know, and it’s definitely a direct reference to like, ‘well, the Nazis kept the trains running on time’, and as much as we like, ‘yeah, like, okay, they’re not the space Nazis’, but that is what is being evoked in her bellyaching around that. And you’re right, like it’s important that the episode actually shows the way in which she’s just griping and it’s not actually, it’s not actually what’s going on.

Sarah: What she’s really griping about is that she can’t pay people off anymore to– or, you know, use other resources or her connections or whatever to live a certain lifestyle because the people who are now in power just see her as the lowest of the low.

Elana: For a reason.

Sarah: Oh, yeah. And for more reasons than it initially seems. Like it’s not just that she’s a collaborator, she’s just like a pile of awful. And I think it’s really important in Deep Space Nine, that for every alien species or most of the alien species we see, we see examples of really, of good people and people who are trying to be better, and we also just see that like, the Bajorans are notionally the good guys, but we get Kai Winn, and we get her. Like, there’s definitely some real awful Bajorans out there.

Elana: One last really big film noir thing that this episode calls to mind for me is it points out the way in which the whole captain’s log and, I don’t know what Odo calls his log, but the Odo’s log, the constable’s log, is itself a film noir device because it gives you the excuse for the first person narrator to be like, ‘so I was walking into her office that– you know, she, there she was walking through the door. I knew she would be trouble’. Like that whole like monologue that we associate with the film noir genre, like, the captain’s log is our sci-fi version of that, those logs, and I don’t think it was till I was watching this episode with that in mind that I was like, ‘well no wonder this is such a perfect tone setting because every episode, more or less every episode of Star Trek has somebody film noiring it out in their monologue to themselves in their little diary in the beginning.’

Sarah: Right. And just, I mean, it benefits, especially from René Auberjonois’ uniquely gravelly voice, just really lends itself to that film noir voiceover and also a way of sort of linking it to characterization is just later finding out that Odo is a really avid reader of trashy novels.

Elana: Yeah!

Sarah: That like when he’s creating, when he’s, you know, he’s speaking, but he’s effectively writing. Like, his go to is like, his voice is from a detective novel because he reads them.

Elana: Yeah.

Sarah: And at the same time, a lot of those voiceovers have a certain sort of like, wisdom and longing to them that’s really that kind of escapes those bounds. And it isn’t just a bunch of film noir cliches either.

Elana: Yeah. Yeah. He’s so much fun in this. Like what a great opportunity for him to have here and yeah. And Quark is just acting the fuck out of that scene with femme fatale. It would have been the fact that we like, believe him and her in that moment and that he can actually kind of come off as a little bit, like, less weaselly and more debonair in that fucking insane contraption covering so much of his head and face is really remarkable. And I don’t know that we see Quark effectively in that mode that much in this show, and we haven’t with him as Pel, I guess, right?

Sarah: Yeah,

Elana: Check out our last episode. But, yeah, it’s like a nice moment where he gets to really do that.

Sarah: I think we get it more than we realize that because Armin Shimerman is so good and really embraced the physicality of this part. Like– it’s one of those things where it’s like, we forget about– I always bring up “Little Green Men” when people start complaining about Ferengi episodes. I’m like, that’s such a hugely good episode, and that’s one where there’s a lot of emotional range. Um, but I do think that he, and I want to get into Rom because this is, this episode is a breakout moment for, for Rom and for Max Grodénchik, but, uh, both of them really take this opportunity to figure out how the physicality of the, of wearing those appliances affect how their emotions are coming off and really uses them and works with them rather than against them.

Elana: Yeah, let’s talk about Rom.

Sarah: Because this is the first episode where the show really figures out who Rom is. Like, in the first season when he shows up, he’s kind of like a mean idiot.

Elana: Mm hmm.

Sarah: To the point where like, there’s a suspicion that he has some kind of intellectual disability.

Elana: Yeah.

Sarah: And then this episode turns around and shows that he, it’s not like an intellectual inadequacy. It’s a combination of like, neurosis and not being intelligent in a way that’s valued by his culture.

Elana: Yeah. And just being bullied. I mean, he’s just–

Sarah: Yeah.

Elana: –he’s just been bullied his entire life.

Sarah: He’s smart and devious, but he’s awkward with no self confidence. So like, he doesn’t believe he’s smart because nobody in his entire life has ever told him he’s smart, but we as outsiders are seeing what’s going on. And it’s one of those things where the show gives enough information to contest what you’re being told about a character in a way that allows it to, without feeling like a massive retcon, just say like, ‘okay, here’s where we’re going with this from here on out’ and he validates that later when Odo is interrogating him and Odo is sort of making jokes about his intelligence, but then you’re sitting there going, okay, he saw this list for like 30 seconds, and it’s written in what is probably his third language,

Elana: Yeah.

Sarah: and he managed to read a name and remember it with enough fidelity that he’s able to give Odo something to go on. And that does seem to change how Odo treats him later when Odo is giving him updates on Quark’s condition and Odo is taking him more seriously as like, ‘don’t you dare kill him just to get the bar because like, now I realize you’re capable of it.’

Elana: Do you think Odo suspects him at one point? Or is he just being like that?

Sarah: Oh yeah! Well, it’s, I mean, Odo suspects everybody who has a reason to harm somebody.

Elana: Which is pretty much everybody.

Sarah: Right. Like, it’s Odo’s nature.

Elana: There’s such good dialogue that just feels very noir throughout the whole episode. Like the whole, um, ‘she knew you couldn’t resist opening’. ‘I’m sorry’, ‘me too’, and then shoot– I mean, like, they’re going straight for the genre reference points in this. Like, they know their shit, and it works so well. I-I’m curious how that reads to people who aren’t as familiar, I guess. But…

Sarah: Yeah, I wonder if that is one of the reasons why it’s not considered, like, an all-timer is that it relies on a certain amount of viewer knowledge to come off as, not just a pretty good episode, but one that’s really doing something very creative.

Elana: That makes sense. And it’s one thing for a science fiction show to do something that’s pulling from a science fiction agecent genre, but there can be less, necessarily, of an assumption amongst the film noir nerds and stuff like that.

Sarah: And I think as this episode becomes older, all of the things it’s referencing that are already 40 or 50 years old when this episode happens, are now even another generation older and are coming up on a century old now in some cases.

Elana: Yeah. It’s insane to think about.

Sarah: So the expectation that like a teenager who finds this streaming and watches it for the first time is going to pick up on the references that to them are so old–

Elana: Mm hmm.

Sarah: Like they were already old to us. There were already lots of people our age watching it when it aired who would not have gotten these and we only got them because we were giant nerds–

Elana: A particular kind of nerd.

Sarah: of a way specific kind.

Elana: You know what you’re making me think, I, we should at the end of the episode give people some film noir suggestions for viewing for folks who, this might, who might not have been aware of. Who, you know, might be looking for a place to go if they’re into this sort of thing.

Sarah: Yeah. Um, yeah, I did not do my homework on that one, so it’s probably gonna have to be you, but go for it.

Elana: No problem.

Sarah: Yeah. And at the same time, and this sort of brings me to the next point on my list, is while it’s incredibly grounded in sort of 20th century Western pop culture, it’s also incredibly alien. Um, O’Brien doesn’t appear. Dax, who is an alien but is sort of human allied, especially in a situation like this, does not appear. Bashir has like two lines. Sisko pops in and out, but doesn’t have a whole lot to do. They’re never in any way the point of view character, it’s really these groups of aliens who are shown as, you know, relatable, but still very alien. And it’s sort of aliens acting out this very familiar thing in a certain way.

Elana: Yeah. I just– it’s such a cool thing that they have built out different other species’ cultures and histories and the complexities of their interactions with each other so much at this point in the series that they don’t need any humans.

Sarah: And this is, you know, to be clear, this is a season and a half into this show.

Elana: Yeah, exactly. Season two.

Sarah: It’s season two, and while we’ve seen all of these aliens before, except for changelings, there was not a lot of depth put into like, Bajoran culture or Ferengi culture as cultures before Deep Space Nine. So the fact that we have enough reference to see the underlying cultural norms that would produce both a Kira Nerys and um, Mrs. Vaatrick, and we can say like ‘those people are both acting like Bajorans.’

Elana: Mm hmm.

Sarah: Um, it’s really remarkable and I mean, part of it is that back then you got, you know, a billion episodes per season, but back then things were also very episodic and reset and didn’t focus on creating that kind of lore and world building. So it’s, that’s what’s, that’s really very remarkable. It’s also one of the other firsts. Um, the Occupation has been frequently referenced to this point, but this is the first time we get a flashback and see what Deep Space Nine looked like when it was Terok Nor, and it seems very long ago and far away. And then late in the episode, Odo reminds us this was five years ago. This was like, not that long ago.

Elana: There’s a moment where, like, when later in the end of the episode, when, Odo is like, ‘you know, you’ve known me for, we’ve been free for a year, and you haven’t’, and I was just like, ‘Odo, that is no time at all! No time at all!’

Sarah: Yeah, it feels very– there’s this sense of like things being both very recent and very long ago and far away that I think as like our current, you know, political situation in a lot of ways has that feeling to it, like, I think that that stands out more now than it might have in the 90s, or is at least more relatable to us as, as Americans living in a very different time than we were then.

Elana: Yeah.

Sarah: That like, how much and how little changes in a five year period.

Elana: It’s just so funny to hear them not quite own it in the way that it feels like, really clear to me, you know?

Sarah: I think, and this is something that has been brought up in a very different context at other times in this podcast. Odo is very young, so there’s also– he might be young enough that like a year or five years does really feel like a long time as a percentage of his life.

Elana: How, how long would this have been for him?

Sarah: It’s not clear. I think that this is one of those things that people have tried to map out, but he’s like, he’s probably developmentally a teenager in the flashbacks. Like he’s young, young.

Elana: It’s, I mean, René Auberjonois just acts the fuck through that ridiculous mask, and there’s just these moments where you see his eyes change or soften– like, the look on his face when, um, I believe I put it as, ‘Odo was acting the fuck out of that mask when Kira looks like she’s about to cry in his office’. Like, I mean, it just, his whole, his eyes just completely soften. It is, it is a different thing.

Sarah: Yeah. And it’s really remarkable that an actor of his age is able to convincingly play a character who is so much younger. And I think because of the age difference between the actor and the character you can sometimes forget that. But I think that this is an episode that draws attention to the fact that Odo is very young and he’s naive, even in the present at this point in the show.

Elana: Hmm. Do you think Kira is bad at lying, like he says she is?

Sarah: Hmm. I feel like it’s, you know what? I think she is, but not always in the way that the show intends.I think there are times when the script tells us that her lies are, um, you know, passing the deception role, but though– either intentionally or unintentionally, and I tend to give Deep Space Nine actors the benefit of the doubt, that, um, that Nana Visitor plays scenes where Kira is lying or especially when she’s hiding her past, um, that she often plays it so that Kira has a lot of tells.

Elana: That’s cool. Yeah,

Sarah: But it’s realistic to say that, like, just meeting her, Odo wouldn’t necessarily recognize those tells yet,

Elana: Right.

Sarah: but by, by the show’s present, he would recognize those tells.

Elana: It’s just interesting because he says that to her so early on that she’s not a good liar, and it made me really wonder, like– it feels like he’s doing a noir act to her, and sometimes, like, when he tries to pull a, ‘what’s a young lady like you doing in a place like this?’ And she’s like, ‘don’t fucking talk to me. I will knife you’. It was like, wonderful, her calling him on his, like, posture. But I kind of viewed that almost as one of his other moments where he’s trying to do an act of how he feels like he’s supposed to be in this situation.

Sarah: Yeah. And not knowing and being, again, young, and also not having probably a lot of good models for how people talk to Bajoran women, especially.

Elana: Yes.

Sarah: Like, he’s probably never met anybody who didn’t objectify Bajoran women.

Elana: Yeah. I don’t think it occurred to him that it wasn’t going to go well, like, at all. At all. And she just sort of blew his mind. It’s almost like, ‘did you know that we are also people? My god’. And I liked how he absorbed her perspective of what was so fucked up about it. So then when like Quark tries to lie about her, even though she wants Quark to lie about her, he takes offense at her behalf in a way that he wouldn’t have before that conversation perhaps.

Sarah: Yeah, and I think something that’s very consistent about Odo is that, in a way that facilitates being a creature that can change his shape, he adapts very readily to his own observations, unless he’s got an emotional reason to not want to take it in. So he adapts to what he’s observing about Kira, which is she is a person with motivations, and reflects that back. He adapts to seeing that Rom is in fact a competent individual and changes the way he interacts with Rom. And to me one of the challenges of watching Odo do anything is that he is definitely the police state, and he very much has a policing and carceral mentality that is much harder to cheer for in 2024 than it was in the 90s. But at the same time, his ability to respond adaptively and to not presume ill will when he can see something else going on with somebody is a rejection of one of the things that we really object to about policing.

Elana: Yeah. Like he’s sort of the idealized, ‘well if they were like this, it wouldn’t be a fucking, you know, nightmare game.’

Sarah: And there are times when he isn’t that flexible and it’s really frustrating because like you want him to show that potential and that goodness that makes it okay to see him as your heroic even if you’ve got big problems with his desire to just like throw everybody in jail. ‘Cause he really does still want to throw everybody in jail, and you could kind of laugh at it most of the time.

Elana: And do you feel like it’s because he wants to create order? Like is that, or like what, is that what he wants to throw everybody in jail?

Sarah: Yeah, he, it’s– and one of the things that I noted is that, at first your instinct is to say, well, ‘during the occupation, this was like, you know the Wild West, and then the Federation showed up and the place is still ungovernable. It’s unpoliceable’. So I think it’s coming more out of exasperation than anything else. Um, and how frequently someone like Sisko will look at Odo and be like, ‘you cannot just put him in jail’. That like, it’s a perspective that is sympathized with, but not permitted free reign.

Elana: Yeah. Yeah. Speaking of Rom from before, uh, and aliens, I do believe this is the episode that first establishes that Ferengi shriek at an incredibly high, loud decibel system as part of the early Ferengi warning system.

Sarah: Yes. And Max Grodénchik’s unaugmented no like sound effect, like they just had him go in and shriek.

Elana: It was amazing.

Sarah: Like, I think some of it was, I think some of it was looped. But it was definitely him, yeah.

Elana: It’s him. And like, I just love this idea of this being like an evolutionary development. The Ferengi were like, ‘what sound can we produce that’s so obnoxious that others will stay away? I know! Or immediately come running to aid us? I know!’ Oh god.

Sarah: And yeah, I think what you’re pointing out is that despite being a pretty heavy episode in a lot of ways, there are moments that are just goofy. And it lets them be that sort of like dark laughter. And that’s the big one, where Rom is just shrieking.

Elana: It’s the recent changes, but the shriek lives on.

Sarah: Yes. So we’ve talked about the big reference here, which is to film noir and film noir adjacent cinema from like the 1930s to the early 1950s. But I pulled out a bunch of other points of reference that I think are throughout the series, like film noir, but also really concentrated here, and that they’re more in reference to Odo specifically. And I want to go over the quicker one first and the one that you’re gonna have to like, rein me in a little bit next. Um, so, there’s a lot of Sherlock Holmes moments for Odo.

Elana: Yeah.

Sarah: And Star Trek loves it some Sherlock Holmes. It was a huge thing, obviously, throughout Next Generation, like, there’s literally a holodeck version of Moriarty that gains sentience. It’s a, you know, it’s a big through line in the Next Generation. It doesn’t really carry through to Deep Space Nine in the same way, but there’s all these little moments where Odo is noticing little things that are outside of typical perception. And sometimes he’s showing off a little, and sometimes it’s very matter of fact that he doesn’t realize that it’s not something that everybody would know. And when he’s trying to get Rom to recall, he’s using this sort of like–

Elana: Memory castle.

Sarah: Yeah, the memory castle visualization techniques. And one of the things that came to mind for me, and especially in both of my like backward references are going to have a forward reference because I have been consuming some pop culture this week that I’ve really liked, was thinking forward to, um, the premiere of the TV show Elsbeth on CBS, which is the first network show in quite a while that I have given a shit about. And that’s about a detective character that is very intentionally positioned as neurodivergent. And the question is, and this is an open question for me, because Odo is definitely not neurodivergent like I am, and he’s not frequently read by like neurodivergent fans of the show as being their sort of like neurodiversity touchstone.

But what do you think of Odo’s portrayal as neurodivergent in this episode and sort of more broadly?

Elana: I’m surprised that more people don’t identify that as him. And I have to wonder if it’s because they don’t identify with him and therefore that’s not something that they want to see, because I think it’s very clear.

Sarah: Yeah, because he’s really set up as the sort of like Spock/Data lineage character where he’s the outsider, and while there’s definitely a lot of fondness for Odo and people really latch on to him for other reasons, the one that I see autistic people in particular getting stuck on is Bashir, and the one that I see people with non-autistic ADHD getting stuck on is Dax.

Elana: Yeah.

Sarah: That like Odo seems to, to be neurologically atypical in a way that seems very alien.

Elana: I also just think he’s, it might be, if we’re looking and thinking about conversations that are happening now versus before, because remember listeners, I was not part of active Star Trek fandom back in the day. If we’re looking at conversations that are happening now, I think he’s just too cop-coded for people. They are choosing not to see it.

Sarah: Yeah, that makes sense that he’s too cop-coded. And I think like beyond that, a lot of the, a lot of his behavior, some of it stemming from being cop-coded and some of it just you know, stemming from other things is, traits and behaviors that we don’t want to identify in ourselves, that we kind of want to reject in ourselves. And I think that was true at the time as well, that Odo is a really difficult character.

Elana: Sure. Yeah. I mean, I definitely think, you know, when you were telling me how much you had related to him early on, I was also like, ‘what?’, because I didn’t want to see that either. You know what I mean?

Sarah: Yeah. So my other, and again, we’re, I’m going to be looking back in order to look forward and to connect some things that like make sense only in my head. Um, hopefully not–

Elana: I don’t think only in your head.

Sarah: Yeah, I think that like at least the looking backward part where the– so I see Odo figured clearly here and even more clearly and other things later on as a Frankenstein’s monster figure. Like he was literally raised by, I hesitate to say mad scientist, but definitely like an outsider scientist, um, who is an odd and quirky individual, and that one of the wonderful things about Odo’s relationship with Dr. Mora is that they do find a way to have a parent child bond and to find a kind of love for each other and a way to forgive each other. That’s really one of the, one of the things I love most about Odo’s character is that he’s depicted as moving toward forgiveness in that relationship and really wanting to have a parent, but at the same time he’s literally raised in a lab and he’s brought out as a specimen that does tricks, and one of the things that doesn’t really happen in Shelley and kind of happens in some later adaptations, but really explicitly– there is a great speech in the movie Poor Things, which I literally saw yesterday and which I went with a friend and we looked at each other at the end of this very long, very intense movie and we just looked at each other and we’re like, ‘well, that was great, let’s go get a drink’. And we sat for an hour talking about this movie, and this is one where it takes the psychology of being Frankenstein’s monster to an extent that I think Deep Space Nine also in some of its better moments with Odo also ends up doing. And one of the things that resonated with me was Odo talking about how he went to Terok Nor because he realized he was at a point where he was always going to be a specimen and not a person if he stayed with Dr. Mora. And so he left and went somewhere where nobody knew him. And there’s a very similar moment in Poor Things, where the main character is also literally a lab experiment, and that is the only thing I can say without uh….

Elana: Sure sure, and I– I’ve heard people- I’ve heard critics draw that comparison. I haven’t seen the movie yet, I’m very much looking forward to it–

Sarah: It’s intentional, it’s not just critics. Um, like the director has drawn the comparison, like it’s intentional and it’s systematic. But I think it’s something that, um, the Deep Space Nine writing and production team were aware of enough to continually quote it for Odo. And what’s fascinating to me is that it doesn’t get quoted nearly as much for Data or for, um, the Doctor on Voyager as it does for Odo.

Elana: Why do you think that is? Did the others simply forget or?

Sarah: I think it’s that– it might be that Odo is more monstrous.

Elana: Yeah.

Sarah: That both because of his association later on with the Founders and just because, like, Data is very whimsical. The Doctor is crusty, but in a way that’s not threatening. There’s some real menace to Odo. Like, there’s a real sense that Odo is a person who could snap. And it’s not just a malfunction like it would be with Data or the Doctor.

Elana: And also Odo is even more of a person than Data or the Doctor, right? Like, Odo is organic.

Sarah: Yeah, um.

Elana: I wonder if that lends itself partially to the metaphor, because Frankenstein is ‘made out of people! Ah, ooh, people’. Sorry, I had to bring in a different, unrelated science fiction movie to it, but…

Sarah: And just to fully belabor something that I do go back to with Odo a lot because it’s so important, is that in a way, being, um, sort of delivered into the political circumstances that his discovery brought him to, he is this like sort of cultural hybrid of Bajorans, and Cardassians, and later Federation culture, and then we get the moment where he literally merges with a trill and, that there is– that he is this sort of amalgam of different cultural and psychological elements that he builds himself out of because he’s not, he isn’t like anybody else. And something I’m actually thinking of is when he meets Worf and Worf– like he’s met Klingons before, but Worf is the first Klingon he’s really had, like, an emotional connection to or emotional relationship with, and seeing some Klingon things in himself that he’s never really seen from any of the other cultures he’s interacted with. And finding some satisfaction in that.

Elana: Yeah, totally. I want to talk about the neck trick. I love how horrified the series is consistently about it and how much they just really need us to know how unacceptable and dehumanizing it is that this was something he was forced to do to as a freak basically, for the Cardassians. And that we never see it. Chef’s kiss, excellent.

Sarah: And it’s, and there’s callbacks to it throughout the series. And we never see it because he never has to do it again, because he’s been liberated from it.

Elana: And like so many shows would have felt the need to explain it or show it as a flashback or– because they would they would believe that their viewers needed to witness it. And in fact, I would even think that perhaps under modern fan culture you would see fans explain what it would be and theorize and there’d be videos and this and that, but no then they’re like no, it’s not appropriate, that’s why it doesn’t happen.

Sarah: Right. And one of the brilliant things that the script does is it contrasts that Cardassian neck trick with ‘nobody had to teach me the justice’ trick. That like that’s something that he sees as innate about himself, and there’s this tragedy of him saying, maybe the rest of my kind are like that, and then you meet them and you’re like, ‘fuck, no, that’s an Odo trait, not a species trait’.

Elana: Which I think says something even better about him, although I also think in a meta way it shows that these, they hadn’t figured out what his people were gonna be at that point. But um, I do think it’s better that it’s just him and not… I don’t like the thought of inborn racial traits. But people think that way about themselves. They absolutely do. So it’s not unreasonable or unusual that he might wonder or think about this, especially in lieu of having any other information. I’m not saying Odo’s bad for wondering this or thinking this, I just don’t like when stories validate it.

Sarah: Right. And, you know, when we’re saying, ‘why is he the kind of person who wants to throw everybody in jail?’, that does seem to have some kind of like instinctual species component where in the same way Ferengi have envolved– have evolved shrieking, that the, that changelings have evolved like that’s a response to threat like…

Elana: Yeah, their threat response. They say that. What’s her name says that, right? It’s like, ‘well, we do this because you guys all tried to like eat us or whatever’.

Sarah: Yeah, um, so maybe it is worthwhile to say that a lot of the things that we really are frustrated with about Odo are sort of, on some level species-based threat responses and that in his better moments, he overcomes the threat response and becomes somebody who’s driven by a much higher sense of justice. And recognizing that sometimes justice means letting the guilty go free, which is the moral of the story here.

Elana: The punchline here for sure. Who do you think, or what do you think, Odo told Gul Dukat at the end of the day?

Sarah: Yeah, because that’s never answered. We know from other depictions of the Cardassian justice system that Odo saying, ‘I don’t know, I couldn’t figure it out’, is not acceptable. And I’ve never had a satisfying answer to that, I don’t think the episode tells us.

Elana: It’s really hard to think about.

Sarah: Yeah.

Elana: Kira shows so much trust in him, in her being like, straight up, I will tell you that I am a terrorist so that you don’t think I’m a murderer. Like, what an insane gambit, right?

Sarah: Yeah.

Elana: She’s right. It paid off because her instinct, her, not her instinct, but her, her educated guess that this was a person who would see the bigger picture or could see the bigger picture, you know, paid off.

Sarah: And that sort of amplifies the idea that part of Odo’s sense of justice is that the Bajoran resistance is morally right to the point where he’s never gonna implicate the resistance because it would not be just to punish them any more than they’re already being punished.

Elana: Yeah. Which is interesting, right? Because somebody could like be against the occupation and still say like, ‘but I don’t think it’s okay for you guys to, you know, be murdering traitors’. Like, that’s an opinion that I think a lot of people would certainly have. And so it’s extra brave that she doesn’t think he’d even hold that, you know? What do you think about the scene where they’re seen in the office at the end?

Sarah: I think it’s an incredi–, like, I think the ambiguity of the scene is really beautiful. That like, there’s no emotional ambiguity, but there’s narrative ambiguity and I think that’s really hard to pull off. And I think that is fully the actors. Um, and I think there is a reason why that scene is generally perceived as the beginning of the Odo and Kira romance.

Elana: Yeah, for sure.

Sarah: Because whether you’re perceiving that as romantic love or as something else, there’s no way to come out of that scene without believing that he feels a type of love for her.

Elana: Yeah. I mean, he could see through even her bad wig.

Sarah: Oh my god, that, that bad, bad hair extension with the ponytail, oh my god.

Elana: Well, it’s funny because like it made sense for the show to give her very different looking hair for a flashback.

Sarah: And also something that they could clip to the back of her head in 10 minutes because…

Elana: Yeah, exactly. You know, so it’s like, yeah, that’s why it looks like that. But it is so funny, it’s like, ‘yeah, it’s not your look, it’s not your look’.

Sarah: Yeah, I feel like, um, there was a whole lot of ‘not your look’ for poor Kira Nerys throughout the show.

Elana: I know. It’s so crazy. They’re like, ‘okay, we’re gonna cast this really gorgeous woman and then just do really weird things with her hair and makeup for years on end.’

Sarah: Yeah, like definitely–

Elana: What a strange choice!

Sarah: Like definitely the pixie cut was the was the look hair wise, but they paired that with blush decisions that even by a 90s standard it was like come on.

Elana: What in the name. It’s so funny because like they okay they have like Terry Farrell and they’re like ‘okay this really gorgeous actress, and we’ve decided that the right way to handle this is to not do weird shit to her because her character isn’t that kind of woman and you don’t need to paint shit on her to look great. Great. We’re done. Okay. Now we have this other really gorgeous actress. We have decided to keep doing really weird things to her hair and makeup’. I don’t know why. I mean, part of it is like, they can’t decide how butch they’re going to let Kira be at any given point in time. And so all of the weird decisions that they make about styling her is all a negotiation with how butch to femme, they are going to allow this character to appear on screen. That’s my theory.

Sarah: Yeah, I mean, yours is the plausible and it is backed up by, like, subsequent, discussion of the show that, yeah, like, they had to put her in corsets, which were miserable, and they had, they could not make her, they could not make her look more like an action hero than a certain point, and there were certain members of the production staff who, enforced that rigorously.

I like my like no prize internal story of she’s like all of our Holocaust survivor grandmas who like never went out without a full face of makeup and went to the hair salon twice a week and did not leave the house without wearing heels because they understood the emotional value of being high femme at all times.

Elana: Yeah, no, yeah, I mean, literally my grandma, like literally my grandma. Exactly. Multiple times. Save her life during the Holocaust, including in Auschwitz, by performing femininity and like the most insane extreme circumstances. You know, uh, becoming the most obsessive cleaner person, for example. It’s just what prevented her from getting murdered. It’s it’s very, very real. So it’s real, real trauma survivor woman. Shit. Um, so I really do think you’ve got some great, no prize analysis there. And it also explains why she doesn’t really know what exactly looks good on her.

Sarah: Yes. Um, and I think that, and I, because we do keep going back to, um, Holocaust references here in a way that we usually tell our guests not to, I think it’s both because when it’s just the two of us we feel like we’re not going to step on each other’s toes that way, but also because I feel like this is one of the few episodes of any Star Trek that approaches that question in a way that’s not incredibly frustrating for me.

Elana: Yeah. This episode does so many hard things well.

Sarah: Yeah, and I think that’s why I like it is because I’ve, I am as sort of a viewer of media always like the level of difficulty person. And like, one of the reasons I love this is, it goes back to that sort of like quiet intensity, like it’s, it’s easy to screw up and go overboard with a big drama episode, but it’s also easy to be impressive with those kinds of moves, and it’s much harder to be impressive in an episode that has very few big dramatic moments and is mostly, um, it’s almost like sustaining tension rather than building it.

Elana: Hmm.

Sarah: And I think that that’s something that’s respected in, like, prestige films and not just literary novels, but also a lot of genre fiction that like, we respect that in other contexts, but it’s less likely to get acknowledgement as strength when we’re watching TV.

Elana: Hear hear.

Sarah: One of the, and there are like, there are lines in this episode. This is an episode that is scripted very well, but the line that kept returning to me as I was watching this time for the billionth time that I’ve seen this episode was, Dukat asks Odo if he’s ever seen a dead person before, and Odo says, ‘yes, in the mines’ and


Elana: Your mines, in your mines, so good.

Sarah: In your mines, you’re right, you mines. And Dukat says, ‘those are casualties, this is murder’. And he says it very matter of factly.

Elana: Yeah, which is the only Dukat way. Dukat has never said anything that wasn’t like, ‘I am telling you exactly how it is’, despite the fact that he is definitely not the best determiner of anything.

Sarah: Yeah.

Elana: His full confidence in his rightness is…

Sarah: He also has a Worf level of believing very strongly that his pronouncements are reflective of Cardassian culture as a whole, and them not being at all. And then, you know, you’ll see random Cardassian number eight going in and saying, ‘oh, by the way, he’s full of shit’. Um, yeah, and like so many completely unreliable Dukat lines, it has an incredibly resonant truth to it. Because every physical or emotional injury that you see throughout the rest of the episode leaves you wondering, like, ‘was that a casualty or was that a murder?’

Elana: Yeah. I also think there’s something about like, Dukat, trying to swagger about like, ‘look at this tough guy situation I’m bringing you into’. With being like, this is the reality that your people have created for everyone else around you, actually.

Sarah: Yeah. And also, just the irony of Dukat dismissing all of those other Bajoran lives and then taking such an interest in this Bajoran life.

Elana: And of course we get such a good explanation why. I mean, that’s one of the things which I think really, that’s one of the central things, I think, to how Odo solves this case. Is him understanding what would it make, ‘why would Dukat want me to be the guy who figures it out instead?’

Sarah: And one of the other things that the show, that this episode suggests, is– it centers around a chemist’s shop and Odo’s saying, ‘I don’t use chemicals’. And that line makes you wonder what else is going in and out of that chemist’s shop other than ginger tea, but the episode doesn’t focus on it, it just lets you know that maybe something’s happening. And I think it does that in a lot of ways that it’s like, ‘we’re just gonna throw that out there and we’re not going to tell you what’s happening.’

Elana: Right. No that’s very smart. There’s another moment I’m a little obsessed with when, um, one of the few Sisko moments in the show, where Sisko says to Odo, ‘you look like you lost your best friend’. And it’s really like Odo thinking about Quark, who he certainly doesn’t consider his best friend, except like, there really is that friendship underneath it all. And it’s funny because it’s also like, I guess Sisko’s the one, first person to call it.

Sarah: Yeah.

Elana: You didn’t know, but…

Sarah: Except that maybe he did. Like, Sisko’s pretty on the ball with that stuff.

Elana: I guess, but I guess I just mean that I don’t know that Sisko had a sense of what Odo was thinking about in that moment.

Sarah: You’re right, you’re right. Um, but yeah, you know, talk about, setting things up that are going to be major emotional arcs of the whole show.

Elana: Mm hmm.

Sarah: Yeah, so basically we’ve kind of looped back to where we began, which is one of the great things about this episode. And one of the reasons why, if somebody listening to this has not revisited this episode in a while, should go back to it is how much of the rest of the series is built in this one episode. How much of…

Elana: Mm hmm.

Sarah: And how much in retrospect, an episode that as you noted with things like ‘they didn’t know who the founders were yet when they wrote this one’, how much retrospectively still works, and how delicate the rest of the show has to be built to take this fairly standalone second, season episode and make it so that it seems like it’s predicting the entire rest of the show.

Elana: Right on. And with that, I think we have our episode!

Sarah: I think we do.

Elana: Well, I do want to give the kids the world’s least inspired, most literal, but also, fairly indisputable quick hit list of some film noir movies to check out if you are curious in the genre. I think if anybody is interested in mysteries, women who are mad, bad, and dangerous to know, really good art direction, lighting, styling, dramatic costumes, people who aren’t generically good looking but are interestingly good looking, powerful, interesting voices, and movies that are not designed to make you cry messy and ugly all over the place. I don’t do sad very well. I love film noir, it is my comfort genre, as it were. And if you’re looking for a few movies to start with, I am actually not pointing you at any neo-noirs at all. These are all OG flavor with suggesting A Touch of Evil, Double Indemnity, Big Heat, The Maltese Falcon, and Laura. Again, the least surprising, least, uh… there are no edgy, surprising, or unique picks, but I give this to you because it is a great starting point for movies that I am sure you will enjoy. And, incidentally, many of them are very short. You can fit them into your lives very nicely.

Sarah: Absolutely! It’s an unimpeachable list. Like, every single one of those is a classic and a movie that you can pick up now and, time has not dulled them a bit.

Elana: Mm hmm, hear, hear. It’s not, I’m not telling you to eat your broccoli. This is 100 percent fun times. Uh, and as for me, when you’re interested in good opinions about things, you can find me hanging out on Bluesky, where my handle is @levin, that’s my last name, at Levin, and of course I’m always hosting Graphic Policy Radio. And I am still on the other evil site, predominantly for work reasons, but that handle is @Elana_Brooklyn. And where can they find you, Sarah?

Sarah: I have completely ditched and disavowed that other site. Um, the one that used to have a bird on it. But I am on Bluesky. And because I copy my awesome friends, my Bluesky handle is Rasher, @rasher.bsky.social. And I also have– especially because we were talking a lot about film in this episode– my letterboxd where I review everything I watch in a sentence or two, is pas_dechat. I have a newsletter that is currently on hiatus but might not be for long. I will start publicizing that when that starts existing. But yeah, that’s sort of where we are.

Elana: Excellent. Does Odo have any final thoughts for us this episode?

Sarah: I think Odo’s given us nothing but thoughts for an hour and Odo says he’s just going back to, back to his bucket for a while because wow, that was a lot of attention.Elana: Oh my god, you know our cat Axel Rose literally loves to hang out in the bucket I use for hand washables, and so Frank has started to refer to that as Axel’s bucket. He’s like ‘Axel, are you in your bucket like Odo?’ He is in his bucket like Odo. And with that, have a great night. If you like the show, start it, review it, and share it, and we’ll be back with you soon!

Episode Guide

1. Season 2, Episode 8
2. Casablanca
3. The Third Man
4. Pel Episode
5. Season 4, Episode 7
6. Moriarty appears in:
TNG Season 2 Episode 3, “Elementary, Dear Data”
TNG Season 6 Episode 12, “Ship in a Bottle”
7. Elsbeth
8. Poor Things
9. A Touch of Evil
10. Double Indemnity
11. The Big Heat
12. The Maltese Falcon
13. Laura

The post Deep Space Dive, a Star Trek DS9 Podcast: Necessary Evil first appeared on Graphic Policy.
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