Lost villagers, criminal activities, love affairs and self discovery are all parts of this multilayered episode that originally aired on February 20, 1994. This is Shadowplay.
Station Log Stardate 47603.3 Shadowplay
Dax and Odo discover a colony on the other side of the wormhole where the colonists have been mysteriously vanishing. Determined to discover the truth, they find something even stranger is going on.
Story A: A Holo-earth story
On a mission to explore a particle field in the Gamma Quadrant, Dax and Odo discover a planet which has a colony that is filled with Omicron particles. Beaming down, they are soon caught by Protector Colyus and he wants answers.
After interrogating Dax and Odo, Colyus explains that he is missing twenty-two people with the latest as recent as six hours prior. Odo volunteers his services to help find the missing people and they are soon introduced to Rurigan, the village elder. He indicates that his daughter is the latest missing person leaving behind a young child. They begin to investigate with Odo choosing to question the young granddaughter first. Rurigan introduces Odo to Taya who is scared of the shapeshifter.
The next day Odo approaches Taya and explains that he is there to help, identifying himself as a shapeshifter. She refers to him as a changeling and tells him that they are only imaginary. Soon they bond with one another and he gets her to tell him about the disappearance of her mother. She indicates that her mother was making a vase for the baker when she vanished. She also tells him that no one has ever left the valley so it is likely she simply vanished. The little girl is worried that her mother is never coming back, Odo promises to do all he can to find the girls mother.
Soon Odo talks with Rurigan, the village elder, who admits that he is dying. Odo asks why no one has left the valley, finding it odd that no one has looked for the missing people outside of the village itself. Rurigan insists that there is no reason to look outside of the Valley demanding that there are no missing people out there. Odo begins to suspect something and soon takes a journey outside of the valley. They soon find a border where items from the village vanish.
Returning to the village, Dax goes to the central power device and begins working on it. She shows Protector Colyus what she has discovered by making his cloak vanish. She reveals that he and everyone in the village are holograms and Colyus has a hard time believing this. They offer the Protector a chance to see the border and prove to him that everyone in the village are indeed, holographic.
After informing the citizens of the situation, the Protector agrees to allow Dax to reset the system possibly bringing back the missing villagers. Reluctantly, everyone agrees to the method and Dax shuts the system down causing the entire village to vanish with the exception of Rurigan. He explains that he created the village to recreate his home on Yadera Prime which was lost to the Dominion. He had been living there for thirty years allowing the program to develop on it’s own inadvertently creating a living breathing place.
Fixing the system, Dax and Odo bring the village back to life, not revealing that the elder is a living person. In one last act of kindness, Odo transforms into a spinning toy for Taya.
Story B: Destiny
Ben Sisko informs Jake that it is time for his son to get a job. Already having something lined up for him, Ben tells Jake to talk to Chief O’Brien about a position indicating that it would look great on his application to Starfleet academy.
The next morning Ben takes Jake to O’Brien where he is assigned as the Chief Engineer’s new assistant and Jake begins his studies. Immediately Jake begins having issues learning engineering. Jake soon informs Miles that he has no interest in joining Starfleet Academy despite how much his Father wants him to. After sharing a story of his own youth, O’Brien informs Jake that the young Sisko must do his own thing and not try to please his father in all things.
Jake finds the courage to inform his father that he doesn’t want to join Starfleet expecting to disappoint the Commander. He is surprised to discover that his father is understanding of the situation and supports his son in is decision as long as Jake is happy.
Story C: Love and Gambling
After Kira is put in charge of security she begins a watchful eye on the Ferenegi Barkeep Quark. Making it clear that he will not get away with anything while she is in charge, she asks Bashir to spy on the Ferengi. Soon, however, a certain Vedik Bareil arrives distracting her from her duties. They soon discover their mutual love for Spring-ball and retire to a holosuite to play the game.
After the game, they find some time to have dinner only to discover that they have a deeper affection for one another. Soon she discovers that the person who brought him has a gambling debt to Quark and Bareil may have been nothing but a distraction for her.
Kira confronts Quark and informs the Ferengi that she is on to him and that they caught his cousin trying to sneak aboard the station with stolen goods. Although she was distracted, she still managed to beat the Ferengi troll.
Is this a ‘Good’ Episode:
This is a great character building story and the first time a Star Trek episode had three stories that did not interact in any way.
The main story is a classic sci-fi arc with a cool twist. What if you discovered that you were not real but a hologram instead? How would that change your life? The thing that makes this one so unique is that the creator of the holograms was there all along and not in a leadership position, just as the village elder. It is rare to see someone in a sci-fi story create a utopia only to sit back and let it do it’s thing, most times they have a crazy machination that is insidious and dark, not this time and that in itself is refreshing.
Although the episode greatly mostly revolves around Odo and Dax, we finally get a chance to get to know Jake a little better, establishing that he does not want to walk in the path of his father and join Starfleet. It is always tough finally deciding what you want to do, but sometimes it is tougher deciding what you don’t want to do, especially if that runs a risk of hurting someone you care for. For years my father told me that I would be a teacher like he was. As I got older, I realized that I did not want to be a teacher and, even though I had started my own path, he kept insisting that I get my teaching certificate so that I could always fall back on teaching. This annoyed me as I couldn’t understand why anyone would want to fall back onto something like education. I wouldn’t want a teacher who was only in education because he failed at everything else, that sounded horrible. So I continued on my journey, eventually finding something I did well and could make a loving off of. Once my Father saw that I didn’t need to fall back on teaching, he stopped harassing me. Many times, I wish it had been as simple as it was for Ben and Jake Sisko.
Gleanings and Cool Bits:
This is the first time we hear about changelings and the Dominion in the same episode. Foreshadowing?
We never see nor hear from Rurigan or the Holographic village. Who knows what happened to them?
This episode also marks the beginning of the relationship between Kira and Bareil. Trust me, there is more to come.
You might recognize Taya from the episode Imaginary Friend…
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Late To The Game 3/7/2021 (Originally published 5/15/2019
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