the story: Odo and Kira are forced into a peculiar dilemma, while Nog decides he wants to join Starfleet.
what it's all about: Part of me wants to downplay "Heart of Stone," because so much of it is kind of frustrating to watch, but another part of me wants to trumpet how significant it all is, and that it's worth whatever hassle it might otherwise represent.
The trouble spots all occur in the Odo/Kira scenes, which after a while become tedious: Kira becomes trapped in one of the Planet Hell cave sets, literally stuck in stone, and Odo must desperately find a way to free her. It becomes more all the more bizarre, because the stone grows around her.
This is another instance where the B-story really should have been the lead story, something that was no doubt increasingly difficult to decide in a series where multiple stories increasingly became the norm, a truly serialized nature that to that point was unprecedented in franchise lore. The B-story is recurring character Nog's equally desperate attempts to convince anyone that he's serious about joining Starfleet, that it isn't just another of the kinds of jokes he used to bring to B-stories all the time. No doubt this decision to relegate him to the B-story, despite the fact that his plight had far more interesting material to explore, was motivated by the fact that he was a recurring character. When Garak received a whole episode to himself in "The Wire," the producers probably let it slide because a series regular, Bashir, was every bit as essential (to a certain extent) as he was to its plot. Nog kind of ping-pongs through most of the rest of the cast. He wouldn't be trusted to truly carry an episode until the final season ("It's Only a Paper Moon"), at which point those producers were probably kicking themselves.
When the Odo/Kira lead story reaches its climax, it ends up being nicely justified, although in an odd way. It was nice to force them into an isolated experience, but the ending reveals that they were never free to truly express themselves to each other, because one of them wasn't really them at all, but the Female Shapeshifter merely pretending to be Kira. But it's at least a story that acknowledges what had really only been teased and hinted at previously, that Odo is desperately in love with Kira.
Would this have been better to simply cut to the chase and have Odo talking with the Female Shapeshifter directly all along? Again, I think it was the producers not yet willing to trust themselves, because after all this was what they'd already done at the beginning of the season in "The Search," and so they were probably afraid of duplicating their own efforts. Wasn't the Female Shapeshifter merely checking up on Odo? Well, no. This was her finding out, along with the rest of us, the source of Odo's internal conflict, why he would reject the long-wished-for prospect of returning to his people in exchange for a continued life of inexplicable exile among people who generally fear him and what makes him different.
It's an odd episode, then, but another crucial one.
franchise- This one's for fans of the series, folks.
- series - It helps demonstrate what sets Deep Space Nine apart.
- character - By going deeper with these characters than had been done previously.
- essential - It's a crucial one, really.
Aron Eisenberg (Nog)
Salome Jens (Female Shapeshifter)
Max Grodenchik (Rom)