Star Trek Could Have Just Fixed Deep Space Nine’s Biggest Mistake

Our Opinion Editor presents a theory that the revelation in the most recent episode of Star Trek: Picard that the Changelings are now part-solid could fix the Deep Space Nine story in which the late Rene Auburjonois' Odo becomes solid.

By Michileen Martin | Updated

star trek changelings

In the latest episode of Star Trek: Picard, we learn that the Changelings, aka the Founders, have managed to remain undetected among the people of the Federation because they have evolved to become partly solid, like humanoids. Changelings now cannot only mimic the looks and shapes of humans and other aliens, but their disguises actually have organs and bloodstreams as well. I think there’s a chance this could finally fix one of the most ridiculous storylines to ever appear on my favorite Trek show — Star Trek: Deep Space Nine — in which Odo (Rene Auberjonois) is turned into a solid humanoid as punishment.

In the Season 3 finale of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, a Changeling takes over the Defiant and tries maneuvering Starfleet into a war with another species. Odo kills the Founder in order to stop him, and in the finale of the following season, “Broken Link,” the Great Link forces Odo to return to their collective in order to be judged. Their punishment is that he be turned into a solid, never again to know what it’s like to be a Changeling.

star trek changelings
Dr. Bashir (Alexander Siddig) discovering Odo has a human body in “Broken Link” – Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, S4 E26

Back in 1994, when Star Trek science adviser Michael Okuda was asked by Time Magazine how the Heisenberg Compensators — part of Trek’s transporters — worked, he famously answered, “It works very well, thank you.” In other words, while there’s some hard science here and there in every episode and movie, plenty of what we see in Trek is just as much magic as what you see in Lord of the Rings. But when Star Trek had the Changelings de-liquify Odo, they went a little too far with the magic and not quite far enough with the disguise.

With the information we’re given, what happens to Odo in “Broken Link” simply doesn’t make sense scientifically or narratively. Sure, there are characters in Star Trek like Q who can make the impossible possible with a literal snap of their fingers, but the Changelings have never been shown to have that kind of power. We’re the people who have to do things like eat and go to the bathroom; they’re the people who more or less look like what happens after we eat and go to the bathroom: that’s it.

They could make Odo not a Changeling, okay, but how did they give him human organs? If the Star Trek villains had it within their ability to make Changelings not just look like solids, but to turn themselves into actual literal solids complete with organs, wouldn’t they have done it earlier to help keep themselves hidden? After all, as we learn in Season 5’s “The Begotten,” all it takes to turn a Founder back into condiment form is contact with another Changeling.

star trek changelings
Dr. Ohk (Tiffany Shepis) and Dr. Crusher (Gates McFadden) discovering the Changeling evolution during an autopsy in “Imposters” – Star Trek: Picard S3 E5

I think it’s a sure bet we will learn, at the very least, that Odo’s punishment in “Broken Link” is somehow connected to what happened to the Changelings since we last saw them in Deep Space Nine. We could learn, for example, that Star Trek’s Changelings were already in the midst of their evolution during the events of “Broken Link,” that they were aware of it, and that they were researching it. This could, at least in part, explain how they’re able to transform Odo.

Or perhaps it will go in the other direction. Maybe we’ll learn it was precisely the events of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine‘s “Broken Link” that sparked the Changelings’ evolution to partly solid beings.

Regardless, I’ll be making sure to watch next Thursday morning as soon as I get out of bed when Star Trek: Picard‘s Season 3’s sixth episode begins streaming on Paramount+.