“The Search” is a two-part continuation of the second season finale “The Jem’Hadar.” Someone at Paramount must have sent a memo that (1) viewers were bored of all the Bajoran politics, and (2) these little runabouts aren’t cutting it. In short, we need to “reboot.”
The Dominion threat revealed in “The Jem’Hadar” and further developed here handles the first issue by taking DS9 politics to a new level. The runabout issue is fixed by the addition of the USS Defiant — a tiny Federation warship equipped with a Romulan cloaking device. Initially the cloaking device is controlled by a Romulan officer (T’Rul) and is to be used only in the Gamma Quadrant, but it doesn’t take many episodes for those niceties to fall by the wayside.
The story in the first episode starts very slowly; it takes about 22 minutes before the eponymous “search” even gets going. Before that, there’s a lot of talking and musing and not a lot of substance. When the search finally gets going, it proceeds oddly. Quark is tapped to negotiate with the Karemma (first seen in DS9: “Rules of Acquisition”), who apparently know nothing of their Dominion overlords. The Karemma send the Defiant to a communications relay station on Callinon VII, where Dax and O’Brien find another set of coordinates before getting trapped under a force field. Rather than fight Dominion patrols, Sisko simply abandons them to the Jem’Hadar and moves on to the next coordinates! Before they can arrive, his unprecedented caution goes unrewarded when the Jem’Hadar are able to use anti-proton scans to detect the cloaked Defiant, board, and seize her.
Meanwhile, “The Search” is underpinned by a massive coincidence. While Sisko and his crew are on a hapless, weird quest to find the Founders, Odo happens to see a picture of the Omarion Nebula, is mysteriously, obsessively drawn to it. And when Odo and Kira travel to a rogue planet inside the nebula, they discover what everyone else is looking for: the homeworld of the Founders. Of course, at first we don’t realize that; we just know that Odo has found the homeworld of his own people, the Changelings. It is only with the climax of the second episode that we realize that the Changelings and the Founders are one and the same. However, our ignorance doesn’t make the coincidence any less convenient in the end.
The story of the second episode is split between Odo and Kira on the Changeling homeworld and the rest of the crew back on Deep Space Nine. Both groups encounter mysteries. While Odo tries to learn about his people, Kira discovers a subterranean power source and hidden base, which ultimately proves to be a Dominion command center. Back on Deep Space Nine, meanwhile, Sisko and the crew are confronted with a Federation in closed-door negotiations that rapidly result in an alliance with the Dominion. Unfortunately, the cost of peace is ceding the wormhole and Bajor to the Dominion while provoking a war with the Romulans. Indeed, this universe is so wrong it’s a relief when Kira and Odo discover that Sisko and the others are actually being held prisoner in the underground station, and the whole negotiated alliance was merely a Dominion simulation. In the end, the resolution of Sisko’s mystery is so simple it would a let down, if it weren’t coupled with the revelation that the Changelings are the Founders.
“The Search” marks the brief introduction of Lt. Cmdr. Michael Eddington, who will have a larger, recurring role. Eddington is given charge over Starfleet security on the station and Odo immediately resents his presence. The two-part episode also marks the introduction of the Female Changeling, the leader of the Dominion. We also have a cameo from Admiral Alynna Nechayev (in the Dominion simulation) — one of my favorite admirals from TNG.
Despite its various flaws, this two-part episode has a lot going for it. There’s a good deal of suspense and although the mysteries are either too easy (the Dominion simulation), or too much of a coincidence (the Changelings are the Founders), they are engaging. Finally, the episode sets up elements for the major story arcs of the rest of the series: the conflict between the Federation and the Dominion. If this two-parter was envisioned as something of a “reboot” for the series, it proved to be a worthwhile reboot.
- Remarkable quote: “I admit this link of yours is appealing. But you see, I already have a link — with these people.” (Odo)
- Remarkable dialogue: “When did I start thinking of this Cardassian monstrosity as home?” (Sisko) – “I think it happened last Thursday.” (Jake)
- Remarkable ship: The Defiant: Introduced here for the first time, the Defiant is remarkable for a Starfleet vessel in several ways: (1) It’s a tiny, but over-powered warship developed to fight the Borg, (2) it has a cloaking device, and (3) its warp drives are built into its primary hull. The ship is a critical part of the series up through its destruction at the second battle of Chin’toka (DS9: “The Changing Face of Evil”).