With the Cardassian rule increasingly a memory, and with the traffic created by the wormhole, more and more people are passing through the station. Among them is Ibudan (Stephen James Carver), a Bajoran who acted as a war profiteer during the Cardassian occupation. Odo sent him to prison after he killed a Cardassian. But, as Odo notes, to the Bajoran provisional government "killing a Cardassian isn't much of a crime these days," and Ibudan has now been set free.
His freedom doesn't last long. Within an hour or so of Odo confronting him at Quark's, the man is dead. And as the investigation proceeds, it quickly becomes clear that there is only one obvious suspect - Odo!
Commander Sisko: Still being written mostly as a "generic commander," and Avery Brooks' performance is still often rather wooden. After a strong showing in The Emissary, it's disappointing to see his performance be so weak in the actual series. Right now, of the four Trek series I am watching, Brooks' performance is a distant fourth out of the four leads. I know he gets better - a lot better - but I suspect I'm going to get very impatient waiting for that point. He at least does well with the scenes in which Sisko loses his temper; and three episodes in, "short fuse" does appear to be one of the commander's few established defining traits.
Odo: Rene Auberjonois was quietly excellent in the first two episodes. I strongly considered singling him out in my Past Prologue review, on the strength of the superb scene between him and Kira, but I decided to wait since his first "spotlight" episode was the very next one up. Thrust to center stage this outing, Auberjonois does not disappoint. He has a precision of movement that accentuates Odo's alien status while also retaining a sense of both tension and dignity. His line deliveries are also a little bit clenched, as if he's always fighting to keep down some layer of anger. We also discover that many Bajorans regard him with some suspicion, given that he was security chief under the Cardassians.
This episode also establishes what will become a wonderful love/hate relationship between Odo and Quark. Before the plot kicks in, there's a marvelous little scene between the two, in which Odo discusses what he's observed to be the nature of "compromise" within a couple. A charming moment of humor and character bonding, which helps to further enrich an already interesting character who will grow further as the show develops.
Dax: Very much in the background of this episode, but we do learn more about her background. Her friendship with Sisko as Kurzan Dax is expanded upon, and it seems obvious that Sisko regrets the loss of his old mentor, and is trying perhaps a little too hard to fit the current Dax into the same mold as the previous one. It's confirmed here that the Trill is actually a hybrid personality - a merging of the personalities of the Trill and the host. Thus, Kurzan Dax (or should that be Kurzan/Dax) would be a genuinely different individual than Jadzia Dax - and Dax is clearly conscious of the strain these differences put on the friendship with Sisko.
Dr. Bashir: Gets a slightly better episode here than the previous two. The stupid "comedy relief" bits are still there, unfortunately. His early scenes, with his puppy-dog crush on Dax, were outright painful to watch from both a writing and acting perspective. But he's much better when playing the utterly competent doctor, which he does for most of the episode. I'm hoping the writer quickly noticed how much better Siddig was when not written as overenthusiastic comedy relief, and tailored their scripts appropriately sooner rather than later.
The first even somewhat "weak" episode of Deep Space 9, there's actually a lot that is good about A Man Alone. Not least of these things is the focus on Rene Auberjonois' Odo, a character and actor well up to the task of anchoring an episode - though one hopes that next time around, he gets a better episode than this one. Still, we get more backstory on Odo, Dax, and Quark, and flesh out some of the tensions surrounding this show's universe, particularly the resentment some Bajorans hold toward Odo for having worked for the Cardassians. Even the fairly weak "B" story, with O'Brien's wife starting a school, makes sense within the show's context, as it is a reasonable move for the station to make.
The first half of the episode mostly works pretty well. A murder mystery framework is generally a reliable structure around which to center a story. I was glad to see that Odo did not try to cover his tracks when he realized he was incriminated, as it made both character and episode a little bit more interesting. And with Bashir and Dax investigating the bio-matter left by Ibudan, a nice melding of mystery elements and science fiction elements was achieved.
The second half is much weaker. Once Odo is suspended pending the investigation's outcome, the story finds itself with nowhere really to go. The crucial discovery is left to be made by Bashir, leaving our central figure suddenly passive. Writer Michael Piller attempts to raise some suspense and social commentary by having a Bajoran lynch mob target Odo. The result is not particularly suspenseful, and all but useless as social commentary (did you know that lynch mobs are, apparently, bad?). After this, Bashir makes his breakthrough and then Odo catches the bad guy all too easily, making for a rather limp and unsatisfying conclusion.
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