Sunday, March 13, 2011

2-12. The Alternate

Odo and his foster father (James Sloyan).


Dr. Mora (James Sloyan), the Bajoran scientist who worked with Odo in the laboratory before the shapeshifter struck out on his own, comes to the station. Dr. Mora has discovered traces of DNA similar to Odo's in the Gamma Quadrant, and would like Odo's help in investigating this discovery.

Mora and Odo discover an artifact on the planet. When Mora has it beamed up to the runabout, it triggers volcanic tremors, which release a gas that incapacitates everyone except Odo. The security chief gets them all back to the ship and then to the station, where Dr. Bashir is able to tend to them. But one of the organic samples brought back reproduces rapidly before escaping into the station's air vents. Soon, Dr. Bashir is attacked in sickbay, leaving Odo spearheading a full-fledged monster hunt: a hunt for a creature that may not be too dissimilar to himself!


Commander Sisko: When Odo asks for the use of a runabout, Sisko grants the request even before Odo fully explains his reasons for needing one, which shows that he has developed a tremendous trust in his security chief. Even so, he is very much a pragmatist, moreso I would say than any of the other Trek series' leads. When it becomes clear that it is necessary to endanger Odo in order to ensure the safety of the station, he doesn't hesitate to give the order, even telling his men to set their weapons to "Kill" if "Stun" fails to work.

Odo: It remains true that the most certain way to catch Odo's attention is to dangle some clue about his origins in front of him. It worked for Croden back in Season One, and it works for Dr. Mora here. Rene Auberjonois gives another excellent performance, particularly when we see hints of emotion from him beneath his stoic surface, such as when he visits Mora in sickbay.

Dr. Bashir: Is conscious of Dax's enjoyment of their eternally unconsummated little dance, and it frustrates him. "One day, I'm going to stop chasing after her," he muses after one particularly flirtatious encounter, "and then we'll see." Shows quick thinking in using a laser scalpel to fend off an attack by the creature.

Dax: Is strangely "off" in this episode. There's something a bit distant and artificial about her responses to characters. I actually suspected at a few points in the episode that Dax had been replaced by the shapeshifter, simply because she seemed so cold in her interactions with Odo and particularly Mora. On the other hand, she is nicely perky when teasing Julian, so it could be that Terry Farrell was having on off day when some of her scenes were recorded. Either that, or it was a deliberate attempt at a red herring that just didn't quite come off.

Dr. Mora: James Sloyan is very good as Mora, the scientist who essentially became Odo's foster father. Various turns in the episode see him behaving in both roles. He expresses pride at the excellence with which Odo does his job, and shows genuine feeling as he tells Odo that he wants to be a part of his life. But he also tries to bully Odo into returning to the lab, showing frustration at Odo's departure thwarting his ongoing studies.


Any Odo-centric episode gets an immediate boost from Auberjonois' consistently excellent performance. Odo is an interesting character, with a lot of layers hidden beneath his stoic exterior, and Auberjonois reliably gives just enough of a reaction to events to hint at what's going on underneath that exterior.

This episode gives us a look at Odo's immediate past, while hinting a bit more about his ultimate origins. It has already been made clear that Odo was left with emotional scars from being put on display in the lab on Bajor. Now we see his complex reactions to the man most responsible for his development within the lab. He does react to Mora very much as a foster parent, even in his resentment toward him. At the same time, he makes it clear that he will never go back to that laboratory.

The scenes between Odo and Mora are quite effective, and Rene Auberjonois is typically reliable in carrying the scenes in which Odo investigates the creature's escape. The actual "monster hunt" scenes, particularly near the end, are far less effective. There's a third act twist that genuinely surprised me, but it doesn't come off as well as I'd have liked. The implications of that twist are brushed aside, with an ending that provides a seemingly complete reset.

More intriguing is the artifact retrieved from the planet. I have hopes that this column, and the potential clues it represents toward Odo's people, will be followed up in future episodes. That open question, plus some effective character scenes, helps to elevate the episode above its weakest elements. Not one of Deep Space 9's best, but still a solid piece.

Overall Rating: 6/10.

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