Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

"A Man Alone"


Air date: 1/18/1993
Teleplay by Michael Piller
Story by Gerald Sanford & Michael Piller
Directed by Paul Lynch

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

The murder of a man named Ibundan (Stephen James Carver) who Odo had sent to prison several years earlier leads a number of Bajoran citizens to suspect Odo himself killed the man. Led by Zayra (Edward Laurence Albert) and their own prejudices, the suspicious Bajorans take on a personal mission against Odo.

A substantial step down from the pilot and "Past Prologue," there are some big problems with "A Man Alone." The "murder mystery" is a rather uninspired plot device to be using on only the second regular episode, and the investigation proceedings are not very adeptly written.

The idea of Odo being a suspect is handled reasonably at first (particularly in an unsettling display of Odo attitude when Sisko temporarily relieves him of duty), but the ultimate result of the Bajorans forming a mob outside his office and screaming shapeshifter epithets is a misguided and excessive approach to highlight the issue. It's staged poorly and feels forced. You'd think that considering Odo has been on board the station four years the Bajorans would be used to the idea of his presence. The technobabble-heavy solution that reveals Ibundan cloned himself so he could kill the clone and frame Odo for the murder is far-fetched at best.

As compensation for the murder plot, there are number of small, relevant character threads, including Keiko O'Brien feeling the burden of uselessness aboard a station she isn't happy living on, and her solution to create a school for the station. The Dax/Sisko/Bashir interaction is also somewhat refreshing. But the episode wanders too much.

Previous episode: Past Prologue
Next episode: Babel

Season Index

19 comments on this review

Van_Patten - Mon, Jun 11, 2012 - 9:20pm (USA Central)
Actually, this has always for me been somewhat better than the general consensus, although I'd agree it's a step down from 'Past Prologue' -perhaps I need to stop comparing the DS9 episodes with their chronological TNG counterparts and I challenge anyone to watch 'Code of Honour' and consider it superior to this would be deluded.

There's some interesting touches -I like the continued tension between Sisko/ Kira following Zayra questioning whether it was appropriate for the prime suspect in an investigation to be the lead investigator! There's also some continuity with the dispute between Sisko and Odo over his desire to throw Ibudan off the station. I also enjoyed the dialogue with the 'mob' ringleaders and Quark, who is the sole person to come to Odo's Defense other than Kira!:

'I can't believe you're defending him, Quark, you're his worst enemy'

'Guess that's the closest thing he has to a friend'

Overall, the ending/ denouement is a little far-fetched and the mob scenes haven't aged well, but for a second episode, this fleshed out the characters reasonably well, and is well worth watching -I'd have to say 3 stars for me
William - Tue, Jul 24, 2012 - 10:52pm (USA Central)
I concur. Ultimately, it was rather forgettable. The Bajoran "mob" was pretty silly. I guess they were trying to signify it was a complicated society with all types of people.
Eric - Thu, Mar 7, 2013 - 7:28pm (USA Central)
I agree with some of the criticisms of this episode, but I don't agree with Jammer that the people would be used to his presence just because he's worked there a long time. He worked there for years when it was a Cardassian station, so he was working for their oppressors; plenty of reason to resent him.
grumpy_otter - Sun, Apr 7, 2013 - 10:41am (USA Central)
Netflix has this as the second episode of the series--wonder what's up with that?

This started so well--a "locked-room mystery" can be very fun--but quickly degenerated as Jammer described.

What bothered me the most was Odo--he is supposedly a very experienced security chief but first he starts a fight on the promenade, then he contaminates the crime scene in his office when he discovers it trashed. Did it not even cross his mind that the damage might be related to the murder investigation? It turned out not to be, but he didn't know that at the time and he just walks in starts touching and moving everything.

But that's the writer's fault--so far Odo is the best character in this, due to the brilliance of Rene. I just love him in everything!

Another thing that bothered me was Bashir--he finds some odd biological sample and his reaction is "Let's grow it and see what it is!" Good thing it wasn't a dinosaur.

Sisko is terrible so far. Did they decide they wanted a black captain and just hire the first guy who looked plausible? His dialog is stilted, his expressions painful to watch, and his efforts to appear friendly are forced. I know from others that he gets better--I just hope it is soon.

Why did Kira change her hair? I loved it in the pilot after the first scene (what was THAT?) and this shorter one isn't as interesting. Was the first hair too Ro-like?

I did laugh out loud when Odo's alibi was regenerating "in a bucket!"
Jammer - Sun, Apr 7, 2013 - 11:19am (USA Central)
Regarding why this is listed as the second episode on Netflix: This episode was actually filmed second, before "Past Prologue," but the airing order was flipped, possibly because "Past Prologue" was the stronger episode, though I'm not certain of the actual reason why.
wanderer2575 - Sat, Jun 29, 2013 - 11:42pm (USA Central)
It had absolutely nothing to do with the plot and could have been in any episode, but Quark and Odo had a great exchange here:

Quark: "You've never... 'coupled'?"

Odo: "Choose not to. Too many compromises. You want to watch the Karonet (sp?) tournament, she wants to listen to music. So you compromise -- you listen to music. You like Earth jazz, she prefers Klingon opera, so you compromise -- you listen to Klingon opera. So here you were, ready to have a nice night watching the Karonet match, and you wind up spending an agonizing evening listening to Klingon Opera. Huh."

azcats - Wed, Sep 4, 2013 - 3:59pm (USA Central)
i like the klingon opera post.

wow, so few comments compared to voyager. i guess it is to jammers small reviews..i guess after a couple years he gets all wordy with his college education.

i liked the "kill a clone to frame a cop." idea.

i had forgotten that Quark was a nemesis and a friend...so early on.

quark is easily the most watchable ferengi ever.

keiko was better on M*A*S*H.

2.5 stars
Snitch - Fri, Oct 4, 2013 - 6:01pm (USA Central)
Neither Keiko O Brien nor the murder plot really are that interesting.

The mob mentality works though. Odo the Sheriff for the evil occupier got too much of a pass in the series most of the time.

Julian continues to come across to immature and dumb for a doctor. DNA testing was not that developed back then too ;-)

They set up the love/hate relationship between Odo and Quark, who even tries to gather info for the shapeshifter.

1 1/2 Stars from me.
Kotas - Tue, Oct 22, 2013 - 1:34pm (USA Central)

Not a compelling episode. The murder plot and issues between Keiko and O'Brien were not very interesting.

Yanks - Wed, Jun 18, 2014 - 1:39pm (USA Central)
I didn't mind the episode as much as the reveal that Avery can't show emotion at all when acting.

This was a pretty sad moment for me, realizing that we are stuck with this guy for as long as the series runs.

I found it peculiar that the Bajorian was able to find the cure quickly, when Bashir was unsuccesfull over a longer time. I know in the shows' final "captain's log" he states that "with the aid of Bashir's notes", blah, blah .... but we never saw him reference them.

Yanks - Wed, Jun 18, 2014 - 1:44pm (USA Central)
Sorry, can't edit posts here. I got ahead of myself. This review is for the next episode "Babel".
Yanks - Mon, Jul 7, 2014 - 1:17pm (USA Central)
Below average episode for me.

The "mob" was ridiculous. the guy yelling "Shape-shifter" was obnoxious.

I never got the feeling that Odo was ever in any real danger.

I found it a little disheartening that the federation had not considered establishing a school on DS9 when they took over the station. Did they jut forget the Star Fleet kids?

1.5 stars for me.
Elliott - Fri, Jul 25, 2014 - 12:41pm (USA Central)
I started doing little act by act reviews years ago and never finished. Inspired by the good work of William B. and a few others, I'm going to press on with these:

Teaser : **.5, 5%

Blue Shirts and Bubbles...Here's a good representation of those typical season 1 blues (most of the series have them); the writers are attempting to define these characters in prosaic, general terms: Dax is a Trill, she's old and she's smart. The "puzzle" gives her the chance to remind us of all these things (delivery still needs work, Terry). Bashir is young, motor-mouthed and hormonal. What I remember about early DS9 and VOY episodes is that they are dealing with many of the same freshman pains as early TNG, but aired in the middle of Berman's Beige Trek. So, while in TNG I could enjoy the wonderful scores and the interesting directing choices, here there's this general haze of bland boredom. Anyway, the teaser contains absolutely no meat on its bones, but it's inoffensive enough.

Act 1 ***, 17%

Odo's digression on "coupling" is one of those yet-to-be-patented DS9 banality indulgences (let's call them DBIs); a potentially interesting bit of character growth for Odo is reduced to sitcom-level clichés (of course, it's not football, it's "caronette" because we're IN SPACE). Is that really the depth we're going into on the subject of "coupling"? Meh. Jadzia and Sisko share a laugh over a bit of dialogue which someone labeled a joke but is not remotely funny (this episode's take on Past Prologue's "new suit" is apparently "steamed Azna"). Clumsy, clumsy dialogue in the exposition with these two: they have to spell out for us that they feel uncomfortable. Who tells their mentor that she is his mentor? It's so unnatural. One interesting thing about the structure of this act is all the pairs : Odo/Quark [rivals[, Dax/Sisko [old friends], Miles/Keiko [spouses], Jake/Nog [new friends] : all the little dialogues present a theme of companionship. This was a good and subtle choice.
Anyway, the "real" plot kicks in--it's good that Odo is still operating as he did under Dukat (basically his own rules). The murder itself is corny as hell--black leather glove holding that enormous dagger? Wasn't there a less 70s-horror-porn way to show this? In any event, the tone of this act is so different from the teaser, it feels like a different episode.

Act 2 : **.5, 17%

FWAK! [that was the tone metre slapping me in the face] : a return to the teaser material and whacky antics from Nog and Jake. Dax/Bashir adds nothing to what we learned in the teaser. It's just filler. Jake's and Nog's prank is another example of the DBI (I think Michael Piller thought everyone's childhood is a version of "Stand By Me"). I laughed at the generic "serious crisis" music when the deputy grabbed the boys. God these scores are awful. So, Odo discovers his name on Ibudan's Ical circa 1992.
There are only 12 children on the entire station? That seems unlikely. In any event, I thought the conversation between Keiko and Sisko was pretty well done--but there's a thorny issue that wasn't addressed: Sisko rightly points out that there are a multitude of cultures living on the station. True, but the problem is that a school is a state function (unless it's a privately sponsored school). Which governmental body is responsible for the station? It seems like in civil matters, Bajoran law is respected (see "Dax"), but we saw earlier (and will see later) that Sisko expects Odo to operate under Starfleet regulations, implying that the criminal and military branch is controlled by the Federation. But the senior-ranking Bajoran is Kira, who is under Sisko's authority. Did they think this through? I know they're going for the whole "frontier" thing, but we're not talking about governments that you have to send telegrams to and wait weeks for a response. Both Bajor and the Federation are instantly accessible by subspace.
Another efficient and brief scene continues the murder plot. There's not much to say about it--it's plot mechanics and nothing more.

Act 3 : ***, 17%
Finally, we get a bit of character work in the A plot with an understated admission of trust between Kira and Odo. Unfortunately, that trend is dropped in the Promenade scene with the Bajorans and Quark. It dawns on them that Odo's history with the occupational government might make him a poor choice for security chief. Okay, good. Then Quark has to tell them (the camera) that Odo's a good guy, despite his gruffness and that Quark considers him a friend. The amity between Odo and Quark will of course prove to be one of the best character features of the series, but telling us flat out in such an omniscient expositional manner is very trite and lazy. If they're at this point now, exactly where are they going in the future?
I'm trying to figure out Keiko's motivations here. She's bored and thus wants something to do; O'Brien and Sisko help her found a school...why is she so persistent of Rom? Is there a quota of multi-ethnic children her new school must possess? I never heard mention anything about her wanting to play Ambassador to the Ferengi. Meanwhile, we get the ominous glare from Obi-Wan Bajori, followed by a scene that is literally just Bashir waving around fake instruments while the score continues to convince us we'd be better off napping. There's emmy-winning material.
The best scene in the episode occurs when Sisko relieves Odo of duty. Although Sisko is mostly a cardboard sounding board, sleepily professing is baseless belief in Odo's innocence, the writers make a really good choice in having Odo's dialogue flow directly from character. He's upset of course, but he's also unwaveringly cunning. Whereas perhaps most humanoids would appreciate the vote of confidence Sisko casts in spite of his dutiful actions, Odo sees the flaw in Sisko's logic and all but rejects wholesales his overture of collegial respect. It's worthy of a Spock/Kirk moment. Kudos.

Act 4 : **, 17%
On the other hand, the ransacking of Odo's office is pretty silly (boy, the Bajorans picked up English quickly). And the Quark/Odo dialogue is mostly the same clunky "tell don't show" stuff from earlier, but Auberjonois and Shimmerman display a wonderful chemistry that transcends the lousy writing.
In the middle of all this, Bashir and Sisko grab lunch. Okay. I appreciate that the writers are trying to flush out the Sisko/Dax backstory, but a lot of this is hard to swallow. Dax died of old age (we later find out, that Serena Williams literally fucked him to death). Sisko may not be as young as Bashir, but when exactly were he and Kurzon galavanting around, wrestling and picking up women? I could see the older mentor drinking Sisko under the table and maybe embarrassing himself in an attempt to pick up a woman, but it seems a little far-fetched. Worse is the fact that they seem to want to build the backstory on this kind of frat-boy meets midlife crisis camaraderie, but didn't Sisko marry Jennifer when he was fresh out of the Academy? When would Sisko and Kurzon have had these adventures? When Sisko was a teenager? What was their relationship like after Sisko got married? I doubt they were hitting on Amazons. Swing and miss, folks.
While we're on the subject of contradictions, why is Odo's shape-shifting ability seem to be the root of the mob violence? I thought the Bajorans resented his status as a former Cardassian collaborator. Why are they playing the race card? It feels like a forced way to try and make Odo's persecution more metaphorical, but it's damned sloppy and comes from nowhere. They *would* do this properly in S7's "Chimera."
Closing out the act, we have super-genius Bashir staring at the growing glob in the Infirmary. What could this clump of organic matter made from Bajoran DNA be? Jinkies, what a mystery. [Trivial bit: Morn is seen in the mob outside Odo's office. That's got to be awkward]

Act 5 : *.5, 17%

Why is the Federation helping these people again? "How do you get a rope around the neck of a shape-shifter?" I'm not suggesting that the Bajorans should have the evolved sensibility of humans (how could they after their history?), but this kind of blood-thirst is absolutely nauseating. You'd think they would have had enough pointless bloodshed by now. In reality, this "kill the shifter" bs is what RedLetterMedia's Mr Plinket properly refers to as a script's equivalent to a penis car (those ridiculous sports cars middle-aged men buy to overcompensate for their perceived lack of sexual virility); in order to artificially inflate the stakes, the mob has to want to kill Odo for...why do they hate him again? His collaboration (didn't seem to bother them before today)? His alien nature (ostensibly so, but what exactly is their objection?)? His alleged murder of one ill-reputed Bajoran we know nothing about? The only thing this approach achieves is to make the Bajorans seem cartoonish.
So, the big mystery is revealed: Ibudan cloned himself to frame Odo. Actually, pretty clever. So Odo tracks down Obi-Wan Bajori, who turns out to be Ibudan. All that was missing was Ibudan's "And I would have gotten away with it too if it weren't for you meddling shape-shifter!"
Closing the episode is Keiko's first class. Sort of cute, but we get nothing further from Rom re: his interest in putting Nog here, and there are NO other human children on the station? Scratch, that, Federation children? No other officers have kids except Sisko, so the only other kids who show up are Bajoran. See, this is another contrived conflict: given the size of the station, there should be at least a a couple of other officers' kids between the age of 4 and 18 who would attend Keiko's school, making the need to solicit Bajoran and Ferengi children superfluous. Again, unless Keiko's stated purpose had been to try and bridge the cultures on the station--but her motivation was to have something to do with her time, since her degreed profession was apparently not an option. Whatever, enough of this cheese-fest.

Episode as functionary : ** 10%

There's a bit of good character work for Odo, but there's WAY too much clunky exposition. For the most part, we aren't allowed to discover the characters' backstories or their relationships, we are just told about them (exceptions are Kira/Odo and Jake/Nog). Couple that with some really illogical history with Sisko/Dax and the totally botched motivation for the Bajoran mob, as well as Keiko's amiable, but rather flimsy B-plot and it's probably one to skip. It's worth a footnote that Keiko's school will become important later, but not really worth sitting through the hour to get that bit of information.

Final Score : **
Elliott - Wed, Aug 20, 2014 - 4:52pm (USA Central)
Did the math wrong on this.

Final Score should be **.5
Katie - Fri, Aug 22, 2014 - 11:25am (USA Central)
WOW. This is what you call a "little review"? Please stop.
Black_Goat - Fri, Nov 21, 2014 - 12:28pm (USA Central)

A Man Alone: C-
The Good:
- Some nice continuity: We know from “Emissary” that DS9 seems to operate mostly under Bajoran law, which would explain why Odo can’t arrest Ibundan, since he’s already been freed on Bajor.
- The domestic stuff between the O’Briens is cool. Keiko isn’t played by the greatest actress in the galaxy, but it was a sweet subplot. Working Quark’s brother was amusing.
- Rene Auberjonois is probably the best actor on the show. Even with a relatively weak script like this one, he makes Odo’s most interesting qualities palpable. Here we see the character’s rigid notion of justice, his loneliness, his sense of purposelessness should he lose his position aboard DS9. Odo is not very nice, which helps to explain why he was an easy scapegoat. Also, he regenerates in a pail.
- Quark and Odo are a fun pairing, and I liked their later scene as well. But having Quark explicitly defend Odo to the Bajorans felt a little out of character from what little I know of Quark at this point.

The Mixed:
- Not a flaw of this episode in particular, but I’m beginning to wonder when we’ll hear more information about the Gamma Quadrant. Who lives there? Are there ships passing through the wormhole from that direction? Has trade commenced?
- I’m liking the Sisko-Dax friendship, but these two performances are still the stiffest of the lot. I do want to know more about the life cycle of the Trill, however.
- Jake and Nog’s shenanigans. I know enough about Trek to know how poorly Wesley Crusher was received on TNG, so I’m actually pretty interested in what this show will do with Jake. Since he doesn’t have the same poor reputation as Wesley, presumably they either get things right (in terms of writing for a kid) or he remains a minor character. In any case, I’m glad he has a friend, but the scene where Keiko proposes the school and Sisko confronts Jake ends awkwardly, with Sisko kind of…lurching?...out of the shot.

The Bad:
- Not a fan of the teaser or the subsequent scenes between those two characters. Love-struck Bashir isn’t too interesting yet, and Terry Farrell is still finding her way with Dax. The bubble game irritated me; did you get that it’s from the FUTURE?
- So Bashir is a forensics expert as well? I guess in the future all doctors are omnidisciplinary.
- I don’t like how anyone can access information via computer. For example, when Odo examines Ibundan’s room, he is immediately able to see the murdered man’s personal itinerary. Important, perhaps, to the investigation of his death, but there seems to be poor information control aboard these ships.
- Sisko tells the mob he won’t comply with their demands to remove Odo from office, and then immediately complies with their demands to remove Odo from office. It’s not so much that his reason for doing so doesn’t make sense, he was just inconsistent.
- The whole mob sequence fell pretty flat to me. It makes the civilians aboard DS9 appear medieval that in the span of a few days they are bloodthirsty enough to execute a man only suspected of murder, and the scene had little dramatic tension. People shouting ‘shifter’ and ‘freak’ is more humorous than threatening. I can understand some resentment toward Odo for enforcing Cardassian rule, and it’s certainly a point I want explored, but that was never really brought up during the mob scene. Odo’s isolation among the stations’ denizens is probably a fruitful topic, just not in this episode.
- Bashir figuring out the clone thing and Odo’s final confrontation with Ibundan were rushed and infused with a little too much technobabble for a Trek novice like me. Ibundan is reduced to a very thin antagonist, whose only motivation is revenge on Odo.

Certainly the weakest episode so far, and a poor first outing for Odo. There were some nice beats, but mostly the story felt lazy. However, I suspect that there are worse DS9 episodes to come, just as I suspect that “Emissary” and “Past Prologue” are not the show at its best.
Robert - Fri, Nov 21, 2014 - 1:00pm (USA Central)
"So Bashir is a forensics expert as well? I guess in the future all doctors are omnidisciplinary."

It's funny that you pick up on that... looking into the future I really get why you think this is weird, but it fits him for multiple reasons. No spoilers though!

"Certainly the weakest episode so far, and a poor first outing for Odo. There were some nice beats, but mostly the story felt lazy. However, I suspect that there are worse DS9 episodes to come, just as I suspect that “Emissary” and “Past Prologue” are not the show at its best."

There are certainly worse this season, but the 2 final episodes this season are in my top 20, and there's a lot more good to come too :)
Diane - Wed, Feb 11, 2015 - 6:08pm (USA Central)
I liked this episode better than Past Prologue. I don't know why fans would think the Bajorans would act any different. For the most part, these people were oppressed and just got a little freedom, like most people, under similar circumstances, need to kick someone else.

I have often wandered, how were most of these people able to work at this capacity. Where did they get their education? Did they teach these skills in the labor camps. I can understand how Kira could fly a ship, but to have the formal education to be second in command in Ops, is absurd. When would a terrorist have time to learn these formal skills. Hit and run attacks, makeshift bombs, confiscated Cardassian guns, OK. These are not Command center skills. I don't believe the enemy would educate them not unless it benefitted them.
William B - Tue, Jun 23, 2015 - 9:09am (USA Central)
"Emissary" was largely about Sisko and his ambivalence about Starfleet mission and his emotional scars; "Past Prologue" was Kira reluctantly committing herself fully to working with the Federation -- provisionally. This is about Odo, almost definitely the most interesting of the main cast, and with the best arc. This is not a good episode, but it does do some interesting things to set Odo up.

The first Odo scene is the one in which he recites the old cliche about romance -- he wants to watch football, she wants to listen to music, so you compromise, i.e., do exactly what she wants. First of all, we rather know/suspect that Odo is *not* speaking from experience. I forget when it is that he actually starts reading Mickey Spellane, but he already describes his hypothetical self as liking Earth jazz, and so it may be that Odo's found some identification figures in the hard-boiled detective genre. Whereas Data identifies with Sherlock Holmes -- brilliant, intuitive, eccentric -- Odo identifies with Mike Hammer, who, well let me quote Wikipedia:

"While pulp detectives such as Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe are hard-boiled and cynical, Hammer is in many ways the archetypal "hard man": brutally violent, and fueled by a genuine rage against violent crime that never afflicts Raymond Chandler's or Dashiell Hammett's heroes. In The Big Kill Hammer describes himself to a bargirl as a misanthrope. Hammer is also loosely based on the real-life hard-boiled Texas Ranger and gunfighter Frank Hamer, who was most famous for tracking down and killing Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker in 1934.

While other hardboiled heroes bend and manipulate the law, Hammer often views it as an impediment to justice, the one virtue he holds in absolute esteem. Hammer nevertheless has a strong respect for the majority of police, realizing they have a difficult job and their hands are frequently tied by the law when trying to stop criminals.

Mike Hammer is a no-holds-barred private investigator who carries a .45 Colt M1911A1 in a shoulder harness under his left arm. His love for his secretary Velda is outweighed only by his willingness to kill a killer. Hammer's best friend is Pat Chambers, Captain of Homicide NYPD. Hammer was a WWII army veteran who spent two years fighting jungle warfare in the Pacific theatre against Japan. Hammer is also patriotic and anti-communist. The novels are peppered with remarks by Hammer supporting American troops in Korea, and in Survival...Zero Vietnam. In One Lonely Night, where Hammer attends a communist meeting in a park, his reaction to the speaker's propaganda is a sarcastic "Yeah."

So far as violence is concerned, the Hammer novels leave little to the imagination. Written in the first person, Hammer describes his violent encounters with relish. In all but a few novels, Hammer's victims are often left vomiting after a blow to the stomach or groin.

The Washington Times obituary of Spillane said of Hammer, "In a manner similar to Clint Eastwood's Dirty Harry, Hammer was a cynical loner contemptuous of the 'tedious process' of the legal system, choosing instead to enforce the law on his own terms."[2]"

Odo's emphasis on JUSTICE above all else ends up manifesting, a lot of the time, as outright misanthropy, cynicism about all humanoid nature, and an INTENSE DISLIKE of compromise. Unlike Hammer, Odo avoids firearms and does seem to mostly abhor violence. Odo's armchair philosophizing about humanoid relationships is from someone who has an outsider's perspective, but a real outsider's outsider, whose understanding of intimate relationships is very limited. His hatred of compromise on a personal level comes out in his similar distrust of due process, which we see in an early scene with Sisko:

SISKO: If he hasn't done anything wrong, you can't just arbitrarily force him to leave.
ODO: Watch me.
SISKO: Mister Odo, you're not going to take the law into your own hands.
ODO: The law? Commander, laws change depending on who's making them. Cardassians one day, Federation the next. But justice is justice, and as long as I'm in charge of security --
SISKO: If you can't work within the rules, I'll find someone who can.

Odo believes that Ibudan is a scumbag who should not be allowed on Odo's Promenade. Bajorans hail this guy, who smuggled medical supplies for a price, as a hero, but Odo saw him for who he really was, the guy who let a little girl die for not meeting the price. Ibudan killed a Cardassian, and the Bajorans let him go because they no longer see that as murder. Now, it seems likely that Ibudan is a jerk, to start with, and it becomes even more clear as the episode goes on, once it is revealed that he created a clone of himself to kill in order to frame Odo (!). But still, we don't necessarily have to take Odo's moral judgment as entirely reliable. Lots of people did terrible things during the Bajoran Occupation, including Kira ("Necessary Evil") and Odo himself ("Things Past"); the Bajoran provisional government's amnesty for Ibudan may be false justice, or it may, in fact, reflect a broader perspective than the one Odo is willing to take. In any case, being the arresting officer for the guy back in the day, Odo believes he knows the content of the man's soul, when he knows a lot less than he believes. Odo reluctantly plays ball (so to speak) with Sisko and his damned rules, insisting that people who are not under any legal sanctions have the "right" to walk around freely, the nerve!

Odo's belief that he should be the law is based on the idea that he, as an outsider to humanoid society, is in a unique position to see justice. And to some extent he is correct -- he is able to see hypocrisy and weakness in humanoids pretty readily, seems to be well-equipped to spot liars, and he is certainly correct that humanoids have a tendency to rationalize away their own actions rather than face the meaning of their actions. Part of his ability to sniff out hypocrisy shows up in that great scene where he chews out Sisko for kindly telling him he doesn't suspect him -- WHY DOES SISKO NOT SUSPECT HIM? -- pointing out that there is no objective basis for Sisko's claim. He is not tempted by pleasures of the flesh and he doesn't let his emotions get in the way. However, his inability to understand real closeness (with his love-hate relationship with Quark and his mutual respect for Kira being the main exceptions) means that he misses a fundamental part of what makes humanoids tick, and as it turns out, when he is tempted by pleasures of the...flesh? goo?...and the possibility of real intimacy, he totally breaks down and abandons his own ethical code (i.e. "Behind the Lines"). Things, as it turns out, are more complicated than Odo thinks.

So I don't think it's an accident that the mob screaming for Odo's head is demanding the same thing Odo insists is an absolute -- justice. The angry mob becomes a foil for Odo because they represent his belief that he understands moral absolutes which others are simply unwilling to deal with, taken to an extreme. Odo at least has the decency to be a good investigator -- he even refuses to cover up evidence that points to him as a suspect, so unbending is his personal code, when not threatened by love or intimacy (for Kira, or the Founders, etc.). The angry mob are irrational and crazed, bouncing between a legitimate objection to Odo's conflict of interest as investigator and prime suspect to xenophobia and anger at him as collaborator without seeming to have any interest in sorting out which feelings are their main ones. And then as it turns out, Ibudan himself is seeking his own type of personal "justice" -- he wants revenge on the person who turned him in, for killing a *Cardassian* during the Bajoran occupation. We never hear Ibudan's side of the story, which is to the episode's detriment; it seems he probably is just an evil man, no question, but I kind of imagine his version of events would paint Odo as the obsessive, unfeeling man who arrested a smuggler of much-needed medical supplies for killing one of the Occupiers of their planet. No doubt these would be rationalizations, incomplete and self-serving, but that is the point. Odo's honour, such as it is, comes in that he mostly holds himself to the same standards that he holds others, but his weakness is that he believes that his outsider status gives his judgment an objectivity and infallibility that is *not possible* for anyone to have.

The episode is largely a failure overall because as a murder mystery, there's no real way to get the answer, and it's not even *Odo* who figures it out -- it's just that Bashir waved an instrument around until he found a weird thing, and then that weird thing grew into a person. It's maybe a step above "it was the dog who was actually a shapeshifter" ala "Aquiel" and maybe on a similar level to "actually he was never dead because he could make himself seem dead" ala "Suspicions." (These three episodes in the same year do not speak highly of Trek's ability to craft a good murder mystery.) The ending has the (admittedly fairly silly in execution) mob disappear, leaves Ibudan with nothing to say, and doesn't give any real payoff to the Odo plotline in terms of Odo's own experiences; it ends up, after a somewhat promising first couple of acts, to be a bunch of stuff that happens and ends.

I like the Keiko subplot; I like the idea that she gets it in her head to be a teacher and then dedicates it to herself fully. She wants to be useful. I could have done without Jake and Nog's hijinks with the itchy-and-colour-modifying-fleas to justify why a school is necessary, but, well, I guess they need to demonstrate the negative aspects of the Jake & Nog friendship somehow. The establishment of the DS9 world as a real community being built almost from the ground up is pretty effective. We also, in this plot, meet Rom 1.0, who is basically nothing like later Roms the series gives us, though at least we can say that this is a Rom still intent on impressing his brother by being like him. I like that Rom insists that Nog *not* spend time with that hew-mon boy; Sisko's slight look at that line makes him realize, maybe a bit, that it's not all that friendly to make such restrictions on his own son. It is different being the pariah than being the one who objects to the pariah, no?

The Dax stuff with both Sisko and Bashir falls flat. I don't know if I'd say that Terry Farrell ever gets *very good* in the role, but once the character essentially gets rebooted into fun-loving jack-of-all-trades she seems a heck of a lot more comfortable.

Funniest line: Sisko's log entry at the end: "Ibudan has been turned over to the Bajoran authorities just hours after his clone gained consciousness and began a new life." Hahaha.

2 stars overall.

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