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

15 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.

4/10
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 clich├ęs (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)
@Elliot:
WOW. This is what you call a "little review"? Please stop.

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