Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

"The Alternate"


Air date: 1/10/1994
Teleplay by Bill Dial
Story by Jim Trombetta and Bill Dial
Directed by David Carson

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

Dr. Mora (James Sloyan), the scientist who helped Odo develop his shapeshifting abilities, and also a father-like figure to the rogue Changeling, comes to DS9 to reconnect old bonds which have grown apart since Odo left Bajor in search of something better than being a "science project." Meanwhile, an Unknown Lifeform [TM] that Mora and Odo have brought back from the Gamma Quadrant (which, by the way, may be a clue to Odo's mysterious origins—or not) roams the station and attacks people, in a plot akin to a B monster movie.

If ever there were an episode with a split personality, "The Alternate" is it. There are two ideas here that the writers must've been set on jamming together into one, never mind that they really shouldn't have had the slightest reason for coexisting. Nevertheless, "The Alternate" manages to be a riveting show on some levels, even if it's the epitome of mediocrity on others. The Odo/Mora scenes are fantastic, opening the backstory to how Odo became who and what he is, even how his personality came to be. Sloyan is superb as Dr. Mora, and Auberjonois' turn as Odo is a highlight that exhibits attitudes that are far more "personal" than the character typically takes on.

Then there's the lifeform plot, which is filled with long stretches of dull scientific exposition, technobabble, bizarre red herrings, and even a few suspense scenes (some of which actually work). The episode's twist is that the lifeform is actually Odo in an uncontrollable shapeshifting state, who chases after Dr. Mora because of gas particles that have been absorbed into his (Odo's, that is) cellular structure. As implausible as it probably is in plot terms, this explanation somehow manages to have some moving emotional implications in the Odo/Mora storyline, driving home a bond the two realize they need to reopen and reevaluate. But couldn't this have been done without so much mundane (and unlikely) underlying subplotting?

Note: If you watch this episode again, you'll notice a blatant change in character backstory. There's a dialog scene here that strongly suggests (more like flat-out says) that Sisko's father had died years ago. Look at the scene where Sisko offers words of wisdom to an Odo concerned about Mora's condition after encountering the toxic gas: "In the end there was nothing [my father] could do, and nothing I could do." This is contrary to "Homefront," in which we learn Sisko's father is still quite alive.

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9 comments on this review

Jayson - Tue, Feb 19, 2008 - 4:34pm (USA Central)
For some reason I've always remembered what Sisco said about his father in this one and it really doesn't bother me too much in terms of continunity. Its easy to forgive since Joseph Brock played such a great character and his additional only added to the Sisco family dynamic.
John - Wed, May 23, 2012 - 10:29am (USA Central)
I actually think this one is a little better than 2.5. I think the atmosphere generated during the 'monster b movie' sections are quite well played for the most part and not overdone. Sure, it's an ott way of ramming the point home but it makes for a more entertaining episode.
Paul York - Wed, Jun 6, 2012 - 9:31am (USA Central)
This story serves as a vehicle for the troubled father-son relationship of Mora and Odo, which is a recurring them. It also exhibits a strength of the show -- how it depicts parenthood: unconditional love, but complicated by real-life issues and hard choices, whether Jake, Nog, Molly, Dukat's daughter, or Alexander are involved - or the Cardassian boy in "Cardassians." In a later episode, Odo feels parental love and through that learns to forgive Mora. Here, he is "acting out" his subconscious aversion to him, which is repressed in his conscious self. So it is really a psychological story, as well as a relationship story. As with many DS9 episodes, the sci-fi storyline is a pretext or vehicle for an essentially human story, or more precisely sentient-being story -- about dealing with the complexities of life.
gmlcgond - Mon, Oct 14, 2013 - 11:32pm (USA Central)
I had difficulty believing that Dr. Bashir, emotions and compassionate manner would be pushed aside to have Odo placed in a zoo. Julian's friendship and time on DS9. ,make Nora's claim very hilarious and anti- the good doctor's patience ie Garrison.
Kotas - Tue, Oct 22, 2013 - 3:45pm (USA Central)

Odo episodes aren't that interesting until they discover the founders.

Yanks - Fri, Jun 27, 2014 - 11:54am (USA Central)
I enjoyed this episode. It was good to learn more about Odo's past and I agree, did a wonderful job playing Dr. Mora.

3 of 4 stars.
McDowell - Wed, Aug 20, 2014 - 8:36pm (USA Central)
Capturing the Odo-monster at the end of the episode seems like an homage to the end of the classic Forbidden Planet. And like Forbidden Planet this is also a story about psychology. It's a thrilling and emotional scene.
Dusty - Mon, Nov 3, 2014 - 9:27pm (USA Central)
A pretty cool episode. Dr. Mora was well played and his interactions with Odo were pretty fascinating. I didn't see the plot twist coming until a few seconds before Mora revealed it. Maybe the contrast Jammer pointed out between the Mora/Odo part and the monster part was intentional: presenting them as two different things to hide that they were part of the same story. If so, I'd say that's some very good writing. I'll come back to this one again.
MsV - Tue, Apr 7, 2015 - 2:47am (USA Central)
I have never been able to understand how Odo could be so hard and rude to Dr. Mora. If Odo worked with him, he had to realize that Dr. Mora did the best he could. He didn't know what Odo was and would never do anything to harm him deliberately. I think this is one of Odo's selfish moments, which we have found he can be very self serving. "Children of Time" and "Behind the Lines" to just name two major incidents. I can understand Odo not wanting to go the lab for more testing, but he was real mean to Dr. Mora who obviously cares about Odo.

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