Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

"A Simple Investigation"

***

Air date: 3/31/1997
Written by Rene Echevarria
Directed by John Kretchmer

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"I'm talking to Kira."
"You're not talking, you're gossiping. And besides, Odo is quite capable of taking care of himself."
"Don't shout across the room. If you want to gossip with us then come down here."

— Dax and Worf

Nutshell: The story is fairly derivative, but the presentation and characterization makes it worthwhile. A slow, pleasant outing.

When Odo arrests a woman for illegally accessing station information, she reveals to him her troubles: She is looking for an Idanian agent who was supposed to meet her on DS9—someone who could help her with her big problem. The woman's name is Arissa (Dey Young), and she is a member of the nefarious, covert Orion Syndicate under an unseen, all-powerful commanding officer named Draim. Arissa hates the dreadful implications of her job and needs a way out of the Syndicate. But very few people who leave the Syndicate live long to tell about it; they're usually assassinated with prompt skill. And no one opposes the wishes of the infamous Draim.

In the episode's opening minutes, the Idanian agent Arissa is supposed to meet is vaporized by two Orion Syndicate thugs (who, unlike the Cardassians' Obsidian Order, hardly show the grace that would exemplify such a devious organization). When Odo finds evidence of the murder, Arissa looks to Odo for protection and her "way out." Odo, being the Changeling with the big heart, offers whatever help and protection he can provide so that Arissa can live to testify against Draim and send him to prison—not an easy task. In the meantime, Odo comes to respect Arissa's courage and finds himself falling in love with her.

"A Simple Investigation" makes use of a tried-and-true premise—that of a person in trouble who falls in love with the one who protects her. This premise is one that has been used in cinema, television, and second-rate novels so many times that the plot I just described probably seems mostly derivative.

Well, yes, the basic plot is derivative, and, at times, predictable as well. It hardly matters. Rene Echevarria (who I'm endeavoring today to label the best and most prolific Odo writer) supplies the script with the necessary, yet simple, character details and dialog that turns the episode into a slow, quiet, pleasant winner. This is yet another good Odo outing.

Watching "A Simple Investigation" reminded me of last season's also-quiet "Crossfire." Both are small Odo pieces written by Echevarria that provide minimal story substance that wisely plays secondary to amiable characterization. Neither show features anything that stands out as spectacular or instantly attention-grabbing. Both feature perfunctory plots. But, rather, the point of both is to simply provide a slow exposition on Odo's human condition within his identity of a Changeling.

One (although not the only) reason Odo is so intriguing is because he's the DS9 version of the Trekkian character who exists outside the "human condition" to make wry observations about humanity. Every Trek series has one. On the original series it was Spock; on TNG it was Data; on Voyager it's the Doctor. What makes these characters interesting when they're inserted into romance premises like this one is that it puts us, as viewers, into the intriguing mindset of trying to experience vicariously what it is to be human. To do this we attempt to get into Odo's mind and identify with what it means to not be human.

That's probably the deepest thing I can say about this episode, because there really isn't all that much to say about this show—at least, not thematically. "A Simple Investigation" is a simple show, and it's decent that way. I don't think I would look for something like this every week on DS9, but it certainly isn't a problem occasionally.

Aside from the Trekkian Human Question, the other big thing this episode gets right is the chemistry between Odo and Arissa. Chemistry is important in these types of shows, and "A Simple Investigation" features Odo at perhaps his softest in quite a while, yet he is still well within the boundaries of the character we know so well. Everything Odo does seems genuine and heartfelt; his attraction to Arissa never comes across as forced or insincere. By the same token, Arissa is pulled off skillfully by Dey Young, who has an aura of charisma about her that seems to give a reason for why Odo is so taken by her. The personalities here are on-target, and that's worthy of praise for both Auberjonois and Young.

Naturally, I wouldn't be doing my job as a reporter if I didn't comment on the inevitability of these two characters ending up in bed together. Although the implications of a lovemaking Odo had me wondering just how human Changelings can truly be (one question still remaining is "Did Odo morph his clothes off?", but never mind) I think it's also important to note that Odo has generally been as "solid" or as "human" in physical form as any given episode requires him to be. (This also explains, for example, why he can be knocked unconscious when hit on the head, as in "Vortex.") I'm not about to argue. It's the emotional aspects of the situation that are important, and I think the show handled them pretty well. Sure, some of the dialog turned repetitive and even obvious at times, but it was sweet and innocent because, well, Odo's just sweet and innocent in this sort of situation.

Quick aside: While we're on the subject of the (implied) sex in this episode, let me just make a quick juxtaposition: Unlike in the preposterously dumb and superficial Voyager offering, "Favorite Son," from a few weeks back, "A Simple Investigation" handles the sensuality with a tenderness and commitment that makes it worthwhile, rather than just laughable. Lisa Klink could take some pointers from Echevarria, if I may be so bold.

(On a totally unrelated note, Echevarria scores a few points with the amusing revisit to the "double-O-Bashir" program. It's nice to see that the crew decided to make the best of the rather weird situation that was "Our Man Bashir." Could all this subsequent role-playing have been Bashir's wild idea?)

So what about the plot of "A Simple Investigation"? Who cares? It serves its purpose by just sort of being there, and being out of the way when appropriate. Most of the plot revolves around the need to find out what mysterious information is contained on the data crystal that Arissa obtains early in the episode. The show's ending is Fairly Standard Espionage Stuff. It turns out that Arissa is really an undercover Idanian who had her memory wiped (and put onto the mysterious crystal) as a way of making her the best person (a person unaware of her motives) to infiltrate and expose the evil Draim and the Orion Syndicate.

Naturally, as these stories go, the plot twist is the catalyst for ending the relationship—in this case Arissa is not who she thinks she is, and when her memory is restored she realizes that she's married. I saw that one coming about a mile away, but it works okay here, nonetheless. We all knew that Odo's first relationship with a woman had to end in heartbreak. At least this way it was due to extreme circumstances. It could've turned out that Arissa was a spy and was really manipulating Odo—that would've been cruel, and I'm glad Echevarria didn't choose that route.

I don't really care much that the plotting is derivative; these machinations are not the point of this episode. The point is Odo's romantic situation, which proves intriguing most of the time, sincere all of the time, emotional at the end, and well-performed throughout.

Previous episode: Doctor Bashir, I Presume
Next episode: Business as Usual

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24 comments on this review

Nick - Sun, Dec 23, 2007 - 12:41pm (USA Central)
Dax playing "Lady Wantsomemore!" Now that's brilliant.
Jayson - Mon, Feb 11, 2008 - 5:42pm (USA Central)
Like most of your reviews, I do agree that this was a small quiet episode that was fairly entertaining. Now watching this episode again I noticed one slightly disturbing thing, why did Odo feel the need to create nipples, now thats commitment.
joe - Wed, Feb 18, 2009 - 5:42am (USA Central)
I love Dax comments in this Episode. And the little double07 scene is also awesome
EP - Sun, Mar 1, 2009 - 2:11am (USA Central)
Call me a scrooge, but I despite romances in Trek in any incarnation - yes, even everybody's favorite: TNG's Lessons. If I wanted to watch soap I'd turn on Days of Our Lives or something.

If the writers wanted to explore this part of Odo, couldn't they have done it before his miraculous recovery back from human to shapeshifter?

And the ethical lapse displayed by Odo, in becoming involved with his protected witness, would be grounds for dismissal in any normal universe. Not in Trek, though - everybody just stands around and grins like an idiot.

Eh, at least O'Brien gets to chew the scenery as Falcon.
Blue - Wed, Mar 18, 2009 - 8:06pm (USA Central)
Deep Space 9 is the best of the bunch, but Trek is so damned annoying with regards to romances, and consequences, and reset buttons in general. What's the point of all these one episode love affairs? They're so meaningless and inconsequential, especially when 99% of the time there are no lasting effects on the characters whatsoever. If they seriously want to play it for drama (instead of laughs, where one-ep flings are fine- Dax was fine at this), it needs to last. Sisko + Casidy was a good example, though the whole Maquis storyline was rushed and emotionally odd. Rom + Leeta was also a decent slow-burner, though I don't particularly enjoy Rom's character at all. Would it kill the Star Trek guys to hire guest actors for multiple episodes? That way, the audience wouldn't necessarily know which are the flings and which are the "real" relationships, adding much-needed realism to the whole sorry affair.
megan - Thu, Oct 29, 2009 - 2:37am (USA Central)
I also think this episode was a needed character advancement for Odo to be seen as sexual and capable of sexual intimacy so if there was to be additional growth in the Odo and Kira relationship or anyone else it wouldn't weird or ick from low imaginationed sexually frustrated fanboys.

It was clearly shown Kira was intrigued and mildly jealous the thought a solid woman found Odo attractive/sexually appealing. Made her stepback about her own feelings towards him and Odo actually would be interested to return the affection, being that she had in Crossfire blown him off as inhuman and uninterested in emotional or relationship situations.
Nic - Mon, Mar 29, 2010 - 8:30am (USA Central)
I was a little annoyed with the first few acts of heavy exposition, and, as most have already noted, this would have been a better episode if Odo had still been a humanoid at this point. But I'll take Odo & Arissa over Rom & Leeta ANY DAY!
megan - Fri, Apr 2, 2010 - 8:36pm (USA Central)
As my previous post upthread implied and is now vindicated, little fanboys can only appreciate this episode if only Odo could be humanoid to allow classic literary fratboy penis, boner dick subtext angst humor so they could identify with their adolescent mentality. That'd be real drama, har har.
Otherwise, Odo changeling with women is icky, he ain't got a glorious dick.
Polt - Mon, Jan 31, 2011 - 4:22pm (USA Central)
I hate slow, boring episodes like this one. What was the point, to have Odo fall in love? Didn't he already do that, albeit unrequitedly, with Kira? Was the point to have him experience 'love lost'? Why? Does it make him a better character? No.

I simply just don't see the point to this snoozer of an episode.
Justin - Mon, Apr 2, 2012 - 1:34am (USA Central)
Excellent, insightful review. In fact I like the episode a bit better after reading it. I still find it a bit plodding, but it does provide some well done character growth for Odo.

@Megan, what do you mean by "little" fanboys? Surely you can be more subtle than that.

And while we're on the subject of relative pork sword proportions, I think Arissa might disagree regarding the question of Odo's "gloriousness." She's one Idanian whose pudding got a little bit extra spiced that night, if you know what I mean.

Be honest, what woman wouldn't go for a guy who could change the er...mass and density of his phallic instrument at will? I've heard it said that it's not the size that counts it's what you can do with it. Well, Odo would seem to have both of those bases covered. And he doesn't even have to think about baseball while he's covering those bases either.

Okay, I think I've got it out of my system now. In other words, I finished.
Snitch - Tue, May 1, 2012 - 11:18pm (USA Central)
A nice little spy story, I did not buy into the Odo romance part of it, but I liked the guest actor, overall a little bit of fluff, but not bad
either.
2-1/2 Stars
Grumpy - Fri, Aug 10, 2012 - 9:18am (USA Central)
The plug on Arissa's neck is one of the few cyberpunky elements ever used in Trek. (Combined with Bashir's genetic engineering a few weeks earlier, it was practically a wave of post-human SF.) Didn't figure into the plot except as an early hint that her brain had been tampered with. This wasn't the first mention in Trek of a person's identity being rewritten, but this episode makes me wonder how people would cope with such a technology. Could you ever trust your friends' memories? Or your own?
Grumpy - Fri, Aug 10, 2012 - 9:21am (USA Central)
Er, Bashir's genetic engineering was actually the previous week, not "a few weeks earlier."
John - Tue, Sep 4, 2012 - 10:35pm (USA Central)
Nah... This plays out too much like a standard TNG episode for me.

Rene Auberjonois' performance is pretty much the only thing worth the trouble. Dey Young doesn't work for me at all. And don't talk to me about Terry Farrell's part in this.

Rene Echevarria's only truly engrossing "love story" is Season 7's "Chimera".

I did however like the scene where Odo interrupts Bashir in his little fantasy holo-program. Nice touch.
William - Sun, Nov 25, 2012 - 7:40pm (USA Central)
I'm generally not a fan of the one-hour Trek romances, and this one was no exception. The actress in the guest role didn't do much for me.

I did like the twist at the end that she was a spy.

I like the whole Orion syndicate concept, but only Enterprise really explored it well. Where were the green women?
Cyndi - Tue, Mar 5, 2013 - 11:43pm (USA Central)
I think this ep was great. We got to really see what Odo is like when he lets his walls down. I can't help wondering if Bashir's statement about giving love a chance and having your heart broken is better than having it break from loneliness is what would be sticking in Odo's memory during His Way.

Remember, Odo did look up texts about mating and sex while he was solid because he thought that was going to be the rest of his life.

And come on, a guy who can shapeshift will probably be really darned good at tantra and kama sutra! *DUCKS*

Also, bedroom eyes = win.
Nick P. - Thu, Aug 22, 2013 - 5:58am (USA Central)
I liked this episode, and that does say alot, because most Trek romances are garbage. However, I did not like the "gossiping" the "gals" were doing in ops. Seriously, go to the bar, how annoying. Also, isn't there something sort of anthropomorphizing about having Odo "fall in love". I buy that data would, since he was studying humans, and I buy that Spock would because Vulcans reproduce also, but why does Odo have to have romance?
Kotas - Sat, Oct 26, 2013 - 10:14am (USA Central)

Forgettable Odo episode.

4/10
Jack - Tue, Nov 19, 2013 - 11:23am (USA Central)
"I did however like the scene where Odo interrupts Bashir in his little fantasy holo-program. Nice touch."

Which is why it was so absurd that in "Our Man Bashir", Julian claims that it is illegal to enter a holodeck program in process. We've seen it happen throughout all 3 24th century shows...Riker and Troi invaded Barclay's in "Hollow Pursuits", the Doctor invaded Paris' Proton thing in "Night", and here the law enforcement officer "breaks the law".
eastwest101 - Thu, Dec 19, 2013 - 5:08pm (USA Central)
What a badly written, predictable, boring, snoozefest....
Vylora - Thu, Feb 27, 2014 - 9:42pm (USA Central)
Jack: In this particular instance Odo wasn't breaking the law. He was invited to be a part of the program. I would imagine it was a standing invitation despite the reason for his appearance. Barclay was neglecting his duties in your other example. The Doc in VOY is a hologram himself so there's probably a dispute there of a different nature. Besides the "law" in question was probably an amendment made specifically for ports of call such as DS9 had become. Otherwise it may just simply be a matter of respect to not interrupt. I can only guess.

This episode, though, was a pleasant enough one and I really can't find anything wrong with it per se. It was a decent example of taking a couple of characters, putting them in a well-worn setting, and let the dialogue do the rest. I guess the only thing I could find fault for it is that it's too pedestrian. I don't dislike this episode by any means. But I don't feel it stands up to a 3 star. Not for this viewer anyhow.

2.5 stars.
Eli - Fri, Feb 28, 2014 - 6:58pm (USA Central)
This is my favorite Deep Space Nine Episode. The complexities of the conflicts that each character faces (Odo and Arissa) are exquisitely developed throughout the episode. The love story and at its center and sweet and straightforward. Plainly poetic.
Toraya - Thu, Mar 20, 2014 - 8:35am (USA Central)
Because Arissa was immediately shown to be a clever sneak and liar, I had no idea why Odo suddenly decided to believe and trust her. Did he think she was only capable of one lie per week? This seemed so gullible and out of character, that I couldn't enjoy the plot because I kept waiting for her to be unmasked as a manipulative criminal.

Additionally, she admitted to being a sleazy criminal blackmailer -- yet instead of being disgusted, Odo immediately assumed she was a victim and not responsible for her actions. (Shades of last week, when Bashir's mother went unpunished.).

If every female criminal can get around Odo by merely batting her eyes and spinning a tale, he's a lousy security chief.
Che - Sat, May 10, 2014 - 3:34pm (USA Central)
When Odo suspected Quark of being in the Orion Syndicate he was happy to ship him off to a prison on some distant world without a second-thought. When it's a doe-eyed female on the other hand he's putty in her hands. I'm surprised they did this to his character; he's always seemed bound by his own code of honour. Despite his loathing for Quark and clear attraction to an admittedly-beautiful woman, he ought to have stuck by his principles.

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