Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

“The Alternate”

2.5 stars.

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

Review Text

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™ 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.

Previous episode: Rivals
Next episode: Armageddon Game

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49 comments on this post

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

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


    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    Enter Dr. Mora Pol. The Mora/Odo relationship is the focus of this episode, including what initially appears to be an unrelated monster movie B-plot but turns out to be explicitly about Odo's feelings about Dr. Mora. The plot itself is nothing much to speak of, and it is indeed pretty weak. However, while both this and, say, "Armageddon Game" have weak plotting elements and good character development, I ultimately prefer this because the plot really is integrated into the character work, making the stakes high in ways specific to the characters rather than as a purely external device. "Alien gas has weird effects" is a dumb idea, but fundamentally the problem is created because of deeply buried feelings Odo has, and the problem is resolved through Mora's familiarity with Odo and his opening his mind to what he does *not* know.

    James Sloyan -- excellent in all his various Trek roles -- is wonderful in his interactions with Auberjonois, and creates a portrait of a man who has just the right set of contradictions. He sees Odo as a son and a science project; he knows Odo better than anyone in some respects and is blind to some of the most obvious signals Odo gives off; his words of encouragement have the natural effect of pushing Odo back into his shell. I love how Mora correctly recognizes more clearly than Odo does that Odo sets himself apart from others because he feels he has to and only retroactively justifies it as "what he wants", and yet at the same time is totally unable to see how his needling Odo about this just makes Odo grind his heels more. I think that one of the most telling moments in the episode for where Odo's distrust of others (and himself?) comes from is toward the end, when Mora secretly informs Odo that Mora knows that Odo is his sample, and then makes the argument that Odo's friends on the station would *never* accept him knowing this. In many ways this is an exaggeration of a particularly anxious parent's response -- "I want to protect you by poisoning your ability to trust others, because I know that none of them can love you as I do" -- which has the secondary effect of ensuring that the child comes back with them. Mora, who was a scientist during the Occupation and very likely had to work hard to keep Odo out of the Cardassians' hands (I wonder if part of the reason he insisted on Odo doing the Cardassian Neck Trick was a recognition that being a lovable clown is the best way to reassure the Cardassians that Odo was neither a threat, nor a creature they can [ab]use for their own purposes), distrusts everyone but himself when it comes to Odo, while also criticizing Odo for failing to open up to others. His desire to see Odo blossom makes him critical -- or, worse, surprised at every indication of Odo's success; his desire to see Odo safe makes him try to make Odo afraid. And he is completely unaware of these behaviours.

    Mora's little speech on the similarities between scientists and lawmen also serves to highlight the ways in which Odo, overall, takes after Mora. Despite his frustrations, we know that Odo values Mora because he patterned his physical appearance after him (though he couldn't get the ears right!) and shrinks in Mora's presence. Mora's cluelessness about how his "friendly" advice about what is best for Odo would actually affect Odo comes down, in part of course, to being a parent, but also in part to being a *scientist*. Just as Odo falls into the trap of believing that his desire for JUSTICE gives him some sort of superpower of objectivity (which he even attributes, in the "Necessary Evil" logs, to perhaps his species), Mora's training as a scientist makes him see himself primarily as an observer, and an objective and dispassionate one at that. He is not quite depicted as the type of scientist like, say, Bashir, who lacks social skills altogether, but Mora's background of viewing himself as an investigator into Odo's nature makes him unable to turn the microscope back on himself and recognize how many of Odo's "flaws" are the result of his own behaviour -- his own stubbornness and certainty of his own objectivity and infallibility -- as *well* as to what extent their mutual desire for the truth and their dedication to hard work means that Odo has learned some of his surrogate father's best traits as well.

    While we don't actually get much information about Odo's origins here -- a bit of a disappointment, though people who have watched ahead know what's coming -- I do think the idea that Odo would subconsciously desperately want to destroy the lab very cool. Odo's inability to get through to Mora exactly how traumatic his upbringing was, and (more to the point) how lonely he still felt even around Mora, culminates when the id-Odo essentially tries to murder Mora. Mora's recognition that Odo *wants him*, and his rejection of "RF power"-type tech solutions in favour of the personal, emotional one also signals Mora's full willingness to regard Odo as a person as well as, well, an "unknown sample" to be treated scientifically; and his willingness to risk his life so that Odo can be trapped (and hopefully not killed) is real proof of his feelings for Odo which Odo can actually see and understand. And I like the idea that once Odo expresses his anger the only way that is possible -- through alien gas, ha -- there is the possibility open for real communication between these two.

    That Odo actually does turn out to be the killer monster and is still forgiven also helps address one of Odo's big fears -- that he will, if he steps too far afield of what the solids approve of, be destroyed. Mora's fears, which he somewhat projected onto Odo, are wrong -- at least with the station personnel. Odo is regarded as a sick, lonely person affected by alien material, rather than an evil maniac/monster to be destroyed. And in a lot of ways I think that it's good for Odo's rigid moral code for him to find out that he has some destructive urges that he didn't quite recognize. I think Odo knew he was angry at Mora, but I don't think he fully knew *how* angry, and his guilt over having hurt Mora, and Mora's *forgiveness* of Odo, probably help Odo along in understanding that there are grey areas in "justice."

    The monster stuff is indeed a bit silly and has a B-movie quality, but it doesn't take up much of the episode, and it is used to good effect to spur a change in the relationship between Odo and Mora, which also helps move Odo along further on his series long arc. 3 stars.

    Re: Sisko's father:

    This reminds me of a joke on "Frasier." On "Cheers," Frasier had told Sam that his father was dead, long before the idea of Frasier starring in his own spin-off had come up. When his spin-off did happen, Frasier's father was introduced as a living cast member. So when Sam visited Frasier on his own series and was introduced to his father, he immediately said that he thought Frasier had said that his father was dead. Martin (Frasier's father): "You said I was dead?" Frasier: "I was mad at you!" A good way to turn a continuity error into a joke by confronting it directly. (Somewhat similar to the famous "we do not discuss it with outsiders" joke from "Trials and Tribble-ations.")

    @William - That's awesome. I remember him telling Sam that he was dead, but I missed the episode of Frasier where Sam visited.

    Honestly I always thought Trek should have just hired a Trekkie nitpicker to let them know everything that was wrong with a script. I mean, I respect if you need to ignore continuity (A LITTLE BIT) for the sake of a story... I mean, I really liked Sisko's dad, and I'm not sorry they did it.

    But it would still have been good to have somebody letting the writer's know every time they screwed up.

    Thanks for the review Jammer, as always. I had a question that I would really like an answer to, though. What becomes of the pillar/artifact they discover and take back to the station. It supposedly had clues to Odo's people/origins. Did they ever follow up on this? I thought a stone artifact that could have clues to Odo's origins was a pretty neat idea..Can anyone tell me if it was ever followed up on? Thanks!

    @Lief, No. But a similar one showed up on the Founders home planet.(The Search II) Still no one mentioned it.

    And to Dear William B thanks for helping me understand Odo's anger and resentment at Dr. Mora.

    @MsV thanks for the answer..I'll be sure to look out for it when I rewatch that episode.

    Teaser : ***.5, 5%

    Open on Quark auctioning off a bit of a deceased Ferengi (at bargain rates). Odo manages to sabotage the deal, taking particular zeal in telling Quark how much he's looking forward to his death. It turns out Plaig (the dead Ferengi) is not dead at all and Quark has either been duped or trying to dupe. It's the Capitalists' way.

    Enter Dr Mora, who immediately starts scrutinising Odo's appearance. Mora is of course the scientist who was assigned to Odo after he was found. Quark pounces on the opportunity to embarrass Odo, recognising Odo's discomfort.

    Particularly pleasurable is Sloyan's ability to match Auberjonois' gruff cantankerousness with nonplussed wit and self-confidence. The wit they share in common. Odo has the authority, Mora has the confidence. It mirrors in some ways the dynamic between Odo and Quark except that Mora seems to actually make Odo feel vulnerable. He knows that Odo still yearns desperately to understand himself and his origins (as does the audience), and he's counting on that truth to bridge the gap of trust between them. A great setup.

    Act 1 : ***, 17%

    Time for a bit of DBI, where we get one of those clichéd father-son conversations between Jake and Ben. [wretch]

    Thankfully, Odo ends this crap and asks Sisko for runabout on his and Mora's behalf. Mora wants to investigate some lifeform readings in the Gamma Quadrant which could explain Odo's origins.

    There's an amazing amount of information conveyed just by the performances from the more interesting father-son pairing of Mora and Odo. While on the runabout, Mora manages to continuously interrupt and speak for Odo to Dax, all while singing both their praises. It's clear that Mora gets carried away by his excitement and his pride (as many parents do), but also remarkable that this man's ego manages to shut Odo of all people down to nought but rolling his eyes in frustration.

    The scientists and Odo beam down to a volcanic planet, which is covered in ruins. They find a pillar and a silicate lifeform which they beam back. This triggers a volcanic eruption which nearly kills them. The set may be cheap, but they manage to squeeze a great deal of drama out of the discovery and subsequent harrowing escape.

    Act 2 : **.5, 17%

    The Bajorans are critically injured by their experience. While Bashir treats them, Odo observes Dr Mora curiously, as one would a scientific sample, and quite likely they way Mora observed Odo many times during their time together.

    Sisko shares the story about how his father almost died but didn't with Odo. This naturally triggers Ben to reflect on his own relationship with Jake and....oh wait, no that would make sense. Nevermind.

    Later that evening, the lifeform that they brought back seems to have escaped from its containment field. Duhn duhn duhn...

    Act 3 : ***, 17%

    They deduce that the lifeform escaped through the ventilation shaft (isn't that always the way?) just in time for Dax to make an entrance. Turns out Bashir hid her clothes from her so she had to sneak out of the infirmary. I'm sure that had no ulterior motivations.

    In the infirmary, Mora and Odo share a good scene. Mora called him in to ask to be of use. Odo assures him that the situation is under control. They discuss the metamorphic abilities of the lifeform, but what the scene is really about is what William B described above as “just the right set of contradictions.” In the same breath, we can become angry with Mora for being so single-minded in his scientific pursuit, but stilled moved by his genuine and unprompted concern for those around him. Likewise, Odo's feigned indifference is clearly betrayed by a sense of loyalty and affection for Mora, especially in his injured state.

    Jammer complains about the dry, technical exposition during the hunt for the lifeform, but I vehemently disagree. While the actual dialogue is indeed dry, director David Carson is able to create a simmering sense of quiet dread. A very refreshing change from similar scenes in season 1. I find it quite effective. This is achieved primary by having the camera close to Miles so that he takes up most of the frame as he moves through the corridors (can we call them Jeffries Tubes?). As for the claim that this horror-movie stuff doesn't belong in a character study, I don't quite get that either. I mean this is really a horror movie populated by strong characters (Odo and Mora), so fleshing out their relationship is a necessary and welcome *addition* to the plot. O'Brien eventually discovers the now-dead life form in a startling moment which is undercut only slightly by the goofy sight of snot dripping onto the floor.

    Even the Dax/Bashir flirting scene is palatable, giving way to a classic sneak-up-from-behind monster-movie bit. Is it a little corny? Yeah, but I think it's about as effective as it could be given the limitations present. A genuinely good effort.

    Act 4 : ***.5, 17%

    MORA : Constable?
    ODO : It's a nickname I barely tolerate.
    MORA : It's an expression of affection that you find difficult to accept.

    Boom. Mora's dichotomy is on display again. While he pontificates (a little arrogantly) about the similarities between the scientific and police methods, one can attribute his enthusiasm to either grating egoism or an attempt to bridge the gulf between himself and Odo (which is probably even more grating to the Constable).

    The script wisely takes every opportunity to flesh out Mora's motivations wherever there's a lull (like during his and Dax' analysis of the DNA residues).

    Mora confronts Odo and reveals that he has deduced (secretly) that the monster is actually Odo. It says a lot about the man that, while he may partly still see Odo as a science project, the first person he tells about his discovery is Odo himself, out of respect for his personhood.

    Act 5 : **.5, 17%

    Odo's panic at the news is telling. He's not horrified by the idea of being a monster, but of being a *criminal*. This harkens back to my reflections on “Necessary Evil”: “[T]he story is given this noire veneer in order to accentuate the theme of semblance. Here, Odo's persona as the neutral observer, cold investigator and un-relatable alien is cracked open.” Another crack is forming. While in NE, Odo's persona as a lawman is what held him together, here the idea that he could be acting *illegally* cuts right into that veneer.

    The only objection I have to this scene is, while Odo is visibly transforming under the stress of Mora's (understandably) angry reaction to Odo's rejection of his trustworthiness, the observing scientist fails to notice the heaping, sweating pile of goo Odo is becoming. Then again, I suspect Mora is purposefully antagonising Odo in order to test his theory.

    After Odo transforms, Mora informs the senior staff about whom they're tracking and suggest using himself as bait to catch him.

    Okay, so here's the bigger problem: Sisko decides, yeah sure, let's use this civilian as bait to catch the creature! Are you seriously telling me there aren't gasses they could use to render Odo unconscious? Or energy fields? Odo isn't a telepath, why not use a hologram of Mora to bait Odo? Talk about a needlessly reckless command decision. Likewise, the whole “set phasers to kill” fake-drama is ridiculous. Odo-as-The-Creature has not killed or even wounded anybody. Sure he's dangerous, but come on!

    The other bad news is that the CGI creature bits which follow look terrible. Off-camera, Mora and Bashir rid Odo of the particles which turned his resentment into monster-mash. This is exactly how I prefer Trek deal with its sci-fi elements. The plot serves the purpose of creating the analogy which allows the writers to explore the “human” condition of the characters. Dwelling on the specifics is a waste of time, so I'm glad they don't.

    Mora and Odo say their goodbyes, having developed a better understanding of one another and their relationship.

    Episode as Functionary : ***.5, 10%

    For not the first time, Commander Thinks-With-His-Dick sabotages an otherwise strong story, but at least not too badly as he's not the focus. The Mora-Odo material is very strong and plays well against the precedent set by “Necessary Evil.” Sloyan is a rock star in all his appearances on Trek and Auberjonois is typically strong. While I can understand the objections to the monster-movie bits in theory, they are mostly executed very well (save that last scene) and are integrated seamlessly into the fabric of the story, so I don't mind them. This feels for me like one of the few times DS9 attempted a real Star Trek story and succeeded. William B. gives an excellent analysis above of the Mora/Odo relationship and I have nothing else to add, so I won't. A refreshing change of pace from the last several episodes.

    Final Score : ***

    A definite game of two halves. The Mora/Odo scenes are strong - not least of which because Mora's manipulative behaviour and Odo's conflict are clearly apparent.

    Everything else is pretty much a disaster. There are scenes which seem like they are from another episode (eg the Klingon opera), the monster story never really works, the special effects at the end are laughable, the dialogue gets increasingly ropy ("My God, what have I done?") and worst of all, it's actually boring.

    You'd think you couldn't go wrong with some Odo backstory, but I guess not. 2 stars.

    What starts out as another possible examination/revelation about Odo's past (a la "Vortex" from Season One) , quickly goes down the same path as that previous episode and tells us virtually nothing about Odo's backstory. We learned nothing about Odo's past in the Gamma Quadrant. All of the mystery surrounding the planet (was it a pre-Dominion Changeling colony?) and its stone pillar goes absolutely nowhere and is even dropped completely once it's revealed that Odo has become the shaft-shifting monster.

    We don't even learn all that much about Odo past on Bajor. "Necessary Evil" established that Odo walked out on his Bajoran keepers because he felt he could learn more outside of a laboratory. Not much aside from the fact that Dr. Mora feels badly about that and has a slight emotional connection with Odo is revealed here. We don't learn until much later that Odo left because he resented the way he was being treated by Mora and the other scientists.

    So, what we end up with is a huge opportunity to delve into Odo's character which is flushed away in order to tell a lack-luster B-movie monster story, complete with a Tentacle Monster wrapping itself around Bashir's neck. At least "Vortex" was able to obscure the fact that it told us nothing about Odo by having other things going for it (enjoyable characters and an otherwise engaging story). The only thing "The Alternate" has in its favor are some of the Odo/Mora scenes. And even then, Mora comes off as somewhat of an unlikable character in this episode - constantly interrupting Odo in the runabout, treating him like a child, desperate to get him to abandon everything just to return to the lab so he can feel fulfilled, etc. If he wasn't played by James Sloyan he wouldn't be likable at all. But Sloyan is awesome in just about anything he does (he's a huge reason why "The Defector" is my favorite episode of TNG), so he's able to infuse the character with just enough charisma and charm that I can overlook most of Mora's character flaws.

    Oh, and Dax acts completely insufferable again. Slipping out of the Infirmary even though Bashir didn't clear her for duty because she, apparently, knows better than her doctor and later playing extra-ordinarily hard-to-get with Bashir. At one point Bashir even says "she enjoys it; she actually gets some kind of perverse pleasure out of it." You hit the nail right on the head there, pal! I guess they've finally decided to give Dax some character traits. And they aren't enjoyable.


    no one addressed the weakest part of this episode, the giant monolith thingy. Why DID the gas all come out after it was moved? we never find out. the giant red herring plotline continues with Dax, who is acting strangely and suspiciously all episode after waking up from the gas. she is examining it in her lab, and for no reason whatsoever to the story is asked, 'wasnt it over here before?', to which she strangely replies, 'i decided to move it.' this whole episode was, looking back at it over 20 years, a delightful shambles. The acting between Odo and the science guy was great, and clearly the centrepiece for the episode, but the plot construction was a mess.

    @Luke...and later playing extra-ordinarily hard-to-get with Bashir. At one point Bashir even says "she enjoys it; she actually gets some kind of perverse pleasure out of it."
    I have to disagree with you on this one, (from a female point of view). If I were Dax I would not be interested in Julian either, he couldn't control his hormones, he acted as if she was no different than any other woman he met. I cannot remember which episode it was but she came down on him for his behavior. We all would like to think we are at least, a little special. He was just a white livered whore.


    I recently rewatched this episode with my kids. They both thought that either the creature had shapeshifted into Dax or the gas had affected her and she was helping the creature. Her comments about moving the artifact reinforced this.

    While this doesn't explain within the plot why Dax seemed to be acting weird, it does explain why the writers included these scenes. I think Dax was meant to be a red herring to take our suspicion away from the true culprit Odo.

    @Luke I think it's presumptuous to say Dax was "playing hard to get". All she did was invite for a drink in a bar. That could mean she enjoys his company as a friend, but just doesn't want to take things further.

    What Mayavoe said about the obelisk. What WAS it supposed to do!? Why don't we learn anything more about it, after all that trouble they went to getting it back to the station? Are we to assume that they left in the science lab as a whimsical piece of furniture from the Gamma Quadrant? Or did Quark manage to auction it off lmao.

    Apart from the unresolved plot issue about the obelisk, I really enjoyed this episode. Dr Mora and Odo have a very believable and enjoyable chemistry, and the doctor himself is a suitably charismatic character who carries the plot forward and interacts well enough with Odo to draw us into his situation, and care about him. It's funny though to watch 'The Begotten' after this and realise that their relationship didn't improve too much, at least not as much as Dr Mora would have liked.

    Before watching s7 I would have agreed hands down with Strejda but Ezri tells Julian in 'Afterimage' that Jadzia enjoyed all the attention and that if Worf hadn't come along, it would have been him. As it is.. I think she probably found Bashir cute, but didn't like him enough to want to be in a serious relationship with him, or take it anywhere beyond mild flirting. Which is completely okay. We're not living in the Middle Ages anymore; women aren't obliged to marry men just because they talked to each other and engaged in a bit of hanky panky.

    That planet was one of the most fakey sound stages with matte painting backdrops I've seen since first season TNG.

    Unlike most of you, I didn't care for Mora at all. He was played well, but his cloying "I'm like your Dad! Love me! Respect me! Ignore that I think of you as a project!" really annoyed me.

    I preferred learning bits about what Odo can do, but overall I found this pretty dull. Except the scene in sickbay when Odo (before we knew it was Odo) attacked Julian. That had good atmosphere and I actually tensed up a bit.

    2 stars--dull sci fi pilot with anticlimactic reveal and the character story with Odo & Mora didn't emotionally do anything for me

    note, Odo and the doctor have the same haircut.

    I also wondered why Odo is using his shapeshifting so inefficiently.

    I agree with Jammer about the alternate: The Odo/Mora material is indeed fantastic, and the sci-fi nonsense falls flat. However, it didn't bother me as much, so I will go with a higher rating.

    3 stars.

    I never understood why Dax would suggest moving the thing in the first place. Why disrupt the site of an ancient civilization just so your computer can analyze the pictures? Take some holo-snaps and recreate the thing!

    Just rewatched: is anyone else annoyed they never followed up on the PLegg mystery? Whose vacuum desiccated remains did Quark buy?!

    Watching and commenting:

    --Odo and Quark are always amusing. A nice start.

    --Dr Mora is plainly parental, in the annoying way. But kind of endearing to see some of the classic parent-child here. YAY! I am intrigued.

    --More parent-child dynamics with
    Sisko and Jake. Brooks would be a great Q, or a Klingon leader, some God-like alien. Not so much, Sisko.

    --Does no one notice that the minute they removed that pillar thingy, everything started to shake, rattle, and roll.

    --Rene Auberjonois is truly excellent in a challenging role here.

    --Dax acting slightly suspiciously . . . just a mislead, I guess.

    --Interesting development, Odo tracking himself.

    --Odo-Dad trying to manipulate Odo, keep him dependent the way some parents do when they really miss their kid, when their kid is their whole world. It's so odd to see the formidable Odo in the child role.

    --Really liked the character development for Odo. Well done.

    --What the heck happened to figuring out what the life form and the pillar were about? Dangly loose ends.

    Okay I am confused here. So odo has blackouts where he commits crimes and even attempts murder? Or it was just the gas and he won’t do it again? Did they just completely blow by the fact the SECURITY OFFICER is a danger to the entire space station and he keeps his job?

    There really is very little here other than Dr. Mora and Odo making up and a bit of potential about Odo's beginnings but it's mostly slow-paced with a sci-fi monster terrorizing the station. Sloyan is a reliable Trek guest actor, often-used and rarely disappoints. I just think more time should have been spent on what went wrong between Odo and Mora instead of the technobabble and monster plot. Could have gotten a lot more character development about Odo here.

    Plenty of padding with stuff like O'Brien crawling around, Dax/Mora checking DNA samples -- at times "The Alternate" really dragged.

    There is Mora who acts like the detective and pins it all down to Odo -- I wouldn't call these scenes "fantastic" like Jammer does but they are the strength of the episode and are reasonably strong. I like how Mora is always trying to humanize and praise Odo for the job he does but Odo is very pragmatic. But Odo breaks down when Mora says he'll be imprisoned for the criminal acts the creature does. That part seemed hard to explain. Later Mora has plenty of regret and they make up -- this whole thing wasn't nearly as powerful as it could have been.

    A low point (and typical for Trek) is the resolution -- Bashir has no explanation but after taking down the forcefield, they are able to conveniently extract the creature from Odo. But where is it? Is it dead somehow? I think some things are glossed over arbitrarily here.

    There were some weird odds and ends thrown in like Jake having to study Klingon opera and the stone obelisk. No idea wha the obelisk means -- I think that's a loose end. Or is it simply that transporting it triggered the earthquakes and gas that poisons everybody "except" Odo?

    A low 2.5 stars for "The Alternate" -- main takeaway for me is the wasted potential of learning about Odo's history and more about his backstory with Mora. This one was fairly boring for stretches, but Mora in future episodes holds decent potential.

    Rahul - I think you misunderstood. On the planet was: a statue, which they misled us into thinking was the monster but it was just a red herring and had no importance; the little creature which grew, escaped and died in the vents (after Odo-monster freed it - we were misled into thinking it freed itself); and a gas that knocked out the humanoids and did something weird to Odo, apparently whenever he "slept" he became a monster instead.

    The creature was never in Odo, they removed the gas from him. They didn't realise he'd somehow absorbed it, because they thought "as he doesn't breathe, he didn't breathe it in, and he seems fine".

    It was all explained, but it wasn't important - it was the means to the end of showing us Odo's feelings about his "father".

    I found this episode quite moving but I have similar issues in my own relationship with my father (and none of the good bits that Odo does realise he has with Dr Mora, despite the problems). I'm glad they didn't linger too long on the "science" behind what was happening, because it was only background. Though it's odd to me as it is to others that Dax just went and looted the Gamma Quadrant like that, as if she has no other way to study the inscriptions. We've already had an episode about how doing that is bad news for DS9!

    I really did not enjoy this episode. Rather than being moved by the so-called father-son dynamic between Mora and Ofo, I found it patronising to the point of being offensive. I was not surprised by Quark’s referring to it as a family reunion — the Ferengi is of course fairly insensitive in matters not relating to profit, and never misses an opportunity to irritate Odo — but when Sisko drew the same parallel later it struck me as inappropriate and insulting. Only Dax, in the scene on the runabout where Mora urges Odo to tell his story and then proceeds to tell it for him, appears to have any real compassion (albeit quizzical) for Odo’s situation.

    This prevailing attitude, of treating someone potentially sophisticated (in this case, demonstrably) or ancient as though they were a child just because they’re new or different seemed at odds with the guiding principles of Starfleet, which here seemed to be veering back towards the “we come in peace, shoot to kill” parody rather than more enlightened attitudes. Or is this because I am watching Trek, now, through the prism of another fifteen years of human history?

    I was also troubled by Dax’s wanton destruction of an archaeological site. Is it really Starfleet policy to simply beam out anything of interest, vandalising history in the process? I seem to remember that in TNG episodes we saw head-mounted ‘video’ cameras, which would have been the responsible way to record the ruins and the characters on the obelisk — particularly as it played no part in the plot whatsoever aside from various cast members giving it meaningful looks and Odo and Dax’s goofy aside about it moving from one side of the lab to the other.

    Another niggle: why does Mora exclaim “my god, what have I done?” Isn’t Bajoran faith based on the Prophets? Wouldn’t “oh, the Prophets” have been a more appropriate oath?

    As so often, and recognising the need to wrap up 43 minutes of drama before the commercial break, the closing scene was strange. I’m not sure what was meant by Odo needing to speak loudly enough, or even what Odo was apologising for — it felt to me as though the wrong in their relationship was all in Mora’s side.

    Overall, then, this episode really didn’t work for me. Even the title didn’t sit right.

    People who put spoilers for later episodes in the comment sections should be shot with two phasers set on 'kill' and pointed at the head until that head explodes and lots of baby spoiler aliens crawl out of that head and stomach bit.

    @Bobbington Mc Bob

    At least they haven’t spoiled the famous Voyager crossover episode where Sisko ends up in the Delta Quadrant and Janeway fights the Dominion with help of slipstream technology created by Barclay.


    As Long as they don't spoil the A-Team / Voyager crossover where Barclay pulls Hannibal, Face and BA through an alternate universe portal and then works with them to weld together a makeshift Defiant in a space barn (whose phasers only make enemies sort of fly away and then lie on the floor a bit), then that's fine. If that happened, I would have a definite "ammonia" moment.

    Hello, user "Jayson" couldn't help but notice but his name is "Sisko" not Sisco. Common slip of the tongue, quite common!

    Also the way Dax strokes at the statue lovingly when they first bring the relic back to the station. Very directorally schizoid episode.

    Always happy when James Sloyen shows up in any Star Trek.

    The thing I liked about this episode is the relationship between Dr. Mora and Odo. He’s very patronizing and condescending, which explains why Odo’s personality is prickly. But there are implications that he kept Odo from worse fates, like being quarantined on an asteroid. In the end, I found it difficult to decide how I felt about Dr. Mora.

    Also, it’s a nice counterpoint to that annoying meme, “Odo can look like anything, so why does he look like a weird old man?” It’s because he was modeling his looks off of Dr. Mora.

    I don’t understand the obelisk subplot though, I agree it seems like it should have been put in another episode.

    As for Dax acting weird, I’m not a huge fan of how Terry Farrell portrays Jadzia Dax throughout the series. She’s aloof, probably because Dax is centuries old. She also constantly gives off the vibe that her current body is a novelty, which doesn’t make any sense to me because Dax already has gone through at least five hosts and therefore should be used to the different bodies and social dynamics that come along with changing hosts. I see her behavior in this episode as being consistent with the characterization that Terry chose to portray, although I dislike the choices she made as an actress.


    "But there are implications that he kept Odo from worse fates, like being quarantined on an asteroid."

    That's a really good point.

    SPOILERS (since I forget what is said here vs in The Begotten)

    Dr. Mora seems pretty clear on the fact that he was pushing his luck even doing the experiments on Odo as the Cardassians would have preferred he shelve a useless waste of time like playing with goo. Being on a deadline for results (much as Odo was in The Begotten), he had to take the steps he did to get Odo to react. Otherwise the Odo project might have been taken away, and Odo would have lived out eons in a jar on a shelf. So while I think there is some play to be found here in terms of whether Mora really needed to be as brutal as he was with Odo, we can at least ask whether the alternative might not have been much worse.

    I found this dull, except for some decent "horror movie" cliches. So you have Miles creepily exploring DS9's vents and catacombs, and you have various red-herrings, like the alien sample, the monolith, and the notion that Dax may be possessed or have been replaced by an alien.

    As the episode's opening conversation about frauds and counterfeits lets on, however, these are all decoys. The real monster is Odo. Or rather his surrogate daddy, Doctor Mora, who is essentially Doctor Morbius from "Forbidden Planet".

    In that classic film, Morbius so loves his daughter, so smothers her and is protective of her, that his "unconscious desires" leads to the "creation of monsters" which lash out at everyone trying to "take her away". The film famously has a big "Monster of the ID" lashing out at humans hiding behind force fields.

    Meanwhile in this episode, we have Doctor Mora as Doctor Morbius. He wants to pamper and protect Odo, take him off of DS9, and also resume the laboratory tests he once performed on Odo as a child, Odo kept in petri dishes and under the lock and key of special shields. This is fatherly love, yes, but also a kind of oppression. The Oedipal Complex writ large, Mora is the patriarch whose love serves to bar Odo from pleasure and freedom, who maintains his power via repression, and who prompts the repressed Odo to slay his father.

    Odo's unconscious resentment toward Mora, combined with him "absorbing magical gas", thus leads to him turning into a monster who symbolically, and indirectly, lashes out at Mora. He does this by "freeing an alien contained in a lab" and "attacking doctor Bashir as he runs experiments on the alien in a petri dish". In other words Odo sees himself in this alien, sees Mora in Bashir, and so lashes out.

    The episodes ends with the Odo-monster caged in a force field, Mora realizing that he's spent years trying to cage his child - much like Doctor Morbius eventually realizes in "Forbidden Planet" - and father and son eventually solving their little Freudian kerfuffle.

    Personally, I wanted a full episode about Dax scanning that monolith. That thing seemed real interesting.

    Thanks for the review. Watching this episode again I wonder if Dr. Mora knew the gas would be on that planet and it was all his plot to get back his experimental subject into his lab ? Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but the scene with them when Dr. Mora forces Odo to transform seems especially disturbing. The story seems to suggest that he is just putting pressure on Odo to confirm his theory that the monster is really him. But why suggest that Odo has always been committing these crimes ? Why state that he needs to be back in the lab, even a zoo ? One could take this as Dr. Mora knowing exactly what upsets Odo. But he also initially seems to block Odo from getting help with the gas even if he relents after Odo's transformation in front of him. At the end he seems to accept a closer relationship with Odo over getting him back in his lab, if you ask me. Maybe I'm just overly suspicious (a bit like Odo ?) but did Dr. Mora know about the gas before they got to that planet ?

    "This pillar must have been important to the people who lived here" -Pel
    "Why don't we take it with us?" -Dax

    Why don't we take it with us??? Your first instinct as a starfleet officer visiting an ancient site is to just yank a pillar out of the ground and haul it off? Where does it go after DS9 - the British Museum?


    Probably because I don't care about Otto. He's a total buzzkill for the most part, with a few glimpses or redeeming features now and again. He was just about passable in season 1, what with his shape-shifting being a neat plot device at times, but his main functions now seem to be busting Quark's hump and admonishing kids for running on the prome-naaaahd 🙄🙄🙄🙄🙄

    Now he does his little Godzilla impersonation.

    Had this in the background most of the time while shopping microSD cards on Amazon and feeling guilty about it... - the shopping ON AMAZON, that is.

    I hope they do something with this guy soon or just kill him off.

    Yeah. Boring.

    The main reason I liked this episode is that the guest star doesn't overact. So often in Old Trek (less of a problem in Nu Trek, although I am not a Nu Trek fan) the guest roles are played so over the top. They aren't characters, they are caricatures. But this Doctor was more nuanced. I could actually believe that he had grown very attached to Odo, and did not realize how smothering that attachment had become. This was a 3 star episode for me.

    William B -

    It's a looong time later so you may never read this, but I want to go on record as to how impressed I am at your psychological analysis of this episode. I think you were right in every respect, and you clarified my thinking on a few points. I sometimes don't read all of your lengthy posts, and occasionally I disagree with some of them, but this one was extremely well done IMHO. Thank you!

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