Thursday, September 20, 2012

Deep Space Nine, Season 1: A Man Alone

Deep Space Nine, Season 1
"A Man Alone"
Airdate: January 17, 1993
2 of 173 produced
3 of 173 aired


Odo spots a criminal he arrested during the Occupation back on the station. He attempts to remove him, but without evidence of some new crime, Sisko will not allow it. That man is found dead in a holosuite shortly thereafter. The computer records that no one else entered or exited the room, leaving the only suspect the one person on the station who could get in and out undetected: Odo himself.

Looks like Miles lost the "compromise."


Kevin: The show is still working out the kinks, no two ways about it. We have an interesting core idea. Murder mysteries make good drama and we've explored humanities lingering bigotries with Spock and Data in the past to interesting result. The problem here is that the bigotry is coming from a faceless mob of a people we don't really know yet. They make an offhand reference to Odo having worked for the Cardassians, but the fact that he's here at all after the Occupation would seem to argue at least someone in the Bajoran government liked him, so the intensity of the rage that just turns on and off like a switch seems odd. I think it would have helped had at least one Starfleet officer seriously suspected him. The intended homily on racism only works if people I'm supposed to care about are struggling with it.

Matthew: I agree that an investigation affords opportunities to develop characters as scientists, and that works to a fair degree here. I too would have liked more detail about the Occupation and Odo's role, I guess it was too early, and we will see it later in the series.I think one of the big problems with the plot as a whole was the "victim." Why did anybody care? It sounded like he was a generally unsavory character, and it's hard to imagine a Lynch mob forming over the untimely death of, say, Timothy McVeigh or Jeffrey Dahmer.

Kevin: The murder plot itself isn't great either. Why can't Bashir tell the sample is a cloned cell by scanning it? Why do they have to grow it? Are there some ethical concerns for just creating a sentient clone without meaning to? We've established before cloning is detectable, so why not detect in the dead body? Also, it's clear we haven't quite hammered down Odo's nature as he apparently has DNA, a fact not really referenced again. Individual scenes with Odo, Kira, and Sisko were pretty good. I bought their angst over the situation, but overall, I just didn't really care about what was going on here. It's more of the "show me, don't tell me" problem. We get a few lines about how awful Ibudan is, but that's all. It makes the conflict between the two bland, and Odo's reaction seem an overreaction. I like other episodes where we explore Odo bending the rules in the name of justice, but this one made him seem a little unhinged.

Matthew: The lack of exploration of the cloning aspect of the plot is a major sin for me. The fact that this new guy, grown in the DS9 lab by a process apparently perfectly known to Federation science, is about to "enter Bajoran society" is just too big to go so lightly treated. It seems implied (somehow stored within a few stray cells) that this clone will have memories (as the murdered clone also seemed to while being massaged). Will he thus stand for the crimes of his predecessor? I mean, if you're a perfect replica, and you maintain all the memories and motivations that went into the commission of crimes, shouldn't you be punished or segregated from society in some way?

Kevin: Like last week, the bright spots are in the B plot. It slightly stretches credulity that there was no plan for education the children living on the station. Was Jake just going to take a correspondence course? There seem to be enough Starfleet families alone to justify a school, you they had on the Enterprise. That being said, couching it in the O'Brien's marital problems is pretty good. We get some nice scenes between Keiko and Miles and it's a nice exploration of the life of a Starfleet spouse. It's a very relatable problem and gives both characters something to do. So far, the show has done an interesting job filling in details and background, but has faltered in hitting the right stride in the main story.

Matthew: Maybe all the Starfleet crew are single? Or their kids all died in shuttle accidents? This would have been another interesting "soft" sci-fi angle to explore. Just how diverse can a curriculum be? Does everyone get fitted with a universal translator? What is the education system of the future like, anyway? Is it community based, are their individual lessons (as you suggest), what role do Holodecks play, and so on?

Kevin: Finally...geesh Bashir is a creep in this episode. I'm not a fan of austere Dax, but while we're doing it, his fawning is downright upsetting. Are the writers intentionally writing him as creepy stalker at this point?

Matthew: My random writing note pertains to the same scene, but more with respect to how completely unrelated it was to the main plot. I really kind of like a connection, however tenuous, between teaser and episode.


Kevin: I liked Kira, Odo, and Sisko this time around. Kira's anger over Odo's treatment and her desire to cushion the blow for him being relieved were nice and spoke to the depth of the relationship we had not seen yet. Sisko acted like a reasonable commander in this situation, both curtailing Odo's excess and removing an officer with a conflict from a situation. Auberjonois really threw himself in the part, and it shows. His angst played really well.

Matthew: Rene Auberjonois is a good actor, any way you slice it. To act through that makeup is no doubt a challenge, and also to create a character with the sort of shifting writing priorities that seem clear in the early going here. I agree that his fistfight with the Ibudan character seemed over the top, but that wasn't due to acting choices. Odo is solid here, if you'll excuse the pun.

Kevin: I also like the O'Briens a lot. They are facing a bit of an unsolvable problem at the start, and it played as realistic and sympathetic. Keiko has good reason to be unhappy, and doesn't come off as simply shrewish, and O'Brien seems to be trying to make things right even if he doesn't quite know how. It, as always, plays as a very real marriage. Keiko maneuvering Rom into allowing Nog to go to school was also a fun scene.

Matthew: Yeah, Rosalind Chao is really the soul of this episode. It's a shame she didn't appear in more than 19 episodes. She is really believable and you're right, her maneuvering was a lot of fun to watch. Colm Meany is a stalwart presence yet again. So far, they're the best "hero" characters of the bunch, by far.

Production Values

Kevin: The clone in the bubble bath was a weird prop. It had lots of lighting and detail, but somehow just came off like they were curing meat. The disguise on Ibudan was kind of weird, but I suppose it's more a plot problem. Wouldn't the ordinary tricorder-ing they would be doing to look for evidence detect that the dude was wearing a pound of latex?

Matthew: Yeah, I also had a hard time seeing how that wad of protoplasm would turn into a humanoid. Why not make it look like an accelerated-growth fetus? The bubble brain teaser program was a pretty ho hum effect, too.

Kevin: I liked the classroom set, but the rest of the sets were pretty nondescript. Another bottle show, I guess. It's not bad per se, but I would like another set at some point.

Matthew: I found the trashing of Odo's office to be a bit predictable and tame. "Shifter" was really the best insult the mob could concoct? And how did they burn it into the wall if weapons are prohibited on the station?


Kevin: This is another 2. The details in the B-plot are good and the idea they were attempting is interesting, but since it happens around characters I don't care about, it's not terribly interesting. It's another snoozer, unfortunately.

Matthew: Yep. Another 2. The emphases of the story are generally laid in the wrong places, and the acting and production values are merely adequate. That makes for another lackluster 4.

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